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The Felt

I feel nauseatingly nervous everytime Im on the cusp of a session. In the past 2 weeks, according to my records, Ive made $1,047  all of this on the same $200 buy-in. I play because, in spite of everything Ive accomplished in the last few years, the personal milestones Ive reached, and the insatiable demons Ive conquered, I am still that petrified 18 year old, shaking like a Parkinsons patient, infected with a strange mix of excitement and anxiety. I remember living on free biscuits and bread from local pizza places, subsisting, along with my friends, on the charity of the compassionate and guilty. Driving to home game after home game, cash and tournament, only to post another confidence crippling loss. The long walk back to my 1998 Mazda Protege, moments after losing $100 for the first time, with tears obscuring my sight and fear gripping my heart, is what motivates me to study. I play to keep my beautiful girlfriend in the lifestyle she deserves, the long hours Im absent at night from our bed begrudgingly accepted when I come home. I play because I have dreams of prosperity, or delusions of grandeur, depending on the perspective you take. I suffer from a fixation on financial freedom, a constant desire that has plagued me since 17, when, in the midst of my first night at Edward's Cinema, I realized that I would never be happy working for someone else. I subject myself to the whims of fate and gamble with hard earned money because I am good at what I do, and I love it. In a sense, its all I know.

I tend to be obsessive-compulsive over things that interest me. This had led to my memorization of every conceivable piece of poker math, from odds and percentages to hand ranges and equity tables. If you have no idea what any of these things mean, thats good for both of us. It means that Ill have a decided advantage over you should we ever meet on the felt, and it means that you dont have my unfortunate predisposition towards solitude and neurotic thoughts. This game has refined my talents for both memorization and mathematics, and for that Im grateful. Its not often someone can say that a deck of cards has influenced the major they will eventually declare. Knowing all of these numbers, strategies, attacks and counters gives me a semblance of comfort and a veneer of arrogance at the table. However, luck is always present, and when it presents itself at an inopportune time, the bile never ceases its gradual rise from the depths of my gut, crawling steadily up my throat. Some way to earn money. I could easily take a part time job. Theres always security. But I hate authority, and Ill be damned if I ever work customer service again. So, fate drags me back to the numbers, the studying, the repititious acquisition of information, and the viscissitudes of variance. But the money's worth it.

I made $1200 in 3 days, playing from Friday to Sunday. It was before my heart was lovingly and graciously shackled, sometime back in June. Lonely, morose and nearly overwhelmed by the creeping nothingness of my secluded existence, I threw myself into the cardroom. As pathetic as it sounds, there were days I would go and play naught but Aces, ensuring a long duration at the table, because I was aching so painfully for companionship. This was one of those nights. As is often the case, my friends were busy or drinking themselves into a stupor, and every girl I knew either disgusted or spurned me. So I bought in, and something magic happened. Through a mix of advantageous luck and superior skill, I was up $450 after 4 hours. In a gleeful haze, drunk on my own ability and the subsequent rewards, I deposited the money. While treating myself to a nice dinner, spaghetti and meatballs at an exclusive Italian restaurant, I pondered my future. After sifting through my reveries and contemplations, I came to realize that yes, I had a gift for this game, no matter what size said gift is, and it calmed me. I resolved to pursue it as my side hustle, and endeavored to live like a true pro, blazing through entirely off of my bankroll. I immediately bought new books to brush up on my knowledge and absorb new points. I began keeping copious notes, records and databases. I pursued this new purpose with a zealot's devotion. I took the leap and Ive never looked back.

The table has come to occupy a space in my life similar to and on par with the gym. When Im lost in a sea of evergreen felt, the light, crisp crackle of shuffling chips ringing sharply in my ears like the rattling of a competent percussionist, and the sheer, visceral thrill of it all, I am content. I lose myself in the second by second intensity, money trading hands so fast the casino takes on the atmosphere of a third world bazaar. This is where life makes sense, where Im accepted fully as I obtain expensive experience, apply swathes of untested knowledge, and complete my sinful apprenticeship. With cards in hand, I can say with unabashed honesty that Ive found my place in this world, my unique, comfortable niche. Sure, I lose sometimes, as we all do, and it stings. However, Ive yet to meet somebody, with few exceptions, who In blssed to call my friends and mentors, who has made as much as I have. Its not luck, its skill, that Ill testify to fully. I might not belong in my current occupation. I may be the outcast of the office, the apparent meathead who lacks any semblance of intelligence, let alone aptitude, for my current work. But sit me at that table, the harbinger of true equality, and see who takes your money. Poker is the only modern venue in which meritocracy not only exists and thrives, but is completely undiluted by politics and human nature. This is why I love it. I get a malevolent thrill when I stack a high ranking manager from any field of work, watching their smugness dissipate with each chip shipped my way. Here we are all equal, and with equality for the sheep comes a buffet for the sharks. This is why I play.

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