“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.
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.