Heather and I spent a previous New Year’s vacation dodging frostbite in Montreal and retreating to the poker room of Casino de Montreal for warmth. That bitter cold experience has not dissuaded us, and this year (December 2019), we were back for our fourth Montreal poker jaunt. Our Montreal trips have been profitable, so we’re always itching to return. On this trip, we played four tournaments at the Playground Poker Club outside the city and two at the Casino de Montreal. This visit was break-even, but that did not take away from our Montreal poker experience.
Poker is not an inherently noble pursuit. It does not necessarily offer poignant moments of introspection or life lessons. On the surface, poker is a simple game played with 52 cards. To play it well against good competition requires an array of skills, but you don’t have to be a Field medal mathematician to succeed. When played in a casino or card room, the strong take money from the weak. No one gets Gandhi points for sitting down to a poker game. So what, if any, lessons, can be taken from this odd and seemingly selfish pursuit?
Lesson 1. Patience Pays
Patience is frankly not my strength. I like immediate results and hate waiting in lines. But if you play poker without a good dose of patience you’ll make some very bad decisions. Let’s just say I am a work in progress on this dimension, even at the poker table. However, at least I try to remember when I am in traffic, eighth in line at the one open register at KMart, or waiting to hear back about whether my new health insurance check has cleared that I should not respectively: lay on the horn, say loudly “what’s wrong with this place,” or threaten a lawsuit. Impatience leads to hasty and generally bad decisions. If things are not going your way, bide your time. Don’t self-destruct, and likely the tide will turn.
* NOTE: Seabrook poker room has been sold and is under new management. Please see our updated review of the GreyHound Casino and Tavern at Seabrook Park *
New Hampshire, for such a small state, boasts a remarkable number of bustling poker rooms. While it does not have a single large casino, there are multiple vibrant charity card rooms. Poker is the primary focus of these rooms, although each has a few table games as well. Even more striking: two of the largest poker rooms in New Hampshire are a mere two miles from one another! I have reviewed the Hampton Falls room already, now I’ll take on its bookend, the Seabrook Poker Room.
Our Life as Seabrook Poker Room Regulars
Seabrook poker room was our go-to poker room for about 3 years. Mostly because it has a weekend tournament that fit our schedule and budget. The $50 tournament starts at 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays. For such a cheap buy-in, 20 minute blinds with a starting stack of 15,000 chips is a bargain. Or, at least it seemed so. The 4:00 tournaments generally last about 6 hours, although they devolve quickly at the end to shove fests resulting in multi-way chops. But what could you expect for $50?!
Heather and I naturally gravitate toward the bleak. Optimism has traditionally been anathema to our shared world view.
We’re not proud of our glass half empty – more like glass-broke-and-hope-leaked-all-over-the-counter – outlook. But it’s become ingrained. Brush teeth, shower, think about how we are going to die one day and how it has all been for naught.
Twenty-five years ago in a single weekend I went to see Glengarry Glen Ross and Waterland, and rented the John Cassavettes’ classic A Woman Under the Influence. If you’ve never seen those films, don’t. At least not without a bottle of Prozac and the local suicide hotline on speed dial. These are three of the most depressing films ever made. Yet, a quarter century later, I still refer to this as the most enjoyable film viewing weekend of my life.
In trying to carve out savings for our poker pilgrimage, one of the first areas Heather and I attacked was how to save money on groceries. We wondered how we could spend $700 a month on groceries when we did not have extravagant tastes. Well sure, there was that weekly run to the tony local farm stand which carries a range of goodies on top of those fresh vegetables – expensive cheese and chocolates, nasty good breakfast items like cider donuts and chocolate croissants, and, sometimes, maybe a bottle of wine falls into the basket as well. Additionally, our grocery shopping often left us losing too much to freezer burn and watching forgotten fruit and vegetables morph into science experiments.
To use a poker term: we had leaks in our grocery shopping strategy!