So Close. Also Known as The World Series of Poker Strikes Again.

This was not the post I wanted to write.  

Mike spent the last week in Las Vegas, competing in two World Series of Poker events in his signature game, Pot Limit Omaha (It's actually called Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better.  Let's just call it PLO8 for fun).  It was his third attempt at a World Series of Poker title.  His first trip out, four years ago, was to play in the Main Event, the one you actually see on TV.  The Main Event is Texas Hold 'Em, not Mike's true game, but a thrill to participate in for the sheer spectacle, nonetheless.  He'd won his buy-in to the event on-line, and so it was really just for fun.

Last year Mike went out to Vegas on his own dime, to participate in the smaller of the two events in PLO8.  He had high hopes of doing well.  He came home disappointed.  When you've invested a sizable chunk of your own income for the privilege of playing in an event, there's some pressure attached.  I think it got to him.

This year felt different, full of possibility.  He was being backed by two of the principals at PokerXFactor.  They put up the money for him to play in the events, and should he cash in any they earn a percentage of the winnings.  Thanks to the arrangement, he was able to play in both the $1500 and $5000 Pot Limit Omaha events.  Twice the chance to bring home a bracelet.  Twice the chance to bring home some serious cash.  More confidence, less pressure.

His first event was Tuesday, and I spent the better part of the event annoying my Twitter followers with updates and re-tweets.  He was doing well and it was contagious.  He finished that event 45th out of 847, and for the first time in his World Series of Poker career he finished in the money.  

You can't help but imagine what might happen if he were to actually win an event.  For Mike, it would be the poker equivalent of winning an Oscar.  For me, it would be the equivalent of being the Jesse James to his Sandra Bullock, except for the part where I run off and cheat on him, of course.  There would be the celebratory tweets and Facebook posts.  We'd throw a fabulous party in his honor.  There would be a lot of teasing about him wearing the bracelet in public, with lots of references to The Jersey Shore.  And of course there would be the money.  Life-changing kind of money.  I'd already envisioned the post I would write about that – how we did the smart thing with the money, how Dave Ramsey would approve, how un-sexy and yet so cool our decisions were.

But that's not the post I was meant to write, not when you wake up to this tweet:

Well, crap

31st out of 287.  Four spots away from the money. So close.

If I'm disappointed, I can only imagine how Mike is feeling.  I imagine he just wants to be home now, after a week in Vegas.  We want him home, too.  We miss him so much.  

As disappointing as it may be, I hope he isn't disappointed in himself.  When you finish ahead of names like Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke, Phil Ivey, and Daniel Negreanu, you shouldn't be too hard on yourself.  When you earn yourself two write-ups in PokerNews, including your very own headline (Six Nixed!), you ought to cut yourself some slack.  When you have a hot wife and two charming kids waiting for you at home, how big of a deal is a measly old poker tournament in the grand scheme of things, really?  

You know the saying, What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  Leave whatever regrets and second guesses you have in Vegas, baby.  Come home, where we'll have a party for you anyway (of course, it's technically a birthday party for our daughter, but details-schmeetails).  Come home and we'll forget all about it.  Until next year, that is.  And then I'll have this killer post . . .

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Inquiring Minds Wanted To Know

I'm not the biggest fan of "update" posts, but several of you have asked for updates about how things are going around here with the new job and Eli's medical issues.  Seeing as how spring break put a crimp on my writing schedule and we've got a busy couple of weeks ahead of us (heellooo beach and annual girls' trip!), an update post suddenly seems quite convenient.

How are we faring now that Mike wears pants and is receiving steady paychecks?  I hesitate to say that it's been a difficult transition, because difficult seems a bit over the top.  It certainly hasn't been breezy, either.  What kind of word describes a middle place? Because that's where we are.  Each of us has had our own ups and downs, our own transition.

I can't speak directly for Mike, but I do know that the first couple of weeks he was downright exhausted.  He'd get home, we'd do dinner and then each take a kid and do our bedtime rituals, and before we knew it the clock said 8:30.  Where we'd normally catch up on a few shows, or he'd play online for a few hours, he was ready to call it a day.  We don't expect sympathy – this is real life for most people each and every day.  Still, after 14 months of working your own schedule, reality is exhausting.  He's trying to figure out how to work his coaching obligations and poker playing time into this new routine, and I imagine it will take a while to figure out a good balance.  

He did get some exciting news recently.  He's been an online coach over at Stox Poker, producing videos for them from time to time.  The website recently folded, but in the process he was asked to do the same thing for CardRunners.  It's a much bigger website, and people who know poker say it's a big deal.  I, of course, know diddly-squat about poker, so I believed them and gave him a high five and big gold star.  If you're interested in that sort of thing, or know someone who is, send them over there to get some poker smarts from my man.

The kids have really missed having Mike around.  Elena especially misses their guitar time together.  Mike always sat in on her guitar lessons and practiced with her at home.  They were both learning together and they loved it.  Eli still doesn't quite get it that daddy's work isn't at home anymore.  It's getting better, but he was asking me, "Where Daddy go?" at least a hundred times a day.  I'd say that Daddy was at work, and he'd head up to the office looking for him.  Being 100% boy, this daddy-being-gone business is really okay, because we now have a giant truck parked in our driveway every night.  A ride or two in the truck totally makes up for it in his mind.

