How Saying “I Can’t” Can Lead to “I Can”

“I wasn’t sure you were going to be able to do it,” my friend said, relieved to learn that I had become brave enough to drive my new Vespa-like motor scooter to work and back home (a 30-minute commute each way) within days of the first driving lesson he gave me. I admitted I was a bit worried about that too because I was feeling so afraid in this new, much more vulnerable driving position… and explained how I had made myself go a little further on the scooter each day and spent time reasoning with my emotional side; using the fact that I was driving in a mellow town at slow speeds to fuel my bravery. I really wanted to be a scooter girl – save money on gas and have more fun while driving – and that’s what I did. I’m not the type of girl to let fears stop her.

Los Caped Barbarinos – 4th of July, 2013

Within months, I became co-founder of a scooter group called Los Caped Barbarinos. We rode wearing capes to spread silliness and smiles. I roamed thousands of miles by scooter over the years, including multiple trips from Santa Barbara to Orange County. The hardest part about deciding to move to Las Vegas was accepting the fact that I’d have to sell my scooter and leave that part of my life behind for a while. The one that I had would not be able to handle the spring and summer heat… and I’d prefer a larger engine for the big city… and I didn’t want to have to worry about it getting stolen from the parking lot…. and I couldn’t (and still can’t) afford a “better” scooter or a place to live (almost 2 years later). So… I was more than a little excited (I jumped up and down crying, squealing, and smiling with joy) when I got the message confirming that my buddies who planned a scooter stomp in Las Vegas would be bringing an extra scooter so I could ride along.

I was a little nervous about how I would feel while scootering for the first time in “forever” but I showed up early and drove around the parking lot for a few minutes and I felt good. It was, as they say, like riding a bike. I got pretty nervous a few times on the first outing thanks to the many less than courteous drivers around Las Vegas, but I was able to quickly talk myself down with a few rational thoughts and deep breaths. 

The second ride didn’t go nearly as well. No one was hurt (thank goodness) unless you count my bruised ego. As the leader turned on his blinker to get on the I-15, I thought, “Oh please no.” I hadn’t asked the full details before the ride and had assumed that the route was suitable for 125cc and above, avoiding the freeway. I was never a big fan of high-speed driving and had never driven so fast on such tiny wheels. A few miles into the ride, I got off the freeway despite the fact it was clear that the ride route continued straight. I had been trying to calm myself down since the moment we got on but was only getting more anxious. I called ahead to the group to explain and one friend circled back to ride with me as the rest waited for me to calm down and catch up… but I only made it two more exits before giving up again. The wind gusts that come with high speeds were making me too anxious to enjoy myself. Knowing we had 20 more miles before we hit back roads (where the speed limits only decrease a little), 100+ total miles left in the ride, and that the group was heading back into town from my side of the city, I headed home to relax, recover, and drive in on the slower route to meet them. 

That was the plan, at least. Unfortunately, the daily wind gusts had kicked in once I hit the road on my second attempt to scoot off into the wilderness, making me feel just as unsafe as I did cruising beside semis. I drove well under the speed limit since the road was mostly deserted, pulling off when cars began to approach so I wouldn’t slow them down. Still, I didn’t go very far before turning back towards home for more R&R. I wanted to go meet my friends more than anything, but I couldn’t get past my fear to enjoy the ride. 

As I sat at home waiting to meet up with the group, the winds got even stronger. I kept looking outside, thinking that I might not have gotten up early for the ride at all if I had known there were 25 mph wind gusts in the forecast. I knew I could do the remainder of the ride with my friends without getting too overwhelmed by fear, but I wasn’t exactly excited about it anymore. When I finally rejoined the pack more than four hours after I left them, I quickly learned that the wind had been hard on everyone else too. Nerves were shot. Everyone looked ready for the ride to be over. They gave me the “safety award” for knowing that I needed to stay behind and confirmed that driving conditions were pretty stressful even if driving a heavier bike with larger wheels. 

My friends let me take the lead for a bit when we left the last pit stop and it felt pretty awesome to see all of them in my rear-view mirrors (like old times made new). The wind was fierce and making me really work hard to stay balanced, but I managed to get back to enjoying the ride. In fact, I was having such a great time cruising and singing along to the music playing through my headphone (singular – one ear was open) that I didn’t hear my scooter buddies all honking at me as they slowed down to turn. I’m not sure how long they were gone before I noticed they weren’t following me. The actual leader of the ride had listened to his GPS, taking the fastest route, and the group followed. I pulled over for a moment once I realized to make sure they weren’t behind me, then shrugged and cruised along my way, arriving at the destination not long after everyone else. (Normally the scooter crew would come looking for a “lost” member of the pack, but I guessed correctly that they didn’t this time because they were certain I knew where I was going.) 

Interestingly enough, although having my crew in my rear-view mirrors had helped immensely when I was still trying squash my fear of the wind when we began the final leg of the ride, the anxiety did not return for one second when I found myself flying solo. I had pushed myself just hard enough to break through the emotional barrier that had been holding me back all day. I was better than fine. I felt braver than when I began the day and perhaps even braver than ever before. Before this weekend, I didn’t think I would feel comfortable cruising alongside the crazy drivers of Las Vegas by myself. I thought I needed my crew with me to feel safe… but now I know that’s not true.

I learned later that the group had taken the freeway again when we got separated and at least a few others wished they could have avoided that stress like I did.  I wish I’d told them they had the option… and was extra glad I spent nearly all my moments of free time that day writing this post – organizing my thoughts to share the deeper truth that I was seeing thanks to this experience, excited to explain my ways to anyone who cares to read in hope of helping others figure out what route they want to take in life. If you read my other posts, you might think I always push through my fears and, in a way, I do… but it doesn’t mean that I never say, “I can’t.” I’m grateful I got the chance to show that the key to “always” moving forward is knowing your limits and figuring out what steps you are comfortable taking that lead to, “I can.”

