Friday, January 20, 2006

Poker Mentor - Do You Have One?

(As posted on Card Squad)

I am often asked when it was that I first began playing poker, and I find it difficult to answer exactly. Cards have been a part of my life since I was a little kid – from playing Go Fish and Old Maid to learning Gin Rummy and Euchre.

Being the youngest of almost thirty cousins, I watched with envy as the older kids were allowed to play cards with the adults, while us younger ones played hide and go seek and such. Sometimes one of my aunts or uncles would let me sit in with them for a hand or two, and that was always my favorite time of the night.

When I was an opinionated and disagreeable teenager my Mom and I played cribbage endlessly. She would be lying on her bed watching television and I would plop myself down with a deck of cards and begin dealing. She never once refused and we would play for hours - even when we were angry at each other. At times not a word was spoken other than the card count…fifteen two, fifteen four, and the rest don’t score…silently taking out our aggression by skunking or double skunking each other. She didn't tell me until recently that she actually disliked the game itself – would have much rather played something different, yet she never complained. I have to admit that I was never really a big fan of crib either; though I very much enjoyed the time we got to spend together.

As a family we played many other card games like bridge and hearts. My Dad was always the one to watch out for though. He has a natural combination of luck and skill which serves him well – even if it is a game he isn't overly familiar with. I have learned a lot from just watching him play.

As the years passed, we began to play more and more poker. I used to go over to my brother’s house and we would play dealer’s choice, even if it was just the two of us. I was always predictable when picking the game – Whores, Fours, and One-Eyed Jacks was by far my favorite, not because I enjoyed playing poker with ten wild cards, I just simply liked saying it. Ultimately though, we would always come back to ‘that seven-card game’ as I called it at the time, which of course was Texas Hold’em. I loved the game so much that I could have stayed up for days playing it, even back then.

My brother introduced me to many other variations of poker over the pre-internet gaming years and I developed a great fondness for Omaha and O8, though I never really got into it as much then as I would have liked. Once online poker became a staple in my gaming diet, my brother and I would spend hours discussing hands and theory – though I was usually much more on the receiving end of the conversation than participating with counter-thoughts of my own since those skills of mine had yet to be developed.

I began taking the game quite seriously, and found my niche to be in tournament play. I would pour over books and articles about strategy and tactics, and of course consult with my brother when I got stuck in one style or began to pick up bad habits. Few people will be brutally honest about your game, and even fewer will take the time to analyze Every. Single. Hand. that you played in a tournament, yet he did – pointing out the good moves along with the many true bonehead maneuvers that I made. The best part was he never expected me to agree with his analysis. Conversely, he welcomed the debate. One thing is for certain; we both walked away much better players with an increased ability to think outside of the box.

To this day my brother analyzes my play and helps point out holes in my games – some of which are quite deep and complicated, while others should be blatantly obvious to me yet aren’t at the time. Though many people have contributed to my love of cards, for the better part of a decade my brother has been my poker mentor and I wouldn’t be half the player I am today without his coaching, guidance, and patience - but most importantly his ability to turn my faults into lessons I could learn from rather than repeating the same old mistakes over and over.

It happens to be his birthday today, so I would like to take this opportunity to say ‘Happy Birthday’ as well as to say thanks for all the lessons in poker and in life.

How will we be celebrating? A family poker home game, of course. Is there any other way?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Back From an Unplanned Hiatus

I have returned from an unplanned hiatus from blogging, playing poker, and chatting online. Several things came up over the holidays that I had to deal with (nothing bad, just important) which took up a lot more time than expected. Add Christmas and New Years to the mix, and I barely found my way to the computer for two full weeks.

Honestly, I needed the break though. I finally feel refreshed and rested, something I haven't experienced in a long time. The next few months are going to be extremely busy, so I'm glad I was able to just take a little 'me' time.

Our plans to move are in full swing. Right now we are looking into all the legalities and rules involved in making a country-to-country move - a process which is a little less painful than it could me since I used to work for customs brokers and understand that side of the law pretty well. That said - it is still a never-ending stream of information and paperwork that we have to sort through.

Our goal is to move by the end of February - which is 98% pipe dream and 2% realistic at this point, but time will tell. Fortunately, we are both working from home now (the same home, even!) so that is helping to expedite matters. The largest obstacle is selling our house here - so that will pretty much determine our actual moving date.

For now though, I am looking forward to playing a lot of poker. I have really neglected my game over the past few months and it shows. Actually, the only tournaments I have played have been the WPBT and Wil's - so it is time to get back in the game.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year's Eve. See you at the tables!!