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MY ADVENTURE INTO THE WORLD OF POKER

Written by: Collin Capone

My Introduction to Poker

I was introduced to poker much the same way many people my age did back in the early 2000s, the same combination of things that led to the poker boom at the time: TV, movies, and Moneymaker. 

The 1998 movie Rounders with it’s fantastic storytelling and characters introduced us to the world of high stakes poker games.

Chris Moneymaker, a relative nobody at the time, who qualified via satellite while playing online poker, and won the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event.

The following year the NHL (National Hockey League) had a lockout which canceled the entire season. Suddenly, without hockey, Canadian sports stations were starving for content as hockey was a main staple of the broadcast schedule. 

Some executives made the decision to use poker games to fill the suddenly vacant hockey slots on sports channels and the result was a massive success. As a direct result of people being able to access poker content and being able to learn and understand the game through online poker sites, there was an influx of players to the local poker rooms. Everyone wanted to be the next Chris Moneymaker, myself included.

My local casino had $50 nightly tournaments running and would get about 120 entries each night in addition to regular poker cash games. One of the first poker tournaments I ever played I got it all in preflop with AJ vs KT. My hand did not hold and I was knocked with a K on the turn by Jarome Iginla, one of the best NHL players in the world at the time.  He had also been bitten by the poker bug as a result of the canceled NHL season and, as a professional hockey player, he suddenly had a lot of free time. 

The first time I walked into a live poker room I was overwhelmed. The number of people talking and laughing at the tables. The clear click of poker chips being thrown into the pot. The gentle riffle of cards being shuffled. The rumbling din and sensory overload. There was a lot to take in, to filter, to understand. I pretended to know what I was doing but I made mistakes, a lot of mistakes. String betting, acting out of turn, not announcing a raise, using the wrong chip denominations and falling for tricks and angles were just some of the errors I made early in my poker career.

One great lesson I can recall was at the showdown against a player who, after calling on the river, confidently said “2 pair”. The board had run out K-Q-8-8-2 rainbow, so I tossed my Q-10 into the muck. My opponent turned over a 2-3 and scooped the pot. It was at that point I learned to always wait to see the opponent’s hand before mucking my cards.  

Speaking of mucking, there was one time, I was sitting next to the dealer and looked down at KK. While I was deciding how much to bet, another player tossed their cards at the muck but they flew right into my unprotected hand – killing it instantly. Accidentally of course, but it was another great, albeit costly, lesson about the importance of always protecting your hand.

I absolutely loved to play poker, even when learning those expensive lessons. The absolute rush of adrenaline I would get after pulling off a successful river bluff was almost euphoric. The addition of so many different characters at every table made for some of the most interesting conversations, something I had never found anywhere else. The conversations and the cards at the cash games and the poker tournaments both kept me wondering what would happen next.

It was back in those days that I would race home from work and call up my buddy Jeff to see who was driving whom to the poker room. With 5 poker rooms within a 20 minute drive, we were able to find a poker tournament to play almost every night.

I remember the first time I won one of the $50 poker tournaments. I felt like I was on top of the world as I left the poker room with a pile of cash. Jeff had also made the final table and we were convinced we were both headed for poker greatness. We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way home. It was 2 am when I bit into my burger, and to this day it was the best Big Mac I’ve ever eaten. Victory tastes so damn good. 

One of the worst feelings in poker is finishing on the bubble – 1 away from cashing in a tournament. When you bubble in a live poker tournament, you get to do the ‘walk of shame’ past everyone who is now celebrating making the money. This is even worse during the winter when in addition to the ‘walk of shame’ you get the added bonus of waiting in the freezing cold as your car slowly warms up and you sit there shivering and replaying your bust out, wondering if you made the right poker play. Always the worst drive ever.

HELLO ONLINE POKER

I got married in 2005 and we had our first child in 2008. Our second joined us in 2010 and our third in 2013. Being a dad is easily the best thing in the world. The euphoria of winning a tournament, the excitement of pulling off an improbable bluff, the adrenaline as you flop a monster, none of it compares to being a dad. After working all day and being a dad when I was home, I quickly realized I no longer had the time or the energy to spend hours in a poker room, regardless if it was a poker tournament or one of the many cash games. Jeff and I had to cut down our live poker tournaments and we could only play once every few weeks. 

It was around this time a friend at work mentioned that he liked to play online poker. He would play online poker regularly and suggested I try it out because he knew how much I loved to play poker games. So, I gave it a shot. I loved it! I could play poker online and still be with my son. Oftentimes he would be curled up on my chest while I lay on the couch and played online poker on the laptop next to us.  On breaks I’d warm a bottle then quickly change and feed him if  he was hungry.  When I ran deep in an online poker tournament, it was even better. I could spend more time with my son and my wife could get some much needed rest.

I loved the fact that I could play poker online in my pajamas with my baby on my lap. I didn’t have to experience the long cold drive home after busting anymore. I simply closed the laptop or, if it was early enough, I’d just register for another tournament. I loved the speed of the poker games, no more waiting for dealers to shuffle and not having players waste time asking for deck changes when they weren’t winning. I could do all of this while still being the dad I wanted to be for my children.

Gold cards image

When I was at the tables playing in online poker games, I hit up the chat box A LOT and still do. I like to interact with other players at the online poker tables. Online poker games back then could get really dull – the online poker sites didn’t have all the cool features GGPoker has available today – so I always made a point to try to get conversations started at my tables. 

The biggest surprise from playing online poker cash games and tournaments was the number of friends I made from the chat box, most of whom I still talk with, some almost every day. Some of them, as I type this, are currently in Las Vegas playing the World Series of Poker Main Event (ed- this article was written during the WSOP and we had intended to publish it during the event). I haven’t had the chance to play the live Main Event yet – it just hasn’t been in the cards – so although I am envious I am absolutely rooting them on from afar. 

Online poker today is incredible as compared to when I first started. The software at GGPoker, which is in my opinion, the best place to play online poker, is like going from an old flip phone to an iPhone. You can express how you’re feeling, say hello with emotes and gifs, or hop on the SnapCam dressed like Maximus from Gladiator and record a 15 second clip, which I did.

They even added bubble protection to speed things along at the bubble and help to stop that horrible feeling of getting KO’d just before the money.

For most poker tournaments, if you register prior to the start and then bust on the bubble you get your entry refunded. So while other players who showed up late are playing tight, not wanting to miss the money, you can play aggressively knowing you have bubble protection.  

Playing online poker, whether you play tournaments or in cash games, still brings its own set of potential problems that differ from the ones you will encounter when playing live: 

Connection

If your internet goes out while playing online poker, make sure you have some other device that you can login with and use data. It would be awful to be sitting out in a big tournament at any of the online poker sites due to an internet outage. Just ask Daniel Negreanu.

Distractions

If you get deep in a tournament it might be time to put the phone down or turn off the TV so you can focus.  Deep runs don’t happen every day so you want to make the most out of them when you have the opportunity. Making one wrong move could cost you your tournament life, so stop scrolling and pay attention to the game. You can buy back into the poker cash games and those cute puppy videos can wait until after you win the poker tournament. 

I still love playing both live poker and online poker and I believe it’s healthy to mix both. Online satellites to major live poker events offer incredible value for us recreational players. 

I still love poker as much if not more than when I first started. I still work full time and take care of my babies who are getting bigger and it’s been a while since I played poker with Jeff. So I think I’m going to give him a call now and ask him who is picking up whom.