James Joyce portrays a character in The Dubliners who is caught up in the pursuit of popularity and money, which seems to be leading toward an abrupt downfall. Just as Jimmy in “After the Race” lives life with a care free attitude and no concern for tomorrow, there was a time in my life when I too lived with a somewhat self destructive behavior. Near the end of my junior year of high school, poker began to emerge as a popular hobby among my peers. Kids at my school started to play every day during lunch, and because I couldn’t turn the television on without seeing some poker tournament or celebrities playing poker, I was practically forced to learn about it. I became interested in learning how to play, specifically the variant called “Texas Hold’em”. Math always came easy to me, and I figured the game probably involved a lot of calculating probabilities, so I felt my chances at picking up the game and excelling were good. Also, I had always liked to gamble on sports, even if it was only once or twice a year for the Superbowl or March Madness pools. This was another opportunity to gamble.
Instead of just jumping into one of the games during lunch at school and throwing my money out there, I took some serious time to learn how to play poker and all the strategies involved. I didn’t have a job or much money at the time, so I thought that this could be an opportunity to make some money if I did things right. My learning of the game included taking notes while watching players on television, reading basic poker strategy books, and playing on free websites on the internet. After I felt I had basics strategies and concepts well learned, I finally put a whole $5 on the line in a game with my friends. My studying paid off, and I ended up winning about $20 on the night. This is the spark that fueled my ambitions to play poker seriously. I used the money I won to buy more in depth poker books and I spent most of my free time reading them and taking notes. The more I learned about the game, the more confident I was that I could consistently win. Everything about poker was mechanical to me, and being a fairly routine person, I felt that the game of poker fit my personality and that I would have no trouble with it at all. I also really liked the adrenaline rush I felt while playing. When Jimmy raced cars, “The journey laid a magical finger on the genuine pulse of life…” and this was similar to how I felt when I played poker (40).
During the next few months, I continued to play poker with my friends about once or twice a month. No one could really afford to play it more often than that. I continued to play well and make a profit on most nights I played. Some of my friends quit playing because they were losing too much money. This forced me to started playing with other people from my school that I didn’t know as well, but had more money to throw around. This is similar to Jimmy whose only friends were wealthy, except for one. The quote, “Villona was entertaining also—a brilliant pianist—but, unfortunately, very poor,” shows that pity is taken upon Villona for being poor (39). This reveals how shallow the values of Jimmy and his friends really are. I begun to play poker because I liked the feeling I got from gambling and to make money, but most importantly it was something to do with my friends. Now I was playing simply to gamble and make money. The new people I played with were better and more serious than my friends, but because I was playing cards with them all the time, this meant that I wasn’t spending time with my real friends. I had become shallow just like Jimmy. However, my new poker buddies still did not play often enough for my craving, so I decided to press my luck in online poker.
I transferred $30 from my bank account into an online poker account. I started off just playing penny tables as I didn’t want to possibly blow all my money in a matter of hours. I took things very slowly, and over the course of two or three months of playing almost every day after school, I had made a nice profit of $150. I had played according to the strategies and theories I had learned from my books, which were obviously working. At that time I felt that poker was something I could eventually do for a living. I put nearly all my free time into it, which meant I didn’t see my friends outside of school all that often. My life had become taken over by poker. I was at a very high confidence level after playing so well for so long, and I decided to move up to higher stakes. I lost money my first few times playing at the higher tables, which I thought was just from bad luck. I was oblivious to the fact that I could possibly not be that good. When Jimmy played poker, “[He] was excited too; he would lose, of course. How much had he written away?” (44). This shows that he knew for certain that he was losing money, but he didn’t have the mind to keep track of how much he had lost. I too knew that I was losing money, but I didn’t keep track of how much either. By the end of the week I had lost all $150 which had taken me months to earn.
After this I took a step back and re-examined my poker aspirations. I was in shock that I lost all my money so quickly, it just didn’t seem possible. I realized that I needed to go on hiatus for a while or else I would likely end up losing more money. Considering the fact that I didn’t even have a job at the time, the decision was obvious that I couldn’t afford to keep playing. The risk was higher than I had thought, and it was time for me to give up my hobby, at least for the time being. I still played a few times after that with my friends, but I realized that it was not healthy for me to keep playing. Poker basically took over my life, which somewhat parallels how Jimmy lives his life in “After the Race”.
Jimmy lives a life centered around money and popularity. He spends all his time with his rich friend racing cars or going to parties. The quote “Rapid motion through space elates one; so does notoriety; so does the possession of money,” shows how superficial Jimmy’s life is (39). At the current time, he feels confident and that life is great, just like I did when I was doing well at poker. However, things can quickly change. His only source of money is his parents, which isn’t completely dependable. His father pays for him to go to a good school, but he does poorly because he spends all of his time trying to be popular and gain social status. Jimmy has no real concern for his future. Jimmy’s parents will likely cut off his funds and once this happens, his life will change drastically and quickly. Without money, he won’t be able to pay for his rich friends cars or pay for parties every night. Also, with his lack of attention to his studies, he will most likely be kicked out of school. Without his status, he would lose his rich friends and be left with nothing. This means his happiness is almost totally dependent on his money. This is very similar to how I was. If I was winning at poker and making money, I was happy. When I lost, I became somewhat depressed and dejected.
When Jimmy loses a lot of money on the yacht playing poker, the story says “He knew that he would regret in the morning but at present he was glad of the rest, glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his folly” (44). Jimmy practically gives his money away by playing poker and investing in cars, and has no remorse for it. His destructive behavior is bound to eventually catch up with him, and he will live a life of poverty if he doesn’t stop. Luckily for me, I realized that I was going down a potentially dangerous path and I stopped my bad habit. Jimmy needs to have an epiphany in order to change, and the way the story ends, it does not seem that he will have change his ways.