The Not-So-Secret History of Cannabis At the World Series Of Poker

in cannabis •  2 years ago

Sometimes I can't help but laugh at the things I have done in my earlier years. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Old nonsense indeed.

10 years ago I was a different person, just as I'll be a different person 10 years from now. The human condition is one of constant change. As the years go by, our ideals are challenged, our learning is deepened, and previous sincerely held beliefs can be altered, if given enough time and evidence. For those that have followed the legend of Bryan Micon closely, you may remember a time where I spent a great deal of energy printing gossip from the poker world on my forum & podcast platform. The thought of engaging in such muckraking today is no longer appealing. It is simply too juvenile a pursuit to waste time on. With the cryptocurrency markets offering a chance to participate directly in a historical monetary paradigm shift, no other topic comes close to being as exciting.

But 10 years ago, all I could think about was poker. And weed. Recently Leafly published an article about cannabis usage at the World Series of Poker, a subject I am an expert on. With the recent legalization of cannabis in Nevada, the "World Series of Pot" is about to get even higher.

Back in 2006, you would think that cannabis was already legal if you walked around the Rio parking lot during the 15 minute breaks that occurred between each 2 hour session of tournament poker. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that 30% of the WSOP players opted to smoke weed on breaks. If there were 1,500 registered players for tournament starting a noon, during the 2pm break you could find 400-500 hurrying to their cars to smoke some weed. There was an unspoken bond between the participants of this extra circular activity. We would share our joints and bowls (and one time a full Volcano vaporizer setup complete with DC inverter using the car cigarette lighter for power) with each other, discuss the most recent tournament finish, trade tips on known players, and generally share the comradery that came with getting high in the parking lot of the world's premiere poker tournament series. We all knew we were lucky to be there. It was a special time.

For me I have long used cannabis to calm myself down. I suppose if I sought the proper medical attention I would be diagnosed with ADHD. I dislike that classification, because I feel it is broadly overused. When I discovered cannabis in my teens, I found that while using it I could actually sit down and accomplish a long task without the nervous energy that would usually drag me away. When I started playing poker, this was clearly the drug for me. I've never been a big drinker, as alcohol seems to change my decision process. On the contrary, cannabis seems to calm me and allow for deeper thought into the situation at hand. It is no miracle drug, I'm not saying it makes me smarter, but I claim it makes me calmer so I can process my thoughts completely before the next one races through my mind demanding full attention. That may not make much sense to others, but that is the best way I can describe what it does for me. I believe cannabis has different effects on different brains. A big warning sign of "Your results may vary" should be attached to this post.

Dutch Boyd, a long time friend who is also quoted in the Leafly article, once had a conversation with me on break from a WSOP event that lead me to stop smoking weed for a while. I was inhaling my usual dose of THC as was my ritual on break, while he was not. Dutch said to me: "Micon, are you sure you aren't just fooling yourself? Claiming the weed makes you play better but in reality you are just getting high and missing important factors of the game?" That statement hit me like a ton of bricks. This was around 2010, when I had been playing professionally for about 5 years, getting high all the while. I thought to myself "Shit, maybe he's right. Dutch does have genius level intelligence, maybe I'm fucking everything up by smoking weed." A trial was in order. For about 16 months, I stopped smoking weed completely. My poker results were about the same, but I was usually agitated, and I started drinking alcohol more. After a year of this my wife requested that I start smoking weed again.

Allen Kessler, who is quoted in the Leafly article expressing his disbelief that players would even consider smoking weed in high equity tournament situations, is also a long time friend of mine. We have discussed this topic many times. Allen is the type of person who would never consider any mind altering drug. Allen will settle for nothing less than complete sobriety every hour of every day. For him, this is what works. I don't think he understands the motivation behind the masses that do partake, but he doesn't need to, as I'd doubt he would benefit personally from using cannabis. Human brains can react quite differently to substances introduced to the body. Some are allergic to penicillin, while to most others it is a standard antibiotic. Some humans get "blackout drunk" and can still function but remember nothing the next day. The human brain is so little understood, it should be easy to accept that different brains may react differnetly to various substances. I have known many in my life that wouldn't think about operating a vehicle under the influence of cannabis, while I know others that make this a daily practice.

As a society, we are just now coming out of the stigma that is smoking weed. There are no articles detailing the scores of poker players that drink alcohol during the tournament. Vanessa Selbst once won a PLO bracelet getting extremely drunk with most of the final table participants. I believe there was some shot-for-shot deal in place, possibly based on levels or when a player was knocked out. By the time it got heads up, she and her opponent were wasted. This was essentially a non-event, as alcohol is served rather freely in poker rooms across the world. There is no stigma to ordering a drink at the table.

I find it quite interesting to watch the public perception of weed change over time. When taking a logical look at alcohol vs. cannabis, one surely finds that heavy alcohol use often leads to risky behavior. The same cannot be said for cannabis. I can't even count the number of fights I have witnessed due to heavy alcohol use, and to the contrary, I can't think of one instance where a person got so high they started fighting. Why the stigma surrounding cannabis? I suppose this is leftover from the failed "War on drugs," which spewed expertly produced false information to my generation. When discussing playing poker under the influence of substances, the untold story these days is the amount of prescription pill users. Maybe in 10 years Xanaxly will do a story on past WSOP winners that fancy benzos, or Opiod Monthly will highlight the poker players that choose to ingest synthetic heroin while playing cards. Drinking alcohol while playing poker is unlikely to ever get it's own magazine.

These days I find myself flying drones, trading cryptocurrency, and raising my daughter. Those 3 tasks surely occupy >95% of my time. In 10 years, I hope the articles about me contain more substance. I guess I better get starting building Caribbean Bitcoin Silicon Valley, so I can give 'em something to write about that is better than a guy who smoked weed while winning at poker. That just doesn't seem newsworthy to me.

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