Ten months to Vegas and AK_Poker. Part 8 by Allen Katherman

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A note from the editor.
Allen Katherman is a guest writer to mantanium.com this summer. He is a Poker personality, fashion enthusiast, nuclear engineer and a great friend. Be sure to follow him on instagram and check back for more.

Ten months to Vegas and AK_Poker
By Allen Katherman

Although I took the oath to serve my country and protect it from all enemies, foreign and domestic, it didn’t mean that I didn’t worry about the reality of war. Lil Kim (Kim Jong-un aka Bitch aka Douche Nugget) threatened the U.S. with nuclear weapons and it didn’t help that the media projected the threat to every platform imaginable.

Also, the Navy also didn’t take the threats lightly, and our port call schedule changed as we needed to be more present in the 7th fleet for support in the event of war against Korea. We started our POM vacation period a couple months before our scheduled deployment date of late August and were advised to standby as close to San Diego as possible in the event we had to make an immediate departure for deployment.

Like I did before the other two deployments, this time was spent mostly with my children and then my close friends. I don’t care how many times I had already deployed, 10 months and war wasn’t something I was ready to accept or prepare for.

As the days neared for deployment, the threat from North Korea calmed down. It was clear that their weapons didn’t exactly have the capability that Lil Kim claimed. This eased part of the anxiety I had developed from the anticipated deployment but it didnt endded the constant nightmares I had of being gone for 10 months. I had visions of my children forgetting about me, I feared losing family members and missing out on various milestones in the lives of those that I loved.

The ship set sail late August of 2015 and although it was somber in the beginning, it didn’t take long until we settled into a routine and adjusted to deployed life. We made a port call once a month and visited the likes of Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Australia.

At every port, my buddies and I bought brand new blazers and slacks and did bottle service at some of the most exotic clubs you could ever imagine. It was my last deployment and I wanted to make sure that it was a memorable one. By the time deployment was over, I had the opportunity to eat and drink in places like the Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and the Emirates Palace. Deployments are rough but all the places I got to visit and these experiences I had ALMOST made up for the lost time.

In between port visits, a group of us began to play poker on the ship. Every Sunday we’d play friendly 1/2 NL hold’em games. And although it was “friendly”, the games got deep. It wasn’t unusual to see players with chip stacks over 2 and 3k. Since it was the same group of people, there’d be battles on top of battles as we all adjusted our games to play against each other.

I became obsessed with getting better and began to have poker books sent out to the ship. I read everything I could get my hands on and applied this new knowledge every time we played. I had already played recreationally in San Diego, but playing with this group motivated me to play better and improve my game. The more I won, the more I thought seriously about playing regularly and semi-professionally.

During my negotiation window, I was lucky enough to get orders to Naval Recruiting District San Diego. I was excited about staying in San Diego, and one of the higher ups got hold of me and offered me an opportunity that I couldn’t resist.

NRD San Diego extended to Las Vegas and since they were low on recruiting Nukes out of there, they offered me the opportunity to go out there and become the Nuke coordinator. I talked to a couple of my friends who held the position before and all of them agreed it was worth it since it dealt less with actual recruiting and had a better work schedule. Along with those benefits, it also fed my desire to approach poker more aggressively and although it was a little further away from my children, my schedule was more flexible to go and see them.

As we made our way back from deployment, all I could focus on was my move to Vegas. I went apartment searching and found a nice neighborhood in Summerlin. Shortly after I moved there, I hired a poker coach and my learning curve went up exponentially. Before the coach I only played my two cards and was very unaware of all the other dynamics of the game such as “equity”, “fold equity”, “bet sizing”, etc. It wasn’t long after the small sessions that I began to research and study every concept and theory of poker that I could get my hands on.

The first time I played live poker in Vegas, I was crazy nervous. I was the guy who trembled when making bets and never paid attention to anything else other than my own cards. About an hour into my first session, I relaxed, started applying what I had been learning and managed to pull off a solid winning session. I took a picture of it and sent it to my friends.

That win was an addicting feeling. It made me even hungrier to better myself. Week in and week out I would study and put in session after session – all of which ended with me taking pictures of my final chip stack.

I wasn’t involved with Instagram very much, but since I had all these chip stack pictures, I created a poker account. I began to post the photos and commentary about hands and other poker related situations. Pretty soon I had a decent following and I began to network with a bunch of Instagram poker personalities.

I wasn’t really looking to gather attention, but I began to amass a lot of followers as I posted more and more chip stacks and hand analyses. Before I knew it, I was connected to a bunch of poker players across the country and even in other continents. Between sharing posts and commenting on various threads, I began to make a lot of good friends in the community. After networking and posting for a while, I got an opportunity to display my skills when I was invited to play in an episode of Live at The Bike at the Bicycle casino in Los Angeles for an Instagram special.

Live at The Bike had been operating for years as a live-streamed poker game that showcased each player’s hole cards. Up until then it hadn’t received a lot of interest, but with the booming popularity of “chip porn” and poker Instagram profiles, the interest of the show began to rapidly increase. With live commentary and familiar faces, thousands of people, including a lot of my close friends and family, tuned in to watch the show.

At first I was nervous. Who wants to look like a dumbass in front of a live audience? But after I settled down, I played my game and got a lot of positive response from the community. Although I was flattered by the positive feedback from my friends, the only feedback that mattered to me was that of my dad. My dad was the one who got me into poker. I remember coming home from school and watching the WPT on the Travel channel with him and going over hands amongst other things. Poker and sports brought us together, so after the show the first person I called was my father. He was as proud as I’ve ever heard or seen him.

Since the show, I gained even more followers on Instagram and decided to use social media as a means to not only display what everyday life was like as a poker grinder, but also that of a military man, father and a millennial. I’ve always felt that my purpose was to help others and be a positive influence to those I have reached out to so when I was offered a chance to write my story, I took it and ran.

Since my first story, more and more people have reached out to me and told me their story and how mine has given them hope. The influence may not spread out to as many people as I would like, but if I can make a positive change to one individual, however slight, at least that’s one more positive influence that wouldn’t have happened had I not been on this platform. For that I’m grateful, and I thank Jason and Matanium for allowing me to share my story.

As I prepare for summer and take a lot of these major tournaments head on, I will be beyond busy and will not be able to write at all but I promise the best is yet to come.

Thank you, I love you all…   – Allen ‘AK_Poker’ Katherman

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