“Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.” – Balzac
“There is no ‘i’ in ‘team’, but there is a ‘u’ in ‘cunt’.” – Kenny Powers
I’ve always been a bit of a loner, I enjoy my own company, and I love games where I don’t have to be part of a team. I don’t want to be the weak link in a team, or to be let down by a weak link, so playing games on my own suits me just fine.
When I was a kid I used to play solitaire games, read alone in my room and never enjoyed online games where I have to team up with other people. I like to set my own goals and achieve them by myself; I am, at heart, an antisocial bastard and when I discovered poker, I felt like I was home.
On the face of it, poker is the loneliest game in the world; even if you venture away from the online game into a casino, everyone at the table is essentially your enemy. The rule is “one player to a hand”, only you know exactly what happens during your best and worst hands of the night.
When you play well, the glory is all yours; when you play badly, you have no-one to blame but yourself.
Unless you are a staked player, all your financial wins and losses are yours to enjoy or bear alone; and if you are a staked player, you have investors/a boss, but no colleagues to grind your axes against. Poker can be a lonely life.
Because I have never been a professional player, only a passionate recreational player, I never cared very much about joining online poker groups, or forums, or investing too much time talking to other players about my game.
The internet is packed full of information that can help me study, learn and develop as a player and using these resources seemed like another excellent way to avoid unnecessary communication with other humans, the stinky little monkeys.
Why would I care what my mate said about anything poker related when I can watch a vlog from a guy making an actual living from this game? It never made any sense to me, until very recently…
I had a little break from poker because it was stressing me out, and I returned to the (digital) felt on January 1st after a clear month away from the tables. I came back with a good mentality, ready to play my best game, and to take the beats.
As it turned out, I had some superb rungood and in the 3rd tournament I registered for I landed 3rd place out of 2500 players for a very nice 195buyin bink. Happy New Year.
During my month off, I had spent more time looking at online forums, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts etc because I missed poker, and wanted more engagement with it outside just studying. I’ll never underestimate how important studying poker is if I want to improve as a player, but I had gone from playing 60-80 hours a week with 10-20 hours study; nobody human can study anything for 100 hours a week without their head exploding, so social media poker chat was a nice distraction.
I’m part of several closed poker groups, and I noticed that one in particular kept popping up in my notifications: “Ace-High Poker”.
It’s got about 1500 members and a lot of them are local to Manchester UK, where I lived for a long time and know a lot of the regular live poker faces.
I suppose this initially made me feel more comfortable in this group, because I actually know the people, and they therefore know what to expect of me. I don’t always make a great first impression, I’m an abrasive individual, but after people have met me a few times, they see my heart’s in the right place.
During my month off, I saw that a good few of this group’s members would make a post when they were running deep in a tourney, or got a good result, online or live. These posts would then get some useful/supportive feedback from other group members, even if that was just the words “well played”, “rungood”, “be lucky” or similar.
I joined in with supporting people, mainly because I had nothing better to do, but also because I know what it’s like to be playing poker, and thought that a few positive comments might be welcomed.
When I got to the stage in my online tourney where there were less than 100 players left and I was chip leader by a good whack, (after a lucky hand where I called off a medium stack with QQ pre-flop, cried at his KK and then rivered a Q) I posted this information on the group page.
I didn’t expect much of a response. I’m not a very active member of the group, and as previously stated, I can be a bit of a bell-end, so I didn’t think people would care too much about my micro tournament activity.
I was quite wrong.
The response was overwhelming! Loads of people wished me luck, and a few even found me on PStars and railed me; a combination of real life friends, people who I knew of from online or live and total strangers were all suddenly part of my team in the loneliest game in the world.
It felt amazing, and I have no doubt it gave me a boost of mental energy, which is always important in the late stages of a large field tourney; playing for 7 hours can easily frazzle one’s mind!
I think I have seriously underestimated the value of this community feel to my own poker economy and the poker world as a whole.
I’m always banging on about how to get new players engaged with the mechanics of the game and get them to bring their money to the tables, but I never really saw social media groups as a way to do this.
I have always assumed online meeting places like this are for experienced/committed players discussing strategy, notifying eachother of value and slagging off busty cardroom managers when they make stupid mistakes. I think I have to now realise that this type of group can be an engagement route for new players; they can be part of the strategy for selling poker to new players as a way to make friends and connections.
I have to realise that poker is not as lonely as I thought it was, despite every decision being my own, I do have a team, I am part of a community, and it turns out they actually care about me and my micro-stakes life.
Stop it, I’m not welling up; that’s just a speck of dust in my eye.
I have said to myself that I will spend fewer hours playing poker this year; I was in danger of burning out last year, damaging both my love for the game and my actual results. As well as upping my study hours, I will now commit to spending more time engaging with people in the groups I’m part of, and making the most of these connections.
In one way, it’s purely selfish: I will put in because I want to take out. In another way, I now see that the social side of poker is as much, if not more, of a draw to new players as the game itself, and I know that attracting new blood is vital to the survival of poker in the way that I like to play it.
If you run a group, invite noob friends, get them involved on the basis that these are nice people who are worth making a social connection with. If you are a new player, or unaccustomed to using spaces like these, then I recommend you dive on in; you will, like me, no doubt be pleasantly surprised at how supportive and friendly people are.
I am not alone, and, damn, it feels good!