Circuit Weary.

Back in August and September a lot of praise and adulation was heaped upon me by my poker playing brethren.  I had just finished final tabling a few tournaments in a short period of time, and members of the East Coast poker community apparently took notice.  I got a lot of “you just ship everything you play, huh?” and “easy game for DZ!” type of stuff on a daily basis.  My studied and ever-so-humble reply to each new compliment was “talk to me at the end of the year after I’ve run dry for three months.”  My predictive powers rival my poker skills—it has come to pass.

This is not the first slump I’ve endured nor will it be the last.  This dry spell finds me in a melancholy mood once again, but the tenor is different this time.  In the past, long losing streaks have led me to wonder about my security in the poker world and prompted periods of agonizing self-doubt.  This time around I’m not experiencing any fear of failure.  In its stead is a distasteful ennui.

After spending much of 2009 on the tournament circuit and finally integrating myself into the “poker community,” I have no lingering skepticism about whether I have the skills to compete.  Poker ain’t rocket science (it ain’t even lawyering).   The people who play poker for a living run the gamut from cerebral to simpleton.  Thankfully for the less intelligent amongst us, poker ability is only loosely correlated with intellect and there are no secret formulas for success.  While I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer I now feel confident that my capacity to selectively apply memorized tournament strategies rivals most pro’s.  After communing with them for a full calendar year, I can say with near certainty that there is nothing especially daunting about my competition.  For me, the challenges in this profession lie elsewhere.

As evidenced by their long term absence on this blog, poker hand histories and strategies are of little interest to me these days.  I’m no longer fascinated by all but the most complex no limit tournament hands, which by nature are almost never very complex.  On the occasions that a recent play of mine has been widely criticized (word of these things boomerangs quite quickly on the circuit), sitting down and running the math has actually proven my intuition correct and my detractors wrong.  My game remains sharp and adaptable.  I’m still a winning player.  So if I’m not scared of slipping, then why am I unhappy right now?  The unfortunate answer is that I’ve grown a bit tired of my day-to-day routine.

It’s less a function of the game than the environment.  There’s been a lot of driving, a lot of hotel rooms, a lot of elevator rides, lots of shitty food, too many zombie-walks through the stupid lights and white noise of your average casino floor.  It gets monotonous, and with so many obsessed, single-minded people around me, there is rarely any relief.  Even with all my new friends—and I’ve met some amazing people this year—the tournament circuit is an isolating environment for an intellectually curious newlywed.  A big part of the disconnect is that I’m simply not poker obsessed.  I struggle to find the motivation to play live cash or online sessions, and I have little desire to talk about poker when I’m not playing.  I can’t relate to someone who gets mesmerized grinding fifteen tables on their laptop; that’s just not me.

Many tournament pros harbor dreams of becoming famous or seem to think that after four thousand live tournaments, the game will magically become easy for them, granting them universal respect and admiration within this community.  But it doesn’t work that way.  It is remarkable how few of my colleagues have internalized and accepted the fact that they have chosen a profession in which they will fail to achieve anything on nine out of ten days.  I’m continually surprised by how few approach variance logically.  Earth to my fellow poker pro:  I am enduring the same daily grind as you, so your temper tantrums come across as absurd and your bi-hourly complaints about bad beats and idle threats about jumping out your hotel room window are falling on deaf ears.

And while my discovery of poker partially cured me of my raging puer aeternus, most touring tourney pros have full-blown, untreated cases.  Many outsiders equate our lifestyle with “living the dream,” so I suppose it’s only natural that the practitioners of this craft spend their lives in LaLa Land.  Some tourney pros are grown men who live at home with their mothers but spend 95% of their waking hours in a casino playing poker, talking poker, just being around poker, oblivious to all else, pausing only to eat, sleep and to occasionally try and get laid.  This kind of a life might be almost acceptable if these guys were prodigal poker talents, but most are not.  They’re just dreamers, plain and simple.  Peter Pan is alive and well on the poker tournament circuit.

Restlessness is a common human condition.  People like new things; people want to find out what comes next.  I am currently wondering if there is something new and next on the horizon for me.  I don’t want to move away from poker entirely.  I just need a change, and winning a tournament isn’t necessarily the answer.  I love the life I’ve created for myself, but it may be time for some new games, new goals, new ideas, new experiences.  At the very least, some new places!  If I have to pull into another casino self park garage I might vomit.

I find myself suddenly motivated to write so maybe I will do a recap of 2009 in the year’s waning days.  It was a pretty interesting year for me.

10 thoughts on “Circuit Weary.

  1. I am thankful for your candid feedback on the true grind and how it can become too much DZ, win or lose. I am lucky to have had a partner on the tournament circuit stops I hit, my girlfriend of over 5 years who also is an outstanding player. Even together, it can be tough, and we don’t derive the majority of our income from poker, so I can’t imagine the stress of NEEDING to win to keep the train going, or moving back in with mom or dad to stay afloat, as some choose to do…at least not now…

    A break sounds good David…I’ll see you back out there once you reevaluate…be well sir!

  2. I know David isn’t headed home with his tail between his legs…I was referencing the others who pretend to be pros, but really don’t pay towards rent or food on the regular…all good…one less solid player I have to push through this weekend at Foxwoods…if you change your mind, dinner is on me at “Foxbox”…

  3. Grinding sounds tough! You sound burnt out. You just need a break and a vacation for a while. Poker will always be there when you choose to play.

    Sure, your work environment is not great (casinos, travel, etc.) But all jobs have downsides. How many lawyers are happy? Or how many people in general are happy at work? Think about the poor soul that is unemployed in this economy. Think about the person who loves their job but can’t survive in a collapsing industry (pilot, journalist, etc.)

    Since you feel you know NLHE tournament strategy well enough, try to learn and play other poker games or cash games. There’s lots to learn in those games that might keep your interest.

    Play some different venues other than the depressing AC and CT. Or play online at home.

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