my parents did not approve of my poker playing. so my sister obliged and took me to the airport. she might have been convinced to do so because of monetary gifts that came her way when i won my seat in an online qualifier a few days before.
"thanks, see ya later," i said as i got out of the car.
"win lots of money, bitch." she retorted.
this was my third time going to las vegas as a 21+ year old, but this time, it was with a different purpose. in a sense, a poker tournament is essentially a glorified lottery where skill slightly alters the probability of getting your ticket picked. win or lose, a singular event has no real significance in terms of distinguishing anything real in terms of accomplishment, except in the monetary prize that comes at the end of the journey.
the view of the vegas skyline is unlike any other city, especially at night. instantaneously anyone can tell this is vegas, a strange city where pleasure is equated to gaudy buildings, such as an egyptian pyramid, a mock set of buildings that look like new york, a minature eiffel tower, and more. where huge monstrous buildings are contained on mostly contained on one street, also known as "the strip".
there's plenty to think about overlooking the view while the plane is landing. how you're going to prepare yourself for the things that await you in las vegas. for some it's the vices the city has to offer that aren't readily available in their home towns, for others, it's the shows and entertainment (who can resist a good celine outing or a cirque show), and yet for still others, it's the conferences and conventions where their business takes them.
for me, it was something different entirely, the anticipation was preparing my mind, my body, and yes, even my soul and heart for the event that i would be playing. this was the one shot do not miss your chance to blow that eminem was talking about. it was time to make it count. this was going to be a new experience for me, and i wanted to soak it all in as much as i could, and i guess subconsciously, gain from it in a way that was not merely monetary.
"hey, you a poker player?" a guy around 30 or so, asked me from the seat next to me. i had been reading up on harrington on hold em on the plane.
"yeah." it always felt strange kind of saying that, somehow identifying oneself as a poker player seemed very arbitrary.
"you know of any good games in vegas? i'm gonna be playing there with a couple buddies of mine."
"actually, i'm just going down this time to play in the main event at the series."
"oh is that going on right now? man, that's exciting. so you're going to be playing with all those famous people huh? are they any good?"
i laughed off some of his more sillier newbish questions. talking to strangers sometimes is exhausting. we chatted for a bit about the upcoming tournament and vegas, until the plane touched down.
"well, i hope you do well man, i'll be looking for you on tv!"
i thought how silly that comment was. does he know that thousands of players play now every year, and the chances of my appearing were slim? i let more of my ruder comments evaporate in my mind.
i shut down the various things i had been thinking about in my mind, my job, my relationships, my life post college. for some reason, all those thoughts slip from my memory except for this one conversation with this random stranger, where the conversation wasn't anything remotely memorable. i suppose there was something about sharing the experience of anticipation and excitement stuck with me.
i've decided to go back to vegas this year. although yes, i've said i retired, the main event is something that really just happens once a year, and i don't think i'd be violating any retirement clauses by playing in this event. it's like saying to a retired basketball player who's playing a game of pick up, "wait you're playing basketball? but you're retired!"
it's really kind of just an event that has a different character all on its own. sure, the dramatics are somewhat artificial and overdone, but there is a quality to it that i can't exactly describe.
that's why i'm going back this time. i still feel like i left something on the table, and i'm going back in order to retrieve it. it's not pride, or money, or anything of that nature. i've realized that a poker player's legacy only really goes so far, and that nowadays, a full career in gambling can sometimes span less than a decade. it's to document and see how the experience is, now 5 years removed from when i first went. it's almost a reunion of sorts. hum, maybe i'll go just as often as i attend college reunions.
for me, it's an examination of the state of poker, not only as a community, and how it coexists with our culture, but for my own feelings and thoughts towards it. i pray that i may be able to extract something useful out of the next week in vegas.