Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bad Beating a Danish Prince

"I do not know why yet I live to say this thing's to do.
Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means to do't."
- Hamlet
We live in a harsh and unforgiving world. Every single day, assholes cut you off on the freeway, waitresses fuck up your lunch order, friends flake out and forget your birthday, and your hometeam loses another close game. Then there are days when there's no traffic on your way to work, and your waitress is Jessica Alba-hot and will possibly go home with you and spread her legs if you tell one more funny joke, and your friends surprise you with tickets to your favorite band, and your team comes from behind to win and cover the pointspread.

Some days the sun is shining, the birds are chirping Beatles songs, and the beautiful world makes sense. Of course you usually forget about the good days and focus on the dismal days when feral dogs walk up to you and piss on your feet and your kidde-porn downloading boss tells you that you're getting passed over for a promotion because high school pecking order has infected the corporate world and you're not as cool as you once were.

I lost $500 the other night and I'm down $1K for the week. I didn't even freak out. I lost some hands because I played like the village drunk out of an Irish novel and I lost hands because I was outplayed like a chump and I lost hands because the fickleness of luck was not on my side that session. Two-thirds of those beats were my responsibility and I accepted my fate as I logged off. Those mistakes magnify why I'm not a professional poker player.

There was a time a few years ago before Fossilman ruled the Earth where I played poker to supplement my income. Sitting at the tables with foul smelling degenerates seemed much more appealing than slinging beers to drunken frat boys or making fruity drinks like Bellinis for crappy tipping Upper East Side princesses as I grinded it out in the underground clubs in Manhattan, at the casino in Foxwoods, and online at Party Poker.

I lived off my bankroll those days and steadily won. When I hit my first real losing streak, I freaked out because playing poker was my sole source of income. And we weren't talking elephant sized numbers here... a couple hundred dollars here and there. If I won $75 in a few hours playing 1/2 NL, that was a good day. Just when things got bad, I was offered freelance work to write about poker. My freelance career rocketed off like a fat kid riding a moped. I finally arrived at a point where my daily winnings were added to my bankroll. The effects were immediate as the roll grew exponentially.

Over the past few weeks, I withdrew money from my bankroll in order to cover expenses for the next few months while I rework one of my manuscripts. I think I might have fallen victim to the cashout curse. It's difficult enough playing mistake-free poker, but when you are acting like a dumbass at the tables simultaneously during a blizzard of bad beats, you're going walk away from the tables ashamed and with swollen testicles.

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Opening up a post with a quote can me misleading and pretentious. And quoting Hamlet, the biggest swinging dicks of all of Shakespearean characters, should be enough to get me beaten to a bloody pulp by a bunch of hammer wielding thugs. But there's something important abut my fascination with Hamlet. I've spent many late nights sitting around by myself in the dark jacked up on painkillers pondering the actions of the indecisive 30 year old Danish prince and what lessons could be learned from his mistakes.

Hamlet is the most compelling character in all of literature. This is a guy wrought with emotional conflict and guilt due to his inaction. He knows his Uncle Claudius killed his father and yet he's slow to avenge his murder.

As the story goes, the conflicted Hamlet accidentally killed Polonius, the father of his girlfriend Ophelia, who in turn commits suicide by drowning herself which triggers the series of events climaxing with one of the most brutal endings in the history of storytelling.

Without conflict, there's no drama. And of course Shakespeare was trying to tell a story, express himself creatively, and entertain the masses all in the same instance. The story of Hamlet had existed for many years before Shakespeare penned it four hundred years ago. He was the first to adapt the legend of Hamlet and he turn it into one of his most famous pieces of work. The themes that Shakespeare touched on four centuries ago in his play still hold today in an extremely dissonant world.

Inaction and slow decision making. That best describes Hamlet. He was doomed from the start and if you carry around those two traits in your personal emotional baggage, then you're doomed as well.

The Tao of Poker is a sponge that soaks up all things poker in my life. When I squeeze it, the droplets of water materialize as bad beat stories and inane observations of Las Vegas locals. For the last few weeks, the sponge has been dry. Sure I've played poker both live and online. I've watched poker on TV. I even wrote two poker columns. But sometimes ringing out the sponge is nothing more that screaming into the void.

There are days when my fate cries out, "Stop playing poker!" That's when my Kings get cracked by Ace rag. And the flopped nut flush loses to a runner-runner boat. I can hear the poker gods laughing at me as they prop bet each other into figuring how long I'll stay on tilt. One orbit? One week? One year?

Then there are days when poker is the easiest and most beautified game in the world for me. When I flop sets with baby pairs and I river my nut flush and my dominated Ace comes from behind to win. Sadly, those instances don't happen everyday.

I never doubt my ability to play poker. What I often question is... "How much of working in the poker industry is affecting my poker game negatively?"

At the tables, I don't have the same enthusiasm for the game that I used to have a few years ago, especially if I'm on location in a casino covering a poker tournament. After a long day of work, the last thing I want to do is sit at the tables. After covering the EPT, WPT, and WSOP, I've glimpsed at the underbelly of tournament poker which is being pillaged by corporate vampires wearing cheap suits and sleazy television execs run amuck.

When I spend time away from the beast and take breaks, I return refreshed and actively experience the halcyon days instead of chasing them, when the clattering sounds of chips made me salivate like Pavlov's frothing dog. I used to love to discuss strategy with other players, but these days every poker related conversation I've had has been morphed into one long bad beat story. Bad beats are like the common cold. There's no way to prevent them and you're gonna catch one eventually.

In every tournament I've won or made the final table, I issued a wicked bad beat onto someone at some point along the way to victory. It's just part of the game. In baseball, players swing at bad pitches and hit homeruns, and pitchers toss a fat pitch that gets popped up for an out. That's the way it goes. It's like having a horny drunk girl stumble over to you in a bar just before last call. Talk about catching a lucky card on the river.

Then there are days when the entire notion of poker is absurd and the life is summed up best from Tim Robbins' character in the film Bull Durham when he said, "Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes... it rains. Think about that."

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You should be reading... what the Poker Prof had to say about the latest developments in Washington in his post called Initial Impressions of the Internet Gambling Prohibition. Also, check out The Fight Is Over written by CJ.

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