Diary of an online poker playing nobody


"A peak you can reach, for a short while"

When I first played Texas Hold 'Em for real in a rented French holiday cottage at New Year, little did I realise it would lead one day to my dropping just over $1000 in the short space of a winter's evening.

Not that it would take much foresight to see it coming, though. If there had been a yearbook at my school, and if my classmates had voted on the kid "Most likely to suffer gambler's ruin", if they'd known anything at all about me (and precious few did, thankfully), I'd have romped home without having to get my brother to disenfranchise a sizable minority of minorities, or any help from the Escher Ballot Paper Design Company.

Show me a device, put a puzzle in front of my watering eyes, offer me a challenge, tell me about a new game.

Pour me a coffee, light my cigarette, break open the chocolate, and later we can have some Stoli. We'll stay out until everyone's gone home, and the early shift is de-icing its windshield.

And then I'll go to work. I'll be marked down because I'm not focussed enough. Trouble is, they don't understand. I'm as focussed as anyone I know, and most people I don't. I'm obsessed. Just not in the right directions. Not at the right time, anyway.

Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans..

Anyway back to the poker.

Before you all reach for your cheque-books, I should give you the backstory. I started playing online for play money earlier this year. Suddenly, I found that my 1000 play chips had swollen into 1.6 million play chips after some good no-limit hold 'em sessions. I was good! But I knew, so well, that it counted for nothing. I was winning chips off people who had no investment in them. You lose them, you ask the cashier for more.

So. I took the plunge. Out came the credit card, and into my account went $75. After a day's play, I was $200 up. I was the poker god. I could look Phil Hellmuth in the soul, read him like a fish, his cards would be transparent, I'd call his bluff, tear him apart. Jessie May would call it the best play he'd ever seen, and Sklansky would devote a chapter to me in his next book.

And then I lost it all. Slowly but surely. So it goes.

What the heck! I'd been unlucky. Surely. In went another $500. I was playing fixed limit Hold 'Em by now, having seen a good friend winning well there. I dropped it all. Slowly at first, but then in frustration I stepped up to the higher limit tables. That was mistake number two. $200 went in the blink of an eye, and I looked round the table and couldn't spot the sucker. You know what that means.

But still, I believed. In went another $400. At last, a break. I was on the up again, slowly at first, until I'd made back everything I'd lost. And then this week, wow. In the space of 24 hours I'd cleaned up to the tune of $1000. I was unstoppable again. I had $1600 in my account, and that was after I'd cashed out all my own investments.

I'm not a poor man, neither am I rich. I have debts, I can't afford a house in these boom times. This is a lot of money to me. Shame then that instead of cashing it out, call myself charmed, I think I'm it, play on, and lose that $1K I mentioned.

The glass is half empty/half full. On the one hand I've lost a lot of money. On the other hand, it was never mine in the first place. I'm playing poker with other people's money, and I still have $700 sitting in my account, tantalising me. You can win more, it says. Yeah, or I could cash it out, take a break, and buy that portable MP3 player I've been promising myself all year.

Maybe I will. If I was a betting man, though, I'd give you 3/1 says it stays right where it is.

Until it's all gone.