How to be good at poker

Friday, 30 January, Year 7 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

There's an older Romanian article published here under the title Cum devii un jucator de poker bun, which Pete Dushenski has recently translated on his blog. I am so flattered by his effort that I shall take the time to give my own translation below, for his - and anyone else's - benefit.

As to authority, which is the thing that should open any article of this kind : I am not the best Romanian poker player, I know tens better than me, and there probably are hundreds. It's unlikely there are thousands, but I won't say it's impossible. I am not a professional player (which is to say I don't make my living at it), I have played with tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table, I have won tens and hundreds of thousands, I have lost tens and hundreds of thousands. I never played, never lost nor ever won millions, nor do I intend to - I believe a limit's welcome in all fields.

Of all these better Romanian poker players than me I have no knowledge of any one that keeps a blog (another example of a field which could use it). There do exist various things made deliberately to prepare chumps for the chumpatron, as there exist various blogs on which various cocklets speak about things they do not understand nor will ever understand (thus preparing chumps for the chumpatron unintentionally), As such, my authority to speak on the topic flows from the usual syllogism : if you are willing to accept my authority as sufficient then you can read a Romanian article on the topic at hand, and if you're not willing to accept my authority as sufficient then you can not read a single article on this topic in Romanian, as there isn't one.

The situation is not similar in the English language space, for instance, as there exist numerous blogs kept by guys who are better than me. How honest and serious they are it is up to you to decide, I won't go into the discussion as I'm not interested in foreign language spaces.

Defining the terminology, or that thing with which this kind of article should continue.

By poker we mean any of the numerous variants, even if generally people prefer playing either some kind of stud or else Texas Hold'em. It's in the end irrelevant what exact variant is contemplated, the game's about the same at the abstraction level we find ourselves.

By player we mean someone who wins or loses within the rules of the game. Poker (like any game of chance) can very well be adapted to working as bait for one fraud or another, but we're not discussing conmen employing poker in their conmanship, we're discussing players.

By good we mean someone who is capable of regularly winning more than they lose, the difference exceeding the average income in his demographic group. So, a junior high kid that makes a hundred lei a month on average playing poker is a good player by our definition, because allowances aren't really a hundred leis a month just yet, as far as I know. A Sudanese living in Sudan making about a hundred dollars a month on average is a good poker player, by virtue of the fact that Sudanese salaries are something short of a hundred dollars.

By this reasoning, to be a good poker player in Romania you have to make about 25`000 lei a year playing poker, and to be the same "internationally" you'd need about a hundred thousand. But each year after year, that's the big thing, stability. We average all years the year you die and it has to come out above that threshold. The fact that you managed to exceed it a year or two in a row after which you've lost your life playing cards does not qualify you as a good player.

There exists the theory (which I do not credit) that playing cards is an addiction, like smoking tobacco. You might imagine how much credence such notions carry with someone who has been smoking a few cigarettes a week for almost two decades now. As far as I'm concerned, heroin and barbiturates are the only addictive substances, unlike alcohol, nicotine, superspecial cunt, hash, Internet, playing cards of any kind and so on and so forth. The test is simple : take a putative addict and separate him utterly and suddenly from his putative adiction. If he dies (like opiate addicts die, no discussion possible) it's an addictive substance. If he doesn't die then there's no addiction involved, the guy in question is simply being a dumb cunt.i

And now, seven hundred introductory words later, looky that we're ready to go into the subject.

I. To become a good poker player you need about a decade of your life. That means two college degrees and a half, or a Medicine and a Law degree. It is, in other words, very much work.

Of course, at the age of all imaginary possibilities also known as "adolescence" it may well seem that on the contrary, playing cards is a simple and effective means of avoiding work. These cocklets will never become good poker players, no matter what happens. Most of them won't die in their own beds, either, but that's a different discussion that fails to interest us. In actual reality living off poker is about on par with living off blogging : they who can accomplish such wonders are few and far between, the ability required of them roughly equivalent with what's required to finish two or three degrees - and as a valedictorian, not barely making the cut in some third rate diploma mill.

On the other hand it's an interesting life, that keeps you young (in spirit, because otherwise it undermines you physically something fierce), you always meet new people, you constantly bask in the feeling of living your life to the fullest, it doesn't compare with a paper shipwreck in an office somewhere. It's not like counting your life in years, or decades. The poker player counts his life minute by minute most often, and rarely knows Tuesday from Thursday exactly because he's focused on narrower intervals.

I feel the need to underscore this : he who has the talents and abilities required to become a good poker player will become a good anything else : engineer, lawyer, medic, banker, what you will. Almost all alternatives are better paid, per unit of effort and per unit of personal worth. If you're after money, this profession (for it is a profession, even if not necessarily found in the bureaucratic classifications) is not the best choice.

In short : it's not for everyone, it's not a way to avoid work (on the contrary, it's a way to work more), it's not a way to make more money (on the contrary, it's a way to make relatively less money).

II. To become a good poker player you need a partner. Ideally it's a beautiful woman that loves the cock, who also loves you loyally and passionately, encourages and supports you, has independent income sufficient to support both of you (so secretaries, sales clerks and other unqualified workers are right out), does not want children, does not want to learn to play cards, is not bothered by not seeing you for days at a stretch and makes killer cocktails. In case you're holding your head and going "Oh God!" : I can assure you that such women exist. I know three. I would guess the whole world contains maybe a thousand, which means that about a thousand dudes (as a degree of magnitude) have the opportunity to become good poker players from the ideal position, on the button with pocket rockets in the hole.

