When I found a certain make of Moleskine notebooks, I knew I would never again have a reason to ignore notetaking as part of the writing process. The notebooks have a soft cover that feels a lot like a paper shopping bag. They fit perfectly in my back pocket and mold to my ass.
Throughout the Vegas trip, I had taken a lot of notes and continued to do so up until we hit 20 players in the tournament. Then, apart from writing down who was sitting at the final table, I didn't take another note.
I guess I decided to play poker.
I stopped paying attention to writer-things. My eyes were set firmly on other eyes, hands, necks, and lips. Whether it was a good run of luck, some good timing, or a combination of both, I was able to build a stack and use it to my advantage.
My single biggest hand before the final table came at our fine organizer's expense. Prior to the hand, I had forced Falstaff off a raise and watched him muck. Then one or two hands later, he pushed all in and I was fortunate enough to have queens. I put it all in and got ready to see his cards. Then Change100 tanked. I figured her for jacks, tens, or AK and wasn't really sure what I wanted to see happen. After what seemed like forever, she mucked her tens. Falstaff had fives, my queens held, and I had a big stack.
It's fair to say that I don't remember much of what happened for the next couple of hours. Though sober, I was tired, hungry, and completely focused on only the game. Before the final table began, one player quietly asked me what I thought about a chop. As one of the two top stacks, I said I'd rather wait for a while. After that, I played as aggressively as I know how, but was completely wrapped up in my own little world. In fact, over the course of final table play, I only remember a couple of voices with any clarity.
The first was Schecky. He was either doing a very fine job of trying to get in my head or just very talkative. The second was Fuel55, who stood behind me and once tried to get me to refuse a three-handed chop and then muttered incredulously when I jammed on the button with T4o (I ended up getting my third big suckout of the tournament on that hand when KuroKitty called with KT and I flopped a four).
Beyond that, I know I won some hands, lost some hands, won some races, lost some races, and got heads up with The Rooster.
How's that for the most uninteresting tourney report ever issued by these fingers?
It might have been my emergence from focus that ended up losing me the tournament. Still, a sense of understanding about what was happening around me was welcome. What had once been half a dozen people standing around and watching poker was suddenly a crowd of familiar faces. For the past several hours, I'd rather forgotten everything except trying to win. Now, I took half a second to relish the moment. I knew it wouldn't last long. Though the heads-up battle has been described as epic, I don't remember it as such. It seemed to be over as soon as it started.
I made a quick decision that I wasn't going to give The Rooster the opportunity to dictate the terms of the heads-up match. With the blinds as high as they were, there was very little opportunity for post-flop poker. My decisions were made before the match even began. It would be up to The Rooster to decide when he was calling and when he was folding.
If there was a surreal moment for me, it was the split second between the time I looked at my final hand and the time The Rooser announced "Call!"
I peaked at K9o and said nothing. I simply put my hands around my chips and started to move them. They had barely moved an inch when The Rooster nearly jumped from his seat and said, "Call!"
Without going into it what was actually happening in my head at that second, that fraction of time defined who I was, who I am, who I hope to be forever.
Oh, and I was surpised to see I was ahead, too. The Rooster's snap-call didn't mean I was beat. It meant he was tired of my aggression. In this case, it also meant I was better than 60/40 to win. By the river, we had seen no kings, nines, queens, or eights. I had to dodge six cards when that final piece of plastic hung in the air.
It was what it was.
What struck me most in the half an hour after the final card fell was the sense of inevitability that struck just before the river. There was a part of me that knew I was going to lose. My head had spent nearly nine hours focusing. Though I'd managed to take second place cash, the sense of disappointment was heavy. All at once, I didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to play poker. I didn't want to gamble. I didn't want to party.
I wandered around for a while and eventually made my way back to the Geisha Bar for a drink. I quickly realized I was ill-equipped to do anything but go to bed.
And that's what I did.
It's been a few weeks since that night and, I'll admit, the disappointment hasn't worn off. I still wish I'd managed to find a win. I think there was something in my poker psyche that needed the victory. In another sense, though, I think it might be good that I didn't win.
There was a time a couple of years ago that I not only felt but knew I was a good poker player. There was no question in my mind. I had the game and the results to prove it. I played mid-high to high cash games for two years and did rather well for myself. I had about 18 months in which I did very well in online tournaments with large buy-ins. That, of course, was all in the days of Party Poker. When Party left the U.S., it took something in my head with it.
Since then, the games have gotten fewer and tougher. The players have gotten better. My confidence has been shattered. I look back at my numbers since I closed my account at Party and realize it all led up to a losing year in 2007.
What's interesting is that, while I played this year, I never really played. I never put any real money online and didn't play many big tournaments. Still, it was a losing year. I have a negative ROI in MTTs and nothing on which to hang my hat.
The funny thing is I still have a modest roll. Even after using some of it to buy my wife and her friend a four-night cruise, I still have a roll I could use to get back in the game seriously. I've actually been toying with that idea. I've seriously considered using 2008 to try to make a run and try to find that poker player I was two years ago. I've been close to making the decision to do it several times, but I can't pull the trigger.
The simple fact is, I'm not the same poker player I was two years ago. I'm not the same person. I'm not as disciplined. I'm not as driven. I don't have the time required to be a good player. I have other goals.
What's more, the poker world isn't the same anymore. Even if I could find the player I used to be, I still stand a decent chance at not being successful. The fields in the $150+ online tournaments are not the berry patches they used to be. The cash games are much, much tougher.
It's a sad realization. Though I never aspired to play professionally, there was a time I defined myself, in part, as a poker player. I don't think I can do that anymore. Do I know how to play? Yes. Am I any good? Sometimes. Am I ready to find out if I can compete in today's poker world? I just don't know.
I realized this week that I am at a poker crossroads and I'm very close to making the decision to turn away from the game. That's not to say I'm going to quit, per se. I'm not sure what it means. I actually considered depositing a rather large amount of cash on the only site at which I can play. Then, because I'm a longtime player there and can't get rakeback, I decided not to. Funny, huh? It's pretty clear my decision-making machine is not working at full speed.
I've said it before: I love this fucking game. I just have to decide if I am okay having poker as a hobby and not an integral part of my life. If I can be half-pregnant in this case, then that's okay. If not, I think it may be time to put myself on the Poker Pill and find something else to do for a while.
Anyone wanna gamble on Wii games?