Independent Pursuits: Poker

IT'S THE time of New Year resolutions and all that. I have often set myself good resolutions in the past - such as: don't play when drunk; don't play for more than you can afford; don't lend money at the table. And I have more or less kept to them. Interestingly, I find that these three conditions are likely to be broken simultaneously, rather than any one on its own.

In the old days, the traditional advice to new poker players was threefold. 1. Don't play anyone with a diamond stick-pin. 2. Don't buy insurance from a man called Doc. 3. Don't play two small pairs in draw poker.

I wonder if this advice might be updated for our own times? 1. Don't listen to horse-race tips at the table. 2. Never bluff a man with a higher stack. 3. Don't play short pairs at Hold 'em. If you dismiss this advice as shallow, just think how much money you would have saved last year by observing these rules.

All of which leads me to raise the basic question: why do you play poker? I mean, really, why? It's not for money. If you play in a card club, for an average, say, of four hours a day, five days a week, with a table charge of pounds 5 an hour, your annual outgoings amount to pounds 5,200, not counting tips to waitresses for cups of tea and to doormen for parking.

Most players of my acquaintance haven't got the faintest chance of winning pounds 5,200 in the year. Granted, a few people do. But for the vast majority, I think you will agree, the answer is no way. They win a bit, or even a lot; and feel great; and then lose it back, and feel miserable.

It is entirely different in a private game among friends, where the money goes around the table in a spirit of give and take, and there is no table charge.

So, if it's not the money, what is the motive? I think the answer is that poker is so fascinating that it is completely justified for its own sake. Each hand, each deal, offers a new challenge. Secondly, the interplay of character is endlessly absorbing. Better, I sometimes feel, than going to the theatre, because at poker you can sit down or get out as and when you feel like it.

And thirdly, the social mix. The game offers the chance to meet all sorts of people in that curious middle-ground that exists between close friendship and casual acquaintance. So my toast for 1999 is for more poker, win or lose - though I must admit, if you press me, that winning is better than losing.

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Voices
The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash