A few weeks ago I mentioned having a scary lump in my mouth. I first noticed it back in March. Since noticing it I've done nothing about it, unless you count being terrified and convincing myself it was cancer as doing something about it.
I was sure I was going to die. I pictured my funeral. I sketched out profound and poignant words I would say to my family. I rued a crummy lifestyle, essentially comprised of heavy drinking and smoking, tons of stress, a laughable diet and disastrous attempts at exercising regularly.
The thing that most bothered me about dying, however, was that it meant I wouldn't be able to play poker anymore. Crazy, perhaps, but true. I felt that over time I could make millions playing poker and those millions could be put to good use in both a philanthropic manner and in a more selfish one.
Not only do I see poker as a way of helping other people (and myself), but I also enjoy the challenge of becoming better at it. It's tremendously satisfying when you feel yourself becoming better (and tremendously frustrating when you feel as if you aren't). Dying would see that satisfaction evaporate.
Last Friday I was told I didn't have cancer. This, I thought, will help put my poker career in perspective. No longer will I become frustrated at bad beats and suck-outs and players limp-calling and flopping flush draws which they hit without a sweat. I am alive. I will be alive for a long time yet. Such trivialities won't touch me.
On Friday evening I lost a £200 pot all in pre-flop with my kings against tens. I stood up and booted a wall. I may need to work on trivialities not touching me.
Since the wall-kicking, I've gone on a grubby run of luck - a seemingly endless loop of being card dead or outdrawn. My bankroll has plummeted to the level of my diet - laughable. Yesterday I did something to try and alleviate this grim smudge of misfortune. I sat down and wrote, "Win four figures in a poker tournament" on a piece of paper and put it in my back pocket.
This, apparently, is called cosmic ordering. You ask the universe for something and it gives it to you. I don't know much more about cosmic ordering than that as, understandably, I wasn't really listening when someone told me about it.
Last night I satellited into a tournament with a top prize of around £5,000. There were 803 runners. With a quarter of the field remaining I was in trouble. A combination of bad play and bad cards saw me with around a quarter of the average stack. I picked up fours on the button and shoved over the top of a limp. The limper called with KQ. He hit a queen straight away and I was dead until the river gave me an unlikely flush. I thanked the universe.
On the next orbit I had pocket fives in the small blind and shoved. The big blind snap-called. I fingered the bit of paper in my back pocket. It was a coinflip: AJ vs 55 and it looked like he was going to scoop up the pot on an XXAX board until the cosmos flicked down a five on the river. Suddenly, I was average-stacked and in decent shape. I thanked the universe again.
Reader, I would love to be able to end this story with a flourish but unfortunately it wasn't to be. I min-cashed (finishing 60th) for around £50 after shoving Q7 from the cut-off with around six big blinds.
This morning, though, something was niggling me. I checked the amount I won: £54.25. Four figures. Cosmic ordering, it seems, almost definitely works. Just in case it doesn't though, I've been reviewing hand histories, reading strategy forums, ordering books and generally polishing my game. I've also clarified to the cosmos what four figures actually means. More tales of the unexpected next week.
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