Tuesday, January 24, 2012

to play or not to play, my Aussie Millions so far

It's another beautiful, partly cloudy, 21-degree day in Melbourne, so I'm typing this while sitting outdoors on the front lawn of the HeroPoker house, where CEO David Jung has put up three of his pros -- Grant Levy, Aaron Benton, and me -- for the week while we play the Aussie Millions. David is chauferring Grant and Aaron to Day 2 of the main event, leaving me to sit at home for a while with a little downtime. I've spent most of the morning deciding whether I want to play the $2500 HORSE in the evening or going to train Muay Thai and no-gi jiujitsu tonight. If you're a regular reader of this blog you've probably figured that I'm leaning towards the latter.

I was really excited to come out here for the Aussie Millions. In Thailand while training every day, twice a day, I allowed myself the fantasy of taking down the thing, as I do for every major that I play. I looked forward to it, and I stayed sharp by trying to grind a few hours daily online. Those fantasies were quickly put to an end on Day 1A of the main. I raised with Ad3d, got called in the BB by 88, the flop came 2d2h4d, he check-called, and the magical 8d peeled right off on the turn. Obviously all the money went in and shortly thereafter I shipped what remained of my stack on a flip and lost that as well.

The Emotional Fallout: another bustout, but this one feels different

It was pretty frustrating. Insert here the standard bitching about how I played well the whole day; how earlier I had trapped a guy into floating me with overs and getting him to lose much more than he should have, only for that cooler to happen. Blah blah blah; no one cares. The fact remains that while a the hand was a cooler, I've certainly experienced far worse, as has anyone with a lot of poker tournament experience. It is part of the nature of the game. Nothing has changed except my attitude towards it all. The first thing I tweeted after the hand happened was, "I can't wait to quit poker," and many days I really do feel this way. I feel like I'm waiting for something. That something could be anything: a great professional opportunity, a lightbulb moment for personal development, a big score to go out on a high note. But it certainly seems that I'm rolling through the twilight of my poker career on inertia with no real exit strategy.

They say that no one ever says on their deathbed that they wish they had worked more. Of course, poker has always straddled the line for me, and for most pros, between work and pleasure. We got into it because it was fun, and often it still is. It's a great feeling to be playing well and running well. Those days in the sun in tournament poker are great moments and I relish going deep in tournaments. Those rare deep runs and even rarer wins are what keeps people coming back to tournament poker. But clearly most players have a love-hate relationship with tournament poker, and I wonder these days how that balance looks for me.

The bad days I have in the gym are rarely that bad. When I get tapped out, punched in the liver or kicked in the face, it's usually with a smile. But when I turn the nut flush against the nut boat, the feeling is so different. I want to get the fuck out of the room as soon as possible. I want to be anywhere but at the poker table, waiting for an opportunity to ship an 11 BB stack in the middle, sitting there and steaming about the fact that my chances of winning this tournament have gone from small-to-begin-with to now absolutely dismal. I have made a point of never, ever using the phrase "FML" because I think considering how good my life is that it's ridiculous for me to say it, but in that moment, I felt it.

So, where do I go from here?

And yet I say all of the above, I do so while thinking that I might still register for the $5k HU NL or the $2500 HORSE today, or the $2500 PLO tomorrow. Part of this is that I came to the Aussie Millions to represent HeroPoker and I feel like with a total of 12 hours of table time I haven't done a particularly good job of that. I haven't felt pressured in the slightest way to play more poker but I've been treated very well here by Dave and feel somewhat bad that I haven't done more to generate exposure for the brand. On the other hand, I just don't feel like I'm in that great a state of mind, my limit/mixed games are a bit rusty and I know that I'll be in a pissy mood if the most probable result (i.e. not winning or cashing big) occurs. On the gripping hand, there is always the off-chance I catch a heater, run deep, and feel better about everything again.

There is also the fact that, as I mentioned, while training in Thailand that I was looking forward to playing poker. And now that I'm in the midst of a poker tournament, I want to go train. That's kind of messed up and I wonder if it says something about me as a person. I've never thought of myself as the type of person who sees the other side's grass as perpetually greener, but maybe this is evidence that I am. I think I would also miss the social side of poker, as bizarre as that might sound. For as weird a group as poker players can be, almost all my best friends are poker players. There are exceptions, but I don't really get along with most of the fighters I meet and I can't have a real conversation with most of them, nor do we share much common ground outside fighting. It is bizarre to say, but I feel like walking away from poker tournaments would mean having a substantially less fulfilling social network. I crave real-life social interaction and I would actually miss getting it from poker players.

So, I'm torn.

I wish I could talk to the deathbed me, and ask him for advice. What say you, old man?