Lucky Morris II | The Poker Perspective

I watched Morris walk into his apartment.  It was in a strip of apartments — all with that prefab look to them — vinyl siding, identical doors, two windows all to the left of the door. fake storm shudders next to the windows, a single concrete step up to the doorway, a storm door, and then their door with a peep hole.  Morris walked from my car across the sidewalk, over the small plot of grass that was the front yard, to his concrete step.  He pulled back on the storm door, held it from closing by inserting his right shoulder, took his key from his pocket, unlocked the door, opened it into his apartment, half waved back to me, and then was gone inside.

I sat in my car for a minute or so longer, half thinking about what Morris had just told me about amplifying my luck.  I smiled slightly while driving away from the curb back onto the road, and then snaking around to route 2A that fed into route 2, taking me back gradually to route 95 and then to my exit in Rhode Island.  It was about a 20 minute drive to my door.  And all the way I thought, easily and driftingly, about what it would be like if I really could amplify my luck.

I lived alone in a basement apartment in a residential neighborhood.  It was one of those split levels where you walked inside and then up a quarter flight of steps to the main floor.  Except the owners had built a separate entrance that went downstairs to a one bedroom apartment that they rented out for $500 a month including heat and all utilities.  I had had the room for nearly four years, since I had moved from Boston where I used to live before my divorce.  Yes, back before my divorce I was a husband and sales guy for a motor parts company, driving all over New England from my awful apartment in Brighton.  I used to come down to Foxwoods twice a week at night and then on the weekends.  My two year marriage didn’t last.  It was for the best.

Now I was a professional poker player — such that earning $22,000 a year (tax free) was a living.  I convinced myself that I was on an escalator.  It might have been more like a treadmill.  But I started part-time — working my job and grinding at poker nights and weekends.  I always played low stakes — but when I saw that my hourly rate was $20 an hour for an average of about 30 hours a week or so I figured I could afford to quit my job, live off my savings of $20,000 if need be, and try to make it just playing poker.  My first year proved that I might have been mistaken.  I payed $6,000 in rent, $7,500 in food (including meals out),$4,000 in student loans, and $5,250 in gas, insurance, and repairs on my car. I spent another $4,500 on miscellaneous.  And I was still covered by my wife’s insurance.  $26,750 for expenses.  

That first year I logged just about 3,000 hours playing poker — 95% of it at Foxwoods.  In all that time, playing exclusively $1/2 with a $300 maximum buy-in, I earned the grand total of  (drumbeat please) $12,100.  That’s not a typo.  My poker income actually went down from $30,000 playing 30 hours a week part-time to $12,100 for an entire full-time+ job.  That’s fractionally more than $4 an hour.  Thank God I had some savings or I would have gone completely broke.  As it was, I went through $14,000 of my savings, leaving me with just a little over $8,000 in my account.

My second year was much better.  I reviewed my notes, went on a couple of video training sites aimed at low stakes no limit hold’em (Red Chip was my favorite), and met up with a couple of other guys who were trying to do what I was doing.  We talked about hands a whole lot — really dug down.  I realized that I was quite a bit too tight pre-flop and not aggressive enough — especially when my position and my opponent warranted a higher degree of bluffing.  In short, after my introspection and analysis, I concluded that I was giving my opponents too much respect.  I also realized that my playing hours were too much like a straight job.  While my part-time hours were usually late at night and always on the weekends — sometimes for marathon sessions over Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday; when I went full time I diligently started my day on Monday morning, played a full 8-10 hours each week day, and then a long session Saturday.  I was playing longer but I was playing more during the toughest times — when the fewest tourists and drinking players were playing.  My hourly win rate was so much higher before because my play was concentrated on the times and days when the weakest opponents were playing — and when they were likely to be playing their worst game.  

For year two, I changed my playing schedule.  I never showed up to play in the morning or early afternoon.  I skipped Tuesday entirely — using that day to cook food for the week, clean my apartment, work on my car, and do some clerical work at home for the company I had sold for before.  I made $15 an hour for the paperwork — and they paid me for 8 hours a week.  That gave me at least a small amount of straight income to supplement my poker pay.  It was only about $6K a year, under the table.  But at least that covered my rent.

