I have a secret life.
Okay, I have a semi-secret life. I do not write music for Michael Bolton. I do not work for the FBI (Mainly 'cause accountin's hard) I am not a writer. (Patience is lacking there) I do not have another wife and kid in some other state (alah, Fletch.) Nope.
I am a gambler.
Admittedly, not a very big time gambler. When the casinos see me coming they do not call me 'Lane the Whale'. They basically treat me like the minnow I am. I do not bet more than I can afford to lose. Like my ol' Pappy said, "Gamblin's fine unless you take the food off the table." (Anybody else thinking of Bret Maverick?)
When did I feel that I would use most of my free time in this definitely unusual pastime? Maybe it was when I played poker with my friends in high school....okay, the other nerds in high school. (Yep, I'm sure most of you are thinking of the part in 'Can't Buy Me Love'. The Cards with the 'Tards, scene. )
I am certain the observant ones among you may have guessed of this compulsion from my header. I don't play the slots...I rarely play the table games (I do love craps though),, but I now play Texas Hold 'em.
My little group started playing around the time a Tennessee accountant named Chris Moneymaker (real name) took a forty dollar tournament win on Pokerstars and made it into $2.5 million. All he had to do was beat a little more than two hundred to win the World Series of Poker's Main Event in 2003. His story is one I will recount some random weekend. Nope, believe it or not this 'habit' of mine has actually had some life lessons attached to it.
If I may, let me share.
1. Life isn't fair. Okay, you've all heard this one. Many times I have had spots where I should win four out of five times and found myself losing. I have come within breaths of winning thousands of dollars, only to see a turn of the card take it away. (Don't worry, this guy isn't me.)
I have had to learn to deal with failure and to risk for success. This is something a introverted guy like myself isn't able to sometimes handle. This life is very fragile, bad beats happen...so, also do miracles. Without the pain, the pleasures wouldn't be as meaningful. The few times when I win a tournament more than makes up for the times when fate intervened and the cards went another way. In the job I have, sometimes we worry about 'evening the playing field' and that 'all who participates win', we forget the simple truth that failure is a life lesson. It is what makes the victories much more sweeter.
2. Do not overextend yourself. Back in 2004, I put sixty dollars into Full Tilt Poker. I am still playng on that amount. I never took it all out...I never left myself too short of funds. In the past five years, it has paid for three computers, a getaway trip with my gorgeous bride, and countless small expenses of the household. But, I always kept playing at a rate that made sense for the amount of money I had in the site. I have had friends lose all of their money quickly because they shot for the stars at the risk of their funds. Rarely is poker a get rich quick racket. It takes patience and discipline. Better players than me have gone broke on line.
As in life, you should never overextend yourself and go into debt for luxuries. I have a spending habit that I struggle with. This little life lesson has helped me be able to spend less. This, in turn, has helped us in our finances enough for us to make it.
3. Do not ever think you could gamble for a living. Every time I win a tournament, I think that 'Wouldn't it be cool to do this for a living?' I found that this is not that easy. This has been too much of a rollercoaster to ever think I could make serious money at. I cannot imagine making a bluff with grocery money or telling my wife we can't go to Galveston because I lost a bunch of money. Nope, I doubt I will ever make this compulsion a career. It's way too tough.
However, I do enjoy my little foray's into the 'seedy world' of on line gambling and occasionally make the trip to one of the wonderful casinos in my part of the world. Who knows, maybe, someday, you'll turn on ESPN and see me at a final table in Vegas.
I'll be the one who looks like he's about to crap himself.