From Yesterday to The Joker: My journey back to PokerStars
Like so many poker players, Black Friday hit me harder than a one-outer on the river. I'd just finished unpacking my boxes from a cross-country move to Las Vegas and felt so excited to be grinding online again. Amazing what a difference a few hours can make; I spent most of Black Friday singing "Yesterday" by the Beatles.
My life was so wrapped up in playing online poker (planning quick meals that I could heat up during five minute breaks, forgoing all weekend plans with friends in favor of grinding, and mastering the art of a three minute shower) that it was hard to think of what my life would actually look like once I lost the ability to login.
Since the ink was barely dry on my new Vegas lease, moving out of the country right away wasn't an option. Online, I routinely play a hundred tournaments in a session, so the idea of transitioning to live mono-tabling was rather sickening from a variance standpoint.
Even so, I managed enthusiasm for a jam-packed schedule of WSOP and Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza tournaments. Fortunately, I had some deep runs, including 451st in the WSOP Main Event. When I busted, my first thought was, "Now I can move to Mexico part-time to play online again!"
The idea of being able to play on PokerStars, specifically the Women's Sunday, left me giddy. I began asking advice from friends that expatted in order to play on PokerStars, and Team Online pro Shane Schleger was especially helpful and patient with my slew of ignorant gringo inquiries:
"Can I get high speed internet there?"
"Do people ride donkeys around town?"
Once in Rosarito, Mexico, I discovered a world so different from the one presented by the American media. People were friendly and accepting of my butchered attempts to converse with them in Spanish. I went to a store and asked, "Papier para computadora?" The first clerk brought me to the man with the best English there, who determined that they didn't have any. After looking around for a while and cursing myself for not studying Spanish in high school, I figured I was probably asking for an item that only existed in my head. As I slumped out towards my car, I turned around and the clerk was running after me with a triumphant smile, holding the computer paper he'd found in the back.
Another happy surprise was the number of online grinders in Rosarito. In fact, Katie Stone and Jamie Kerstetter, two of my closest friends and fellow Grindettes, live in the same complex as me! If we can convince Jennifer Shahade to join us, then we'll have all the Grindettes (or gringettes) in Mexico.
Somewhere around 150 expat poker players live near Rosarito, and we've even garnered local press that welcomed us, which is roughly the opposite of how our own government decided to treat us. It often feels like a small world here: I ran into a poker pro friend on the elevator that I hadn't seen in a couple years, and it turned out that he lives two floors up from me.
Before I'd even unpacked my suitcase in Mexico, my goal was to get verified as quickly as possible in order to start playing on PokerStars again. While it's common knowledge that PokerStars has the best customer service of any poker site, even I was surprised at how quickly they helped get me playing again.
Having gotten my documents in order before going to Mexico, I was back to playing online again within 24 hours. To make sure that I wasn't dreaming, I sat down at a low stakes cash table. To date there has never been another person as thrilled as I was to be playing $2NL!
That first night back, I played some hyper-turbo SNGs and felt like I was at Disney World! Fast-paced SNGs are the rollercoasters of my adulthood. They were the first game I ever grinded online, and I credit my play and study of them with giving me a thorough understanding of an often underestimated skill in tournament poker: optimal short-stacked play.
Since it had been a while since I'd played online, I decided to start back at the low stakes, in order to comfortably get back into the swing of playing twenty tournaments at a time instead of one. That first Sunday back, I satellited in to the $55 Women's Sunday through a $2 tournament, then had a blast making a semi-deep run. I love the structure and camaraderie of the event, and I even start my session earlier on Sunday just to have it on my schedule.
Another great thing about being back is getting to use BOOM! Replayer; it's certainly a lot prettier than trying to cram an entire poker hand in a tweet using only words:
While I initially thought of my move as being only for poker, my daily schedule in Mexico is actually preferable to my life in Vegas. Before playing, I like to head down to the beach with my husband Collin Moshman, and my dog Wilbur:
After getting some sun, I like to indulge in one of my favorite hobbies by cooking a hearty breakfast, like scrambled eggs with salsa and guacamole. Recently I found a little store nearby that has the best eggs I've ever tasted, with yolks as orange as the setting sun. I eat so much guacamole in Mexico that I fear I might wake up one day as green as Oscar the Grouch!
I can't imagine a more peaceful anti-tilting view as the one from my grinding set-up. I have a perfect view of the sun setting over the ocean, and on foggy nights I feel like I'm playing in a cloud:
The only issue, and I realize that this is akin to complaining about too many sprinkles on top of a cupcake, is that the sun hitting the ocean creates a glare similar to pointing a spotlight directly at my monitor. Fully embracing my new culture, I've found that wearing a sombrero while playing certainly helps. Fortunately, Wilbur has one that he occasionally lets me borrow:
I didn't truly understand how much I'd missed PokerStars until I found myself at a final table singing "The Joker" by the Steve Miller Band at the top of my lungs. I finally embraced the feeling I'd tried to suppress every day since Black Friday: that I love playing online poker!
If you'll allow me to sound a bit like Forrest Gump, my momma always told me that when something bad happens, my job is to try and turn it into something good. Black Friday was one of my biggest tests of this advice to date, and while I'm still angered by the actions of the US DOJ, I've now happily moved on. I'm thrilled to be playing on PokerStars again and to immerse myself in a culture that loves guacamole as much as I do.