This is going to take some time to explain.
Playing card games has always been a part of my life, even when I was a little American kid growing up in Portugal, where my parents moved to (and are originally from) when I was merely seven years old. I played card games with my parents – Bisca and Sueca, to be exact. It was cool, and the highlight of my tough childhood, to be able to play card games that adults played in cafes and parks around the city where we lived. For those of you who are NLHE or PLO enthusiasts, try playing a game where a 7 is the second-highest ranked card, Jacks are a higher rank versus Queens, and where T98 are all removed from the deck.
When we moved to Brazil in the early 1990’s, we ditched the classic Portuguese card games and switched to playing 5-Card Stud Single Draw, using beans as chips (literally, a bag of grocery-store bought beans). I had no idea what this Poker game was, but thought it was cool.
In high school in South Florida now a few years later, I found myself playing Tonk with the Hispanic and Haitian students. We would play during lunch breaks and sometimes in class, where each “round” of Tonk had a $1 buy-in. I thought the coolest kids weren’t on the varsity football team nor the low-rider car club, I thought the coolest kids were the card players. By the way, one kid who was a sophomore (15 years old) was a master in the Haitian Card Shuffling technique. It’s insane, and, the coolest card shuffling I’ve ever seen to this very day.
In 2002, a group of friends, myself included, started having home games, dealer’s choice style. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing, and probably didn’t even play by standard rules – we just made shit up as we went along. One particular night in 2002 found me watching what looked like a re-run of that year’s World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table on ESPN2. This was not the Moneymaker one: It was exactly one year earlier, where a complete amateur in Robert Varkonyi found himself on the highest possible peak on the variance curve, taking down the bracelet and lighting the match that Moneymaker would throw into the proverbial gasoline tank a year later. I wasn’t really following the action very well, as I had a very limited knowledge of NLHE at the time, and didn’t understand why this one guest commentator in the booth was hating on Varkonyi so much that he would shave his head on national television if the amateur won the World Series Main Event (this wound up being Phil Hellmuth). However, what got me hooked was how a guy, who walked in to Binion’s Horseshoe Casino with seemingly no poker experience and looking more like my accountant than a card shark was able to make his way to the final table of the Main Event, and ultimately take it down.
Shortly after, I began playing live $1/$2 and $2/$4 Limit Hold ‘Em at different properties in South Florida, like the Seminole Coconut Creek Casino, the Palm Beach Kennel Club, the Hard Rock in Hollywood, and the Dania Beach Jai-Alai (now called The Casino @ Dania Beach). We couldn’t play No Limit because, at the time, NLHE was not allowed in the State of Florida. If you knew where to look, though, you could find NL Sit & Go’s (“Coco” used to have single table $65 S&G’s running all night long, and in Dania, the $45 variety) and also, single-day tournaments like the $150 “Big Slick” at the Hard Rock.
While I learned and studied poker, I had “OK” / decent results in cash games, and, contrary to what my Hendon Mob profile says, a few reported live cashes in the $150 Big Slick on Saturdays in the mid-2000’s. However, nothing Varkonyi-like, or no massive scores or super-deep runs to gloat over. This was right around the time that my actual, working-life career started, so poker began to take a back seat in my life and a game only to be played as downtime permitted. Since the late-2000’s, I had begun flourishing in my career, I began pursuing higher education, and even met my then-girlfriend-now-wife, having two amazing kids in the process. Poker was only played on off days when travelling for work, and for less than a full buy-in at times (Example: bringing $100 with me to play $1/$2 NL at Lucky Chances in Colma, CA, and then cashing out to jump in to a $65 + $20 add-on single-day NL house tournament). I also took the once-in-a-blue-moon shot at a tournament here or there, without any preparation, study, or specific strategical approach.
Fast-forward to December, 2018. We were in Colorado staying with family for a week – a welcome reprieve from South Florida’s year-round Summer. I was 39 and in 5 more months would turn the big 4-0. For a reason that completely escapes me, I started thinking about poker again. I started thinking about the World Series, the different casinos I’ve played at, different hands I won/lost, and that one time I sat in very close proximity to Mike McDerm…err, Matt Damon at the Hard Rock Hollywood. I also started going down a train of thought that had never occurred to me before: “Why don’t I have more results in Poker“? I was essentially asking myself about why I have basically nothing on my Poker resume. Call it a mid-life crisis, an epiphany, or something that better fits to explain what happened to me on that ice-cold late December morning. I made a decision that day that I would re-learn and study Poker: I would learn about cash game and tournament strategy, I would learn what a range and what being “polarized” meant, and I would watch every Doug Polk video and every live stream I could find on YouTube. Since by this point I had already completed a Master’s Degree, I knew how to study for something, the difference here being is studying as a part of my passion, versus studying to earn a degree to improve my professional / career status.
This blog (site) is a written documentation of my Poker sessions, starting from November 2019. As a Dad, expect bad jokes and Disney / Cartoon Network references along the way.