September 14, 2011
(Yes, I've been wasting a bit of time on reddit recently)
(Yes, I've been wasting a bit of time on reddit recently)
I've been out of the game and the culture of poker for a while now and have been spending most of my time with the Muggles, and being out in the regular has really given me some perspective. When you're in poker (and you're doing it right), you're really in it, and you're studying the game and reading forums and your friends and/or roommates tend to be poker players too, so the poker world becomes weirdly normal. It's only now, years later, when I'm explaining that chunk of my life to, like, the mailman, that I think, huh, yeah, I guess it is kinda weird to pay your bills with a recreational card game.
But it's still a part of my life, so sometimes I try to share a really funny or interesting poker story to a non-poker player only to realize half-way through that it requires waaaaay too much backstory and explanation to someone not already initiated.
Case in point, there's an old photoshop thread on 2p2 where people photoshop poker players into movie posters. If I were to tell the story of my favorite post in that thread to a poker player, the MAXIMUM amount of explanation I would possibly need would be something like this:
"Okay, there's an old thread on 2p2 where people photoshop poker players into famous movie posters. Now, at the time, David Benyamine was playing a lot of high stakes PLO, and dataminers were noticing that he was playing, like, WAY tight from the button compared to everyone else, and no one could figure out why. So, in the photoshop thread, someone made . . ."
Hilarious, right! I know! Brilliant!
Here's how it goes when I try to tell that story to a non-poker playing friend.
"Okay, so there was this thread on 2p2, where . . . twoplustwo. It's like, the most popular place for poker players to get together online to discuss poker strategy and stuff. Anyways, there's a thread where they photoshop poker players into famous movie posters, and . . . well, no, I guess it's not all strategy discussion, there are a few lower content forums where people post, like, funny stuff. Anyways, there is this guy named David Benyamine who . . . , no, Benyamine. I dunno, Israeli? No, no, he's French I think. I don't know. It doesn't matter. Anyways, he was playing a lot of PLO at the time, and . . . PLO. Pot-Limit Omaha. It's a card game. Yeah, it's a lot like Hold 'Em, except you get four cards instead of two, but you can only use two cards in your hand at a time and, wait a minute, why am I even explaining this part? Anyways, people were noticing that . . .hmmm. How to explain this? All right, so the last person to act in each poker betting round, well, except the first one [holy shit this story is totally not worth it but there is NO WAY I can abandon it now], that person is called 'the button', and it's a very big statistical advantage, so most poker players tend to play very aggressively from the button, but this guy, this Benyamine, he . . . hey guys, where are you going? Hey guys? Come back, I'm almost done!"
I was born on December 29th, 1983. I'm writing this on May 16th, 2011. That means as of today, I am exactly ten thousand days old.
(Note: because some of you reading this will be left-brained, analytically-minded, cleverer-than-thou poker player types you will instinctively think to yourself something like, "Huh, I wonder if he remembered to count Leap Days when he calculated that number." Fortunately, since I am also a left-brained, analytically-minded, cleverer-than-thou poker player type, trust me, I have.)
(But some of you poker player types are going to double-check that figure anyway.)
Years are a more convenient way to track age, but when you think about it, every way of measuring time except tracking the number of days requires something external. You'll notice the gradual recurrence of seasons as years pass, but without a calendar it would be very difficult to know exactly when one year ended and the next one began, and without a clock it's basically impossible to know exactly when a minute or an hour has elapsed, so, really, the most natural and obvious way to track the passage of time on this planet is counting sunrise-to-sunrise. It's so natural that I cannot imagine we as a species started tracking time any other way.
So tracking days is a meaningful way to measure time and today I have been through exactly ten thousand of them. I don't remember the day I turned one thousand days old (which I forgive myself for, it turns out I was only two years old) and, barring some medical advances that allow people to routinely live more than 270 years, I won't live to see my 100,000th. Additionally, since statistically it's unlikely I make it to 100 years and, while I will hit a billion seconds sometime when I'm 31, I'll only be able to really appreciate that for, well, one second, that makes today the only really big odometer-click that I'm going to have in my conscious life. So I think that makes it a pretty good moment to reflect on what my life has been like over these first ten thousand days.
So, first of all, how did I spend my ten thousandth day?
I currently work as a waiter in a Brooklyn restaurant. Today I had a shift and, following that, an unpaid post-work meeting. That means that I was at work for twelve hours, three of those for free, walked out with all of seventy-nine dollars and my professional day ended with me mopping floors and hauling out bags of garbage by hand. Thanks to poker, a not-insignificant number of my friends are self-made millionaires and my professional life is at the mop bucket and garbage bag level.
