Or, How I gave up eBay and started to love online poker
A few years back, I walked into a metal-walled warehouse and came eye-to-eye with a blurry-eyed gambler. The game hadn't started, but he was already eying his prey, rubbing his roll, and settling into a chair that was just a little too small for his sitting parts. Though the room was filling up with degenerates just like this bloodshot gambler, I knew that the plump man with sausage fingers and double-stack pancake face was my competition. He was the man who I'd battle until one of us had no money in his pocket.
A family of rednecks ran this place, the kind of people who show love through insults and comments about each other's intelligence. They supplied folding metal chairs for the collection of gamblers who found their way to the city limit warehouse every other Monday night.
I slipped into my chair, checked my pocket to make sure my roll was still there, and started figuring out how I would best the room, and more importantly, the guy with the big hindquarters. I could tell from a distance, he knew he'd be fighting me before the night was over.
The story of my burgeoning poker maturity would be better if this warehouse, Ralph's, had been an illegal poker room in Upstate South Carolina. It would be a better story if Mr. Bloodshot was an old-school chip-slinger with a fat roll and a razor in his boot.
Instead, Ralph's was an auction house, specializing in old and antique junk. And Mr. Bloodshot was just an older, fatter version of me looking to make a few quick bucks on the eBay auction revolution.
Once eBay began to gain in popularity, it didn't take me long to figure out that the easy money was in the international resale of old books purchased at local auctions. More often than not, auction houses sold boxes full of 100-year-old books at a fairly reasonable price (depending on who was bidding). A savvy seller could pick up a box for a relatively small amount of money, then sell each book individually for a minimum 200% mark-up.
On this particular night, I was in over my head. Mr. Bloodshot was a long-time eBayer and he had my number from the beginning. As I predicted, as soon as the auctioneer started his machine gun rat-tat-tat mutter from a raised podium in the middle of the room, Mr. Bloodshot and I went at it. The price for one box of books went from $5 to $50 before I knew it and I was still bidding.
I realized in the middle of the raising, check-raising, and mind games associated with auction people that I was getting that same feeling in my chest that I get when I walk into a casino after a long absence. This was competition. And it was competition for money.
At $55, he backed off and I raked my first pot of the evening. Before the evening was over, I had spent about $100 and had three boxes of books. Although I won, I felt like I'd lost. I really wasn't sure if I could turn the evening of low-stakes redneck wagering into a profit.
Three weeks later, I was hooked. One of the books--ONE of them--sold for $80. I estimated I had paid about .75 for it. The profits started to roll in.
I was hitting a B&M auction house once or twice a week. After some research, I expanded beyond books and into NASCAR memorabilia. It comes cheap in the South and you can sell it anywhere in America. I paid .10 for a Dale Earnhardt card and sold it for $50.
Within six months, I established a big enough bankroll to fund a trip to Vegas and stake me for four days of gambling.
I was, in a word, hooked.
Then came that night about a year ago when the World Poker Tour aired the first Aruba episode. I'd already seen the WPT and found myself hooked on the new production style. During a break for the Aruba episode, they aired an UltimateBet.com ad. After the show, instead of working on eBay, I decided to check out UB. I started playing for play chips. Over a few weeks, I raked up enough points to play in a real money tourney. I won real money and the past 13 months has been history.
And so is my eBay career.
For a while, I was doing both. That's when I started getting tired of the hours of labor that went into eBay. A couple hours at an auction. Several hours photographing merchandise, loading it onto eBay, researching the product and its history, and writing up a product description. Then a week of monitoring eBay and answering buyer questions. Then a couple hours boxing everything up and going to the post office to mail everything.
I weighed that against sitting in my underwear and check-raising fish. The decision was clear.
The more reasonable side of me screams: RISK! RISSSSSSK! And that side of me is right. Late last fall I suffered a major hit to my bankroll at UB. Something happened (I'm still trying to analyze exactly what that something was) and I lost about 75% of my roll. I took a few weeks off and considered quitting completely.
Then, I entered the World Poker Blogger Tour tourament hosted by Iggy over at Guinness and Poker and won the thing. I kept that account at True Poker and ran a $22 buy-in up to nearly $1000. I transferred $100 of that over to Empire Poker (Bonus code: OtisBDart) and as of last night that account was sitting at $600.
It's not enough to pay the rent, but it's enough to keep me playing and learning (which is all I'm really interested in).
Last night, my wife was bored. She's never really been a fan of my online poker playing. She surprised me by agreeing to play a few Empire hands under my direction. She got a really cold run of cards and suffered one very bad beat. Her stack had been reduced by about $60 when she won her first hand. She'd never admit it, by I saw a light in her eyes. She loved the feeling.
She went downstairs to watch the news and I set about making back her losses. Thirty minutes later, she came back and asked how I was doing.
"I'm up about $20 since you left."
"That's $20 in 30 minutes, hon. That's $40 an hour."
She didn't say anything, but I saw that she understood. That's more than either of us make at work.
Of course, I'm not quitting my day job. Last I heard, Empire doesn't offer health insurance. I doubt I can making a living playing $3/$6 online.
Still, I think I've given up on eBay for good. All it took was asking myself one question:
Would you rather make $80 on the sale of a book after a week's worth of work, or rake an $80 pot after less than five minutes of surfing the net and check-raising a guy playing 5-6 offsuit.
I think the answer is pretty clear.