Let’s paint a picture. You’re walking through the casino, trying to decide where next to put your stake into play. You think blackjack, but the blackjack limits are too high just here and just now. So then you think craps, but they’re six deep around the craps table and you can’t even get close. Slots? Maybe another time. Sports book? Not your cup of tea.
Then… as you have so many times before… you notice the poker room, over there in a corner, separated from the rest of the casino by a low wooden rail and a certain aura that makes it seem foreign, distant and strange. Not for the first time, you think that you’d maybe like to take a shot at public poker. After all, you know the basics of the game from having played with the family as a kid or with friends in college or beyond. But there’s something so off-putting about that… that… room. The players all seem so confident, and their confidence is intimidating. It makes you want to walk away.
You have two fears. The first – that you might lose your money – is one you can deal with. It’s part of the casino experience; you know that. But the second fear – the fear of looking foolish – that’s a little harder to get over. Those people in there, they all know what they’re doing. If you join them (so you believe) you’ll betray yourself as a novice immediately. They will mock and disrespect you and heap scorn upon you. So you believe. And so you take another look at the blackjack table or the money wheel or even keno. And your brief flirtation with casino poker ends. Because a little thing called fear held you back.
Suppose I told you that you didn’t need to be afraid? Suppose I could take you into the world of public poker and demystify it step-by-step? Suppose I demonstrated that the games poker players play are no more complex or unknowable than the games you play already? Would you sign on? Would you come along for the ride? I hope so, because that’s what I plan to do in this column, and all you have to do is read every month, and learn and grow with me. Soon – much sooner than you think – you’ll be ready to take the plunge into public poker. It’s a plunge that you’ll find more enjoyable, and much more profitable, than you’ve ever imagined!
That’s a bold promise, I know, but I’m prepared to back it up because I know the truth about casino poker; I know what sets it apart. You know this truth too – it won’t surprise you when I share it – but perhaps you’ve never thought about it in the context of your own Slot gaming choices. Okay, are you ready for the big secret? Here it comes:
When you play craps, you play against the house. When you play blackjack, you play against the house. When you play baccarat, slots, video poker, keno, roulette, big wheel or flip-it, you play against the house. And we all know that the house has an edge. But when you play poker, you don’t play against the house. The house just hosts the game (for a cut, or rake, of course) When you play poker, you play against other people. People – believe it or not – just like you.
I know what you’re thinking: They’re not like you. They’re experts, they’re pros. Not true! Sure, some of the people you meet in public card rooms are trying to make their living at the game. But the vast majority are recreational players who have figured out that sitting at a poker table is as enjoyable as standing at a craps table, plus you get to sit down. Some of them are very smart players. But some of them are not very smart at all. They only seem smart, because they’re already there. They’ve taken their seats at the table, learned the routines and the rhythms of the game. They shuffle their chips with the practiced expertise of a lifelong card shark. They use poker slang like a second language. Then know when and how to check, call or raise. In short, they know the game.
But they didn’t always know the game. They went through the process of learning, just like you will if you join me on this trip. So understand this about the players you see in casino poker rooms: They’re just like you, only further down the road. Where you are, they have been; where they are, you will be.
And that’s what makes poker the game to play in casinos. Since you’re not playing against the house, you have a real chance to match wits against people who are more or less exactly like you. If your wits are superior to theirs – if you’ve taken the time to learn a little about poker, and you’ve mustered the courage to make the right move at the right time – you can win their money. And believe me, the thrill of winning money from someone just like you, makes the thrill of beating the house pale in comparison.
I know, I know… you’re still worried about that break-in phase. You’re worried about that very first time you sit down to play. You’re afraid they’ll laugh. Trust me, they won’t laugh. They’ll do everything in their power to make you feel welcome in the game. They won’t be doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, of course. By making you feel welcome and relaxed, they hope to win your money, just as you hope to win theirs. But with a little preparation and a little education (provided here free of charge – don’t thank me, I define myself through service) you’ll be able to surprise them by holding your own the first time, and every time, you sit down to play.
Still have your doubts? I don’t blame you. Most people view card room poker as a world of almost unspeakable depth and mystery. I viewed it that way myself once, before I screwed up my courage and pulled out my money and gave the game a try. Where you, are I was; where I am, you will be.
So join me here in JV’s Poker Room. No money’s at stake. No one’s gonna laugh at you. In these safe confines, we’ll explore a game and a situation – a gambling opportunity – that I believe will bring you much joy and much money in the long run. Come on in! We’ve got a seat open for you.