I showed up to work at Foxwoods Wednesday at about 4PM.  I played until 4 or 5AM — taking breaks for eating and walking at about 6 and 11 — when I had found the action lulled somewhat.  I then slept until noon or so, got up, exercised (I lived near a Y with a pool and some treadmills, weights, and other equipment I used to stay in shape).  I’d then come back at 4 or 5 on Thursday, play another long session until 4 or 5am Friday, sleep until noon; come back to the casino by 4 or 5 Friday, and play as long as I thought the action was good and I could stay alert — typically 6 or 7.  I’d sleep for six hours or so, come back to the poker room, play steadily until Monday morning when the games would typically break, and then go home and sleep all day, lounge around most of Monday afternoon — reading, maybe returning emails and phone messages and texts, go to bed early Monday, sleep late Tuesday and repeat my schedule.  I was logging 60 hours or so but it was concentrated on those periods when I’d be most likely to get the best action from the weakest players playing their worst.  

It seemed to be working.  After the first 3 months I was up $15,000.   For the second quarter I won another $13,000; for the third quarter I hit a lull and earned only $5,800.  And for the final quarter of the year, with a few weeks off for a holiday around Thanksgiving and Christmas, I earned another $7,750.  My totals for the year were enormously better than the prior year. $41,550.  I wasn’t getting rich but I was earning a decent living (especially when I didn’t pay taxes and had my health insurance paid by my ex).

I celebrated with a party for my two serious poker buddies at David Burke’s where I went through 1,100 in points.  (No matter, really, as I still had over 5,000 in points — that I could convert to $2,500 in cash if an emergency ever hit).

This third year was not going well however.  Though I started out great guns the first few weeks of January — winning $5,000 in my first 240 hours of play — over three weeks, I had been on an awful losing streak since then.  Now into the beginning of March, I was up only $2,000 for the year.  That’s where I was when I met Max — after suffering an awful daily loss of over $1,000.  My winnings from the prior year were a small cushion against financial disaster.  And I had an ample playing bankroll.  Still, the thought that I was losing for two months in a row was causing me some anxiety — as I couldn’t find anything different about my game — except what I figured was just the random vagaries of chance.

But Morris had gotten me thinking.  Morris had given me what he thought as the secret to being lucky.   I wrote about it before, but to sum it up, it required a near monkish existence.  I’d have to give up sweets, alcohol, processed flour, caffeine pot and SEX!  Humorously, with my current lifestyle, giving up sex was actually the easiest — as I hadn’t had any since my divorce.  Even so, it was a lot.   It also required that I rigorously exercise two hours every single day.   It could be running, fast walking, swimming, lifting weights, or any combination of that sort of aerobic and strength conditioning.   But it had to be two hours every day — no days off!

Oh, and there was an element of weirdness too.   He said that I had to activate the luck field at my poker table by rubbing  in counter-clockwise circles under the table!   Weird!

I figured that a break from poker couldn’t hurt — as I had done a little more than a year earlier — turning around my game in the process.  This time, however, I decided to embrace all of the steps Morris had told me would lead to an enhanced level of luck.  I decided to go vegan exercise rigorously, give up sex, sugar, and alcohol, and have a go at it.

And then I’d start thinking about circles under the table!

And so I did.

I had already been going to the Y for some swimming a couple of days of week.  I wasn’t unfamiliar with the weights and the other machines.  But I surely didn’t work out 2 hours, strenuously, every day.

I changed that.  

I got a personal coach at the Y.   His name was Vista.  He was a brawny ex-Division 1 football player from Samoa who had moved to Providence Rhode Island after college to study design at RISD.  His day job had been interior design — commercial interior design.  But his passion was fitness.  And so he had started a business freelancing at area gyms, providing personal training for $60 an hour — $200 a week f — up to 1 hour a day five days a week (if you wanted that much).  I paid him and made sure to get my money’s worth each week — showing up at 11 AM every day, Monday through Friday at the Y.  I then followed his direction — swimming for an hour, doing 40 minutes of weight training focused on different muscle groups each day — mixing it up as he directed.  I told him that my goal was 2 hours of strenuous exercise 7 days a week.  And I followed his plan to the letter.

My food bills went up.  Through Vista, I met Naomi — a nutritionist who specialized in vegans.  Her primary mission was to make sure I had enough protein to sustain my massive exercise regime.  She “prescribed” a lot of whey protein, but also a lot of vitamin B rich leafy vegetables, tofu, peanut butter (without sugar, salt, or other additives), and a ton of fresh vegetables like peppers, zucchini, broccoli, and flax seed.  I also drank a ton of water — and lots of some special herbal tea — especially in the evening — that helped with calming down my stomach — that was often gassy and upset.

