A Life in Poker and The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

I would neck Patrik Antonius.

That lad’s face is chipped out of the Maserati of marble. But there was a time where instead of necking him I wanted to strangle him.

It's the 2011 €10,000 World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) Main Event. I'm working as a live reporter.

I have 5% of John Eames’s action. He goes deep. We're midway through Day 4. Eames is playing exceptionally well: cool, calm and collected.

I’m acting like a cat in a bathtub. If I was lying in bed I would wet it. A tsunami of excitement hits me each time a player is eliminated. If he wins I stand to make €70,000. I bought my first house for less than that.

I was holding imaginary shoe bombs to everyone’s temple. There was blood everywhere. Only one man remained: John ‘Eddy’ Eames.

My Heart Stops Beating

The blinds are 6k/12k ante 2k when Eames opens to 26,000 from first position. Patrick ‘Brad Pitt is uglier than me’ Antonius calls in the next seat.

John Eames
John Eames

Nobody else is interested and the pair share a flop of T♠ 8♠ 2♣. Eames makes a 45,000 c-bet and Antonius calls.

The turn is the 8♦. Eames checks, Antonius bets 80,000 and Eames calls. The river is the A♦.

Eames checks once more, Antonius bets 210,000, Eames goes into the tank and my heart stops beating. After several minutes of angst, Eames - who has 290,000 behind - makes the call.

The God of Love shows a pair of deuces for a full house, Eames mucks his hand and I start to think that life is meaningless.

A few hands later Eames doubles up. I perk up. Then he is out, eliminated in 20th place by Max Silver.

He picks up €37,000, of which €1,850 is mine. I’m gutted but it’s a lot of money to me.

Eames does what Eames does best. He shrugs his shoulders and moves on to the next one.

Like Playing the Lottery But Forgetting the Numbers

This wasn’t the first time I had taken a piece of Eames’s action. What started out as a mate giving another mate a sweat turned into something else entirely.

Lottery balls
Like lottery w/o the numbers.

It was the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). As soon as I had invested some of my money there was no way I could stop.

I likened it to playing the lottery and then forgetting to put the numbers on.

In the beginning I could afford it. Then towards the end I couldn’t. It took a lot of inner strength for me to eventually tell him that I no longer needed helping out.

Then in 2014 he won a World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOPC) event for close to $300,000.

I missed out. But I’m glad that I got out.

This is Ego

I attend the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas every year. The number of events I play increases each year.

WSOP Monster Stack
An urge to play.

This year I was backed and therefore able to play in six events. Each time I play, something changes in me. It’s not addiction.

It’s FOMO. Each time there is a $1,000 or $1,500 event I have an urge to play. It doesn’t matter if I'm playing for 0% of my action. I have to play.

Read any of the seminal poker books and there is always a chapter on bankroll management. The rules are pretty simple.

When your bankroll gets big enough - move up. When it reduces - move down.

I find it difficult to play in the Rio Deepstack events now that I have played in $1,500 WSOP events. I don’t want to drop down in stakes. I see this in the poker industry all the time.

Players who are really struggling to gain any traction try to stay at the same level until (a) they are in so much make up they are drowning, or (b) they do something stupid in order to try and dig themselves out of a hole the size of the Mariana Trench.

This is ego. This is FOMO.

Money Are the Points

It’s not just in concentrated quarters of the poker industry that FOMO exists. I believe the entire industry is sugar coated in it.

One of the biggest problems I see with the poker industry, in relation to money management, is the need to remain in the poker industry.

It doesn’t matter what age you are, or what stage of your life you entered the industry, there will be casualties.

Cash money
Money are the points.

You won’t spend as much time as you did with family, you are distanced from your old friends and you fall in love with new ones.

The poker industry is a community. Each community has its own little idiosyncrasies. Take eating out, for example.

Poker players like to dine in nice restaurants when traveling around the world. Very often the bills at these events are paid for by the person who loses credit card roulette.

What happens if you are short on cash? What if the downswing is pinching your wallet tight?

Poker is a business that has its roots embedded in a foundation consisting of cold, hard cash. Poker is a game. Money are the points.

The more money you have, the stronger your character gets. There is always a bigger and better End Boss to be competing against.

"This is My Life"

It’s so difficult for people to say no. There is ego for sure. But there is also your place within the community.

Phil Hellmuth
It's my life.

If you can’t afford to travel to the next big poker tournament, then you are going to miss out. If you do go but can’t afford to dine with them, then you miss out.

In the immortal blow-up hand between Phil Hellmuth and Cristian Dragomir at the 2008 WSOP Main Event, Chino Rheem tells Hellmuth to chill out.

“It’s poker,” Rheem tells Hellmuth.

“To you this is poker. To me, this is my life,” Hellmuth replies.

It’s everyone’s life. And the FOMO created by the disconnection and dissatisfaction of not being involved goes way deeper than any addiction you can name.

This is about losing your community. This is about losing your friends. This is about being alone.

This is about FOMO.

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