Where Did I Go?

Saturday, 14 March 2009 14:17
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[personal profile] shipitfish

I wrote a lot in 2007, my last year playing poker professionally, about why I was making that my last year of playing professionally. Once I stopped playing poker for the money, I became much of a consumer rather than an active player in the regular poker world.

Over the last year and a half, I've followed the poker podcasts carefully. BTW, I prefer the 2+2 Pokercast, hosted by the Canadian Rounders guys, but I also find most of Joe Sebok's Poker Road Radio shows pretty good.

I always watch the High Stakes Poker episodes eventually, and try to track down every cash-game televised poker, such as the weeks Poker After Dark does cash games. I don't watch tournament coverage much anymore; I never liked tourneys that much and the coverage has remained poor — never actually showing the interesting bits, and instead favoring the obvious moments of the tourney.

As for playing, I have no interest in online play. The HE games are tougher than ever for stakes that one can actually earn at, and the competition from the hundreds of amazingly talented young guys is daunting. Meanwhile, sitting there playing at stakes below $1/$2 NL doesn't seem worth worth it when I have other useful things to do (see below). I continue to have an annual trip to Las Vegas (which I enjoyed last month, perhaps I'll make some later posts about that), and I usually organize my business travel so I can tack-on a day or two of personal travel for live poker, when there's nearby legalized poker.

Thing is, when I stopped playing poker professionally, the only thing I really missed was the additional income I'd come to rely on a bit, given my meager non-profit 501(c)(3) salary. Almost serendipitously, though, in early 2008, my dear friend and fellow Free Software developer, Loïc Dachary, told me he needed some software development help on the Free Software poker system, PokerSource, that he'd begun working on around 2002. He and I negotiated a rate that was actually higher than even my best rate that I ever earned hourly playing poker, and I went to work on the weekends to hack some Python Free Software poker software.

I didn't really mention that work here over the last year, partly because the first question I expected was where is your Free Software poker system deployed?, and I didn't have an adequate answer. However, a few months ago, the answer became easy: We have a play money site now deployed and operating daily at SkyRock Poker. (SkyRock is a French social network and blogging site that also offers games and entertainment to its subscribers.)

One of the cool things about our software is that it's one of the only systems that offers a fully functional pure Javascript client that runs completely in the browser with no plugins needed. It's very easy to skin and configure with branding, as can be seen when you look at Pokersource.eu, our demo site which runs the same software as SkyRock, but has no branding and skinning done to it.

Writing poker software has, honestly, been substantially more rewarding than actually playing. First of all, it was amazing to discover that I had been so influenced by professional poker play that I perceived having a “real consulting job” as a “freeroll”. When I started working on pokersource paid work, I would think: if I work for an hour, I'm up my hourly rate immediately! I can't lose!. How poker-warped are you when you think doing a regular job is a freeroll? I suppose it helps that I've always enjoyed programming just as much as I ever enjoyed playing poker.

Meanwhile, the truth of the matter about playing is that I never got good enough to beat games from $5/$10 NL/PL and up and $20/$40 limit and up. I don't think I'm incapable of that, but I know it would require months of work, study, and practice that seems somewhat pointless to me now. As basically a recreational player now, I love the feeling of sitting down in a $1/$2 or $2/$5 NL/PL game (or a $5/$10 limit game) and simply knowing within minutes of playing that I'm the best player at the table and don't have to work too hard to make a little spare cash while having an enjoyable distraction from real life for a few hours. It's never enough money to make a substantial difference in income, but I also never lose without seriously running bad against luck. And, even the variance isn't that painful since the stakes are low; I can survive with the loss for six months until my next session.

I guess I've settled into the routine of being a part-time professional poker software author, and a few-times-a-year recreational poker player. Meanwhile, I'll also never forget on of the most valuable life lessons that I learned from poker. Poker turned me into a patient person, and the value of that will always make the past hours at the felt worthwhile. I'm also quite glad that I've come to the PokerSource team as the poker expert who knows the poker world and how it works. My colleagues in the PokerSource project are some of my best friends (well, Loïc was already one of my best friends since long before he started writing poker software, but I am in touch with him much more now that I'm working weekly with him on projects). My PokerSource work has become the perfect combination of my Free Software world connections and my forays into poker. Indeed, I certainly like being the primary person who crosses over between the Free Software world and the poker world. That wouldn't have been possible without those uncounted hours throwing chips and cards and getting felt under my fingernails.

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