Writing and poker are both essentially psychological undertakings, I realised this early, taking in my father, an inveterate backgammon and poker player. The adrenalin was half his reason for playing. The other part had to do with the 1970s outlaw mythos of beards, tinted glasses, Raiders schnapps––places like Reno, Elko, Winnemucca. A table that doubled as a glass-encased backgammon set. Pretty fly for a physicist.
And then leaning on your window sill
He'll say one day you caused his will
To weaken with your love and warmth and shelter
And then taking from his wallet
An old schedule of trains, he'll say
I told you when I came I was a stranger*
I took a different approach, not liking the speed that that required. I found the skill most interesting to be endurance. In other words, how do you outwit (through zen chops, never breaking sweat) some of the best? Miles Davis and Bob Dylan taught me a lot––always surprise yourself and always keep it coming. Which is to say that I only broke the surface once, when it mattered. 49 hours on the felt. After that I traveled.
I've got to admit I am nerding it up this WSOP season, in lieu of being there––watching a few episodes of David Tuch's highly informative, often annoying, broadcast––now deep in an episode with Vanessa Selbst rooting for her home girl, Maria Ho.* The level of strategy she spits at a breakneck pace is extreme. Brian Rast is like that too.Sometimes I wonder what humans have become. Jessie Silva is with me, he is like let's slow down this train, explain poker so Grandpa Joe can understand.
I personally look forward to hearing some tournaments where you hear raconteurs discuss poker, not over-analyzing to the point of headache. Let's watch the players and listen to them, and understand the subtle dynamics that develop without our game theory mindset. Let the artists speak in the language of cards.
Then I settle back and remember. 49 hours straight at the table, the most deep-stacked, ridiculous tournament ever played (True Thrilla in Manila** style, TD Lloyd Fontinellas upped it from 50k to 100k starting chips at the last minute). I realised halfway in that lack of sleep has its own severe rules and that to win this one I would have to simply hold on and make sane, coherent decisions.
The Koreans, who had apparently packed together to send two or three men forward (this really pissed off four-time APT POY Sam Razavi) could not fathom my lone wolf decision to take them all on. Thing was, they kind of knew me from Cebu and knew I knew what they were up to. So I could shove it all-in if they chip dumped too hard. Ditto when I played the Philippine guys--I called them on a couple strategic talks at the table and then they started playing. We were on fire.
Still, the victory did not come from cozying up. We were at war, the final five, from Philippines, Germany, Korea, and USA, for 16 brutal hours past the previous record, until the final chips were cast in the embers. Rolling bones, tumbling dice. Head on the table, unable to rise. Even with the APT gals running me espresso. Legend.
Endurance is a skill prized in icy Baltic Sea wood-hulled boats over long stormy seas, which is why I feel to my core like it was an aberration. I was not consciously more endurance-focused than many of the best. I rarely pulled all-nighters.
The plan now is to hold the sickest endurance poker tournament the world has ever seen. On an island, with a lot of camaraderie. Acoustic strums in a leave-no-trace setting. Poker fabric.