As the poker world has been in an uproar recently, I have tried to take the opportunity to sit back and take stock in my personal situation. I reviewed all of my accounts to see where I stood currently and delved into my Neteller archives to get a definitive answer to the question, “What do I have to show for all the time I have spent playing poker online?”
The monetary answer is moot, not because of any specific figures involved. I went from red to black a good while ago. That was a proud moment as the trip to red had been a long one. Education is expensive. There was no bankroll building at that time, just bankroll funding. I had a little chunk of money that I deposited 100 at a time. Sometimes, it was twice a month, sometimes, twice a day. No worries though. I still had some Jeopardy! money and my business was booming, My attitude towards money has always been somewhat cavalier. I don’t waste wantonly, I just don’t keep very good track of where everything goes. During the time of negative balances, I played for enjoyment, for what else was there? Sure, I harbored dreams of hitting a big score and moving up to the big leagues but the truth was that I was giving money away to do something I liked to do. The same way I used to do with brown liquor a lot more often.
When I shifted into the black, I started to pay a few bills but I continued to look for the chance for the big score. Most of my big licks are followed by a sharp downturn in my graph. The monetary reward is “extra,” a bonus I receive for getting a little lucky. Like any good gambler, I have tried to ride those streaks and double up. I have never let myself run down to the quick, though. I have always stopped just short and built back up. The profits came at an opportune time. Interest rates had started to creep up, causing a drop in my business. Swabs started to appear with alarming regularity, causing a drop in disposable income. Most dastardly, frustration was starting to seep into my brain, making me question the advisability of continuing to play as much as I was.
It is amazing what a hot streak will do for your confidence. The biggest reason for the streak had less to do with poker than it did with mind management. I became better at avoiding games I can’t play and sought out those I could. I took judicious shots at higher levels and was able to back away if things got too hot. In short, I began to think more as a successful poker player than as a gambler. The gambler is still there of course; he just has to talk the poker player who is sitting on top of him into getting off every one in awhile.
Fortunately, the gambler is a wily one. He can’t be held down too long. I don’t want him held down right now either. At this time, there is not enough of a monetary reward in poker to overcome the feelings I get from hoping a Face will follow an Ace, from rooting for a team to make that last second field goal to make the total score 42, or to throw 50 cents on the table on the Tuesday night game and say, “I’ll lay two to one he’s got that other 7 down.” Over the last three years, my hourly rate playing poker is abysmal. Over the last fifteen months, it’s a lot better but it still a lot less than what I could make by working a little harder at my real job. The profit I have received in the form of an account balance is immaterial. It can be erased at the whim of a Cowboy, Saint, or Seahawk. The true profit has come in the play, the interaction with others, the sharks, the fish, the whales, the guppies, the angle-shooters, the gentlemen and gentlewomen, the assholes, the newbies, the grizzled, the scary-smart, the brutally dumb, the degenerates, the dilettantes, the existentialists, and all the others who have ever sat down at my table. From them, I have received the truth of mankind, that we crave the company of others; The chance to match wits and skills; The chance to joust with no real harm. Poker has given me a road to travel away from shyness and reluctance and towards a meeting place full of others welcoming to my presence. Poker has led me to beautiful geography and pleasant times spent with others. It has given me the chance to go to the Final Four, fulfilling a lifelong dream. It has encouraged me to text message silly things to people and drink at the whims of telephone calls of others. It has caused me to care about a little girl I will never know, to pray and to think of others who have struggled, and to give money to those who take the time to work on behalf of others with no thought of monetary gain to themselves. It has caused me to review the blessings of my life and be comforted by the thought that there are those that would try to help if my struggles became too much to bear alone. In short, it has made me a better person.
Take away poker and you may take away some money from me. Take away poker and you definitely take away some profit of being a human.