Pandemic Games

This coronavirus pandemic sucks! First and foremost, it sucks for those who are directly affected – those who have caught this deadly disease, their loved ones, the heroic healthcare professionals and caregivers in hospitals and nursing homes, the essential workers with no alternative to braving the risks every day, the non-essential workers now not working, and many, many others.

I get to listen to plenty of details from Mrs., who works in a hospital. The coronavirus is really bad shit and her descriptions of the worst ways it ravages its victims is enough to keep me paranoid and home-bound for as long as it takes. So far, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to avoid the virus.

But I still crave some poker action, if you know what I mean.

In early May, I started fiddling with PokerStars’ Home Games platform. Long ago, PokerStars created a way for members to set up their own private clubs within PokerStars, inviting friends and controlling access and creating games that suit you and your friends. It started as a great way to connect with poker-loving friends who might be scattered across the county, and now Home Games is a great way to organize games with friends who, like me, aren’t ready to play poker wearing masks and gloves and sitting behind plexiglass.

The KKing David club now runs a nightly tournament three times a week, with an average in recent weeks of approximately 50 entries in each tournament. Once we had 65 entries!

I really, really like that I can play on a laptop or desktop computer, rather than a smart phone or tablet. In recent years, there have been several app-based poker games developed and I’m aware they are very popular. Yet I’ve never gotten comfortable with the small screen and using my finger to tap and swipe when it’s my turn to act. It’s too easy to play while simultaneously distracted and I have trouble sustaining concentration for more than 30 minutes or so. In the middle of a hand, here comes an important text or phone call… gaaaah!

Since I’m at home every night anyway, PokerStars lets me play in the environment I like the most. They do have a mobile app, and a few of the players use it for these tournaments. It’s harder for them near the end, when there may be some extra texting about end-of-tournament considerations, but overall their complaints are minimal and usually they are on the mobile app only when a laptop is unavailable.

I also like the fact that PokerStars has been around a long, long time and their software for running poker tournaments is very mature and stable.

Unlike cash games, which have been my bread-and-butter for many years, tournaments are finite. There is an ending. With the structure I’m using, each tournament last about 3.5 – 4.5 hours. In cash games, I’m constantly arm-wrestling with Tantalus, the Greek God of Temptation. “Stay!” he insists. “Play longer. You might start on a massive heater in the next orbit. You’re due!”

How many nights of sound sleep, weird dreams, cuddling with Mrs. then fighting over the covers have been ruined by the best intentions gone awry? How many times has Tantalus pinned my skinny wrist to the table for one more orbit turned into two more hours?

Don’t get me wrong. When the circumstances are right for a return to live cash games poker, however long that takes, I’ll be there. For now, PokerStars Home Games is filling the void nicely.

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Want to join the fun? Hit me up privately. Already in the club and want to help spread the word? Well, what are you waiting for?

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