Friday, May 17, 2013

Uphill it will be.

She kept saying she was on vacation.  "You play different when you are on vacation." She smiled, she laughed, she lit up the whole table.  She went all in with a pair plus a flush draw against my nut straight and she got there on the river.

I'm in love with you Vegas.  Full report coming and going soon.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saying Goodbye.

The weather was perfect on my walk home and I feel a little bit lighter.  It hasn't sunk in yet, but there is no mistaking that this really is the end of this chapter.  Tomorrow I will load up everything I own, luckily it all fits in my luggage, and I will ride away from this place for the last time.  Its 64 degrees, it’s quiet, there are a gazillion stars in the sky, and my last day of work is over.

I would have never come to Oklahoma on purpose, and if you would have told me two and half years ago that this is where I would be, and would have been for the past two years, I would have laughed at you.  There were no plans I might have dreamed up that would have put me here, and I am the kind of person that dreams up plans.  But, as history can now indicate beyond dispute, this is where I called home since May 18th, 2011.  I've made friends, I was lucky enough to have a job where I could help people, and I was a good employee.  I've left a lot of places, but this time is different because I leave knowing things are good and it’s just time to move on.  To say it is good I mean the experience was, I wouldn't just randomly move on if things at the job were good were like that.  I mean you have a goal and you accomplish it so when it is time to leave you have no regrets, or hard feelings about what you had just done.  You just don't slip out when no one is looking hoping not to have make eye contact or explain yourself.

Saying goodbye is always a let down.  I used to really get caught up with it though, never could get used to it.  Seems like everything should just stop and it could all last a little longer.  At this point with the way I've lived it is all too normal.  People and places come and go and I just try to remember the things worth remembering.   

I've met a lot of people here that I will remember and some I'm sure I will see again.  I can sleep OK, got a big trip tomorrow.

One of my favorite songs/performances that I've come across lately, unreally beautiful

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why go to Las Vegas?

I went to Las Vegas twice when I was in my early twenties.  Both times it was one of the last stops on month long cross-country trips, which mostly consisted of camping in national forests and parks.  I wouldn't have personally put this on my wish list of places to stop, it was one of the other two guys I was travelling with's idea, and I really didn't know what to expect since I had never been in a casino before.  I really don't remember that much about the first trip, like I don't even remember the strip.  I do remember being downtown and staying at the El Cortez, playing slot machines for the first time, and carrying around the buckets full of quarters.  None of these things were very impressive to me, and other than the lights and scenes like Vegas Vic and Vicky, the casinos were more of a novelty than a place I wanted to spend time in.

vegas vic and vicky freemont st. las vegas
What I did like about Vegas was how completely different it was than everywhere else we had been on that trip.  People seemingly flocked to the middle of the desert with the sole intention of cutting loose, and per observation appeared to doing a competent job of it to say the least.  I remember walking down Freemont Street, the Freemont St. experience wasn't there yet, and watching normal looking people walking down the street with cocktail glasses in their hands at 12:30 in the afternoon.  You have to keep in mind that this was in 1994, before the internet was a household thing, and being from the eastern US the only way you could really get an idea of what Las Vegas was like was to visit it yourself.  I made a mental note to self that any place where you could drink outside without looking over your soldier was a place of interest, and decided that if I was ever travelling nearby I would stop in Vegas.

Two years later I was out west driving around again, this time with my girlfriend and brother, and Vegas was our second to last stop.  This trip was way different because somehow along the way we caught wind of a new hotel and casino opening up and booked a room cheap that I am pretty sure was never slept in before.  We stayed at the brand new Stratosphere and this was the Vegas I was led to believe existed from watching movies and TV.  The price was in the neighborhood of $29, and for 3 people who had spent 99% of the nights in the past month sleeping in a tent just off the road somewhere in the middle of nowhere this was baller.  Shit was shiny.  Shit was new.  Shit was telling us we had arrived at a place that treated us like we deserved to be treated.

That being said I don't remember much about the casino in the Stratosphere other than my brother, who was not yet 21, trying to sneak over and spin the slot machine for me a couple of times, instantly getting approached by security, and promptly being told to leave the casino floor at once.  A little while after that being the only Vegas veteran of the group I made an executive decision to walk downtown from the Stratosphere even though we obviously had a car.  It looked completely harmless in the Atlas and walking seemed to be the hippest of all options.  I mean we were not these people we were surrounded by.  We were not squares who busted our humps at a 9-5 only to make our way to Vegas and give our hard earned money back to these new shiny corporate owned casinos.  We did not need this new casino they were building that looked like New York City, we go to the real New York City.  We were not our parents, we get out there and walk around.