Despite the fact that fear disrupted my ability to enjoy some of the time I’d allotted to scoot with my friends, I still managed to live two moments that I have dreamt of experiencing since I moved here; moments I wasn’t sure would ever become real. We cruised The Strip at night and, better yet, I was in the lead when we took one of my favorite turns towards town. It didn’t happen exactly how I hoped things would go, but it got me exactly where I wanted to be. With any luck, I’ll be able to say the same soon about my artist and writer life… and/or my poker dreams… and/or the presence of romance. 

Living the Dream

I’m pretty sure I’m turtley scooting closer and closer towards achieving my goals every day because I also seek to master the art of never giving up. Learning how to balance between pushing through and listening to your fears is truly hard work sometimes, but I hope you can see me as living proof that it is worth attempting. Like most, I often get upset when forced to alter my course, but I have learned it’s best not to fight the winds of change. They might be there to shift you into the right direction; blow you where you wanted to go all along; help you remember how to enjoy the ride. Like this weekend’s scooter ride, moving to Las Vegas wasn’t all fun and games, but… I keep seeing signs that the path I’ve chosen to travel is the right one for me… and it will likely make all the difference; make me capable of achieving all I’ve dreamed of and more.

Check out this Instagram reel to see how happy scootering makes me.

Subscribe here for information on how you can pre-order my soon to be released deck of fortune telling playing cards and be notified about other exciting Rachel Hoyt news.


How to Win an Unbeatable Game

Every so often, I can’t help but wonder if I’m trying to win an unbeatable game. Have I set myself up for failure? Is my plan for my life more than I can possibly accomplish? On a scale of one to ten, how crazy am I really? (Don’t answer that.) Is it bad to have a constantly growing to-do list? Isn’t that normal? A few weeks ago, when I decided to go try out the nearby hiking trail without doing much research on the difficulty level I was committing to, I got a new glimpse at the issue. Gazing ahead at the extremely steep, loose gravel trail, I sighed and said, “Yep. That’s the type of goals I set.”

I hadn’t climbed any hills beyond the inclines and stairs I traverse between home and work for more than a year. I knew my lungs were in worse shape than they had been when I slowly but surely climbed far less treacherous paths. Of course, despite the fact the trail looked a bit dangerous for someone with my current capabilities to forge, I didn’t hesitate a single second before moving forward. I essentially knew that walking this path would cause me pain and I didn’t care. I thought it would be a good way to grow stronger, one baby step at a time. I felt it was likely to teach me something about how to win.

The trail was much longer than expected and my far more in shape friend was also nervous about the descent, so we turned back at the first viewpoint (about an hour and a half in). Even though I had two walking poles to help me balance, I slid and fell about halfway back down the mountain. I was so weak that I had to take off the backpack I was carrying my cat in before I could lift myself back upright. The cat was completely unphased by the slip, but my knees started to ache immediately. I inched my way back down the mountain, not fully admitting how much I was hurting until I was steps away from my car. I iced my aching knees once I got home and took a warm Epsom salt bath later… and did a bunch of stretches and applied multiple specialty ointments to help soothe my pain… but I still needed to wear a knee support brace and a wrist and thumb stabilizer for several days to help my body recover. A week later I went on another hike (on a relatively flat, mostly paved trail) despite having barely recovered.

Each step made me both proud of myself for pushing so hard to make the climb and a bit embarrassed that I was hurting (again) from falling on trail. (I injured my thumb and wrist multiple times while hiking in 2020 and 2021. I wasn’t using walking poles those times, but it also wasn’t nearly as steep.) While struggling through the added pain, I couldn’t help but recognize that the experience truly is a great analogy for the way I have tried to find a way to make a living as a writer and artist. I set huge goals, pushed myself hard, stumbled and bruised myself along the way… and I haven’t given up… and each tumble has made me stronger. I have experienced high points and low points, both of which helped me determine the peak I want to climb now. The fact I haven’t taken the easy way does not mean I won’t reach my desired destination.

Furthermore, the thing about climbing mountains is, when I struggle to reach the top, the view once I arrive always makes me grateful that I pushed through the difficult journey. I have a hard time believing that I would appreciate it equally if it wasn’t hard to get there. The other thing about climbing mountains is: eventually, you have to come down. You could sit up on the peak in one spot forever… but, chances are you’ll decide you would rather descend and climb another peak, even if that journey hurts a bit too… because you know how great that view from the top makes you feel and you know that there are many great sights you could see if you just take it one step at a time. That one tough hike helped me remember that I should be less bothered by the way I traveled here over the past 20 years and prouder of the fact I haven’t given up. It reminded me that, in life and on trail, there are many less spectacular views to be enjoyed during the journey. It’s not all about the view from the top.

I could let myself get down by all the things I did not accomplish in 2022 – the vlogs I started but haven’t kept up, the poker studies I continuously push to the backburner, the fact I said I would blog more regularly and haven’t, the many product ideas that I haven’t yet found time to work on – or I can be excited about the fact I know where I want to go in 2023 and the precise steps I think it will take to get there. I have already greatly expanded the number of keychains, rings, necklaces, hats, t-shirts, hoodies and more in my Etsy shop… and added digital download greeting cards… and made printed greeting cards and return address labels available on Zazzle… wrote a free e-course to share my fortune telling knowledge, designed a survey to determine the effectiveness of tarot, and began inviting people to help me compile data about whether or not the cards speak to them through my Fortune Telling Tiny Art Playing Cards. Last night I (finally) ordered a sample deck of my fortune telling playing card designs. After I get caught up on my bookkeeping, I will start on a few other top secret awesome ideas I can’t wait to show you but want to keep as a surprise for now… and then, after that, I’ll concentrate on all the great videos I planned and/or have started making for my YouTube channels. I will reach the top of this mountain… someday. That’s the kind of gal I am.

