Monday, January 23, 2006


I will miss it, for sure, but I am writing this post to close this blog and to mark the end of my online poker play.

In short, the last eight months have been the hardest ones of my life. My wife of five years, who I love more than I can say, told me she was unhappy with her life with me, unsure of the choices she had made, was unsure whether marriage, either to me or to anyone, was right for her. There are things I could have done better in the relationship, to be sure, and I am working hard on changing those things. But I don’t think that my changes will save the marriage, so I make them for myself only. I didn’t know things were wrong, partly because she didn’t tell me clearly, and partly because I didn’t notice, tending as I do to get absorbed in my own hobbies, such as poker and music. We separated in November, and she has become emotionally paralyzed, unable to say whether she can really try to work things out or not, so I have given her two more months to decide. And if her decision then is still no decision, then I will have to make the call, and call it over.

We still love each other, we don’t fight, and there’s very little anger. For those reasons, being alone the last few months was even harder than when we were together in some kind of limbo. I realized that I lost a lot of my identity when I lost my wife. To find that identity again, to be, as Charlie Short says, “more of what I am and less of what I am not,” I have been reading a lot about relationships and about Zen Buddhism, taking painting classes, doing new activities, talking with friends, and changing the things about myself that I want to change. And through all this, I have still been playing online poker, although I took a break for the first two months after I learned about my wife’s feelings, and now it is time for me to change that too.

I have to say I’m envious of the online poker players who are making such good money, but I am not one of them. I have a job I generally like, and it pays pretty well. I play poker decently, but my problem with online poker is that it is always there, and even if I say to myself, “I will play only on occasion,” I still end up spending more of my free time playing than I want to, at the expense of other things I’d like to be doing. (And, to add to that, I have a fallen a couple times this year already into playing blackjack, at higher stakes than I should, incurring two big losses, which suggests a really troubling trend towards addictive gambling. That has to stop, and if I am playing online poker, it’s much easier for me to veer off into straight gambling.)

Additionally, I am sad, almost grieving, in many ways, at different levels, just treading in a general swath of sadness. Certainly grief is a bad state in which to play poker, even if that grief is far back in the brain much of the time. It is a little like grieving for a loved one who has died, because my love for my wife (and hers for me) hasn’t turned to hate or animosity; that love keeps emanating from me, but it’s lost its recipient.

I have played online for two years, made a little money, learned the game decently, but I need to spend the time when I am not working or sleeping doing something different, more life-affirming, more creative, more social, less money-driven. I am a good writer, a poet, a painter, a musician; I am curious about the world and my place in it. I need to open myself more to these things. With this kind of momentous life-change, losing my wife, losing what I thought would be my future, so much of my slate has been wiped clean; I have the opportunity to start over. I have made a lot of changes in the last eight months, learned a lot about myself, and so quitting online play is one more change I want to make.

There is a Zen koan that asks, “What was your face before your mother and father were born?” I am asking myself now, what was my face before I knew my wife? What was my face before I played online poker?

So I will say thanks to all the bloggers who I have read, met, and talked with. When I was out in Vegas for the blogger tournament in December, I was at very low point, my wife having just moved out, and being out there alone was actually one of the loneliest experiences I’ve ever had. But that loneliness was broken by some of the very kind bloggers I met there, whose friendliness and sincerity really made an impact on me, especially Grubby, Iggy, Pauly, and Otis. Thanks guys. (Grubby, the acting class starts up next Sunday—I’ll email and let you know how it goes.) I’ll miss you all too—because as I remove myself from the world of online poker, I have to cut the blogs from my life as well.

I wish everyone great luck and good fortune, both peace and knowledge, in good times and bad.

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