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Wizards and Kings, Starcraft and Slow Rolling, posted by Enrique G

Long ago when this blog first started up and I agreed to be a contributor, Mike suggested I put up a post about poker. Those of you who know me know that it’s much more than a hobby for me now, it’s bordering on a full time obsession. I’d struggled with the idea of doing so because I had a hard time visualizing the hook connecting it back to geekdom. It wasn’t until I’d let my contributions here lapse into dormancy that I realized the hook was there all along, I’d just not realized it. And that now as I get ready to try and take my game to another level that I find I might be part of a growing tradition where gambling and geekery overlap.

See when I was in college, I wasn’t trying to draw to inside straights or check-raising nut flushes to take down pots. I was wondering why I couldn’t ever pull down a swamp when I needed it or trying to figure if I’d left myself enough mana to counterspell if I had to on my opponent’s turn. Yes, dear readers, I was a Magic: the Gathering geek.

I’d gotten into the game when it was just starting out, and although I didn’t have any of the power cards from the early sets, between the ex-wife and myself, we had more than enough cardboard crack to put together decks of varying sizes and effectiveness. Finding just the right mix that made a deck potent enough to kill opponents quickly was something I aspired to but never really got the knack for. I played in exactly one organized tournament and found myself blistered in two matches to bomb out miserably. If “n00b” and “PWNED” had been part of the parlance of the day, they would have been applied to me quite liberally.

There were a few other geek related outlets for me, dabbling in RPGs (Call of Cthulu, which is how the ex and I met), and the odd strategy game (I had a few Avalon Hill bookcase games in the day, a couple of which have survived the divorce and multiple moves since then). Movie geekery was ever present, video gaming a distraction at the arcades that not longer exist on The Drag (Le Fun and Einstein’s I still miss you sometimes).

Flash forward a decade and a half later (Jesus, it’s been that long?) and I find myself drawn into bar league poker and develop some proficiency at it. Eventually that would lead to the bi-monthly cash tourney I play in today. At this particular juncture it only netted me a third place finish in the bar championship, garnering me a spot in the quarterly championship and an autographed picture of poker pro David Williams. Williams had just finished second to Greg “Fossilman” Raymer at the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event. Looking at the picture I knew only that Williams won a shit load of money and that he bore a striking resemblance to Tim Duncan.

A year or so ago, I’m listening to a poker podcast and I find out Williams has two other claims to fame beyond his poker play. He apparently has appeared in a commercially available foot fetish porn video…and before he became a high stakes card player he was a professional on the Magic: the Gathering circuit. It turns out Williams is only one of several former Magic pros turned Poker Players. The transition in card games has proven quite lucrative for them, to the tune of several million dollars.

About this time I also learned about Bertrand Grospellier, or ElkY as he’s better known. ElkY was a world ranked Starcraft player (another game I had some familiarity with, though I never conquered it). ElkY also plied his geek trade professionally, in his case in Korea where Starcraft is bigger than I ever imagined. He hasn’t won a WSOP bracelet yet, but does have high stakes WPT and EPT titles to his credit and some deep cashes at the World Series last year. A bracelet for him is only a matter of time.

That there should be this particular intersection of geek culture and gambling really shouldn’t surprise me. There are skills these geek outlets foster that lend themselves well to poker. Knowing your deck construction well to know the odds of drawing a card you need isn’t that far removed from calculating outs and relating it to pot odds. Resource management in Starcraft is just a different shade of bankroll management in poker. And both realms tend to reward the more intelligent participants well.

So was my involvement in these aspects of geek culture preparing me to be the card player I am today? Possibly. Can I build on that and extend my skills beyond doing well in the various home games I play in here? The answer to that question may come in July.

As many of you know if you’re friends with me on FB or follow me on Twitter, I got confirmation of receipt of my wire transfer to the Rio in Las Vegas. I am now pre-registered for WSOP Event 54: $1000 buy-in No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. It’s not the best bankroll management to make this leap. Standard bankroll management dictates you shouldn’t spend more than 10% of your roll on any one buy-in.

But my play this year has contributed most, if not quite all of my buy-in. It’s been a dream of mine for a little while now. And as Cake once sang, “As soon as you’re born you start dying…so you might as well have a good time.” I don’t harbor illusions I can win this thing, though anything is possible. It is one of the things I love about this game. But I think my chances of cashing are better than average. After that, who knows?

I know a lot of you have already wished me luck on FB or Twitter, and to you I extend my deepest thanks. I hope I represent for the geek kind well.

Now shuffle up and deal.