The Frugal Card Sharp

I’m writing this in the dark by the light of a candle as our power is out because of the storms. Apparently the experiment I did last year – trying to manage without gas and electricity – was good practice! But if I manage to get this up on the blog at all today it will – hopefully – be from borrowing a friend’s internet connection. Fingers crossed that her power is still on…Hooray, the power just came back on!

Now, it may seem an unorthodox frugal activity – in fact perhaps you won’t think it frugal at all – but over the past weekends DJ and I have revived our poker playing skills. In an effort to beat the credit crunch and organise some cheap nights in, friends have held mini poker tournaments this month.

Before anybody accuses me of being a shameless gambler, I must point out that, unlike some other forms of card games or gambling, poker is a game of skill. Plus the ‘buy in’ – the amount you pay to play – was £5 one week and £10 the next (in addition of course to a bottle of wine/pack of beer to take along). We’re a reasonably tight-fisted lot. The most we’ve ever spent on a buy-in was £15. That was a Christmas special at a friend’s house years ago. If I remember rightly, I managed to stagger home with a profit.

Triumphantly, or perhaps slightly embarrassingly really, DJ and I succeeded in cleaning up at both mini Texas Hold ’em tournaments and taking our friends’ money. Last weekend despite some appalling hands and going all in (betting all my chips at once) at least three times because I was bored, I managed to win (jointly). Everyone else was out and it was only me and James playing. Understandably he was bored – it was nearly 1am and we’d been playing since 7pm – so he called it a draw and split the money with me. I walked away with £20, which was a surprise. Often I have a habit of getting bored or tired in the middle of game and giving up, so I was pleased with my £15 profit.

This weekend I was feeling a bit under the weather, so DJ was forced to go it alone to the second tournament at Maz’s flat. There were only four players so fortunately the game didn’t take quite as long. The buy-in was £10 this time but still DJ won £40 – a £30 profit! Well, I say ‘won’ but in true credit crunch form DJ is not yet in possession of the winnings. The other three players had ‘forgotten’ to bring their money and claim they will be paying him by bank transfer…mmm! At least the previous week I was paid in cold hard cash.

Our lucky streak got me wondering whether we could take up poker as a way to supplement the frugal life. An extra £20 or £30 here and there would come in useful, after all. But we won’t always be lucky and I for one wouldn’t have the skill, patience or nerve to play in serious poker games. Playing poker with friends is fun, but the idea of playing for big money doesn’t appeal. I don’t think my risk-averse nature could stand it, even if I were a good enough player. Not to mention the large amount of cash you’d probably need to enter a proper tournament.

Ultimately it’s a cheap form of entertainment. You can dream of being a Las Vegas card sharp while having fun with your mates, with an added bonus that you might go home with a little extra cash. And that’s probably it.

Do you play poker? Would you use it to supplement your income or is that the road to ruin?

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4 Responses to The Frugal Card Sharp

  1. Christine says:

    A little tactical losing might be a good thing you know Piper before people stop asking you to join the party. Just a thought. You can lose friends easily enough if they only think you are there for their cash. Ask yourself why the other three forgot to bring any money! There are probably completely free things that you can do as a group that would pass the time away without causing friction!

  2. Mike says:

    Poker tournaments dont have to be expensive. I regularly go to the Nuts poker at various pubs. You play for points in a league format, over a 13 week season, and then the top 25 percent go on to the regional finals. There is usually a small admin charge for each week up to 3 pounds but sometimes free depending on venue. Cash prizes are available when you are at the regional finals. Full details can be found at

  3. piper says:

    I used to say that to DJ when he used to organise poker tournaments at our place! He\’s a much better player than me – if I win it\’s usually a fluke. Good tip on the poker tournaments, Fethiyelad. I\’ll check out the link.

  4. Rob says:

    Hi, just thought I\’d mention that you can quite happily supplement your income with poker and I\’ve done so for quite some time. I play both on the internet and face to face and both have different skills and quirks. As with any form of "investment" you really should follow these goldon rules though…1/ Never play with money you can\’t afford to lose2/Dedicate a specific bank roll to poker. For tournaments you will want atleast 30/40 buy-in\’s so if you can only afford £100 then you\’ll be playing smaller on-line tournaments.3/Become the absolute best poker player you can be! Read as many books. Normally the most frugal way of reading up on poker would be through a library but I would advise against it. Build your own library for quick reference. Read Dan Harringtons and Doyle Brunsons books specifically and if you don\’t know your pot odds from your "outs" then stay away from the tables until you do.One final point you might be interested in – if you you do try internet poker then have a look at – it will tell you the best tables to play at with the most "fish" and allow you to look at the results of people sitting at the tables with you.

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