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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Big O-Fer in NOLA...Now What!!??

The most sobering day in the life of a poker pro...or whatever we should be called when poker is the only thing we do for a living, is that day after an event has ended. When we go home, sleep in...and just lay there, asking ourselves 'what's next?'

In my case...it's a tad bit more complicated. I owe a debt of gratitude to the gentleman who was nice enough to put me in the events in Council Bluffs and New Orleans. I was pretty hopeful, since it seems like everyone he puts his money on catches fire and does nothing but win. And with a baby on the way, and a lot of obligations to meet, there would be no time like the present to have that happen to me.

And now...our baby has been born. She will be a month old tomorrow. And admittedly, she is perfect. I should be feeling like I just won the Main Event, or the lottery. And in a sense I do. She has made living life great again. She has caused me to look at my wife with a sense of amazement, and I might go so far as to say she has never looked more beautiful in the ten years I have known her.

The last time I had a 'real job' was in 2005. It was a job I liked, actually. I was good at it. Were it not for my annoying pissant of a manager, I'd probably still be there. Or maybe not. I have no regrets over the past 7 years...and where they have taken me. There were 2 or 3 great years of poker...where I won enough to have a lot of nice things, take a lot of fun trips...and do a lot of nice things for my wife. Then there were a few that were pretty lean, and that taught me the evil, agonizing side of playing poker for a living.

I've encountered a lot of people this past 7 years who, after hearing that I play tourney poker for a living, expressed a degree of envy...wishing they could do the same. For awhile, I agreed with them. And was so happy I wasn't 'one of them' who had to wake up every day...travel to their job, do the same thing day in and day out...go home, eat dinner, go to bed, then start all over the next day. In fact I cringed at that existence. It's funny how sometimes things, and your opinions, can change. In the past couple of years, I've had guys tell me they have really good jobs, but that they just want to give tournament poker a shot for a couple of years. Do I think they should go for it? And now, I always tell them 'Hell no!' That if they have a good job...HOLD ONTO IT...and play poker whenever you have time. Period. Take a vacation every July to Vegas to play the Main Event..because every player worth even a shit, should ALWAYS take a shot at the Main Event and $10m.

But to give up a promising career to chase the circuit around? Trying to stay ahead of the juice and the variance? Encountering one close call after another...the two-outers on the river just shy of the money, the impossible heartbreak of thinking you are about to triple up with AA, after being card dead for 17 million orbits, only to have that internet asshole who 'liked the price he was getting, and/or knew what your range was' based on your 'nittiness' enough to call your 4-bet all in...holding 4-7d....rivering a gut-shot straight to bust you on the bubble. Living out of a suitcase for 24 weeks out of the year? Being stuck in conversations with other players you can't escape? Where they want to hound you with the story of their untimely demise, while you are trying to forget your own? Why should any 'normal' human being want to make this a normal part of their daily routine?

Oh I know why? Because there is that one day...when everything goes right. When your 10-10 holds up against AJ. When your AK magically hits an ace against the guy who woke up with KK when you shoved. When you are somehow able to get away with bluffing 5 or 6 times in the same tourney. And before you know it, you are running over the final table, and feeling like the greatest player in the world. All those people who watched you struggle for the past weeks and months are gathered around your table, all of them wanting to pat you on the back, to tell you they 'told you so' that things would turn around. And you even start to believe them a little bit...enjoying one shot after another with your 'rooting party' while one player after another leaves the final table and your $$$ keeps going up.

Then you win. You take the photos. You get your ring. You do your exit interview. You shake all the hands. You cash your check at the cage. You select your three closest friends and go to a nice steak dinner. And if you're smart...you take the next day off...maybe even a couple. But you probably aren't smart. Very few of us are. Because you think you are hot. That you are running good. And you don't want to miss out on the chance to 'strike while the iron is hot.' So you go back that next day. You get the occasional 'congrats' from the dealers as they push in...and a few players at your table, and some walking by. The memory of your win is still fresh in your mind.

