Jul. 9th, 2008

peterbirks: (Default)
An interesting post from Terrence Chan about the nature of poker and what it takes to succeed. Her wrote that:
Poker is very solitary. Pretty much the only time it isn't solitary and people are pulling for you is in a live poker tournament. When you play a live cash game, everyone in your game -- everyone with whom you're interacting -- is your enemy.

One of the odd side effects of the poker boom is that it brought a new type of, er, "normal" person into the mainstream. Normal people are social animals, subject to peer pressure. They like being part of teams, in groups. Team sports where people pull together as a group to beat another group are more popular than infividual sports of one against one. Individual multi-player sports (one against many) are very unusual, although they make for popular competitions and reality shows.

As one of the old-timer (which, by Birks-lore, means pre-1999) poker players, I've always been a mite uncomfortable at the team fanaticism and whooping that goes on in the WSOP main event. It's something that feels, to me, artificially imported from another game. But, well, that's just me. I guess that, if you are the one being pulled for, it's a great feeling. And, yes, if a player were one of a select few at the final table (they probably know who they are) of a big tourney, I would be pulling for him. But I'm not sure that I'd go so far as to whoop or yee-haw a bad beat put on another player. One man's victory is another man's long-walk to the cashier.

Social groups are all part of society, and it's only logical that the US college fraternity system be extended to the concept of "poker crews". In Europe the concept of mutual co-operation is even greater. Structured discussions on the best way to beat "the rest" (i.e., non-Germans for German students, or non-Swedes for Swedish students, or non-Norwegians for Norwegian students) are common, in a way that I don't think has caught on in the more individualistic France or the UK. A downside to this is that, at the lower levels, you tend to spot specific "styles" amongst the multi-tablers from a particular country that you can quickly transfer by default to another multi-tabler from that same country. If the all-in with a short stack from the Big Blind to a series of limpers with 77 or better becomes the norm amongst a couple of players, then you can be fairly sure that the efficient communication system amongst players in that country will make it the default amongst other players.

French and UK players tend to be weaker (on average) than the Germans or the Swedes, but that doesn't necessarily make them easier to beat, because they also tend to be more individualistic. The concept of the "crew" and mutual help doesn't seem to have taken hold. This is a disadvantage in one way, but it has the advantage of not causing players to go with "the majority view" just because it is the majority view.


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