I am a workaholic. I am so happy about this development, so grateful. All my life, whether from circumstance or cynicism, I’ve held jobs that did not truly engage me, no matter how interesting or uninteresting, well-paying or penurious, easy or hard. Finally, as a poker player, I look forward to my job. Like the protagonist in Croupier, I wear my uniform, if you can call it that, nearly all the time, in love with preparing for work. I carry three buy ins at all times, just in case a poker game breaks out at the grocery store, I guess. I happily come in early; I stay late when the job seems compelling. I play all games in the casino; I play short handed and start games if I can. If I miss a shift, I make it up. I say hello to my coworkers and make them comfortable- I’m not going anywhere after all, and clearly we all like the benefits package. I think about my job at home, in the car, with my parents and loved ones. I look over the forums obsessively. I have poker dreams.
I have always wanted this, to be in love with my work. I have always been jealous or at least in a state of misunderstanding about how people show up to work so excited, when I could never care. Some organization is getting x so it can do y? Yippee! Learning some esoteric procedure never to be used in any other situation? Huzzah! Hurray for the abstract collective; what could be better!
Maybe I just never identified with the right cause. Maybe public schools failed me. Maybe my parents skipped some chapters in the manual. Maybe if my heroes hadn’t used steroids, blood transfusions, and hit their wives. Maybe if the priests hadn’t diddled the kiddos. Maybe I am just another misguided rebel with a chip on his shoulder and a neurosis in his head. Whatever it was, no job has ever suited me as well as this one. I could go on and on about the positives, and will do so some other time.
Yet, beyond the positive, like any other job, well, in fact, more than any other job, poker can be addictive. It is gambling, after all, and the heart of gambling is casting one’s fate upon the Goddess Variance in search of relief. Gambling, therefore, is a form of prayer. You will hear a lot of gibberish about why people play poker or gamble, or more likely, reasons why they think they can win in place of answering the actual question, but there it is: Hope when there should be none. An unearned reward. As addictive as religion because it is one. It’s why many poker players, no matter how much effort they put into the game, are for the most part lazeabouts when not playing. Famously lazy, in fact. (Don’t tell me about Hunter Cichy and his exceptional self-improvement hard wiring; from his voice I can tell he is a robot.) It’s why, conversely, poker attracts so many mathematical types, who believe they can (and often do) solve their longing for intervention with enough homework.
So when I am feeling bad, like I did this week, distraught and broken, it’s no coincidence that I put in a megadose of hours at the table. What else is there to say but that I went to the casino yesterday at seven a.m. on a sunny day? So when does the workaholic really have a problem? And is his work the answer?
I’ll never forget those bitter Boston days. Abandoned by the world to a heartless, miserable city; desperate, poor, suffering; the working half of a young couple adrift in an ever expanding emotional tropical storm, I would get the call at 5 am if a lucky shift opened up, and be there at six. The office was straight out of the 1930’s, all brown wood paneling, the decor of perpetual poverty, no technology, and above the secretary’s desk, a cartoon imploring any and all to work. I didn’t even understand it at the time, because I was simply trying to put food in our mouths, but everyone else there was a drug user who the system had dumped into the service industry, the universal doormat of the economic latter. I always stared at that poster and its simple message: Problems in life? Work. Work. Work. Oh yes, and work. It was manipulative, the siren call of capital to the wealthless, but also true, was my best conclusion. No one who had showed up to this cattle call had anything good to do at home.
So I can’t feel too bad about burying myself in poker this week. What else is a man supposed to do when life goes wrong: Whine? No. Cry? No. Find solace in sex? Maybe, but it doesn’t always work out, and then you are alone again. What never disappears in an ambitious world is work and the opportunity to do more of it. Yet for the poker player, his work is a game. It’s not held at the hospital or a health spa or the beach resort. If you are in the sin industry, what do you do to relax? Is poker work or fun now? Addiction or solace? Sanctuary or escape?
The answer doesn’t matter to me much at the moment. What counts is that I need the job. I got the call, and I’m heading in. Don’t wait up for me.