Keeping it Together

What a winter. After pulling out all the stops at the tables during a summer that featured more hours and daily discipline than I have summoned in years – even experiencing actual rungood during one extraordinary three week stretch – the door was shut hard on my slow return to form and financial strength.

Of course, I stubbed my own toe and banged my own head on that door more than a few times. I’ve discovered, on this third leg of my poker life, just how badly I can play, really seen it up close and grasped it afterwards with understanding and some purpose. Live poker is who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook.

On the other hand, in the course of losing a bunch, I’ve also been given the irritating reminder of just how silly most of the game and its players are, even at some of the biggest stakes around town. Variance rules the kingdom and their minds; imbalance is their rock. The things I’ve heard and seen in some of Vegas’ bigger games should give hope to anyone looking to rise. Of course, you have to want it, because hanging around with some of these people is a discipline in itself. Don’t get up, gentlemen.

One thing, however, has overridden everything, and has inserted itself in my poker life like a raven at the window, and that is the miserable old truism that bankroll influences play. I’ve used it to make decisions unconsciously and consciously that have sabotaged the whole process, seeming almost eager to make mistakes.

What’s interesting, all over again, is how rational that influence is, but how irrational the output of that influence is. Here’s what I mean: I will often retreat to games smaller and smaller and yet become more and more conservative until my play almost disappears, like Hellmuth and that funny fold of queens on PAD so long ago. Or, to break out, I will play in ridiculously big games and take on risk no one else is taking, becoming the unexpected whale.

It’s all cliché but that’s why they are clichés.

Meanwhile, my writing output has returned to its highest, and has never been better. It’s true that I write even less than before about myself, but that is the natural curve of things. I am no longer young, and the potential that existed half-recognized and the personal tragedy of the in-between years of the blog has for the large part passed. I sleep a little more now, but it is a fruitless sleep, not a sleep for the living. Much of it is better spent awake until I am more truly exhausted and am forced to relax into the nightmares that mark a deeper cycle. There is no winning this catch-22 except in the productivity of these late hours, and I like the results.

Things have changed – did anyone comment on the inglorious extermination of the Red Chip Forums, my former online abode? We had had some good years together, but every crack in the edifice is eventually exposed. The underlying problem was a regrettable lack of truth in the staff’s behavior in a series of affairs – a natural side effect of needing to be “the friendliest.” So, the closure was no different, as they claimed technical difficulties while they moved all traffic to Discord. There were in fact a few things on there of actual value, but they were unwilling to sift through the mud in a lack of respect and self-respect; you don’t just burn down the house when you are ready to go. My coaching thread, started by Steve “ChipXtractor” Catterson (he’s now in Vegas too, we have a cigar together here and there), was one I’d like to have back, as well as a few of my parables, but of course, no one thought to ask me or anyone else about an estate sale.

Of course, we had long since gone separate ways, and from what I hear, RCP is doing well. A student of mine helped them with a sequence of long, complex solves that have reinvigorated their content; irony never sleeps, either. Leaving the forum helped them start over and not be exposed to criticism; it was a sharp move. I decided not to follow them into the depths of their new chat, however; it seemed the amicable and natural endpoint for us. RCP had shifted their frustrations with Alvin Lau’s preoccupied eviscerations of their content onto me because I was willing to talk to Alvin, and so a good thing ended. I had been disloyal to them and loyal to poker truth, for good and bad. Then, inaccurate information was passed along, leading to more mutual unhappiness, and one particularly duplicitous and snide staff member worsened everything. The one thing I wanted in exchange from RCP for all the help I gave – a simple link to my website – they had removed in order to punish me while telling me, in a wild lie, that it was a technical problem. Right. (I know I take a lot of grief because of my almost over-the-top social honesty, but I think it’s become clear which path is better.) The RCP staff didn’t like the random complaints they got – one example is the time I told a poster he shouldn’t be giving advice and he had a meltdown – but they didn’t ask themselves just how many people liked me or at least my advice. It’s a number that’s built a coaching practice and spun off meet-ups and friends and social events: never throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Of course, now they quietly and successfully teach many of the same things Alvin did; meanwhile, I have not heard from Alvin since mid-2022. The “poker journey” is sometimes the friends we lost along the way. I’ll never get my apology for what happened, of course, but I’m at peace and remember the good times with Red Chip.

