I often wonder how many of us, especially in the tough times, lose sight of why we started playing this game we love in the first place. Anyone who's read my little blogs or forum rants about my poker journey this year will know it's been far from smooth sailing for me. My goals for self improvement and some measure of profit have been really testing me lately I think I've been a little too focused on the destination and not the journey itself. My eagerness to see some results and the frustrations of not performing as well as I had hoped seemed to have sucked the joy out playing. I came to the conclusion it was time to take a step back and relax a bit. All this frustration was getting me nowhere and hurting my game; it was time to go back to basics.

Back to basics, that got me thinking about what I want from poker, why I play the game, why I started. Where did it all begin? For me poker was always something I just seemed to know how to play, cards in general were a common source of entertainment for my two older brothers and I from a young age. Mostly it was games we learned from our grampa; 5 card Draw, 7 card Stud or 9 card Brag and we did dabble in some Texas Hold'em, learning it from what we seen on TV. But I didn't really catch the bug until I was about 20 years old. My local pub started a free to play poker night, joining as part or the Live Pub Poker League, every Thursday night which was great for me since my girlfriend at the time worked Thursday nights lol. I went to the first night and I was instantly hooked! Looking back now I have to say the standard of play, even mine, was fairly poor but that didn't matter in the least. A few drinks and lots of laughs with friends over the felt, can't beat it.

 Back in the day. (I'm the one on the right, winning!)


And to add to it the first 2 month block I qualified for a regional final with the chance to win some nice prizes. Didn't quite make the final table, or final 5 tables for that matter, but the experience was grat all the same. There was even an annual national final that gave me a chance to play in a tourney with over 500 runners including some decent players such as 'Irish' Tom Brady, one of the leagues owner/operators and winner of the 2012 Irish Poker Open. There was about 3 years where I didn't miss a single Thursday night game. I even made most Tuesday night games too at another of my locals and also got involved in occasionally being Tournement Director for some of the games which was really interesting. Back then it didn't matter the only thing I'd ever won from playing poker was an iPod, it was about the fun of playing. These days, however, I've only been going once in a while and I realise now the fun part of poker is a major thing I've been starting to lose lately. And not only does it mean I'm not getting as much out of the game but I think it makes my play worse in general.

So last Thursday night I put on my lucky shoes and headed for the pub, eager to get stuck into some poker. Walking through the doors I recieved a warm welcome, which to be fair is kind of expected since about 4 or 5 of my best friends are bar staff, but it was nice none the less. I signed myself in, ordered a nice cold pint of lager and proceeded to tell everyone about how I was going to win and they might aswell just not bother playing. There was a nice positive atmosphere and everyone was having a good time when we finally took our seats to get underway. I was very pleased to find out my epic chip shuffling skills were as sharp as ever and so were my readin skills. Quickly calling off a huge bluff with second pair to give myself an early lead. The next hour or so I was pretty card dead but a few carefully timed steals and one or two bluffs against the nits kept me in contention. Just before the break, sitting on the button, I looked down at a pretty red A and slowly squeezed to reveal yet another A. The massive chip leader, Mike, a very talented player who I have a lot of history with, opens to 900 (3x) and I smell a big pot coming since I know he's pretty TAG. I raise it up to 2.1k with around 6.4k behind. It folds round to the OR who, to my delight, shoves in his stack.

Obviously I snap and he turns over KK and says "your aces are good" in a fairly dejected tone. I turn over my aces and the board runs out Jack high putting my in a comfortable chip lead once again. After the break I went back to being card dead but as the blinds increased and the stacks got shallower I found myself in my comfort zone with the average being about 12 BBs and just used my aggression to keep me alive until the final table bubble. Eventually I once again found myself looking down at pockey rockets and couldn't believe my luck when my mate Scott, sitting to my right, open shoves. He had me well covered so all I can do is call but then I notice the big blind tanking. After a bit of hmm'ing he exclaims "ahh I kind of have to.." and calls all-in, tabling JJ. The OR shows KQo and we all sit looking expectantly at the dealer. Flop comes down 2, A, 9 and the turn and river brick putting me once again in the chip lead going into the final table. By this point in the evening about half of the remaining players are drunk, and although a bit tipsy myself it made it very easy to run over the table. I think I knocked out all but one player from there on and had the fastest heads up I've ever played lasting only one hand, my K9s holding against my very drunk friends Q3o. It may have taken a fair amount of luck to do it but I feel like I played well and I done exactly what I set out to do, enjoy myself.

It's why I play.