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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Bloggery with Intent to Chronicle Poker - Back to the Beginning

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Everyone has a story to tell, especially poker players.  All stories are not bad beats and all do not have happy endings - but in reality, when you follow poker as your given path, there is no ending, it’s one long game.

The year was 1999. I was 29 years old and had recently gone through a divorce.  Starting life anew, I was attending college at night while working as a computer programmer during the day. It was mid-February when I rented a movie on a rainy Saturday night that would change my life forever. The movie starred two of my favorite new actors. Edward Norton, who was brilliant in Primal Fear, and Matt Damon, also superb in Good Will Hunting. The name of the movie was Rounders.

I had played poker when I was in the Navy. It was a different kind of poker though. We would play games like Follow the Bitch, a 7 card stud high wild card game where the wild card was determined by whatever card was flipped up after a queen (hence the term follow the bitch). We'd also play games where 1/2 the pot would go to whatever player had the lowest spade, or heart, or club, or diamond, depending on the dealer's preference, in the three cards that were dealt face down. They were crazy games. Fun games. We did play for money though... lots of it considering most of us were in our late teens and early 20's. I did well in those games, mainly because I didn't make the mistakes others made. I understood what hands it took to win a pot in those crazy games. I didn't play poker again for nearly a decade.

After seeing the movie, I was confident I could play Holdem. I jumped online and searched for information on the game. After having read several how to articles, it was time to play. I was paying my own way through school and my funds were limited. I logged onto the Yahoo Games server and found they had free Holdem games there. After 30 minutes of seeing the betting capped on every street and no player ever folding, I realized I wasn't going to learn the game this way. I typed in and a site advertising that you could play for real money over the internet came up. Out came my credit card as I deposited $50. I found a game they had running where 9 players entered for $5 apiece with the top 3 making money. 1 in 3 shot of making money? Sounded like my kind of game.

I signed up for one and was the 2nd player out. I had no clue what I was doing. I signed up for another and was the 1st player out. OK, maybe I couldn't play this game. Rather than sign up for another game, I sat back and watched the rest of the one I had been eliminated from. I watched what the players that were winning did. I noticed a lot of them were folding often – something I had not done too much of in my first two attempts. I noticed they didn't call many bets -- they were usually raising.

I took this new found information and signed up for another game. This time I made it further, finishing 4th, and even though I didn't make any money, I was encouraged with how things had gone and felt I was starting to get the hang of it. The next one I played I took 5th. Three hours in and I was down $20 already. Not a good start, but I wasn't about to give up. Finally, in my 6th attempt, I took 2nd place and won $15, a profit of $9.50. Now I was only down $18 rather than $33. I ended up playing for the next 14 hours. By the time I turned the computer off, I had $175 in my account. It was safe to say that I had figured things out.

After that, there wasn't a moment where I wasn't thinking about playing poker. It was tough, however, because I was working full time and going to school full time. I had a 4.0 GPA and was two semesters and some summer classes away from graduating summa cum laude. I didn't want to ruin that just to partake in my newest obsession. Whenever I finished studying, I would play for 2-3 hours before calling it a night. On Saturday I would play all day, saving Sunday to be my "study" day. When I graduated that December, I still had my 4.0 GPA along with a huge online poker bankroll. $27,000. This was even after I had cashed out twice for $10,000. I turned $50 into $47,000 in 10 months. Not once had I gone broke or had to re-deposit. Life was... good.

I was doing so well playing poker, I contemplated not pursuing my dream of going to graduate school for creative writing. When I was accepted to the school of my dreams, I decided to not become a professional poker player for the time being. I still played whenever the time was there and by the time I finished grad school, my lifetime winnings were up to over six figures. It wasn't quite yet time to play though as law school was now calling my name. My mother, who was in every shape and form my hero and inspiration, was an attorney and I had always thought I wanted to follow in her footsteps. After being accepted to a nationally recognized top 20 law school, I set off to become evil and take over the world.

Then something happened that would change my diabolical plans. My mother passed away after a five year struggle with sarcoma, a particularly vicious form of cancer. Now being a lawyer didn't seem that important to me. While I had been attending law school, I had joined a free online site that allowed you to compete for sponsorship prizes. I did very well there and one summer decided to teach a group of the members there some of the strategies I had learned and implemented. The mentor program, as I called it, was so successful that the owners of the site asked me if I would do it for money. They would charge a fee and I would get a percentage of all the fees. I'd gone through almost all of my poker winnings while in law school, so this sounded like a good way to provide me with some extra cash.

About six months later, they asked me if I wanted to do it full time. Salaried with bonuses. I thought about it. Law or poker? Law or poker? With my Mom no longer around, the decision wasn't that difficult for me. Poker it was. I could always come back to law, but this was an opportunity to do something I loved and get paid for it. I was now a professional poker player.

It's been over five years since that fateful day. I no longer teach poker but have been writing about poker for the last several years. Unfortunately, with the economy collapsing, those opportunities are starting to dwindle. The poker magazine that had been my major source of income for the last two years has closed its doors. My poker playing over the last few years has become more of a hobby than anything. I've played when the mood has struck me. I would cover the World Series of Poker for the media and tell myself that when it was over, I was going to get back to playing. I've never been able to though. Truth be told, I've settled for my life and its relative ease and comfort. I've been able to do what I want when I want for five years now with no real consequences. I haven't made a ton of money writing or playing poker, but I've always managed to make enough to enjoy life to it's fullest.

Reality is setting in now though. I'm this close to having to go back to working a real job for a living. It's not something I want to do or something I am sure I can handle. So I'm going to go back to the old days. I'm going to start with $100 and see what I can turn it into. I could start with more, but I think the challenge of starting small will push me harder and make me play smarter. I'm going to be writing about this journey. It won't be your typical poker blog. I'm not going to write solely about poker strategy, bankroll management, or poker hands. Yes, those will be mentioned from time to time but what this will really be about is the emotional ride. The thoughts going through my head as I am playing, and not playing. It'll be a look into the mind of someone who thinks they are a poker player.

Join me for the ride.

Music mood: Pearl Jam - Black

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