Column: Keeping online poker real

By Jeff Lipsey

Flop. Turn. River. Check. Bet. Call. Raise. Fold. All terms used in the Texas Hold’em Universe that even the average person can comprehend. You can play Limit, No Limit, Pot Limit, and even those addicting tournaments that you play with your buds on a Friday night, that’s right, you’ll find those all online. If you were to go to top 20 popular poker sites and count the number of players currently, there would be at least 300,000 players online worldwide and probably a million more that just have accounts.

So, when I talk to the average player about online poker and find out they’ve never heard of online play, it intrigues me and almost instantaneously, I stereotype them. Any Texas Hold’em player that does not play online is not that good of a player. Only a few poker geniuses can sit down at a table and win consistently without ever having to click a mouse; I would say that 99 percent of players aren’t of this variety.

So, when I tell people I quit my summer internship to play poker online I get many reactions (not to mention my boss’s). Playing poker professionally usually brings two such reactions to mind, jealousy and pity. Those that are jealous wish they didn’t have to sit behind their desk 40 hours a week getting exploited to make “Bill Lumberg’s stock go up a quarter-point.” The pity reaction is a little hard to defend. Considering most would never consider playing poker professionally as a wise career choice, I can’t do anything but agree.

Only those TV stars like Daniel Negreanu can make it in most people’s mind. In reality, thousands of poker players are professionals; they just don’t necessarily like it becoming public. Of all the poker players in the world, general rule states that only 10 percent of the players have actually won more than they have lost and less than 1 percent are self-proclaimed professionals.

In all seriousness, playing poker is fun. Why would you not want to play it as a living? The poker profession is not socially acceptable, that’s why. Most people consider it gambling and to tell you the truth, I’m OK with that. I risk money to make money and if that’s all society can comprehend then nothing I say will change their mind.

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It is just as much if not more of a risk to start your own business. Sure, take out $50,000 in loans and then go bankrupt; if that doesn’t sound like gambling then I would like to know what is. But, wait, that is socially acceptable, because everyone has heard that the only way you are ever going to get rich in this world is to work for yourself. I implore you to find a difference in the professional poker player and the entrepreneur. Wait, I know of one, the professional poker player doesn’t risk anything he can’t lose. He doesn’t take out thousands in loans to start up a business; he doesn’t go bankrupt when he loses.

In reality, the poker profession will never be socially acceptable, partly because the poker player brings no real service to this world. He’s not out there saving people’s lives or inventing products that can make people’s lives easier. No, the poker player just takes other people’s money by use of his skill, experience, and knowledge of the game.

Again, the difference between the poker player and the day trader on Wall Street is negligible. Both the poker player and the day trader push small edges to make gains off of other people with less knowledge. The poker player should be more socially acceptable than the day trader should. The day trader gambles with his life savings in order to completely take advantage of other people’s life savings. Every instance on Wall Street where a trader makes one dollar, someone else loses that dollar; poker is just as cut and dry. However, I can name one significant difference, professional poker players win money from those able to lose it; day traders win money from people who can’t.