It’s hard to pinpoint where my poker complex came from. I remember being about 12 and the family would go over the my grandma’s house where all the uncles would play Hi-Lo Stud games for nickles and dimes. I never played in these games, but my brother did (he was about 10 at the time). Anyway, I didn’t really understand the game, but it was fun seeing who would end up the “big winner” each night.
Note: “big winner” = +$5 in a pocket full of silver change.
I also remember being a junior or senior in high school. It was about 2002 or 2003 and it was right before the poker boom when then amateur Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker and netted about $2.5 million. That year, I remember our high school bookie getting together some guys and playing tournaments in his parents basement. I think that the buy in for these tournaments was about $40. I never won, but I did develop a nasty habit of betting on baseball games that year. I remember putting $100 in an envelope and putting it in his parents mailbox with the bookie’s name on the envelope. I am not sure that this was the beginning of my love for the game, but I remember how much fun we had playing “Follow the Queen” or “Pineapple” where anything holding a sword or only had one eye showing was wild. Good times…
But the honest start to my “obsession” was freshman year in college. It was fall of 2004 and ESPN was up to their ears in poker coverage. Not only were they broadcasting the entire 7 days of the main event, but people were watching Omaha, Stud, and even Razz tournaments on TV. I dare anyone reading this who isn’t as far gone as I am to Youtube a WSOP Razz tournament and try not pulling your hair out.
I remember this was the time when online poker was really taking off. I wasn’t sure how good I was, but that didn’t stop me from playing in some free-money games for imaginary dollars on Pokerstars. I remember talking my roommate into getting into it with me. Sometimes, there were free-money tournaments that didn’t start until midnight, and we would stay up until 3 a.m. playing for pride and not worrying about letting our classes get in the way of all this new found excitement.
Eventually, I got better and began playing for real money. I remember depositing $50 into my account and playing the $10+$1 multi-table tournaments and, occasionally some bigger money tournaments. I eventually figured out my strengths and learned how to make some decent money at the game. I played on Pokerstars, Party Poker and Absolute Bet my entire freshman and sophomore years while living in the dorms. I distinctly remember one Saturday, not having any big keg party that day, declaring to my whole mod that I was going to win $1000 that day, which was a bold declaration even for me back then. Sure enough, I won $900 in one tournament, then cashed in a $100 buy in tournament, giving me a total win of about $1200 for the day. I was the king of the castle that day and I think I realized that I was a pretty decent player. More than anything, I wanted to get better and learn as much about the game as I could.
So by the end of college, I had made a pretty decent haul at online poker. Not enough to pay for school, but enough to keep me fed and hydrated on the weekends, and able to attend social functions without digging through the couch. Then, on April 15, 2011,”Black Friday” happened. For those of you not in the know, “Black Friday” was the abrupt end of online poker as we all knew it. All activity was halted and the government seized all assets accumulated in player accounts. People did not know what to do. Luckily for me, my poker bug had cooled and I didn’t have any money lost on any sites.
At this time, I was going to “brick and mortar” poker clubs around Columbus and learning the live game. I had gone to a few casinos and played against some talented players, but cutting my teeth against “regulars” who knew how to play cash games was a crash course in strategy and money management. I honestly believe that the Gemini Club had some of the best live players around the country. Aggressive, fearless, calculating, these players would try to take my money as if I were wearing a big sign that read “ATM.”
Anyway, that’s a long history on where I’ve been. I think most of America kind of dulled out on poker once ESPN stopped airing most of the shows and the thrill of online gambling has been limited to just a handful of states. But, to be honest, I am still fascinated by poker as much today as I was when I was playing every Saturday in college. I love thinking about the strategy of poker, about multiple ways to play the same hand, and about all the fun I have when I sit down at a poker table and play.
I like the idea of being able to be whoever I want. I love the psychological aspect of it where I can dress up like some sko-bro (TM) and make people think that just because I look a certain way, it must mean I play a certain way. I love hiding behind a pair of sunglasses and listening to The Game. “Dead presidents. Big paper!” I love listening to people at the table talk about this or that, some tournament they played in or some guy who just got up that was as (insert any of the following adjectives: crazy, drunk, loose, loud, funny, perverted and hitting on every waitress that walked by) as anyone has ever seen. I like the thrill of winning money, but more so than that, I like the thrill of mastering the game itself.
So this Sunday I am going back to the casino to play in the first live tournament I’ve been a part of in the past couple of years. I am extremely excited and I can’t wait to sit down and start playing. I am also excited to follow up with this post about how much I (hopefully) won! Now all that’s left to do is decide who I want to be on Sunday, and get ready to go!