The weight training made a noticeable difference in my appearance.   I had a soft middle and a bit of a pot belly before I began the training.  I didn’t develop washboard abs, but I lost my gut entirely.  The biggest change, however, was in my neck and shoulders.  They greatly expanded.   I started to look a little like those guys who have just gotten out of prison.  Normal legs, but really jacked in the chest, back, neck and arms.  I liked the new look.   My food bills went up. Through Vista, I met Naomi — a nutritionist who specialized in vegans. Her primary mission was to make sure I had enough protein to sustain my massive exercise regime. She “prescribed” a lot of whey protein, but also a lot of vitamin B rich leafy vegetables, tofu, peanut butter (without sugar, salt, or other additives), and a ton of fresh vegetables like peppers, zucchini, broccoli, and flax seed. I also drank a ton of water — and lots of some special herbal tea — especially in the evening — that helped with calming down my stomach — that was often gassy and upset.

I didn’t have a ton of money to spend, but I decided to buy a whole new wardrobe that really fit me.

I went to the local Goodwill.  You laugh, but for a guy on a budget the place is heaven.  It’s a huge store in Norwich.   Apparently, we have one of the largest markets for used clothing in all of Connecticut.  I guess there’s a nice blend of very thrifty shoppers and rich donors.  I picked up half a dozen shirts and four or five pants..  I even splurged for a $7 Brooks Brothers sport jacket and a $20 leather bomber jacket.   

Giving up the sex — well that really wasn’t hard at all since I didn’t have a girlfriend fo any sort, never went out to bars or any other pickup places, and had never learned to go on any of the websites.  In short, aside from the thin socializing I did at the tables, I was pretty much a loner — and had been since I got divorced.  I know it sounds like a copout — but I was too focused on my mission and my work to even think about dating.   Sure, I’d notice a pretty woman walking by — I might even think about taking home one of the rare hot dealers or female poker players.   But nothing ever got any further.

My break lasted a month.  I didn’t have any poker income, but I didn’t have any losses either.  I lost about 15 pounds and had gained a lot of definition in my arms and chest.  I didn’t really care about that (although I went to Goodwill to buy some new pants).  But I found that I was more energetic and alert.  I eagerly returned to the poker table.

I sat down for the first time in a month in a $1/2 game on a Friday night at 8PM.  I was well rested, confidant, and clear-headed.  I saw many people whom I knew.  A couple of them even mentioned that I looked great.

I waited patiently for some decent starting hands — folding the first five or six hands I was dealt.  As I waited I remembered what Morris had told me about rubbing the bottom of the table clockwise.  I felt a little funny doing it, but I did it nevertheless — making circles of about a foot in diameter and circling at about the rate of two a second.  I didn’t deliberately draw attention to myself.  But after about five minutes of doing this some of the people seemed to be staring at me.  Maybe it was just that I was self-conscious.  But I felt the need to explain myself.  I smiled and said that I was doing this for luck.

After about ten minutes of folding I started to get some decent starting cards.  I was dealt QQ, then AK, then KK, then AA all in about six hands.  I got some action on the Queens.  They improved to a set on the turn and I stacked Jimmy for $600 or so.  Jimmy was a regular grinder like me — trying to make a living at it, without another job.  The money all went in on the river when he made a smaller full house than I did when the board paired.

I kept rubbing.  A couple of the players asked pointedly what I was doing “down there”.  “Hey, I’m doing this to turn my luck around” I said with a big smile.  “It seems to be working” said a player to my left — Zelda, a woman in her 60s or so whom I’d seen around before but never met.  “Keep that up and I’ll have to try it” she said.  I laughed and rubbed faster.

I lost with the Kings, when a super-rock raised me on the flop when I bet and he raised me three times my bet and I folded.  But I won another $500 or so with the Aces — as I held AsAh and the board went KhJh6d8h2h — and I spiked the nut flush on the river against a guy with a set of sixes.  That was definitely lucky.  But I still didn’t think that I really created the luck.  Still, I kept rubbing just to be sure.

I took a break after three hours — up $2,172 and very hungry.


[For those of you who never read the first chapter of Lucky Morris, I am reprinting it in my next post]


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