I should point out that when I say we, I really mean me and no one else thought this was a good idea.  But I had seen the lights downtown, and I was sure that taking a walk there in late August was a must do type of thing.  Needless to say once we arrived my girlfriend was no longer talking to me and my brother was pissed because he wasn't even allowed in these casinos.  It had been hot (we had been in Yellowstone the week before and saw it snow in august there), and there were some sketchy interactions with people on the street along the way.  I was not the most popular person in town, but there was a saving grace of sorts.  They had built a video screen that blocked out the sky over Freemont Street, and even the grumpiest of travelers would have to admit that that was pretty cool.

Luckily at some point in the trip I hit a jackpot on a slot machine and was able to take my non-square, non-consumer girlfriend to the Gucci store and buy her some sunglasses that she looked like a movie star in.  Looking back this is something unique to Vegas, I was an artist and a traveler who didn't shop in a mall let alone in a Gucci store.  I hated corporate america but somehow didn't mind these grandiose corporate eyesore casinos.  It was so over the top it was just in a league of its own.  A microcosm of everything that was ugly about america but somehow it worked.  I remember looking out at the view from the Stratosphere tower, and while it may have been influenced by my regular routine of smoking joints from the time I woke up in the morning until the time I went to sleep, I remember thinking while looking out that Las Vegas was a place I would come back to again someday.  Almost 17 years later I am packing up my stuff and headed in that direction.

(I nicked these two pictures from this page which has some cool old pics/history from Vegas)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Why play poker? - part 3 Goals

The reality is starting to set in, two weeks from today I will be departing for Las Vegas. As I wrote the last two posts about my thinking on playing poker full time I started to get a little nervous.  When I reread them objectively I can see there is some justification involved, and that this is something I want to do more than a great decision.  I will address this in a future post, and since I am going to go forward with the idea I am going to focus on goals today.

Poker Goals:

1. Play 40 hours/week on average.
2. Improve my game.
3. Move up to 2/5.

I initially wrote a lot of other things here but realized they were not goals but things I need to do to accomplish these 3 things.  To further elaborate I am aware of some leaks and shortcomings from my time playing in the past 6 months.  I feel that if I have any chance of accomplishing these goals I am going to have to step up my discipline.

Things I need to do:

1. Keep stats for every session.
2. Keep notes on hands/spots for later review.
3. Make time for study away from the tables.
4. Game select.  Change rooms or tables when the game is not good.
5. 3 buy in stop-loss.  Only quit when winning if I get tired, stop playing well, or if the game gets bad.
6. Take shots at 2/5 when bankroll and conditions are right.

This may seem pretty basic but I am a firm believer in having simple, doable goals. Things get complicated in my head and a simple action like looking at a list like this can keep me grounded.  At the end of my adventure if I look back and see that I haven't done the things above I will have no one but myself to blame.

Just went to YouTube to post the Smith Westerns song I was listening to and got a bonus surprise. They have a new album coming out.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why play poker? - part 2

In my last post I talked about why I play poker for a source of income, pretty much a no brainer, especially as a side income.  In this post I will explain why I am planning to take a shot at playing poker full time.  As a disclaimer I will say that I am working on other things concurrently and poker would not be my only source of income, but it will be my main focus.  The plan is to move to Las Vegas in two weeks, grind live at least 40hrs/week, and try to build my bankroll.

Why take a shot at playing poker now?

There are plenty of people who would tell you what a bad idea this is.  From my frequenting forums like Las Vegas Lifestyle on two plus two forums I put together a list:

1. Most people fail.
2. You won't like poker as much once you start to play all the time.
3. You don't get health insurance.
4. It isn't worth it if you aren't playing high stakes and bringing in $200K a year.
5. You have to spend your days rubbing elbows with undesirables and degenerates.
6. In 5 years you won't want to do it anymore and will have nothing put away for retirement.
7. It will hurt you later because potential employers won't like your employment gaps.

These are all valid arguments and each deserves a closer look.  In my first post I mentioned that the point of this blog was not to justify my decision to try this, more of a way to keep me honest in future decisions, so this is really just my thought process for my situation, by no means am I saying this would apply to anyone else's situation.

1. Most people fail - This is absolutely true and cannot be disputed.  Human nature seems to make everyone who plays this game think they are somehow better than they actually are.  In my outlook this a win win kind of situation though, if I can't make it playing decent volume then it was not meant to be and I can move on.  If I can make it it will give me freedom to explore other options while I make enough money to pay bills.  I will also get piece of mind because I have invested a lot of time playing poker and will know for sure whether playing full time is for me.

2. You won't like poker as much once you start to play all the time - This is true of anything that I have ever done, and having known people who play for a living I realize this will probably happen.  Poker is a grind, a long game with ups and downs, but the job I have been doing for the last year and a half is also a grind and there is no conceivable way this will change.

3. You don't get health insurance - I don't have health insurance now and have only ever had it in 2 or 3 jobs I have worked long term at.  I see the importance of having health insurance, but the reality is the jobs I am qualified to walk in and get don't usually offer it.

