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Are You Having Fun Yet?

by Reid Young |  Published: Jul 10, 2013


Reid YoungConfucius said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Poker is that job for me and for many other professional players, but there is something to think about that comes with the job: are you having fun? Are you helping other players to have fun?

With no other sport or game in the world can you log in or sit down and immediately be face-to-face with the means to mentally compete in the way you can with poker. It’s truly amazing and part of what makes it the best game on Earth. There’s bluffing, getting to know people, pride, money, and a lot of thinking. But where’s the fun part? If we don’t do something about it, that part might be changing. Others have noticed it, too.

Poker Comes From the Players

Brad Willis of the PokerStars Blog has written a fantastic account of the poker landscape from the time between the Moneymaker win in 2003 until now, 2013. Brad explains how poker was inclusive and now it’s a lot more about who can outthink their opponent while letting their opponent know that they have been outthought.

I remember everyone in my university meeting at least once a week to play a friendly $5 buy-in game. There is a camaraderie in that meeting and it scales all the way to Las Vegas. Now, tournament fields are full of people who just have to tell you that they are the greatest. Recreational players’ dreams are quashed by boisterous and accusatory speech designed to berate them into never playing another hand of poker. That’s bad for everyone.

Being derogatory at the table makes the game tougher, both immediately and in the long run. Balancing what you get from the game and what others take from the game is a necessity. The big game players know this and befriend whales, not just because they are whales, but also because they are people. Be friendly at the poker table and we all win. Everyone has their own motivation at the table and its important to understand those motivations in order to respect them.

Personas in the Poker Economy

I keep saying how amazing poker is. It’s certainly in part that it truly does offer something for everyone. Be you a socialite, recreational player, competitor, or professional, you have a place in poker — but that place is dependent on the other poker players enjoying their time at the table. To keep the poker community happy and full of players, each player type has to give a bit. The trick with poker is that you can give one type of resource and quit the game with a gain of another resource.

Socialites love to gab at the table. A bad beat story here and there might be worse than nails on a chalkboard for some people, but they love the story. They love that it probably happened to you, too. It’s a sick game and it can be fun to talk about chasing the win. As fun as being social can be, it’s important to recognize those people who are there for business. A $300 buy-in tournament is high stakes for some people and those people are there to work. It’s all about mutual respect.

Recreational players love the gamble. They essentially pay for their fun at the poker table, like you or I might pay for a ticket for a movie. They give some extra action at the table, and in return they have a chance to win a pot with a ridiculous hand. The feeling can be exhilarating and it’s one that the competitors try to stifle. There’s an interesting dichotomy here. Chasing draws should be encouraged by everyone! If it’s fun to some people and profitable for other people, then let’s make that trade so everyone comes out a winner.

Competitors are those people who need to feel like they are the best person at the table. Sometimes, that need goes beyond their play and encroaches on other players’ poker needs. The problem with the competitor persona is that it doesn’t feed the poker economy. Competitors, insofar as they make themselves verbally known and ingratiate themselves on their poker peers, do not satisfy other players’ wants from the game — other than perhaps the recreational player sucking out to humiliate the competitor, to beat him at his own game. Share the moment with your friends in your private time, but don’t talk down to another player who might be there to make friends or gamble. These verbal beatdowns discourage everyone and gains little or nothing for the competitor.

Professionals are very similar to competitors in some ways. They have to be the best. Their competitive drive is usually even higher than the competitor’s drive to win. However, the professional’s poker mindset doesn’t suffer from insecurity. Their winning poker decisions are backed with math-based logic and they use that logic to comfort themselves when recreational players suck out. A professional legitimately congratulates that player with no undertones of sarcasm. Professionals know that socialites create action and can keep the table lively, so professionals engage in conversation with them; not enough to lose track of the play at the table or hurt their own edge, but enough to keep those social players having fun. Professionals realize the long term value of being friendly, as well as the intrinsic value. Being nice makes you feel great, too! If you have been playing poker professionally, then you know how important a solid state of mind can be.

A true pro not only beats the game, but also keeps the game running and keeps the poker economy thriving. Even if you’re not at the table with the sole goal of winning money, you can still adapt characteristics of the professional to keep everyone winning in their own way.

Keep Your Game Thriving

Let’s take this opportunity to spread the word for this very important poker issue.
Share this article on your favorite social media site if you’re online and tell a friend about the idea if you are reading a print version. Getting the word out there about what needs to be done to keep poker the amazing game we all know is paramount!

We are all in it together, and regardless of your persona or poker temperament, deep down we all just want to have fun playing a game that we love. Getting poker back to the way it was when a bunch of friends could sit down and enjoy each others’ company is the ultimate goal. It happens one poker player at a time.
My very best to all of you poker players out there! ♠

Reid Young is a lead poker video instructor at For more information on semi-bluffing and other poker strategy follow @TransformPoker on Twitter