Poker, I’m Breaking Up With You; For Now

By Alec Rome
July 24, 2023

I think I’m at peace with it. Break-ups hurt. What was a lovely relationship can implode quickly.

But I think I knew this was coming. I think I could see this ending. I just didn’t want to admit it.

Let me make this clear; this break-up is very specific. I’m done playing standard, No-Limit Hold ‘Em poker cash games where the buy-in amount would hurt me if I lose it. And honestly, sometimes that’s just $100. That’s what most people play and it’s probably going to be 99 percent of the chances to make money in poker.

I didn’t get into this game, don’t stay in it, don’t cover it, don’t take photos of it, don’t adore it and deplore it for the money. It’s the little things. The feeling of chips and cards flying. The battles. The numerous types of games. The camaraderie. The stories. The characters.

I never considered making a living from this game and likely never will by playing it, but somehow I’ve been blessed enough to survive by being in the room.

But that’s the difficult part. The part I wrestle with. The fact that I’m not the man in the arena. That I can’t wage war and come out victorious. I don’t have the guts, stupidity or bankroll to lay it all on the line just to avoid a regular job. I stand on the sidelines.

broken heart queen

I’m not some mega genius. I likely don’t have a fucking clue where I’m at or what is the “right play” most of the time. And yes, it is part of the beauty of Hold ‘Em… there are no single answers for most situations.

But I think I’m at a section of my life where that bothers me. I’m bothered by the fact there’s ambiguity and I can’t shake it. I can’t tell you what the percentages are of skill, luck and circumstance that play into my successes or lack thereof in poker.

Some Painful Poker

All this started a couple nights ago while I was playing a home game. Playing someone I have little experience but knew his general style, I seemingly threw all sense out the window and triple barrel bluffed off my entire $400 stack on J77QQ with ten-high. I was both complemented and consoled by my peers at the table for the bluff attempt.

I was mad… but what am I mad at? That I lost? That it was a dumb spot to do it? The wrong person to bluff against? Or maybe that… after the dust had settled, I wasn’t really mad at the result at all? Almost pleased that I could be released from the pressure.

Then, just two hours later, I scroll across this tweet from poker vlogger Brad Owen. I am mad with how true this rings for me.

After losing $400, immediately I had a good answer to Brad’s question: That’s this month’s car payment.

Yeah, I’m done for a while.

Just Numbers, to Some; Real Money, to Others

During that same home game, we were watching a high stakes poker livestream where pots of $50K to $300K were commonplace.

But I don’t think I can see it as a number anymore. That’s a new car. Someone just bet a year’s college tuition on the flop. We’re all in for a median size American house on the river.

And I just bluffed off a fucking car payment.

When the result didn’t go my way, I didn’t love it. I don’t love the game when I’m losing. And when I had a winning session last time? I’m not sure that it really fulfilled me. There was a pain of knowing I could have gotten more. Maybe you can’t say I actually love the game if I don’t love it all the time.

Satisfaction and success are two very difficult words to define as a young 20-something in 21st Century America. Everyone is at different stages in life, and somehow you find a way to pluck people younger and older than you that have more money or just seem a bit less troubled in finding their flow. Or they have a larger Hendon Mob total. Or more posts showing the work they’re doing.

Or their bluffing you. Or your mind is bluffing you.

Fuck, would you look at that; we’re back at the beginning.

How did bluffing off a car payment get me so in a twist?

See that’s the thing; I can’t say for sure. It’s lots of things. Some to do with poker and some with the circumstances of the world in that moment.

I love this game when it’s friends drinking and playing all kinds of mixed games for beer money; enough sometimes to feel happy, but not enough to be bothered by losing.

I don’t love it when I lose grocery carts. Or a bag of dog food. Or a domestic flight to most US cities round trip.

But my real struggle with this situation is whether or not I can accept this and live with it. That it’s okay not to be some up-and-coming grinder looking to make a name for himself.

I hope, in time, the answer will be “yes.”

Healthy love of something is not blind faith, boundless adoration, or chasing it to the ends of the Earth. It is recognizing and accepting flaws, but also setting boundaries when you need to.

It’s s time to set a boundary. To go back to the kiddie table. Join some friends for a $20 game and chat about random shit…

…and make a car payment on time.



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Alec Rome
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Alec Rome

Alec Rome has worked in the poker industry for about three years now in multiple roles. He is currently the multimedia producer for Above The Felt entertainment and recently edited the poker documentary entitled “Dreamers.” For fun, Alec loves his darts, some mixed games, and spending time with his partner Tabitha and dog Gary. You […]

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