The first time I ever played poker was on a camping holiday with the family. Whilst crammed into a tent, my two brothers and I played a game that could loosely be described as five card draw. Polos were used as chips. It certainly wasn’t Jacks or better to open, and I believe none of us knew what a flush was. The only rule I can recall with any kind of lucidity is that the winner had to stuff all the mints in their mouth at once, and munch every last one within 60 seconds. If you couldn’t do this, the win didn’t count.
Some twelve or so years later, I find myself playing $2/$4 limit Hold’em on Cryptologic. I’d come across the game accidentally and stumbled around for half an hour or so. This was 2002; pretty much every internet player was terrible. Had they not been, I probably wouldn’t have left the table with any money. If memory serves me correctly, I think I logged myself off that table roughly even.
Surprisingly perhaps (due to my current level of addiction to the activity) I wasn’t immediately hooked. Poker probably didn’t attract me as I couldn’t see large sums changing hands at that $2/$4 table. Waiting for other players to act, folding most of your hands, it didn’t appeal to the gambler within me.
A gambler I certainly was back then. Like most naive chancers, I’d tried my luck with the Martingale system. It’s a particularly foolish way of betting, that involves doubling your stake after a loss. I was perhaps more susceptible to its dangers, as I believed back then I was the first person to come up with the idea.
It didn’t work of course, so I retreated to the internet for ideas. (Couldn’t just give up on gambling, I was down.) I purchased a daft amount of gambling books from Amazon and read every single one. Blackjack, Roulette, Video Poker etc.
I was fascinated by gambling math, and wanted to learn everything there was to know about everything. Stories from Las Vegas as well as fiction with a gambling theme kept my interest peaked. The Romance of it all was too attractive to turn down.
I was quickly going broke though. Necessity, and a long overdue bout of common sense drove me to only put my money down on what I would now call +EV situations. I became an online casino bonus whore. Taking advantage of introductory free money and either cashing out a small loser, or a decent winner.
For the first time in my gaming career I was actually making money. I was still running into problems though. Moving my limited bankroll from casino to casino took time. Making money this way was a slow grind indeed. I had one of my biggest results in Video Poker, hitting a pat royal flush. Unfortunately it was with one of the less reputable casinos, and they simply kept my money.
It was so frustrating that I felt the need for a change. I bought a couple of random poker books to add to my growing library of debauchery. I’d inadvertently purchased the works of Sklansky and Malmouth. To paraphrase Obi-Wan, I’d just taken my first step into a larger world.
It soon dawned on me that poker was the way forward. Gambling against the house, how can you expect to win? Why do they pay for all those flashy lights? Certainly not for the privilege of you taking their money. Playing fellow gamblers seemed the only logical choice for making money.
So I signed up with Empire Poker as tigmong, and started my limit poker education. Online resources recommended to me such as the rec.gambling.poker newsgroup and twoplustwo.com proved invaluable. (Nowadays they should all be recommending the blondepoker forum of course.)
I was still learning important lessons. Big wins were usually followed by big cash outs, and big purchases of things I couldn’t really afford. Rising up through the limits took me much longer than it possibly should have, but for the first time in two years I wasn’t in any debt.
The biggest limit game Party used to spread was $15/$30. I’d been beating this for a wee while when I decided to quit my job and start playing full-time. Quite predictably this was followed by blowing 90% of my bankroll in a bad fortnight and having to get another job. The experience turned me off limit and I switched to tournaments.
The single table format appealed more to me than the multi-table. I re-built my bankroll and had no intention of losing it again. The fact that the swings were not as big was the major plus. The concept of a losing month was one I didn’t really feel I could cope with.
My second transition from hobbyist to pro was much more cautious. I made sure I had plenty money in the bank to pay for a year's expenses, in addition to my bankroll. My girlfriend at the time was moving down to Glasgow for University. I decided to relocate as well. Having read every poker autobiography I could get my grubby little hands on, I wanted to break into the world myself. The prospect of more live poker was most appealing; Glasgow seemed like a better location to do this.
So I find myself in the Cincinnati Club playing a £500 winner takes all freeze out. After an outdraw or two, I’m heads up with Dave Colclough and trying (with every fibre of my feeble being) not to appear as if I’m wetting my keks. My only previous heads up experience, face to face, was back in the tent with the polos. As I’d seen my opponent on the telly, I assumed his experience at this sort of thing was at least 10,000 times that of my own.
So my tactics were simple, don’t play any flops. Being vastly out-skilled, I wanted to negate this factor as much as possible. Raise, raise and raise again was the order of the day. El blondie grew weary of this, and made a move back at me with J8s. I was fortunate enough to have been dealt AJo. I called without thinking about it too much, this was my shot.
As the dealer dealt the five community cards, I don’t think I breathed once. The board offered Dave no help and I had won. There were 19 dancing Thomas’ inside me. I used to watch Late Nite Poker with my brothers back in Aberdeen, we were all big DC fans.
Although delighted, I made a concerted effort to remain cool on the outside, as if I’d done this kind of thing before. Sometimes I say to myself, after winning a tournament, that remaining calm is out of respect for my opponents' feelings. I’m lying to myself though, really it’s just vanity. I wanna look cool.
Anyway, back to the point of the article. Rod Paradise was in the club that night, and congratulating me on my win. I mentioned that my brothers would never believe that I just beat Dave Colclough. He advised me to join the blonde poker forum. I could then direct any doubters in that direction by way of proof.
So there you have it folks, the original reason why I joined blonde, to have a big old self indulgent boast. After all, what’s the point in winning unless you can stuff your mouth full of polos?
Thomas “thetank” Stott