Originally, I was going to take this entry to do an aside on another of my favourite gaming pastimes, poker. However, seeing as though the US DOJ cracked down on online poker sites this week, and shut down all online gaming to American players, it makes my idea look that much more prescient (or, much more like riding on someone’s coattails).
I see my role-playing career as very much like my poker career. I have loved poker almost as long as I have loved RPGs… and I get to play it about as often as I get to role-play. I first started to play poker, like most people, as a kid. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but it was fun. Then, once I hit 18, I started to play occasionally in my dad’s monthly poker game. Now, when I say “poker”, I’m not talking hold ‘em. I’m talking 727, Iron Cross, Hi/Lo Chicago, 5 card draw, 7 Card Stud, Woolworth’s, Screwy Louie, Suicide, Homicide, Blind Man’s Baseball, and any number of variations (and if you know what any of those are, then you are a “true” poker player 8). It was still mostly for fun, but the rush you get from winning money is like a drug. Then, once I hit my early 20’s, I got into a group who had a semi-regular game in the winter. I didn’t get rich, but I wasn’t broke either. I just loved playing, and the strategy involved. I think of it a little like a much shorter-term tabletop strategy game, with a lot more luck involved. When I moved up north to teach, I did no gaming, but I had a degenerate group of card players who I played with twice a week. I did make some money off this bunch. ;) Once I moved back south, I still play occasionally, but not enough to satisfy my itch. Just like role-playing.
Just like with gaming, I went through a period where I had a group who was very into playing poker, but as we have drifted apart, I have found my opportunities to play poker becoming less and less, just like my gaming opportunities. Furthermore, the lack of a high-speed connection where I live have made it more difficult to play poker online, just as I have little opportunity to game online. The only difference between my two hobbies is, at least I’ve been to Vegas a few times, where I have yet to get to Gen-Con (or any con, for that matter).
I must say, I was a little surprised that the US DOJ finally brought down all the online poker websites this week. While I understand that the way Americans were getting around the gambling regulations of their country involved an awful lot of smoke and mirrors, I figured that the government HAD to be making money off them somehow (and if not, I was sure the lobbyists for credit cards companies would make sure they kept their $2.50/deposit service charge safe). I think this may lead to some interesting times in the near future – the sheer volume of US online players (especially those who have money tied up in the sites they shut down) means I can see the issue of gambling laws in the US being a new point of scrutiny in an upcoming election. The bonus for me is, being Canadian, the only way I am affected by this is the fact that it is EXTREMELY difficult for me to get money into and out of poker sites now. Not that I had any money in them. I would much rather play in a brick and mortar card room… I make more money there than online.
I’ve always wondered if many other RPGers are into gaming like poker. In many ways, the experience is very similar…