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Excess as a Way of Life

In a world of excesses, it can become all too easy to accept excesses as a way of life. As children, we are taught to eat until our plate is clean. As young adults, we are taught to drink until its a party. As adults, we are prescribed medications that are nothing more than legalized versions of speed, downers, and heroine. Those are the legitimized excesses, but its those elicit excesses, like drugs and gambling, that have got me thinking.

I'm in the process of reading Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson, a biography of the late, great author put together from interviews of the people who knew him. As a brief synopsis, Thompson was a man of excesses, and largely built his life and carrier around those excesses. By many accounts, he was a brilliant writer as he was gaining popularity writing for Rolling Stone magazine. He also had a unique outlook on journalism, often injecting himself into the story, or at times making himself the story when no story existed. But eventually, his reputation for 3 day benders involving any drink or drug imaginable caught up with him. He was forced (internally as much as by outside forces) to keep up with his reputation as a wildman, and eventually the excesses caused him to be reduced to a writer who couldn't write. He went from a guy who controled everything that was published under his name to a guy who needed other people to arrange the bursts of comprehensive writing put out during his drug/drink haze (sometimes a sentence, other times a couple of paragraphs) into a semblence of a story.

Poker is not without its share of addicts, and, as I am sure you all know, the addictions in poker are not limited to the game itself. Stu Ungar, argued by some to be the best poker player ever (not to mention his legendary Rummy skills) eventually succumbed to his addiction to crack. Countless players, including some in our very ranks, would probably qualify as alcoholics. Others use stimulants to play long hours and then rely on sedatives to bring them down.

I don't have any amazing revelations for you. I just have that burgeoning awareness that eventually, drugs, drinking, poker, and image can all collide into a dangerous cocktail. On a personal note, I do not much fear my own demise by this addiction cocktail. I have always maintained that my anal retentiveness has kept my addictive personality in check, a make-shift balancing of the neuroses. But the harshness of reality makes me take a step back and consider it all.

Can we become a victim of our own image? Could the appearance or reputation of addiction feed upon itself, regardless of its initial veracity? Is there a way to curb the negative influences that come with excess?

As a poker player, and even moreso, as a blogger, I have built an image around myself. I am the crass, devil's advocate of poker bloggers, with a reputation as a poker and action junkie. Does this image necessarily set me up for eventual failure?

To my friends and family, I also have the image of a poker addict. They know about the blog. They see how I talk about the game. Poker is, in many ways, one of the loves of my life, but to the unindoctrinated, it easily appears like I am overboard about it. But does that reputation fuel its own fire? Am I more desperate to play because people expect that of me. When I go to AC with the family, are my late-high sessions (after everyone is asleep) followed by early-morning sessions (while everyone is still asleep) an outgrowth of the expectation that Jordan will play poker, no matter what?! And will that eventually be what marks me forevermore as a poker junkie in certain people's eyes?

This is not a current issue. I am fine, but thank you for imaginarily asking (and for those of you who chose not to imaginarily ask, I am going to imaginarily cut myself because you don't love me). But it is something I eye toward the future, as much for my contemporaries as for myself. Living the like of a poker player means a life of individualism. It is a life of counter-culturalism. Frankly, it is a life of degeneracy. I am proud to be a degenerate, albeit more in heart than in action. But will that degeneracy eventually consume me?

I can offer a small example of excess that had, in the past, threatened to consume me, and that, in the future, I must constantly watch. Table games. I play poker for a variety of reasons, but I gamble for one: I like the feeling of being out of control. Unfortunately, that's not the type of feeling a skilled, smart poker player wants. It is, however, the type of feeling an action junkie wants, and part of my poker play involves that mentality. The site is called High on Poker for a reason (one which, most of you have heard me say a million times, so bear with me): I actually get a high by playing. In many ways, I play for that high. It's that rush of adrenaline that courses through me when I am making a bluff or value betting with the nuts. But that reputation as an action junkie even convinced myself that table games were an acceptable indulgence, until I found that I succumbed to excess, to my detriment. The height of that fall occurred when I was in Vegas for Roose's bachelor party and lost my entire bankroll to a drink-fueled roulette session. It shamed me to no end, and I promised myself for the 5th or 6th time to never play table games again unless I am with wifey Kim (and then, only for entertainment). I broke that promise to myself in Vegas in December, and I expect that I will break it again in the future. But I do my best to control myself. In my most recent AC trip, I was tempted to play some late-night Pai Gow (one of the few 'approved' table games, here at High on Poker), but was able to remind myself that I was there for the poker, there for the money.

Addiction is a horrific thing in any of its forms. Granted, I am coming from a position of relatively minor addiction, thanks in large part to my anal retentiveness. I play excess amounts of poker, but not excessive stakes. But the looming spectre of excess hangs over every one of us. Be careful out there, and take the time to realize when you are playing the game and when the game is playing you.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 8:10 AM,


At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what is this like the untouchable post... no one will comment, odd huh


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