Exactly what is it about playing poker that is so appealing to me? Obviously, there is the basic card playing which has always been a big component of my life. I love handling the cards, peeling the corners up for a peek between my cuffed hands so no one else can see them, snapping them back to the table and even giving them a practiced toss into the muck when necessary. All those actions are fun, (although too much repetitious mucking of cards gets old fast when I’m running cold). I also got a kick out of stacking chips, and riffling them with one hand, cutting a column into two and then sliding them back together into one stack.
I’ve always been the gregarious type, and there is no place like a casino poker table to be sociable, although the opportunity for interaction varies with the number of other players who want to chat, who are not taking the game too seriously, or at least have the ability to split their attention between the focus needed to play the game and the chit chat. I’ve met people from all walks of life, celebrities as well as local poker bums, accomplished poker tournament champions and the beginner who still needs to be reminded of what beats what. (Although the number of complete poker novices has decreased exponentially with the rise and popularity of the game). So a casino poker session can include a fascinating discussion of politics, religion, history, sports, fashion or music with an occasional veer off course to anything from voodoo to oral hygiene.
And this same talent for chitchat has served me well as I’ve developed my ability to read other players, to understand their playing strategies and abilities, and to incorporate that information into my decisions about betting, checking or folding. The psychological aspect of playing poker fascinates me and is certainly one of the strongest components of my game. On the other hand, the mathematical facet of poker is probably my weakest link, and should hardly be mentioned in a discussion of why I love poker. I’ve tried for years to incorporate the statistical element of poker into my play with very disappointing results. I’m much better offpaying attention to how other players bet than trying to figure implied odds or expected value to name just two of dozens of statistical concepts, most of which are filed in my brain in another language written in an alien alphabet.