Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The beginning of the end?

Here is former BCC President Bryan Clark's most recent report on his poker career. It makes me wonder if his experiment is heading into the late innings.

Six Years in Las Vegas

My sixth year in Las Vegas got considerably worse before it finally got better.

Just about 35 hours after posting Five Years in Las Vegas, I woke up on a Friday afternoon motivated to put in a long weekend at the poker tables. I had planned for June-August to be non-stop poker. I was determined to grind out whatever hours were necessary to reboot my bankroll and put myself in a healthy and stable financial situation.

But, after showering and making something to eat, I noticed I had a message from back home in Massachusetts. My father was in intensive care. I called home and talked to my mother to find out how serious the situation was. After a short talk, I was online buying airline tickets to be with my mother.

My Dad was a strong guy. During the Vietnam War, he was on a reconnaissance mission (he believes in Cambodia when we weren’t officially there). The unmarked helicopter delivering him came under fire and he jumped out, landed badly, and permanently messed up his knee. He survived injured in the jungle, in enemy territory, for a week before his scheduled pickup. Five years ago, he had a relatively mild heart attack and walked into the emergency room for treatment. But, that same strength also made him stubborn. He had gotten sick a week earlier but had continued working (armed security) and didn’t treat whatever he had too seriously. But, he was older and didn’t recover so well. By the time he eventually went to the hospital Thursday night (again walking into the emergency room), he was in very bad shape. Within hours, he was admitted to intensive care and barely conscious.

I first saw him in the hospital on Sunday morning. I thought he looked fairly good for somebody in intensive care. A nurse thought it was a good idea to essentially yell at him to wake him up and tell him I was there. I would have preferred she just let him rest and recover. But, he woke up and looked over at me and my mother. When the doctor came in, he said my father’s chances were 50/50. He was having lots of problems, including sepsis. I was optimistic. Before walking into his room, I had prepared myself for the worst. But, he didn’t look bad to me.

When I visited again on Monday morning, he looked terrible. I instantly thought “he’s not going to make it”. And, he didn’t. I never saw him conscious again. We were never able to talk again. Instead, I visited every day for the next couple weeks and watched him deteriorate. He had so many problems that one medication which was designed to raise his blood pressure would end up causing him to bleed internally. I’m stuck with an image in my head of walking into his room one day to see him bleeding out of his mouth (apparently just starting within the past minute) and having to immediately ask a nurse to come in and check on him.

For a couple weeks, doctors tried everything they could to save him. About halfway through this, my parents had their 40th wedding anniversary. My Mom and I went out for a dinner. But, eventually, there was no reason for the doctors or my mother to have any reasonable hope. He took a big turn for the worse on Father’s Day weekend and my mother decided to end what we both knew my father wouldn’t want to continue. He was taken off his respirator on the Monday after Father’s Day (my mother very specifically refused to do it on Father’s Day after she made her decision on Saturday). My mother had planned to be by his side when he died. She was speaking to his doctor in the hallway as the nurse made certain preparations. The doctor had said he wouldn’t last very long without his respirator but even he didn’t realize how bad my father apparently was. Within five seconds of being disconnected by the nurse, my father died. The nurse immediately went to the doctor and my mother to inform them.

Until that point, I had been lucky in not having to deal with loss. My grandparents had died. But, two died when I was so young that I can’t remember them. Losing the other two hurt. But, even as a child, it was not hard to understand older people dying. Nobody else very close to me had ever died.

I spent most of June in Massachusetts with my mother and other family. Obviously, it came with some expense. Also, my bills back in Las Vegas still needed to be paid. And, I wasn’t playing any poker since I didn’t have any money online or any good computer access. Foxwoods wasn’t an option because of the travel time required. A lot of money got spent and no money came in.

