The High Is Always the Pain and the Pain Is Always the High

Jay Caspian Kang writes an incredibly open and stark account of the gambling life in his essay entitled The High Is Always the Pain and the Pain Is Always the High. He talks about his gambling friends, poker celebrities like Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth, and what it feels like to lose $18,000 in 36 hours.

Playing poker, after all, was nothing more than a ride on math’s pendulum. Put yourself on the right side of a 55 percent/45 percent split enough times and you’ll inherit the earth, right?

I, myself, have still not been to Vegas yet… but I’d like to go. I’m pretty certain I’d lose whatever money I brought, but there’s a small part of me that thinks I’ll walk away a winner, up a great deal of money than what I began with.

It’s the same dream that most who go to Vegas have, I imagine – beating the house with full pockets, and a lot of stories to tell.

But Kang’s essay turns away from the glamor and the winning hands. Instead, he looks to losing, and the way in which the gambling life is defined through its series of losses.

Pain tolerance, then, is not measured in how well the player can take a bad beat or how long he can sit at a table without questioning what the fuck has happened. Rather, it is how the player handles an inevitable losing streak and the extent to which he will allow losing to affect his idea of himself.

Kang is an incredibly strong writer, and the essay really just draws you in. Reading it, I felt like I was sitting beside him at the table, complete with the sound of idle table chatter and the smell of stale cigarettes. This is definitely a side of gambling (and poker) that never made it to the movies.

For those who liked this article, I also found a brief interview with Kang, which I also liked.

[via MetaFilter, CC Photo via Santheo]

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