Head west and "Get Action"
It's about now that many players will be thinking of their trip to the World Series Main Event. Thinking the same, I got to reading about a similar journey "west" made by an old ex-President. It was in a different time and with a different purpose, but it was a trip made in the same spirit and with the same obstacles to overcome.
There have been many presidents who have had an affinity for poker. Our colleague Martin Harris researches and writes about that very subject and can talk you through each day of Richard Nixon's tight-aggressive presidency. But Theodore Roosevelt was not interested in cards when he set out west in the late 19th Century. Instead he intended to become a rancher, and have some adventures along the way.
There are various analogies between the trip "Teddy" made to make his fortune, and the ones taken by poker players arriving in Las Vegas to do the same.
Both were chasing a dollar sign, although admittedly the one shining brightly in the Nevada desert right now is more obvious to spot.
Both valued the need to learn constantly. For Roosevelt it was the new skill of ranching, which didn't come easily. Likewise poker players know that the best way to learn is to keep playing and, if they must, losing.
Both also wanted to "Get Action". For Teddy this was a personal creed, a reminder to get the most from his life. Poker players, well, they might think more figuratively on this one.
Personally I find another similarity, and that's that occasionally both find themselves massively out of place.
The story goes that Roosevelt's bid to become a rancher was a source of amusement to those he employed. While his enthusiasm was unquestionable, his high pitched cries of "Hasten forward quickly there!" would leave the ranchers in stitches. It's hard to rope an animal went you're bent double from laughter. I get a similar reaction from the barista when I order coffee at the Rio Starbucks in an accent from the English north.
But then aren't we all a little out of place in Las Vegas? The intense heat, the air conditioning, not to mention total emersion in a competitive world of high stakes living -- doesn't that make all of us pioneers, even if it's just for a couple of weeks?
"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed," said Roosevelt, who admittedly had a favourable tail wind for much of his life. But while Roosevelt never really got a taste for poker (and failed as a rancher), he did get one for living a full life on his own terms.
There's something there for the poker player making that trip west this month. Win or lose we salute that spirit, the pioneer spirit that unites poker players of every background and ability from around the world.
So go, seek your fortune, and get action. And when you order a steak, maybe spare a thought for a different kind of pioneer who came before you.
(Photo courtesy of wikipedia Commons)
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.