I tried, as always, to avoid all acknowledgement of my birthday as it came and went this weekend marking the completion of my 52nd year. Fifty-two, at least, is not a notable landmark for anyone, so this birthday was absent any significant fanfare or existential crisis. But as the number aligns with that deck of cards that is the center of my leisure time obsession, I did find myself reflecting about how poker has changed for me in the past decade.
While hopefully some skill and wisdom has been wrung out of my many hours of play, I must admit that my card room experience past 50 is less about calculating outs, 3-bet bluffing, or making that big lay down. Rather, these less strategic factors are increasingly coming into play
- Is there a Nap Break after the 16th level?: I have recently come to enjoy playing tournaments with better structures than I have typically played in the past: 30-40 minute blinds instead of 20, more gradual level increases, and larger, more strategic fields. Enjoyed them, that is, until I actually made some deep runs and entered the 11th hour of play feeling like I needed an IV caffeine drip. Sure, I’m sitting at a poker table, not working road construction, but my “delicate constitution” (as my wife refers to it) is not meant for this kind of sustained effort at anything.
- A Table Near the Rest Room Please: Longer blind levels are great, but be careful what you ask for with a shrinking bladder and a prostate looking for larger accommodations. I’m also fairly diligent about staying hydrated, so 2 hours between breaks is a pipe dream for me. When I’m fortunate enough to be at a table within paces of the restroom, I have mastered the strategy of quickly folding in middle position and dashing for a mid-level respite with hopefully only a single hand missed.
- The Clarity of Middle Seats: Throw some dim lighting or a slight glare at a table and I’m wondering from the 8 seat whether that’s a 6 of clubs or a 9 of spades on the turn. Put me in a 5 or 6 seat with the flop beautifully laid out in front of me and excellent lighting and I am a happy man indeed. Every time I register for a tournament and I see a 5 or 6 seat on my slip, I already feel like a winner.
- Table Talk is a Great Tell, If You Can Hear It: In the past few years I have been longing for poker tables to have closed captions like I use on pretty much everything I watch on Netflix these days. A player will be talking through a previous hand at the other end of the table and I’ll try to eavesdrop to gain some insight into how he thinks. Sadly, all I’ll gather is a certainty that the only word I could make out was likely not really “Rutabaga.”
Priorities change in life after 50, and poker is no different. A comfortable chair and good lighting and I’m already half way to the money.
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