P.S. For “fun” I’m trying to win a game many would say is truly unbeatable: penny poker. I decided just before New Year’s to start over at trying to build a bankroll from scratch in 2023. I’m hoping to grow my online piggy bank enough to be able to play at the casino on profits alone. I was up nearly $100 at one point but ended the month of January down a bit over $30 despite having 30 wins and only 18 losses. February has quickly tipped that win/loss ratio for the worse, but there’s still time to turn it all around. I’m pretty sure that, if I can get my ego out of the way and be patient, I will get back on track in no time. I’ve ended quite a few poker sessions lately feeling that all I need to do is stop paying to learn what I already “know”. Sound familiar? Maybe I haven’t learned my lesson… but, perhaps, right now I’m just busy remembering how to enjoy every moment I get to play the game.

Go here if you need an inexpensive way to keep track of your wins and losses.

Fortune Telling vs. Prophesying

After realizing that even the disciples cast lots (practiced divination), I began to wonder what the Bible says about signs and miracles occurring in present day. I was first led to remember that scriptures mention many great things done in God’s name by people other than Jesus. In the book of Exodus, Moses parted the Red Sea, spoke to God through a burning bush, and (along with his brother Aaron) performed many acts of wonder for the Pharoah of Egypt (including the 10 plagues). Peter waked on water (Matthew 14:28-31) and raised Tabitha (aka Dorcas) from the dead (Acts 8:36-42) amongst other deeds. Although I must note the fact that Paul and Silas cast a demon out of a fortune telling slave girl (Acts 16:16-18), I can’t help but wonder if they were actually bothered by the fact that she was following them around shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” or if the real issue was the fact she was enslaved because of her abilities and wanted to be free. Why would a demon make its presence known by advertising for God?

From there I was led to ponder how fortune telling was performed in Biblical times. I thought of people who entered a trance-like state to deliver the messages of the spirit(s) that entered them (i.e. the Oracle of Delphi) … and realized it sounded strikingly similar to the way the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost (Acts 2), making the believers begin to speak in tongues. Could it be that the process is similar, but some were open to receiving power from any source while others (who only believed in the God of the Bible) did not seek power but instead received it as a blessing due to their devout worship? Peter explained the believers’ newfound ability to speak in tongues with these words spoken by the prophet Joel:

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below… and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Acts 2:17-21

When I consider these words and the fact the entire book of Revelation is a prediction of the future which came after Jesus died – a vision of the apostle John – I can’t help but feel that the difference between “fortune telling” and “prophesying” is a matter of who/what is credited as the source of information. It seems that those who give the glory to God are prophesying whereas those who do not are fortune tellers.

Over the years, as I came to accept the life path I felt called to and pondered where and when to open up about the fact I believe myself to be a Christian who is meant to use fortune telling in poker, there is one verse that came to mind innumerable times:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

I had been taught to hear those words as proof that you must believe in Jesus to be saved. I thought it was a reminder that I shouldn’t need anything other than the example Jesus set in order to have faith. Yet, just a few verses later, after telling the disciples to believe in him based on the evidence of the miracles they have seen, Jesus adds:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.

John 14:12-14

I have never asked God for any special abilities, but I have never stopped praying that I would live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. I haven’t attended church regularly in years, but I have prayed many times for protection against evil and guidance on what to do with my life. In time, I came to see why God might want to be a fortune telling poker player (more on that in the next post), but first and foremost, I had to accept this:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

Before I could conceive of why, I had to find the faith to believe that I could. (Reminder: Peter had to believe he could walk on water to stay afloat. Matthew 15:31) Multiple years passed between the time I began to feel messages coming through the cards and the day I began to analyze poker hands from a fortune telling perspective. I did not want to be different from all the Christians I know. I knew they would worry about my fate as soon as I declared what I felt called to do. I hoped there might be an easier way (i.e. succeed as a poker player before admitting the source of my intuition). Yet, what is becoming more and more clear with every word I type here about my spiritual beliefs is that it makes perfect sense that I would not find great success at poker before first explaining why I want to be a winning player. I want you to know that I do what I do because of my belief in God; that any special abilities I have are gifts from the Lord. I hope to be an example of the difference you can make in the world when you have faith. Although my path is one that can lead to fortune and fame, my goal is to fulfill my purpose on earth as God intended.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:6-7

Fortune Telling vs. Casting Lots

There are 1326 different two card combinations in a deck of playing cards and more ways to arrange all 52 cards than there are atoms on earth. The odds of the cards falling the same way twice are essentially one in a gazillion bazillion. Given those facts, it is no wonder that many believe tarot can bring personalized messages. Of course, whether or not information can be revealed is often not the concern. The real question for most who object to divination is: where does this information come from?

For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

Matthew 24:24

There are many references to sorcery, divination, and fortune telling in the Bible. In general, they all say it is wrong… yet there are also instances where leaders “cast lots” to determine God’s will. Joshua used this method to divide Canaan amongst the 12 tribes of Israel (Joshua 18:10). God commanded Moses to instruct Aaron to “cast lots” to determine which goat should be sacrificed and which should be sent into the wilderness to atone for his sin (Leviticus 16:8). The apostles even cast lots to determine who should take Judas’ place after he betrayed Jesus (Acts 1:21-26). In fact, the words “clerk”, “clergy”, and “cleric” come from the same Greek word (kleros) as the word “cleromancy”. Kleros is the word for lot or inheritance. Cleromancy is a random method of determining an outcome and, in ancient times, positions in the church were often chosen by casting lots (1 Chronicles 24:5,31; 25:8-9; 26:13-14).

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

Proverbs 16:33

Casting lots was a method of tossing different length sticks, marked stones, or possibly dice and making decisions based on how and where they land. The closest equivalents in modern times would be to draw straws or flip a coin. Playing cards and tarot did not exist at the time the Bible was written, but the randomness offered by them is far greater than any tool that was used to cast lots. Although the New Testament does not instruct Christians to use any of the above methods to make decisions, it does show the disciples using them. Despite the fact they experienced Christ directly and wrote the Bible (which supposedly contains all the information we need), they cast lots to determine God’s will shortly after Jesus died.

