Poker? I don't even zzzzzz ...

When I can't sleep, I play poker in my head. Not replays of old hands, but new situations. It usually lasts two or three hands, then I'm out cold. It's a distraction technique, see. It gives my mind a scenario to generate and focus on; a vivid scenario full of facts, details, ephemera and detritus.

I suffer from racing thoughts, a symptom of anxietal and depressive disorders where the brain has trouble handling all the worries going through it. If one has racing thoughts, one ends up focusing on ALL the worries. Even things from the past that can no longer harm you, or huge issues you know you cannot solve. Racing thoughts often happen to whimsical creative types like me who have massaged their imaginations so they can be better storytellers. Or liars, or adulterers, or poker players.

I'm great at all these things because I made it a goal to be so: I was going to tell stories, I was going to live double lives, I was going to get all I could, I was going to shill you out of your chips. I'm telling a story right now. You're reading it. I'm not sure which came first, the inadequate feelings that became my depression, or the desire to warp reality with my mind and turn it into stories that others are engrossed by (or foolishly believe). Writers are depressed people, right? Standard stuff. So are liars, since they want people to think things are different than they are. So are cheaters, since they aren't happy with what they have at home. So are most poker players; fewer than half are winners, which (ipso facto) means most are losers.

That's a lot of hung heads. I've hung my head a lot over the years. I won the decades-long battle with depression and only suffer from it now when I lapse into self-pity; and THAT only happens when there's a stressful event, or a bad beat, or a chemical upending (like being drunk or drinking espresso right before bed). With pity comes remorse, shame and guilt and regret; then the desire to warp the world in real life and make the lies and stories actual truths (which is of course impossible). My brain cranks it up to 11 and starts reviewing every tiny little thing.

Each failure. Each stumble. Each entrapment I was dumb enough to fall into. Each tragedy. Each crime committed on my heart by stupid bitches. Each idiotic thing I used to do to blot all that out. The exact details of the racing thoughts are just that: details. That's not the point. The point is when the thoughts start racing, it takes a conscious effort to stop them.

People who don't have emotional issues can just ignore or lock away the bad feelings. And that works for them, congratulations you lucky cocksuckers. Me? I can't ignore it or lock it away; it'll get worse. And if I let it get worse, I'll be right back to boozing, smoking, whoring, racing racing racing thoughts. It requires an active, willful task: stop thinking about everything.

Stop it.

Just stop it.

And when saying "Stop it" doesn't work, and it never does, I resort to pulling each thought out a strand at a time, like a plate of spaghetti, and beating the fucking shit out of it.

House woes? AC, plumbing, ivy, lawnmower, clutter? Already on it. Gonna suck for a bit, but I'll be in a new home a few months from now. No worries.

Women woes? Past relationships I've frittered away, current slam piece getting all unslammy, past broads stupid enough to discard me? Pfft. Fuck 'em all. Let 'em rot in the past. You'd be AMAZED at all the women at Giant around 9am on a Tuesday morning. Place is crawling with 'em. And Starbucks is right next door. No worries.

And on to the next one (publishing woes), and the next one (surgery recovery taking a long time) etc. etc. Once I've smashed up each strand of spaghetti, each bastard mini-Earnhardt racing around my head ... then it's over. The thoughts are gone.

It's usually such an effort that my night's sleep is ruined, and my Facebook friends can have another long-ass post to shake their heads at, but whatevs, at least my mind is clear again. Now I can imagine a poker hand and fall asleep.

There I am at Harrah's, just sitting down at the 1-2 table with $300 in chips: two blacks and four greens. I'm in the hijack. Under the gun makes it $16 so he's got aces or kings. Folded around to me, I got just the thing for that kind of hand: 9-8 of spades. So I call, the others behind me fold except the big blind, who by his arrogant but unknowing appearance is just the sort to call cuz he's gotta "protect his blind."

Flops hits me hard: A-T-7 all spades. The big blind checks, cuz of course he does, he probably called with J-3 or some shit. My man UTG either hit a set of aces or will be scared shitless with his kings. But he needs to bet to establish himself, and also get information. He makes it $22, a cutesy double number bet that people use to hint at their big pair, but it's also just the right amount to feel me out. Did I hit the spades? Am I drawing?

We're both in the same boat: way ahead, or way behind; there's no point in slow-playing. Best to save time and get it over. So I fast-play it; with my flush and open-ended straight flush draw, I pop it to $60. Big blind sheepishly folds, thanks for the extra $14, ya dipshit.

Mr. UTG stalls. What to do? Even with a set of aces, staring down a raise with three of a suit out there ... that's a tough call. An equally tough fold. He's been doing well, has like $400-500 in front of him. So he calls. If the board doesn't pair, he'll have to bail against another bet/raise.

Boom, the board pairs all right: the case ace. Johnny UTG just hit quads. That thud you heard was his rock hard dick slamming up into the underside of the table. Does he get cute now and check, oh crap two aces out there, or does he bet out like a guy who has K-Q of spades and wants to seem unrattled?

Again: way ahead or way behind. No point in being cute. He bets $100 with a black chip. Smooth as silk, I call with a black chip of my own. I know I'm behind now; if he had a set, he's got a boat or quads now, and only two cards can save me. And if they do, and he has quad aces and loses ... that means the bad beat jackpot is a factor.

Let's say the jackpot is $200K. 50% to the loser, that's him, he gets $100K. 40% to the winner, that's me, I get $90K. Remaining 10% split amongst the others, even Mr. Defending My Big Blind. They get around $1,400 each. Or, the last card is a brick, I don't hit my straight flush, and I lose the $175 I've already bet in this, my first hand, and maybe the remaining $125 in front of me. It all depends.

The dealer sits out the river card, and it's the ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz...