Why do people like poker

Why do men love poker so much?

I look again at my cards. Everyone fell by the wayside, but me and a guy who looks like Tom Hardy. Every time I raised the stakes, he raised them with me. I'm deep in So far in there is no going back. I look at my opponent. He smiles at me across the table. This hand will cleanse me. Lose that and I'll go home. One thing I know for sure: I didn't come to partypoker's Millions UK tournament just to say goodbye with a whimper.

I slide my remaining chips past the line and look at the dealer. "Everything in," I say. An audible sound will be heard when the distance reaches the boiling point. The dealer asks us to show our cards. My Tom Hardy doppelganger turns around. He was right to be confident. Three kings in his hand make three of a kind. They'll take some blows. My moment arrives. Seven pairs of eyes are fixed on me. I turn my cards over so that they are visible to the world.

Oh, by the way - I only learned how to play poker a week ago.

The shortlist team plays a low stakes game

Why is poker such a male phenomenon? The game seems to be masculine by nature. Yet where there is poker there are men: men drinking whiskey at the table; Men in smoke-filled back rooms, cigars in one hand, cards in the other; Men sitting with crossed arms, chips in front of them, eyes hidden under their hoods. And while there is a grueling effort in the industry to get more women into the game, it could be like closing the stable door after the horse collapses: on billboards, on TV, and in movies, the consensus is that it is a game for men is. When was the last time you saw a movie in which half a dozen women played poker?

To investigate this, I'll first organize a poker game with thepick listGuys. A group of six, all of whom can play poker better than me, gather in the upstairs room of a pub. Even when the stakes are low (we play around £ 10 and instead of poker chips we use Skittles) there is an undeniable thrill in the game. It's a mix of psychology, secrecy, performance, and chance. I also realize that it's all about a game of trust: in order to play well, you need to be able to rely on your abilities and trust that you will hold your nerve - often in every way and in front of a group of People.

"In the casino the only women serve drinks in short shorts and massages at the table."

Though our notebook editor, blasted Bobby Palmer, is the winnertechnicallyI win two hands and when I sweep the pins into my corner of the table I feel like I already have a thing for the game.

But it is not enough. The scale is tiny and there is no danger with skittles: we don't risk our own money. I have to raise the stakes. To find out why poker is almost exclusively played by men, I'm accepting an invitation to play in a tournament in Nottingham for a total of £ 8.5 million in prize money.

To me, a newbie to poker playing at Nottingham's Dusk Till Dawn casino is like a maiden crossing the threshold of a brothel. While the game has always been abstract to me, it's a regular fix for many men in this country - hundreds of them sit at the casino tables hoping to get rich. The only women around serve drinks in short shorts, tights and white socks and, I notice, massages at the table. The message couldn't be clearer: to sit at the table you should be a man.

Before I can participate, I get a preliminary lesson with the professionals. In a cool, private room with cream-colored chairs, I sit across from Sam Trickett, who has won more tournament money than any other Englishman in history. He's working with another journalist. another professional partner mates with another media member; and I'm sitting next to Natalia Breviglieri, the woman plopped down when I explained the intricacies of the game, an idiot.

Because there are professionals involved, the games move so fast that I panic. Breviglieri once asks what I think we should do with the hand with which we have been treated. There is a long pause while I think. “Call?” I say. Definitely not, she says. It is clear that if I go to a real tournament, I'm going to fall completely on my ass.

I made £ 1k on cryptocurrency in two weeks and I don't even know what a bitcoin is

I ask Trickett why men are so in love with poker. “It's a challenge,” he says. “It's an ongoing game that won't be solved. It never ends. “The game is popular with professionals and professional athletes who seem to need a seat for their competitive needs: Boris Becker, Carl Froch and Neymar all play, and Trickett himself was an aspiring footballer before he discovered poker.

Regarding the gender aspect, he says, “I don't know if it's a testosterone thing. Men generally like to compete a little more with each other. "Breviglieri agrees that women tend to be less competitive:" I think that's why there are fewer women than men in poker. It makes a big difference. Women don't have to win. "

Is this an inherent gender difference or a condition determined by the way poker has been marketed over the past century? Victoria Coren Mitchell, arguably the country's most prominent player, has said intimidation is certainly a factor. The industry has initiatives for aspiring female players, but it's eye-catching: women are turned off by the predominantly male population. they don't pick up the game; The game becomes predominantly male.

