Taken from my UK Pokernews Weekend Column - Behind the Rail
This week I interviewed WSOP finalist Jon Kalmar and what a thoroughly decent chap he was. He told me that before he played poker he was gambling a lot and beyond his means. Then poker came along which presented a cheaper way to curb his gambling urges and eventually became a hugely profitable career for him.
This mirrors my own experience of poker (if we omit the $1.25 million WSOP cash). I used to gamble quite a lot (although to be fair always within my means) – I'd bet on football, boxing, TV shows and would go to the casino with friends quite a lot. I even convinced myself I was 'good' at blackjack as it is a house game I am actually up on. All in all I was a losing gambler, apart from boxing bets which I'm still very good at because I'm a big fan of the sport.
Then came poker. Of course it was gambling for a long time while I was having to learn the hard way that Queen-Five isn't the monster I thought it was, but after a playing for a while and reading a fare few books I started winning and several years later it is my career. Like Jon Kalmar I rarely gamble in any other way, I still bet on boxing, I rarely bet on football and I never play on casino house games anymore.
It would be easy to say that I'm simply getting my gambling 'fix' from a new outlet but I'm not sure that is the case. Getting good at poker has replaced my urge to 'gamble' with the urge to 'win'. With gambling the rush is in the moment of anticipation when the wheel is spinning, the outcome is almost moot, but with poker the rush is in the winning.
I was rarely accustomed to winning as a gambler (though that did make a big win special) but I am when I play poker (which does mean losing streaks hurt more). Now I don't want to gamble because I see it as a waste of money, money which could be better used playing poker.
I'm not alone in this viewpoint either; I know a lot of people who no longer gamble after they took up poker. There are of course plenty of players who are the complete opposite and can be found at the roulette table during the refreshment break at tournaments.
If you look at the Dusk til Dawn situation right now I think it highlights my point perfectly. Poker players want an option away from the casino to play poker, they want games to be run with good blind structures and where the floor staff has no hidden agenda to get them down to the blackjack tables.
The only people standing in the way of the clubs opening are of course, casinos, who want to be able to contain poker players within close proximity of house games If Dusk til Dawn eventually does open hopefully it will go some way to proving the point I am making; that poker, although a form of gambling, is radically different to sports betting and house games, that it is closer to chess than it is to blackjack.
So let's start a culture of getting poker out of the casino, not entirely of course, so we can show the uninformed majority that if anything it is a solution to, rather than a cause of, problem gambling.