Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yet is halfway between and & but

Our friend, Sunil, is visiting for a couple days. We met through Poker Academy, and since he moved from LA to Portland several months ago, we have seen him quite a bit. At the moment he is playing 25NL on Stars and just lost a buy-in to a bigger set held by a player he had profiled as a calling station. It happens. Shake it off and retrench.

As I write the above, I experience a tightness in my chest that happens when a similar situation occurs to me.

Over the last couple days, Sunil has presented hands to me and asked how I would play them. He has a good grasp of the game, I enjoy the discussions and am somewhat flattered that he would ask me for advice.

Within those last two paragraphs sits the paradox, the struggle I have with poker. I am disheartened/intrigued by the variance/complexity. I persevere, even learn, as the pain lingers, win a few, lose a few more than win, and each loss chips away at more than my bankroll.

On my way to get a cup of coffee, I check in with Sunil. “I’ve lost two more buy-ins. A full house against quads on the river and AK against A 10 with a 10 on the river.” He quits to take a shower. “Washing me down. Washing me down. Take me to the river!”

Sunil is fiddling with his camera. It quit working while hiking yesterday. It fires up but won’t take a picture. There is moisture in the battery compartment, probably from having it in the heat of the car, then moving into the wet, cold air in the forest. I think of this as a metaphor for poker, yet I also see it as a more concrete problem than getting coolered or misreading a hand, and take comfort in the mystery of getting the camera to work again.

Why, one may ask, do I differentiate between the learning process of overcoming the strategic and emotional leaks in a game, and troubleshooting the camera? Isn’t much of life exactly the same? No, it is something more problematic, and it has to do with the relentlessly competitive nature of a voluntary exercise that has contained within its very nature a large element of chance. I remind my readers that I have farmed and tried to make a mark in the art world. I know about fickle. Having a passion is not the same as having a temperament. Therefore, at least in my case, I must search for a way to mediate disappointment, and I find limiting exposure to be effective.

When farming went south two seasons ago (weather), we chose to grow just enough produce for friends and ourselves. When it was clear that, despite a good reputation, I was not going to be the renowned artist or art professor, we chose to pack it in and farm (frying pan into the fire), and I would make art in relative isolation. I am now at a similar crossroads with poker. I love the game even though the game, or what the game requires for success, is elusive. A reassessment is necessary, and to do so, perhaps I must distance myself a bit, for a while.

Will I quit playing? I have not quit putting plants in the ground nor stopped making art, and may be realizing new avenues in making both of those endeavors more successful. With the recent economic downturn, more people will be looking to save money where they can. Growing a garden will save on food costs. I am positioned with equipment and knowledge to help people do just that. A five-year hiatus from the art world has actually made me more intriguing as a re-emerging artist by a couple driven and open-minded muckety-mucks. Unforeseen circumstances combined with previous decisions to step away have generated positive results. The same may happen with poker; so no, I will not stop playing. I will just play less, which will allow me to think more clearly about why and how I play. If anything, my poker writing will benefit, and that, dear friends, may be more of why I play poker than any other reason at the moment, so the process has already begun.

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