We all have our favorite leisure activities. I am an avid reader and I love writing, but those things don’t add up to hobbies. Truth is, I have three hobbies — hunting, fishing and poker.
Back in 2007, I was lucky enough to get invited to a summer day outing — in a place where gambling was legal — that combined both fishing and a Texas Hold ‘em poker tournament. In the morning, about two dozen anglers set out for the prize of the largest fish. After lunch, more than 40 players gathered around tables and the tournament got under way.
I brought in the largest fish, a largemouth bass of more than four pounds, for the only prize of $200. And I took a tie for third place that paid out $400 in poker, so I finished with $600 on the day. The buy-in for the day was $50, so I did pretty well, overall.
This is all relevant because I strongly believe that there is a great correlation between hunting, especially deer and turkey hunting, and the game of Texas Hold ‘em.
Hunting requires study, patience, persistence, attention to detail and, every once in a while, a real run of luck. Poker requires all of that, but the luck part is even more prevalent. Poker, especially the Texas brand, can be cruel and, after about 20 years of playing, I have learned that, no matter how well you play, you will have runs of bad luck. It is simply a part of the game. Adjust to it and move on.
But, back to the elements of hunting and poker that you do control: Scouting before the turkey and deer seasons is a big part of one’s ability to find success. At the poker table, you will want to study, or “scout,” the opposing players. Do they play aggressively? Are they “tight” players, men or women who play few hands?
Attention to detail in the woods means always paying attention to wind direction, learning where the does like to hang around, weather conditions, and where a buck is likely to show up, when hunting deer.
At the poker table, are you watching the habits of particular players as they decide what to do next? Do they give away “tells,” that is, slight signs of behavior that show he or she is holding a very big hand or is bluffing?
But, if there is one key element to both poker and hunting, it is persistence — the knowledge that you have done just about all that you can to be successful and to keep doing the things that brought you success in the past. And to always focus on not giving up.
It is a fact that, after six or seven days of turkey or deer hunting with no success, it is easy to let the dark thoughts of doubt slip into your head. These thoughts must be pushed aside. If you have done your work and keep your eyes focused on success, there is every chance that success will be found.
I know. I have had turkey and deer seasons end with a tag collecting dust in my backpack. I try to go over the past season and figure out what I may have done wrong. Did I hunt in a place that failed to end in success for too long? Did I travel to hunt 30 miles away when I should have kept closer to home? Or was it merely a case of bad luck? I roll all of this stuff around in my mind and then try to come up with an honest answer.
When things don’t go that well at the poker table, I try to play over some of the hands that I lost in my mind. How could I have played differently? Did I bet at the right time? Or did Lady Luck just have her way with me?
One thing is certain: Over the years, I have learned much out in the woods and at the poker table. But another thing is even more certain: I still have much to learn.
That makes poker and hunting all the more challenging — and all the more interesting.
Contact Dennis Jensen at email@example.com.