The Pursuit of Happiness and then there is poker... (this blogpost is also called 开心就好)
I will try to explain the game of Texas Hold-em (skip this next bit if you know what the game is about). Made famous by that straight face Matt Damon in the movie Rounders way back. Simple enough game to understand, which is why it is so popular. Did James Bond played poker? Only in latest Casino Royale actually, James used to play Baccarat in the original.
Poker is a game traditionally a five card game where players with the ‘best hand’ (winning hand) takes a community pot (lots of money) bet in by all the players at the same table. Texas Hold ‘em is one of the most popular variation of the poker game concept. The player with the winning hand: 5 cards that may contain pairs like Aces, 2 pairs (AA, KK and one more card called the Kicker which can be any card), full house (AAA,KK), straights (A,2,3,4,5), royal flush (A,K,Q,J,10)...etc.
If you seriously have no concept of this, it makes the next few paragraph very hard to explain. Of course, please go ahead and wiki it! You will get a clearer picture... or just play a few hands with some friends. Or just skip it and move on to what I really have to say. lol.)
You want to win of course, so to play you are first dealt with 2 cards, no one can see these cards. You play with the players on the same table (2 - 9 people) not the dealer (this is not playing against the casinos, which in theory makes it a level playing field). After the cards are dealt, the betting begins. And the fun part begins because unlike other games, you can bluff! And you are given a life line as you can always fold - throw those miserable hands away and live to fight another day - when you feel that someone else is going to win the pot.
Everyone bets after 2 cards are given to each player, puts money in the middle where the winner takes all, raises (up the value of the bet made before you) or checks (passes to the next person to bet an amount) or you can always fold (throw away your chance).
Then 3 cards are dealt in the middle, this is called ‘The Flop’, everyone on the table shares these 3 cards and try to make the ‘best hand’ (or the winning hand with five cards. The Royal Flush A, K, Q, J, 10 is the best five hands possible) and wins the pot of money that everyone puts out in the middle.
As this is Texas Hold ‘em and what makes it is so entertaining is that another card is dealt in the middle called ‘The Turn’. Now the winning player may not be you anymore. Even if you had Ace Ace at first, which will probably make the best five cards at the end of the game - you may not necessarily be the winner because the best five cards may shift to another player on the fourth card.
Of course, to make matters more exciting and so watchable for TV junkies - there is another community card (a fifth card) is dealt in the middle for everyone to use to make the best hand, this is called ‘The River’.
Sounds complicated? There are seven cards you can play with and you want to make the five best cards and you ‘seemingly’ have 2 chances with the fourth and fifth community cards which causes you to bet like a mad person.
It is a game that seem to be a game of fair chance (you can fold, fold! Now!) but actually requires a deep level of skill and experience and the difference between a good player and a world class professional is well ‘they’ say ‘no luck involve’. There is more to the game like posting the big blind and small blinds and antes, so if you are really interested go check out wikipedia. Thanks, sorry for this bad explanation.
It is deeply psychological (Level playing field, play the players, you have a chance to fold - not like other game based on luck... blab blab), which is why i enjoy playing and watching it so much. Out of nine players only one person can be dealt with the best hand. And if you win a hand in a nine player game that is $100 x 9 = $900!
You are given 2 cards to play with and your cards is Ace Ace, the mind automatically says to you “You are the Winner! Push all your chips in” but you are suppressing it because you are playing with 5 cards’ not 2 card.
And to make matters worst, everyone ‘shares’ the five cards dealt. and you get jittery and all the tells in the world appear because even with Ace Ace (best pair possible before the flop, you can be beaten by the Royal Flush (A, K, Q, J, 10) so someone may have the other Ace in the beginning and the community cards comes K, Q, J. You are in trouble because if the fourth card is a 10. Your Ace Ace is no longer the best hand because that idiot with like Ace 2 (which is like the smallest Ace-d pocket cards) can beat you and steal the big fat pot from you.
So what do you do when you have Ace Ace - you poker professional? Your mind suppresses the excitement because you will think ‘no other idiot will have these cards, if I will calmly all-in (push all your hard earn money) into the middle and if they are foolish enough they will bet and after all the cards come out, I will emerge the winner. Eat that suckers!
