Jeff Madsen sucks at poker. It's true. Not only has he failed to win a tournament in over three months, but he had to get lucky - extremely lucky - to make any final tables at the World Series of Poker. He's a big, big loser.

While I don't hear things like this all the time, I get a sneaking suspicion that anyone in my position would face such ridicule from a group I collectively call "haters." Who are these haters? What do they do? Well, for one, they've made me think about what it actually takes to get respect in the poker world.

Is it a matter of bracelets? Of age? In the end I realized that I'd only been in the professional poker world for three months and that, regardless of what I already had accomplished, respect would be hard to come by. Basically, I've been playing for four years, leaving about 60 years left in my poker career. Let's do the math on that: 60/4 = 15, meaning that technically I should be 15 times better at poker when I'm 81. If my calculations are correct, that means I suck compared to my future self, and therefore I'm a long way from achieving real respect in the poker world.

Personally, I realize that a few months -- even a year, two years, or more -- is not a significant "drought" when it comes to tournament wins on the professional circuit. At the same time, my early success has warped my mind to believe that winning high-profile tournaments is routine and should happen every week or so. This must be the "hubris of my youth" (see posting on Full Tilt's Web site).

As I headed dejectedly towards the exit of the Bellagio's Fontana Lounge, after bluffing off all my chips to Layne Flack on Day 2 of the recent Festa al Lago Championship, I came to a simple conclusion: Poker is tough. Nobody can breeze through these large fields with the world's top professionals and say he didn't break into a sweat in the process -- not even Flack (although I can still hear him cackling in my nightmares as he calls my triple-barrel bluff).

Still unsure of my real standing in the poker community, I flew out of Vegas and returned to college in Santa Barbara, Calif., hopeful that here I would find some respect amongst my peers; maybe my classmates were unaware of how much I truly sucked compared to my 81-year-old counterpart. Immediately, certain truths about college became obvious to me:

Girls like bracelets.
Bribing teachers is easy, and fun!
College beer tastes like water, but gets you drunk five times cheaper than that bar at the Bellagio. (Damn you, Flack!)
It's tough to focus on studying when you can't scoop a single freakin' pot against Gus Hansen in Omaha Hi/lo on Full Tilt.
Girls really like bracelets.

I also discovered college can be a good refuge from the bright lights of the professional poker circuit. I never could have predicted that I would be as fortunate as I have been; to be able to live out a dream I thought would take me a decade or more to achieve. It's strange how a year ago my whole life revolved around finishing school so I could get a head start in the "real world," and this year I feel like I need to cling to these last moments of college to slow down the whole process. The truth is that my dirty, beer-stained college house in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara, is the one place I can still feel like a "normal kid."

Somewhere in between the Vegas mind-set and the college mind-set is Jeff Madsen, who, did I mention, sucks at poker. But at least he's doing his best to prove those haters wrong. Maybe a 21-year-old really could hold his own against the seasoned veterans. There are a lot of young poker players who would love to prove that, but is it really possible at such a young age?

I now feel that, because poker is about longevity, endurance, and consistency, proving anything about skill versus luck of a single player is impossible on a short-term scale. The problem is figuring out if the cards are doing all the work on their own. The solution is time; about 60 years of tournaments sounds about right. Until then, I'm going to try to cash in at least one more tournament; generally, that's one of the steps to becoming a respected poker player, right? Right.

Stay tuned to see if the "hubris" consumes me or if I manage to make a name for myself outside the span of one incredibly fortunate streak in July. On to Foxwoods in Connecticut to get my chips back from Layne. Maybe then he'll stop cackling.

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