If prayer and pure intentions are the things that make this practice not evil for the disciples, why can’t the same be done today? What if sorcery, fortune telling, and divination as described in the Bible are tied to belief in multiple gods and other evil practices though that is not always true today? Furthermore, is it possible for any person of faith to never practice divination? If defined as seeking to determining God’s will, then all those who seek divine guidance – whether praying, reading the Bible, or using cards – are practicing divination.

How do you “know” your spiritual practices are good (not evil)? How do you “know” that everything in the Bible is true and accurately interpreted? Do you think the fact that the Bible was written by humans (who sin like we do) 40 years after Jesus lived could cause inaccurate messages to creep in? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. I’ll share more of mine soon.

The Present is a Gift

I don’t often turn on my TV when I wake up to watch the news, but this morning I did… and the first thing I learned was that Julie Powell – the food writer who inspired the movie Julie and Julia which inspired me – died on October 26th of cardiac arrest. She was 49 years old. It wasn’t the first reminder I’d received recently that you never know when you’re going to go. There have been plentiful reminders of this fact the past few years, but this one came the day after I received yet another suggestion that I should ponder how practicing fortune telling may affect my afterlife.

Before that conversation I had been thinking about what I would next write about here – which part of my never-ending thoughts I should share. After the conversation about how I justify my present behavior given my belief in the Bible, the sniffles I had been feeling for two days turned way worse. I ended up up sleeping all afternoon and evening (except for a short bit where my splitting headache pushed my nausea beyond the brink and left me crying on the bathroom floor about the pain). Rising about 2 hours after I often crawl in bed (because I had already slept 16+ hours and could rest no more), I turned on the morning news for the first time in many months… and learned that the woman that my mind first turned to for guidance a few days ago while pondering how to move forward here is gone.

I was thinking I would mostly discuss the things that happen to me which seem like more than mere coincidence… and then this happens… and it feels like more than just coincidence. It feels like a sign. I tell those who ask that I’ve prayed about it and truly feel I’m doing the right thing, but doubts do still creep in my mind from time to time. I say I’ve read the scriptures and don’t feel condemned, but I struggle to specify why when asked. I have my reasons, but I wish I could explain it better. So, I’ve decided it’s time to work on that.

At the moment, I’m not ready to set a specific goal (i.e. 524 recipes in 365 days like Julie did) but I am ready to say I’ll be discussing all kinds of religious and spiritual things and will write as often as possible (hopefully every day). I’m going to examine my beliefs in every way I can imagine and research all information that may either support or disprove the validity of divination and/or whether or not such practices are evil. I don’t want to build a career around a spiritual practice I’ll later disavow as Doreen Virtue did. I’m sharing my knowledge of fortune telling with playing cards for free now (as an e-course and through my YouTube channel) because I believe it’s a gift I’m meant to help others recognize and understand. I believe I’m meant to use it in poker to show it can be done; to remind the world that God works in mysterious ways. Someone I looked up to once told me that there’s no way that writing and playing poker could be my spiritual path. I knew he was wrong then – before I accepted that I was seeing messages in the cards – and now I’m ready to prove it. Right or wrong, good or bad, win or lose, I’m all-in.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Matthew 5:8
First on my (re)reading list.

The Yoga of Jesus by Paramahansa Yogananda

The Mystical Teachings of Jesus by David Hoffmeister

The Bible

I would love to hear your questions, thoughts, and reading suggestions in the comments section below. Thank you for reading this post and joining me on this journey!

Down the Rabbit Hole

Today is the type of anniversary that makes me realize how long I’ve been working to build a full-time writer and artist income. Nine years ago I began participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time. I had already been working on my goals for five to ten years (the timeline is intentionally blurred in my memory for motivational purposes) and hoped that getting 50,000 words on paper would get me where I needed to go. I completed my goal to write 50k works in 30 days (a giant feat) but still am not sure where it got me.

I declared then that my novel would be called Laugh, Bet, or Fold and described the plot to be written with this synopsis:

Stacy Tracy gained two things from her grandfather: a rhyming name and a deep love of poker. She grew to despise rhymes after being told for the millionth time how cute her name is, but her love of poker had only grown stronger with time. Realizing she’s better at knowing when to bluff, bet, or fold at the card table than in life, Stacy declares a new goal. She wants to be the first woman to win the World Series of Poker Main Event and, hopefully, improve her ability to utilize those skills outside the casino along the way.

In an e-newsletter a year later, I shared the draft I had worked on at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference that summer:

At first Stacy wasn’t sure if it was an epiphany or just really good weed, but as her high led her to contemplate the signs she became convinced. Her love of poker was no secret, but this was the championship. It was as old as she was and no woman had ever won – one of the few remaining male chauvinist strongholds in a supposedly equal society.
     Although in her heart she’d always been a feminist, until now she had never felt called to fight. She wasn’t denying the pang of jealousy that had struck when TrickySlick dropped the news link in the chat box to notify his tournament competitors that it was, “time to remind the ladies they truly are the weaker sex”, but it seemed plausible that comment was the code which unlocked her secret. There were signs.
     The table where Annette Obrestad stood being crowned champion of the first European World Series of Poker seemed strangely familiar, as if it was in that dream she had a month prior, the one from which she awoke remembering only one phrase, “Live like it’s all poker. In love, be the Joker.” The couplet of advice still made no sense in its entirety, but she figured that it was safe to assume it wasn’t offered to discourage her from playing.
     About once a week since Stacy turned thirty, she had pondered the significance of the fact she could conjure few memories from her childhood at will and usually the first to come to mind was the night grandpa had taught her to play. Clearly it was proof the allure was inherited.
     Her slow but steadily growing kitty at Poker Pub was like the Little Engine that Could. If she continued winning tournaments at her current success rate, it would only take… sixteen years… but just last week a late night stroll had led her to a bar where she’d gotten a strange feeling she was meant to play.
     The bartender had stoically declined to explain the thumps, thuds, and murmurs from above, but when a much louder crash compelled him to dash upstairs to investigate, the elegant bar fly he’d introduced her to dished the dirt. Poppy said the owner was really paranoid about the authorities discovering his poker game. The history etched on the walls of the preserved saloon had given Stacy the feeling that, no matter the quantity or color of chips being tossed into the pot, at the Horsemen Lounge they played for blood.

