Monday, 19 September 2011

Finding A Way In

If you're trying to take something you love seriously, you need to find a way in. Joining clubs, talking to people about that thing you both think is awesome, meeting up to do that thing as much as you can, that's what makes a social hobby interesting; learning new things about it from people who know more than you. My hobbies are pretty much reading, writing, jewellery, and comedy. I've loved reading ever since I could, but I know how to use a library (all that book-learnin' makes you one smart cookie) and reading is pretty much a solo activity anyway. I like making jewellery, but with a few uploaded pics to Folksy, that similarly solo activity now has an outlet. 

It's fun to whore your wares! 

So all my hobbies and interests are things much better to enjoy solo. But not poker. And I have never had a group of friends who play poker. I have no members of my family, and no family friends, who play poker. I don't even know where to begin to find reputable sites online, and since a forum that I had been a member of for about five years decided to spontaneously combust in a fit of moderator vs admin pique, I don't trust the internet for solid, long-lasting relationships. There aren't any local games happening, unless I want to mosey on into a casino, and at this stage of my starving artist life, that's not really something I want to risk doing.

You have to find your in. If you love something and want to be a part of it, you have to find a way of doing it. And, taking the cool route, Celebrity Poker Showdown was mine.

And it's well worth a watch, whether you're a proper fan of the game or not. Which, at the time, I was not. Watching poker for a short while was deliciously confusing, but things were always happening that I didn't understand, and the tasty confusion often became outright frustration. But this series, with its affable presenters and usually friendly celebrities, made the whole game much easier to get to grips with. I LOVED watching Neil Patrick Harris dance the chips through his fingers, and if you think I'm speaking metaphorically, then you need to watch him do that.

 And smooth though he was, he'll always be Dr Horrible to me...

If you don't know the rules of something, or understand the language used, or the people involved, then trying to pick up poker from a regular tournament can be phenomenally difficult. I wanted to understand it, but it just wasn't sinking in. I've never been one to pick up languages very easily, as my GCSE French teacher the ever-patient Madame Grau would tell you. Je voudrais une bourdon-lompe. J'ai un piscine, avec la pluie. Oue est le chat? Le chat, il est dans le chevaux.* Hopeless. Anyway. Poker has another language, and it's one I didn't know and couldn't penetrate.

Because the celebrities weren't playing for themselves, but for charities, I think it relaxed them somewhat. Banter between players was higher than with the usual poker pros because they were mostly natural comedians or entertainers, and that allowed me to relax and stop stressing about the fact that I didn't know what a blind was and why it came in sizes, what the river was, and why people kept folding with what I thought looked like good cards. It all starting to sink in. Slowly, very slowly, but I was starting to pick up on the basics of poker.


So that's where this pretty much began. And I'm not going to lie here, internet, I watched it mostly for Neil Patrick Harris and his twinkly eyes. That was the one I watched first and even though NPH was fantastic to watch for entertainment value, as were Mekhi Phifer and Matthew Perry, I found myself absolutely hooked on the game. And loving it.  

*Google-translate tells me this means "I would like a bumble-lumpfish. I have a swimming pool, with the rain. Where is the cat? The cat, it is the horses." And I wish it were just me being hilariously quirky, but I genuinely thought that was going to make sense. You see why this poker-language thing is so difficult?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Poker & Secrets

So here we are. Just you and me. Hey. How's it going? Alright, now shush. Let me tell you about me. I'm a 23 year old writer who doesn't get on well with binary definitions of anything, so let's skip straight to the bit where I tell you what I'm doing here. I've always loved poker, the secret language of it, the smoky boozy atmosphere, and the vague feeling that as a woman, you're somehow sticking it to the man in some sort of righteous feminist way by even enjoying watching the game. Which is nonsense, but all put together, it feels damn good. However, I know nothing about poker. Not really. Not in any real sense. So this blog, this blog right here, is going to be about me getting into this world, slowly, surely, but making my way into (hopefully) the heart of the poker world.

With puns aplenty.

At this point, I had absolutely no understanding of the game, beyond some evenings at University where my friends and I got very drunk and botched the thing, playing our crazy drunken version because none of us knew the actual rules. Conversations like this were very much a part of these evenings:

"So I raise now?"
"Well, do you have good cards?"
"Yeah, pretty good. Two queens."
"Are you supposed to keep that a secret?"
"Probably, but I can see you've only got a five and a nine."
"Wait, wait, wait, don't we need to flop now?"
"Flop? Flop what?"
"Flop... the river."
"No, that doesn't sound right."
"I raise you ten!"
"You folded..."
"Yes, but I had two kings, so I'm unfolding."
"Like a banana."
"What's the banana? Is it in the river?"

And so on and so forth. House rules, as we thought we were creating, were everybody drink when you've got some cards, and let's try to not throw up or go to sleep against the fridge. 


My point is, we didn't know what the hell we were doing, and though I look back on those evenings with a great fondness, I think we can all agree that this doesn't count as a foray into the world of poker.

So that's where it started, but not really. I'll talk more about where it really started next time. And now, this week, I've decided it's something I need to get into properly. A deck of cards from a charity shop, a chance game that I fell in love with, and inspiration from the wonderfully intelligent Victoria Coren (and her excellent book) have really sparked up the desire to learn to play, properly this time.

My genuine thanks to VC

And yes, I do have a wee bit of a crush on Victoria Coren. She's very cool. I've re-written this entry about four times now to get rid of the sycophantic gushing, so lets just leave it at that. I very much wish there were more people like her on the television and writing, though. The world would be a much more interesting place with more Victoria Corens, Stephen Frys, David Mitchells and the like. I would love to make my mark on this world as she has, playing poker or not.