Why play Poker? Plenty of reasons to do so

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Knowing of my long interest in the game of poker, a good friend gave me a special gift.

It was a super poker book — one of the best I have ever read, entitled “The Poker Mindset — Essential Attitudes for Poker Success” by Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger (Dimat Enterprises; www.InternetTexasHold’em.com).

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Why do you play poker? The same may be asked of other forms of gambling. But let’s stick to poker for now. The book offers an interesting perspective. It lists the following four reasons for playing poker:

1. Recreation — The players enjoy playing the game; it’s fun to do in your spare time.

2. Gambling — Poker is just another game in which gamblers can try to get lucky.

3. Socializing — Make friends while playing the game. It’s social interaction.

4. The Challenge — It’s a way to get the mental challenge we need to stimulate our minds — just as many people do crosswords, Sudoku and other puzzles.

These reasons are presented along with a discussion of yet another reason one might choose for playing poker: To become a professional (poker pro) where the player depends on the game for most (if not all) of his income. While this does not apply to the vast majority of poker players, the numbers are significant.

Many pros also become celebrities thanks to the poker media. We have all read about Phil Helmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Bobby Baldwin, Texas Dolly Brunson, and others.

Well, I have a somewhat different take on this all-encompassing issue. You may very well agree.

First of all, realize that there are just two types of poker players:

One are Poker Pros. Poker is their main career focus. They may spend five or more days a week at it. They depend on poker for their livelihood — to support their families and lifestyles. It’s for that reason they work hard to develop their poker skills and fine tune them so as to win most of the time. The money won is essential to their lives.

Many of these pros gain sufficient popularity to be sought after by advertisers seeking ways to promote products or services, thereby adding to their income along with greater notoriety. Some move into the business end of the game, effectively becoming businessmen — even cardroom executives — and then are likely to play poker primarily for recreation. In this category, I would consider poker book and magazine writers, as well as poker consultants and teachers.

The other type are recreational players. They represent the vast majority of poker players. They include those described in our first list of why we play the game. (See above). And, in addition to the four reasons listed, I would add two other good reasons for why they play poker:

First, as noted in Dr. Alan Schoonmaker’s recent book, “Stay Young; Play Poker,” could well be the ideal way to avoid Alzheimer’s disease — a terrible disease that causes loss of mental ability and, ultimately, death, for which no drug has yet been found to prevent or cure.

Based on my experiences and observations, I believe the mental challenge while playing poker leads to a healthy mind/brain.

Second, diversion is yet another good reason for playing poker. Our daily lives — family matters, job duties, rising healthcare costs, higher rents, the never-ending media blasts about the ills of our society, wars and more wars, and the demands of our responsibilities — can wear down the strongest among us. That’s why we go to movies, sporting events, vacations, and watch TV. These diversions are important to our well-being.

As noted above, these reasons for playing poker can readily be applied to other forms of gaming — such as watching your favorite sporting teams, betting on the horses, etc.

What do you think? Feel free to weigh in by emailing me at [email protected] or through Gaming Today.

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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