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Poker Blog established in 2003 as the first stop for poker news, poker stories, and bad poker advice.

October 4, 2004

Otis and the Tricky Trail

by Otis


I was giggling a little. The word "tricky" seemed a silly little word, and its alliterative symbiosis with the word "trail" had worked its way into my internal dialog. And since I was unable to keep my noodle's monologue inside my head, I kept muttering the word "tricky" and trying not to fall.

"Tricky," I said one more time, hoping the person behind me might take heed, take warning of the absolute trickiness of it all.

"Stands to reason that it's tricky, Otis," came the voice from behind me (or perhaps it was ahead of me). "This is, in fact, the Tricky Trail."

Indeed, it was.

The Tricky Trail is a winding, tree-root-ridden ascent from the shore of tiny Lake Eden to the side of a small mountain. On two weekends every year, a small clearing on the side of the mountain becomes a Lord of the Flies-ish beehive of bonfires, native drumming, and hippy-dance hoo-haw. It is, in short, a drum circle that passes the time between the close of the music festival festivities at Midnight and sun-up the the following day.

Getting there is a hike and half for those like me who camp at Lakeside. For days leading up to the festival, campers begin going on the record.

"This year," they'll say with all confidence, "I'm going to the drum circle." Then, after a moment of thought, and with no small amount of hubris, they'll add, "Both nights."

However, it often comes to pass that, after a day of general silliness, a night of music, and way too much booze throughout, many of the campers slip away into tents, hoping their absence won't be noted. From their tents, however, they'll hear the quiet chiding.

"He said 'both nights' didn't he? I think he said he was going both nights."

In short, there is no shame in not making it to the drum circle. It's a long and sometimes treacherous hike at one in the morning. Then there's the matter of getting back down the mountain and to your tent.

There is, however, shame in saying you're going to make the hike, then retiring early under the fatigue of 15 hours of straight partying.

On this particular night, I was making good on an arrogant moment earlier in the day when I said I was going. Definitely. By 11pm, I knew I was in no condition to make the hike safely. I should've just gone to bed.

Instead, I was giggling my way up the trail, keeping it between the little candles that line the 1.5 foot-wide path. I muttered "tricky" every few steps.

By the hand of something divine (or at least, the hands of Manos), I made it. Within a few minutes, I was surrounded in a musky, tribal swarm of unadulterated bacchanalia.

To be fair, the concept of the drum circle is greater than the drum circle itself. It is never a letdown, but at the same time, it is something that once done needn't be done again unless you just NEED an extra couple hours of release at the end of the day.

In fact, I've come to believe over five or six years of making the semi-annual climb, the purpose of the drum circle is, in fact, purpose. It is a goal to be achieved for the purpose of achievement.

Again, on this particular night, I needed only to be somewhere safe, if not in bed, at least safely tucked around the campfire where I could hurt no one, least of all myself. But for the purpose of achievement, and making good on my word that I'd go, I went.

After a couple of hours came the particularly trying task of making it back down Tricky Trail, which, in all fairness, is much more tricky on the way down than the way up.

"Tricky," I said to no one in particular.

Again, the hands of Manos took over and led me down the trail, around the lake, and back to Tent City where many of our crew had already bedded down for the night. I had a camping chair in sight where I would plop until I was sufficiently coherent to join Mrs. Otis in the tent. Only five feet separated me from my destination.

That's when, after a couple miles of walking the trickiest trail in all of Black Mountain, I tripped over a container full of pots and pans and spilled into a pile full of campling supplies. The noise woke most everybody up. From a tent, one quiet, mocking voice could be heard.

"Sounds like Otis made it back."


And, so, in the many months since that night, I've found myself deeply embroiled in the game of poker.

Those who know me know that when I started playing regularly, it was all for fun. If I was playing $3/$6, I felt like a high-roller, like I was riding the lightning, like a guy on the edge.

Then something happened. In real life, I work in an industry where people either "get it" or they don't. Sometime around last February, something clicked in my poker game. In short, "I got it."

My bankroll grew and I made the decision to start playing for real.

I bought Poker Tracker, I studied, and I won.

Then I went and did what I shouldn't do. I set a goal. I wanted to build my bankroll to the exact dollar amount at which, if I should so desire, I could buy directly into a fairly well-known poker championship.

And I've been really, really close.

Each time I come within a couple hundred dollars of my goal, I trip over my camping supplies, and land just short of where I want to be.

In all fairness to myself, my goal is an arbitrary one. It means nothing other than I reached a goal. In setting it, I have established a great white whale for myself.

Like my drum circle, getting to the goal is more the achievement than actually hitting the goal itself.

And here's the thing: I'm stuck. I don't know what to do with my game. At present, I'm about 90% of the way to my goal. I get close, I fall back, I get close, I fall back. I never lose much. I never win much.

I'm stuck.

After meeting my 300x BB bankroll requirement for limit play, I started dabbling in shorthanded play. I've been successful, but vulnerable to the inevitable variance.

I don't believe I'm dealing with a logistical poker issue. The strength of my game is as good as it has ever been (which still needs work, but that's a different topic). I'm dealing with something very ethereal, very mental, and sometimes bordering on emotional.

I need to turn some sort of mental corner. I need to understand myself and my motivation for playing. I sense that I have committed--at least internally--to playing for real (not professionally, mind, but for real....there's a difference, I think, that may need some further explanation in a future post). As such, like committing to making the hike up Tricky Trail, I feel committed to making good on my personal commitment to playing.

I just don't know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to go about it.


In less than two weeks, I'll be back up on the mountain, listening to Acoustic Syndicate, Billy Joe Shaver, and maybe Donna the Buffalo. I've decided that I will make no commitment to hiking Tricky Trail. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, you'll find me warmly nestled next to Mrs. Otis, listening to the drumbeats from the comfort of my sleeping bag.

Nevertheless, this semi-annual trip always does my mind well. I can think.

I have a lot to think about, both professionally, as well as what I'm going to do with my poker game.

So, if you need me, you'll find me at lakeside.

Chances are, I'll be the guy muttering "tricky" every few minutes and when asked if I'm going to the drum circle, declaring, "Definitely. Both nights."

That's just the sick kind of Otis I am.

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