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Klopzi's Game

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! I've had a great time over the past five days. I spent a ton of quality time with my family, ate way too much food, played a little poker, watched most of season five of The Office with my wife, played a bit of Borderlands, and did some reading too!

I just finished reading my first non-poker book (and non-graphic novel) in over a year. The book was Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and it was great! I don't want to ruin the book for anyone by giving away anything about the plot. I will say that it's a must read for anyone who enjoys games (video games, poker, monopoly, etc.) and for any fans of The Last Starfighter, Star Wars, Piers Anthony, Philip K. Dick, or military-themed movies (Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, etc.). It was a surprisingly great read that contained a number of lessons that can be applied to poker and life.

For example, early in the book, Ender Wiggin - child prodigy and the story's protagonist - sets about playing a new simulation-type game on his desk (i.e. wirelessly networked notebook computer). He finds himself dying repeatedly in this game but isn't overly concerned. He is well-aware that dying (or losing) is part of the learning process in any new game. This is one lesson that I'm being taught on a nightly (weekly, monthly, yearly, ...) basis in poker. It's also one of the hardest lessons to learn and one that I have yet to fully grasp and accept. It's difficult to master a skill and gain confidence without letting ego and pride get in the way of learning and improvement.

Later in the book, Ender refers to another simulation-type game getting much harder as newly developed strategies become part of the game culture. Ender's winning strategies become less effective as his opponents learn to use them more effectively with each game played. Strategies that used to work are easily countered. Those unwilling or unable to come up with new strategies and counters to the changing game-scape are bound to fail in Ender's eyes. Sounds quite a bit like online poker, doesn't it?

In the beginning, playing a tight, patient style of poker was enough to win. And then selective aggression became the key to taking down big pots. But things have continued to progress and evolve from there. Nowadays a style of play incorporating loose and tight aggression is a great way to keep your opponents guessing and your stack growing. This style of play is more easily described than it is to use and to master which is why very few players are actually long-term winners in the online poker arena. Take away a simple and systematic strategy for beating poker and you're bound to see the less inventive, cunning, and focused players start floundering - myself included.

All in all, Ender's Game has inspired me to put a little more effort towards online poker. Poker is one of those rare games that can be both fun and intellectually rewarding. When poker ceases to be fun, I should take the opportunity to hunker down and appreciate the challenge of further developing my game and doing my utmost to play a winning style of poker despite the losses and seemingly unfair playing field.

Unlike Ender's Game, the human race does not depend on my ability to beat online poker. No matter how much pressure I feel to succeed in this one endeavour, I need to remember that poker is a game. Even when poker feels like so much more than a game played with a deck of cards and some chips, it is just a game.

Every game can be learned, beaten, conquered, and won. Am I one of those able to beat the game? I'll keep playing and writing until I figure that out for myself one way or another.

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