Over the course of the 5 years I've been writing this blog, I moved from being an amateur or recreational player to being a professional. Of the two terms, I prefer "recreational" to "amateur" because aside from the negative connotations associated with the word amateur ("that guy is an amateur" is more usually an insult than an observation or compliment), its origin as someone who "loves the game" suggests that a professional can't love the game (many do, including myself) or that someone who doesn't play to make money always does (I know several recreational players who appear to hate the game).
One of the side effects of this journey has been to make it harder for me to remember the perspective of the recreational player, what it was to be someone who played purely for enjoyment without regard to whether it made or lost me money. It's a good thing I ran well enough at the start to make money immediately, and got good enough at it quickly enough to continue doing so, because I genuinely believe if I wasn't and lost money from it, I'd go on playing it more than I should.
I recently wrote a blog describing my response to playing an event that attracted a field almost entirely composed of recreational players that gave my view (and that of many professional players) to certain characteristics of recreational players. Like adults writing about childhood, while not entirely an outsider's view since we were all children and recreational players at some point, it's certainly not an insider's view either as our recollections are filtered and dimmed by the years.
In response to this blog, one of my readers Barry Foley (a popular figure on the live poker scene) wrote the following piece to explain the attraction of poker to people who play it even if they don't expect to make money from it (in the short term at least). I'd like to thank Barry for the trouble of doing this and allowing me to include it here. So here's Barry's take:
Why does an ordinary office/shift worker love poker? As a 24/7 shift worker I often wondered why the game of poker was so hypnotising. Was it just a game of cards that people liked to play where destiny was up to cards or did you just get lucky?
Most of my work mates and friends thought the above until recently. I realised from my early days of playing chess (with my mum who happens to be a great poker player, Brenda Foley, well known in the local & national circles & brother) and from playing poker that the reality was quite different.
The cards had almost an insignificant value when the all other aspects came into play.
Each game of poker was similar to a game of chess. When you lost in a game of chess, all was good when you realised where you went wrong, giving you ammunition for getting better.
Analysing poker is different but requires a similar mental attitude.
As I said most of amateur beginners initially perceived cards as the way to go but if you lose a tourney, one who wanted to learn would ask themselves where did I go wrong.
Did I see my opponent's play?
Did I see my opponent's characteristics (loose/tight/passive/crazy & the combinations)?
Did he have tells?
Did I see his tells?
Did I see my own tells?
Did I give tells?
Did he or I have position?
What were the stacks?
What were the odds?
After analysing all, I realised that the cards dealt in poker are very insignificant in the big picture, and have little to do with real success.
More power to the game that it has honest good guys that do it for a who are willing to share all they know,. For me personally Dara, Andrew Dwyer, Anthony Rafferty, and Fergal Nealon are just a few that have been 100% forthcoming in any questions that I've asked regarding unique poker decisions. Thanks to help like this, I was even able to hold my own all day with Jude Ainsworth and Craig Burke at the last UKIPT, and was lucky to win a few chips by day end. Two gentlemen with whom I had a few beers after. Also a few mad arm wrestles (rematch with Ross Johnson coming soon, a good guy) as well but that's another story.
Realising the above I starting changing to absorb the above learnings. I can see why the game has become a world sensation, and a game for the people that really appreciate the game and work at it. This game is truly a game for self improvement at life as well as poker, if you look closely they are really intertwined.
So to answer the above question, why do us ordinary people play the game? We see the game as not just a game but as a different facet of life and to be honest an opportunity to grow.
OK so maybe most want to win the WSOP...but you have to learn and grow first.