Saturday, August 05, 2006

He's Baaaa-aaack!

Word has gotten around a bit that I'm back from Vegas. In fact, I've been back for a couple of months. I've had a number of requests to tell my tale, and I've finally started to write this down now that I have some distance on the situation.

I wrote up a couple of posts for the blog while I was out there, intending to post them, but without a net connexion I never did, even by taking the posts to the library on a floppy disk. Since Blogger does in fact let you change the posting date on entries now (it didn't when I first started the blog), I'll probably put them up, which saves me a couple of background paragraphs here.

Early Going

As one of those posts mentioned, I took a tide-me-over job in a phone room when I first got to Vegas. It sucked less than I would have expected for that kind of work, but it still sucked, even though it paid surprisingly well. And, early on, I was okay with it sucking; it was a temporary job anyway.

The original plan was to use my immense poker skills </sarcasm> to put together enough of a roll that I could quit the phone room, go to dealer school for the job-placement aspect of it, and get a job as a poker dealer. Although my plans ended up changing, that wasn't the reason I didn't pursue this plan right away.

I'm sure I blogged that on my last actual trip to Vegas, the cards completely ran me over. I don't remember exactly (tho' it's blogged), but I seem to think it was something like a $2000 win playing nothing higher than $4/$8 limit and $1/$2 NL. [I've since checked; it was actually $1200.] It was this windfall which allowed me to up and move to Vegas in the first place.

Unfortunately, I think it also put some leaks in my limit game that I still haven't been able to plug, because I'm not exactly sure what they are. I know early on in Vegas I played too many hands, since I was hitting them just a couple of weeks earlier, so obviously I would hit them now. Running well was bad for my game.

I just deleted a few paragraphs trying to analyze how my game has gone south on me, because that's not really the point of this entry. Let's just say it did, and I haven't figured out why yet.

My routine became working, getting a paycheck each Monday, out of which I had about $100 I could use at the tables. I'd play low-limit, $2/$4 and $3/$6, until I had a session bad enough that I didn't have a bankroll anymore, and then I'd wait for the next Monday. Occasionally my bankroll lasted all the way until the next Monday, but this didn't happen often.

Although when I first arrived I played mainly at the Orleans, the extra two miles or so past the Strip ended up seeming kind of silly, and so I started playing other places.

Meanwhile, at the Batcave . . .

For most of the second half of my stay in Vegas, my main rooms were the Mirage and Harrah's. The Mirage, I liked because it was overall simply a well-run room with lots of game selection at the lower limits. Food comps were simple, too: "I'd like a food comp, please." Harrah's I liked because it's a smaller room, it's easier to get to know the people there (and vice versa), and most of all because there are hardly any locals that play there: It's all tourists.

Tournament Success

The Mirage deals sit-and-go tournaments regularly. I played a couple of their cheapest of these but never moneyed; the blind structure is pretty fast. Harrah's doesn't deal sit-and-go's regularly (although they probably would if ten people wanted one and a dealer was available), but their two daily tournaments are interesting.

This isn't because there's an overlay, or because there's no juice, or anything about the structure of the tournament itself—in that it's a typical small daily tournament. What makes the tournament interesting is what makes the room interesting: It's all tourists. This means that in the early going, simple aggressive play works to build you a nice chip stack. So, by the time the clueless bust out, you've got a nice stack to do battle with the other players who've been trying to play "correctly."

I don't mean to suggest I won this regularly: Heck, most of the time I didn't even play, for two reasons: First, it's a $100ish tournament, and my bankroll had to be healthy enough that I was OK with taking a shot at it, and second, I don't really consider myself a tournament player anyway.

But one week, I entered one of their evening tournaments, and won, and used the proceeds to enter again the next night, and came in second. Two days later, I entered again, and won again: Two firsts and a second in a week. These are smallish tournaments, so my payouts were $884, $1063, and $1054—I still have the W2G's—but for the first time I had a little bit of breathing room, a little bit of bankroll.

This couldn't have come at a better time. The phone room was starting to really get to me, and I needed a break. The day after winning the third tournament, I told my boss I was taking a week or two off, and proceeded to play a lot more poker.

Time Off

The thing I wish I'd done now, is use that money to do the dealer-school thing, or in some way spend more time trying to find a different job. Harrahs' poker staff knew me well enough that if I'd asked for an (informal) dealer audition they probably would have given me one. A dealer at Mirage offered to teach me to deal for the sum total price of one (1) case of beer. During the day, Binions' fake-money game is dealt by (mostly Asian) people just looking for a little practice dealing, with a Binion's dealer stopping by every now and then to look over his shoulder. So I had entrée into any of several situations dealing, or at least things I could have pursued. But I didn't.

However, at the time I was less interested in dealing for a living. As I grew to dislike the phone room more and more, I started to apply my distaste to any job—and dealing, like many other things that sound okay on the surface, is in the end just another job. (For further self-analysis along these lines, check pretty much any entry from when I was unemployed.)

I'll say this: When I left the phone room after telling them I was taking a week or two off, I had the same trepidation I did when I left Lowe's to be an online pro. Intellectually, there was no reason for this: I planned to go back to the phone room in a week, two at the most. But if I went on a rush (or if the one I was on continued), I could see pushing the date of return back further and further.

Another thing I wish I'd done is stick to what I considered my best game: Limit Holdem. I'd intended to step up to $10/$20 at least once, taking the shot, but I never did. (In retrospect, that probably would have failed in any case.) Instead, I sat a mixture of no-limit holdem ring games and low-buyin (<$100) tournaments until my windfall was at least half gone. I have a reason for the NLH play, but it didn't work out; the tournament play was simply me trying to continue my run. That didn't work; I don't think I cashed another tournament while I was there.

