Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sitting the Life

I've been thinking about starting another blog to link with Sitting the Apple and using StA for poker and gambling stuff from here on out, but considering my current and near future state of unplay, that doesn't really seem like a good idea for right now.

I miss being "in the game". I don't miss just playing poker, but being a gambler in the sense that every day my livelihood depended on or somewhat required that I gamble in some sense. Losing or winning hundreds of dollars a day when my paycheck was only hundreds of dollars itself was an exciting feeling.

Many people don't know what it's like to be a gambler. Maybe you call it addiction, maybe you call it a lifestyle. Obviously people view the two with complete conviction that they're individual belief on the subject is correct. There are many people nowadays, thanks to the poker boom and having gambling glorified by the media, that know the ups and downs of being a gambler too well. I started when I was 17.

Being a waiter and walking away with cash from tips every night meant that I had a paycheck behind to pay for my car and that I had enough cash to do what I wanted. I was privileged in the fact that I had more money than most of friends as a working junior. It's because of this that started me playing poker. On a regular basis I would leave form work, go home and change, and head to the Indian casino while I talked to my girlfriend on the phone. As far as she was concerned, I was laying in bed.

Gamblers hide the truth for many reasons. In current times young people hide the truth that they're winning money (for those that do win) for a living simply because people ask too many questions and offer advice on life when it wasn't asked for or appreciated in the first place. I hid it because I knew people would disapprove of a 17 year old gambling.

Lying also means that you're in it alone. You go sit at a table, buyin, and get a rack of chips and prepare yourself for the next few hours. For me it meant that I had three or four hours of play before the poker room went dead, and I'd have to return home just to fall asleep for a few hours before waking up late for school, or missing it altogether.

So I would play alone. I would make friends with those who would frequent the casino because I could talk to them. They understood. In most cases, those guys are worse off than I could ever be. But not me, it wouldn't happen to me. So I would play alone. I would lose some pots, win some pots, and in the end it felt amazing to know that no one else that I knew had an idea of where I was or what I was doing. It was freedom in the most unstable sense.

Many people don't know the feelings you experience as a closet gambler. When you are at a point where you can't tell anybody, everything becomes empowering and distancing. When you lose you have no one to console you. When you win, you know that you can't tell anyone, but you have money in your pocket and YOU know where it came from.

Of course the life of gambling consumes you. Eccentric red and yellow casino carpet fills the halls of your mind when you dream, and the sound of jackpots and shuffling chips blast your ears until you wake up. You can't wait for the next coin flip.

As your gambling evolves and becomes more of a part of you, you learn the scenarios by heart. You know what it feels like to lose it all and you know what it's like to walk to that cage with a handful of black chips and the relief and happiness that follows as the cashier rips hundred-dollar bills onto the granite countertop.

It's an amazing feeling, when you're eating dinner at 3AM and realize that you just accomplished a great financial feat by winning in one night three times the amount of money that you would have to work for for two weeks. Knowing that you either played great, played smart, or just got lucky while you count in your head over and over again the wad that's in your pocket...that's a fun feeling.

On the other hand when you're eating dinner at 1AM and realize that you just lost everything you'd worked for for the past six days, and have now just recreated for the umpteenth time one of the worst financial disasters in your life, well that's an amazing feeling as well. It hurts. It hurts mentally, it hurts emotionally, but you already know the feeling well because you've been there before. You've been in that same seat twenty times before, and each time you realize you'll have to borrow money to pay rent you tell yourself the same thing, "never again."

Throughout the past 4 years of my life I've known what it's like to borrow money, to lend money, to hide from the skeptics and to emerge from my social cave and to throw it in their faces when I've won. I've been complimented, criticized, questioned, and encouraged over the years. In the end, though, I didn't come out on top.

It's the rush that I miss. It's the joy of victory and the thrill of the gamble. I don't miss the feeling of knowing that I fucked up, but I do miss the overall rollercoaster of emotion.

I decided to quit gambling a long time ago; I obviously didn't. I operated in a no-I-shouldn't-ok-one-more-time mode. There came a point where I lost and couldn't get it back, either because I was broke or because I was so afraid to lose more that I couldn't force myself to place another bet to win it back. When I had finally had enough I made a promise to myself and to those who had seen the damage that it caused that I wasn't to gamble again until I had enough money to do so without consequence.

The past couple times I've truly gambled were times of inebriation and celebration. They were times where I had money to lose, save for the last one-night relapse I had. On that night I didn't lose what I couldn't afford, but the alcohol and general absence of the game from my life brought me to lose all but what I needed to survive.

It was at that point where I realized how much I loved and missed it all. As I sat in that diner seat at 5AM, knowing that I had done it again, I remembered the feeling. I made the necessary vow to myself to not do it again, but why not this time? I have a stable full time job that allows me to live life now. I have money to lose if I want, and I can still pay bills, rent, and go out to eat and buy household goods without hesitation.

I want badly to get back into that life. But I want it to be better this time, I want it to not be the wrong kind. For years I let it run my life in a bad way. I started to not have fun with it all and that's when things were the worst. I stopped having fun with it and started depending on the win. I'm over that way of thinking, and if I ever get back to that way of life I'll make sure it's different this time around.

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