So here's the look in the mirror: I'm single. I don't make much money. I don't have health insurance. I drink too much. Durrrr, Jason Rosenkrantz, Mark Zuckerberg and LeBron James are younger than me. I ate a cold bologna sandwich for dinner tonight. I still have a flip phone.
You might think all this makes today a pretty depressing day for me. But it's not. I actually feel pretty goddamn great. All in all, my first ten thousand days have been pretty fucking terrific.
It starts with my family. I'm not going to drone on about it, but the fact is I have a mother, father, brother and sister who are all amazing people that I love dearly and, if that is taken care of, a lot of other shit just falls by the wayside.
And my parents work for the US State Department, which means I spent my childhood moving all over the world. This means the list of experiences I've had is, if I'm being honest with myself, just unfair. I've been to the Taj Mahal. I've watched the sun rise over the dunes of the Sahara desert. I've watched it set over the Seine. I've kayaked down the Zambezi river, I've ridden dune-buggies through the Kalahari, I've gotten drunk on the streets of Amsterdam, and I've run across a Mozambican beach at midnight. I have an at least semi-informed opinion on two dozen of the world's great cities. Alexander the Great didn't have that depth of travel experience. For God's sake, my parents just took us on a week-long vacation to St. Maarten. Down there the ocean is the color of Tiffany jewelry boxes and is the temperature of bath water. On top of that, beer costs a dollar and the place is lousy with Dutch girls. I mean, Jesus. Dutch women might just be God's Final Draft.
And I'm definitely personally very lucky. I'm healthy. I feel as smart and as talented as a person could ask to be. Hell, I'm not even bad-looking! Well, I mean, my ears sorta stick out a helluva lot, and a girl is pretty much going to have to find that kind of charming or she's not going to be able to get past it, but beyond that, hey, you could do worse.
On top of all that, in my life I made about a hundred thousand dollars playing a card game and used the money to do things like buy expensive champagne and ski through the French Alps. Now, it did take me five whole years to make that hundred thousand, so maybe I should have saved a little of it instead of frittering it away on unnecessary luxury goods, but that is a lesson for another time.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have amazing friends. Thanks to my friends I have partied in $5,000-a-night cabanas at luxurious Las Vegas casinos while my personal bank account probably held all of six hundred bucks. Thanks to them I've eaten a piece of a thousand dollar sushi roll. Thanks to them I've been on fucking television. I mean, granted, it was just in the background of one episode of a poker reality show, and I was wearing a silly balloon hat for part of it, but hey, I'll take it.
But sometimes it wasn't anything like that. Sometimes it was just hanging out and playing Mario Strikers, and while that isn't as fun a story, in some ways it was just as good as anything else. And, believe it or not, I also have a few friends who don't play poker, and they are some of the most creative, intelligent and warm people you could know. Thanks to them I know that eating cold barbecue off of a paper plate on a Brooklyn rooftop can be just as fun as the shiniest, most expensive Las Vegas casino. They're the kind of friends that make you a better person, and I'm grateful to them all.
Also, not to be a shallow asshole or anything, but I have dated some beautiful women in my time. Seriously. Ones that made me think, "Man, she's amazing. Ahh, if only . . ." and then all of a sudden she's right there, and she's blushing and smiling at something I just said! Me! The guy with the ears! Even now, I look back at some of those and think to myself, "Well how in the fuck did that happen??"
And I've had that moment where you think there's one person who is the most incredible, amazing person you've ever met and unbelievably, magically, impossibly, she thinks you are the most incredible, amazing person to her, and the whole fucking world just falls away and you just feel like you've won. Even if years pass and it doesn't work out or things change or you realize you were wrong or naive or whatever, that moment, that one fucking moment? That's the BEST.
Plus I live in a world that has produced Fender Stratocasters, high-end steakhouses, Scarlett Johansson, iPhones, the music of Beethoven, Sam Cooke, and Big L, and seasons 4 through 9 of The Simpsons.
After all that, I don't mind picking up a mop so much.
As you get older, you can get bogged down in the difficulties and small injustices that come your way in the course of your normal days. It's important, every now and then, to take a moment and step back and say, you know what, all in all, life can be pretty fucking awesome.
Even if it's only once every ten thousand days.
I saw Emil (a.k.a whitelime) at Jay(a.k.a. KRANTZ)'s apartment last night. Emil is still very much a high-stakes online grinder, and I knew the recent events must have hit him pretty hard. So I asked him how he found out about the shutdown and how he reacted. Here's what he said.
