Ryan Ianni – Special To The Southern News –
Just about every day, I take part in a game that forces me to think critically of every decision I make, second-guess myself, study my opponents with heightened intensity and risk everything all on two pieces of paper. This is the game of poker.
I learned how to play poker when I was in eighth grade at a friend’s birthday party, and once the rules of the game finally snapped into understanding, I couldn’t get enough. This game is a complete battle of wills that can last for hours at a time.
Poker is televised on ESPN and other networks, so does that make it a sport? No, of course not.
The game involves sitting in a chair all day. But while it isn’t a sport, it is absolutely a battle of intelligence, willpower and fortitude necessary to be considered a great player of the game.
Now, I’m not driving down to Mohegan Sun every night, or playing with people at school, but through brilliant apps, poker is just a click away on my phone that lets me play whenever I choose. Why anyone cares at all is probably a question that’s brewing up right now, and it all has to do with personal pride.
I’ve sat down at poker tournaments with a measly $10 buy-in against 20 other players and a paltry $120 first place prize. Yet the drive and eagerness to win does not come from the financial gains at the end, it comes from the knowledge of besting 19 other people, who are all vying for the same prize, and have just as good a chance as you do of claiming it; being able to say you had the mental strength to outlast everyone else through skill, and of course some luck, and come out on the other side a winner. This is the draw of poker for me: to prove yourself against so many others and say you have won.
I don’t consider this to be a game based on luck first and foremost, but as with any card game, it definitely plays a factor. I’ve seen lucky cards win people $500 when they thought they had no hope, and men lose $1,000 in a matter of an hour, because the only card in the deck that could beat them comes out.
This may sound like a negative part of the game, but it is all part of the battle that takes place. You are constantly being forced to evaluate the scenario and make a decision based on the cards, and once another card comes down, you constantly have to keep evaluating. The actions of other players will do nothing if not make it more difficult to know what move is coming next. It’s all suspense.
I play in small home games, online, on my phone and at casinos. I play wherever I can to improve at this game, not just for the financial rewards, but also because of the mental challenges that it has me go through.
One last thing that should be mentioned about poker that hasn’t come up is this: it’s just a really fun game. There doesn’t need to be money on the line or hostile attitude towards everyone. It is just fun to sit down and compete for a few hours in this game of skill and chance. It’s a game that has only grown over time and shows no signs of slowing. So as they say in the casinos, “Shuffle up and deal!”