Three weeks ago I moved to Las Vegas. Since this is a profound event, I am deviating from my usual practice of providing hard-hitting poker and fashion tips in favor of some personal reflections on the one long session of my life.
Many authors have played with the idea of poker as a metaphor for life. When the game is also your job, the metaphorical content gets interwoven into your worldview in ways that are impossible for many other professions. In my previous career as an astrophysicist, for example, much of my work involved studying what happens to galaxies when they collide with one another. While one might argue that the ensuing fireworks of compressed gas clouds producing bursts of star formation and subsequent stellar explosions had something in common with my two marriages, for the most part the connections are tenuous.
Perhaps the clearest connection is that we invariably view poker games and our lives in terms of a narrative. What is less well appreciated in both cases is that the nature of that narrative is malleable. If one gets all-in pre-flop with AK against an opponent’s JJ and the board runs K23/7/J, there are those who will wail and moan about getting two-outed. Remind them that they got the money in as an underdog and they will inform you irritably that “that’s not the point!” And indeed they are, in a sense, correct. Because the point is that there are those who, for deep psychological reasons, prefer to write their poker and life narratives in such a way that they are cast in the role of permanent victim.
A few years ago I was contemplating where I would live if I had the choice. I suppose I was thinking about where I would retire to once work no longer kept me in Kansas. Returning to London seemed difficult for financial reasons, cities that I like such as Chicago and Boston have winters that I loathe, and Southern California also seemed out of reach given the property prices.
Then PokerRoom.com decided the $65k I had paid them in rake the previous year should be rewarded with an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas during the WSOP. By the time my first Vegas vacation was over, I knew where I wanted to move and had also determined that there was no reason to wait until typical retirement age.
The narrative that takes me from then to now can be cast in different tones. The end of it, in particular, could easily be written as tragedy rather than comedy. Due to Black Friday I was forced to move sooner rather than later. This means my house, which is still not sold, is going to generate far less money than I previously anticipated. I am nearing fifty and sleeping on the floor of an apartment with an eye-gouging Pepto-pink bathroom. Emotionally, the biggest blow has been leaving behind my ancient Maine Coon cat, Zoot. He is still healthy, but too old to make the move. I had always planned on being with him when he died.
If I tried, I could embellish the above with additional hardships, but why would I want to do that? You don’t want to hear a bad beat story and, far more importantly, I don’t tell them. Not about poker; not about life.
Here is the reality: I now live in an apartment fifteen minutes away from the Venetian. When my house sells I’ll furnish the apartment, but right now sleeping on the floor is funny. In fact, I’m finding a lot of things funny; whenever I pass a mirror I seem to have a smile on my face. The amazing pink bathroom makes me cackle. If there is any possibility of rain in the forecast I stay home. My dear old cat Zoot is living out his last few months in a loving home.
Most importantly, I did everything I could to achieve my long-term goals. I got the money in good with the cards I was dealt. With Black Friday and Zoot living longer than expected, I guess you could say the board ran out kind of funny, but I can’t control the deck. I don’t need to. If I make the right decisions and make the choice to write my personal narrative in a positive way, life will be just fine.
Kat Martin is a poker player, writer and coach from London, U.K. who accidentally spent the last eighteen years living in Kansas. The death of online poker in the U.S. compelled him to relocate to Las Vegas – one of the few cities on Earth where he blends.