As I walked into the pub last night, it was great to see some old faces. The combination of traveling and my decision to fight alcoholism means I don’t see them as much as I used to; in fact hardly at all. Men are different than women. We don’t just pop around for a cup of tea and a gossip; another of life scripts handed down to us from those that strode the path before us.
I was there to play poker and my conversation was cut short as the table dragged me under like a riptide. Just before I broke free from the man hugs I was invited to go horse racing. There was a time when I would have snapped them up on the offer…no that’s wrong…there was a time I would have just been there with them, pure and simple. We would have gotten drunk, stared at all of the beautiful ladies and won or lost hundreds of pounds. These days I don’t drink, or gamble, so I fail to see the point of the Sport of Kings.
As I politely turned down the offer I explained to my friend that it wouldn’t be a good idea to take a gambling addict to Chepstow racecourse. He laughed at the preposterous argument as I was just about to win or lose hundreds in a poker game. Surely poker is gambling? My friend is of course right, poker is gambling. But in the moment, my need to be right and my need for justification rose above the need to be myself. I lied and explained to him that poker is a game of skill and it is not gambling at all. He laughed at me in that dismissive manner and the conversation was cut short.
Human beings are liars and poker players are some of the worse kind. I suppose it goes with the territory, after all your job is to misdirect. I interview at least one poker player per week. I listen to the same bullshit answers designed to get them through the time as quickly as they can. Every now and then someone gives me a glimpse of their true self, but it’s as rare as catching me not trying to dominate a conversation. This is how I feel about poker and I am pretty sure that underneath the false veneer of the professional poker industry, lots of recreational poker players who do their bollocks week-in and week-out feel the same way.
“Poker is like a marriage. There are moments when it sparkles and you feel effervescent making it is the greatest communion in the world. But these times are overshadowed by the dark clouds that it also produces. In short I am unhappy more than I am happy when I am immersed in poker. You must be a robot if you have played well, made all the right decisions, lost thousands of pounds and feel great. The reason it makes me feel so bad is because I lose money. Push one layer deeper and it is because I cannot afford to lose the money. I am a winner in the cash game that I am playing in, but during my recent downswing I do not have the money to cover the losses I am hitting due to variance. There is nowhere to go. I cannot drop down to a lower level because this is the only level. I am at the lowest of the low. Poker controls me. I know I should not play but it tells me a tale of gold and silver, and happily ever afters and I believe it, just like I believe my bullshit self. I trundle along with a smile on my face and just as a chameleon changes with the seasons my smug look changes also. I am the most miserable man you will ever meet at a poker table. I don’t talk to people. I get angry at them and I berate them for every stupid decision they make that should make me money but doesn’t. I am moving in with my new girlfriend soon and I am scared. I am going to lie to her. I am going to give her all of the reasons why I should play in the game and then go out and lose. Lying to someone is not a great foundation for a relationship. I know because I am a divorcee. To be my true self I must admit that I am a flawed character and one of these flaws is that I am a liar. Is this why money is the root of all evil? When the communion does sparkle, where does the light come from: poker or money? How many players would still play if it were not for the money? Surely the game falls apart? It’s the money. I am a slave to the money. I want to get rich quick because I am lazy. I don’t want to work hard for my money. I want to win it clicking buttons on a computer screen. I want to rob my friends and send them back to their families without any money to take their children on holiday. I make myself sick.”