Tuesday, May 03, 2011

My Mind Is Going... I Can Feel It...

HAL 9000It has been over two weeks since I’ve played any real money games online. Have been too busy to fuss with depositing on a new site just yet. Carbon seems like the most likely choice for me, once I do. Or I could put something back on Bodog where I already have an account.

Meanwhile, I have jumped on a couple of times to play freerolls or play money games. On Carbon they run five or so freerolls every day which usually attract 2,500 or more players. The top 24 finishers win tourney tickets and/or cash. Over the weekend I played a H.O.R.S.E. one and managed to squeak through with just a few antes left to finish 23rd.

Was a little disappointed after to learn that the only event I can play with my $2.20 ticket is a six-max. SNG for which the winner gets another tourney ticket (for $11) and the second-place finisher a buck in cash. I’d hoped to be able to play another MTT, where the chances of making some kind of cash -- and thus starting a bankroll -- would be greater, I think.

But really, in these freerolls and the occasional play money game at which I’ve sat, my focus is not nearly what it was a few weeks ago. Was sitting at a PLO play money table for a short while yesterday, and realized in a slightly worried way that I’d perhaps lost a step or two when it came even to simple stuff like evaluating starting hands. Not to mention more complicated matters like interpreting the significance of others’ bets and raises.

You’ve experienced something similar, I’m sure. You’re away from the game for a period, then upon your return find you have to “relearn” things. Poker really is a skill game, and like any other pursuit that requires the learning and development of certain skills (intellectual and/or physical), not playing for extended periods can lead to a kind of “atrophy” or wasting away of those skills.

'Dave, stop.  Stop, will you?'When I signed off, I couldn’t help but think of HAL 9000’s final speech in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Was mainly thinking of those lines near the very end, after Dave has begun the laborious process of disconnecting everything in HAL’s “Logic Memory Center.” That is, after HAL’s pleading (“Dave, stop. Stop, will you?”) is over and he realizes the effects of what is happening.

“Dave, my mind is going,” says HAL, as always using that uncannily unaffected-sounding monotone. “There is no question about it. I can feel it.”

I think the line might occurred to me because I believe I saw Shane “Shaniac” Schleger toss it out amid his tweets at some point during the last few days. It might have been Schleger, or it might have been someone else in my feed (could be someone is fiddling with my “Logic Memory Center”). Incidentally, Schleger penned a smart, thoughtful piece for Slate over the weekend addressing "Black Friday" and its impact on him personally. Check it out.

I wonder if full-time online grinders like Shaniac, many of whom have spent a couple of weeks unable to put in their usual heavy sessions of SNG or MTT play, are starting to feel like HAL a little.

I was inspired to watch that clip of HAL’s final moments over on YouTube again. Here it is:

Such a weirdly moving scene. Kubrick’s films, as much as I enjoy and appreciate them, are uniformly very cold (in my opinion). Thus I’m always caught off-guard when I find myself becoming at all emotionally involved when watching them. (Never mind the obvious peculiarity of feeling sympathy for a computer.)

Rewatching this clip, I found myself making some other associations, too, also involving online poker. Early on (around 45 seconds into the clip), HAL’s suspicions have been aroused, and he starts to try to convince Dave not to do what he thinks he’s about to do.

I was imagining some of these early lines as having been spoken by “online poker” itself, post-Black Friday:

“I know everything hasn’t been quite right with me, but I can assure you now, very confidently, that it’s going to be all right again.”

“I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”

“I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal.”

Then comes the pleading. And again, I imagined HAL’s question taking on a different significance. As though online poker was addressing me and many other Americans currently on a hiatus from playing...

“Will you stop?”

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