My Mom Says Don’t Be a Gambler

I speak with my mom nearly every night. I call her from the car on my way home from work. Though my dad is sleeping – he’s sleeping without his hearing aids, so it’s not really a disturbance.

She says she’s awake, and most of the time she probably is, but I know there are nights I must wake her up. She likes the calls and I do too, so she doesn’t complain.

Every once in a while we’ll talk about poker. She doesn’t know the game at all. She does, however, have poker advice for me.

“Geoffrey,” she will say, “don’t be a gambler.”

I think she means don’t bet a lot. Don’t bet money which is important to your life or lifestyle. Don’t risk your family’s well being. She is right.

The kind of gambling I do is penny ante stuff. And, at least for the last nine months, I’m winning – which makes it a little less threatening. Still, she has a point and I will heed her.

I have tried to explain to my mom that poker is a game of skill, with a fair amount of luck involved. You can be good enough to win over the long run – to beat the players and overcome the rake. There are pros who make their living at the tables. But, for short spurts, anything can happen.

Recently I have been getting the impression that, even if only by dumb luck, I stumbled into the best way to learn – concentrated online play. I read a blog entry yesterday that confirmed and enhanced what I had been thinking. I have no idea who the author is.

The results of the 2004 WSOP Main Event has made it dramatically clear that learning to play no-limit online has become the quickest way to become proficient. This realization is currently slamming the faces of a lot of poker pros at this very moment. Poker pros who are still experiencing shell shock at how well the “dead money amateurs” have been able to read them like open books, and in the process were able to neutralize their bluffs with calls based on very good reads of their “betting patterns”. Some of these pros will go into denial by blaming luck and ignorance on the part of the “dead money amateurs”. If you are one of these pros, you can continue to do this at your own risk.

He’s talking about the World Series of Poker, now nearing its conclusion in Las Vegas. His World Series of Poker read is similar to my recent impressions at Foxwoods.

Almost immediately I found an inner peace I had never experienced at a poker table before. Everything was crystal clear. I was totally confident. I watched as players went in and out, betting, checking, folding. I knew what they had… or was pretty sure.

I’m playing online tonight, honing my skills, as I type this.

I’ve made a promise to myself to tighten up my game another notch. Since Sunday’s tournament win, I have played too many hands – to my own detriment. I can’t be scared to fold. In the little sit and go, single table tournaments, I play (in fact in any tournament), the goal is not to win. The goal is to outlast and survive.

In my first tournament, it didn’t help.

Nor in the second…

Nor the third.

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