Opera and poker
(Lucky at cards, unlucky in love.)
-La Traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi
There was a mean woman from Italy who didn't think much of American journalism, but she was nice to me and I liked her. She pinched me on the cheek once and said, "Ciao bello," which even I knew was something nice.
-Rick Bragg, "All Over but the Shoutin'"
The lights go dark and all around you are the beautiful sounds of voices in a strange tongue. I'm sitting so far back in the orchestra level that the characters on the stage are as tiny as the third row of letters I had to recite at the eye doctor's the other day when I had my contact lens prescription renewed.
I sit up, crack my neck and focus with that John Juanda stare.
No, this has nothing to do with poker. It has more to do with the rooftop pool at the Horseshoe in Las Vegas after my big win at the Bellagio last year. Instead of water, I'm immersed in sound.
This is just what I needed. Funny, I didn't realize the opera would relax me. Funny, I didn't realize by being so relaxed how stressed I previously was.
It's a good thing to keep in mind. When we play poker, we fight for hours on end. Then add to that all the other stress of a daily job and regular life. We have to find ways to relax and take the edge off.
And especially if you fit the poker cat mold of a tight-aggressive player.
From Alan Schoonmaker's "The Psychology of Poker": "The TAP is the most dangerous player ... They do not come to play. They come to win. Poker is not a game for them, at least not in the sense of relaxing recreation ... Almost the only other place you see that tightly controlled, aggresive people is in professions such as fighter pilots and police officers."
Of course, a poker cat doesn't just think, "Hmm, I'll forego about 4 hours of online poker and catch the opera." This took days of persistence by Giovanna, the Italian girl, to make sure I bought a ticket and showed up on time.
Oh? It'll be good? Oh? You're this cute Italian girl? Oh? My excuses are drawing dead?
So of course I went.
"I didn't think I would enjoy it," I tell Giovanna later.
"I didn't think you would, either," she says, with a stone-cold seriousness.
La Traviata is the opera that Richard Gere and Julia Roberts see in "Pretty Woman," likely because the opera's main character, Violetta, is a former mistress who is torn between love and her past as a mistress.
A nice issue for poker cats who dabble with the Dark Side of gambling -- once you cross the line, can you ever come back again?
Card-playing is even part of a scene in La Traviata, linking today's electronic card players with centuries of fortune and chance.
I wonder what the opera schedule is like in Las Vegas -- I can't imagine how this trio would be, to enjoy sunset at Binion's rooftop steakhouse that overlooks The Strip, followed by opera, followed by tearing up the Bellagio's poker room.
Tonight, I had to settle for a burger with Giovanna at Midtown Tavern, followed by a few hours on Eurobet. The relaxation paid off handsomely -- I made more than $300 on their NL tables!
Ah. The opera. And fortune. And kindhearted Italian girls.