Trip Report Part 1: Deep Breaths…

Welp, Janeen’s brother’s wedding was quite nice.  The celebrity nuptials went off without a hitch.  It was a somewhat low-key party, hosted by a good friend of the groom at his strange expansive house in Chicago.  The bride and groom chose to eschew a lot of the typical formal reverie; there was no cake cutting, no first dance, no grandparents being hoisted in chairs, no glass clinking or any of that.  It was just a nice relaxed get together for family and friends and it was a terrific party.  I had a great time and had the opportunity to meet a lot of new faces and also the chance to get familiar with a lot of other folks who are about to become my in-laws.  I am admittedly not particularly adept at making small talk, even on my best day, and by the time I boarded my flight to Vegas at the end of the weekend my limited repertoire of topics had been fully exhausted.  I’ve probably been exposed yet again as “Janeen’s fiancee–nice guy, but he doesn’t have much to say.”  So it goes.  It’s better than faking it, right?

Unfortunately, Chicago is where the fun ends.  My World Series, through the very early stages, has been lousy.

I started the Vegas leg of my trip on a very positive note.  Psychological clarity and what I like to call “perspective refreshment” are things that I find vital in my profession.  Every now and then, I personally need to be reminded of what exactly it is that I’m trying to accomplish here.  This is harder than it might sound because it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees in my chosen life; you tend to get bogged down in  day-to-day struggles when you’re constantly playing cards.  My memory is way too short when it comes to self-assessment.  So when I randomly purchased a book in Chicago, I was happy to find that reading it changed my mental state for the better.

It’s called The Drunkard’s Walk:  How Randomness Rules Our Lives, and it’s written by a guy named Leonard Mlodinow.  It’s a book about math, specifically the laws of probability and the history of their study.  In poker circles I’ve always aigned myself with the “non math guys,” and in school math was always my least favorite subject.  But this book has made it clear to me that I am in fact a “math guy” at heart.  It was the math problems, where numbers are calculated for the sake of calculation, that were and remain a big turnoff of mine.  The theoretical, almost philosophical side of mathematics fascinates me, and I’ve always been a natural at solving practical probability problems, because I enjoy them.  Although this book does not purport to have anything to do with poker, I think it’s a good read for all people who deal with luck on a regular basis and have trouble quantifying it.  And according to Mlodinow, there are more people in that category than you think.  He convincingly argues that luck plays a bigger role than anyone realizes in numerous realms, and he fiercely contradicts the popular Branch Rickeyism that “luck is the residue of design.”  According to Mlodinow, luck is just luck, and it is visited most often not upon those with the most brilliant plans, but upon those who simply persevere.

This book really resonated as I read it on the plane on the way to the World Series.  I was already aware that June would be a make-or-break kind of month.  But I was unaware of how little control I have over which one it might turn out to be.  All I can do is maximize my small edge by playing as much as possible and hope my number is eventually called.  That’s tournament poker, and according to this author, it’s a lot of life, too.

Alas, my newly-acquired booksmart serenity lasted all of two days.  But it wasn’t a bad beat that sent me over the edge. 

I am trying to save as much as possible in the way of expenses on this trip.  I am out here to work–not play–and I knew ahead of time that all the usual Vegas trappings would be of little interest.  And it’s true:  I’ve had no desire to do anything other than play poker and sleep so far.  Even the mere sight of your basic Vegas nonsense has turned me off, I’ve tuned it all out.  With my profit margin alone as priority number one, I selected a hotel situated to the West of the Strip, just like the Rio, and ended up booking a room at the Orleans for $30 per night.  And instead of exposing myself to $40 per day in cab fares, I chose to rent a car for around $20 per day.  I was quite proud of my thriftiness until last night.

I’m not very good at navigating the terrain West of the Strip.  Some of the roads connect Tropicana (where the Orleans is) with Flamingo (where the Rio/WSOP is) and some do not.  Last night I attempted to drive to the Rio and found that I missed a couple of important turns, so I was forced to take the Strip over.  This sucks, because from a car, the Strip is just a long traffic jam with a lot of flashing signs.  So I made my way very slowly to the corner of the Strip and Flamingo and got into one of the two left turn lanes that led to the Rio.  As expected there were something like 20 cars lined up, and I didn’t make it through the light the first time it turned green.  The second time it turned green, I found myself beneath it as it began to change, so I turned left on yellow.

Apparently this is illegal in Las Vegas, because I had not yet completed the turn when I noticed flashing lights in my rearview mirror, and I was pulled over maybe 20 yards out of the turn by a cop on a motorcycle.  The summons, which I had no chance of talking my way out of, pissed me off to no end, and it will cost me $300 if I don’t choose to show up in court.  So much for saving on expenses. 

Some might find it it funny that I get bent out of shape over a $300 ticket while I have no problem spending $2000 on a tournament buy in, but there is a big distinction in my mind, and the fact that I distinguish between the two probably says something about how good my bankroll management and leakless personal spending habits are.  I hated getting the ticket, especially because I am innocent.

The bottom line is that the ticket REALLY pissed me off and took me out of my book-induced happy place.  Immediately after collecting the ticket I went to play a sit ‘n go at the Rio, and when some old douchebag busted me with Q7 suited against my pocket tens, the zen was officially gone.  I stormed back to my hotel (making sure not to run any yellow lights, of course) and had a fitful night’s sleep.  I was grumpy for most of the day today, and busting in Level 2 of the $2000 tournament left me briefly disconsolate, but I think I’m coming back around.  I needed a nap, which I took, and to regain some perspective.  Deep breaths.

Oh, by the way:  So far I’ve whiffed on 1500 Pot Limit and 2000 No Limit at the WSOP, and I made a good showing but didn’t cash in a Caesar’s Megastack event.  Incidentally, the Caesar’s structure in a $300 tournament blows away the WSOP’s tournament structure in a 2k.  If you don’t make a hand early in a WSOP tourney, you are through.  Period.  The WSOP needs to fix this in my opinion.

9 thoughts on “Trip Report Part 1: Deep Breaths…

  1. You didnt mention the naked guy! Anyway, the slow start will only make the fabulous finish that much sweeter. Mwah.

  2. Nicely written.

    That sucks about the ticket and cracked tens but don’t forget, you are David Friggin Zeitlin.

    You’ve proven time and again that you have what it takes.

    Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fight. Cue Rocky music.

  3. Next year I’d like to buy shares in the Zeit Traffic Violation fund. Was it a surprise to learn how much luck plays a role in our lives? If so you haven’t been paying attention to SoY during your title years 🙂

  4. that book sounds very interesting — good to hear about the megastack structure, also just read that today the venetian increased their starting chip counts in the deepstack events due to “overwhelming player requests”

  5. Sorry to hear about the ticket. You’ll feel much better once you get your 1st bracelet in the coming weeks. See ya in Vegas later this month. Are you buying into the main event directly if you’re not able to satellite in?

  6. Hey Felix. Yup, I’ll be playing the Main Event no matter what. Hopefully I won’t need to worry about satellites or staking or anything like that, because I made Day 2 of Event #13 ($2500 NL) and I am planning on going deep! 🙂

  7. Now I know who always gets the email accounts before me. Win some more cash man, looks like a good gig. I’ll stick to craps and let you bring my ranking up in poker….heheh. Keep at it, definately a cool way to make a living.

    David Zeitlin

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