I see you, you who think you know me. You doubters, you who are quick to scoff at how I spend my time. You who are shackled by the choices you've made.
You're not sure of my goals. Whatever they are, you're quietly wishing I don't get there. You hear of my (limited, low-level) success and can't figure out how I got there, while you languished in mediocrity and ultimately quit. What's the difference between me and you? It's easy to dismiss as the happy side of variance. I'm just lucky, and I'll be crashing back to earth before too long.
You've seen me do well when we were both at the same table. You can't explain what I'm doing well. You doubt how good I am. You're not sure how good I can BECOME. Well, that makes two of us.
At one point, you pursued something you really wanted. Maybe you gave up. Maybe you realized, at some level, that you couldn't get there. That it was too hard. Maybe life got in the way of your dreams.
I'm sorry it didn't work out for you. But when it comes to me and my poker goals, FUCK YOU.
I'm not going to sit here and promise you that I'm going to achieve all my goals. That I'm going to keep rising. That as the years go on, I'm going to move up levels, and outplay, out-think, and outwork my competition and collect cash as a result.
But fuck you if you think I'm going to let your attitude slow me down one iota from becoming the best poker player I can be.
I was never a dreamer. I never spent much time thinking about being an astronaut, or a professional baseball player. My head wasn't in the clouds, it was nose-deep in what interested me - studies, soccer, chess, video games. My competitive streak was evident to anyone paying attention at a very early age. My family taught me chess as a first grader. After I beat my mom three straight times, I graduated to playing my dad. After I beat him three straight, they let me play my grandfather. Ahh... grandpa. The best thing about my family was the fact that if they thought you deserved to play them, on their level, they would show you no mercy. As a second grader, my grandfather played a patient and fundamental chess game. I would get impatient, careless. He would think ahead better than me, and he would stomp me. Before the year was out, I earned a draw, and then a win against Grandpa. I knew that he hadn't let me win. Bragging rights sound nice on paper, but the satisfaction of overcoming a new challenge felt like something I wanted to bathe in. When the family would get together, my grandfather would ask me if I wanted to play chess. If I did, he'd oblige. If I didn't, he didn't comment. He realized I had an aptitude for the game, but I needed to push my boundaries as I saw fit. My family has its flaws, but I love how they deal with talent. It's at this point where I tell you that my older cousin is a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. We've experienced a similar upbringing. Some of us just work harder and smarter than others. He's probably the smartest and hardest worker I know.
It was a big day in my life when my family got together and they invited me to play the family card game, Oh Hell, with them. Maybe I was 13 or so. What I learned early on was that getting invited to the Big Kids game didn't mean that they were going to take it easy on you. I finished second to last. It took me years to get on their level.
I learned that when you move to the next level, nobody takes it easy on you. You are the fresh meat, the easy pickings... until you prove otherwise. Respect isn't given, it's earned.
Winning a tournament feels great. Dominating a cashgame where there's an unspoken agreement that you're the best player at the table... that's very satisfying. For me, there is no great feeling in the poker world than to step up to the challenge of a higher level and realize "I BELONG HERE." After the 2012 WSOP, I made a small step up and started playing Aria $125 tourneys. Before the summer was over, I cashed. Before the year was over, I had chopped for better than 2nd place money... three times. The advice I was given was absolutely spot-on. (Hi, Derek!) That fall, I started recording every single poker session I played. I started examining my play and my numbers with a lot more scrutiny on a monthly basis. I started using my profits to take shots at the level just above where I had just gotten to. My results got me on Hendon Mob, twice. Many of my poker friends viewed me as a good poker investment, and wanted to buy pieces of my action. I found this incredibly flattering. I'm not entirely certain what the haters thought. I imagine they're still a little puzzled as to why I've done well. To be perfectly honest, my haters underrate me, and my poker friends overrate me. My current ability lies somewhere in the middle.
I belong at the next level. My decisions will yield results that will yield profit. I will step up, and will strive towards making that ascending cycle continue.
Maybe someday, someone who I consider a hater now will ask me how I got so good. Maybe they never will - won't want to know to protect their egos - and will tell others "I remember him when he was nothing special."
They're not wrong, in a sense. In the grand scheme of things, I'm nothing special. I don't play to prove my worth to people, to carve a place in the poker world, to earn attention from poker media. If you want to seek accolades, that's nice. Hell, I'd love to rock a bracelet or tournament trophy in the poker room where I work. But it's not my primary focus. If it happens because I'm focused on improving, well, that's just gravy.
I'd like to acquire skills, experience, and a burgeoning bankroll. Get on my team. Let's get to the next level.