Giving thanks for poker, wine, and you

Since Thanksgiving will be celebrated next Thursday here in the United States, I've been considering some of the many things I'm thankful for. It's a rather good idea I think to stop and count our blessings near the end of every year, and Thanksgiving is an official holiday designed to do so. So I asked two of our favorite poker players--Vanessa Selbst and Katie Dozier--to share some of their thoughts along those lines, and I'll throw in a few as well.

Since it's not a holiday celebrated around the world, a few words about how it's celebrated here might be in order.

Originally the holiday in the U.S. was a feast day for early settlers to celebrate good harvests and the fact that they were well prepared for winter. In later years, it was a day to gather with family and friends to give thanks and celebrate by enjoying a wonderful meal together, telling stories, and generally having a good time. Unfortunately, like so many other holidays in the past few years, the day has become instead a day to overeat and then waddle to the closest shopping mall to stuff our shopping bags with things we don't need. It's as if shoppers don't realize that the stores are going to be open for about another month before the next holiday.

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Now, you may be one of those people for whom extreme shopping sounds like fun, for whom getting some exercise instead of parking in front of the television watching football sounds like a better option, and you have a point there on the last part. But for some traditionalists, avoiding the stores and the trampling deaths that occur every year (totally serious here) and staying put instead--having seconds on turkey and dressing, visiting with friends and family, playing games (often it's poker with relatives around the kitchen table), and let's be honest, drinking too much wine--is the preferred approach.

Either way, there are certain things that most of us agree on, and here are a few that Vanessa and Katie were good enough to share with us.

For Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst, Thanksgiving is still a day for family and one she cherishes because it's so rare. "Thanksgiving is the only holiday my whole family gets together for every year--it's our only tradition, so to speak. So I'm thankful for the wonderful (and zany) family that I have." Spoken like a true traditionalist, Vanessa.

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For Katie, a member of the Grindettes and frequent contributor to the PokerStars blog, Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday and she feels lucky to be able to enjoy it with family in Florida via webcam, since she currently lives in Rosarito, Mexico. "I get to see my adorable niece--whose second birthday is actually on Thanksgiving--and text pictures of goofy piñatas I find here to my mom," she tells us. But technology is also responsible for another thing she's grateful for being able to enjoy. "In a similar technological vein, I am so grateful that I get to play online poker for a living! Doing so has enriched my life through the many fun friends I've made and the unusual places I've gotten to travel to." You didn't think we could leave poker out of this article, did you?

For Katie, and for many others who play on PokerStars from around the world, online poker adds fun and excitement to their lives in a way not possible a few years ago, not to mention a way to make money doing it. Katie sums it up this way, "I am so thankful for having a life that fulfills me and makes me happy!"

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Poker is one of the things that I'm thankful for too, since it's associated with so many great memories of growing up. It has been a tradition in our family ever since I was a little girl to cover the dining room table with a quilt and pull out the chips to enjoy a game lasting long into the night. Whether it's dimes and quarters as it was back in the day, or tournaments that my family and friends ante up for these days playing on our regulation table in the middle of the living room, we always spend more time talking and laughing at these holiday games than we do concentrating on strategy. But whether we win or lose, we always have fun together. I laugh more when I'm winning, though, they tell me!

In addition to poker, my list includes all the traditional things that I'm grateful for--family, friends, my home, and all the good fortune we've been blessed with. And there are a few others that come to mind...

I'm grateful for the opportunity to interview players like this article's Vanessa Selbst and Katie Dozier as part of my favorite writing gig. For the last three years I've been lucky enough to chat with both Vanessas--Selbst and Rousso, and interviewed many other poker luminaries as well--Liv Boeree, Vicky Coren, Fatima Moreira De Melo, and others. As a writer for PokerStars Women I've learned so much more about poker and gotten to travel to some pretty great tournaments as well. Having this opportunity is still something that makes me stop to pinch myself every now and then to make sure it's real.

I'm grateful for being back in Texas and being close to family again, even though I curse the crazy politics of this state every day. No matter what idiotic shenanigans our governor pulls on a weekly basis, it's still home and where I want to be. Even though we have no casinos in Texas and no online poker, we still have open spaces, bluebonnets, and mesquite trees. And home games.

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Sadly, Rafael Nadal doesn't attend my home games.

I'm thankful for all the little things that get me through the day like good coffee, good books and movies, and beautiful sunsets. I'm also grateful for Steven Colbert and all my friends who keep me laughing.

I'm thankful that my work week is only five days long and that I do most of my work at home. And I'm thankful that I don't have to get up to an alarm clock most days or leave my house when it's still dark.

And finally, I'm thankful that some of you took the time to get to the end of this. For that, I'm grateful as always.

Rebekah Mercer
@PokerStars in PS Women