I'm not in the game anymore, and haven't really been in it for a while. If I'm in a nightclub it's because I'm singing karaoke, and as soon as the line gets too long, I'm gone. I've been in relationships ten times as much as I've been single since leaving LA, which means that the only real "sets" I do are the once or twice yearly opens to blow someone's mind.
The standard question I get from any girl I talk to is, "are you doing it to me?"
The answer is, "yeah, probably."
It would be like me playing a pro at golf. Even if he's just there to have fun, he's going to be playing a good game. Is he using all of his golf knowledge? Of course he is-- he can't help it. He doesn't know how to play poorly anymore.
As someone who has only played one round of golf in his life, I look out at the course and I see a nice park with some holes and flags in it. A golfer sees possibilities. The right edge of the fairway bordering a sand trap near the green means something to him. To me it means nothing.
When I talk to a girl, I know how interested she is and what she's thinking about. I know how different things I could say would affect her. I know her subconscious motivations for saying everything she says.
Her facial expressions, body language, tonality, phrasing, and a hundred other cues mean something to me. To someone else they'd mean as little as a golf course means to me.
(Ironically, most girls have this awareness as well. Studies have shown that women engage in four times as much conversation throughout their lives than men do, which gives them this ability.)
Even if I have no intention, I can't help but see what's going on. I don't plot and strategize with my responses in conversation, but my natural instinct has been trained to act in an attractive manner. In the same way a pretty girl attracts guys without trying, I attract girls without trying.
For me that was the whole point of pickup to begin with. I wasn't in clubs because I loved them or because I wanted to become a super player. I was there because I wanted the unconscious competence. So I put in the time and effort and dealt with the pain to get there.
That, by the way, is the path I'd recommend for people interested in learning pickup. Go full tilt and dedicate all of your time to it, since that's the only way you'll get legitimately good, and then quit and move on with your life. The important parts will stay with you.