Six ways poker is like Christmas

The festive period runs the risk of turning into a wasteland of excess. However, I believe us poker players are better equipped to deal with the dizzying indulgence than most.

"How," you may ask, "can poker be related to the wholesome family fun of the holidays?" But hear me out. I have noticed some surprising similarities between feelings experienced during the festive period and the emotions of playing poker.

1. The Win

When you enter a tournament and win a jackpot it does truly feel like Christmas, regardless of the time of year. The celebratory feelings can result in the copious consumption of food and alcohol, just like during the holidays. But the best bit is that with that nice lump sum, you can treat yourself to WHATEVER you want, and, unlike Christmas, it's guaranteed to be something you actually want.

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Perhaps a trip to the PCA?

2. The Anticipation

Waiting for that special day when we can open those glittering gift boxes that have been tormenting us for weeks can be excruciating. With each passing day, we are eyeing them up, trying to find ways to distract ourselves from the forthcoming pleasure. This anticipation reminds me of sitting at a poker table, where you can spend hours waiting for a good hand. Whatever way you find to distract yourself, whether it be talking to other players or playing Candy Crush, it's really all just a way to delay the gratification of getting the right hand in the right spot.

Patience is a necessary skill when both playing poker and navigating Christmas, and it is one which has served me well this year.

3. The Rush

When the time finally comes to open our gifts, the excitement can be unbearable, and it inspires in me those same unbearable butterfly feelings as when waiting for the flop to be dealt.

Do you tear the paper off as quickly as possible, desperate to discover its contents? Or do you slowly peel, savouring the moment?

Whatever way you do it, removing that paper, revealing inch by inch the desirable gift, is much the same as waiting for the flop to be dealt. Watching the dealer's hand flick one card after the other, it can take all your discipline to prevent yelping with excitement. And eventually, just like Christmas presents, it can be an inevitable Russian roulette as to whether the cards are the ones we need, or just another miserable pair of socks.

4. The Bluff

When it comes to guessing gifts, the bluff becomes particularly useful. The bluffing skills required to throw a loved one off the scent can parallel Liv Boeree's talents.

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We have all been there. When, at first glance, they figure out that the perfume-shaped gift is actually perfume, we must pull out all the stops to convince them otherwise. But then there are the sneakier among us who will try to disguise a bad present as a good present by wrapping it in a bigger box, in much the same way as an aggressive poker player would disguise a bad hand by throwing chip after chip into the pot.

These gift givers would give Vanessa Selbst a run for her money!

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5. The Poker Face

After spending months perfecting my poker face, I have found it comes in handy for non-poker-related instances. How many of us poker players have had to use our best poker face when receiving unwanted gifts? The "thank you, it's just what I have always wanted" response requires the same level of acting as the "I am so glad it's a flop full of hearts when I was holding spades" look.

6. The Stamina

Much like any poker game, the holidays are a roller-coaster of emotions. There are periods of frustration, long waits, exhilarating highs, and the disappointment of spending hours to find the perfect gift without the favour being returned. Party after party and huge meal followed by huge meal can be a lot to put your body through. In much the same way that we need a lot of stamina and focus to get through a poker tournament, we need this skill to survive Christmas, too.

So, clearly, the skills which have been fine-tuned by playing poker will double as successful holiday coping mechanisms. All in all, there is a lot to be enjoyed through the festive period, and just like poker, if we play it right, we can enjoy the party without the hangover and make it all worthwhile.

Ann-Marie McCarthy
@PokerStars in PS Women