As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a professional gambler. The comped hotel suites and private jets, the women, the late nights, the sunglasses indoors, the excitement, the unpaid electricity bills, the picking up cigarette ends from the floor, the pawning of your laptop – glamorous, all of it. I’ve also always wanted to write about what it would be like trying to make a living as a professional gambler, from scratch.
Now I have a chance. Over the next four, five or however-many-they’ll-let-me months I’m going to be writing every week about my attempts to become a successful poker player. My previous experiences of playing poker have been scant, at best. One summer I played a bit (and lost a lot) with friends. During my time at croupier school I was quickly whizzed through Casino Stud Poker but for reasons too spurious to remember I quit before ever dealing it for real. And that’s my experience to date. Like I said, scant.
But over the years I’ve watched a lot, marvelled at these hugely fierce or seemingly languid kids who have flopped out of MIT or Harvard winning millions on my television late at night and thought, Yes, I’d like to be winning millions one day. More recently, as research for this column I’ve watched clips of Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey and Phil Galford (anyone of the Phil’s, really) winning and losing big pots and trying to figure out what they’ve done wrong or right and wondering if I one day I can be in their position.
Let’s see if I can, shall we? So far I’ve only really solicited advice from poker playing friends. What would be your one tip, I’ve asked them, for somebody starting out playing poker? “Don’t lose,” they’ve all said. My friends, incidentally, are all wits. Reading around on the internet, renowned writer and poker player Victoria Cohen offers more practical advice: “My tip for newcomers? Enjoy yourself, it’s not a parachute jump.”
So I’m aware I should try and enjoy myself. But at the same time, I’m aware that this isn’t going to work without immersion and guts. As Charles Bukowski once said: “If you’re going to try, go all the way, otherwise don’t even start. This could be mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and even your mind.” Okay, so he was talking about writing, but the same could be applied here. That I’ve already lost my wife, rafts of girlfriends, every job I’ve ever had and can’t quite decide whether or not I’ve lost my mind is academic: I’ll be giving this my all.
Predominantly I’ll be writing about Texas Hold ‘em and playing online but there will be room to discuss other variations of poker, as well as playing in casinos and with (hilarious) friends. Hopefully I will be able to chart my rise from poker fish to poker master, with the climax coming at one of Unibet’s illustrious European tournaments later in the year. That’s the idea at least. The climax could see me picking up fag butts and pawning my laptop. Let’s hope not. Whatever the outcome, we’re all bound to learn something along the way. We may even learn something about ourselves. No, too schmaltzy. We won’t learn anything about ourselves, but we should learn a great deal about poker.
Next week, I’ll be detailing my first foray into playing online and be dealing with such thrilling topics as opening an account, online conduct between players, what hands I should and should not have played and a whole bunch of other stuff that I haven’t even considered yet. I may even go into whether watching Rounders and The Rise and Fall of Stu Ungar can be considered work. I suspect it can. Until then, then.