The Early Days
TJ, Doyle, Chip, Bobby, and the legendary rounders might laugh when I refer to 1995 as the early days, but even then it was a much different game.
Poker had come out of the smoky back rooms where choosing the best seat meant the one facing the door. But there was still plenty of smoke. Players were still allowed to puff away at the table and were generally cast in a bad light. Many hid their “addiction” from friends, family, and coworkers, afraid of the repercussions they might suffer for simply enjoying a $20 poker tournament.
The $20 buy-in tournaments at Hollywood Park Casino were part of this era. I had secured a job as a dealer and was putting my earnings in play at the lowest levels. Along with the evening daily tournaments, I started playing $1-2 limit. I purchased my first poker book, Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players by Sklanski and Malmuth, on the advice of a friend.
“Hell, I’m advanced,” I thought, “It’s time to move up to $2-4!” The book was written for $10-20 and above, but I was applying the tactics at the $2-4 and $3-6 levels. Reading and studying the game became routine. I kept log books of not only my results, but sometimes of every hand I played.
Even though I enjoyed playing and learning, I didn’t seem to fit in. These players were not interested in getting better, but rather were just looking for an escape from the harsh realities of the outside world. It was disturbing, because it felt like I was playing with people that were gambling with welfare checks.
I began to question whether it was right to play a game where the goal was to take someone else money. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and came from a middle class family. I arrived in California innocent and naive, sheltered from these harsh realities.