Nov
13
2008

Misconceptions About Poker And Online Poker

As a poker enthusiast I often get involved in the same old conversations about my hobby. I find it highly amusing and frustrating that people who know nothing about poker and have never played it can cast some kind of judgement (moral or otherwise) over me when I tell them I am passionate about playing. For many they lump poker in with other casino games and put it in the same class as poker (video slot) machines or roulette. Others have visions of people losing their car playing poker or that it is a game only played by degenerates. Anyway, from now on whenever I get involved in one of these conversations I am going to refer them to this blog post and then get back to me if they still want to cast aspersions over the great game.

To one of my friends or family members “So he is still addicted to poker?”
Just because you play poker does not mean that you are in anyway addicted or that you have a gambling problem. Even if you live and breathe the game and rush home from work each night to play, you aren’t necessarily addicted nor do you have a problem. Poker is a game of skill as well as a hobby for many people, just like chess or golf. I’m sure there are plenty of people that love golf with a passion and plan their lives around getting in 9 holes after work, playing every weekend and going on trips around the globe to play famous courses.

The only time you can rightfully accuse someone of having a poker addiction or a gambling problem is when their behaviour begins to have a negative impact on their life, hurt them financially or negatively influences the people that are close to them. For the majority of poker players this isn’t really a problem.

I’m so totally sick of being told I have a serious medical condition just because I like to play cards. The game of poker is unfairly scorned at my ill-educated observers who themselves probably have some sort of credit card debt or alcohol problem… and to them I say mind your own backyard I’m not hurting anyone by playing a card game.

“You’ve just been getting lucky, you will lose it all eventually”
Yeah, you know this might be true if I were claiming to be a roulette genius or a slot machine god. I’m not though. Poker is unfairly heaped in with other casino and gambling activities purely because it is played in casinos. What people forget though is that at the poker table you are playing against your opponents and not the casino themselves. The casino takes a rake for running the games and if every single person who ever played poker was of equal skill the only winner would be the house. That simply isn’t the case though, someone has been playing and studying the game for 20 years is going to have an edge over a rank amateur. Through the course of a hand, a session, a week, a month or even a year an amateur player might be able to get lucky and beat a veteran. In the long run though, if you are a good poker player who exercises responsible bankroll management you should never go bust, it is mathematically improbable.

“Aren’t you worried about losing your house or car in a poker game?”
You’ve been watching too many movies! For some reason Hollywood loves to portray poker games where “table stakes” don’t exist and in order to call a large bet people have to throw their watch, car keys or house deed in the middle in order to win. In reality, all poker games are played for table stakes which means you can only lose what you have in front of you at the table. If I have $100 and you have $40 at the table I can only win $40 off you and you can only win $40 off me.

“You know that online poker is rigged, right?”
This question is particularly prevalent amongst players who have played a lot in the real world and never much online. They automatically assume that it would be in the best interests of online poker sites to rigged hands and make them lose big pots.

Often times they start thinking this after they have a few unsuccessful attempts at playing poker on the internet. Often saying that online poker is rigged is a form of denial and in actual fact they aren’t very good at poker. The speed at which online poker hands are dealt along with the ability to play multiple tables often means that bad players lose their money faster than they would playing in the real world.

Furthermore, it would not be in the interests of online poker sites to rig cards. If it ever got out that this was going on it would be so horrible for business that it just wouldn’t be worth the small short-term gains they could get out of it.

“Poker? Only low-life degenerates gamble!”
Well firstly, gambling is something that is enjoyed by a huge portion of the population. You are telling me you’ve never had a bet on a horse race or sporting event? You’ve never bought a lottery ticket or a scratchy? Gambling is something that is enjoyed by all races, adult ages and classes.

Secondly, poker is a mind nourishing challenge that attracts people from all walks of life. Businessmen, professional athletes, single mothers, academics, doctors, lawyers and whoever else. Poker is hugely popular all around the world and you would be surprised at some of the big names and not so big names that regularly play in a poker game.

“Do you have a physical tell?” or “You must have a really good poker face!”
Well I play mostly only, so even if I had physical tells my opponents wouldn’t be able to pick up on them. However, the whole notion of having a good poker face and not having a tick or something is so over-done. When you play poker in a real life setting, far more information can be garnered from betting patterns and the way opponents have played previous hands than could ever be told in a single facial tick. Yes, sometimes a physical bit of information can be useful, but it’s influence on the decision making process is way way way overstated.

“The guys on TV are really good!”
What you probably saw on TV was a poker tournament. Poker tournaments attract a mix of professionals and amateurs and the final (TV) table usually ends up being a mixture of both. Final tables are often characterised by their ridiculous blind structures in which nearly every decision becomes whether to go all-in pre-flop or not. While there is certainly a lot of skill in pre-flop play, the best players in the world are the ones that know how to play well when the money is deep and there is lots of post-flop decision making.

While a lot of the big names professionals you see on TV are actually fairly good players with excellent poker wit, there are some that got to be household names by having deep pockets and/or a lot of luck. A lot of the best poker minds and strategists don’t make it onto TV, they instead play online or in live cash games which aren’t covered by TV because they just aren’t as exciting as a television product.

“How do you avoid getting cheated?”
The prominence of cheating in poker is also greatly exaggerated. Maybe in your local pub game or home game there might be some cheating going on, but when it comes to casino based and online poker cheating is very difficult and doesn’t really occur. Collusion is usually a pretty obvious thing between players. In live play casinos they have numerous cameras monitoring tables to make sure there is no cheating going on. Online it becomes fairly apparent if two or more players are colluding because online sites and their players have the ability to review hand histories where they get to see everyone’s hole cards and what the action was. Even if collusion between one or two players was more prevalent, the edge that could be attained by sharing information at a ten man table wouldn’t be all that great and probably not enough to justify the risk of getting caught.

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