If you can't spot the sucker at the poker table in ten minutes,
-- poker aphorism --
I started studying poker seriously in 1991, when I sat down at a 7-card stud table at the Aladdin to kill time before some friends showed up in Las Vegas and was promptly relieved of $80 in a short-handed game of locals and shills. I bought some books, took a stack of chips, and went home to practice. I've never been back to the Aladdin since, but I've had fantasies of returning to exact some revenge.
In 1993 and 1994, I had a prolonged string of successes in small poker tournaments, planting the seed of a dream to play against the best for the world championship, contested every spring at the Horseshoe in Las Vegas. I decided to devote my six-week sabbatical to that quest, to win the $10,000 entry fee and sit in "the biggest game in town".
My experiences at the 1995 World Series of Poker were a microcosm of life as a professional poker player. I suffered in the casino noise and smoke; I went through a horrible slump; I ate and slept late and poorly. And yes, I experienced the exhilaration of winning my entry on one magical night when luck smiled on me. I didn't go anywhere in the championship event - I was tired and sick and maybe too glad just to be there - but it was enough of a thrill for me.
I haven't had much interest in serious poker since then. I play occasionally with friends, but mostly I tell people I'm retired. The step up from breaking in to a world class game to beating it is a huge one. Maybe I could reach that level, but it would require a commitment of time and energy I'm not willing to divert. It was a fabulous ride, but it's time to move on...with perhaps one brief detour by the Aladdin.
Here are a few images (JPEG compressed):
Some of my favorite gambling-related stories:
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