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Wednesday, August 20, 2003

A young man's old man fatigue and the gambler in all of us

In the television news business, you'll hear the old and grizzled harumph in the middle of a long day, "This is a young man's business." They're tired, they're jaded, and the they're trying to figure out how they've made it to 60 years old in a business built for the cock-slinging young studs of news. They don't realize at the time that they used to be one of the young studs and they had the strength to not burn out. The felt is always greener on the other side of the table.

After several long days of sweating through shirts and dropping four pounds in water weight, I've found myself mumble-grumbling the same old phrase. I've forgotten that I'm still a few months short of 30. I know for near-fact that I'm only suffering adrenaline withdrawl. After five straight days of tweaking on high-octane endorphins, I'm in a biofeedback wave trough.

It's in these times I find myself unable to concentrate on much for any length of time. About the time I think I'm refocusing, a tickle in my throat or shooting pain through my melon distracts me from the task at hand and I slip back into withdrawl. Adrenaline is a bitch of an addiction.

It is in these times that I bury myself in poorly disguised vice: the game.

I've never been much of an athlete. While I've played a lot of sports, I've never been much good at them. At the same time, competition is an easy adrenaline fix. As a result, I've become a bit of a gambler.

I credit my father, I guess. As legend has it, he bought my first baby crib with money he won playing penny-ante poker with his buddies. He taught me to play card games of all kinds. He sat in on games with my friends as we played for nickels and dimes in high school. He took me to my first casino when I was twenty.

Since that time, I've jumped into monthly home games and made a few pilgramages to casinos on both coasts and on the Mississippi.

The defining moment came during a game of $4/$8 Texas Hold'em at the Bellagio in Las Vegas one year ago. I had been playing steadily for several hours and neither won nor lost very much money. At the time, I didn't realize that I was painfully inexperienced at the game and I should've been losing a lot more money. About five hours into the game, I realized the old guy two to my left (red hat, good luck piece to top his cards) was raising every time I was in the big blind (a forced bet designed to get the hand started). His intention, it seemed, was to scare the young rookie off his money. The next time around, I called his raise with some pretty bad cards. Long story short, the hand went my way and I took his money. He grumbled something about me not knowing what I was doing. I didn't say a word. The next time around, I called him again and took his money. It was only two hands out a of lot I played that day. I've since learned I played these hands wrong, despite my moral victory over the old guy. Those facts notwithstanding, it made me want to learn.

In the 12 months since, I've played a lot of cards, done a lot of studying, and learned a great deal. I read internet poker forums on a daily basis. My need for a great story (almost always gambling related) is satiated by a great blog called Love and Casino War. In a few weeks, I'll make the pilgramage back to Las Vegas, where I intend to spend my days in poker rooms and my nights on the town my some very good friends.

There is a lot of harumphing in the gambling world now from the old guard. There are too many young studs entering the business. I am, by no means, a young stud. I have more learning to do than I can express. But in these times of fatigue when I feel like an old man in a young man's business, the fantasy of being a young man again sure helps the synapses fire.

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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
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