I studied Spanish for two years, 1961-1963, as a high school student in Los Angeles. I didn't WANT to take Spanish, but the college preparatory curriculum at the time required two years of a foreignBob Dancer is one of the world's foremost video poker experts. He is a regular columnist for Casino Player, Strictly Slots, and the Las Vegas Review-Journa land has written an autobiography and a novel about gambling. He provides advice for tens of thousands of casino enthusiasts looking to play video poker. Bob's website is www.bobdancer.com
language. Since Spanish was supposed to be the easiest of the languages to learn, that's what I took. The fact that Los Angeles had a large Hispanic population made the decision a little easier.
We studied vocabulary, conjugation of verbs, and dialogs. An example of an introductory dialog might be:
"Buenos dias, Señor García. ¿Cómo está usted?"
"Muy bueno, Señorita Muñoz. Muchas gracias. ¿Y usted?"
"Muy bueno. Gracias."
Receiving admittance and a scholarship to UCLA were goals of mine at the time, so I studied enough to earn an A in each of my Spanish courses. But since I had no plans at the time to travel in Mexico or other Spanish-speaking country, I didn't see the need to learn the language beyond the minimum necessary to earn a good grade. My speaking accent never became very good, and I could never understand Spanish spoken at normal speeds.
Today the language I speak and write is the language of video poker. Such things as "a 3-card straight flush with one high card, two insides, and a straight penalty" roll off of my tongue. It is meaningful to me, and absolutely necessary to understand should you wish to play 9/6 Jacks or Better perfectly. And for most people, it is every bit as much of a foreign language as Spanish, although it is closer to the syntax of a computer language than a spoken language.
The "¿Cómo está usted?" example used above was an example used in the first week of Spanish 1. The "3-card straight flush" example had enough qualifiers that it shouldn't be attempted until you know a lot about the game. For example, such things as "a high pair is worth more than a 4-card flush, which in turn is worth more than a low pair" are MUCH more important to master before you attempt the fine points.
It's instructive to look at what motivates you to learn any of this. Back in school, grades were a motivator for some of us. But who grades your skill in Jacks or Better
? Before I met Shirley, I sometimes looked at personal ads. Even when looking in Las Vegas, I never saw one that started out, "Single white female seeks single white male who plays Jacks or Better well."
When I was learning this game back in 1994, the motivating force was dollars and cents. I'd been gambling for over twenty years and I believed in my soul that eventually good players get rewarded and bad players get punished. This motivates me today, but it is not a motivating force to many others. If your conclusion on success in gambling is "if you're lucky you'll win and if you're not you'll lose," then this won't motivate you to study at all.
But without figuring out WHAT motivates you, let's assume you ARE motivated to learn this game. For whatever reason, you WANT to get good at it. The question in today's column is, "How difficult is it?"
The answer is, "Not very." For players who WANT to learn and are willing to study, 9/6 Jacks is easier to learn perfectly than any game other than Pick'Em Poker. Probably somewhere between one-third and one-half of all adults have the mental capability to learn this game well.
Having the mental capability, though, is not always matched up with the time and willingness to go through the study necessary to make that mastery a fact rather than merely a potential. More players are limited by their own time and energy than they are by the difficulty of the game.
Which is true for many things in life. I COULD become knowledgeable about astronomy, I suppose, if I devoted my time to it. I COULD learn about gardening, auto mechanics, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Mayan archeological discoveries, or any number of other things should I decide to pursue them. I don't think it a crime for someone to be non-proficient about knowing 9/6 Jacks or Better any more than it's a crime that they don't know how to prepare Hungarian goulash. None of us know everything, and we must pick and choose what to spend out time on. Just as it's possible to make a living knowing and playing 9/6 Jacks or Better, it's also possible to make a living doing any of the other activities listed here. Each of us needs to make our own choices and live with the results.