Friday, June 29, 2012

My First Week Without Poker

 A little over a year ago, I made the move to Las Vegas to play poker and train with the best. This past week is the first week in some thirteen months that I haven't played poker - not a single hand. Occasionally, I get the shakes or dream about 3bet jamming ranges, but I did it (or, rather, didn't it). And it took coming back to my second home, the city of Atlanta, GA, to keep me off the virtual felt.

Is this gonna be one of those "work-life balance" blog posts? Kinda. We already know I have no balance, and it's been a bit by design as I appropriately manage my bankroll and work on improving my game. But being thrown back into the social deep end of Southern Hospitality took some poker player-like adjustments.

I spend an average of 50-60 weeks grinding it out from my one-bedroom apartment in Central Vegas with my paltry 4-6 tables at a time online in : "Three Monitors and a Dream" I call my grind. With 12 hour work days leaving little time for the distractions of a social life, I am more than used to being in my head, talking myself through hands, forever trying (and occasionally succeeding) to make the most value-oriented play. When confronted with my event production duties at a convention held at the Georgia World Congress Center, it literally took me a full day to get used to talking to other people, forcing the mechanics of my stream of consciousness that always sounds so clear and articulate in my head into sounds that others can comprehend; I've spent a year on Poker Island. In a world where the translation of my thoughts into action rely upon a simple mouse click, speaking clearly and consistently proved a bit of a challenge.

Wanna get away?
A key "spot" I found myself in was sweating through my outfit during setup of our now-legendary social media party at Der Biergarten. Even before the evening had started, I was openly tilted for being a sweaty mess. I literally thought to myself that this is no different than losing a key pot late in a tourney unexpectedly, that I am a professional at making adjustments, to just change into a sponsor's t-shirt and concentrate on the next stage of the evening, that of having a good time ("Next hand"). Not only did I have a GREAT time, sweating through two t-shirts and hand towels, but also the party was a monster success for sponsors and partygoers alike.

Ah, my poor conventioneers! Once I had gotten past my desert island elocution and the corporate drone awed, zoo-like curiosity of my playing professional poker as if I had a third eye, I still related and referred to everything from a decidedly poker-fueled perspective. Ordinary discussions of one's future with a company quickly broke down in my hands into game theory, EV analysis, and the neverending quest for value. Whenever I wasn't busy, I would scan the room/situation and consciously think "How can I add value right now?" At a dinner with co-workers, Young Corporate Middle Management Guy innocently commented that he used to play online back in college, and I fire-hosed him with the virtues of isolation raises, 3betting light, and check-raising aggressive cbettors. I know my poker Muggle friends are wondering if I have an Off switch to this but, until I reach a level of comfortable proficiency and achievement in this game, I'm afraid I do not.

One of the speakers at the convention was Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers, the first book I read when I crawled back home to Seattle during the depths of the Recession. Even though at the time I had no clear idea what I would endeavor to be an outlier in to amass the 10,000 hours Gladwell posits one needs to master a skill, I definitely connected with his appreciation of volume and experience. Wonder if he would be proud, or scared, of my singular commitment to poker...

As I wrap up another entertaining, party-packed, jovial trip to The A powered by friends, family, and FOOD (oh haiiii Chick-Fil-a!), I am happy to report that this much-needed intermission from the solitary life of an online grinder has recharged my batteries and renewed my faith in living a +EV lifestyle. Despite embracing the unbalanced lifestyle of poker incubation, I look to not let another thirteen months go by without a break from the grind - or chicken strips with waffle fries.


  1. Ah, dreams about poker means you are in the withdrawl phase. Better not focus on poker if you'd like to leave it. :D
    Liv Boeree

    1. Nah, it's got me good. Think I'll be here for awhile ;)

  2. In fact, in the last few months, I have been planning a possible career switch to professional poker. This isn’t an article about the pros and cons of playing poker for a living. Everyone should consider their own situation carefully before making such a decision. This article is a chronicle of an experiment I conducted, to see if I could handle the lifestyle of a professional poker player. holdem poker hands