Meeting the Poker Pro

Thinking about and knowing my father-in-law and actually, the whole of my partner’s family, I couldn’t help but think that maybe, just reading the Independent book on how to win poker wouldn’t take me to the win that I need. Thankfully, a gem of winning poker brilliance landed on my lap this week.

A client had asked me to tweet about an upcoming Texas Hold’em event called ‘Dusk till Dawn‘. It happened that they were having a press event at Asper’s Casino at Westfield in Stratford, London. This was an event available to any poker journalists or bloggers. It was a lightbulb moment. I pictured Christmas this year, my Christmas money hot in my purse….and staying there, because this event included a lesson from a poker pro! Perfect.

I donned my best red lipstick and cool converse and headed to the casino, a 130 mile round trip. The casino wasn’t what I had imagined, too many Bond films had clouded my judgement, but there were a group of people, standing next to a bar, looking smartly dressed. Damn it, no converse. I headed over and was offered a free drink, double damn it, I’m driving.

I found myself, shandy in hand, explaining to various poker journalists and professionals that I don’t actually play poker, but have an outright plan of family domination at Christmas, which I am documenting in a blog. I felt slightly foolish, until I spoke to Paul Zimbler, who was the pro due to teach us poker that evening. I explained my predicament and he looked fairly understanding, “So, that’s 7 weeks.” “Yes” I replied. I told him about the Dan Plan and asked how long he thought it would take to beat my father-in-law. “100 hours practice will win you a game, maybe 1000 to win a tournament.” he replied. So a minimum of 100 hours practice to win at Christmas, that’s 15 hours practice a week! A daunting, possibly anti-social, but achievable task.

There was a lull, the time had come to sit down at the poker table. I found the person who looked the most worried, it turned out she knew as little as me, we sat together. Around the table were people playing with their chips in a moderately intimidating manner so I looked down, only to see that Paul had left us beautifully bound copies of the rules of poker at each of our seats.

IMG_0134Brilliant, this has got to help. Sadly, the rules of poker don’t teach you how to win poker. That is something that I think you gain from lessons and experience. However, I tried to memorise the different winning hands before I put my book away.

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The lesson was fantastic. I don’t want to write too much here for fear of giving away Paul’s secrets, suffice to say that by the end of the hour I was pretty convinced that 100 hours was never going to get me the win, given my terrible knowledge of the 4 times table.

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I wasn’t going to let that get the better of me though and sent out the initial warning shot to my partner informing him that I was ready to beat his dad at Christmas. That shandy must have been strong. My partner didn’t reply, but I could sense a raised eyebrow winging its way through the ether. Overconfidence is a dangerous beast.

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The lesson ended and the game began. We were each given £5000 of chips. I looked around. There were 11 of us at the table, 3 poker journalists, 3 bloggers, 2 professional poker players, 2 people who play in tournaments, the girl next to me who couldn’t play poker and me. Shit. I’ll be honest, I was scared out of the first few hands, so much so that I missed out on a flush. The bets went high and even though the money was virtual, I was scared to gamble it. The girl next to me lost her final chips.

At this point I decided that I should go for it and started gambling. I was in a good position, far away from the dealer and had had some time to watch the form of the other players. I bet high on a definite two pairs, my head drumming through the 4 times table of odds. I won! Within a few hands I had £13,000 of chips in front of me. I felt powerful, victorious, foolhardy. Too foolhardy! I tried to bluff. Slowly, but surely my giant stack of chips faded before my eyes. I found myself going all in on a hand that I really shouldn’t have gambled on. I lost. I was emotionally exhausted, my brain felt broken. I’d only been playing for 3 hours. But that was 3 hours off of the 100 and I felt invigorated to go for a Christmas win. More than that, I felt pushed to work towards entering tournaments.

And so, within a week my focus has changed. I now have two missions, 1. to beat my father-in-law at poker this Christmas 2. To win a poker tournament.

What have I let myself in for?

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