A Poker Life – Part 1
A Poker Life at California Grand Casino-Part 1
I hope your summer has been full of fun, adventure and huge pots! Mine sure has been.
Some of you have been asking me what it’s like being in my line of work…what a loaded question! I took some time recently to reflect on my growth and experiences in poker, and open up a bit about how I got my start, how things progressed, and some of the skills it takes to move your game from casual hobby to serious financial pursuit. In part one of this series I’ll share with you my personal poker journey, from a baby faced 21 year old, all the way to a casino employee with a poker blog…with several large bumps along the way.
The very first time I played cards competitively was not in a smoke filled Nevada casino or a friendly California card-room. I played heads up gin rummy against the most skilled player and most ruthless competitor I knew at the time. I was about 5 years old and at the mercy of my wonderful grandmother. While no money changed hands, score was meticulously kept and no punches were pulled. She never took it easy on me and she taught me the basics, as well as how to keep score. I owe her a great deal of gratitude for always playing to win, as I was forced to learn and develop skills in order to compete and improve.
My introduction to poker didn’t come until my college days. My fraternity brothers had a weekly game that they would play, mostly small tournaments, that drew my attention. I wasn’t the best player in the house when we first started playing, but by the end of my college days I was winning a great deal of free beer! My 21st birthday led to my first authentic casino poker experience at the now defunct Frontier casino on the Vegas strip. They had a grand total of two poker tables and I had the choice between seven card stud, or…seven card stud. Not a lot of choices and not exactly an environment that I was familiar with. Keep in mind this was back in 2001, a few years before the softening of poker’s image and the widespread acceptance that came along with the poker explosion fueled by Chris Moneymaker, PokerStars, and a booming economy. I was staring at a table full of cigarette smoke and players at least twice my age. Nevertheless I was very intrigued and sat down to play my first hand. I picked up the game quickly but must have looked like a complete rookie handling my chips and placing my bets. I didn’t leave the table with chips that day, but what I did leave with was an inner desire to play again. At the time I couldn’t figure out why, but now I understand completely what kept drawing me back to the poker table.
It may sound a bit corny, but what really appealed to me (and still does!) about poker is equality. Sure I love the competition, the strategy, and of course winning money, but the fact that everyone that sits down at the poker table is an equal is what I really love. Everyone at the poker table shares a common interest and there is an instant camaraderie that is formed. It doesn’t matter what culture you’re from, what native language you speak, how old you are…we’re all equals on the poker table. When you buy into a poker game, you’re instantly accepted. Obviously this should always be the case, but life doesn’t always work that way. Poker does.
It’s amazing how small events and accidental roads traveled can lead us down a certain path. Had my grandmother not introduced me to competitive card games at a young age, I may never have found my way to a game that has provided me with countless amazing experiences and a profession that I enjoy every day. Thank you grandma!
Part 2- Next time I’ll share how I went from novice player to semi-professional poker player (getting laid off from a job and blowing out a knee in a soccer match were big game changers!).
Until then, see you at the tables!