The Anthropology of Online Poker: A Polemical Prelude

Nothing can substitute the experience of the game, the psychological eye for the game and the ability to manipulate the opponents. Instead of hesitating and contemplating whether or not to dare, it is extremely important to just jump straight into the game.

"This is how you start playing online poker", From,
(transl. from Finnish by JJ)

Online poker is a game for the young men living in the world dedicated to experience. As a cultural phenomenon it is an interesting mix of cyberspace, hard work, economics and nomadic culture. It is against and for protestant ethics. It is a Darwinist trip. It is about the Baudrillardian hyperreal and the everyday personal Realpolitik. It is a game that is work and pleasure, where men battle over glory.
The folklore of online poker has its geniuses, foxes and plain losers. Big players move big money for a living and luxury. Small players play to smuggle a little excitement in to the Everyday. The advertisement draws on and renews the heroics and the discourse of Man of the Game, not ignoring sex appeal. To play bravely in a dynamic and exciting environment keeps one's masculinity alive.

On the borderline of poker culture there is the counter-discourse using moral panic to limit the reckless of the cyberspace, to tame the characters shifting around the liminal spaces of welfare state, going against traditional values of work, responsibility and family.

From these polemical grounds I will start my next research project next fall, studying online poker culture with the tools of anthropology and funded by the Finnish Foundation for Gaming Research. I will write more about my research plan a bit later.

Pic above is an ad of Full Tilt Poker at Poker Magazines news site, the pic below is from Full Tilt Poker site.

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