Jon Young, who publishes poker magazinebluffsays that men just love going up against other men. “They used to have fights,” he says. "Now it's at a poker table." There are several other reasons that explain the gender gap: When men earn more than women, men tended to have more disposable income. There is evidence that men are more likely to engage in risky behavior than women. The popularity of poker is believed to have increased during the California gold rush, where mining towns would conjure up saloons, attracting male miners who want to socialize and spend money.

“Sitting at the same table with nine men can be intimidating. But girls have to break in somehow. "

A columnist inbluffclaimed that problems start at school, where competitiveness and STEM issues are "bred out" by women: "If you take math in school as a girl," says Young, "you will never start playing poker as a professional."

I find another female player in the casino. Lauren Render turned professional about five years ago and has won up to £ 20,000 in a single tournament. I ask her why poker is such a sausage festival. “Sitting around the table with nine men can be intimidating for some people,” she says. “But I always try to tell the girls that they have to get involved somehow. And once you're there, just make yourself comfortable. I find that [men] respect me as soon as they know I can play. "Render isn't scared of the game:" I'm not going anywhere until I go broke, "she says.

It's time for the real tournament to begin.

It's infinitely quieter than I had imagined, but there is a seductive intensity in this silence. Partypoker mortgaged me, which means the company piled up the £ 550 for me to sit at the table with the big boys. I already realized that this skill won't win me this tournament, so mind games are my only option. This is where my outfit comes into its own.

"The Dragon" wears: multi-tartan poncho for £ 325 from VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, viviennewestwood.com; Burford cashmere lined leather gloves £ 80 from DENTS, selfridges.com

I don't know if you've ever played poker against a man wearing a Vivienne Westwood cloak, sunglasses, and a single leather glove, but it's intimidating. "I am the dragon," I tell the men when I arrive at the table. You are completely unimpressed.

However, the personality cannot be without its strengths - because I face the Tom Hardy lookalike too early. All eyes are on me when I finally turn over my cards. I have a street: five, six, seven, eight, nine. In that split second, I won the hand. The dealer pushes the towers of chips in my direction and the table congratulates me. Winning a real hand feels good - like turning a key in the lock and hearing its sweet click.

Ralph's competitors were by his nickname "The Dragon"

To my left is a gentle Scottish man named Mark McCluskey. He happens to be an analyst at a poker stake company. McCluskey started playing in school at a time when "if you wanted to play poker, you showed up and played". The game experienced a sudden interest in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker ($ 2.5 million) and inspired the other amateurs to pick up the game. Since then, poker, now a multi-billion pound industry, has become more of a science, says McCluskey - though he's always been drawn to camaraderie and escapism.

"Although you need to know math to be a good gamer, you also need to know how to project a certain version of yourself."

"Poker has always been an ambitious thing," says Young, pointing to the success of the Millions UK tournament as proof that the UK can compete with Las Vegas and Europe. “It's as addicting as playing slots. The difference is that you have some control over what you do. “He says you can't combine poker with bingo or horse racing. Both are huge. The game is a perfect mix of gambling and skill: "The better you are, the more skill there is and the less gambling."

“I love the industry,” says McCluskey, “and that has changed a lot since I started playing. It's always changing. I find it fascinating. “I'm starting to understand the fascination. I discovered that there is a unique alchemy to poker that explains why grown men sit for days and cannot tear themselves off the table. While you need to know math to be a good player, you also need to know how to project a certain version of yourself: you need to believe your opponent that they know what's going on in your head. While we're playing - and just before I defended myself from the tournament, McCluskey asked me to summarize my piece in a sentence or two. I struggle a little and then decide, “They are the people you think are you.” He likes that. To my surprise, I kind of like it too.

And maybe that's why men love the game. Perhaps our love of poker isn't just a desire to get rich. Maybe it has to do with our struggle to open up. Maybe we like games that make our desire to erect a wall in front of us come true. It may be an unwelcome truth, but we may like to hold cards close to our chests like secrets - secrets that we don't reveal until we're forced to do so.

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Photography: Sun Lee, Alice Griffiths

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