Go and ask Doyle Brunson how quickly 80-years passes by? He’ll remember the day he first played poker like it was yesterday. You only get one life. One fleeting and complicated life. This is why it’s so damn important to cram in as much as you possibly can, while you can. You can’t take anything with you when you’re gone. There are no second chances.
This is why I think it’s crucial to have a life purpose, goals and a bucket list. Two years ago I ticked off one of my bucket list items when I appeared in Event #45: $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE) at the 42nd Annual World Series of Poker (WSOP). I was seated on Table 106, Seat 6 in the yellow area of the Pavilion. I was excited and nervous in equal measures, but I shouldn’t have wasted the emotional energy. I lasted about two orbits before I did everything I said I wouldn’t do and ended up out of the tournament.
I also have bucket list items to win a WSOP gold bracelet and play in the WSOP Main Event. When I die I will not look back with regret when it comes to these goals. I will have either achieved them or died happy in the knowledge that I gave it my best shot.
This is why the story of Ken Lind appeals to me as one of the most inspiring stories of the 2013 series. The story of an elderly man who decided to finally put a line through the sentence ‘playing at the World Series of Poker’ from his bucket list, and walked away with $634,809 and a gold bracelet.
“I put it on my bucket 6-8 years ago and I have been pushing it off ever since. Finally, my wife said, ‘before you start pushing grass up go and do it’. So I thought it would be great to turn up and play for a few hours. But three days later and here I am.” Lind told the PokerNews sidelines reporter, Sarah Grant, after his victory.
Without that simple list Lind would never have experienced one of the most amazing sensations of his long life. Instead, it would have just rattled around in his mind. A ghost of an idea showing up only occasionally when thoughts of poker passed through his mind.
Lind is not the only fantastical tale at this years series. The other wonderful story is that of Dana Castaneda, who became only the second female to win a WSOP bracelet, in an open event, since 2007 when she captured the $454,207 prize money and WSOP gold bracelet by defeating 2,883 players to capture the Event #54: $1,000 NLHE title.
During her post match interview with PokerNews, Castaneda told Kristy Arnett that her Grandmother told her she would win this event after Castaneda visited her on her deathbed. Unfortunately, Castaneda’s grandmothers never got to hear the great news. She died shortly after that visit.
In 2003, Chris Moneymaker showed the world that it was possible for the common man to win the WSOP Main Event. In 2013, both Kenneth Lind and Dana Castaneda gave the world a timely reminder that despite the invasion of young poker wizards, it is still possible for the dreamers to close their eyes and pass through fields of thousands on their way to glory.
Go and ask Doyle Brunson how difficult it is to live the life of a professional poker player? If the man was British we would knight him for the sheer stubbornness needed to exist in a game with more ups and downs than a lift. The game has the ability to chew you up and spit you out. From the outside it appears to be one of the most glamorous professions in the world. But for thousands of professional poker players the game is as harsh as a diatribe from Simon Cowell. It can be like drinking sand after spending a fortnight in the desert without water.
The reason the game is so tough is because it is built on the foundation of cash. If you don’t have any then you can’t get into the game. I think this quote from Scott Baumstein sums the game up perfectly.
“The problem we face is nobody’s life is ever going to be long enough to withstand variance. Some are going to get lucky and some people aren’t.”
There is a strata of young poker players who are running out of money. They don’t have time for dreams, goals and bucket lists. All they care about is how on earth they are going to find enough cash to play the next game? There are only a few players who have found success in backing other players. For every success there’s another ten people who are broke because of the inability of their horses to withstand variance. They got unlucky, and the lack of the lucky horseshoe sent the whole stable crashing down.
The Chris Moorman’s of the world are focusing on the Chris Moorman’s of the world, and this leaves hundreds of poker players frantically fighting it out for the scraps. The battlegrounds are on Twitter, Facebook and 2+2 as players try desperately to sell their action. I have seen poker players reduce their WSOP schedule by as much as 30% because they haven’t been able to sell action. Is this because they have suddenly turned into poor poker players? Not at all. It’s variance. They are just not getting lucky.
This problem doesn’t just affect the person scrambling for chips. It affects everyone working within the poker industry. If the players can’t find the funds then the player pool diminishes and revenue declines. EBITDA still needs to be strong. If additional revenue cannot be sought then costs have to be cut. My articles go out of the window. Sometimes I feel like the hundreds and thousands that you sprinkle on an ice cream. I’m a nice to have and not a necessity.
So when Ken Lind and Dana Castaneda achieve their dreams, they are also shattering the dreams of thousands of struggling poker players. These type of players are your classic hit and run merchants. They decided to give their dreams a shot and hit the jackpot. Like Darvin Moon they have no intention of feeding their winnings to the fishes.
In contrast the $800,000 that Matt Perrins, won when he took the bracelet in Event #57: $5,000 NLHE, is coming straight back into the poker community – give or take $30,000 that he will no doubt splurge on a new fancy motorcar. Perrins will be able to repay his backers. They in turn will be able to loosen the belt buckle by a notch or two. He can also return the favor and give something back to those who once kept him in the game, and are now holding on to their place in it by the skin of their bloody and matted fingertips.
When people like Perrins wins a WSOP event we should all join him when he jumps into the Mirage water feature. That $800,000 will be passed amongst the poker community and that’s great news for everyone. Even I will see my share somehow. But when the dreamers come into our world and take our cash, we will never see that money again. Times are hard and Lind and Castaneda have just made it that much harder.