I feel like, particularly this year, I've been working on my game at the same level I tackled law school and with almost the same ethic I used when starting my firm. Indeed, like law school, which is a three-year, $75k+ proposition*, this September will be two years since my first 4-figure score in poker. Thus, my education continues. Poker is that hard and that intense, but infinitely more satisfying. Since I am not yet able to support myself solely from poker, I'm scared to admit that I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing (the "infinitely more satisfying" part, I mean).
What I see when I watch a countdown to the November Nine table, such as I witnessed last night - pretty much pulling an all-nighter, which I've not done since my undergraduate days - are technicians of the highest order. In the law, attorneys who are seen as experts in their field and call their own shots are known as rainmakers. They are technical experts in their subject matter and know how to navigate the minefield that is soul crushing litigation or traverse the obstacle course that is Supreme Court oral argument/brief writing or influence the artifice that is politics. To be a technical expert, you have to be fundamentally sound in the law and in people (either by being able to read souls and manipulate accordingly or by surrounding yourself with people who can help you do that).
Unlike the law, poker is you and you alone. There is no judge that can make a technical ruling that saves your hand from disaster. There is no jury that can latch onto obscure pieces of evidence, disregarding others, to find in your favor. It's just you, and your own skill or lack thereof, face to face across the felt against your opponent(s). And cards be damned. Because if you're playing your cards? Well, good luck and God bless you. You're going to need both.
Like the law, poker is a jealous mistress. To be an expert you have to know it better than the back of your hand and that requires nothing less than absolute immersion. You can't be good at poker with anything less. I think that's why you see so many (and so many of the same) young, single males making final tables. As a result, someone like me - with a family and living in the middle of a barren poker landscape - will almost always be at a disadvantage.
Watching the ESPN coverage (not showing hole cards until showdown and utilizing true poker playing commentators makes for electrifying moments of poker television, thank you!), I understand how hard I have to work. I don't know how it will all turn out for me. But if poker's taught me anything, it is the significance of the sometimes agonizing beauty of living in the moment. Because of the long-term nature of the game, any run good or run bad occurring at any given point in time exists only in my mind. The truth is, there is only the hand you are playing.**
I suppose winning in poker can be likened to a drug because once you taste it, you only want more. I prefer, however, to think of it as a transcendent love affair, with all the exquisite pleasure and pain such passion brings.
My game? Well, I guess you could say I'm in the caboose car on the Cyclone as it tick-tick-ticks its way skyward...there's only one way to go, and that's up.
* no Mom and Dad, I've not spent anywhere near $75k on my pokers, don't worry
** this is a paraphrase of a concept from Tommy Angelo