Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain

So I wrote here just a few weeks ago about NaNoWriMo and how exciting that seemed to me and how I was going to be filling the pages of my blog with all kinds of writing, writing, writing…and then, I didn’t have anything to say.  And then I got so damn depressed pondering the news of this world, the plight of poker, and all the unmitigated crap that happens on a daily basis. A work station with internet access is a very bad thing sometimes.

To top it off, I had three losing sessions at my live cash game and I just woe is me’d myself to death until it got to where the worms in the garden would start laughing every time I came to sit among them and feast. Such a waste of time...there. In the garden. Eating worms.

I went back through my blog one afternoon, trying to see if I could find a spark of inspiration or a way back to where I’d been before. I was trying to find the me who had written about my love affair with poker and the passion that had fueled me year after negative ROI year. In the face of Black Friday, I was wondering if the day had come that my love for the game was just gone…as dead and withered as the worms in the garden after this long, hot Texas summer. 

It took me a long time to admit that what I was feeling, post Black Friday, was a real, deep in the bones depression. Missing the steady habit of grinding a scheduled routine, I was displaced and not really sure what to do with myself. I was surprised, and a little (ok, a lot) embarrassed, about it.  

I know part of it is the death of a dream, and probably an unrealistic dream. Unrealistic because…I mean, come on, look at all these pros out there crushing and killing, taking names and banking cashola. While me…well, I was just starting to get profitable. The road to getting even still stretches before me like an endless painting I can walk forever in and never get to the horizon.

I’ve learned that’s part of the game, though. It is an everlasting walk toward the horizon you’ll never reach because the game is never-ending. You get up from one session only to enter it again the next time you sit down. The button ceaselessly rotating and the cards ever shuffling, your entire life is just one long session. Tommy Angelo describes it better, but this forced hiatus is helping me see it clearer.

Another part of it, though, is the complete and utter tripe that’s come out about the poker community since Black Friday.

Please notice I didn’t say “about poker” or “about the game.”

The NLHE game itself is as it always was and will be: your stack, two hole cards, opponents, the flop, turn, and river.

The poker community, on the other hand, has been nearly laid to waste (EDIT - links to Jesse May's post, which captures everything I, as an outsider, was feeling).

Journalists who used to cover stories about hands and winnings, now hustle from one breaking DOJ story to the next, stopping only to cover the next story of abuse, cheating, or scamming (a la Girah).

Pros who used to crack-wise about balling now bitch and/or take every opportunity to flaunt their flawless judgment and superiority, or use their time to criticize new poker ventures.

New poker ventures get derailed by unclearly adhering to a possibly poorly thought out ethics code of conduct.

Players out money have adorned a lynch mob mentality and use social media to denigrate and threaten the figures they deem to be at fault.

Player organizations sit in their own camps with their thumbs entirely up their asses.

And fans? Well, instead of playing, we sit on the fringe and watch it all play out.

I wonder how many new fans will be up and coming as we wait out this dark season of poker?

The good and bad thing about following a dream is that along the way, two things can happen. You can reach your goal and realize the culmination of all your hard work, and then begin a new path. Or, you can do everything in your power to reach your goal and realize at some point it’s not a goal worth having any more.

If Black Friday had never happened, I wouldn’t be feeling as I do today. I’d still be plugged in, planning my poker work and working my poker plan. But, things are different now.

I hate that Black Friday happened, but with what it’s brought to light, I’m glad it did. But for the DOJ doing its job, we might all still be in the dark about the likes of Nick Rainey and Girah and the what-the-fuckery that has become Full Tilt Poker.

Sometimes, going to the garden to eat worms is a good thing, a healing process. At some point, though, you’ve got to get up. Dust yourself off, make new plans, and open your eyes.

I started the journey with an unabashed love for the game. Along the way, I grew to love from afar some of its heroes. In the face of this dark season, I’ve seen the man behind the curtain and made my peace.

All I have left is my love for the game. 



  1. Good job here, PL. Very well written and I agree. Partly because of the rapid infusion of cash and media attention, poker (particularly NLHE) essentially became a cult of personality almost overnight.

    That was what they needed to sell the game, so it was understandable, but that has nothing to do with the game itself.

    The game is still the same, only the bells and whistles have changed. And that is only temporary. What really matters is still there on the table.

  2. PL -- I have no great insight in how one should react to BF. For me, I canceled my membership in PokerVT (I was basically an original member), stopped listening to the 2+2 podcast, and didn't read the forums. I LOVED all of those things, but as a naturally pessimistic person and attorney (am I being redundant?), it seemed extremely unlikely that online poker would come back for many years. Since I played live poker before ever going online, I decided to pivot back there. With the expenses for gas, tolls, food, and larger buyins, it is so much more difficult to be profitable, but I don't really have a choice. As an aside, I didn't know anything about the apparent problems with RainmanUSC until I read your post. He was a PVT instructor for awhile. I have nothing negative to say about the guy. I know he paid people when he had his decent ME cash a couple of years ago. Regardless of how badly you or I feel about BF, there is no doubt that it affected him 100 times more than both of us combined. I am not excusing anything he did wrong. I hope he pays back what he owes as soon as he gets the money.

  3. Good blog. I have started a new path in my poker dream. I am now going to work on the floor of a Poker Room and will keep playing as a player. I really like the game of poker and this allows me to be further inside the game.

  4. Excellent writing as usual...and I feel very similar to how you do. I still play on one site online, but it doesn't feel the same and I don't have any local friends that play poker on a regular basis, so I feel like it's all going to the wayside and I hate that feeling. I hope at some point, something good happens.

  5. @albus - I appreciate your comments. I know nothing about Nick Rainey other than what I've seen on the interwebz. As a result, I realize all characterizations of him learned from such a medium should be taken with a grain of salt. My first "interaction" with him, however, was from an interview he did with QuadJacks, in which he admitted to playing and winning an online tournament on the account of one of his students. I'm sure it happens a lot, but it doesn't make it right. I've done plenty in my own life that's not right, too, I appreciate you commenting.

    @Steve - Wow, I'm glad to hear about your new poker ventures! That's really awesome and I imagine you'll be learning quite a bit about the game from dealing. I can't wait to hear more about this.

    @Kat - I hope so, too. In the meantime, cookies, please! ;-)


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