But then some old guy at your table, oblivious to the fact that he was supposed to fold his pocket 2's after a raise and a re-raise by you with QQ...goes ahead and calls your huge 3-bet with the smallest pair in the deck...so that when the flop comes 10-6-2 rainbow, you somehow think your QQ is good. Old man ends up getting a large percentage of your chips, if not all of them...and guess what? That feeling? That shitty one? It returns. And suddenly, you are looking at your watch, trying to see when the next tourney starts. You have now got the infectious stench of defeat clinging to you...and its as though everyone can see it. The 'attaboys' start to subside...and now attention turns to the suckouts again. The horrible rivers. The close calls. The bubbles. 

This, my friends, is the existence of a tournament poker pro. No one...I mean....NOBODY...just goes and wins over and over and over. If you pay attention even a little bit, you will notice that it is generally the same 15% of us who get deep in almost every tourney. What changes, on a pretty consistent basis, is who happens to 'run good' when it gets down to the top 15% of the field. And sure, there are some guys who get deeper MORE often than others. And I admit, there are some players who I confess are superior players to not just me, but to others like me. It doesn't mean they win more...because they don't. But you will see them stacking a lot bigger piles of chips than a lot of us due to the nature of their style. But they are also the same guys who will drop-kick those massive stacks when a lot of us never would...because they are making a move they think will be successful at crunch time. 

People ask me all the time "What do you think is the best style of play to win poker tourneys?" I don't know that there is a BEST way. I think a lot of a person's chosen style of play depends a lot on their personalities. I think some of these great young players who are fearless, and will play any two cards like they are aces...and manage to accumulate huge chip stacks, would be winning a lot more if they would learn how to completely change gears when they get to a certain point where bluffing and 'making moves' just isn't a part of the tourney anymore. No one (tight players especially) is folding to an aggressive player 'making a move' late in a tourney. The main reason, is they have been paying attention all tourney long, and know that the player is likely just trying to move them off their hand. But when they are raising with top ten hands most of the time...most of them are going to be willing to go to their grave with those hands. 

I would love to see tag-team poker. Let a super aggressive player start us out...get us up to over 100 big blinds by level 15...then tag me to come in and micro-manage that stack to a final table. And then based on the makeup of that table's players, decide which one of us was going to play. I think that my experience in playing 1000's of SNG's over the past 7 years has made me an excellent final table player. It's amazing, but whenever I get to a final table, thats exactly what it feels like. A SNG. Lose a player, gain leg and elbow room. I've never been nervous at a final table. Not once. 

So, I have admittedly sidebar'd the shit out of this blog entry. Haven't really shared my last couple of tourneys with you. Does it matter? I lost. I got deep in the last one...Monday's final ring event. I raised with 10-10...and had David 'Lurky' Nicholson just recklessly raise me all in like he is prone to do with a lot of hands. I didn't fold. And his AJ conveniently connected with a flop delivered by redheaded John...who KNOWS he has been the Monkey Assassin all of 2012 and parts of 2011....with a A-J-8 board...and no help on the turn or river. Another deep run. Another 10 hours of poker all for naught. 

The night before, I played in the 9pm nightly. Got down to 24 players...paying 15. Had been pretty much cruising along the whole night...and had high hopes of a shot at the $4k, and saving my week. But then I ran QQ into KK...which crippled me, followed by 99 against KK again...and just like that, I was gone. Before that kick in the balls, I played the noon tourney on Sunday...which I didn't even know about. I got there in time to register, but they were really lacking tables, so I didn't get in until level 6. Not a problem, I had a good table...and did a little stick and move, stick and moving...to get to around 24k...and 95 out of (I think) 335'ish players remaining. That's when I would raise with AKd under the gun. A guy on the button, who had been very aggressive, and had been re-raising people a lot, did the 'ol 'how much are you playing behind' speech that I fucking hate. I told him. And as soon as he completed his re-raise amount, I just shoved. He had to call.

