Wednesday, February 26, 2003

I have 503 reasons poker is more rewarding than writing.

The first reason is immediate feedback. I've had success as a writer to the limit of getting personalized instead of form rejections on occasion. I seldom hear back in less than six weeks. Plus, of course, there's the time it takes to write.

In poker, on the other hand, one hand takes a few minutes. You win or you lose. No waiting. Or play a session of a few hours, and then count your chips. You'll be up or down a numerical amount. Right away, you have your score, in nice numerical form. And you can spend your winnings if you want. Immediate gratification -- or mortification, but at least you don't have to wait for it.

I hate waiting.

Next, poker is a fun process. I have yet to stare at a poker table like a blank white page and dread getting near it. Sometimes writing is fun. Sometimes it's something I push through for the distant reward of having something completed. I look at a poker table and gather clues as to whether I have a good chance there. If not, I don't play. No anguish because I'm blocked at poker. Instead, there's jokes around the table, or intense silence. It's friendly or competitive, always social. It's intriguing to see what cards will come and what the other players will do with them. Notice how people don't play writing?

Third, I have better odds at poker. With thousands of manuscripts coming in for every one my markets are publishing, I have better odds of holding a pair of aces than of selling a story. In fact, I even have a better chance of winning a pot with 7-2 unsuited as my pocket cards in Hold'Em. (For the unfamiliar, that's Hold'Em's worst starting hand.)

I'll limit my other reasons to the 500 dollars I have won in the last month. More are coming to mind. They could get as tiresome as bad beat stories, so I'll skip them.

I'm not giving up writing -- though my poker time is eating into my writing time. Unlike poker, writing creates something new -- and possibly lasting. And I suspect my characters would rise up with knives in their hands if I ignored their stories too long.

But there is a certain attraction to spending my time in a way that has actually been profitable.