7.8.18

card death.














So I've been playing a lot of poker lately. And though I want to grind my teeth to dust whenever someone other than me repeats all or part of their previous sentence more slowly for emphasis, I'mma do it myself right here: I mean a lot of poker.

If I wasn't already pretty keenly aware of how much it's come to monopolize my, ahem, "free time", the two apps with which I spend my all of my waking hours thoughtfully keep track of some numbers that could conceivably help one chart/graph/etc his or her complete withdrawal from interactive human life. In the past two months or so, I've played 6,602 hands in WSOP and 5,060 in PokerStars. Considering that each hand takes anywhere from 30 seconds (if everyone folds to an opening bet) to 3 minutes to play (if everyone stays in and there's lots of thinking and raising), and if 5,000 minutes is roughly 84 hours...you can see that it's been a lonely, fixated couple of months.

As you can imagine, this kind of devotion is not without its glamorous rewards. For example, I'm currently ranked #1 in the Netherlands*:















* OK, OK, I'm #1 in "my league", which is called "Skilled I" (I've already maniacally plowed my way through all five levels each of the Starter and Novice leagues and have Master and Elite to look forward to).  And overall I'm 6,972nd in the world. This is not quite as unimpressive as it sounds. Supposedly there are 87,580 other misfits/shut-ins/quadriplegics playing on PokerStars at this very sexy moment.

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I'm sure I'll write much more about the nitty-gritty ins and outs of my thrilling new old man pastime; like the week I spent being a black woman instead of a koala and became totally convinced that people were less friendly to me. Or the wonderful tension of ending up with my koala avatar sitting next to Pipe'nigga (in 4th place above) and all the other very carefully-crafted and -researched Cool People Avatars you can choose from as your "poker face" (cleverrrrr). Or how I have pretty much played poker my whole life (since I was 9 or 10 maybe?) without a deeper understanding of how it worked, and that that is kind of one of the beautiful things about poker: you can learn the rules in 15 minutes and play happily at that level for your whole damn ignorant life. But! If you're the kind of person who likes to get into things deeply, there's another whole underlying or overlying art/science to it that you can probably spend that same whole life looking at.

No, but hey: the first thing I wanted to write about was a poker term which I have found myself considering very metaphorically lately: being "card dead". This is different than the nearly equally compelling "drawing dead", which is when you are in a hand, paying to stay in and receive new cards in an attempt to better your hand but in fact, there is no card which can help you because you've already lost. Statistically speaking. You just don't know it yet because you don't know what your opponent(s) have. This is one of the really sadistic moments in televised poker, because you know what everyone has. It's hard to think of another televised "sport" where you get to watch someone optimistically pour their efforts and money into winning when you and everyone else watching knows that they absolutely, mathematically can't. I would mention the Mets or the Browns here but etc.

Right, that's drawing dead. Being "card dead" on the other hand is when, from hand to hand, you can not get good cards to save your life as they say. Time after time, you are doing everything right, technically speaking, but the cards refuse to help you in any way or show you the slightest bit of mercy. You know it's nothing personal, that it's "just probability", but after 25 hands of 6-3, 2-9, 9-3, 10-2, 2-3, 2-6, 7-3, repeat, you start to think "this can't continue".

So finally you get something barely bluffworthy and open with it because you think well it must be over now, I'm ok! and then you immediately (check out my new lingo) find you've gotten yourself into some postflop trouble by having over-aggressively reraised a late-position preflop raiser. Yo overestimated your hand, underestimated someone else's, and now someone else has the actual nuts that you've been pretending to have and the only way to keep looking tough is to just keep betting on your dead hand, not admit you made a mistake. But you're own your own buddy, you might as well be setting those chips on fire, the good cards aren't coming to rescue you.

Now, they also say that in Texas Hold-em, which is the game I mean when I say I've been playing poker, most of the time it doesn't matter what your cards are. And that poker is a game of skill, not luck. But good cards sure do help. More on this after a brief pause.

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