Playing No Limit Poker in the California Vineyards

pokerThere are a number of different types of poker games. Stud, Texas Hold’em, Omaha, etc. In the end, most poker games are the same. The person that shows down the best combination of cards after the betting is done or is the last person in the hand with cards wins. But its not really the the variations in play between Stud, Texas Hold’em, Omaha or the rest of the poker games that sets them apart from each other. What sets any poker game apart from the other are the table stakes.

There are two kinds of table stakes in Poker: Limit and No Limit. In limit poker, the amount of money anyone can bet at one time is limited. Players know at any given time the most money they will have to call to stay in the hand. In No Limit, one never knows how much money they will be forced to risk to stay in the hand. It could be everything they have in front of them.

The real difference between Limit poker and No limit poker boils down to a players tolerance for risk. If you are risk averse, you play Limit Poker, minimizing how much you can lose at any given time. If your tolerance for risk is higher, if you are a gambler, you play No Limit. But here’s the real important thing to understand about the difference between Limit and No limit Poker and low vs high tolerance for risk: The reward at the end of the day for accepting greater risk must be more than the reward that comes with lower risk. Otherwise, it makes no sense to take a greater risk.

In the wine industry, it is the farmers, the grape growers, who are generally playing No Limit. These are the folks who are willing to bet a great deal on the idea that their crops will flourish and won’t be ruined by some natural occurance—say, a drought that turns their vineyards into a pile of brittle sticks and any grapes that grow into a shriveled mass, thereby severely decreasing their income and potentially the wine they will have to sell. These are the folks that look up into the sky every day, look Mother Nature in the face, and then throw all their chips in the middle of the table.

The real crazy gamblers are those farmers that dry-farm their grapes, relying only on the water that falls from they sky or accumulates in the ground to keep their vines growing. So this growing season, most of these folks have put of money on the table and still need to improve their hand with just the right cards.

The question has to be asked is are the rewards of dry farming such that the gamble taken by not irrigating or not preparing to have the resources to irrigate paid off to a much greater degree than if they irrigate or having the means to irrigate their vines?

What’s interesting about many dry farmed vineyards is that they naturally produce lower yields than irrigated vineyards. On the other hand, long established dry-farmed vineyards have much deeper root systems, allowing them to better weather dry years. But in the end, the reward of dry farmed vineyards has to be realized in either higher prices when selling the grapes or higher prices when selling the wine produced from dry farmed vineyards.

I don’t know if wines produced from dry-farmed grapes are sold at higher than average prices. And I don’t know the increase over average price per ton of grapes a farmer can ask for dry farmed grapes.

I enjoy playing poker and I play a decent amount. However, I almost always play Limit Poker, rather than No dryfarmedlimit unless I can find a No Limit game at which I see a number of players who aren’t very good players. The plain fact is that my risk tolerance is fairly low so I mitigate my risk by playing limit poker.

But here’s the thing about poker. Winning at poker doesn’t always mean you win the most pots. If you sit at a table and play poker for a good amount of time, you are going to win your share of pots. Most often what determines if you win at the end of the day is the degree to which you limit the amount you lose when you don’t win the hand. That’s what will often determine if you leave the table with more cash than when you sat down and it’s that measurement that tells you if you are a winner or loser.

If the 2014 growing season continues along the same path it’s on and if the rain does not fall and if the drought continues, it’s likely going to be the farmers that play Limit Poker and who prepared themselves to not lose too much with the bad hand they’ve been dealt.

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3 Responses

  1. Morgan Twain-Peterson - February 3, 2014

    Well, I suppose this depends on your idea of “no limit.” I would argue that the vineyards that are dry-farmed, and have already lived through many droughts in their lifetime, will survive this drought and any forthcoming water restrictions better than the modern, tightly-spaced, nearly hydroponically farmed, vineyards that inhabit many of the hillsides in Sonoma and Napa. Many of these dry-farmed vineyards are already self-selected by their past abilities to survive the foibles of mother nature.

  2. Tom Wark - February 3, 2014

    Morning Morgon (I wanted to write that!)

    You may be correct about this…But we will see. Most certainly, if the vines are dry farmed, they better be old have those very deep root systems. Unless of course, we get another 20 or 30 days like yesterday.

    Here’s to more rain!!

  3. Roger King - February 3, 2014

    If they are old they have been to this rodeo more than once in their life span. If they are still here (and most old ones are if they did not get pushed out) pretty wells tells you history will repeat itself. Now if we go back to the 11th century, science tells us CA had an 80 year drought. That might be a bit different.


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