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A Love/Hate Affair With Online Poker

Posted at 22:20 2009-11-21
Devoid of live poker in his country of residence in Lao, Aussie Tim Napper shares his love/hate affair with online poker as he battles through tilt and foot stink - all for the love of the game!
 
My foot-stink assails my senses. I'm trying to focus on the screen in front of me, but I'm finding it difficult to concentrate with the stinging in my nostrils. My feet aren't that bad today, it's more that hours and days and weeks of foot-stink have permeated every fibre of the couch - the poker couch. The strategic throne from whence I send my chips into battle.
 
So it sit, cross legged on the poker couch, at the end of another 12 hour session at the tables, inhaling stale foot-stink and wondering why I persist with online poker. The money is nice I guess. It’s been a good year for me on the virtual felt. But by god I hate playing online. My current country of residence – Lao PDR – doesn’t have any live poker, so I’m reduced to playing the demoralising simulacrum of the real version of the game.
 
Online poker is demoralising for a number of reasons - it's tedious and repetitive; it gives you even less motivation to leave the house, bathe, or develop any kind of social skills; pieces of perfectly good computer equipment – mouses, keyboards and occasionally screens – get damaged in tilt-fuelled rages; and it keeps you cooped up indoors vegetating during beautiful summer days while stinking up perfectly good couches. And in the end, it just isn't as interesting as live poker.
 
It's a different game for starters. It has the same science as real poker – perhaps even moreso - but less art. It lacks the psychological depth, the human side of the real game, which for mine really makes poker worth playing in the first place.
 
It takes skill - yes of course - some of the brightest and best play almost exclusively online. It's tough - no one will deny that - even some of the low buy-in tournaments and cash games have quality opposition slowly working their way through the monetary ranks. But let’s face it - it's dull. It’s lifeless. It lacks the verve, the colour and excitement of live play. And by excitement I mean it lacks the heart pumping, ball shrinking, sheer terror of live play.
 
Online poker has a relative vacuum of information. You can't see the way someone handles their chips, verbalises a bet, or respond to the scrutiny of nine pairs of eyes watching them as they try to calmly bet the nuts on the river. You can't observe how someone responds to pressure - the pressure of a long tournament day; the pressure of the bubble; the pressure of pushing out a big bluff. It’s the last in particular that really gets the heart pumping. When sitting in the comfort and anonymity of your lounge room, a simple click of the mouse button makes the big bluff easy. I can do that without blinking. But live play? The big bluff at the final table of a big tournament? That gets the blood pounding in the ears, the hands shaking, the sweat beading on the brow.
 
Yeah baby, live play can be a rush.
 
Online poker, on the other hand, is a bunch of 16 year-old mathematicians practicing optimal play while surfing for black-on-white porn and writing grammatically retarded pseudo-sentences on the two-plus-two forums. You don't need heart to play online, you need a calculator. It's not a game about humans; it’s a game of equity and numbers.
 
So why even play? Easy - I love poker. If I didn’t have online poker, I’d be begging my girlfriend to play heads-up for match-sticks; if she wasn’t around I’d be dealing cards to imaginary opponents and trying to ‘play out’ different hands according to the ‘tendencies’ of the imaginary players. If I didn’t have a deck of cards, I’d cut rectangles out of pieces of paper and make my own deck.
 
And I want to tell you something right now so there’s no doubt in your mind – I’ve done all of these things and worse. I’m a true poker desperado. Once I made a pair of Kings out of post-it notes during a particularly long and boring meeting, so while the speaker droned on interminably about fiduciary systems or the new pair of pants he just bought or whatever crap it was, I would occasionally peek down at the post-its and feel a sliver of that short-sharp thrill of looking down and seeing pocket Kings in a live game.
 
So I play online because I’m a poker tragic. I endure that lingering foot-stink so I can keep my technical skills sharp and to make some money. But I’m not kidding myself. It’s not real and doesn’t feel real. It’s virtual. The real game is what the November Nine have just shaped up to, or what several hundred players will be doing in the Main Event of the Aussie Millions come January.
 
And that is what it is about - a room echoing with the sound of a million riffling chips at the beginning of a major tournament, the atmosphere electric with anticipation; a thousand poker tragics in the same room chasing the Moneymaker dream, and the announcer taking up the mike and telling the dealers to ‘Shuffle Up and Deal!’

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A Love/Hate Affair With Online Poker A Love/Hate Affair With Online Poker

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