by: Tom Rau
An author looks back at an era of his life that is coming to a close.
He was standing in the middle of an enormous crater staring at the sky. Surrounding him from all sides, a massive wave was closing in. When it reached the lip at the edge of the crater it began to rise. It rose, as if to pick up the moon and smash it against the cracked and barren ground below, a massive menacing wall of water and mist, sound and fury, towering into the heavens. He could feel the earth bubbling beneath his feet. He could feel the impact in his whole being before it had ever reached the peak of its immenseness. Already it had swallowed him. He stood there, frozen, fully locked into the dread, chains thicker than steel, than blood, than life.
Seven years ago I began playing poker professionally. My first two years playing full time I made six figures no problem. It was too easy. It’s not like I didn’t have to work. I put more effort into learning the art of poker than I put into anything I’ve probably ever done. That being said, once I got to a certain level it was almost like stealing. Thank you, Chris Moneymaker, patron saint, donk eternal. It was a beautiful life. I had a quarter of a million dollars sitting in my online poker accounts. For the next three years, I went on vacations without packing ((I am a closeted shopaholic. I miss this.)), went to strip clubs with the intention of maxing out credit cards, did piles of things I shouldn’t have, and basically did what most people under forty would call, “living the dream”. It was an out of control and mostly meaningless time that I will never forget. Then our wonderful government got in the way, totally ruined online poker and basically cleared out all the fish by making online poker quasi-illegal and thus much harder to move money to and from the sites. What we were left with was a landscape featuring six out of ten professionals, three people with half of a clue, and one poor asshole giving away all of his money. For the last five years this trend has gotten progressively worse to the point where, for me, it just makes no sense to keep fighting against it. I have played over ten million hands of poker. I think that will last me. The joy has left the building. Only the empty addiction remains. Sometimes I play poker on my computer while on the verge of tears, nothing but frustration and emotion. The worst part is that I have painted myself into a corner where all I can do is keep playing. I can’t afford to quit because my credit sucks, my house payments are outrageous, and there is no way I can get a job that lets me make enough money to keep my house ((my house I don’t’ want mind you)) and the lifestyle I have become accustomed to. And yes, I realize, life could be one million times worse. I would survive. But it doesn’t mean I would like it.
For the past three years I have been increasingly unhappy with they way I spend my days and nights. It has snowballed, from a seed of thought; this is not my life, to the wave surrounding me now; this life is unsustainable, destroying my soul, my will, my ability to find a sustainable happiness.
He watches the wave rise. In full panorama, it fills the sky until there is no more light. Only the cold dead black.
Yesterday, in a fit of frustration, dread, doom, and desire for more I clicked on the jobs section of Craigslist. I was far from optimistic. It’s like the time i tried online dating for a month; all the good jobs won’t get back with you and all the bad jobs make you want to throw up on your dick. It ends up being this somewhat addictive search for something that you aren’t even sure is real in the first place. Regardless, wasting all of your possible free time doing nothing is a quality that we as Americans have turned into art ((along with eating hot dogs, burping competitions, watching golf, and cats on the internet)). I consider myself a master of this art. So yesterday, with anger, frustration, and doom seeping from my pores, I typed “writers” into the CL search and it shot me back an ad for a job looking for correspondence/copy writers. There was something oddly comforting about the wording of the ad. It closed with “no resumes-answer the following questions in your reply email.” It was a series of scenarios requiring my response action. This is my kind of shit. Ten minutes later I hit send. An hour and a half after that I was standing in their office looking down the hall at an arcade full of vintage video games. And an hour after that I was leaving with a job ((I am being hired as an independent contractor for a week, full time employment depending on said week. So it’s more like maybe a job, but either way it’s a week of not playing poker while I masturbate and simultaneously watch Rambo and cats play with dolphins))
I went home. I sat down. I took lots of deep breaths. What the fuck just happened? Did I just get a job? Or at least maybe get a job? Was it just me, or did that seem like it might be awesome, someplace I could do something useful, use my brain, learn, help people build their dreams. My mind drifted back to poker, a game I have become glued to, a game that has let me live a completely carefree life full of debauchery for the last seven years but in the end has left me intensely frustrated and running on fumes. How much of it do I really love and how much was just scheduling benefits? I looked around my office, there are holes in my wall from this fucking game. There is a pile of broken keyboards in another room, there is my shrinking bankroll, grey hairs, anger, resentment, stress. All for what? Money? The money has mostly dried up. The truth is:
1. I probably have somewhere between a mild to severe gambling addiction.
2. People act like poker isn’t a real job. Is working on wall street a real job? If you answered yes to that question and no to poker than you are mistaken and you don’t know enough about the subject to give an intelligent response ((this also applies to 85% of people who are republicans when they talk about anything other than country music, Wal-Mart specials, and sausage gravy.)). I’m spiteful to a fault sometimes.When people act like it’s not a real job it makes me want to play poker forever just so I can tell them to go fuck themselves. You think this job isn’t stressful? You know what’s stressful? Watching 10k of your money get sent to some fucking asshole who just called you a faggot nigger jew 25x in fifteen minutes. Seriously, do that like five times in an hour and then tell me how you feel.)) And then I’m supposed to act interested when someone in my life wants to tell me about their day collecting poop from babies. You know what i’m interested in? Heads on sticks. Stress relieving binge partying.
3. I hate to give up; to admit defeat. For years I have wanted to do something else and I just can’t pull the trigger. I mean I play a lot of music, but I’m always going to do that and it doesn’t really pay the bills. But admitting that poker is not my life after it has been my life for so long has just been fucking impossible for me. It’s like admitting I lied to myself, like getting divorced, like loving someone so much for so long and then slowly watching it fade away while all the while knowing if you break it off everyone will be crushed. ((only now I’ll only be crushing myself and i totally deserve it))
So this is where I have found myself, in an enormous crater with no other life around me, watching a wave climb up to the heavens, knowing that one day it will crush me with the force of a thousand angry Jesuses. The rot of dread sitting in my stomach forever undigested; ready to eat me from the inside. And as I stare at the dead black sky, the walls closing in around me, a pinhole of light appears overhead. Maybe, it’s been there all along. Maybe, we can all squeeze through it.