So simple to win so much money, especially with so little effort just sitting around pushing some poker chips around. But what happens when you are dealt with the thrash cards like 7,2 or strange playable cards like K,3? Fold them? Bluff your way until ‘The River’ and keep your fingers and toes crossed?
So what is this blog about? Getting one to play poker? What an idiot!
After playing about 2 overnighters and almost the whole Sunday, my brain was bursting - let’s just say I didn’t lose, well... I won (let me brag a little, this is my blog post.) And the problem with me is that I remember details, sometimes too much. What happened in the game? Who did stupid raises? Who won? Who lose? Where did the losers seat? How they won me when I had a KK? How they lost? Who they lost to? The faces of my opponents when I sucked them all in with my hidden full house...lol.
I wanted to eat but the adrenaline was still going, going. Then I stopped. Just stopped whatever I was doing and sat staring at the TV playing some strange programme that no one in the room was really watching.
Damn. Why am I so happy?
Is it because I almost lost money but didn’t? Or is it because I won? It is because I have gotten newfound respect and possible admiration? Or is it because I have caused my opponents to now start a new blood feud for a rematch the next time around? Or is it simply because I sat around, pushing chips around and won some cash?
Is what I just went through a measure of my pursue of happiness?
Doesn’t everyone want what those professional poker players have? The Fs in LiFe? Fun, Fame and Fortune? And watching them win millions seemed so easy, they sit, try to look stoned, move a little.. win. Does this fall under sloth or greed in the Seven Deadly Sins? Maybe Pride? Maybe all of it most likely. Of course, we didn’t see much of the players at the final table struggle the last 4 - 5 days before, about 12 hours a day, trying to get to that position to try to win it all. Maybe tournament poker players are not really that bad - it is the cash game professionals! They are the real sharks!
Film and television (well all the media, ads and pretty much everything that surrounds us - nice iPhone!) paints such a romantic picture for hard working people. People who work for their money. Real people who have flaws and mistakes and will never see millions in their lifetime but are always given ‘The Hope’.
Being in the creative and media industry, it is all about ‘The Hope’. Mass market advertisements, commercials, bus stops ads, supermarket trolleys and credit card roadshows... We sell you ‘The Hope’ so that ‘Our Hope’ can be fulfilled. And the ‘suck out’ cycle never ends.
So what is this long blogpost about? What is your point? I have better things to do than hear you ramble on and on? If this is your idea of selling me a product or service, tell me how much already!
I never thought much about the pursuit of happiness and what it truly represent... until after a silly game of poker, this is so sad...
“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” what powerful words echoed in the US Declaration of Independence - our inalienable rights.
Happiness is such a simple, under-rated word that we take so much for granted. (In Singapore, we have that in our pledge, “... so as to achieve happiness...”.)
Why do we try so hard, work so hard and slogged it out? So that at the end of the day we can be what? Happy? Or are those the inalienable rights of the people of the great United States and since it is not written so clearly and majestically in ours, we do not really deserve to have it. And then, when exactly is the ‘at the end of the day’ for us? When we finally ‘cash out’? When we hit 55 or what 65? Oh wait, the dealer needs to keep some in the pot - ‘The House’ will always win.
The bigger question is actually this - Do we actually deserve to attain our state of happiness?
I mean in all seriousness, if we can bet $3.50 on a lottery ticket and become a millionaire, why don’t we all just do that. The odds for the group one prize pool is 8,145,060 to 1. The odds for hitting a Pair of Aces in Texas Hold ‘em is 220 to 1.
But we don’t bluff our way through life do we? We don’t weight the odds stacked against us and make our decisions? We can’t pretend we have the Aces or the Kings all the time? We have to admit sometimes that even with a full house, someone else may have the four of the kind and beat us to the pot. We can not always win.
Do you know what is more admirable more in poker than watching someone win it all? When one person is pushing so hard to win the pot that he goes on a betting craze trying to just make everyone fold and to this - you are contemplating... and the thought should probably be quite simple “If I fold now and throw this chance away, this idiot will be happy and I will be alright and I can live with that... I fold.” Less effort, still happy. Okay, if the idiot shows his hands in the end and is bluffing there is nothing you can do about it. He is a donkey, you are better than that. Of course, this is not to say we should give up all the time, if you really do have ‘The Nuts’ - the strongest possible hand in any given situation - Raise Hell!