We can’t all be imbued with natural poker talent, although some will spend a lifetime saying that they are. But one thing every player can count on at the table is some degree of social interaction, often the very thing that attracts people to the game in the first place.
Take Barny Boatman of the UK team, who learned to play at home before teaching his younger brother Ross. Frenchman David Benyamine learned to play as a boy of 12. Andy Black was taught to play by his mother; the 14-year-old Mel Judah was taught by his father. Juan Manuel Pastor goes a generation further, taught to play by his grandfather.
Home games are the popular alternative to formal casinos poker, often involving odd variations of the game to keep things interesting. One particular game reached legendary status; that of IFP President Anthony Holden, as detailed in his cult book Big Deal: One Year as a Professional Poker Player. In it Holden wrote eloquently about the various characters who joined his weekly game, not least his brother in arms Al Alvarez, and how a weekly Tuesday night game quickly became the highlight of the week.
Then away from the kitchen table, there are the stories of poker games in unlikely circumstances, between say, political meetings or even international sporting contests.
Jim McManus, author and poker player, writes in Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker, how US Presidents have for many years used poker as a way to unwind. Former Tennis ace turned poker player Boris Becker even played poker during rain delays at Wimbledon.
But as times change and the internet takes over our lives, will the home game soon become a thing of the past? Gone will be the days of chipping in to buy beer and dip? No weekly highlight with friends to break the monotony of the working week?
Not if the players of Zynga Poker have anything to say about it, who, since their details were published on the IFP Facebook page, have been inundated with good luck messages, from players they’ve met on Zynga.
They may not be the most experienced team, but they are perhaps the most social. After all, Margaret Hailey of the Zynga team met her husband while playing poker. You can’t get more social than that.