Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


If you want to call it bad luck
October 3, 2012 4:54 PM   Subscribe

With a new baby and wife to support, out-of-work filmmaker Matt Gallagher tries his hand - and some would say “luck” - at playing poker for a living. Grinders is the director’s inside journey into the unconventional, often bizarre, underground world of illegal poker clubs.
posted by Potomac Avenue (14 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Playing poker to pay the bills means living side by side with risk.

Being an independent filmmaker would also seem to be a risky way of paying the bills.

One of my best friends is a degenerate gambler (is there any other kind?) and I love spending time with him except when he's playing. Gambling is not a profession, it's a disease.

Pro tip: Do not wash your hair with the stack of chips you just won from your opponent whist saying "I love your money." Might be nice on camera, but it makes a bad scene in the parking lot.
posted by three blind mice at 5:44 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


My understanding, based on years of experiences of This American Life listening, is that professional poker players mostly make a living by attracting and beating wealthy outsiders (who want to play high stakes just as an adventure) to their circles. Wins/losses within the circles between insider veteran pros themselves are generally manageable rather than desperate/extreme, but its this stable insider scene which attracts the outsiders.
posted by Bwithh at 5:54 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Playing poker to pay the bills means living side by side with risk.
Being an independent filmmaker would also seem to be a risky way of paying the bills.


Got 100 big ones on this so please please big daddy-o TELL ME HE'S A DRUMMER TOO!
posted by hal9k at 5:56 PM on October 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


A Federal judge has recently issued a decision implying poker is legal, because it is not gambling, not a game of chance.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:01 PM on October 3, 2012


I haven't had time to fully review the above links (and I hate posting without doing so), but...dear God, it would be pretty damn wonderful if this movie sparked the sort of poker boom that had its first beginnings with the release of Rounders 14 years ago. However, since this is a documentary, that seems unlikely. I've spent enough time in card rooms and casinos over the years to know this particular subject all too well. I love the game and have done pretty well by it, but frankly I've come to find most of the players just too depressing to be around -- especially the mid stakes regulars in my local SF Bay Area card room scene. There are exceptions, but I swear the term "petty" was invented to describe the denizens of our local poker rooms. I truly wish there were more degenerates, as they can at least be fun to play with. But most of the regulars aren't degenerates, they're grinders, and you come to know them by their limitations instead of any inherent exceptionalism they might possess. And knowing someone by their faults rather than their virtues -- seeking them out because of those faults, and wanting to sit near them because they suck at something you're good at...well, it passes the time and pays the bills, but it's hardly uplifting.
posted by mosk at 6:04 PM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hope they hurry up and legalize it soon here in the US. I know a lot of guys who were grinding it out for a living who suddenly lost a lot/everything (and their "profession" as it were) when the government swooped in.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:34 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Halfway through the doc and it's kind of interesting, but why the hell do it this way? Just play online bro.
posted by bardic at 9:20 PM on October 3, 2012


Also, can't believe his wife sticks with him. DTMFA.
posted by bardic at 9:56 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I play better when I drink."

lulz
posted by bardic at 10:23 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I watched the whole thing and it's an excellent set of stories, most particularly Matt's as he's a reluctant participant in the scene.

I doubt it'll spark a poker boom because none of the stories are clearly happy or sad, and his larger thesis that it's all about managing risk, rings true throughout. Rounders glamorized poker incredibly effectively; this doesn't.
posted by fatbird at 11:03 PM on October 3, 2012


found an update.

I've had a few friends over the years who have had spats of being grinders or something like it and very, very people can make a living at it, sort of like day-trading. These days I wouldn't go anywhere close to online poker -- you think bots are bad in MMORPGS, then throw in some real money.

Poker can be a fun night with a few friends -- lose $20, maybe win, about the price of going out to a movie.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:33 AM on October 4, 2012


Bots aren't a real danger in online poker. Basically, none of them are good enough to beat any stake above the penny level (unless there have been major breakthroughs in the five years or so since I stopped playing). What really makes online poker different is that so many players are working with realtime statistical tracking and analysis software that remembers every hand every opponent ever played, be it minutes or years ago.

And making a living as a grinder in brick and mortar casinos is not that hard. I've done it. It's making a good living that's difficult. My meticulous win/loss tracking showed that I was making a little over $12 an hour. And it gets to be a pretty depressing workplace after a while.
posted by 256 at 4:02 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm calling bullshit on this.

(I've seen Breaking Bad)
posted by hypersloth at 4:31 AM on October 4, 2012


Bots aren't a real danger in online poker. Basically, none of them are good enough to beat any stake above the penny level (unless there have been major breakthroughs in the five years or so since I stopped playing).
Your information is, sadly, out of date. Bots are capable of beating players at quite high stakes in heads-up limit poker and are capable of playing nearly flawlessly in "solved" games like the double-or-nothing sit-n-gos. There have been bots identified with winning results at mid-stakes SNGs and NL cash games. In NL, bots have been effective at playing relatively unexploitable short stack strategies (what we call "pushbot" poker).

Outside of heads-up or DoN, bots generally don't take money on net from the best players, but they are winning players overall at a lot of mid-level games. The shortstacking bots didn't ever take money from the better players, but they didn't give much away and were annoying to play with.
One of my best friends is a degenerate gambler (is there any other kind?) and I love spending time with him except when he's playing. Gambling is not a profession, it's a disease.
There are many poker players with this issue, but there are plenty whose character flaws do not include recklessness with money.
why the hell do it this way? Just play online bro.
If only we could!
posted by Lame_username at 4:53 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


« Older Imagine that a genie grants you three wishes. You...  |  How Philip K Dick transformed ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments