Friday, February 10, 2006

Change of Pace

Nine players showed up last night at Dr. Alan Shaw’s domicile for G-Vegas’ first implementation of the medium game.  I say medium game because it’s the first time our group has played a NLHE ring game with .50/$1 blinds.  The big game label is still reserved for the $2/$5 game at TheRick’s.  So why did we move up in limits?

Poker is funny sometimes.  It’s always a blend of many things.  In the pure tactical sense, poker is a combination of luck and skill.  You can make structural changes to your game or tournament to sway the percentages towards one element.  For example, in a cash game, as the max buy-in decreases in relation to the big blind, the luck factor increases.  I once played in a $1/$2 - $50 max game.  Mainly luck.  If you make a pre-flop raise and continuation bet, odds are you’re pot-committed.  In a tournament, if you make the starting stacks smaller and decrease the time between level changes, again you’re taking much of the skill element out of the game.

Well, G-Vegas doesn’t roll that way.  Well, it tries to actually, but not when I have anything to say about it.  I’m all in favor of the 100xBB ring game and a tournament structure that favors solid play.  To me, it’s just more fun when the mental challenge is significant.  I like to believe I have at least a small edge over the average guy if the conditions are such.  Trust me, there are plenty of other G-Vegas games that I simply don’t go to.  It’s mainly because I’m not a gambler per se.  If I were an action junkie, I’d play with TheMark at the $5/$10 $200 max buy-in game that he went to last week.  Craps with cards is what I call it.  Poker is more than that.

The luck/skill factor isn’t the only way poker is divided.  You also have the social/competitive classifications too.  And just like the luck/skill split, there are many facets to the game that control how each of those elements is distributed.

Many of the G-Vegas regulars have moved to the medium to higher limits online.  Offline, we’ve been stuck at the $50 buy-in level for over a year.  With those stakes being relatively small to many of the players, the game has evolved (or perhaps devolved) into more of a social gathering with poker play taking a back seat.  And I have to confess that for me, it’s been less than enjoyable.

Last night, with the increased buy-in, the game was orders of magnitude better.  The new limits made people think twice before making random donkey plays, although there were a few late-night exceptions.  But primarily, I thought more “real” poker was played and it was refreshing.

Now don’t get me wrong.  The social aspect of poker certainly has its place.  But I’d rather know that going into the game rather than have the game unravel around me into a donk-fest like it has for the past few months.

It’s a fine balance to maintain both a good game and an enjoyable environment.  There is a decent chance that the increase in limits will make some of the regulars think twice about playing.  I hope that doesn’t happen, but from my perspective, I simply enjoy a more serious game of poker.  And if I have any say in the game’s structure, I’m going to do what I can to make it more enjoyable for me.  After all, anybody can host their own game with their own rules, right?

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