Poker Thanksgiving
Nov 25, 2005  
2005 Jason Kirk  

The American holiday of Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, when we take a long look at the things we have and how we came to have them. It's hard not to be thankful for a wonderful life filled with family and friends when you're surrounded by them. This sort of attitude toward life is a helpful one to have toward poker as well. For all the emotional lows that poker can bring about, it can be a truly wonderful pastime with rewards the monetary. Here's a quick list of things in poker today worth giving thanks for.

Online Poker - In the past playing poker meant either home games, underground clubs, or casino poker rooms - there were no other options. Many people who wanted to learn to play poker had no chance to play on a regular basis, and unless they got lucky were often taken for everything they had when they did get to play. Things have changed since the advent of online poker. We now have unlimited game variety, readily available tournaments, bonus money, and a glut of ill-willed fish ready to hand us thousands of dollars while entertaining us with their mastery of avoiding censorship in chat through enlightened misspelling. For better or worse, online poker has changed the face of the game - and I, for one, give thanks for it.

Televised Poker - Once upon a time, the hour-long annual ESPN World Series of Poker broadcasts without hole cams and with celebrity commentators like Dick Van Patten were the only poker TV had to offer. Today we've got the WSOP, the World Poker Tour, the Full Tilt Poker Championship, the Monte Carlo Millions, the Ultimate Poker Challenge, the Showdown at the Sands, Poker Superstars - the list goes on and on. Not only does televised poker offer plenty of entertainment to the masses, but it's a great educational resource for the serious amateur. And let's not forget that the edited nature of most televised tournaments can encourage some horrible habits in our opponents - habits we can thankfully exploit at the tables.

Poker Books - Dollar for dollar, there's no better way to improve your game than shelling out $20-30 and studying a book written by an accomplished poker player. It wasn't long ago that there were only a few choice books available, and most of them espousing similar viewpoints on the game. Today it seems like every professional player with one big tournament win under his belt has a book out. There's more information to sift through, of course, but there's also more chance that Phil Gordon's style (or John Vorhaus', or Matt Hilger's, or Bob Ciaffone's) might speak to you if David Sklansky's doesn't. Here's a hearty "thanks" for a healthy marketplace full of more poker books than ever before.

Poker Websites - Poker books are great, but poker websites can be even better. The only cost involved is whatever you monthly fee you pay to access the internet in the first place. You can read up-to-date articles on countless poker topics from professional players and writers who love the game, and find reviews of most of the online card rooms you'd ever want to play in. The most useful function of most poker websites is a forum in which you can discuss anything related to poker with fellow forum members - the forum here at Blind Bet Poker, for example, is a great place to pick up some knowledge. It's entirely possible to become a winning player solely through studying strategies you'll learn by reading poker websites, and that's worth giving thanks for.

Poker Literature - Great books make the world a better place, and great books about poker make the poker world a better place. Jesse May's Shut Up And Deal captures the manic fever of the early 1990s Atlantic City poker scene in a way that no journalist ever could, imparting priceless poker wisdom along the way. James McManus' Positively Fifth Street documents not only the history of Las Vegas and the Binion family, but also captures a snapshot of the World Series of Poker just before everyone on earth wanted a seat in it. Likewise, Al Alvarez's The Biggest Game In Town paints a picture of a very particular moment in time, distilling the 1981 WSOP Main Event into pure poetry. All of these volumes illuminate the world surrounding our favorite card game in a different way, and the careful reader will be forever thankful for their insights.

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