Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm All In ... Again

While I am off in Las Vegas gambling away my children's inheritance I thought I'd repost a couple of my older takes on life, liberty, and the pursuit of a book deal. Yeah that is a fancy way of saying I'm trotting out a couple of reruns cause I was too lazy to write anything new in advance. I tried to pick stuff a little older so some of you may have missed it the first time around.

Today's special is an aptly timed take on writing and poker. I first posted this one on April 22, 2007 and it was titled ... I'm All In.


So there I was yesterday playing in a Texas Hold 'Em Poker tournament with the slowest bunch of players I've ever encountered. And as always when I have time to just sit and think, my mind turned to writing.

Now playing poker and not giving the game your fullest attention can often be an early ticket to poverty, but like I said, this particular tournament's pace was excruciatingly slow and when your dealt deuce seven as your down card you have no choice, but to fold and wait for the hand to play out.

So how does this relate to writing? Follow me on this because what made since last night amidst a thick cloud of cigar smoke and half a dozen frozen mugs of Shiner Bock might be somewhat of a stretch this fine Sunday morning. (You'll have to pretend you're reading this on a Sunday)

Poker, like writing, and the sea is a steady up and down tide that you must follow and be aware of in order to get where you wanna go. One hand you draw pocket aces, and everything looks good so you raise when the bet comes to you. A good story idea fills your mind so you raise the stakes and start plotting character and jotting down plot points and sketching out chapters.

But then the flop comes nine, ten, queen -- all hearts and your aces are a diamond and a club. Now you have to worry about a straight, a flush, or somebody with pocket queens or two pair. Things didn't work out the way you hoped. You're still holding a pretty good hand, but no longer is it a sure thing. (Like there is ever a sure thing in publishing , unless your name is Rowling, King, or Grisham.) Suddenly you've gone from happy to doubtful, but you plunge on and write the story anyway, because you still believe in your hand, your manuscript.

For arguments sake lets say the turn card is a three of diamonds - no real help to any one. You go ahead and bet just to see the hand played all the way out. The equivalent to finishing your novel. Now to play devil's advocate I'll present two different scenarios for the last card, better known as the river.

Now you can drown in the river. That is to be ahead and have the best hand only to have that last card get you. For our game lets say the river comes an eight of spades. The flush is dead, but anybody with a king as one of their downcards just hit a king high straight which beats you pair of aces. They got you on the river. The better your hand the worse getting beat on the last card hurts. If you just mailed off a single page query and get rejected you're really not surprised. After all, it's not like they even looked at your actual writing. A partial hurts a little more, but you can still fool yourself, The first few chapters just need punched up. If only that agent would have read a bit more. And there there is the full manuscript rejection. The poker equivalent of having pocket aces and getting beat by three twos.

Or that river card could be a third ace. the possibly you could still be beat is there, I don't want to make the scenario a sure thing since that does not jive the realities of the publishing world, but three aces is a solid hand, as is a well thought out out, nicely written novel with ample conflict and a sympathetic interesting characters.

You win a pot, you win a contest, an agents send you a form rejection, you lose half your chips. either way you have to deal with the cards you're dealt and get ready for the next hand. Spend too much time counting you chips or cursing yourself for being stupid and the game will pass you by.

My advice -- ride out those waves of emotion and don't be afraid to Go All In when you believe you've got a winner.

For those non poker players out there hope this doesn't come across as mindless dribble. And for the curious I managed to come in first out of forty nine players, the third tournament in a row I've won which just means I'm waaaay over due to lose. (That was a damn prophetic statement as I haven't won one since, but I have high hopes for this week.)

Wish I could say it was one of those million dollar tourneys they show on TV, or even a high stakes game at the Bellagio but alas I am merely the reigning Texas Hold'em champ of the local Moose Lodge. (Not anymore I finished 12th out of 65 players at their last event)


spyscribbler said...

I LOVE this post! I love Texas Hold 'Em. My poor husband: he loves poker. He spent a year devouring every book out there, practicing online for HOURS, etc. He's played regular poker for years. He even knows all the mathematics and everything.

I, on the other hand, just overheard when he babbled. And when we went to Atlantic City, I final-tabled in my first two tournaments. When I mentioned it was my first day playing poker EVER, everyone at the table scoffed and thought I was lying, which I found hilarious.

He did not final table. I was rather pleased with myself.

I'm not much of a gambler, though, which is why tournaments work for me, because I've already paid my money. DH will win in a table game any day, because he's more comfortable playing with "real" money as opposed to tournament money.

spyscribbler said...

PS: GOOD luck!

Mary Witzl said...

I owe my existence to a game of poker. My father would have been in the wrong part of a ship if he hadn't consented to joining a game; because of saying yes to poker one fateful night, he wasn't on the side of the ship that got blown up, and thus went on to help create me.

But I can't get poker for the life of me; I don't even know the difference between spades and clubs. My husband despairs.

I got all your writing references, though, and I agree: writing is a lot like a game of poker, and can easily be seen as a big gamble. So for what it is worth, I'm in. Hope I'm on the right side of the ship -- eventually.

Clair Dickson said...

mary-- spades are shovels and clubs are the clovers. =)

Great post, and great analogy, Travis.

angel, jr. said...

Yay, you get to go to Las Vegas!!

grace said...

I'm baaaaaack. ;)

just couldn't stay away.

I remember when you first posted this! haha. I always picture you playing Texas Hold 'Em behind a pair of creepy sunglasses, like the pros. with greasy hair.

Robin said...

Remember Travis, it's a "dry" heat (don't you just want to hit someone when they say that crap?!)

Have fun and win big, sounds like you're overdue! We're keeping the rain and humidity here in the Panhandle so you can have an "aha" moment when you get home.

I'm not "all in" as of yet, tidying up my bastard baby to send out into agent world but my "legitimate" baby is forming up on the storyboard and my brain...then I'll go all in and cover my eyes...

Charles Gramlich said...

You're breaking up. Breaking up. Say again, all after "frozen mugs."

Patti said...

i am not a gambler, so when i read this i imagined it was like when you read about dresses on my site. what i'm trying to say is we are now even.

Cheryl Wray said...

Excellent post!!! I think that there is a lot of similarities between poker and writing/getting published. Great way of putting it!

yellowdog granny said...

now i know where the expression 'shit or get off the pot' came from

Chick said...

That's the way to live I think...ALL IN : )

Bea said...

I hope you come home with lots of $$$$$, and not wearing a barrel! Good Luck!

Barbara Martin said...

Poker is good for the player who can keep his thoughts off his face.

Anonymous said...

Awesome! Have a great time!