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Here. We. Go?

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Jun 30, 2021


The world is healing, vaccines are plentiful, the sun is shining, and Las Vegas casinos are charging for parking again. Here in California, we expect poker rooms to be back to full capacity and operating indoors soon. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to play some poker!

Over the last few months, I’ve been working at a new job in the gambling industry, so I’m not sure I’ll be full-time as a poker player anymore, but I’ll certainly be playing some here and there. I guess for the first time in a long while, this makes me an enthusiast rather than a professional player.

But I won’t be alone. I’ve known quite a few players who were good enough to make a living playing poker but didn’t quit their regular jobs because of the stability, the good standing in society, and probably the health insurance.

Now that I’m a part-time player, I’ll have to be a bit more selective about game size. If I bust my poker bankroll, it’s going to be hard to sell a backer on my ability to beat games playing just once per week.

Jubilee was the ancient practice in Israel where every seventh year, prisoners and slaves would be freed and debts would be forgiven. I think if the lockdowns and business closures were more strict over the last year and there wasn’t an abundance of private games (believe me, if I’ve been invited to more than one private game, it means there’s an abundance), there would be something like a poker/gambling Jubilee. Everyone would be playing like they’ve been freed from their debts.

Because the people who are most likely to gamble and play loosely in normal environments have probably been already satisfying those urges over the last year, I don’t really expect there to be much change in how people are playing. Besides me, of course. I’m sure it will take me a few sessions to settle back into the idea of playing poker for money against other people. The most cutthroat I’ve been over the last year was when playing a game of Twilight Imperium with my friends, (putting a wormhole tile next to someone on the other side of the map.)

My general feeling that it’s important to take care of your fellow humans by making sure, at the very least, you don’t get them sick with a deadly disease, has not curbed my ability to take money from those who have it without some remorse. Going forward, I think that will be my biggest hurdle in poker. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to feel ok about winning money from people at a time when so many are struggling.

I play in a poker room that tends to have a more well-heeled clientele than your average room, and especially so in the specific games that I play. We no longer get young Marines from the local base gambling their paychecks away, more likely the officers who already have their pensions set to go.

I used to say to myself that if I don’t take money from these people who want to play poker, but can’t win long term, someone else will. I’m not sure that’s good enough for me anymore.

That doesn’t mean that I disagree with poker as a profession or that I look down on others who do it. That’s not a problem for me. I just don’t know if I have the stomach to make my living from these games. I’m happy to play occasionally and I expect to win more than I lose, after all I’ve been winning more than I lose for almost half my life at this point.

I don’t think gambling is inherently bad or that those who gamble for a living are bad people. I just think it’s maybe not for me as much as it used to be. I’m sure I’ll pretty much always be a part of the poker community. I’ll have people to root for and against and will likely make it out to some tournaments here and there for the love of the game.

And I definitely plan on continuing this column for as long as there are things to write about poker. It will be nice to be tangential to the scene for a while and perhaps I’ll be back in full force at some time in the future, but for now, consider me a recreational player, but hopefully not a losing one! ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin Griffin was the first poker player to win the Triple Crown, capturing a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour, and World Poker Tour title, and has amassed more than $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG