It was in June of 2005 that I officially joined Team Pokerstars. It was the beginning of an incredible two year journey that ended last month, when I found out that I won't be on the team after June 15th of this year.
I had been expecting to be cut from the team ever since Bill Frist snuck the UIGEA into an entirely unrelated port security bill in the middle of the night on the last day of Congress' session in 2006. Because he wanted to suck up to his daddy-needing ultra-conservative moralizing base. For his presidential bid. Which he dropped shortly after. Hey, diagnose this, asshole.
Uh. Sorry. Anyway, with the future of online poker in the USA in serious doubt as a result of this Fristfucking, PokerStars and the other online rooms need to focus on Europe and Asia to expand and fortify their business. It totally makes sense, and it didn't surprise me at all when I got the call last month.
I've always known that this adventure would come to an end sooner or later. I always felt like I was getting away with an awesome trick: I'm a decent poker player, and I think I did a good job reaching out to the non-professional players who treated poker as entertainment, but I'm not a tournament winner or a major celebrity, or a professional player. If PokerStars was going to cut someone from the team, obviously it would be me.
In some ways, though, I'm relieved. Though I love playing poker, and I really like the people I've play edwith every week, for the last few months I have not been able to sit into any games online without a bunch of anonymous, unaccountable railbirds harassing, insulting, and berating me because . . . well, because they can. The guys I play with regularly and I tried to make a joke out of it, setting an over/under line of how many minutes it would be before some genius came in and impressed us all with his various ways of avoiding the profanity filter while insulting every single thing I did, but that got old really, really fast. Yeah, I'm not going to miss that at all.
It'll be nice to have my Tuesday nights back to myself, too. Realistically, being off Team PokerStars means that the time I devote to playing cards will begin to shrink, until I only play with friends and even then, rarely. I have so many demands being made upon my time and my spirit right now, I have to chose very carefully where I invest them. For the last few months, poker hasn't been as fun as it once was, and it's been more of an obligation than anything else (other than those few tourneys I entered just for the fun of it, and actually won or finished deep in the money, of course!) so the timing of this change in my life couldn't be better.
But there is a lot that I am going to miss. I am going to miss seeing my friends from Team PokerStars at different tournaments throughout the year. I am going to miss being part of a company that made me feel like part of a family, even though we rarely saw each other in real life. I'm going to miss representing a company that I always felt was honorable and took care of its customers. I am going to miss playing with players who felt, like me, that it wasn't worth risking much more at the virtual tables than we would on an evening out to dinner and a movie, so we played poker for entertainment. I am going to miss playing with players who frequently told me how happy they were to play with a Team PokerStars player for more affordable stakes. I'm going to miss playing with the occasional Trekkie who thought it was cool to play with me. I will miss being the unofficial ambassador to the low rollers.
Most of all, I'm going to miss working with Otis on the PokerStars blog, and I'm going to miss everything we did together while covering the World Series of Poker last year. It was really hard work, but it was challenging, exciting, and incredibly rewarding. It was good for my soul to be entirely focused on creating good work. I got to spend most of last summer living my life as a writer, taking my notebook everywhere with me and staring out across the desert from my hotel room desk while I did used my words to transport readers of the blog to the PokerStars suite, or the tournament floor in the Rio.
We allowed ourselves to believe that we were following in the footsteps of A. Alverez, Tony Holden, and Jim McManus, and I felt like my writing from Vegas was some of the best I've ever done. Vegas is a bitch, but she is also all the things that make people come back again and again, against their better judgment. She is always willing to give up a story, if you're willing to pay her for it, and she never lets you down. In fact, Otis is there right now, with most of my friends I wrote with last year, and I'd give almost anything to be there with them, too. Not as a poker player, but as a writer. Las Vegas is a bitch, man, but I sure am going to miss her.
I'm going to hold a couple of "so long and thanks for all the chips" tourneys at PokerStars in the coming weeks, so we can bring this grand adventure to an end in style. Watch this space for details.