Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Poker Tournament

We hosted a poker tournament this weekend, Texas HoldEm, of course. That's all anyone wants to play anymore since that's what's on TV.

The tournament started at 10 am Saturday with 100 players. I was still at work at 10:30 pm when the amateur boxing exhibition in our showroom let out. In the end I worked 15 1/2 hours on Saturday.

At least it was busy, and divided into distinct phases so I could fool myself into thinking that it was really two different days. The first phase was the poker tournament. A lot of our tournaments pay out in seats to other tournaments; you play in order to get closer to a seat in a big tournament, like the World Series of Poker. Last weekend was a cash tournament, our most popular kind. The first place winner took home over $3000.

The first place winner was one happy camper. He was young, barely 21, grinning as they took his picture with a "turkey tail" fan of cash. I had dealt to the eventual sixth place winner early in the tournament, another young guy. He had never played the game before, had won a seat in the tournament calling into a local radio station. He watched the game on TV and came in and gave it his best shot. At the first break, when the other players had left the table, he told me how nervous he was, how he was so scared on that first hand that he could hardly move.

The older players sometimes get tied in knots by these younger, inexperienced guys. The older guys know the game and they have very firm ideas about the "right" way to play. They figure outs and pot odds. They fold often and are careful not to overbet. The young guys may or may not understand the strategies, but they tend to go out on more limbs and sometimes those limbs hold up. The old guys get irate when they get "rivered", or beat on by the last card. They snarl "What are you playing those cards for?" or "You had no business in that pot!" but I'm pushing the pot towards the younger, presumably dumber, guy.

It's an age-old argument. The oldsters want the youngsters to act less recklessly. The youngsters, still refining their risk-assessment skills, pretty much have to act recklessly at least some of the time. They don't want to be like those old cranky guys.

I wonder if the old guys have tells. It would make sense that young guys would be more adept at reading others' body language. They spend a lot more time meeting and evaluating a lot more people. Of course, the older guys think no such thing: they imagine themselves to be inscrutable. In truth, they tend to spend much more time listening to themselves talk than listening or studying others.

I checked out the beginning of the boxing when I was on break. The first event was young kids, about 10, bundled up and ready to go at it as the music blared and the light banks flashed red, white, and blue around the showroom. The last people I dealt to Saturday were visiting coaches, playing a little blackjack and having a beer while they rehashed their kids' fights. I'm not that into boxing, but I like to see people that are truly engaged with kids and are thoughtful about how to help kids grow up right. It was a pleasant surprise to see these boxing coaches filling that role.

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