Do you love poker?
I’m not talking about the kind of love you have for your Aunt. I’m talking about special love. Tingly love. Thought-consuming love. Take over your life love.
There is a widely held belief that the most invigorating route through life is to find something that you love to do, figure out a way to get paid doing it, and – to borrow a Nike slogan – just do it.
In 2009, I quit drinking alcohol. It was ruining my life. Either the booze went or I did. The booze went. Poker saved my life back then. Had I not fallen in love with the game, I could have easily fallen back into alcohol’s clutches.
When you drop an old mate like booze, a gap opens up in your life. Actually, gap is the wrong word. A chasm opens up. It’s called time. If you don’t know how to fill it, and most alcoholics don’t, they fill it with booze.
I filled mine with poker.
I played morning, noon and night. I played until my fingertips hardened, my HUD filled up and my first wife divorced me. That’s how much I loved poker. According to my divorce papers, I loved it more than the woman who had shared my bed for the past 15 years.
I did my bollocks online, but I was making a killing in my local cash game. One night, during that game, a friend of mine said, “wouldn’t it be great if we could all quit our jobs and play cards forever.”
I quit my job.
I started playing even more. It was never forever. Poker was never going to get a starring role in my final scene, but it was an important part of the cast. I was happy, but love had turned into something else. The intensity had lost some of its feathers.
Then, one day, a player in my local card game cheated in a hand against me. I lost it. I vowed to never again play in that game. I don’t break vows easily, just ask my old friend alcohol. In the years that followed I played online occasionally – even won a MiniFTOPS event – but I didn’t return to THAT game.
I matured. I learned to forgive. Most importantly, I started to miss my friends. A writer’s life can be a lonely life. There were days when my wife was working abroad when I would spontaneously burst into tears. I was stressed out. The four walls scared me like mannequins emerging from under the stairs.
I tried all sorts of things to stop the loneliness. I would even hop on board a train to London, work on my way there, and then return on the same train. Even seeing the trolley lady and the conductor brought new people into my life.
I decided enough was enough. I joined my old game. I made amends with the man who had cheated me, and I moved on. It was great to be in the midst of the banter. Only something had changed. There was no banter. None that I associated with. Everything was a little too serious. I was more interested in my mobile phone than the friends I so desperately yearned for.
I was also losing.
It wasn’t the money. Had I been winning I would still have felt the same. It was boredom. The game was boring. Win or lose, the tingle wasn’t there. The butterfly had been stamped on; white dust of death.
Things got progressively worse. I started to think I would lose. I was almost willing it. I tried talking to my friends. Nobody really talked back. I tried to smile. My face kept falling down. I tried to turn the phone on. A phantom buzz shook my leg, and I would turn it back on.
My heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t enjoying it. The love had gone.
If you don’t love what you are doing then you will slowly hate or resent it. It will screw you up, fuck with your mind, and turn you into a sad pathetic version of your glorious self.
Who are we without growth?
Who are we without contribution?
What do we do without fulfillment?
What do we do without love?
This is not a solitary tale. I am not alone. There will be people who play poker for a living who are not in love. The grind really is a grind. They are in the game because it’s a way of making a living. Except they are making a dying. Money isn’t everything; happiness is.
I guess it’s all about meaning and purpose. Do you have this in your life? If so what does it look like? If not, why not? Get to work. Switch off your 12 tables and stare at a blank piece of paper. Fill it up. Let your dreams leave your head and paint the space.
Then go for it.
Don’t hold back.
Don’t allow the rut to maintain its grip.
And for the rest of you.
Get to it.
Stop reading this shit and get playing, because if you love it, I am sure it will love you right back.