It Took Me 4 Years to Build a Regular Poker Game – And Why That’s Okay

The second time my roommates and I hosted a poker game in Los Angeles, four people showed up to the apartment.

Three of them — including myself — lived there.

The fourth, he was interning (like us), was car-less, and lived in a hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Armed with a bag of Doritos and pretzel thins, he took a 45-minute bus ride to arrive at our doorstop… to find that everyone else flaked.

An hour later and the Doritos eaten, we gave him a ride back to his hotel.

How hard was starting a small poker game?

How different could it be from the home games I put on in Albany?

Back then, it was simple: I’d coerce a friend to open up their house.

I’d call a few people.


By senior year, with most our futures seemingly cast like a fistful of bones on the floor, we stopped doing actual school work and just had standing games, a few times a week.

Yet here, we couldn’t even get an occasional game off the ground.

By the time I made my round of text messages to the interns who I made coffee, printed scripts, and basically ate crow next to… I’d find out they moved back to, like, Raleigh, North Carolina, to work for accounting companies and car dealerships.

So I’d wish them luck, and cross them off the guest list.

Keep Building

Throwing events isn’t a  strong suit of mine (add it to the list).

It never was. It’s a residual fear of an uncool teenager who skipped school dances and watched BOY MEETS WORLD with his family on Friday nights rather than steal nips of booze before going to Sneaky Pete’s, the underage-age club in downtown Albany.

So the failure of that second game left a bad taste. Over the next four years, my roommates and I would try again every few months, never with much success, to start a regular game.

Still, I kept building my list of people to invite. Literally, one by one — if I met someone at drinks or an event, I’d ask if they wanted an invite.

I’d add them, sometimes months apart from one to the next.

Some who said, “yes, please put on the invite list I’d love to play” to this day, have never even emailed back, which is okay.

I’ve built that list to over 20 people… and the last few games, we’re finally seeing good, consistent turnouts. Nearly four years after that disastrous second game.

Building anything is a process, and it takes time.

In this age of “life hacks” and outsourcing to virtual assistants, we see the success of our peers: people who send out one email and can launch a successful event, or are on a dazzling career track, or make a disgusting amount of money…

And we think, “Why’s it so easy for them?”

“What am I doing wrong?”

“What’s their secret?”

I don’t think we pay proper homage to the process of building, or to the quality of patience.

Building isn’t always elegant. It’s not always a process to “hack.” It happens in fits and starts. It can easily flounder for years, and just as easily, take off with a volition of its own.

What are you building?

Photo Credit: Cédric Bambini

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