Sunday, 21 March 2010

The day after I lost $1.5 million, I was half-awakened by my mother through my bedroom door. "Get up! The window cleaner is here! You know, he is a little retarded, but still climbs up a ladder to earn an honest living. That's better than you, isn't it?"

The day before I'd felt like some kind of God; wing'd-with-Awe; keen-scented; inviolable. I desperately wanted to feel that way again, now I was just another teenager being shouted at by their mother. When I was in high school I used to know a black-nailed girl who cut herself. She told me she didn't hate herself; she just wanted to feel something. I understand that now.

I don't like my mother's disgust; but I regret only that I'm out of the game. Do you want to know how it had felt to be winning and - yes - losing so much? If normal life is a 20 - talking to a pretty girl at a party, her pupils dilating in excitement, oh my God I think she likes me, or holding my grateful grandmother's arm as she walks unsteadily through the park, or, once, racing dog sleds over sheets of ice - then, for me, playing six tables of $500/$1000 PLO is at least a 100.

It's also a lot like getting an enema. It can get messy and unpleasant, but soon after, I feel like I've purged a lot of shit. When I'm losing money I get angry and feel such hatred for everyone. I'm normally a calm, nice guy, but tilt brings the darkness out in me. Perhaps you noticed, when Ziigmund bust me the final time, that I called him "tjuv", or thief. Where did that come from? I had been beaten, and all I had left was insults. I'm glad when the game is over and these sour angry feelings are gone.

The hardest part to explain is always the end. Hastings and I were even for a long time before the collapse came, swinging just $500k either way. Then I was like a boxer being pummeled in the corner after ten rounds of an even fight. When he had me down to one table and $80k, what did I think was going to happen? When I rallied and got back up to $350k, and still played on, did I think I could win a million back? No, I knew my game had gone, and I was shoveling chips like December snow; but there was a terrible fatalism about me and I knew I couldn't leave until it was all gone.

I wasn't able to think of the money as having any value outside the game. That's nothing new for me, I never can. But also I couldn't see it had any value within the game either. I couldn't see I could start over the next day when my head cleared. No: it was totally impossible for me to stop until I had lost everything to Hastings.

Most people go their whole lives without ever losing a million or more in a day. This last year it seems to be happening to me too often. It still hurts, but never so much as the first time. It makes me feel a slight ache, a tightness, as if mildly hungover. Whenever I bust my account I spent a day or two downloading music, trying to find songs that evoke the grandeur, frenzy, euphoria and despair I'd felt playing poker.

Then, newly aware of my own mortality, I find myself rediscovering the life to which I'd become a stranger. I'm thrilled to find I've lost nothing but money I never needed anyway. My neglected high school friends are still drinking in the same bars; or playing the same MMORPGs, in Henrik's case. I embrace him as if I were a brother back from a war. And I find myself listening with quiet acceptance to my mother's criticisms. I'm so chastened I even tell her I love her, though under my breath.

In my loss I have seen death, and resolved to live on.