As soon as the dealer put two hearts on the flop...him holding AQh...I got that feeling, we all get it when we see them flop four to the flush, don't we? I just lowered my head...thinking "fuck, not again...shit." The turn was a spade...and I was just one card away from a huge double up. Forget it. 5 of hearts on the river, and I was gone. That's how my entire week and a half in New Orleans seems to have gone. Just one punch in the face after another. People were telling me, after Carley Grace was born, that she would be my lucky charm...that my 2012 was about to turn around. And I allowed myself to believe them. 

In a last ditch effort to take something positive from this trip, I thought I would take the last $300 in my wallet over to the cash room, the one place where I have had some success on this trip. I found an open seat next to Scott Weinberg, a really nice guy from Gulfport, who I knew I could sit next to and not be annoyed by! We both had shared equal frustrations throughout the week. And we both decided to reward our bad fortune with a punishing trip to the Lucky Dog stand next to the poker room. Me, two sausage dogs, a bag of Maui Sweet Onion Chips and a bottle of Coke. That meal would haunt me all night last night...I won't go into details. It was painful.

I would win a couple of hands out of the gate...get up to about $400. Then the shit hit the fan. The topic of conversation was on baseball. Scott and I were talking about Peter Angelos, owner of the Orioles...and how bad he was. It turned then to Al Davis, how his interference had ruined the Raiders. That's when this scrawny, long-haired freak in the 4-seat, decked out in bedazzled shirt, jacket and hat chimed in. "Al Davis is the man! He did things the right way!" Huh? Scott and I both reminded him that Davis hadn't had a team in the Super Bowl in a decade, and hadn't won in many years. He insisted that Al Davis was 'brave' and was never afraid to 'buck the system, take chances, and tell it like it is.'  That this moron would destroy my stack only minutes later should not have come as a surprise.

With two limpers behind me, I raise to $15 with AhQd. I only get 5 callers. The flop comes J-10-8...with two hearts. Double gutted. With a backdoor flush draw. I decide to play this like I've hit the flop. I check. Super goof makes it $45. He has 9-10 off. Okay. Middle pair, open ended. Not bad. Everyone else folds. I decide to flat...to see if I can either pick up another heart...or hit my straight with one of 8 outs (7 actually since he had a nine). I turn a heart...like a 3 or something. I ask how many chips he has. About $160. So I bet $75. Now, what makes him think his lonely 10 there is good, I have no idea...also, there are now three hearts on board...so he could be chasing a straight futilely. 

"Well...no guts no glory I guess!" And he shoves all in. No way I could fold now...and frankly, I liked my chances. But what comes on the river? A fucking ten. I never showed my hand...and told anyone that asked that I had AJ...winning me a little sympathy at least. Fuckball would donk off 3/4 of those chips on a hand 5 minutes later. I was left with $85...and limped in with AK...hoping someone would raise so I could ship and hope to get lucky. I got my wish. One guy raised to $12. And this old guy shoves all in...not for the 95 that he had in front of him...but I guess he had another $200 in transit...so with, what? About $22 in the pot...he ships it for close to $300. I pretty much put him on 10's, J's or maybe Q's so with two overs...and nothing to lose, I snap called...also figuring we would be heads up. We were. I caught nothing...and a jack even hit the river. He had jacks. Of course he did. I was done. I shook Scott's hand...made the lonely walk to the garage, and drove home...and started reflecting on what lies ahead for me now.

What does lie ahead? I don't even know. Am I going to Vegas this summer? Right now...I would have to say, probably not. I have a baby that is growing every day. I can't see being away from her all summer. I'm only going to get one shot at this fatherhood thing, I think...and I really don't want to fail, like so many men have failed before me. I've had a couple of people express interest in staking me in a full WSOP package this summer...and if that were to develop, I think its the ONE thing that would get me out to Vegas...but I would do it in a way that I could fly home at least twice, and spend 3 or 4 days with my wife and baby. The only other thing I could envision is selling off shares to play in the Main Event...then go out to Vegas the first week of July, maybe play a couple of Venetian events, then play the Main...and stay as long as I survive, then come home.

