When the school year comes to a close, what follows like the night the day? That's right, it's time for the final exam, which, in my case, is the $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker championship event.
Now some would say judging a year's work on the basis of one huge crapshoot is crazy. In fact, at least one person has told me just that Russell Rosenblum, a fifth-place finisher in the 2004 World Poker Tour championship and a member in good standing of the esteemed Jackpot Jay board of advisors.
When I asked him what advice he had for a wannabe poker "pro" who is looking at the WSOP as his final exam, Rosenblum e-mailed, "Sorry to say this, but there is no worse metric of how far you have come than the main event of the WSOP. Imagine a baseball player picking a single at-bat in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series against a pitcher he has never seen live or on tape to define his whole season. Now consider that a great hitter may get a hit one out of three at-bats, while even the greatest poker player will not make the final table anywhere near that in these fields."
Of course Rosenblum is right. But there's no help for it. When I naively structured my year between two WSOP festivals, there was only one way it could end. As Bob Seger once sang, "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then."
But at least you've got to give me one thing: I'm not looking for an easy 'A' here.
Basically, we're talking "Mission Impossible," only without any help from the guy with all the space-age mechanical devices. Just as they used to do on the TV show, I figure it's time to come up with a game plan.
It may not be a brilliant strategy, but at least it's mine
When I was in college, back in the Paleolithic Era, they used to have something called Reading Week. During my first two years at Harpur College in Binghamton, N.Y., Reading Week lasted for two weeks 14 days in which you were supposed to study for your finals. (Or, if you were the kind of screwup who dominated places like Harpur during the early 1960s, you were supposed to finish all those term papers you had been unable to complete in a more timely fashion because of the "sudden and unexpected death" of a loved one, whose existence could not be confirmed by school administrators.)
This will come as no surprise to regular readers of this column, but I spent all my Reading Weeks playing poker $1-$2-$5, mostly 7-stud high-low with a declare, and a round of betting after the declaration during which you could kill raises for $1, if that seemed wise. A game would start in the rec room of our dorm the moment after the last class ended, and it would continue, unabated, for the entire Reading Week, with a revolving cast of degenerates, some who played for days at a time.
I'm not sure those years are kind of hazy in my memory, thanks to the easy availability of mind-altering recreational substances but this may have had something to do with my flunking out of school after my junior year.