January 25, 2005

Overcoming Addictions

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This winter break, a group of friends and I went to the land of opportunity, also known as Atlantic City.

For those of you who haven’t been to this shiny land of “massage parlors” and 24-hour strip clubs, allow me to go into more detail. Atlantic City is quite appropriately right in the area where New Jersey’s genitals would be if a state could have genitals. Besides being the only place most Cornellians can have a happy ending for $25, it is also the largest mafia front — I mean place to gamble — on the entire Eastern Seaboard.

Having a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife restricts you to this latter part of Atlantic City’s thriving economy, and this was my very situation. I knew what I was there for — No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. This was my chance to prove that I was better than the game, just like every other person I’ve ever met who plays Hold ‘Em likes to think as well.

But this story isn’t going to be about me winning $1,000,000 because I’m amazing at probability and I’m cooler than the other side of the pillow. I’ll cut right to the chase — after two days and about six hours of repeated massive swings, and noticing that everyone at the table seemed to have a lot more money than I did (somehow $100 doesn’t cut it at a $1/$2 no limit table), I ended down $52 and I felt dirty from the generally stinky group of unshaven men and occasional woman smelling of bad perfume around me. In addition, despite being up significantly to start, I lost $138 on my last hand of the day and then walked away shell shocked.

What’s the point of this story, you ask? My point is, in the words of Jon Stewart in reference to CNN’s Crossfire (for all of you who saw his appearance on the show), “STOP.” If you are one of the many people who thinks that hold ’em, or razz, or seven card stud, or any other poker game is the coolest thing in the world and you’re awesome at it and you’ve never lost and you think Rounders is the best movie ever, STOP. This trend has gone far enough. It is people like you, and perhaps formerly me, who are driving this madness of World Series of Poker being on 46 times a day and ESPN creating a new “poker drama,” Tilt, based entirely on the card game.

When did we lose sight of the fact that poker is a game meant to be played between friends? You know, maybe you have a card night once a week where people exchange some money and generally have a good time. In other words, when did we lose sight of the time when poker was a game and didn’t involve building a bankroll and taking advantage of less experienced players?

The truth is this trend stops with you, Obsessed Online Poker Guy, or you, Dude Who Walks Around in Sunglasses During The Winter So You’re Eyes Don’t Give Away Your Mood to Possible Future Poker Opponents, or you, Guy Who Could Have Bought His Girlfriend a Valentine’s Day Present But Spent it On a $500 Set of Poker Chips Instead (sorry, Beki). If you’re sick of spending hours of your life winning money in anti-social online settings or watching people with IQs below 90 winning millions on television because they memorized a bunch of hands and have gotten lucky in the past, put down the computer mouse. Turn off ESPN2. Don’t base your college income on your weekend trips to Turning Stone.

Call up a couple of friends, get yourself a deck of cards, open up a 12-pack (or a 24-pack for you and your alcoholic friends —- we cover this addiction next week) and bring your pennies and quarters. Because it’s just as satisfying when they have to buy you lunch.

Mike Pandolfini is a Sun staff writer. He can be contacted at mjp45@cornell.edu. Domo Arigato will appear every other Tuesday this semester.

Archived article by Mike Pandolfini