As a poker book publisher and author, my column is generally focused on poker strategy, but I thought I might divert a little this month. It is important to remind yourself that poker is just a game, and games are meant to be fun! Ian Taylor and I wrote about this in our book The Poker Mindset and sometimes I even forget that all important lesson.
During my everyday responsibilities as a book publisher and a website owner, I am constantly evaluating poker from a purely technical perspective. Lately, I recognized that I have lost some of the passion I have about the game and I went through an exercise that I recommend all poker players do from time to time to get yourself away from the daily grind.
Remind yourself – why do you love this great game of poker so much? What are your favorite poker memories? Why did you even start playing poker? Sometimes, looking back can ignite that passion about the game once again and get you inspired when the daily grind might be pulling you back. So I wanted to share with you some of my favorite poker memories with the idea that maybe my personal stories will help ignite your own memories to remind yourself why this game is such a great game.
One of my very first poker memories occurred in high school. One day we were playing at my house with a small group of friends, but unfortunately I had to go to work at the small local movie theater. If I quit, the game was going to stop. So my buddies went to the movies and we played poker upstairs in the projectionist booth during the movie (it was a small theater with only me and one concession girl working). To our surprise, my boss decided to show up unannounced. The concessionist warned us, and as my boss was walking up one side of the stairs, my friends were running down the other side of stairs! When you are truly passionate about something, road blocks become simple detours and nothing will get in your way.
Flash forward about 10 years later in 1998 and I played my first poker tournament while living in Costa Rica. I was immediately hooked and started playing 2-3 times a week. The big highlight was winning my first “big” tournament at Humberto Brenes’s Texas Holdem Club. I say big because at the time, 30-40 players and a $2,000 payday was quite big for me. I remember coming home that night and not being able to fall asleep for hours with all the adrenaline rushing through my veins.
Then, in 2000, my company transferred me to Argentina which didn’t have any live poker at the time. I was crushed. I had the bug and no place to play…until a friend told me about online poker. I made my first deposit and the rest is history. I would come home from work and would literally have my tie off and shirt unbuttoned as I entered the front door to dash to my computer and start playing online.
This passion eventually led me to quit my job and my wife and I moved to New Zealand in 2001 while I paid our bills playing online poker. Poker was now my livelihood as I became one of the first “pioneers” as an online poker professional. My wife and I loved New Zealand, but my biggest poker memory there was winning the 2002 New Zealand Poker Championships. The adrenaline rush when you win a poker tournament is like no other. With my wife by my side and a large crowd looking on, winning that tournament made me feel like I had arrived. I was a player! I was such a player, that my head gave me this crazy idea to try and write a poker book!
My wife really had thought I lost my mind. Between 2002 and 2003 I spent hour upon hour writing down everything I had learned about limit Hold’em. Any author can tell you, when you get a copy of your first book there is a tremendous sense of pride. Little did I know how successful that little book would become.
We moved back to the US in 2003 and poker was booming. Moneymaker became the WSOP champ and the World Poker Tour had launched. In 2004, I was fortunate to win a seat to the main event. I was going to play with the big boys! I remember my first battle with someone I had heard of, Andy Bloch. I attacked him on a semi-bluff, only to be called, and then hit my draw on the river. He stared me down for what seemed like hours before making the call and paying me off. I had beaten a name pro in the biggest tournament on the planet!
A few days later I had finished 33rd. I appeared on TV, having played with both Mike Matusow and Greg Raymer at the same table. I got to relive my AA bad beat to Al Krux’s TT over and over again as ESPN broadcast my face of despair hundreds and hundreds of times over the following months. Oh the game of poker – so much fun and yet so brutal! I would have knocked Al Krux out, yet he survived and made the final table. How many times have I asked what if? But that is what being a poker player is all about.
As live poker grew, so did online poker. Winning my first major online tournament was such an amazing, incredible feeling. To think you could turn $200 into $132,000 was unthinkable just a few years earlier when Moneymaker started the boom. Then a year later, I won a tournament with 10,000 entrants! This game that I have loved since high school was now not only America’s game, but the world’s game and passion.
I truly love this game - the excitement, the adrenaline, the challenge, and even the bad beats. But the thing I love the most is the wonderful people I have met through poker. Running the Forum on my website has been a true joy. Poker brought us together, but it is truly a community where friendships are bonded. It’s great to take a trip to Vegas and then be invited into a friend’s home that I met through my Forum.
Poker is a great game but at the same time can be a grind. Take a few moments to reflect on all of your favorite poker memories. Try to remember the feeling you had winning your first big pot or first big tournament. Remember that wonderful rush where everything went your way. Rekindle that passion for the game you fell in love with. After all, at the end of the day, poker is just a game.
This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.
Matthew is the owner of Dimat Enterprises, “Publishing Today’s Best Poker Books”. The Math of Hold’em by Collin Moshman and Douglas Zare is available now at pokerbooks.InternetTexasHoldem.com.