Yes, personal relationships are hard, “a lot of water under the bridge – and a lot of other stuff too.” It was my temper and drinking and frustration with terrible family decisions that led to a blow up between me and my link to Soto and Fausto. I apologized for a moment of overreaction and rudeness after minor contract terms were broken but didn’t really do the patch work necessary, and so things were never the same.

Even when you can put things back together, life still breaks down, sometimes humorously. One night at the Sahara, during that rough patch in 2021 where the Wednesday game was on fumes, a young man came up to JD, a reliable reg, and I at table one, where we were finishing a brief running of the game, heads-up. He wanted to play but I had to regretfully inform him that we were ending. “Go play some one-two!” I urged him and pointed to the only table running. The young man seemed a little surprised or confused and wandered off.

I wrapped up the game with JD and cashed out, only to find the young man sitting at an empty table. I went to talk with him, but before we got far, he pointed out, “It’s me, Christian!”

I hadn’t recognized him; it was after the BMI prop bet with Berkey and he seemed to have aged backwards. We chatted. He of course, wanted to splash and dump a few thousand into our notoriously fun game. Come back next week, I told him. Nice to reconnect.

The next week, the list was even shorter. I was at my maximum doubt that the game could run but knew that it would with a little faith and effort. Now normally, I’d hang out a few hours give it time to develop: I was growing wise to how games run and why no one can be on time. However, I was also tired, and decided, this one time, I’d leave and give myself the night off.

Of course, as I sat down at Tacos El Gordo, I got the text: Soto had returned, and was wondering where the hell the game was.

Haven’t heard from him since.

Loss is not something I cope with well, but those levels of friendship really do come and go, it seems. I berated poor D’Artagnan when he was at his most manic and annoying, and that was over; I spent morbid hours on that failing, and do on most of these relationships. My impulsiveness had revealed the brute within me, not something I’ve let be seen much. And, alas, I’ve apparently upset someone else, this time through the regrettable accuracy of my published text. There’s more to be said, but what it comes down to is this: when all you usually see is either praise or lies, the dissecting power of interested disinterest can create an image in the mirror more monstrous than the most damning complaint. “I hurt easy, I just don’t show it,” the man sings, but really, that’s the exception: most do, and do as well.

One friendship – if that is what it is, I no longer know – that is hanging on, despite more troubles than ever, is with the Lounge Lizard, aka Chef J. As much as we struggle, the plan to help him get going is still more or less in effect, and I’m giving it one more college try here in Las Vegas.

Few cook – and I’m not being cute here, I know the memes – like the Lizard. He has the gift of taste and so his discernment of flavor and substance is unusually strong. This is not a trifling ability. Combined with an above average scientific tendency, he is a natural creator in the kitchen. We’re doing a few more pop-ups together, this time, Korean-themed. He’s been working with all sorts of fermentation and pork shoulder cooked so slow it’s practically a new experience of that meat. If you want in, contact me through twitter dm or email: event is on Sunday the 5th in Summerlin, Las Vegas.

Here’s a peek at what’s being served:


Kombu cured salmon

-cucumber, yuzu, furikake

Nori crisp

-chilled lobster tail, avocado horseradish crema, soy pickled cucumber

Grilled bites                                                                          

Chicken meatballs

-sweet soy glaze, egg yolk custard

Charred zucchini

-salted plum, chili, fresh herbs

Smoked mushrooms

-garlic oil, hunter’s sauce

Korean BBQ buffet                                                              

Classic Ssam plate;

Spicy pork belly confit and grilled King Oyster mushrooms

-served with the classic lettuce wraps, scallion salad, banchan, kimchi, ssamjang and roasted garlic puree, sushi rice, various pickles, etc.

It’s $100 per person and includes alcohol. An amazing deal for the quality and a good chance to hang with your fellow fishermen.

Things have changed, and yes, people, including me, are crazy. Despite the losses and challenges, I’ve rarely had more of them around me, and am grateful to have so many successful students and poker friends. In fact, Gargamel himself is arriving in town to get married to his girlfriend this week – congrats are in order!

Here’s to a few more times together.



3 thoughts on “Keeping it Together

  1. This reminds me of Nietzsche who said something along the lines of “don’t fret about monsters, lest ye become monsters. Don’t stare into the abyss, for the abyss will stare back in to you”.

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