Two Travellers Skip Vegas
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
I’m not going to the World Series of Poker this year. I’ve written a cheery little blog for the PokerStars site with a few reasons why not, which is here.
But I’m posting it in this other blog because I think it makes an interesting comparison with a recent piece by Neil Channing on the same subject.
Neil’s blog is spikier, edgier, and more of an argument than mine. I like to think I’d have written something as good if I’d had more words to play with, but I’m not sure that’s true; maybe I wouldn’t have been brave enough to stick my neck out that far.
I’m especially interested in the last section of Neil’s blog, “Old Problems” - if you don’t read the whole thing, at least scroll down and read that bit. When I talk in my Stars blog about finding last year’s Vegas hot and relentless, and not feeling excited about it, I think a lot of the reason may be to do with what Neil is talking about here. Vegas at WSOP time was a real Disneyland for me when I first went, when it was a pretty small-scale affair (though we didn’t think so at the time) down at Binions on Fremont Street, with everyone staying at Binions, the Mint, the Four Queens or the Golden Nugget. The poker was amazing, but it was part of a whole social scene where you bumped into friends on Fremont Street and made new ones at the table.
Obviously it couldn’t stay like that once the fields got so big - it had to move somewhere bigger, and that bigger place was (unfortunately) a giant off-strip hotel-casino that saw everyone scatter into hotels all over town. But there’s no reason why we should lose the spirit that used to reign at the tables, where totally disparate groups of people would tell each other their stories, teasing and bantering from all over the world (or quietly listening). It doesn’t need to be so serious - and certainly, as Neil says, it’s a real tragedy if the young pros are so busy getting each other’s opinion on mathematical niceties that they exclude everyone else.
I had a very sad moment at the table two Vegases ago. I was sitting next to an American fellow of maybe 65, and taking the opportunity to ask him all sorts of questions about how he came to play poker and his history in the game. Another man across the table, of similar age, said to him: “Don’t talk to her. She’s a pro, she’s just trying to get information to exploit you.”
I thought this was awful. “Getting information” about people’s lives and experiences is something I have always loved about poker, and I think of it as a valuable way to become better at life, never mind the game. Something has gone very wrong if chat between pros and non-pros has become so rare that it actually makes people suspicious when they see it!
So, if you’re out there, do take the time to chat with your fellow players, have a laugh, enjoy yourself as well as trying to make money. Or if you’re the type that doesn’t like to talk, fine - poker has always offered community to the shy - but don’t be one of those people who talks ostentatiously to friends or people whose games you respect while ignoring the others. Poker is full of people who were ignored or overlooked at school, because they (we) weren’t cool enough or didn’t look right. Half the joy of discovering the poker world is that those stupid old rules don’t apply. Nobody fits in, so everybody fits in. That should be truer of Vegas than anywhere else in the world.
Obviously, I kinda wish I was there.