In the first 22 days of July, I played nearly 100 hours, regularly loss, and often loss big. One of the last hands I played resonates for me. An EP raised pre-flop and got called in several places including a tight-aggressive button player. I called in the big blind with 55. The flop came T,9,5. I checked to the EP who bet. After a few folds, the TAG button raised. I made the perfect read. The TAG had flopped a bigger set. Of course, I sent him all my chips anyway (checking and calling the whole way vs. his 99).

Even before that night, I was past the point of playing on a short bankroll. I was now playing with rent payments. When I got home, I added up all the money I had in various places. I calculated that if I didn’t play at all, I could pay my expenses up until, and including, my rent in October. Then, I would be broke. If I kept playing, that date could be earlier or later.

I had already taken certain steps to get a job such as contacting and interviewing with a headhunter. But, nothing had yet developed there. I can’t say I wanted anything to develop. But, I may have needed it to.

However, in July of 2006, problems at Two Plus Two Publishing created an opportunity I hadn’t expected. Ed Miller decided to end his association with 2+2 (except his book project with Matt Flynn and Sunny Mehta which was already started and should be published in July of this year). One of the duties he resigned from was his editorship of the Two Plus Two Internet Magazine. I contacted Mason Malmuth and expressed my interest in the job. I had to wait a few days before getting a definitive response. Apparently, Mason had already offered the job to David Fromm (who was also working on a 2+2 book with Ray Zee). However, David turned it down to focus on his book.

Mason contacted me to arrange a lunch with him and Mat Sklansky. I reviewed the three most recent issues of the Magazine and came well prepared to discuss what I thought of the issues and ideas I had for the future. But, the lunch was different than I had expected. I wasn’t actually being interviewed for the position. Mason started the conversation saying something like “I wanted to meet with you so we could talk in person about what you’re responsibilities will be.” I quickly realized I already had the job. It was quite a relief. I also got a good laugh when Mat said something like “I don’t even know why Mason wanted me here. I don’t deal with the Magazine at all”. It was a good sign of the type of security and autonomy I’d have in my new position.

The Magazine didn’t initially pay very well and I wasn’t getting my first full check until mid-September. With my finances otherwise running out just a couple weeks after that, I decided to take an overly-cautious approach for the next few months. I focused my attention on improving the quality of the Magazine with the intention of offering Mason a proposal to expand my duties with 2+2 for an increase in pay. In the meantime, I stopped playing with my insufficient bankroll to ensure not going bankrupt.

After publishing the September and October issues of the Magazine and getting very positive responses from the readers for taking a new approach and bringing in a new group of regular writers, I made a proposal to Mason. I offered to expand my role on the website, make a one-year commitment to the positions, and asked for an increase in pay which would be enough to cover my basic monthly expenses. Mason responded saying “While not everything you requested, I think you'll be happy with (our response).” He turned down my offer of expanded duties and firm commitment. However, he gave me the full raise I asked for. Oh, well. You can’t have everything.

Editing the Magazine is an ideal job. For a part-time position, it pays reasonably well. As long as I meet my monthly deadline, I can work anytime I want from the comfort of my own home. And, of course, that allows me to play at my leisure.

So, by the New Year, I was back in the game rebuilding a crippled bankroll while also working part time as a poker magazine editor. Since then, everything has been good. Through most of 2006, I was playing what could be called stressed-poker. I needed to win in order to pay the bills. Now, I’m playing stress-free poker. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve had that kind of comfort at the table.

I can’t say I’m properly bankrolled for the uncapped Vegas 2-5 no-limit games. My ideal buy-in for that game would be $1,000. For the past couple months, I’ve been forced to look for the better games and buy-in somewhat short. But, the bankroll is consistently growing again.

I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend in the Three, Four, and Five Years posts. They end with me being very optimistic about the short term and long term future. But, the best actual year-end results was a maintaining of the status quo. Yet, I remain optimistic anyway. Year Seven is going to be good.

originally posted 5/15/07 on 2+2 Forums by Bryan Clark

Related Posts: Bryan's Song - The Bryan Clark Poker Dynasty - Time for a repetoire change

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