In addition to poker, I kind of like Backgammon. Both games are similar in their sense of probabilities and strategy, but Backgammon is what's known as an Open game. There are no suprises since your entire position is known to your opponent. Chess is the same way. Poker is a Closed game since there is an unknown variable in the starting cards your opponent has. This makes poker, not a superior, but definitely a more difficult game.
I've been playing Backgammon somewhat seriously for about a year now and I've been progressing fairly well. Every Thursday, I meet up for lunch with my friend Jay in his building's lobby and we play a few points. We've been betting $20 on the first player to reach 13 points and I crushed the first match 13-5. We're now into the second match and I'm down 4-2 but I feel confident I can make up the loss.
As it happens, on my way back from my last game, I wandered into the lobby at 60 Wall Street and observed the chess and backgammon games going on there. This is the central hub of chess and backgammon hustling in NY, as it turns out, and more than a few of the poker players I know hang out here. I got introduced through a guy I know from the Cold Fish club to the man who runs the games there. His name (changed for the purposes of this blog) is Hawthorne. Hawthorne let me in on how the Backgammon works. It's $.50 a game to rent the boards (payable to Hawthorne) and the players play for X dollars per point, to be worked out before the game starts. The money is settled outside the lobby on the side, because the security there doesn't want to be involved and I don't blame them. I was introduced to a nice gentleman who agreed to play me for $5 a point (the equivalent of $2/$4 limit to these guys who sometimes play for $50 a point).
I sat down relatively confident and started winning the first few matches. After 8 game, I was up 7 points and feeling good. But experience took over and my lead was wiped out quickly after I accepted some bad doubles. Before I knew it, the was of amateur nervousness washed over me and I was down 10 points before we had to call it a day. The guy was nice enough to point out my mistakes and coach me a bit. I also made a few really amateur moves by missing out on rolls when I could have blotted or barred up, after which he immediately doubled and I had to decline. This is the poker equivalent of folding the nut hand on the river because you misread it. More experience will help me overcome this deficit, I'm sure. It's nice to know I can play really experienced guys right across the street from me. Now that I've broken my cherry playing them, it'll be a fun diversion to play on ocassion and, who knows, win some money.