Well, that solves that problem. I've just developed a new strategy in my hunt for a job: I'm not going to get one. I'm not going to worry about resumes or interviews or combing my hair. I'm going to support myself playing online poker. It may seem naïve, impulsive and implausible, but I'm confident that I can make it work. I'm also confident that somewhere, after having heard this announcement, Mom is sobbing.
But online poker is as sure a thing as our reason for war, and offers a perfect marriage of risk and excitement for any level of investment. I'm cutting my teeth at the 50-cent / $1 table and have spent the past two weeks agonizing over gains or losses that amount to a (school) bus fare. Four hours of up-and-down poker the other night yielded $2.50. To some, the time might seem to have been wasted. But remembering that the approximate value of an unemployed psychology and English major is $0.17 an hour, I actually exceeded my market worth.
Joining me in the limitless accumulation of wealth are millions of other internet chip-slingers and ESPN, which has given the World Series of Poker rerun frequency that may prompt the "Friends" crew to ante up. The result is a nationwide spike in interest in the game and the deification of its champions. Amateur winners such as Chris Moneymaker and James Vogl have convinced scads of aspiring rounders that they too have a chance. What has emerged is the driving force behind the monumental growth in the online gaming industry: the singular belief of every player that they are the smartest poker player on the internet, if not the planet. Some of these players call any bet while pursuing an unlikely flush; others cling to their small pair or seven-high hand with all the uninformed fervor of someone who hates to have money.
Not surprisingly, this unintentional charity is generating a fair deal of negative attention. Critics cite addiction as an imminent problem with online gambling, particularly considering its unprecedented accessibility. If the current trend continues, gambling may prove to be a more valuable online asset than porn, which was once considered the untouchable heavyweight-title holder of the internet. Naturally, there's resistance. People who have no place complaining whiners like "dependant family members" see "'crippling infatuation' where I see "'commitment and passion.' It may just be a "potayto" / "potahto" situation. Or perhaps a euphemism on my part. Or a justification. Or outright denial. But I'm confident that addiction isn't an affliction that affects me. Case in point: despite all my recent playing, I had enough time to write this column. In between hands.
Making matters worse is the difficulty in regulating online gambling. Unlike State-based casinos or video poker establishments, online casinos are typically overseas ventures, and that international status affords them protection from the restrictions that American casinos face. At the same time, the anonymity fosters skepticism about their credibility. When gambling in an American casino, you can be sure you're dealing with Donald Trump or a displaced American-Indian tribe. With online casinos, the likelihood of losing your money to the online affiliate of a reputable casino is the same as that of losing your money to a pimply-faced French high school student with a book on web programming and more money than Sudan. Of course, losing to the young entrepreneur would prevent some of the brainless bettors from spending their money on other ill-advised causes, such as nuclear warheads or the Republican Party.
And so the state of online poker is one of absolute anarchy: untouchable by the law, readily accessible to all and leaving many a concerned wife or mother wondering what their respectively-related man meant when he excitedly exclaimed "I just flopped the nut!" Considering the chaos, I couldn't be happier to be on the fringe of the game. Only an occasional player, I'm aware of my activity and spending within the means of a penniless unemployed college graduate. Most comforting is the knowledge that I have an advantage that all but guarantees my success and can assuage the anxiety of my too-frequently-taxed mother:
I'm the smartest one at the table.