Thursday, December 21, 2006

Yes, Pactolus, There is a Santa Claus

With apologies to The Sun

Dear Big Pirate,

I am 32 years old and have been playing poker for four years now. I used to believe in Santa Claus, but after all this time of not being able to win even though, deep down, I know I have what it takes to be a good player, I have to believe I was just deluding myself. My friends told me you were a two-time Jeopardy winner and knew a lot of stuff. Will you please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Pactolus Light


Pactolus,

Your little friends are wrong. In fact they are so wrong that it is unlikely they are to believed in anything they say. They are likely believers of math, pot odds, appropriate play, and perfect strategy. They never double down “on a hunch.” They never “chase” a flush. They merely make proper accounting decisions about the money in the pot versus the expected outcome over a million hands. In short, they are of little minds, believing in only the rational, observable World, unwilling to acknowledge the existence of that which they can not plug into Poker Stove. They are willing to limit their intelligence to the small sphere, as they are frightened of the unknowable.

Yes, Pactolus, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as surely as luck, fortune, well-healed backers who keep their pants on, and competent tournament directors exist. And you know these things abound in our World, providing us with untold bounty. Ahoy! How dreary would this World be without a Santa Claus? Why, it would be as dreary as would be if there were no Pactolus’s at my table, willing to throw in their last stack on a hope, a feeling, a magical wish. There would be no joy in our Mudville of poker, only stock tickers and speculative housing futures to while away our hours.

Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe you’ll hit that inside straight. You might hire mathematicians to calculate the astronomical odds of you ever winning the World Series of Poker, but even if they determined you had less chance of winning than Hellmuth winning a Best Sportsmanship award, what would that prove? No one can truly tell you the next cards out of the deck. The best they can do is to provide irrefutable proof that certain card combinations, played in certain situations, played in a certain way will definitely win or lose a certain amount of money over an infinite number of hands. Do you expect to play an infinite number of hands? Of course not silly. Therefore, your friends’ math could perhaps, by certain people of a certain intellectual capacity, be deemed a lie. And if they would lie to you about cards, wouldn’t they lie about Santa Claus?

You play 52 card pickup and you see the hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs. You count again and again and the numbers always add up the same. But there is a magic that comes in every deck that can not be unbound by the most rational of men. Only faith, shamrocks, little glass figurines, and custom card protectors can push aside the math and let you view the magical beauty of the possible four of a kind that awaits you pocket threes. Do you have a chance? Should you call all in with the rent money? Ah, Pactolus, in the World of Poker, there is no more noble thing than to get your money in behind. Way behind.

No Santa Claus! Thank Goodness he lives and lives as long as there are card rooms open, as long as the internet allows you and your fellow travelers the opportunity to make your plays, hoping for the miracle card that proves the law of maturing odds is really a law, and as long as you like to drink while you play because you are really there just to have fun and not to win any money. A year from now, Pactolus, nay ten times a year from now, Santa Claus will continue to make glad the heart of poker hood. You must rekindle your belief and throw away those fancy books and delete the poker calculators. Your heart must be your guide. Yes, Pactolus, there is a Santa Claus, and he will be at my house Christmas night for a game. I’ll e-mail you my address so you can Mapquest it. Hope you can make it. I need to pay off my Christmas bills in January

1 comment:

1st Rule said...

You kind of lost me a little in this post. Just make sure you bring a lot of money with you. I want a lot next christmas.

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!