It finally happened. After almost a year of playing poker at pretty much every opportunity, some internal gear shifted and the engine of my poker mind moved to a different place.
I played this past night at the Crime Scene Game. The room was hot and humid ~ in the new location there isn't yet any air-conditioning, just a couple of fans that sluggishly push around the moist DC summer air and the sweaty body heat generated by a roomful of players.
As is regrettably common, things started off badly for me. Within a few hours I had had to top up twice, and was down to less than a third of my chips. I felt a bit unfocussed and as if I weren't taking the game sufficiently seriously. The table was a little short-handed, and one of the players announced he was leaving. I started to despair about the sustainability of the game, and did my best to keep the table going by encouraging another to stay.
And then the heavens parted, angels sang, and a school of fish swam into the room. Suddenly we had a full table and lots of money to be won. I settled into my seat and told myself that I was not going to end the night without a significant profit. I just wasn't. I was going to sit in my chair and make good decisions and walk out at the end of the evening with twice as much money as I had put on the table. Whatever it took, that's what I was going to do.
And for the five hours after that I just ground it out. I watched each player until I knew what he or she was up to. I patiently picked my spots, and got my money in good. I didn't panic when I lost a pot; I didn't get overconfident when I won one. I didn't indulge in Fancy Play Syndrome. I just let other people play worse than I did, made it easy for them to make mistakes, and let go of my losing hands the moment I ascertained that bluffing would not be profitable. There was nothing flashy about my play, nothing to particularly boast about in terms of hero calls or fabulous reads. I just kept my head in the game and did the right thing almost every time.
I was not gambling. I was not trying to entertain myself. I was not looking to impress anyone. I was doing my job: I was playing poker.
Of all the money I've made playing cards, this $473 dollars of profit is somehow the most precious to me. Because as I made my way home in the rising morning light, I realized that I am a professional poker player. I have good-enough skills and the wherewithal to improve them. And ~ what's even more important ~ I have the right temperament: the patience, the evenness of keel, and the persistence to do what it takes to survive and profit.
I can make this work. Now I just have to decide if I want to.
Labels: cash game