Maybe you’ve heard of World of Warcraft, but if you haven’t, humor me for a minute. It’s what’s known as an MMORPG (stick with me), a massive multiplayer online role-playing game. It consists of 11 million-plus people interacting in a huge virtual world.
Wayne Howard of Parker used to play a little WOW before getting turned on to online poker about five years ago. As someone who’s always had a facility for numbers and psychology, this insurance account manager realized poker might be a more constructive use of his time.
“I promised my girlfriend I was going to cut back on WOW, so this was a healthy transition,” Howard said with a laugh. “I went from 30 hours a week on WOW to 30-35 on poker, plus I still went on WOW.”
Howard read up on strategy and learned quickly, putting together a pretty decent per-hour on hold’em, Omaha/8 and razz. “It was just fun, and then it was fun and a little extra money,” Howard said. “I cashed almost every sit-n-go I played. What’s better than that?”
Over five years, Howard played several million hands of poker without sitting at an actual casino poker table.
“I played with friends, but not much,” he said, noting he’d been to casinos a few times but never played poker: “I wasn’t comfortable there. Online, you’re comfortable. You read players on different things, how fast they bet, how they react to action. Notes on everybody right there in front of you. Who’s tight, who’s the joker, who’s the (modestly explicit term).”
You know how this story ends, with Black Friday: “It was devastating. Seriously, I was heartbroken. Still am. I looked forward to this every day…. It’s something you love to do, and you can make money (because) you have a competitive advantage.”
Howard explained this over a beer at the Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk, having made the 90-minute drive from his home for the eighth time since Black Friday.
“It was scary,” he said. “It’s like you’ve been playing WOW at home for years and suddenly you’re actually in that world. You wouldn’t think everything changes that much when you’re live, but it does. There are fat holes in your game. … I had trouble at first, and I’m still working it out. I’m still down (since playing live), just a little, but I’m not used to that.”
Before I left, I asked whether Howard would have ever begun playing live if not for Black Friday.
“Eventually, probably, but I was in no hurry,” he said. “But I’ve made some friends, and I don’t think you can call yourself a poker player until you’ve played live.”
— Rick Gershman is Ante Up’s Colorado Ambassador. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.