There was a time I considered myself one of the top five poker players in the world. Sure I was drunk when I said it, but I meant every word of that boast. There was never a game where I felt out of my league. I could sit down at any table and I would know what everyone was thinking. Mostly those thoughts were “what have I done with my life”, but more importantly I knew what cards those players were holding and beyond that what cards they wanted me to think they were holding.
I had my usual Monday night game with friends, then a spin-off tournament from that game on Sundays mixed in with the trips to the various Los Angeles casinos for higher stakes games. Most profitable were the sojourns to Las Vegas which would pay for themselves with tourists who took advantage of the free liquor at the table and budgeted in gambling losses as part of their vacation expense.
When I moved back to Florida my poker playing became less frequent. I have not found a home game. My gambling is limited to planned trips with my father, spontaneous visits when I find myself near a poker room with time on my hands, and the occasional text message I get from a friend I met at a poker game in Los Angeles that consist of three words “Poke her now?” I suppose it’s fitting that my bat signal would be a bad pun.
I take my losses harder than my wins, thus my Love Interest was convinced I lose a lot of money playing poker. I insisted that I make more than I lose and to prove this since the start of 2012 I have taken record of each loss and win I have incurred. Mixed in my notebook among notes for concert reviews, directions, and story ideas, are dates and dollar figures. Over the last 16 months I have won more than I have lost. I have played 40 times and am up a whopping $43 which comes out to a winning $1.07 every time I’ve gambled over the last year plus. I can rationalize that I’ve won more than that since the house takes a cut out of every hand and you tip the dealer at least a dollar with every reasonable pot you win, but still I must now accept I am not as good as I once thought I was.
There are several factors to this. I play less frequently so perhaps my skill has atrophied. I am definitely more conservative than I once was, no longer taking risks with trying to bluff players out of a pot, but I think I find myself making fewer mistakes than I once did.
More probable is that poker no longer as popular as it once was. Where once the game was featured in James Bond movies and gained high ratings on television which drew in novices, now when you go to a casino you only see the same faces. There might be only 2,000 people in South Florida who play poker and keep the ten card rooms in business as their money keeps exchanging hands back and forth with only the house being the real winner. There are still days when I feel I am one of the five best players in the world, but they come less frequently now.