Poker. Until about five months ago, the word meant little more to me than its second meaning — a rod used to irritate embers in a fire. And I guarantee you, I thought the latter more interesting.
(Spoiler alert for the seething: my sentiments have changed.)
When I first heard NJOY was sponsoring the World Series of Poker, it was as thrilling to me as hearing I’d be attending competitive cheese aging (not the eating, the aging). I don’t want to stand around to watch my friends sit stone-faced at a table. Why the hell would I want to see strangers do it?
Since this article is published in a poker publication, you can rest assured I no longer think of poker the same way I think of, say, lint. When I attended the WSOP preliminary competition in July, I was impressed — and entertained in ways lint can only dream of.
So if you have a friend who doesn’t understand your poker obsession, pass this along. It may help them grasp your love of the game. And if you are a novice poker spectator yourself, consider the following facts about poker and its players.
1. Poker is old and well-traveled.
While you might believe poker was incepted around the same time Al Capone was learning to shave, poker has actually been played for centuries. According to this source, Egyptians were praying to Bes for winning hands as early as the 12th and 13th centuries while Jonathan H. Green wrote about the sport fresh off a Mississippi river boat in 1834. Whether it be your ex or a card game, if it has a past, it’s inherently interesting.
2. Poker is the most active you’ll ever be while sedentary.
Well, other than mulling over quantum mechanics, but one could argue poker tactics are just as mysterious. It is the only sport in the world in which you can be aggressive, random, intimidating, surprising, puzzling, and fascinating without so much as twitching your nose.
3. Poker is a serious party.
Big money means big party, and the big party format hasn’t changed much since the dawn of the party itself. There’s still bling and booze and beautiful self-deprecation. That being said, I met very few poker players who weren’t current or ex-smokers, so it was appropriate NJOY — a vaping company — sponsored the event. Players might be stony in their seats, but I found most of these folks aren’t always so serious. They like a good time. That being said...
4. Jumpsuits are a thing.
And some even come hooded with built-in headphones! The greater point here: poker is a self-aware sport. Players know most of the action is internal, so why not make it fun for the spectator — and distracting for opponents — by donning a onesie and gold-plated shades? The jumpsuit phenomenon in the poker scene is completely rad. I move it should be accepted in workplaces across the globe.
5. Phil Ivey is a babe.
When I offered him a vape pen at the Mothership (the massive feature table stage at the WSOP), I got pretty up close and personal (within a foot). He’s just a good-looking dude. Moving on.
6. Women are wanted.
Caballing off the nonsequiter man mention, I saw a couple of badass poker chicks when I was at the WSOP — but I honestly mean a couple. Two. I saw two women playing poker during the entire tournament. This isn’t to say I didn’t miss a few (or hopefully many), but the imbalanced ratio of men to women at the WSOP was hard to ignore. So gals, take this as an invitation for you to shuffle the deck a little and kick bluffing butt.
7. Poker is a livelihood.
Lastly, please appreciate many people make their living playing the game and it’s no profession to shake your head at. Yes, some players "make it rain" over Las Vegas if they win 10 grand (see proof here), but not all. People are out there in the world right now playing poker to fund family dinners and daycare and gas and vacations, working to live just like you and I. Well, unless they hit a jackpot. I’m certainly not buying any spur of the moment Lamborghinis, but hey, I’m also not a poker player.
So the next time you get the chance to play or watch poker, don’t fold. You’ll be an active part of history and learn a whole new way to bond with your fellow people — but no matter where you stand on the spectrum of poker lovers, you should enter here for a chance to win a trip to the WSOP Main Event in November.
In life or in poker, I wish you good luck.