Recently there seem to be a lot of debate over the first card off the deck rule and how it affects the social aspect of the game off the table. Thankfully I won't be joining in that debate but rather share the outcomes & benefits my friends and I have experienced from being genuinely friendly and sociable around the poker tables.
People from all walks of life come together to play this game we love. I'm sure you might have met a fair bit of people from different walks of life. Speaking to these people opens up your world, at least thats what it did for me. I didn't know private family-run Saudi oil companies made a few hundred million dollars a day or the risk oil-rig divers take diving in pitch black waters with chest deep mud/sand until I sat next to an offshore diver. Neither did I know that Caspian Sea Beluga caviar was banned in the USA, and I learned sturgeon was being farmed & processed to meet the demands of gourmands.
Fair enough that some people just wish to sit on the table and block everything off to play, but there are others who go to the tables to make friends and have a genuine conversation. Listening and conversing with these people have led my friends to landing large jobs or even starting up companies or projects. My friend who was getting paid $60,000 a year landed a job - which paid double - three weeks after winning a pot off a head hunter. Another friend who was playing for a living fresh out of college landed a job with a private equity firm which paid him $150,000 before bonuses two months after he stacked one of their directors in a home game. Who said being friendly on the table didn't pay?
I also had a friend who got roped into the opening of a (now highly succesful) restaurant and a few who have chanced upon golden opportunities from their table-mates. All of these started over a simple conversation on the poker table! My friends and I have also learnt about amazing new medical techniques to solve snoring (sleep apnea) and have even sought treatment from a top ENT surgeon whom we played against. It's amazing how our game connects people in such ways.
And of course I met my wife when she was working for the public relations company PokerStars hired for the grand opening of the Pokerstars Live room in Macau. I definitely wasn't the only one who has found love around poker events, because I've seen plenty of poker players get hitched to partners whom they met around or on the tables!
The next time you are seated on the table it does not hurt to remove those earphones and have a conversation with the gentlemen or lady next to you. Everyone has a story to share, and being genuinely interested by keeping your ears open will only add to your life experiences. Who knows what opportunities that might bring?
Bryan Huang is a member of Team PokerStars Pro