Are you a Fun Player?
by Michael Wiesenberg © 2019 Great Bridge Links
“I’m just a fun player, and the more I win, the funner it gets.” That’s what a full-time professional poker player I regularly saw in the cardrooms I frequented and who fancied himself a wit said when he first sat down at the table. But how about you, are you a fun player? If you are, I hope you’re really having fun, because a lot of players claim this and they’re not having fun at all: they’re miserable.
How can you make what must seem at times like punishment into fun? One way is to become a winner. You can do that in some of the ways frequently described on this website, so one of those ways is merely to read the articles on this website regularly — and pay attention! Another is to read the books recommended here.
Mike Caro’s Book of Tells is one of the most useful ever written about poker (and it could help you at the bridge table too!. Caro on Gambling is also particularly good. While we’re on the subject of Caro, his series of Poker Plans may be the best material ever devoted specifically to strategies. Any book by David Sklansky is worth much more than you pay for it, particularly if your talents are beyond those of an ordinary beginner. I particularly recommend Winning Poker and Getting the Best of It. Many call Doyle Brunson’s Super System the “Bible of poker.” This compilation of advice from the best and most respected practitioners in the world, including Brunson himself and the other two cited in this paragraph, is probably the best book available on poker. (And Super System II is equally good.) If you want to enter tournaments, Tom McEvoy’s book on the subject is excellent. For the math of poker, you can’t beat Nancy Zadeh’s Winning Poker Systems. Note: All these links will take you to an Amazon page.
And what, you ask, if I cannot become a winner? What if I don’t want to, or I don’t want to make the effort? If that’s true, then I want you to be honest with yourself. Remember, we’re talking about fun players.
Is it fun to play, and lose regularly? Maybe you have enough money that in the size of games you regularly indulge in, you don’t get hurt. Maybe you don’t have enough, though, and shouldn’t be playing, or should examine your motives. I know one player who from time to time takes part in one of the biggest no-limit games in the country. He regularly loses thousands, and occasionally has lost as much as $100,000 in one night. Does anyone make enough for that to be a comfortable loss? (Well, yeah, maybe Bill Gates does, but when he plays poker, it’s only for tiny stakes — in other words, to have fun.)
You don’t necessarily have to turn what to many is a pleasant pastime into a college course. You just need to take an honest look at yourself. Maybe in a lower-stakes game you’d lose less; maybe you’d even win a bit. Is the excitement that good that it’s worth losing hundreds or even thousands regularly? Do you need that adrenalin high? If you can truthfully answer that you don’t mind the losing, that it doesn’t affect you, then don’t read this. (Unfortunately, I have the feeling that if you can’t truthfully say that the losses don’t get to you, you won’t read this anyway.)
Maybe you’re just fooling yourself. A lot of players who claim to be “about even” or “losing just a little” in fact lose a lot, and regularly. They don’t admit the truth to anyone, though, not even themselves. Don’t do that. “To thine own self be true.”
And if the self-assessment makes you realize that you are losing more than you can afford or want to, try the question again. Is it fun? Are you really a fun player? If not, do something about it. Learn how to play better, by reading, by possibly paying for some lessons, by observing good players.
Or, if you just want to be a “pleasure player,” then be honest about it. Admit it to yourself, and don’t lose more than you can afford. And once you admit that to yourself, you may discover that it’s more fun to win than lose.