Part 1: Gareth, the Poker Nomad


From just outside Toronto, he left Canada, with a one-way ticket to Peru and on to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Columbia, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, and even Turkey Indeed, the list goes on as he has played poker in upwards of 20 countries. Currently he is  in Norway. We know him as one of our trainers, GarethC23..

A fascinating man who travels the world paying his way by playing 100NL  live and online cash games, he also is an experienced poker coach working as a video instructor with Cardrunners and is a regular contributor to the Thinking Poker website When not playing or coaching he provides tournament coverage for Full Tilt, and writes the popular Borderline Gambling blog for Pokerstars, including travel blogs. And for firther updates check out 2 Plus 2 Podcasts. and his most recent blog to PSO.

So such is the ‘mandatory’ introduction, but there is no rule that fits Gareth.
Is this a man whom in the early hours of the morning you would send a message to on PSO entitled “I Spent the Night with You?” You know that Zen-like poker trainer with the voice that defines sensuality. Well, I did send that message  and got no response even though I explained he kept me up all night as I travelled with him, so to speak, through his blogs to Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Columbia and where else, one wonders. He likely dismissed me as psychotic. But no, how could one sleep, when upon his entering Peru, he writes,

“I don’t know how to stay safe travelling. But I have been safe and I can tell you what I do. Foremost, I am young and carry a ***** around. These natural advantages are hard to duplicate.” Lest you think that is all he ‘wears’, he is rightfully cautious about the money he brings to casinos and winnings he leaves with, thus he wears a poor man’s clothing and carries a walker"

Back to my bountiful relationship with Garet!::  Some weeks later, I was compelled to send yet another message asking him permission to write this blog on him. He responded with delight as my heart sank, wondering how could I possibly dare to write about a 27-year old man whose blogs are so unique?

Gareth focusses on his surroundings, relationships of sorts, opponents and poker hands. So here’s a slice of him in Peru as I ask myself ‘What is the mysterious intrigue this man constitutes?  The first clue is obvious upon reading his travel blogs. He is a damn good writer! He mesmerizes, understands the power of the Word just as the Renaissance man believed that God said, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God.”

During a Live Training, someone asked Gareth if poker was his oxygen. OK, the question wasn’t asked so loquaciously, but you get the idea. “No”, he responded. “Women are my obsession.”  As we shall see, such an obsession becomes like the movie Fatal Attraction as Gareth makes an inebriated decision.”

Regardless, it is discipline that runs through his veins. It was the first day of Pokerstars’ LAPT LimI was ready.

"I had run every day, miles and miles. I had played every day hands and hands,   both online and at the casino. I ate better. I slept well. I didn’t drink. I hardly went out at night. I woke up sore every day and loped along the malecon, the cliffs that brink Lima, until I was too tired.
I wasn't tired now."

"It was level ten of the first day of PokerStars' LAPT Lima. I had battled all day, a real slugfest. And now, having taken my first shot at a four-figure buy-in tournament, a 2500$ buy-in no less, I was ten minutes away from making day two with an above average chip stack.
It folded to me on the button and I min raised ten seven offsuit. My accelerating larceny hadn't been ticketed yet. The big man in the big blind called, forgoing his opportunity to consider his options. His gut had lurched over the table when he unloaded his big chip stack thirty minutes ago. He sipped an espresso that resembled a thimble. The dealer spread out the flop: Eight. Nine. Six. Two clubs.

I should have suddenly been happy that I had taken an unnecessarily large risk to my bankroll, playing for seventy-five percent of my own action. I felt nothing.”

That Gareth ‘felt nothing’ is not surprising to me as I listen to him during PSO Live Trainings. While he demonstrates a genuine commitment to  teaching, when asked about variance, bad beats and such which we all experience, Gareth responds that he does not react as he aims to keep his even keel. One pictures a Buddha at the poker table. And to his credit, he is the only poker player, trainer or otherwise who would hold a class on the language of poker; how we talk about opponents as villains, fish, nits, drums, rabbits. As most of you know, I come from the bridge world where the ethics of how we treat and talk about opponents is valued; to this day, I can't call an opponent a 'villain', not because I am more ethical than you, it's just a habit. So I tuly value Gareth's sensitvity to the power of words.

But back to Lima, the Atlantic City Casino, home to LAPT and the hostel where Yan, the owner, recognizes him but Gareth did not recognize trouble the trouble to come.

“It was Friday night.
Perfect legs bookended by heels and short shorts, her hair had spent at least two hours this afternoon in the company of a curling iron. Suggestive lipstick. At least it was to me. But suggestions don't carry much guarantee, as I was caught leaning in unsuccessfully that night, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There is not much coy remaining in a man's arsenal after being shown the deft recoil of the other cheek.
This was a set-up surely, but with whom in mind? I had just gotten into town Was this her regular Friday night hustle?
My harpy radar went silent, probably overheated.
Perhaps because I didn't care.”

“Perhaps because I didn’t care.” This reminded me of a question I asked him during a training. “When you started to play, Gareth, did you initially get hooked by the enjoyment of the game?” He was emphatic in responding, “No”, that it all had to do purely with making money. And here in Lima, he was, at this point,  inebriated so matters of the heart were shut.

"Our second date I asked her to help me with apartment hunting. Our third she asked me to move in with her. Five days later, I did. The price was right, the promise, inebriating. . .She asked me to proofread her two paragraph assignment, write about someone you admire. Here is a context clue; one of the sentences read "I think he would make a good father." I began formulating my exit strategy before I shut my eyes the first night."

Gareth summarizes this trip to Lima as “It felt good to play so well for so long, to lose a much-too-large portion of my bankroll, and to experience an absence of regret. Lima was where I became strong again. Perhaps my return had been inevitable. This time, so was my escape.

A song keeps playing in my mind, Paul Simon’s ‘Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.’