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Minecraft and Poker

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Jul 18, 2018

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My oldest child is a five-year-old boy. We think he has been reading since he was three or so. At this point he’s reading chapter books like The Boxcar Children, My Father’s Dragon, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. If I were to be conservative with my estimate, I would say he’s reading about two hours every day. We try to go to the library every other week to get new books for everyone in the family. This past week he picked out some Minecraft strategy books. He spent about 25 hours in the last week reading these four books. He has never played Minecraft and today he gets to play for the first time.

I was almost 19 when I played poker for money for the first time. My friends and I played while I was home for summer break from college and I got hooked. I was terrible at the game. Luckily, my friends weren’t very good either and I didn’t lose so badly that I never wanted to play again. In fact, it awakened a competitive fire in me that had been dormant since I stopped playing baseball the year before. I wanted to be the best poker player I could be and I wanted that right then. Like my son with Minecraft, I went and found all of the best books I could about poker and got down to the business of learning how to play. My bible at the time, though it’s slightly behind the times now was The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky. I marked that book up with more notes and highlights than I had ever done in a college textbook. I wish I still had my copy so I could share a picture on my social media accounts. It was dogeared and covered in highlighter ink. I’m impressed that it didn’t fall apart with how many times I read it.

Before I spent any more time playing poker I decided to get better tactically and theoretically. I spent my spare time reading that book and others, along with participating in the forums on Two Plus Two and rec.gambling.poker. I began to be able to discern good advice from bad and could read new poker books with a critical eye, understanding what information was useful and what wasn’t.

I can see that excitement to learn and grow in my son now. He’s learning a different game, one that’s not against other humans for now, but he has the same passion to learn Minecraft that I used to have for poker.

I was listening to Lance Bradley on the Two Plus Two Pokercast recently and he was discussing his new book The Pursuit of Poker Success. In it, he interviews 50 professional poker players from lots of different disciplines. Some are cash game experts, some only play tournaments, some play online, etc. He was remarking that they all had one thing in common. They were all, at least at the beginning of their career, obsessed with poker. They were thinking about it while they played, when they were done, when they were eating, while they were in the shower. They thought about it non-stop and that’s how I was for the first few years as well. It’s also how much my son is thinking about Minecraft.

I still get excited about playing. I still like to explore a situation that comes up in a cash game that I haven’t encountered before. I still get a buzz when I walk into the Rio each summer to play the World Series of Poker. I don’t still have the obsessive desire to eat, sleep, and breathe poker and that’s ok. I have lots of other things to do and think about and take care of in my life these days. I have three kids, a wife, a house, and all kinds of commitments. I still work hard to make sure I’m getting better as a poker player and try to puzzle through some hands when I have time to think about them. I’m still dedicated to being a professional poker player for the time being. That might not last that much longer. I might find myself in a different career in a couple of years.

For now, though, I’m attempting to find the little things in poker that I can get passionate about and I’m hoping to find some of that excitement that my son has for Minecraft every day in the nuances of a poker hand that I just played or a situation that I just saw on WSOP coverage. It’s a grind to be a professional poker player and it can get you down over and over again. In fact, just like in Minecraft, when you fall down in poker, you lose the things you had with you. But, if you just head back from your spawn point to where you were knocked down last, you can pick yourself up and keep going. If I can remember to stay as positive about the learning experiences as I used to and as my son does these days, I’ll find a way to stick to it. ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG