Tonight I leave for Vegas for the World Series of Poker. It’s a big day—as you’re likely aware, in June Las Vegas becomes the undisputed poker capital of the world, with many massive tournaments taking place every day. Spending the month in Vegas creates a big window of opportunity for guys like me. While most poker players view departing to play the WSOP as one of the highlights of their year, for me it is a day that brings hope but also sadness and trepidation.
At this stage of my life, I’m happiest at home in Carroll Gardens. I love being here with my trusty confidantes Janeen and Ruthie, both of whom I will miss dearly for the next month. My yearly WSOP trip differs from all the others in both distance and length. I’ll be far away, outside of my comfort zone for quite awhile. The sudden mid-meet drives home that I’m notorious for will be impossible from the Mojave.
The WSOP presents numerous challenges beyond the obvious fiscal risk. I know from past experience that a long dry spell will result in a potentially consuming emotional upheaval. Although I’m logically aware that bad runs are inevitable, I’m wired to compete. I put undue pressure on myself and still don’t handle failure too well. I’m therefore going to try my best not to let the daily ups and down get the best of me in the absence of my support system.
Speaking of my support system, another serious issue with spending a month in Las Vegas is avoiding social isolation. I find that playing tournaments out there for a month straight can be very lonely. I’m lucky to have a great friend who lives in Vegas and a couple of true friends on tour. Outside of that handful of people, I’ll have no one to rely on. Don’t bother feeling bad for me though; it’s a personal choice. I’ve discovered that being alone is better than hanging out with idiots. There’s nothing worse than spending an entire evening listening to people you have nothing in common with flap their gums. If you’re not careful it happens a lot in my line of work.
Through trial and error I’ve found a decent salve for lonliness in Vegas. The following methods help:
-Always maintain contact with Janeen and the real world. Watch the news, watch Sportscenter. Read books, listen to the radio. Hang out with Jon and other non-poker players.
-Rent a car. It’s important to be able to go where I want when I want.
-Schedule activities. Never reduce the trip to eat/sleep/poker. I’m gonna go bowling a lot.
-Don’t tag along for group activities you know you won’t enjoy or hang with people who annoy you. It’s a recipe for hating life. Avoid known douchebags. They’re so not worth it.
-Have fun when playing; don’t be a bitter dickhead at the table.
Although “jaded and cynical” comes naturally to me, I still appreciate what the WSOP is really about. This is an event that started many years ago as a get-together for the country’s best gamblers. Today, of course, it has been bastardized and commercialized nearly beyond recognition. Despite its modest origins, everything about the WSOP—from the brand of playing cards used, drinks served, even the time of year it takes place—is now controlled by corporate interests. However, when you boil it down, the WSOP remains singular in its scope and prestige. It is Mecca to the few thousand or so poker players (along with the requisite horse stakers, shot takers, funk fakers, etc. etc.) who can honestly call themselves the world’s best. As I have a reasonable expectation of leaving Vegas at the end with more money than I came with, I’m proud to say that I am included in that group.
And now for some good news for those of you who read this website regularly: I will be blogging much more frequently from Vegas this year. I’m shooting for more of a diary-style blog this June and will likely update a few times per week. I’m hoping my perspective is a fresh one and will be worth a read. I also think it will keep me mentally sharp.
I will also be continuously tweeting my tourney progress at twitter.com/SugDpoker.