Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Personal Hall of Shame

Although I had dabbled with the game occasionally as a child, I started to play poker regularly in 2005. I set up a poker room in my apartment, organized a weekly tournament, hosted regular cash games, and even got a Party Poker account online. I totally threw myself into studying the game. The hours on the felt became weeks, and then years, as I slowly absorbed all the subtle nuances that had me completely entranced.

Like everyone just discovering the game, I had a lot to learn about the cards, and even more about myself. With the lenses of hindsight, peering through that narrow glint of self-reflection, there are many things I regret.

Here are a couple of my most shameful moments: embarrassing conduct I wish I could erase.  

Acting out after poor play and bad beats – I guess it always seems that awful luck hurts worse on first few stings. Feeling its poison, I frequently yelled and cursed. Who knows how these temper tantrums limited the growth of my game? No guest could be comfortable seeing their host behave like this. My poker room was adorned with wooden chairs that often bore the brunt of my anger. To relieve my frustration during that first year of cold decks, I smashed several to smithereens. On one camping trip, my friends and I cathartically burned the wooden remains, discussing all of the bad hands we had played.

Belittling poor players – The valleys of despair felt marginally worse to me than the peaks of triumph. Most of my irritation over poor play was self-directed, but on one occasion I found another unfortunate target. No doubt under the influence of poor examples set by one of my favorite professional players, Phil “The Poker Brat” Hellmuth, who has a reputation for berating players at the table, I succumbed to the same defect. One night, while dealing for the final two in a single table tournament, I told one kid, that he was “the worse player that ever sat at my table.” He hadn't busted me personally, but he had luckboxed his way into the money, and after watching him call down a hand with six high, I couldn't hold my tongue any longer. He never came back; I still feel terrible.

Obviously, no one can change the past and everyone has imperfections. However, it is important to remember our failures. Facing our faults allows us the possibility of improving as players and growing as people. These disgraceful transgressions of mine can only be mended through the continued practice of self-reflection and the years of penance, paid by carrying guilty memories.