Off the Track of Being Beaten

Before Black Friday, I’d set foot in a casino exactly twice. The first time was Harrah’s New Orleans in 2004, when my wife and I got into town just as a couple of friends who were about to leave for the airport, and we met up with them while they played blackjack for what I felt was an obscene amount. Actually, since I’ve never played blackjack and even though I’ve spent that much on a tournament buyin, I still think it was an obscene amount.

The other time was the next year when I was a speaker at a National Association of Broadcasters-affiliated conference in Las Vegas. They brought me in to talk about  Adobe Director, a multimedia development tool that was already past its death throes, so I came up with this nifty presentation involving this new thing called podcasting. Something like five people showed up to an enormous hall in the Las Vegas Convention Center. It was my first time ever in Las Vegas, it was April, and the map didn’t make it look all that far from my room at the Rio All-Suite to the convention center, so I set out on foot. In a suit and tie.

That was all before I started playing poker in 2007. And it wasn’t until a trip to Ocean Shores,  Washington four years after that that I ever played poker outside of a home game or Portland card room (see “Casino Virgin”). It only took a month before I headed down to Spirit Mountain for the first time (“Freeroll to Nowhere”) for a cash session and a tournament satellite.

Then, just a couple of weeks later, I went from a little oceanside casino to one of the biggest poker rooms on the east Coast. After a business trip to Boston, I headed to Foxwoods on an overnight trip, playing cash NLHE PLO8 and Stud, along with a couple of tournaments before skedaddling home before the airports closed (“Foxwoods Before the Storm”).

The dam had broken, bigly. It took a few months, but my (still unfulfilled) ambition to go to EPT Prague and my first win in a $10K guarantee tournament became the spark for the biggest buyin tournament I’ve ever played, at the Venetian Deepstack Extravaganza Main Event that fall.

My old pal and virtual dopplegänger Charlie Levenson taking on a promotional job with the short-lived Oak Tree Casino north of La Center saw me make a few trips up there that winter..

2012 was the year I really stepped it up (or stepped in it). In mid-February I made another trip to Las Vegas, where I played four tournaments (including a triple-barrel PLO) and made a bad laydown (“Pulling the Trigger”). At the end of March, I went north to play the Tulalip Poker Pro Challenge, and met (briefly) Tyler Patterson and Jay Zemen, who were on either side of me.

Drove out to Pendleton for the first time that April and racked up loss after loss in my longest-to-that-point series run (four days). Five tournaments, five satellites, and six cash sessions, with about $1,200 in losses (“Comebacks and Failures”).

My friend Tomer Berda was still playing poker a couple years after his WSOP bracelet win, and I went down to play in Las Vegas for two weeks that summer, for one of the most crushing periods of my poker career. I was incredibly lucky to have gotten the offer of a condo room for one week from Mark Humphreys, and Tomer picked up most of our meals. I played tournaments at the WSOPVenetian, and Golden Nugget; Played a bunch of Daily Deepstacks, that year’s WSOP Doubles shitshow with Tomer, and the $1K buyin bracelet event, where I started at the same table with Keven Stammen and Ivan Demidov, so I don’t even need to mention that things did not go well (“No Bracelet for You!”). The only profitable session I had was a single NLHE cash game. And I hit a deer driving home.

I finally made a couple of excursions to the Last Frontier in La Center in August and September, but it just didn’t take.

I finished the year out by abusing myself with another trip to Wildhorse, which didn’t go any better than the first, though it was shorter, so less costly (“Levelling Out Back East“).

And that is the progression of a nice boy who had never set foot in a casino until he was in his 40s into a poker degenerate.