"Well, I was out golfing and I got a text from [mutual non-poker-playing friend] saying something about the DOJ shutting things down and legalization looking like a long-shot. It was a little concerning, but I get legalization texts from non-poker-playing friends all the time, so I didn't think much of it. I got through the first 9 holes and my phone buzzed again and I checked the screen and saw that it was Dani [a.k.a Ansky]. Immediately, I knew that if Dani was texting me that it was going to be bad, bad news. That's when I learned about everything getting shut down."
He paused there for a moment, and I imagined him, standing there on that golf course, learning that his entire way of life had just changed, possibly forever. I remember UIGEA day, but I've been out of the game a while, and Emil has stuck through it. Plus I never played high stakes, so I couldn't really imagine what that must be like to have it all come crashing down with a text message. He continued:
"So then I asked myself, is there anything I can do, right now, to improve the situation? And I decided no, no there wasn't.
So I said, fuck it, and played the back nine."
I was out jogging and I deftly snaked past a mom, dad and a toddler on the sidewalk while listening to "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted". I felt like a badass until three steps later when my toe got caught in the shoelace loop of my other shoe and I faceplanted onto the Brooklyn concrete. My earbuds snap off just in time for me to hear the dad say, "Hey, are you okay?" Obviously I was too embarrassed to do anything except say, "Ha, I'm fine!" a little too loudly and immediately start running again and pretend like my elbows and palms weren't bleeding. But if I had any presence of mind I would have gone up to the toddler and said, "I'm out here running trying to get healthier and look better and I just fell and injured myself and looked like a total jackass in the process. When you get older and learn about the concept of situational irony, this will become hilarious."
I was listening to Pandora radio and getting annoyed with the amount of ads they play and I decided to take my frustration to facebook. After the initial update, I found my interest piqued.
If you can entertain the idea of product placement in a Lil Wayne song without coming up with your own verse of same, then you have more restraint than I.
There was a thread on 2p2 a while back titled "Websites you never made" where people posted web business ideas they had had but never ended up making for whatever reason. I had been kicking around an idea for a website called betterthanenglish.com, a site that would post a new interesting foreign word each day that had no direct English translation. Unfortunately, I knew zero things about how to make an actual website so I posted my idea in the thread and gave it to the Internet.
Incredibly, the OP of the thread liked the idea and actually turned it into a real website. It's now one of my favorite feeds in my Google Reader and I check it every day. The resourcefulness of the Internet truly amazes me.
I particularly enjoy reading the site because, on a very real level, I feel like the site was literally made for me. Especially when I saw yesterday's word, Dii-KOYNA, an Ndebele word which means "to destroy one's own property in anger".
Who would have thought my interest in untranslatable words and my own particular favorite brand of tilt would come together so harmoniously?
"You know what the difference between breakeven and a 3 bb/100 winner is? It's one buy-in a session. One buy-in is 50 ptbb, okay? 3 hours in a session 6-tabling, that's about 1700 hands. That means if you win just one extra buy-in a session - just one - a flip, you hit a flush draw, you, you make a three-barrel that works, you make a good river fold. . .just one more good river fold a session...and you're at RailHeaven. "
One summer I was in Vegas with Emil and some friends. We were at the Bellagio and wanted to shoot some craps so we found a table and set up shop.
That's when we noticed why this table was special. At one end of the table was a remarkably inebriated Asian businessman. He was skinny, thirtyish, wearing a pinstriped button-down shirt with the top button unbuttoned, and was absolutely hammered. The room was pretty crowded but people were giving him a wild berth, which he used to wobble back and forth as he placed his bets. The rest of the table was tourists making $10 and $20 bets, but in front of tihs guy were sloppy, fat piles of purple $500 chips and yellow $1000 chips. He was cackling to himself and speaking loudly in slurred, accented English.
The dice came around to Emil and the dealer announced, "New shewt-ahh!"
"New shootah??!" The Asian businessman asked incredulously, as if such an act were completely unprecendented in the history of craps tables. "Who issit??" He demanded. The dealer motioned at Emil.
"Lemme lookat'm." The businessman announced to no one in particular. He leaned across the table until his face was three feet away from Emil's and stared. He squinted and raised an eyebrow, as if Emil was some archaeological artifact to be scrutinized and deciphered.
For five long and bizarre seconds the businessman stared at Emil. Emil stood frozen in a state of "What the fuck?" Then, abruptly, the businessman shouted, "HA!" and snapped bolt upright and grabbed some chips.
...and bet $3500 on "Don't Pass."
(Click for make big)Â