Aug 12, 2008

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Leaving Las Vegas


So Camp Continental has come to an end.  I didn’t win the 21 million miles but it was fun.  And in a lot of respects it was like being at sleep-away camp again. 

    Upon realizing I’d be going alone I had pangs of doubt as to why I was even going and harbored thoughts of just backing out.  I got there and was immediately miserable, smirking at the tattoos and boob jobs and feeling very superior. 

     The first night I was anxiously wandering around the welcome reception which was held on Freemont Street trying to find someone to connect with.  Having failed mightily at that I defaulted  to socializing with the Continental marketing staff who were getting paid to be nice to me, sort of like camp counselors. 

       On the first day of the tournament before anything started I was more nervous than I can remember being in a long time.  Would I be good enough?  Would I embarrass myself at the table?  It was not unlike the way I felt as an 11 year old playing in my first basketball or softball game at camp or taking the swimming test to prove I could swim in the deep end.

        By the end of day one I was feeling exhilarated.  I’d made friends, I’d proven my mettle and I was clearly getting comfortable in my new surroundings.

          By day two, I was comfortably in my niche of ringleader, encouraging other players to head across the street to play in a real money poker tournament at Binions (the birthplace of the World Series of Poker) and getting people to buy into the notion of hitting the town and taking in Steve Miller and Joe Cocker the following night.

           By day three I am strutting around like the BMOC (Big man on campus), nodding assuredly to all my new friends.  The thing with strutting is people notice and in Vegas that is not necessarily a good thing.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the flirtatious smiles I was getting from all those young women had nothing to do with my blue eyes and everything to do with the wads of green in my pocket that they figured was giving that extra lilt to my step.  There is no shortage of friendly women in Vegas. While responding to the query of “what are you looking for?” with the retort “my wife” usually ended most introductions dead in their tracks, I was thrown by a few follow ups like “are the two of you looking to spice things up tonight” and “well if you can’t find her I’ll be right here.”

I actually don’t envy single women in Vegas; the undercurrent of working girls has got to skewer the dynamic of dating in that town.  

So some final lessons learned:

The closer you get to the prize, the longer you beat yourself up over not making it. 

On the final day of the tournament I had lunch with some players who got bounced that morning,  I had already stopped rehashing the could’ve/should’ve but they were deep into second guessing themselves and really beating themselves up about it.  I flew back with a few of them and they were still at it a day later.  So if you are going to lose, lose somewhere in the middle.  Get far enough along to show you’ve got chops but don’t get so invested that you feel you have nothing to show for it.   After all very few people remember the guy who came in second after the race.  However, many people remember fondly the guy who went down with a big splash.   While a lot of these players were still playing, only to end up in the same boat as me I think the tem is losers, I had time to eat well, hang at the pool, take in a show and play for real money (okay so the last thing is probably not a good thing but I had the option and I had fun.)

It pays to have a game plan.  It pays even more to stick to it.

When I did well on day one it was because I followed the road map I had planned out beforehand.  On day two I knew the competition would be stiffer but I failed to stick to the plan I’d made to address that.  Being the chip leader I had initially intended to lay low and not commit much of my stack until the end of the day when many players would be scrapping to stay in the tourney.  Instead I got seduced by my cards and committed more chips much earlier than I had planned.  Before I knew it I was hobbled and in an even quicker flash I was gone.

When hobbled, take time to reassess and lick your wounds before re-engaging.

In poker they have a termed called “going full tilt” which means throwing caution to the wind right after getting beat badly in a hand.  Pros rarely allow themselves to do that, amateurs seem to do it often.  In life it is hard to think clearly when you are feeling the sting of defeat I have found that in those moments when things look really dour, it is a good time to take a bathroom break.  The guy who bounced me out of the tournament was the low chip holder at the start of day two.  He finished third in the tournament.  This brings me to the last lesson

Time is an illusion because you never know how things will play out.

I have found that there is always more time; I just need to know what to do with it.

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