I think there is a very real possibility that I will be looking for a job in the Biloxi/Gulfport market. What will that be? I really don't know. I really am interested in a position with what will be the Golden Nugget pretty soon. I think it would be fun to develop that poker room into a big tournament presence on the gulf coast. Maybe launch a new career for myself running poker tourneys. And being on that end of the business, I could still play a tourney now and then. Which...truth be told, is probably the only way I am going to enjoy playing poker...where I don't HAVE to win to find joy in it. There is nothing more stressful or emotionally taxing then sitting down at a table with the pressure of having to win to pay your bills. Having a good job...and not having to worry about those bills, and sitting down to play a tourney? That would be a real joy. Where if you lose, you shake it off and go home. But where if you win you are able to really enjoy it? I long for that feeling. 

I'm going to take on this endeavor with Scotty Clark doing this poker radio show...putting a lot of energy into it. Then possibly, that Golden Nugget deal. Yes...Monkey in a suit. Dig it! There are other possibilities I guess. I have a long history of high-level food and beverage industry experience. Maybe I will go manage a local restaurant. There is also a Mercedes-Benz dealership opening here in Biloxi. I've never liked car salesman very much. Or thought I would like doing that job. But I think if you were going to do it, you might as well sell the finest cars on the planet (within reason). And it would certainly be close to home.  My friend Barth is also contemplating opening a bar in Perdido Key...which could lead to a potential management position for me. I was a liquor salesman from 2002-2005 and that was my territory...so I am pretty familiar with that area. It would also afford me the chance to recreationally dabble in some poker there at the dogtrack.

WHO KNOWS? While I'm depressed somewhat about the outcome in New Orleans...and the reality that I am slowly running out of money...I am excited about the future, of being a father...of new opportunities. Of finding myself, and of diving into something that could make for a better future for me and my family. 

A few people to thank. Barth Melius, for letting me stay at his home in New Orleans...and for being such a supportive friend all during this difficult year. To Todd and Sarah Elwood, for letting me join them for dinner at my favorite sushi joint, Rock N Saki...then paying for my dinner, very unexpectedly. I enjoyed getting to know what they are both all about AWAY from the table, and was so impressed with everything they both have going on...and realizing how depressingly one-dimensional my own life is. They are a beautiful couple and have such a great relationship...along with children they are both so proud of. Thanks to all the players who came up to congratulate me on Carley, and all the nice things you had to say about her. Thank you to all the floor people and dealers...who could not have been any kinder to me during the event. I even had a guy get hit with a penalty in the last event for 'talking disparagingly' to me. That was truly a first!!! I felt like Steve Frezer and his crew did another amazing job at one of the WSOP's biggest and most successful circuit stops. Sure there were a few hiccups along the way, and the juice was astronomical...but most of that has/had nothing to do with Steve's crew. They work with what they are handed. Thanks to Allie Prescott for coming to town and entertaining us with his whimsical ways. Having him around is always good for several reasons...he did, as I predicted, end up making an appearance in the Main Event. However, my prediction of him getting deep did not transpire, as he was out in two hands. Oh he did manage to lose with AQ...to...uh huh...AQ...on a four-card flush!

The summer that lies ahead should be interesting. I haven't spent an entire summer in Biloxi or Pensacola since...wow, not sure when. But I will try to make the most of it. Squirrel and I are going to take Carley to North Alabama this weekend for all of those relatives to see and meet her.

Congrats to all of those folks who had a good event in New Orleans. And good luck to all of you venturing out to Vegas for the annual World Poker Convention...which is what I prefer to call it. Sure wish I was joining you...but then again, maybe I don't. 

Monkey


8 comments:

Mike hallen said...

