It's not often that I travel without thinking about poker. Maybe I'll go see some tourist attraction or go out for dinner or for drinks or whatever else people do when they travel, but at some point during the day I'm going to grab my computer and play a bit of online poker. I bet a lot of poker players do the same.
I wouldn't say my whole life is poker but I think about poker a lot, even when I'm not playing. That's why my trip to New York City this past December was so refreshing. It was the first trip in a long time that I thought about poker literally zero percent of the time.
It reminded me of the holidays I used to have with my family when I was a kid. We often went to one of Mexico's beautiful beaches. Other times we headed to Vegas or New York or Miami. They were short trips, less than a week, just to relax. I had forgotten what that was all about.
In December I finally remembered those trips. Not playing poker while I was in New York forced me to find the old me, the guy who could just relax and enjoy a holiday without any pressure. It made me realize that I need to do a better job separating holidays and poker trips, rather than combining them. By separating the two, I can focus on whatever I'm doing and do it the best, enjoy it the best.
As for New York itself, what can I say? It's a fantastic place. I went there with my girlfriend. We ate great food every day, saw the hilarious Broadway show The Book of Mormon (I love musicals), and spent quality time with good friends.
Overall it was such a different experience than I'm used to in the U.S. In Mexico, people are friendly all the time. It's quite common. But in the States I haven't experienced that same level of friendliness very often. This time around, maybe because it was New Year's Eve, something was different. Everyone was really friendly, having such a good time and smiling. It almost made me feel like I was home.
The best part of the trip came in the middle of Central Park one afternoon, with me bundled up like I was at the North Pole. You see, this was my first trip to New York in the winter, and actually the first time that I experienced a real winter in a big city. In Mexico, winter is nothing compared to New York City. Mexico City probably gets to about 10C or 8C at the coldest. It certainly doesn't snow.
But there my girlfriend and I were, having a quiet, thoughtful walk in this huge park in the center of this amazing city on a cold day in the middle of winter. Just as we passed a man playing the saxophone, snow started falling. It was perfect timing. I stood there, listening to the music and feeling the snow on my face, without thinking about anything else in the world. It was magical.
Maybe that sounds corny. But that moment felt like a perfect summary of our whole week in New York. My girlfriend and I are both always on the move all the time, traveling to this poker tournament or playing in that online event. Taking a week to tune out my poker brain, disconnect from it all and just relax was exactly what I needed.
Angel Guillen is a member of Team PokerStars Pro