Monday, December 04, 2006

Poker- History and Future 101

I started fiddling with cards many many years ago. But I started playing for money only much later. I think I was in class V or something when I had my first attack of jaundice (hepatitis for the technically bent amongst you), and jaundice/hepatitis as you know is one bimaari that gives you a guaranteed 1-2 month vacation, though it is not the idyllic kind as the diet you are forced to push down your throat is simply abysmal. Anyway it was during that jaundice-era that I started playing cards for money, with my Grandma that is (who by the way for some completely arbit and unfathomable reason was called Lalma by both me and my cousin sis). We used to play this wonderfully stupid game, inexplicably called "Fish" (it was kind of a poorer man's rummy in some ways), and whoever won would get 25 paise, and if the winner won by 300 points or more then he(i.e. me)/she (i.e Lalma) would earn an additional 25 paise. And believe me I grinded through hours and hours of "fish"ing during that jaundice-infested summer, often cooking the scorebook or setting-up the play deck so that yo get some really nice cards, and by the end of that summer I was the proud owner of a couple of 20 Rupee note. Voila!!

Anyhoo to cut a long story short I slowly graduated to the more brainy games primarily bridge and me and my bridge partner (the guy who taught me how to play the game and by far the best card player I have ever seen in my life) then started playing in small meant-for-fun local club tourneys. Now this wasnt for money. Because the club tourneys we played in, were not the hi-fi sophisticated clubs that you might think they were. These were instead those small shanty local clubs frequented by the people whose professions varied from being auto-drivers to fishmongers to the night-guards of residential complexes to that guy who owns that small paan-shop round the corner, but primarily those who didnt have any jobs. But I kid you not when I say that these guys were sharks when the decks were dealt out. They could guess with an amazingly high degree of accuracy the exact 13 cards that you held depending on the way you played. And of course there were bragging rights up for grabs, so the games were intensely competetive. And I had an additional advantage as well, since a bunch of these guys I played with were auto-drivers I got a huge number of free rides from my house to the auto-routes on which these guys operated (for the calcutta savvy that was free rides from garia-jadavpur/gariahat). Not bad eh!!

And then I came over to the States and got hooked onto this mother of all cash games -Texas Hold'em Poker. For those of you unfamiliar with it inspite of the constant programing on ESPN or inspite of that poker 's holy grail matt damon-ed norton starring rounders this is basically an advanced version of our desi bred teen-patti. Now contrary to what you think poker is not a luck game. It is game of great skills and this is one game which if you play skillfully in a casino you will not lose money, unlike Blackjack.

So to cut a short story long I started playing poker at Pennstate, first with friends (for cigarettes or beer but mainly for fun) and then more and more in local poker rooms in the Pennsylvania/Ohio area. Casinos you see are not legal in most of mainland USA and thus there were these private party run poker rooms where you can play these games, what you had to do was take your money there and play as long or as short a time as you want, the only thing you had to be worried about was that the poker room was properly run and it wasnt a scam operation. Anyway fortunately/unfortunately I discovered that I can make a fair amount of dough playing poker. Of course the law of averages dictate that there will be days when I lost a fair amount, but if you play over a pretty long period then the odds are that a good player will make rather than lose money. The operative word here being "good". But all that stopped when I moved out of Pennstate, first to Houston and then to California. I guess was too lazy to start hunting down local poker rooms where you could go and play.

But then began the age of online poker. No longer did you have to go out to seedy poker rooms or casinos to play, you needed only a computer at your place, download the software, deposit money through something like paypal or your checking account and start playing. But due to various reasons I didnt play too actively when I was at Stanford, only in the past few months or so after moving over to houston did I again start playing poker a bit more rigorously. And that dear readers is also one of the driving reason for the alarming dip in the regularity with which this blog is getting updated and also the reason why the lady in my life is getting stood up more and more. Anyway so over the past few weeks I have again started playing the cash games with regularity, I usually play 2-3 hours a day, 4-5 days a week and on an average I can make 300-400 USD a week.

But that is not the goal here. Maybe, just maybe, in 4-5 years time I can start playing poker full time - professionally and maybe just maybe play in the World series of poker (which by the way has an enrty fee of $25000) and more importantly it would sound ultra cool when that broad asked me what do you for a living, I wouldnt have to harp that damn beaten-down-million-desi-trodden line "Oh I am a research fuckass dickhead scientist", instead I could impress that chick with "I play poker, including strip poker" . For now that remains an elusive dream, but then reality bites dreams dont, though the social life has taken an astounding pounding.