Sox was the type of guy who would stand up after winning a hand--one in which he had called off his entire stack with pocket jacks and won--and scream, "Don't you know who I am?"
We knew who he was. He was the guy who got off the phone and started muttering about how stupid women were, presumably because his girlfriend wanted him to come home. He wore baggy workout shorts, a baggy hoodie, a flat-billed White Sox cap, and a beard that was manicured to look messy. He was the guy who would berate a female player for beating him and then offer to step outside with her husband to settle the score. He was the guy who would run a couple hundred bucks into more than a grand and still not be even yet. He was also the guy who would return the next night and make me quietly say, "Thank you."
That next night, he would buy in several times. In a moment I'll treasure forever, I watched his girlfriend order two drinks for them. By the time the server had returned, Sox had all his money on the table and couldn't afford to buy the cocktails. He sent his back and paid for his girlfriend's in chips. Before she could finish her drink, he was broke and vowing to come back with more money.
It took him a couple of hours, but he did return. Once, he called a huge re-raise with pocket deuces and flopped his set. He rocked and rolled for a couple more hours and his verbal abuse increased with his stack. The table devolved to a four-handed game. Two of us were only staying because Sox was there. It took us less than an hour and half. The guy left broke and quiet. We broke the game and watched Sox walk away.
Over the week since, I have thought about Sox more than a few times. I thought about how his life, his happiness, and his banter all hinged on his ability to be in action and be winning. I thought about how, without his good fortune at the table, he would be a life loser and nothing more. I thought I'd be more thankful for him than I am. Instead, I just feel sorry for the guy.
I outlined my reasons for thanksgving at Rapid Eye Reality. That pretty much says it all. Still, for a variety of reasons, I've been thinking about poker a little more in the past couple of weeks. It's not as integral a part of my life anymore, but since I've been running a little bit better recently, it's on my mind.
I am thankful for poker, but not for the reasons most people are.
Poker and the industry surrounding it pulled me out of a job that likely would finished off my soul before I got this old. It gave me an excuse to get out of the regular workaday world and dive into a realm that was so wonderfully odd that I still have a hard time understanding it. It gave me a new career that has lasted the past three years.
Poker probably saved me from myself. Prior to 2003, I was on a rather ugly self-destructive streak. Since then, while still not necessarily the smartest guy, I've becomme a better person. Had it not been for poker...well, who knows.
At the risk of getting too mushy, poker has introduced me to a circle of friends that I value more than I can express. They are people who I am just as comfortable discussing personal problems as I am discussing the value of mid-tourney aggression issues.
Though poker has changed my life in countless ways, if it went away tomorrow, I wouldn't be devastated. Sure, I would miss it, but I would survive happily. That's because, even without poker, I'm no longer working a dead-end career. I'm no longer on a road to ruination. I have poker friends with whom I'd rather see a show or go camping than play cards. Hell, who wouldn't be thankful?
So, sure, I'm happy I run into guys like Sox. I still love to play cards and am looking forward to getting into a lot of good sessions in Vegas. Poker is still an important part of my life.
But...and it feels so good to type this...poker is not my life.
That's what makes it so fun.