In 2015, a few months after I had the pleasure of meeting my poker hero, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the second time. I had become inspired to relocate the characters I had invented to a new location and twist the plot into something more exciting than my real life (which had inspired the first draft(s) on which I was stalled). I don’t remember exactly when I gave up on that draft or why. I believe I did not make the 50k words goal that year but kept working on it for several months. I think I simply couldn’t figure out where the story was meant to go. The characters wouldn’t tell me.

In 2019, I participated in NaNoWriMo a third time, once again using my life and a dear group of friends as the main source of inspiration. That time I called my novel to be You Betcha and summarized the plot in one sentence: “Five Horsemen and two Madames make one big bet against the Billionaire Boys Club to prove that what you do with your money is far more valuable than the money itself.” I don’t remember getting very far on that draft. I recall having trouble imagining the scenes and mentally beating myself up for not being able to write the way I wanted to… and giving up on that version rather quickly.

I hadn’t been able to play poker nearly as often since Black Friday – that dark day in 2011 when I lost my ability to play online for tiny sums I could 100% afford and work on building my bankroll in a responsible manner. From April 2011 until June 2021 (when I moved to Las Vegas), I needed a minimum of $100 to play most of the time and I didn’t often have that in cash to spare. I had available credit, but using my available credit too freely was the reason I had little cash to spare… so, I mostly refrained unless a friend hosted a game I could play at for less money… which wasn’t all that often… which made it harder and harder to write poker stories.

A few weeks ago I learned by watching an Embrace the Grind vlog interview featuring my new friend Jaman Burton (poker vlogger) that he enjoys journaling possibly as much as I do. The next time I saw him, I admitted to having a trunk full of little books full of stories about my life. He said he does his digitally. Then my childhood friend announced her plan to participate in NaNoWriMo this year and my competitive spirit flared up. I was upset by the thought she might publish her book before I finish writing mine… until I reminded myself how much I have written here about me… and the fact that my stories as written are becoming more and more worthy of being my first book as I inch towards personal success as an artist and poker player. Actually, it’s possible all my stories really need to make a great book is the happy ending I continuously feel is right around the corner. Adding all those ingredients up, I decided I should start thinking about my website as my other journal and start writing my happy ending as it occurs.

Then, just before I finished writing the above words, while pondering whether or not I would mention the fact I believe my Prince Charming is someone who occasionally or regularly reads this blog to get to know me better but is not actually in touch with me day to day, I had to take a quick break from writing to get ready to go get my annual physical at the doctor… and the radio (first Pandora, then the local stations in the car) did that thing it’s been doing really often lately where it feeds me songs that sound like the movie soundtrack for my life… as if trying to erase any doubts I might have about whether or not I’m doing the right thing(s).

First, the lyrics implied my guy wants to be part of my story:

I will follow you way down wherever you may go
I’ll follow you way down to your deepest low
I’ll always be around wherever life takes you
You know I’ll follow you

Imagine Dragons, Follow You

Then they told me to stop thinking and start writing – let the words dance across the page:

Don’t think about it
Just move your body
Listen to the music
Sing, oh, ey, oh
Just move those left feet
Go ahead, get crazy
Anyone can do it
Sing, oh, ey, oh
… Show the world you’ve got that fire (fire)
Feel the rhythm getting louder
Show the room what you can do
Prove to them you got the moves
I don’t know about you,
… But I feel better when I’m dancing, yeah, yeah
Better when I’m dancing, yeah, yeah
And we can do this together
I bet you feel better when you’re dancing, yeah, yeah

Meghan Trainor, Better When I’m Dancing

Because it’s time to start the show:

But, oh my oh my God the entertainment’s here
Everything is suddenly amazing here
Sit back man, relax man
Sit back man

AJR, The Entertainment’s Here

And living in a Macklemore video sequel/parody by leading a scooter ride with my buddies down The Strip might someday happen because letting the words flow on this page more freely could give me a fresh start. In case you don’t know, I was a motor scooter sales person and scooter group leader when Maclemore’s song Downtown was released. It has only come up on Pandora perhaps a handful of times since, but today was one of those days.. just before it played this:

Like a sunrise on the longest night
Like a rescue coming just in time
Yeah, you save me when I cannot see the light
Like a heartbeat to a lonely drum
When I thought that, that the end had come
You remind me that it’s only just begun
Took my soul down to the water, mama
I came back a different man
Long as we got one another singing (oh, oh, oh)…

Everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be alright
Got a brand new, got a brand new, got a brand new lease on life

Andy Grammer, Lease on Life

So here I am, writing without much editing, letting the words fall out, being brave… because ever since my dream of becoming a writer, artist, and poker player began, I’ve felt haunted by songs that tell me to do just that. Especially this one:

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now

And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
And sooner or later, it’s over
I just don’t wanna miss you tonight

Goo Goo Dolls, Iris

I’m not putting myself on a 50k words in 30 days schedule right now. I can’t handle that kind of pressure on top of all I’m already doing. However, it’s possible I’m writing the rough drafts that will become my book or movie as happened in Sex in the City and Julie and Julia (two fictional flicks that inspired my life trajectory). Just now, when I got in the car to finish typing this post and drive home, this was on the radio:

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself, and I
Didn’t know I was lost…

Aloe Blacc, Wake Me Up

These are not the only lyrics that spoke to me today nor the only signs I’ve seen that all my hard work may soon pay off beyond belief. I’m not sure I could ever have imagined a life quite like the one I’m living. So, I’ll be back to tell you more stories soon… after I clean my apartment to a point I would be happy to show it to Prince Charming when he shows up… and finish the next two videos for my new vlog… and perhaps play some poker online… but before I forget the amazing things that happen. I the mean time, if you haven’t seen it yet, click here to watch my first fortune telling poker hand analysis. I would love to hear what you think.

