My friend Jack is an extreme sport junky. You can find him doing bungee jumping off a crane in Manchester one day, Skydiving above Devon on the next. He will do an insane touring car race somewhere north of Paris and then go downhill-skiing a black course on the Alps – Yet Jack does not do gambling.

 

He will spend considerable amount of money on his various activities, but would not place ten pence on the Grand National. “You see” he tells me “extreme sports require skill, patient training and quality of execution. They are also exciting because you are a part of it… Throwing money over some random bet and watch someone else loses your money… no thanks”.

So you would think Poker would be right down Jack’s alley. It requires skill, patient training and quality of execution….. Well, not according to Jack. I have been trying to convince him otherwise, but for him – if it uses cards – it’s a stupid gamble. There is little you can do to convince a lad like Jack.

I have tried to explain it to him – that it is very much like the extreme sport qualities he is fond of; and the excitement – wow – “better then a Virgin Pendolino train tilting a tight turn at 125 miles per hour”, but he had non of it.

Then the other day, Jack crashed at my place overnight. My wife and kids were visiting the parents-in-law and Jack had a London meeting in the morning, so it was a good opportunity to catch up and see the footy on my new plasma 42’ TV. When the game was over and we had a couple of pints each, I managed to convince Jack to watch me play a 9-man 1.5$ on Pokerstars. This surly, once and for all, will convert the adrenaline Junky into a dedicated online poker player.

So early into the game, hole cards 5/J unsuited and the blinds are 10/20. The small blind opens all-in. Jack looks at me – “He is trying to scare you – call him”.
- “Jack” I say “it’s the first time he plays, we both got good stacks, no reason to risk all my chips for 20 dollar worth. He is probably holding something massive and hopes I’ll be foolish enough to call”
- “Oh, it’s all a gamble anyway, the guy is a gambler, he got nothing. Call him.” He placed a pound on the table “here you go, I got you covered”.

Why not? That will teach Jack that poker is a game of skill and that uncalculated moves are not going to get you far. So I pocketed Jack’s pound and called. Unknown to me, the small blind was playing four tables and in the last five minutes had an AA,  KK and a race with small pockets busted. The poor fellow was screaming at the screen, peeling sodium carbonate off the walls and subjecting his desktop to verbal and physical abuse. He was tilting heavily and when I pushed the call button I found myself facing 2/10 suited that did not hold.

Jack sneered – “ye, sure – what did you say? He is holding something massive? Give me a break. All of them – gambling addicts. If you won’t be carful you will finish there yourself”

The game continued on for a while. Had a few good cards, won and lost a few small pots, just ploughing along with enough action to keep Jack quiet. Players were dropping out and on the bubble action really started heating up. Being second largest stack on the table I was happy to sit out the big pots and contest my spots, but Jack interpreted the shoves as “nothing more then the usual gambling activity”. Then I picked up an A/K in the big blinds and faced a shove from the small blind.

- “And here we call” I explained Jack. “With the small stack and the high blinds, the small stack has to shove in position where he faces only one player. But A/K will be well ahead of his range and we stand a good chance to stack him out”.
- “In short, you are going to call him with nothing”
- “A/K is not nothing. It has great potential to develop.”
- “Any bet has potential to bring great rewards – still, it’s just a bet – risking your money for little chance of winning. Might as well be playing the lottery mate”

The small blinds turned A/5

- “Here you do” I said – “he is dominated. Only 5 will help him now. I have about 75% chance to win this one – knowing that require studying – it’s a part of the skill in poker! You don’t have 75% chance playing the lottery, do you?”
- “You do when you bet Manchester United to win, you still lose if you bet only them week-in week-out because you make only tiny amount of money when you win, and when you lose you lose the whole lot… In the long run it’s always doom”

I sighed as I busted the small blind. My next was 2/7 off-suit

- “This is the worst hand in poker” I mentioned.
- “It’s all a gamble anyway” Jack answered, and before I could say or do a thing, reached for the mouse and hit the “all in” button. He was promptly called by the other dwindling stack which turned a Q/Q with “yeepee” message in the chat box.

I watched blankly at the 2/2/7 flop, follow by another 7 and another 7. Somewhere, far away, a player holding Q/Q started weeping like a child.

Jack looked at me. “Game of skill my arse” he said. “I’m going to watch Person of Interest on 5-USA. Like your new TV – going to look at some of its functions. Might get myself one – just a whole lot bigger” – and he left the room, closing the door behind him.

I blinked at my monitor. Heads up. Me and the other player were amazingly split down the middle, 6750 chips each. He was a tricky player – tight aggressive who was loosing up as we got closer to the bubble. He 3-bet a few difficult spots and was not afraid to raise and fold when it did not look right. I knew he watched me – and seen the shoves with 2/7 and 5/J and he just put me all-in without hesitation.

I blinked at the screen again, tilting my head like a confused puppy seeing a world in a completely different way, staring at my Q/8 suited hole cards and my time bank ticking away. I blinked a third time… and then clicked the “call” button, turned off the monitor, and went to bed.