Unideally, anything that can keep you going for ten years without fail. For more and more people this means their mother forced into a sort of surrogate, such as for instance this cocklet. This solution doesn't actually work, for reasons we'll get into below, but meanwhile the fact that these days it's socially acceptable and even common for thirty year old kids to still be suckling on the financial tit of their parents leads to more and more people than ever in history trying to become good poker players. This does not mean more people end up good players than before, it simply means it's easier than ever to live off it, if you're a good player yourself.

III. In becoming a good poker player intelligence is entirely a secondary matter. I know it seems hard to believe, the cinematographically convenient representations as seen through movies and sitcoms have created this aura of hyperintelligence. It's a false image, that hyperintelligence is a marotte. After all, if you were to credit the cinematographically convenient representation, email'd be a pretty fucking weird thing, wouldn't you say ?

Discipline is by far the most important quality of the good poker player, intelligence being a distant second and at great contest with intuition (which intuition is a mystical something that I have no way to explain but nevertheless saw with mine own eyes, in myself as well as others so I'm not about to contest its existence). This is the reason why a partnership with one's parents is toxic : the man dependent on his mother does not have the resources of adulthood at his disposal, and thus no way to achieve actual discipline. All they can build are fakes (and uncoincidentally, the link I gave you illustrates the problem perfectly : the hyperintelligent cocklet - for he is hyperintelligent - sucks it exactly for lack of discipline incumbent upon an unhealthy relationship with his mom). Accuracy forces me to introduce here a bizarre exception : the incestuous relationship between the daughter and the step father can work perfectly for the needs of the girl in this direction, I've seen this with mine own eyes and as such can't deny it, no matter how wildly... inappropriate, let's say, it might seem.

IV. To become a good poker player you're stuck spending about four years (ie, the smaller degree) learning by heart the number tables of the job. What's my odds of full house if there's five players and someone else has a straight ? But what if it's a straight to the king and I want queens fulla kings ? What if the straight's to the queen ? But what's the odds for a straight flush to the queen of diamonds if I hold aces fulla tens ?ii All numbers, in all situations, by heart. By. Fucking. Heart. All. Absolutely all.

A relatively smarter method of satisfying this boot camp is playing bridge. It has the advantage of being much cheaper than poker, and comes with an opportunity to socialize with intelligent men and women more or less on their own feet (for I've not seen that many waitresses playing bridge). It also has the disadvantage that you learn, aside from the many things useful in poker, a lot of useless crap. It is still the avenue best fitted for the patient, given that perhaps your passion for the table isn't quite as deep as you judged it to be, and this much more... comfortable game, more tolerant and more loving of mankindiii might actually satisfy you for the rest of your life. It is unadvisable for the agitated and assorted cholerics, given that playing poker rather than bridge gives beginners a valuable opportunity to be scared of their own stupidity, an experience which (coupled if at all possible with some serious beatings with sticks) will serve them immensely for the rest of their life, whether they quit poker or not.

V. After you've got the small degree (but only after, let's be quite clear on this point, only after you know the numbers like a prayer) you can move on to the large degree, the real thing. Forget everything and focus on the other players. What's he telling you about what he thinks his numbers are ? A good poker player can play and win consistently against amateurs without as much as looking at his cards. It's not a line, it's a truth : his own cards he can evaluate statistically, the others' cards he can read straight out of their faces, after which he compares a known something (their cards) with a likely something (his cards) and overall derives a profit. This in the end is the best way to test both your ability and your relationship : take your partner and strip her without looking outside of her eyes. I mean, of course, strip poker, but honestly there's not necessarily much need for the entire cards distraction.

Because in the end this life can be lived even without being a good poker player.

PS. Out of intellectually bankrupt puritanism, the majority of "developed" states implement fiscal policies based implicitly and sometimes explictly on the theory that professional playing is a social ill that must be destroyed. Apparently men marrying men are fine, but god help you if you play cards. As such they tax winnings (often astronomically) but do not allow deduction of losses - should I win ten thousand today and lose nine thousand tomorrow I'm not ahead by a thousand like logic seems to imply, but behind by four because the state's trying to steal half of the ten.

This nonsense should be taken apart, but practically it seems improbable, especially given that the same states (completely outside any sort of control) have come to where they charge to their own income account nine tenths of the retail price of cigarettes, for instance. The practical solution is tax avoidance, of course, and it's applied with gusto and for good cause by absolutely everyone.

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  1. See also fatlogic. []
  2. Not out of my ass, that's the final hand in Cincinnati Kid, and would have ruined absolutely anyone on an purely odds approach - the odds are something like one in fifty million. Intuition alone can save you there, and if you ain't got that... []
  3. Yes, card games have their own personalities, like dogs or horses. Poker is like a cat of impredictably-variable size, now it purs now it's a tiger. []
Category: Lifespiel
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2 Responses

  1. The joy of reading this translation side-by-side with my own is quite simply beyond compare. How raw (and uprawrious?) some of my passages now seem!

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    2
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 30 January 2015

    In your defense, my Romanian is quite very tense.

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