“There’s hurricane season in Cancun and it seems that it’s going to rain every day, I vote that we don’t go there” AkuJ said on the line.

“Me too” someone mumbled on the other line.

“Me too,” someone else agreed.

“Sorry guys, I have to go now” I said and hung up the call.

I got out from my work desk, tilted beyond words, and theatrically collapsed onto my living room floor.

“What’s up?” my girlfriend asked with a grin.

“I don’t think I’m doing Vegas.”

It had become obvious that getting into the US during a pandemic was harder than for the rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. For a rich man to enter Heaven he only had to give away all his money and repent to be let in (there might have been some metaphor about a camel and an eye of the needle but let us skip that). For a poker player from EU, you also had to give away all your money (in form of flights & hotels), but you also had to quarantine for two weeks in a non-Schengen area, be vaccinated twice and pray at the border control that you haven’t somehow contracted COVID between your last test (maximum 72 hours before) and your final destination. With these restrictions I had tried to organize a trip for me and five other fellow poker professionals for nearly a month, a task that was extremely hard even during normal conditions but was now plain impossible. 

I will just fly to Vegas when they open the borders properly, if that ever happens” I thought as I officially gave up in my mind.

A couple of days of “normal life” (grind &exercise and repeat) went by and I had nearly forgotten all about the Vegas trip. My game was better than ever, and I was loving my routines. On our previously planned departure day I got a message: 

“I’m going to Turkey in three days with my friend and flying to States from there, join me if you like” – Elkku

I was not sure how I felt about the message, grinds online had been good and having already spent 60-hours+ planning on a trip that seemed impossible gave me cold shivers. I was not sure if I wanted to do it anymore but was 100% sure that I did not want to think about it. However, right as I was reading the text, a solution came to me. A solution that might just get me off the hook: 

“I’ll join if you can get Eelis in too” I snapped a response. 

I felt good about myself. There was simply no way a father of two would agree to a trip that would last at least a month. I closed my phone, satisfied. Life was good; I did not need any extra hassle right now. I was not sure why I even wanted to go to Vegas in the first place. 

Next day rolled and my peace was disrupted by a call from Eelis:

“So, what do you think about this Turkey trip?” 

There was a clear excitement in his voice. I knew where this phone call was about to go. But how? How in the hell could he be ready for this trip? 

“Well, um. I said I would go if you were going too” I replied.

“The golf there is supposed to be amazing, and I can take my family along”

Fucking golf – of course 

“Oh yeah?” 

I tried to restrain the energy coming from his voice, but it seemed impossible. The first dominoes had fallen, and I could already see the inevitable collapse of actions ahead of me. Part of me wanted to stop it, but the other part cherishes these little moments where all you need to do is not say no and life will throw you somewhere. 

“So, I have our plane tickets here ready to be booked”

“Oh okay.”

“So, I can just book them, and you are in?”

“Well, I said I would come”

 I did not know what else to say. I was divided between the maniac that yells “HELL YES” to everything and the good quiet grinder who had been crushing everything for a couple of months back home. I knew that the maniac was about to win, like he always does, but I was not ready to celebrate it just yet. 

“Great, the tickets are booked now. See you at the airport in 36 hours”

And that is how my trip started. 

The two weeks in Turkey we are supposed to chill and pleasant, but they were anything but. On the second day of our trip, I got some news back home that made me consider the whole trip and whether I should return immediately back to home or not. After a long thought and counsel from my close friends and family I decided to continue, a decision that I was not hundred percent sure of but since it was done there was no going back. Was this ideal preparation for my forthcoming WSOP-grind? Absolutely not. Was there something I could do about it? Not really. I did talk a lot about the subject with my new mental coach, which helped a bit. Ready or not, like life often goes: the two weeks flew by, and it soon came time to travel to the States. 

Flights from Antalya were brutal. First hour and a half hop to Istanbul, from Istanbul excruciating 11,5h to Chicago, and from Chicago four hours to Vegas. In Chicago we had a small layover and decided to flip for the master bedrooms in our suite (we had booked 1,5k$/night suite from Trump towers for one night, after that we would all have our own rooms at the Encore), there were two good beds and one cot for the loser. Me and Elkku can sleep anywhere for one night, but this was a huge flip for our bad-back-having- horrible- sleeper friend Eelis. We flip and Eelis ends up with the shitty cot.

Maybe there is a god

Eelis, not happy about losing “the biggest flip ever” throws the whole deck as it is randomly to the middle of a busy airport aisle. The cards go everywhere.

“I’M NOT PICKING THAT UP” he yells and storms off to a line to our airplane, leaving behind him a stupefied crowd of pensioners who are clearly not sure where the pile of unorganized playing cards next to them had appeared. I am laughing and following him. 

“You got to pick that up man, we’re reppin Beasts too on our travels.” I yell at him and point to my brand-new Beasts of Poker hoodie; Elkku is wearing one too. 

“No, no no no” Eelis replies in his denial-tilt, he is puffing and shaking his head.

I shoot him a look that lets him know what I think, which he adamantly ignores. We wait in silence for a couple of minutes as the line slowly moves forward. Just before the check in Eelis turns around:

“Oh, fuck it, BUT NOW WE ARE GOING TO PLAY SOME CHINESE” and runs for the cards. I laugh and wonder:

Why is everyone around me so degen?

Before our wheels touch ground in Chicago, I have lost 20 000€ to Eelis in Chinese poker. There is no god, not certainly a fair one. Maybe a one that gives little kids cancer and straight flushes to Eelis might exist but I for one will never pray to that creature’s name. I am exhausted, tilted and already down nearly a 25k PLO bullet and we have not even officially arrived.

Welcome to Vegas son

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