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Not Your Usual Sunday

Posted by Gaurav Sood on 2021-06-04 at 12:08 PM
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For any MTT professional, Sundays are the most anticipated day of the week. This is my story from last Sunday – one that taught me some valuable life lessons.

A sudden and short burst of thunderstorms was a pleasant sight before kicking off what I hoped would be a long Sunday grind. This was easily going to be one of the biggest Sundays of the year. There were some big tournaments on Indian sites, and to cap it off was the final day`s schedule of the WSOP Circuit Series, with Day 2 of the Main Event starting later at night.

After getting done with my pre-grind routine, I started playing around 6 PM – loading up tables. And by the 7:30 PM break, the madness began, 12-14 tabling Sunday events is always exhilarating and something I prepare for all week. The weather was such that I had the door to the balcony open; a gentle breeze took away the need for air conditioning, but also, I did not realize it’s been somewhere over 4-5 hours of a power cut.

Sundays bring about an epitome of efficiency a tournament player showcases with umpteen decisions to make all the time because of a mad amount of tables running. Around 9 PM, we’re locked in, and boom, that’s when the inverter gives up to make matters worse, and now the system is running on fumes. Around 30-40 mins of backup are what my UPS gives me. I started to panic because if the power is out for six-plus hours, what’s to say it’ll be back on in another 30-40 minutes? And I had 12 tables spread across two screens, which I wasn’t going to be able to play on a phone or a laptop because they were across different platforms.

I was caught in a weird emotion that I could never have predicted, and obviously, you ought to think then: WHY ME? Something that hasn’t happened ever before, why does it have to happen on a Sunday? Some tough beats – rushed decisions – subtle prayers and a grin of disbelief filled up those 40 minutes of UPS life, and on a Sunday, where you hope to run good in the big ones, it was almost funny what was transpiring at that moment.

The UPS died with me having two stacks in The Millionaire, a couple of deep runs elsewhere, and also some decent stacks in other events. And I was absolutely disgruntled, feeling as helpless as I have ever felt. It just struck me; just a thing, a British poker player, an online legend, Patrick Leonard, always says: “It is what it is.”

Obviously, being human, I was perturbed, but that thought helped me move away from the problem and focus on the solution. My laptop, which is hardly used now, was discharged, so a spare laptop came to the rescue. I took my brother’s phone and mine to have three platforms, one on each device, and by the time I logged in, I had busted two of the 10 tables I had left when the PC shut down. I’m not someone who plays poker on my phone, and I do not even have poker apps on my phone. My mom and dad were on calls with the linemen who were resolving the power issue.

The power came back on at around midnight but only to go down in another hour or so. This time it was scarier because I had 2 big Day 2’s starting soon, including the WSOP Main Event Day 2 at 1:30 AM.

Again, I had to shift back to the laptop. I got some big hands auto-folded in the Main Event by the time I could log in, and the tables were hardly manageable on the laptop. My mom, dad, and brother were just out on the balcony for whatever time the inverter could work so that my computer could be optimally charged. This meant they weren’t able to sleep at a time, which is three hours past their usual sleeping time. I managed to hang on somehow. The linemen finally fixed the power at 3 AM, by which time I was left with only a couple of tables which ended soon after that. Not your usual Sunday, right? Not mine for sure.

This Sunday wasn’t the best in terms of poker, but it is still the most remarkable Sunday I have ever had because of various things it taught me about poker and life.

The first thing I came across and realized deeply was that a significant reason I’m having decent success at playing a game I love for a living is because I have colossal support from the people around me. I had my parents calling up the linemen to get the power cut fixed, with my mom making sure I had all the devices at my disposal, sacrificing sleep at the oddest hours you can imagine. My brother chipped in by giving me updates and asking me if I was hungry etc. My girlfriend, praying for the power to be back, checking up if I’m able to play through the other devices. My best friend from school asking me if I wanted to come to his place and grind. My poker buddy, asking me on the tables to sit in as I blind down in a sattied tournament. It made me feel immense gratitude for all these people who fuel my motivation and hunger to do better every day. It’s like a whole system working in tandem, aiding you in pursuing your dreams and crushing them.

I definitely consider myself fortunate to have all the people closest to me asserting utmost belief in my abilities and propelling me by providing the best ecosystem to thrive in poker. Still, for different people, those people are different. Some people have their stablemates or stables coaches pushing them to become a better version of themselves, some might have their poker friends helping each other out in those inevitable lows, even having a helper at home who fixes your meals while you’re glued to your screen is aiding the process of you being locked into the grind.

I have read some quotes saying the way to the top is a lonely road. I was naive enough to believe that at some point. I’m not saying I’m at the top; there is a long road ahead for that. Still, I am pretty sure that along with undeterred persistence and relentless work ethic, having the right people on your side will be the catalyst in achieving success or even one of the key deciding factors.

The second remarkable thing I realized was the sheer calmness and poise I portrayed with everything around me at that time. The ubiquitous quote: “It is what it is!” is, of course, easy to comprehend but challenging to embody in most life situations. It goes against the natural instincts of humans, which are to react to adverse conditions and dwell and ramble about how everything isn’t the way they want. I was incredibly proud of how I held on my own in those circumstances by engaging in a constant soliloquy about how focusing on the problem isn’t going to yield anything and instead started to work out what I could do best in the situation at hand.

The 2019 version of me would definitely spew a few stacks if this happened then, but I did not let my frustration translate into bad plays on the table for the most part. This very realization that I didn’t give into useless rhapsody at such a time made me appreciate how poker has shaped my character in such a profound way. It is like being in a big tournament chip leading with 10 left and then just lose a big pot in an unfortunate spot to be crippled to a short stack. Of course, you want to dwell on how you always get unlucky deep in tournaments – how it only happens to you – how you “deserved” a victory there. These feelings are very idiosyncratic to poker, but the best action plan should be to focus on the next hand and play that short stack the best way you can.

Just reiterating that focusing on the things you can control should always be the number one rule in poker and in life. These Sundays are the ones that phenomenally contribute in building your character, and you feel exultant seeing yourself thrive in the face of unprecedented adversity. In poker, we often feel helpless in preventing inevitable undesirable outcomes, while our only strength lies in how we let them affect us.

To cap it off, I wouldn’t blame the 18-year-old me for learning the rules of a trivial card game, oblivious to how tremendous its impact would be in shaping his values and understanding of life. This game indeed is a microcosm of life!

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Gaurav Sood

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