So, not quite two weeks later, I saunter into work on Monday with maybe $800 of my windfall left. I have a paycheck waiting for me, but the following week I won't, so that's not really anything to add to the pile.

We All Enjoy Our Baseball Team / Go Get 'em, Tigers!

It turns out that the time off just gave me more reason to hate the phone room. After that much time doing what I want, when I want, going back to a regimented day is torture. And so, when a week later I hear that the Detroit Tigers are going to be in Los Angeles, I tell them I'm taking another day or two off to go down there.

Angels Stadium is fairly nice: From the inside. From the outside there's nothing to it, no charm at all, no soul: It's just a stadium in the middle of a big parking lot. On the plus side, this means I don't have anything even close to the problem I had going to Toronto to watch a baseball game (which I blogged, see early April, 2004), in that I can park easily.

I allow plenty of time to get to L.A. and the ballpark. I have no idea what to expect from L.A. traffic, having never been there; all I know is that people on TV complain about it all the time. As it happens, I have no problems at all getting there and arrive fantastically early. I use some of the extra time to check into a Comfort Inn right near Disneyland, and then decide to get a good parking place for the game, even if I'm going to read a book in the car for an hour before I go into the stadium.

I've gotta say, $25 doesn't go as far as it used to. I end up on the top deck, behind home plate, and Angels Stadium's top deck has the same problem that a lot of new ballparks have in the top deck: To avoid "obstructed view" seating behind support poles in the lower deck, they move the upper deck back far enough that those support poles are behind the entire lower deck. Thus, the top-deck seats are really far from the action. I've been told that the first row of the upper deck at New Comiskey Park (now U. S. Cellular Field) is further from the action than was the last row of the upper deck at Old Comiskey Park. (Old Tiger Stadium's obstructed-view seats were part of the place's charm.)

The Tigers win the first game I see, easily.

Before the second game, I have a bite to eat at a McDonald's right outside the stadium; my Tigers hat and jersey provoke some good-natured ribbing from some of the other customers, most of whom also plan to see the game. One of those people ends up eating his lunch at the table next to mine, and we continue our conversation. It develops that his buddy flaked on him, too, and he had an extra ticket for the game. I bought him a beer at the stadium, but even a $7 beer is a bargain in return for a $50 ticket. The seat ends up being pretty much right underneath my seat from the night before, in one of the dozen rows or so in front of their luxury boxes.

The Tigers commit a number of errors and lose the game.

Death Spiral

I've talked about how my sleep schedule is out of whack compared to, say, clocks, or the sun. (If I haven't done it recently, see my "Lowe's Sucks" post, for which the link on the right should work.) In any case, when I get back from L.A., my sleep schedule is pretty much exactly opposite the sun's. So, my first morning back, I decide to oversleep, which eventually turns into not going into work at all. Ditto the second day. Ditto the third, and now I've worked exactly one day the past week and, given the nature of the job, they've got to be wondering if I'm coming back, and if they want me back if and when I do.

I decide, through some process I don't entirely remember, that I'm fed up with conforming my life to other people's, that I'm not going to set the alarm for a stupid hour in order to go to a stupid job that I hate, and in short that I'm not going back.

I don't have a backup plan. I have a couple of hundred dollars, maybe, and another eighty or so that will be in my final paycheck. I know the odds against successfully turning pro off a couple of hundred dollars, with bills due, are astronomical. But I'm adamant against a job in any form, and so my plan is this: I'll put my couple of hundred dollars in play. If I lose—when I lose—I'll conclude that I'm economically useless and commit suicide.

I have a little bit of distance on that decision now and I know how it sounds—but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The inevitable happens—I lose my bankroll—and so I'm left at part two of my plan. I consider this for a couple of days, and I conclude that jumping from the top of the Venetian's parking garage—the tallest structure I think I can get to easily—is probably the easiest solution, but I'm afraid that if I did jump, I might not die: It's only about twelve stories. I conclude that hanging is a better option, and start thinking about how and where to do that.

During this whole time, pretty much since I returned from L.A., I'm not answering my phone. At first this is because I don't want to explain why I wasn't at work, even to my parents, but later I simply become convinced that nobody I could talk to could possibly come up with a solution, since I couldn't, and telling them I'm going to commit suicide is probably worse than actually doing it.

The day I had in mind to finally do something comes, and although I make a couple of half-hearted attempts at suffocating myself, I end up deciding that although I don't see an alternative, I don't really want to commit suicide, either. I'm skeptical, but I'm willing to talk to other people; maybe someone else sees a solution I don't. My parents call, they ask if I'd come back to Michigan, I'm not dead set against it, and so they send me the money to drive back to Michigan.

The More Things Stay the Same

And so, here I am. I've been staying with my folks since I've been back in Michigan. They have a big house, I'm not putting anybody out, but it's still a little strange at 35.

The pressure is off me to pay bills right now, so the suicide thing isn't an immediate concern. It sounds a little strange even to me that I was considering it. But the reasoning that took me there still seems valid to me.

I do not fit into the "straight" world. My intellect is such that if I were wired differently, I'd be highly successful at my profession. That would probably mean, at 35, that I'd be married with children, in a nice house, making a six-figure income at least. I am not wired that way.

If my poker skills were good enough, poker would be a way I could survive in the world despite not fitting in. I could keep my own schedule, and I wouldn't be responsible to anyone but myself: No bosses, and no clients. I'm not good enough, but this is the only way I see to survive in the world without being dependent upon someone else (such as my parents).

It's possible I'm missing something. There might be another way I could survive in the world. But I haven't come up with it. A shrink just gave me the Myers-Briggs test to come up with some ideas; I see her again next week. But I'm not convinced there are any other options.

So there I am: poker, or a life of misery and despair likely ending in an untimely death by my own hand. And I can't do the first one.