Hang in there bud. Been there done that, it all turns around in a heartbeat and u know this.
Hallen.

TJStier said...

Even if it means "admitting defeat" (and I think maybe that's what you might be struggling with, which any man would when they are thinking "I need to provide for my family") a 2-3 year break from tournament poker might just cures what ales you. You sound fried, beat up, lost the spark, not having fun anymore. A little time off and income stability might be just what you need to get that spark/drive/passion for poker again.

On the non-serious side of this comment I love the idea of tag-team poker. I think a tag-team heads-up event would be kind of fun and a new dynamic to poker.

Anonymous said...

#1. QUIT CALLING YOURSELF A PRO. YOU SUCK AT POKER!

#2. DONT GO TO VEGAS AND WASTE ANYONES HARD
EARNED MONEY. WHAT IDIOT WOULD BACK YOU ANYWAY?

#3. DONT SAY"THE ONES OF US WHO GET DEEP IN EVERY TOURNEY" YOU BARLEY MAKE THE MONEY CAUSE YOU PLAY A TIGHT ASS MAKE IT IN THE MONEY WITH NO CHIPS SYLE.

#4. DONT BE LEAVING HOME FOR LOG PERIODS OF TIME TO WASTE TIME AND MONEY AT SOMETHING THAT YOU SUCK AT, WHEN YOU HAVE A NICE WIFE AND NEW BABY.

#5.DONT GET MAD AT SOMEONE DOING YOU A FAVOR BY BEING HONEST AND TELLING YOU THIS. EVEN IF IT IS ANONYMOUS. IF SOMEONE IS TELLING THE TRUTH IT DOESNT MATTER IF ITS ANONYMOUS OR YOUR BEST FRIEND. JUST CAUSE YOU WANT TO FIND OUT AND BEAT THEM UP, THATS FUKIN STUPID!

#6. TAKE YOUR DUMB FUKIN LOUD MOUTH MONKEY LOVIN ASS AND GO GET A JOB. (NOT POKER PRO).

#7. AND LAST OF ALL, ADMIT YOU STAGED YOUR HOUSE GETTING ROBBED, PAY EVERONE BACK WHAT YOU TOOK AND WE WILL CALL IT EVEN FOR THE ADVICE. AND I GUESS YOU MAY AS WELL ADMIT WHAT YOU TOOK IN THE VEGAS CONDO ROBBERY WHILE YOUR AT IT. THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE! OH YEAH, AND LEAVE THE FUKIN TRINKETS AT HOME, YOUR TO OLD TO BE PLAYING WITH TOYS.

CATCH YOU LATER FRUITCAKE!!!!

Anonymous said...

A bit of humility serves us all well, and it looks good one you, too, sir. You have a beautiful wife and new baby: riches far more valuable than any circuit ring. You will find your way because you are able to tell yourself the truth, and understand what's really important. So many in this silly business are never able to do that. I wish you the very best. Oh, and keep Carly off the pole. ;)

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog and in-sight to being a tourney grinder and all the emotions that come with playing this crazy game. For someone like me, who thinks about playing this game full-time; you were able to capture the life of a player that does this for a living and questions if this is the road one should continue on. Getting back up on your feet after being knocked down repeatedly is the hardest thing to do in life. Life is short as we all know, and at least you have "went for it" on the tournament trail and doing something you believe in. Recharge, reorganize, and evaluate what is best for you and the family. Best of luck.
"The only real failure in life is the failure to try"

Dustin

Anonymous said...

Man what a long blog, still very insightful.

Poker Monkey said...

Thanks Mike. I do recall times when you have been on the verge of diving off a parking garage. I guess we all have been there.

Monk

Anonymous said...

I think that your on the right track, It will not be easy, but your are a talented fellow and I hope you and yours do well.
I have always loved your blog and I think that you should write novels, novels about this poker pro. who works as a detective in vegas.

Write the first short story and post it.

omrg, Deloflats jim