P.S. I dressed like the White Rabbit yesterday to work on Halloween and today I’m wearing my favorite hoodie with Q♡ art featuring Alice and the Red Queen… just in case such things hold the power to help me manifest my Wonderland.

P.P.S. I now work in the poker room where I interviewed my favorite poker player years ago.

Untitled altered playing card art by Rachel Hoyt

New Vlog!

Its story time! My first artist life / poker life vlog is now live on YouTube.

This post features an essay (like the ones I’ve been writing for this site for years) about my first year in Vegas and the “trick” I use to stay positive and keep working towards my goals. Check out Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz on Amazon and watch the video below to learn the technique.

Note: as an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Who Fucking Cares?!

“You care too much,” they tell me. My coworkers said it when I scrubbed the floors of the coffee shop that they would swiftly wave a mop over (without sweeping first). They said it when I  polished the spots off the glassware that other bartenders would have filled with drinks. They say it when I tell them I never pretend to be sick in order to get out of a day at work. They even said it when I protested an illegal tip-splitting policy they chose to tolerate. They say it to help me have realistic expectations about the odds that my efforts will be rewarded proportionately. It reminds me of the way most poker players use the mathematical odds to guide their game play in order to ensure their success in the long run. Personally, I think odds are quite odd and you can choose whether they guide you or define you both in poker and in real life. I think people cling to the mathematically correct way to play a poker hand for the same reason they “don’t care” about the “little things” in life the way I do: they are afraid to be different. Unfortunately, not objecting to bad behavior or (worse) joining in because “everyone” else is doing it are two surefire ways to ensure that bad behavior becomes more prevalent. 

Poker pro Phil Helmuth is one good example. I haven’t been a huge fan of his over the years but I recently realized that I likely have more in common with him than many of the players I once wished to be like. He’s been known as The Poker Brat for as long as I can remember because he is sometimes extremely emotional at the table. He shouts, enthusiastically crediting “white magic” and “apex predator shit” when he wins… and rants, loudly sharing his dismay when he loses. He once said that, “if everyone played correctly, [he] would win every time.” His antics and rants have always made me laugh, but I wasn’t a huge fan because I didn’t want to encourage the behavior. Technically speaking, it is against the rules. However, because he is an accomplished poker player and many people find him extremely entertaining, no one has asked him to tone it down… until now. Recently, he dropped 40 f-bombs in 4 hands while on camera at the final table of WSOP Event #19, the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship. The public – the same people who had long encouraged his behavior – lashed out and told him he’d gone too far. 

While apologizing for the fact he had disappointed his friends and fans and embarrassed his family, Phil said, “I probably care too much.” He’s never been shy about admitting that he wants to be known as the best – that winning matters – but hearing him say those words made me feel it’s about more than that. Helmuth has more WSOP bracelets than any other player (16) and recently won a series of head’s up matches on Poker Go to show he’s not just a good tournament player… but many still harshly critique his game strategy (or lack thereof). His poker moves often don’t match what a solver would say he should do in that situation. They are mathematically incorrect. Sometimes they make sense to players who cling to game theory; sometimes they don’t. I believe that is what bothers him more than anything else. Being different from your peers is not easy. I think he knows that having moves no one else understands is what makes him great and winning is the only way he knows to prove it; that his antics have been amplified over the years because his entertainment value is what many liked most about him; that the public encouraged him to be the way he is and has no right to be upset he became that guy.

My personal tendency to swear a bit too much at inappropriate times was brought to my attention the day my cousins told me their dad said they weren’t allowed to swear at Thanksgiving dinner, “until Rachel says fuck.” I knew I had a potty mouth, but I didn’t realize I had shown it off in front of my family to that degree. It was then that I realized how often curse words fly out of my mouth without my full comprehension because I care deeply about the subject being discussed or have been injured. I use them to emphasize my opinion; to release negative emotions. I am a patient person always trying to spread positive vibes who sometimes sounds like a raging, whiny curse-a-holic. Why? Because I care. My heart is always on… and I dare say people like me because of it – that’s the reason they warn me not to care “too much”. They care that I care and don’t want to see me hurt by those that don’t care. What I don’t understand is why they refuse to believe in the power of caring. If the fact that others don’t care is reasonable justification for choosing not to care, what antidote is there besides caring?

The poker world is proof of how harsh the real world would be if no one cared about anyone else. You must exploit others’ weaknesses to succeed. It is the closest I’ve come to fighting a war. There are times when I’ve wondered why I love it so much; why I think it’s my destiny to play such a cold, uncaring game. Perhaps I was drawn to poker because it gives me a chance to fight back against all those who have hurt me – everyone who didn’t care when I thought they should. Maybe I want a windfall of money to make up for the hardships I’ve endured and enable me to give generously to the causes I think deserve it most. Then again, it is possible I want to prove that while caring when others don’t can be emotionally painful, it doesn’t impede you from succeeding in the long run. In fact, it makes you stronger.

I know my continued desire to be a full-time artist, writer, and poker player despite years of not achieving noteworthy success doesn’t make sense to most people and I don’t give a fuck. The thing I care about most is whether or not I am living the life I was meant to live; being the me I was meant to be. So, in my daily life, when needed to spread good in the world, I will continue to allow you to exploit my caring nature and have faith that it will pay off for me in the long run. I will take comfort from the fact that I am doing my best not to behave selfishly and give others reasons for doing the same. I will swear when I want to, cry when I need to, and continue trying to show you the value of following your heart. I am determined to be the change I want to see in the world, whether or not you care or think I should. Life is tough no matter what way you play the game and I fucking care how I play it.

