Well, isn’t that a strange title for a post eh? I enjoy watching pokerstars.tv – as it has some pretty interesting insights into the games that are happening out there, as well as a number of shows which I enjoy watching. One of these shows is about Joe Hachem (the 2005 World Series of Poker champion) trying to find the perfect student whom he can mentor in becoming a poker pro. The series is 8 episodes and it’s called The Poker Star. During one of the episodes people are supposed to come up with a magazine title and this dude comes up with Poker is Life. That was totally the wrong name within the context of what was asked and I had quiet a laugh about it but than I came to realize something: the game of poker is not in any way different than the game of life which you and I play everyday we wake up.
Why the analogy? Well, everyday we wake up and through a chain of situations we are essentially dealt a hand. Throughout the day we can either:
- Check that hand (by watching how a certain situation unfolds at work for example and acting or not on it later)
- Fold that hand (by deciding we will still keep a grudge for a little while with the friend / girlfriend / boyfriend / family member / <whoever> so that “they learn a lesson”)
- Raise that hand (by accepting a project at work which nobody wants to touch with a ten-foot pole, because you believe that project will make or break your career and damn – you want to go for it!)
The truth is that in life we gamble every day with friends, family, co-workers, careers, strangers – after all how many of you took that chance on asking that girl or guy out on a date and now you are the happiest person on the face of the planet (or not?). Sometimes it pans out and sometimes it doesn’t.
Poker is a game of skill. You need to be aware of your opponents, you need to be aware of how they act, what they do over a period of time (you call a person your “friend” only if they stood the test of time don’t you?) and sometimes, you need to pay them off to call them on what you think is a bluff – just to see if they were bluffing or truthful.
Add to the above the fact that there is a mathematical component in cards – where you can with a fair degree of certainty predict that you are ahead or behind – and, interestingly enough, poker becomes even less than a gambling game that life is – because in life, you have so many factors that it is not a plausible exercise to come up with a mathematical model to base your decisions on – currently, artificial intelligence is really in its infancy stages.
So why is poker considered a gambling game and put into the same category as roulette for example? That’s because poker players play for disproportionate tangible amounts over disproportionate timelines. Before you get to that $150,000 / year a job, you will in general have to learn the ropes and get lucky over a span of 10-15 years or more (in some cases never) – while in poker, if playing at decent stakes you can achieve $150,000 within 2-3 years (if you’re consistently good at it). In addition, in the game of life, you will have the time to recover your bad life choices – in poker: you’re down $10,000 in 3 months while in real life you’re making $2,000 / month – before taxes: tight spot to be in.
Having said all the above, for someone who is incredibly disciplined, does not believe in making a million in a month, knows enough mathematics to calculate the correct odds, is able to read opponents (online or offline) and, most importantly, has money which lost won’t impact his or her life, poker is a decent addition to life which may provide that extra income to buy a nice diamond for your wife or take the family for a vacation – without impacting your overall bankroll – for the real deal: real-estate, stocks and daily living expenses.