I think most questions are rhetorical, telling as much in the asking as we could hope from an answer. It's with that in mind that I hated the question my wife asked Friday night.
"Are you happy?", she said, as if she were asking the time.
"I think so," I replied, "I have everything a man could want."
Sometimes I wonder if that's missing the point.
Of all the great G-Vegas games, and God knows there are plenty, I've always liked the bi-weekely Thursdays the best. It's a $50NL game, hosted by me or BadBlood or, most recently, Otis. The players are regular enough and all of them are good company. Many of the readers of this blog would know them by name. I've said 100 times, I play poker as much for the company as the cards, and it's especially true here.
But last Thursday, I was bored.
I managed to double, almost triple, up in the first 90 minutes before losing interest, and my buyin, in the last few hours. Actually, I lost interest and then folded for 3 hours before finally pushing all in with the suited hammer on the last hand. Preflop.
Over time I found myself playing garbage hands just to be cute, and calling bets from people with monster hands just to see if I was reading them right. It would be arrogant to suggest that the game isn't a challenge because most of the players in it are far better than me. But I'm not sure they're taking it seriously... and that makes it less fun for me.
During that weekend in Tunica I played the no-max $2/$5NL game for the first time. Most of the strip casinos in Vegas have a max buyin, and I usually stick with the $200 game. It's been a good game for me on the last two trips. When I got to Tunica I was essentially looking for the same. Luckily, the Grand was only spreading the one NL flavor.
I was, without question, out of my comfort zone. I bought in for a laughable $300, when most of my table had 5-10 times as much. I played incredibly tight and passed on playable hands. But I paid VERY close attention, and once I rediscovered my style, I had a damn good time.
On Saturday, back at the lower stakes, I doubled up quickly on a very easy hand, but the level of play was poor. As the day wore on, I spent more time focused on my I-Pod's random shuffle and not enough on what my opponents were doing. In some cases the players were so easy to read, I stopped watching... out of boredom. With my style, that's a fatal mistake.
I suspect I was just as bored with poker itself at the moment, not just with this game, because of all the non-stop action the day before. But that's not something I'd be familiar with.
THE BLOG OFFICE
As always, I'm blogging from work. We have a mighty window of down time between the shows. Promoting the free exchange of ideas in a democratic society etc... etc... can be downright dull at times. It's one of the blessings of my job that I often find it easy.
Not long ago, that would've made me crazy.
At my first career stop, out in the open midwest, I used to corner every member of the staff, one or two at a time, and demand they review my work. I'd ask interns and floor waxers, reporters, photographers, and audio techs. I wanted so desparately to improve and ADVANCE, nothing else mattered.
I stayed at that job for 7 months. Then I moved to station 2.
That city was a hotbed for idiot consultants and there were several that prowled the halls at work. I'd drag them into little edit bays after the news each night to break down my story that day. Two years later, that paid off too.
Now, I'm drowning in the great ennui.
ENNUI "IN FLAMES"
As BadBlood and I drove the 9 hours to... and 9 hours from... Mississippi we talked to kill the time. Talking had the added effect of drowning out his music.
Let me take this moment to add: I enjoy the new lead singer of "In Flames" far more than the guy on their first album. This is much like saying, "I prefer copperhead bites to tarantula venom," but I threw it in for Street Cred with the Metal Heads.
American life is all ennui, at least for the vast middle class that's now playing poker and, most likely, the folks who read poker blogs. One of the challenges we face when surrounded by everything we need, is the all consuming fear that the light at the end of the tunnel is just a kerosene lantern... and a wall.
Blood says he's content. Like me, he has a great family. We both have steady jobs that feed the kids and good homes for out internet poker. We're blessed with great friends in a great part of the country. Truly, if we weigh the important things in life, both of us have it all.
So what else is there?
This is why I'm bored with poker.
I'm not a good player. In fact, I think we've long since established that I'm one of the worst players alive. Anyone in G-Vegas will attest to that. But, for me, poker is more than just a game. I need it as a serious outlet for my creative drive. In fact, sad as it seems, playing the game has become part of the very challenge that makes me feel alive.
This year, I want to get better. Much better and I need real help. By December I want to stop being the guy who plays poker for good times and make it a science I can really study. I've learned more than I can ever repay from my friends at Up for Poker, BadBlood, TheMark, and the bloggers (you know who you are). Now it's time to step it up.
I feel like I've hit a massive plateu in my poker play, like the initial learning curve is steep, but the work to become GOOD is well ahead. I need to get started.
Poker will never mean as much as the really IMPORTANT things, but it's always new. At least it should be. That's what makes it fun. In truth, Bad Beats are part of what make the game fun.
Bad beat stories, by the way, still suck.
As for my wife's real question... I hope SHE'S happy. Happy families are, and will always be, the greatest challenge of all.
I thought, for some time really, that serious poker play was a detriment to that happy home life. Now I think the opposite is true. I shouldn't go to every poker game in town, and I shouldn't play more than 2 live games a week. But, as with those moments at home, I need to learn how to MAXIMIZE the time. The key, to real enjoyment in poker and in life, is our level of ENGAGEMENT.
When we turn inward... we're almost always depressed.
Every hand, every player, even the really horrible donkeys, have something to teach us.
This year, for the first time, I'm ready to pay attention.
As for the biweekly game: I'm ready to raise the stakes. NOW!