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A Chip and a Chair

“Hope to see you at the WSOP this fall,” he said. I was unemployed, had just received a (no fault) eviction notice days earlier, and was feeling overwhelmed by the million and one worries I had about what was to come next in life. Yet, wanting to sound as optimistic as possible, I replied, “No plans to attend WSOP right now, but if I can find a bankroll, you know I want to be there!” I felt crazy for attempting to think positive about my dismal odds of attending the Main Event (ever, much less this year), but I knew that the only way to achieve impossible dreams is to believe that they can come true. I doubt Jack “Treetop” Strauss would have won the 1982 WSOP Main Event after having his chip stack cut down to a single $500 chip early in the tournament if he had not fiercely believed that he could live the notorious comeback which led to the saying, “All you need is a chip and a chair.”

The problem for me was that I no longer felt like I had a chip and a chair. My unemployment benefits were inexplicably delayed for the third time. I didn’t have a place to live or a job to explain how I would afford the rent at my new location. My parents were worried I was engaged in occult practices thanks to the fact I had begun discussing my belief in fortune telling with playing cards online. There were a few jobs I was interested in which would cover the cost of renting a studio apartment in Santa Barbara, but I was tired of having so little space. I was concerned I didn’t have the stamina required to continue the daily grind required to build and advertise my Etsy shop and get a job that would cover my bills after packing up my life and moving it to a new apartment. I was beginning to feel a bit insane. The logical side of me said that it might be time to accept that I may never achieve my dream to be a full-time artist, writer, and fortune telling poker player, but the optimistic side of me didn’t want to give up.

Eventually I realized that, if I moved to Las Vegas, I could get a lot more space for the cost I was paying in California… plus I might meet a lot more people interested in my art and jewelry made with playing cards… and I would be there during the World Series of Poker. It was the first idea that made me smile about the potential outcome of my difficult situation. The thought of leaving all my friends brought new tidal waves of sadness, but the way I felt when I viewed one particular apartment online made me feel I had seen my new home. A sense of relief and renewed hope for the future had washed over me as I wandered the virtual tour of this two-bedroom Las Vegas abode. Wanting to be sure there was a lot of logic behind my gut reaction, I thoroughly weighed the pros and cons of several new city options before calling my dad to ask for help executing my plan. After explaining that Las Vegas has the lowest cost of living and more job options… and doing my best to convince him that fortune telling is my way of communicating with God – an addition to the faith he introduced me to as a child – my dad agreed to loan me the necessary funds and volunteered to fly out to help me drive my belongings to a new state.

The move didn’t pull me out of my COVID depression as quickly as I hoped. A tiny view of The Strip from my new apartment made me feel I was looking at the land of opportunity and the fact I was surrounded by streets that seemed named after my friends, family, and favorite places seemed like a sign I had made the right choice. Yet, one month after arriving, I still hadn’t received a single call for an interview, secured any locations to sell my art, or finished unpacking (thanks to the fact I had fallen and injured both hands on move-in day). I did as much as I could to improve my situation, all the while worrying that I would always feel days late and many dollars short.

The day I received word that the owner of the Gallery to Go wanted to include my Fortune Telling Tiny Art Playing Cards in her art vending machines, I felt I had officially become part of the Las Vegas community. The day my neighbor texted to make sure I was okay because they hadn’t bumped into me in a few days, I realized my new friends are watching out for me more than some whom I was sad to leave behind. The day I got a job in one of the best poker rooms in the world, I began to feel lighter; more certain I am going the right direction in life. The day I happily admitted to a poker player I had never met before (on the fly while working), “I’m pretty crazy,” I began to feel more like myself than I ever have before. A few weeks later, when I was happily welcomed into a poker tournament at the casino with my lucky cat in a stroller at my side, I felt truly joyful for the first time in a long time. I wasn’t a winner on the felt that night, but I had a lot of fun. As some of my new coworkers predicted, it’s possible I was the player most distracted by my cat’s cuteness. She gave me high-fives most of the times I requested them and sat sternly staring down my opponents when I was playing, occasionally tapping me on the arm as if trying to tell me to bet.

Rachel and Harry (Harriet) heading to the casino to play poker.

The World Series of Poker has officially begun in Las Vegas. I don’t know if I will play in any of the tournaments, but I do expect to see many of the greatest players in person and a lot of other interesting poker action. I’m not here in the way I once dreamt I would be, but I am here… and you never know what could happen. Maybe a bunch of people will purchase poker hats, shirts, and hoodies. Maybe some of the local chapels will decide to purchase my King and Queen resin playing card rings for their brides and grooms. Maybe… just maybe… some day (now or later) an unexpected turn of events will lead to an opportunity for me to play in the Main Event. For now, I am grateful to earn my chip and a chair in Las Vegas by bringing chips to your chair; content to wait for the opportune moment to arrive; happy that I’ve found my muchness; thrilled that I have renewed my hope of reaching Wonderland; certain I will never achieve my dreams unless I continue to believe.

King and Queen Resin Playing Card Rings from Homemade by Hoyt

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The Hand Less Played

“Aren’t you worried you’re under Satan’s influence? The Bible is very clear about the occult…” my dad said. I had been expecting one of my parents to ask this for quite some time, yet I still wasn’t ready to answer when he did. I was a devout Christian once, just like my parents. I stopped going to church around the time I got divorced but don’t feel I’ve strayed from God even though I no longer live by everything the Bible says. I wanted to give them an adequate explanation for how and why I’ve begun studying No Limit Hold’em poker using fortune telling with playing cards (and selling tarot transformation tools and decks). I wanted to explain why the Bible was wrong on this point but I couldn’t because it boils down to this: I am uncertain. I don’t think anyone really knows. Like Pascal’s wager says, we must choose to believe or not to believe. Faith is a gamble. 