As for me, I'm realizing how convenient it was to have Mike around all day.  I have to plan my mornings to make sure that I have Eli home for his nap at a certain time, otherwise I'll have to wake him up to go get Elena.  I used to spend his nap time working on blog stuff, or simply relaxing, but now I find myself feeling pressure to get as much dinner prep done as possible.  Mostly, though, I miss having him around just to talk to during the day.  Again, I don't expect sympathy – this is real life.  And even this new reality is a cushy life for most – I get to stay home with my kids, for pete's sake.  Still, after 14 months of having my best friend just around the corner, reality is a bitter pill to swallow.

Thankfully, one thing we haven't had to worry much about in these last couple of weeks has been Eli.  Well, other than his brief reappearance in the ER, he's been doing great.  Thanks to the urologist's suggestions, he hasn't had any significant flare-ups of pain.  His surgery is scheduled for Tuesday morning (April 13).  Between having previous experience with anesthesia and the helpful suggestions of families who have been through this particular procedure before, we feel very at ease about his surgery.  Still, your thoughts and prayers would be most appreciated on Tuesday morning.  It's still surgery, and he's my baby boy, after all.  We love him to pieces and pieces and just want him happy, healthy and wreaking havoc as usual.

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  I have the best readers in the world, and I'm continually grateful that you read my words and care about my family.  I've got some fun stuff coming up, including a fabulous Mother's Day giveaway you won't want to miss, so be sure to check in frequently!

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Mr. Poker Player Moves On

Man At Work

By the time you read this, things will be very different around here.

Mike is no longer a full-time poker player.  He has a job.  The traditional kind of job where one leaves their home, goes to an office, and interacts with people face-to-face.  And wears pants.

It's been fourteen months since Mike left Sunbelt to pursue this dream.  During that time we put a lot of effort into making the work-from-home scenario a positive one.  We were forever communicating with each other, tweaking his work hours, and making adjustments to our expectations in hopes that we would find a system that worked for all of us.  I'd like to think that we got to a place where it was a decent arrangement for all of us, but it was never easy.  It was never quite what we imagined it to be.

It's hard to have your partner at home, but not available.  It's hard to fully function when parts of your home are off-limits.  I had difficulty with those concepts, and I'm an adult.  For Elena and Eli, at times, it was beyond comprehension.  I can't tell you how many times I wanted to shout in frustration, "WE LIVE HERE!"  I don't doubt there were choice phrases Mike wanted to shout in my general direction.

It was difficult for Mike as well.  A lapse in concentration from an ill-timed interruption could cost him hundreds of dollars.  The pressure of being the sole provider, with no guarantee of what income that might be, was often overwhelming.

He had no mentor or friend he could turn to for help in these matters.  To this day we don't know of anyone else who was trying to do what we were doing.  The few players he knew that had children also had spouses who worked outside the home.  They had a steady stream of income from something other than the volatile world of on-line poker.  Their kids went to school and daycare.  Looking back, we know why there aren't many others like us, trying to make this oddball life work.  It's just too hard.  The toll it takes on your marriage and your finances isn't worth the freedom and flexibility it provides.

If all of the above gripes were present, but we were rolling around in money, I imagine we would have been more tolerant of the ugly bits.  Unfortunately, that was never the case.  On the contrary, it's been tight.  

Here's where I have the utmost respect for my husband:  he's putting aside the dream to do what's best for his family.  At this time, it means going back to a job that provides a steady income with benefits.  It means putting on pants again.

If for any reason he thinks that this chapter of his life was a failure or a mistake, he's flat-out wrong.  I love him for being brave, and quite honestly, cocky enough to try.  Despite all the chinks in the walls and maimed keyboards, despite our dwindling emergency fund and neglected 401Ks, despite the miscommunications and irritations, it was by far the best fourteen months of my life.

Our kids had more time with their father than many kids have in a lifetime.  I've been spoiled as well.  No more leaving Eli at home to finish his nap while I go pick up Elena.  No more sleeping in during the middle of the week while Mike takes the kids to school.  That's the trade-off for a steady income and a home that no longer functions dually as an office.

I'm not sure how I feel about this turn of events just yet.  I've made no secret of the fact that I relish peace and quiet, and that it does my soul good to be in my home alone (or at least alone with children tucked away in bed) every once in awhile.  For those reasons, there is a part of me that looks forward to having some solitude and privacy back in my life again.  Still, I'm sad for Mike.  I'm sad for my family, that we couldn't quite pull off this loony lifestyle.  

In the months to come, I hope we'll find some kind of balance and peace again.  I hope this opportunity turns out to be a good thing for Mike, that he's challenged and appreciated and rewarded financially for the hard worker he's always been.  I hope he can get to a place where poker is fun again, and not just a means to an end.  I hope I can remember how to do this mom thing again with my back-up and best friend just up the stairs.  

No, we couldn't make it work.  It sure was a good run, though.

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