I played for about four more hours, working my winnings up to around $3,000 before reality began to set in. As loss after loss mounted, I became acutely aware of my hunger pains (in a misguided attempt to keep my mind clear, and my stomach settled I ingested only water, stomach-relieving tablets and breath mints all day), the stiffness in my back from this marathon of sitting. Most importantly, I had enough self-awareness to realize that more experienced, talented players were now leaning on me -- hard.
I called it a night, thanked the guys at my table and headed to the cashier. When she counted my chips, I was up just shy of $1,100. I’d stepped up to the table and owned it. Well, technically a small percentage of it. At least I wasn’t in debt to it. This was a great victory.