I was skeptical and afraid I might be fed a pack of well packaged lies the day I got my first tarot card reading but her presence was anything but evil. The woman’s words were the most comforting things I’d heard in years. I left feeling God had spoken through her, though I wasn’t sure if it was because I wanted that to be true or because she really seemed to understand me better than I understood myself and knew things that I had not stated. One of the things she told me is that I was due for a creative explosion and would be a pathfinder of sorts. I never forgot the statement because “pathfinder” is a term my dad would use. 

About a week after I failed to calm my parents’ fears that I’m on the wrong path, I had a dream that a small spot of my roof was on fire. It was raging hot but not spreading. I stood directly beneath it holding my cat and staring in awe. The next night I dreamt we moved to a larger apartment where we were much happier. Two days later, I learned that I actually do need to find a new place to live by June 30th because my landlord has her own problems and is moving in to my studio.

There have been few dreams I have seen and remembered as vividly as the two I had right before receiving my eviction notice. The first time I had such a dream was the night I saw myself at the final table of the WSOP Main Event. The dream felt more like a vision from God, but I didn’t believe it could or would happen. I loved poker as much then as I do now, but I’m not the type to risk $10k. I couldn’t afford to then and I definitely can’t afford to now. Furthermore, I was just beginning to learn Texas Hold’em. In time, with practice, I came to believe that maybe someday I would possess the right combination of skill and luck needed to play in the WSOP and that perhaps the courage it took for me to embrace the dream could inspire others. 

I was a full time office manager and extremely part time candle maker and writer at the time. I wouldn’t have predicted that I would start making playing card collage paintings or resin jewelry… nor that I would start designing hats and shirts… and never would I ever ever ever have predicted I would try to read playing cards… especially to try to improve my poker game… because I do very much believe in the math of it all… but I had always felt there was something extra tricky about A♤9♤ when I played at the casino… and I stumbled upon a fortune telling with playing cards book at a thrift store one day, let my curiosity flip to the appropriate pages, and learned that A♤9♤ was likely the worst hole cards in the deck according to that system… and the fact I had felt strangely about those cards before learning that information felt significant. 

I bought the book but didn’t spend much time reading it over the years. I felt able to dream bigger after receiving my first Tarot card reading but still didn’t think I had any similar gifts. One random dark and lonely day during COVID times I got to wondering if poker could be used to prove whether or not fortune telling is possible. I pulled up some videos of memorable pro poker hands, wrote down the details, looked up the card meanings in my book… and had my mind blown. Hand after hand, the cards were speaking – predicting player behavior and giving hints about who would win. I was shocked and excited. On the one hand I felt conflicted about learning how to read the cards, especially because the book says fortune telling decks should never be used for games, but on the other hand everything I have been working towards suddenly made more sense. I have long felt my spiritual journey, love of poker, and desire to be a writer and artist were intertwined, but couldn’t really explain why. 

Even now, I don’t truly know that what I’m doing is right. I believe it is what God wants for me. I believe God sent that random stranger who convinced me that there are plenty of rich people with money who would love to invest in a long shot like myself so they could say they helped a nobody take down the Main Event. I believe God sent the friends and strangers who popped up at various times since then, giving me money to gamble when I couldn’t afford to play. I believe God created the opportunity for me to meet Jennifer Harman, James McManus, and Johnny Chan (and many other non-poker celebrities) – interactions which made me feel like the unknown member of the 1% and helped me have faith in myself. I believe God made silly stories about my four-legged children flow out of me now because I really needed some laughs to maintain hope… because I have never felt so down to “a chip and a chair” in my life. Most importantly, I believe with every fiber of my being that none of this would have ever happened if I had not believed.

I have absolutely no idea what to do about my current problems because I think I’m exactly where God wants me. I have found only one full-time job to apply for so far that truly excites me, but it doesn’t start soon and I haven’t heard back. I might like to move out of the area to somewhere less expensive, but I don’t know how to get an apartment there without a new job… and I don’t think I could find employment there first unless I’m capable of locating a place to rent, packing, and moving there within a week to start working whatever job I get. Of course the harder part for me is that either scenario likely involves a vast reduction of time and energy available for all the endeavors I’m convinced are my intended life path… just as I was beginning to feel I had unlocked my full creative potential. 

I have been completely honest with EDD about my self-employment and had hoped to eventually inform them of a big jump in income – enough to replace one or both of the jobs I lost – because I don’t really know how to take a new full-time job without feeling like I’m giving up on my dream. I am looking for one. I know I must pay my bills. I want to feel like a successful adult who contributes to society. I don’t want anyone to ever have to help me out. I hate asking for help more than I can explain. In general, I only care what God thinks of me… which is probably why my heart feels shattered right now. I don’t want to give up on the things I believe God wants me to do, but the odds currently indicate that is exactly what comes next. So, with only a hope and a prayer left, I’m explaining every bit I can behind my madness. I’m turning over my cards because I’m already all-in. I have nothing left to lose. 

Though it feels like I need a miracle to stay in the game, I believe I must do all I can to have faith that everything will work out as it should. I must scour the job boards far and wide for gainful employment and affordable housing, work hard to sell the products I have created, remember that God’s ways are not our ways, and hope that putting this information about my dreams out in the universe will help me accept whatever comes next. Failure is hard to accept but uncertainty is infinitely more difficult. The poker table is where I began to see that we have no choice but to accept it. No matter how much you know about any poker hand or moment in life, there are always unseen forces in play, whether or not you use God and Satan to explain the good or bad “luck” they bring. The only thing I really know is that I want to be an example of good and am playing my cards the best I can.

If you wish to be my Patron Saint of Long Shots but can barely afford a shirt… why not buy this design or something else from my shop to show your support?