St. Patrick’s Day Poker March 25, 2008Posted by Jennifer in : feminism,poker , 3 comments
"That’s great! The first prize should be about half a million dollars!"
I explained to him that he needed to shave off a zero, but he did not believe me, insisting for several minutes that it would indeed be a six figure prize. When he did begin to realize I may be right, he prefered to pretend we had differences of opinion rather than admit his error. My fear of shame defeats my fear of lies too so I can’t really blame him. Who knows? Maybe there are two ways of looking at it.
The math blunder was a great omen for the day, in which all the chips I gained by skill and not luck were based on the inability of my opponents to do basic math. I came in 21st out of 369 players, good for my entry fee back plus 200$. Not a great payday considering that i was trapped in a chair with only cookies and chips to eat for 9+ hours. But it was exciting. And yes, I was mad when i lost with AK on the river to trip sevens. The ladies and the crowd clapped loudly for the 7, but broke into an apologetic, half assed congrats when they realized I’d been stacked. I’m never popular at these things, especially at the end everyone hates me cause I keep saying "all in" and in response I hear a lot of "Why don’t you play poker for a change?" Which brings me to my next point.
One interesting thing about women’s poker tournaments is that the players tend to be very weak in the endgame, when math dominates all other considerations. Take this typical example. I have about 7x the Big Blind plus there are tons of antes. So basically, I’m really short stacked, and my effective stack size is more like 5x the BB. From middle position I push all in. The Big Blind thinks for like two seconds and turns over JJ, and says "RESPECT." OK, for those of you who are not big poker players, JJ is like fifth best hand in poker, and to fold there when I have so few chips is a terrible decision.
As a thinking feminist, I can’t escape the disturbing truth that the majority of women poker players I’ve competed with ignore or mock math. Perhaps women are too often taught to go with their heart, and rely on their "female intuition." Also maybe women are attracted to poker because of the glamour, and it’s not glamorous to calculate pot odds, while trying to gaze into your opponent’s soul IS glamorous? One of these days, I will get to the bottom of it all. Along the way, I will enjoy my beautiful expected value.
Hats and Rose-colored glasses March 22, 2008Posted by Jennifer in : books,poker , add a comment
I first heard about Martha Frankel’s new memoir, Hats and Eyeglasses about online poker addiction, in a lurid piece on NPR. I was laughing while listening because the interviewer was very bad at masking extreme SchadenFruede, or pleasure in the misfortune of others. Her questioning style was in the vein of a modern day morality tale, and I kept expecting the next inquiry to be "Why didn’t you stop playing after losing your first 300$ in ten minutes?" and "what was the difference between your advance for this book and the total credit card debt?" and "did it destroy your sex life?"
Martha Frankel, like me, grew up in a house of games, where "Never play to an inside straight" was as important of a principle as "use butter when baking." Later she became a celebrity interviewer, famous writer, and her fascination for poker grew. It’s hard to tell whether she was talented or just fascinated, because in the book, she makes it seem like it took her a long time to grasp very basic things, like the ranking of hands.This could be just to make the book more accesible. In Positively Fifth Street,James McManus did the same sort of thing, and he was known as a very good player, so his "geewhiz" attitude was definitely disingenous. In Martha’s case her skill level is less clear, but she wins in live play, in casinos and cruises, largely due to her poker coach and cousin Keith’s excellent mantra to "Crush them all by folding." (That’s really my friend Donny’s quote, but same point.)
The worst thing about the book is that Martha strongly implies that there is rampant cheating, robots and collusion in online games. She does allow the possibility that she played badly on Paradise Poker, but briskly, as if it’s a minor possibility not worth more than a paragraph or two. The childhood stories are so much more vivid and considered than her account of addictive internet gambling spell, which is both the book’s selling point (that’s all NPR wanted to talk to her about), but also its most superficial and defensive part. Despite the hidden truths that remain, most poker players hate to admit when they lost, so what Frankel did reveal required bravery.
Hats and Eyeglasses offers insight into gambling addiction and the risks and benefits of an extremely independent marriage that somehow survives catastrophic online gambling losses. I would never back Martha Frankel in a poker tournament, but I must say that in terms of men and publishing, she seems to be blessed.