Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Two Cents (Not a Manifesto)

Lots of manifestos and visions and grand statements flying about the poker world these days.

There’s probably a reasonable explanation for everyone suddenly becoming inspired to deliver such sermons. Sort of like the way certain styles of play slowly begin to be popular, then suddenly it seems like everyone is four-betting light. I guess it’s like a lot of people are playing “long ball” right now when it comes to what they’re saying or writing, trying to articulate big-picture ideas rather than sweat the small stuff. (Although plenty are doing the latter, too.)

That’s not to say some of these grand opinions and the debates they’re engendering aren’t diverting -- even enlightening, in places. I’ve been following with interest Daniel Negreanu’s thread over on Two Plus Two over the last few days, the one occasioned by Joe Hachem’s “poker is dying” interview (discussed here a couple of weeks ago). Phil Galfond’s “old school-new school” post last week -- to which Negreanu was also responding -- contained a number of thoughtful points as well.

One theme that’s been reoccurring in these statements is the familiar one about the poker community benefiting from the civil treatment of individuals within it of one another. Among Negreanu’s points, for instance, is the one in which he says he wishes for “a world where the game is fun first and a competitive endeavor second.”

I’ve seen a couple of especially obtuse responses to that thought, also delivered in manifestos-like fashion arguing that poker is solely about “profit” and that any suggestion it isn’t is either (1) wrong or (2) deliberately misleading. “He’s only saying have ‘fun first’ to trick the fish into happily losing their money to him, thus increasing his profit” goes that argument, one that willfully ignores both the idea that Negreanu isn’t being cynical and that poker actually can mean something other than the bottom line.

I’ve written before here many times about the paradox of poker being a game that brings us together while also encouraging us to view each other as antagonists. I’m remembering writing a post titled “Poker, the Antisocial Social Game” that touched on the topic. It’s that tension that makes the game so intriguing -- the fact that our being able to compete against one another depends in part on our being able to get along with another.

Obviously I’m one who like Negreanu believes poker has the potential to provide a lot to those who play it beyond just a means to make money. I also think those who approach the game in that narrow way are missing out, big time.

I’m not saying profit isn’t important. (Nor is Negreanu.) For those who make a living at the game (or who try to), that obviously tops the list of reasons to play. But there have to be other reasons, too, to give meaning to one’s participation, with having fun or at least participating in a constructive way in a community of others with similar interests being a good start.

That’s just my two cents. Small change. All anyone can make on his or her own.

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