Friday, October 21, 2011

On the “Industry”

Charlie Chaplin in 'Modern Times' (1936)For those of us who find ourselves somehow committing to poker as a more than just casual pastime, our relationship with the game moves through certain, commonly experienced stages. Not unlike other kinds of relationships, really.

There’s that first recognition of interest, followed by an initial period of spending time with the game. Somewhere early on we realize we like poker. We might even rush headlong into loving it, if you’re not too shy about using such a word with reference to a card game.

In any case, for a lot of us there’s certainly that early romance-like stage in which we find everything about the game fascinating and can’t get enough of it.

From there the relationship often moves into a different phase, one that either deepens our connection to poker or perhaps signals a break-up might be about to occur. From that first crush to something more... I don’t know... grown up.

Those who stick with the game find their relationship to poker “maturing” (so to speak) into a less manic, more comfortable kind of coexistence. Such a scaling back is probably necessary for the relationship to survive, to move forward into something that remains positive and worthwhile for us to pursue.

Perhaps because of all that has happened over the last six months in the wake of Black Friday, I found myself thinking about this progression through which so many of us go with poker and the parallel “rise-and-fall”-like progression the game itself has gone through over the last decade-plus -- one marked most heavily by the emergence of the online game and the whole “boom” furthered by televised poker, and now more recently by an “implosion” of sorts (to borrow Pokerati Dan's term for what’s happening).

Somewhere in there -- well before Black Friday -- a lot of us stopped talking about how we got “into poker.” Rather, we began to refer to our connection to the game in a different way. We started talking about getting into the “industry.”

By the “industry” I suppose I’m referring to all sorts of things, all of which have in common the ability to earn money from poker without actually playing poker.

Those employed by online sites found a place in the industry. Folks like me who managed to land opportunities to write about tournaments and other aspects of the game are also part of the industry. As are sponsored players, the online site affiliates, those who stage and publicize tournaments and other events, and any one else who, one way or another, has found a way to make poker profitable without actually buying in and taking a hand.

I’m not criticizing this development, just remarking upon it. And thinking about how for many of us the growth of the “poker industry” has occurred at roughly the same time we individually experienced that move from a romantic conception of the game to a more realistic or mature one.

Many never bother exploring this industry of poker, continuing simply to play and more or less enjoy the game on its own. But for those who have, the game has evolved into something else -- perhaps something less like “play” and more like “work,” although I’m not really sure that’s the analogy I want to make here.

A better contrast would probably be the one between “business” and “pleasure.”

We first play because it gives us pleasure. Then (for some) the game evolves into a business. For those of us who find ourselves getting involved with the industry, our romance with the game might continue into that second phase. But probably not for long, especially if the transition involves a gradual diminishing (or disappearing) of that initial pleasure.

I still find it all quite fun and diverting, though. Both the playing and all the other stuff. Enriching, too, in a way. Was just realizing, though, how instinctive it has become to refer to “getting into the industry” rather than “getting into the game.”

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Blogger Chingster23 said...

I understand why you have chosen the word "industry" but I like to use a different term - "circus".

The poker industry is just one great big circus, and everyone working within it trundles along from tournament to tournament like an old circus train.

It doesn't matter if I am in London, Vegas, Vienna or Malta. I see the same faces in the media, organising the tournament and of course playing. Christ, 90% of the people playing don't even have any money to play with!

It is tough to leave the circus. Tough to miss reporting on one stop. Tough to stop playing in one stop. I think this is because the clowns, trapeze artists and hairy women all love it. There used to be a time when life was all important and poker was a nice little divergent. Now for me, the poker circus has become a way of life and everything outside of it has become slightly different.


10/22/2011 12:57 PM  

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