Sometimes I wonder if all of us poker players are mad.
Here's the thing. When I'm back in Tuscaloosa, jobless and shiftless, playing poker and writing (or rather, trying to write) I feel a wee bit worthless to society. But put me on the tournament trail and suddenly I feel normal because I'm surrounded by people who are bigger poker degenerates than I could ever imagine being. I'm sure many of my friends think I eat, drink and sleep poker. They think of me as a poker degenerate, but they haven't met a true poker junkie, the kind that plays poker for two days straight, their hygiene and self worth slowly melting away. Or the guy who plays four tables at once online for 10 hours straight. Or the..... Or the.... Perhaps you see my point. There are many people out there whose lives revolve around poker and little else, the kind who read and post on RGP or 2 + 2 24 hours a day.
Sometimes I feel like Luke Skywalker in The Return of the Jedi when he looks at his right hand and sees his father Darth Vader's glove as he is about to kill him. He is slowly turning to the dark side. Am I turning to the dark side during this year away from my job? To the masses, poker is a trivial diversion, someting to be amused at on television as they flip channels. It's a sub-sport. At least with many sports, there is some benefit, like city or regional pride that provides a good feeling when your team wins, or the exercise you get from participating.
But poker is much more than a trivial diversion to a small percentage of the population, the kind that travels to Tunica in January when the cold winds whip off the Mississippi. And when we're playing poker we hope the only one who benefits is ourselves.
For the longest time on this excursion I wasn't benefiting a lick, and to make matters worse I developed a pretty serious cold Friday that gave me a nasty fever and a good set of shivers under the covers. I could barely crawl out of bed on Saturday, so I stayed there most of the day, watching SEC basketball games.
My poker buddy Lane from Tuscaloosa drove up that morning to play and he came up to the room to watch Bama lose to LSU. Watching the game, I recalled how Michael Jordan overcame his flu to light up the nets during an NBA Finals game. If he can do that, surely I could get out of bed and go win a poker tournament and salvage my trip.
So I staggered out of my room with a mission. Lane and I grabbed a buffet I could barely eat and entered the $200 second chance tournament at the Grand. I had played it twice before during the trip without cashing, but this time was different. After buying in, I was down to the last $120 in my wallet. This would be my last chance in Tunica, and playing the tournament in a cold medicine induced stupor, I could play without fear or concern. I was in another world.
Writing for you now, I can't recall all of the key hands. I made the right plays at the right times with moderate hands. I finally picked up aces and kings right when I needed them to double up. I didn't win the tournament and the $10K first prize, but I did make the final table and came in 6th, which was good for $1,535. I was still a loser on the trip, but I felt a lot better about my poker game and my luck.
Even while I'm not so sure about the poker itself.