It never failed to excite me. Every time I would walk in, my heart would beat faster and my fingers would shake a little. The hair on the back of my neck would rise.

The sounds of chips hitting the table and being passed around filled the room. You could not turn anywhere without seeing a huge LCD television that inevitably showed whatever sports was playing at the time. People would scream in excitement or let out groans of despair.

A casino is a carnival of human emotion. A palace of dreams made and shattered. And I was there. I was about to join in. Just walking in was an intense experience. I had to join in.

Almost always, the poker room was so busy that you had to sign up on a list if you wanted to sit down. I would go up to the huge list of names and ask them to put down my initials. EN. The list was huge, and I would usually have to wait fifteen minutes to half an hour for a seat. But I didn't mind. Waiting just built the tension.

Suddenly, I would hear it. "EN" would be called out so the whole casino could hear it. It was my turn.

I sat down at my table. I immediately laid down my money. When I first started playing, I would put down sixty dollars. As I progressed in my skill and obsession I would come with a thousand or two. No matter the amount, the moment of sitting down at the poker table was always incredibly powerful.

My chips would arrive, and that was when I began observing the people at my table. The people were always my favorite part of playing poker. There were cowboys, playboys, beautiful women, old men who had played here for ages, boys that were there for their first time. They seemed so interesting.

And then the poker would start. I would get into the game. I would bluff, be sincere, sigh, scream and emote just like all the rest. We were locked in an epic battle, one that would never end.

What I didn't realize is just how eternal and epic that battle would become for me. As I became more and more invested in the game of poker, to the point where it became the way I made my living, it started to overtake me. It became me.

Soon, I was playing poker whenever I could. With my friends, at bars, at the casino and online. Poker was my life.

The best poker players are able to distance themselves from the game. They see money as just chips. The way they measure their abilities.

The problem is that this is also how they measure their self worth. When the chips are up, they are elated, motivated and happy. When the chips are down, as it were, they are depressed, unhappy and sullen.

Being an emotional, crazy Jew did not help me in this respect. As I advanced in the poker tables, moving from the lowest "blinds" (minimum bets) to the higher limit tables, I could not separate myself from my abilities.

I remember the first time I made a few thousand. It was incredible. I felt like a king. The other poker players looked at me enviously as I racked up (organized) my chips as I stood up to leave. The dealer congratulated me. I felt like I had vanquished my enemies. I had control.

For the next few months, I was keeping stacks of hundreds in my room.

But poker is not always so pretty. Making a few thousand is nice. Until you lose a thousand in one hand (round). That's exactly what happened to me the more I played high stakes poker. I would make a lot and then lose a lot. This was poker. This was my life.

But I couldn't handle it. The life of a poker player was too much. I remember watching as those hundreds in my room started to dwindle and slowly disappear. I was on permanent tilt (losing control of poker logic because of emotions). And I started to lose more than my money.

Now when I would walk into the poker room, I would dread it. My heart still beat faster. My fingers still shook. The hair on my neck still rose. But now it was out of fear. Would I make enough to live extravagantly or would I lose so much I wouldn't be able to eat for the week? I never knew. And the lack of control ate away at me.

When I would walk into the casino, the people no longer seemed interesting. They seemed obsessed and down-trodden.

As I sat and stared at these people, the cowboys, playboys and all the rest, I realized that their outer appearances meant nothing when it came to poker. Hanging pitifully onto a desire to associate with the maverick ideal of the players they had seen on television. They were all just like me.

And that's when it truly became apparent that I was wasting my time. That all this time spent associating myself with an image and an ideal that had no connection to the real things in life wasn't worth the energy I had been exerting.

Looking back, I've realized that this is the state most of the world finds itself in. Whether in our career, our clothes or anything else, we are trying to fashion ourselves into idols. We have become our own gods.

The world promises us that we can become this ideal. We can reach the point where others will bow down to us and praise us. This is why celebrities are so revered. And this is why poker became so popular. The moment it became televised, people saw a chance for them all to become one of the "greats." When they saw regular people making millions on national television and becoming celebrities in the process, they had to join.

I was one of those people. And nothing makes me happier than to know that, among other things, Judaism has helped me realize that life is not a constant attempt to join an elite of self-worshiping idols, but to reach out and touch the truly infinite.

I no longer have hundreds stacked under my bed. I no longer receive envious looks in a room filled with noise and excitement.

Why give that up? Because it was emotionally draining? Because it was meaningless? Maybe.

But there is something much more. Something much deeper. I no longer have to look to a television to find a god. I no longer have to drive miles to a casino.

Now, I can sit down in an empty room and read a book and feel connected to deep truths. I can listen to a rabbi and discover the secrets to the universe.

And when I leave yeshiva and face the real world, I will be able to open a check book and see G‑d. When life throws me curve balls, I'll be ready with a catcher's mitt. I will understand why I am doing what I am doing. Every moment has a purpose. I can't imagine how any amount of money or fame could compete with that.

G‑d is everywhere. Life is beautiful. And truth is everywhere we look.

We all need money to survive. But opening our hearts to the infiniteness of G‑d is how we truly live.