For the first time in a while, I attended our regular Friday home game last night from 9pm to 2:30am. I used to love going all the time until I started this site actually. Now, the thrill of writing and interacting has taken over. Furthermore, I realize how hard it is to make a decent buck online. To lose a couple hundred in one hand when you play well, yet get runner runnered is a horrible feeling!
No longer are my poker outcomes compared to my normal salary. They are now compared to my online income which makes things that much more painful when I lose since my online income is so much smaller. In fact, I use my online income as the barometer whenever I’m thinking of spending frivolously to help keep me in check.
A lot of us poker players like to justify our habits by saying that poker isn’t gambling and that it’s skill. Although I believe poker is 60% skill, that still leaves 40% left to chance. Would you bet someone $500,000 if you had a 60% chance of winning and a 40% chance of having your hand chopped off? I wouldn’t, but some would!
THE ADDICTION RETURNS TEMPORARILY
I bought in for $200 among a sea of sharks with average stacks of some $$400 high. Everybody loves to make fun of me when I play because I’m known as the tight one. “Uh oh, Sam is in? Watch out for those pocket Aces!” they would chide. “Yes, guys, I only play pocket Aces, so watch out!” is always my retort. I have an absolute allergic reaction to losing money because I pretend I’m a minimum wage blogger trying to survive in this hard, cruel world.
After being down about $35 bucks for most of the night, I had finally won a couple hands than put me in the black by $90 at 1am. $90 divided by $200 is a 45% return I reasoned, and it was time for me to go. To put things in perspective, I was still the smallest chip stack with $290 as now people averaged $700 as re-buys built the action. But, my buddies wouldn’t let me leave because the rule of course is that you can only leave early when you go broke, or else you have to stay to the bitter end. Oh yeah, now I remember the other reason why I’ve stopped playing!
The Last Hand
Up 45% and the second to the last hand of the night I’m dealt pocket Queens. My heart starts racing, because my goal is to just limp or fold until the clock struck 2am. After someone raised pre-flop to $6 with 3 callers, it was my turn to decide. There’s no way I’m playing 4 way with Queens against these degenerates so I pop the bet by 7X to $40. Call, call, call! Crap, they really do love to gamble. The flop comes 10, 7, 3 and everyone checks around to me. Of course I bet the pot, a crisp $100 bill gets thrown in the middle, leaving me with only half my chips remaining. Everyone folds except for the animal to my left.
By this time I’m thinking shitake mushroom, I’ve got $140 committed to the pot and there’s no escaping now. Why didn’t I quit while I was ahead? I should have just done something Herculean and limped in and not controlled the action by raising pre-flop. My pocket queens could be losing to two pair, trips, pocket Kings, or pocket Aces. When the 4th card hit, a seemingly harmless 5 came out. I checked. After a brief moment, where I was hoping my opponent would also check, but he bet another $140! My heart sank. Fine, whatever, I’m pot committed so I shoved the rest of my chips in. Going from +$90 to down $200 sucks, and I promised myself during the show down that I wouldn’t return for another 6 months.
When I showed him my pocket Queens, he sat stunned. I think may have begun to cry. He mucked his cards and stared at the remaining $50 left in chips, cashed out, and walked away. I took him for $290 on just one hand to double up to over $600 and that addicting feeling and thrill was back! “Nobody pushes me around,” I start thinking in my head. I feel invincible on the inside, like I belong with the sea of sharks dictating the action. On the outside, I just tell everybody I got lucky, thanked them for playing, and until we see again.
AFRAID OF THE RUSH
There’s no doubt that in those last tense moments a wave of exhilaration came over me. I was afraid and excited at the same time, longing for every little posturing and eye twitch to reveal itself. For that moment, I was a poker junkie again, ready to quit my online endeavors and turn pro. Of course, that is preposterous thinking, but it was fun while it lasted.
I’m back to reality now, sitting in front of my computer typing away. I think about how each $200 bet is like working for several hours online trying to get an advertiser. The rush of gambling is intensely pleasurable no doubt about it, but it’s not for me. I don’t like the person I become when I lose as I’ve lost plenty of big hands before. No, I probably won’t be returning to the Friday night home game for a while. I’m too afraid of what the rush will do to me.
Readers, have any of you ever been hooked on poker or gambling in general? Have you ever come to a moment where you realize you’re at the edge of the cliff, and one more step and you could lose it all?
Money saving tip: Really start comparing gambling to some of your side income endeavors to put things in perspective. If it takes you 10 hours of work to make $100, you might think thrice before placing a bet. It’s easy to just think of your money as chips and frivolously bet it all away. Have a limit of how much you can lose, and once you hit that limit, walk away. Leave that ATM card at home and don’t borrow money from friends. Live to fight another day.
Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”