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A Dream Realized

The look on a mark's face after you seperate him from his money is priceless, a recurring dopamine rush that never quite loses its sting. Its especially delectable if they were cocky a few minutes prior, splashing chips around with wild abandon. These idiots are a bittersweet feast. They believe that the key to Poker is bravado, hailing from the school of exaggerated bluffs, reckless play, and the ever comical "intimidating stare". Slamming their chips down forcefully and glaring you straight through, they attempt to convey unrestrainable strength, daring you to call. Which you will if you have any kind of equity and a semblance of  a read. Sometimes you go broke, often you stack them by playing meek and passive. A kind of gambling Tai Chi, using their stubborn nature against them. In this instance, the player in question tried to use this tactic against me. Through skillful play and accurate reading, I had assessed his range and bluffed him off the better hand twice prior. This had the desired effect, irking him and throwing him off his game. This is called "tilt", and, as a victim of it several times, I can speak with absolute certainty when I say that it is crippling and financially fatal. If afflicted, vacate the felt immediately, or I'd take 100-1 odds that you'll soon lose every chip in front of you. During the eponymous hand, I woke up on the button with A5 offsuit. I raised, and both blinds called. I didnt worry much, because, between position and experience, I felt that I could outplay them adequately postflop, where the real money is made. The flop came Ace Ten Ten. They checked, and I bet around 2/3 of the pot. The Small Blind folded and the Big Blind called. This bothered me, as I knew he had a hand. Unless I improved on the turn, I planned to check behind. Miraculously, the turn was another Ace, giving me Aces full of Tens, a Full House. He checked once more, and, seeing as how I had near the absolute nuts, I bet. He called again, and another check followed on the river. Knowing I was looking at either a nice pot or a split, I shoved and he called. I flipped over my hand, and he grimaced, mucking his in disgust. I raked in the pot, laughing in silent glee and satisfaction at seeing his false veneer of confidence and competence deflated. I cashed out a few minutes later, showing a good profit for the session. A regular I had once seen lose $750 in under 2 hours derided me for absconding with the spoils of war. "Dont spend it all in one place!", he shouted mockingly. "Thats the difference between us.", I responded, "you gamble, and I play to win". He eyed me angrily as I strolled smugly to the Cashier's Cage to collect my cash. Winning money might not make you popular at the table, but there are no friends in business.

Ive dreamed of this life from the my teenage years onward. At 17, precocious and fiercely intelligent, yet academically slovenly, I discovered the stories of the old school Southern road gamblers. Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, "Amarillo Slim" Preston, Jack "Treetop" Strauss and "Sailor" Roberts entranced me. They were all vagabonds, outlaws that existed on the fringes of society, outcasts that embraced and relished, rather than mourned, the fact that they didnt fit the traditional mold. At the time, I worked part time at a movie theater, and I hated it for lack of a better term. Loathed it would be more accurate. I longed for freedom, and cared little for authority, ironic given the path I would take in 3 short years. I had always played Poker, having been practically weaned on cards by my beloved Grandmother. But in the winter of 2008, the game took on a new meaning. Somehow, the idea was planted in my mind that I was going to be a failure once the cradle of academia disposed of me. My GPA had never risen past a 2.1 in the previous 3 years of high school, and I ditched class regularly. Although my English scores were amongst the highest in the entire state and I regularly multiplied and divided 3 digit numbers solely in my head for leisure, my grades tended to fall towards the last few letters of the alphabet rather than the top few. Although I focused all of my efforts on  presenting a courageous facade to the world, inside I was crumbling. This game, and the mathematical nature of gambling in general, was the very embodiement of my natural inclinations. I rejected the education my teachers laboriously attempted to bequeath to me, and began my own studies, which I dedicated myself to resolutely with an almost fanatical zeal. As the years went by and I find myself in San Diego, I can admit proudly that my efforts have paid off. Poker is now the source of a steady, comfortable side income for me, one Ive earned solely as a result of my own perspiration and commitment. Life is good. As I drive down the highway tonight, "chasing the yellow line" as Doyle Brunson himself famously wrote in an anecdotal volume entitled "Poker Wisdom of a Champion", in the words of a beautiful young woman, "I am content". Country music seeps out through my open sunroof, and as the luminous moonlight pours down on me, I smile. Ive been around the world, yet here, in my own little corner of San Diego, I belong. Its rare that anyone can say that, especially with complete honesty. I dont know where Ill be in 6 years, let alone 6 months. Stability is my mistress while uncertainty is my bride. I may be married and settled down with the American dream, or I may be a wanderer, drifting promiscuously from city to city, job to job, and moment to moment. But I know a few things for sure. God will always be with me, I can handle anything life throws at me with strength and grace, and there will always be a card game. It's been said you can only play the hand youre dealt. Luckily, Im pretty good at it. Shuffle up and deal.

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