4. It isn't worth it if you aren't playing high stakes and bringing in $200K a year - This one just doesn't add up for me.  I fear I may have missed the boat as far as getting the kind of job where one makes anywhere near that kind of money.  Can't really say much more about this besides I want to live in the world where people who say this feel certain that making good money is something they are entitled to, and feel confident it will happen for them.

5. You have to spend your days rubbing elbows with undesirables and degenerates - I don't really think about this.  On some level all people are interesting to me and annoying at the same time.

6. In 5 years you won't want to do it anymore and will have nothing put away for retirement - Sounds like my last 5 years.  This makes sense but seems a little short sighted to think that if you are looking for other opportunities that nothing else could come up in that amount of time.

7. It will hurt you later because potential employers won't like your employment gaps - If you read my Invisible Mountain post this is the kind of thing I am dealing with already. This is why I am also giving myself 3 months to see if this is a workable plan.  Also I will be doing other work so I won't have a complete gap.

There are many other reasons why palying poker full time would be a bad choice for many people.  I am going into it with my eyes open.  I have to roll to play and have 3 months rent set aside, so to me it seems like as good a time as any to take a shot.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Why play poker?

I've been playing poker, no limit texas holdem specifically, on and off for years. That being said the question isn't "Why play poker?", I already do that.  The question is two-fold, "Why play poker as a source of income?", and "Why take a shot of playing poker now?".

1. Why play poker as a source of income?

Poker is interesting to me because it is competitive activity.  I guess I first got this idea planted in my head when I watched the movie rounders in the late 90's, and it was this scene in particular that sealed the deal.


Bear in mind I had no idea what was going on, or even what game they were playing, but the idea that someone could play the "best" at something and win by out thinking them was ridiculously appealing to me.  The seed was planted at this point but I didn't really get into poker other than the odd 7 card stud with wild cards game that popped up at friend's houses every so often.  A few years later Chris Moneymaker won the world series of poker by winning a couple of satellites online (today is actually the 10th anniversary of the satellite that gave him his main event entry).  At the time this was intriguing and I started to see more poker on TV, but I was involved with my art career that was taking off and never got into playing.

In 2006 a friend of mine from Sweden was staying at my apartment for the holidays and he was taking out a couple hours each day to play sit n go's.  I watched him play a really simple strategy and was amazed that he was able to take money out of his account periodically to help pay for his trip.  This was my first real introduction to playing poker for income as a reality.  Like most people back then I figured I could do what he was doing and it would be the most fun and easy job in the world.

Due to life and the way it goes I didn't really start to play or win until 2009.  I starting reading books and trying to learn as much about poker as I could at that time.  I started frequenting forums like two plus two and realized simultaneously that I was late in my arrival to the scene and that winning at poker wasn't going to be as easy as I thought it would be.  Still by the end of the year my hard work paid off and I started winning consistently. I always had a job at the time but all my free time was spent playing online tournaments and I started to bring in a nice modest income on the side.  I started playing some live tournaments too and also started taking weekend trips to Atlantic City, which were both marginally profitable.

Everyone who played online poker in the US knows how Black Friday changed everything.  That coupled with other things that were going on in my life at the time pretty much put poker on the back burner.  Then last year I looked in my carbon poker account and noticed I had $30.13 in there.  I binked a $5 tournament right away and started playing all the time again leading up to a 3rd place finish in a $33 1r1a in their first ever Poker Maximus series.  At this point I had a bankroll again and a renewed interest in playing and studying but was working 52 hours a week at a dead end kind of job.  Online poker in the US was sketchy at best, and has gotten worse to the point that I don't even play anymore, and I wasn't rolled to move out of the US and take a shot at playing on the big sites again.  With all my long work hours most of my play online was getting worse and with less new people coming in and more regulars getting better all the time I started having losing months for the first time in a long time.  Quitting poker altogether was never an option so I started going to local casinos and playing live cash.

Cash games were new and I'll admit I was the typical online tournament donk at first.  This motivated me and once I got over the obvious frustration with slow games and different dynamics I started to think more about poker again and got excited.  I went down about 3 buyins ($900) at 1/2 during the learning phase but have adjusted enough to have a decent win rate after 6 months of playing.  My sample size is still too small to say too much one way or the other but I feel like I am improving each time I play and that is what is most important to me.

All of this amounts to an answer to the question of "Why play poker as a source of income?"  I realize that there are cons that go along with these pros, so in my next post I will answer question 2.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Is this Snoop Dogg?"

I was writing a different post with Letterman on in the background, and got distracted.  He had Snoop Dogg on who is now referred to as Snoop Lion and is in the process of working on becoming a Rastafarian.  It reminded me of a trip I took to Jamaica a long time ago with my girlfriend for like 10 days. We stayed at the Rock Cliffs Hotel in Negril, and I had hooked up with these young guys who had a little carving shop down the street from there.  Each day I would go hang out with them for a while in the morning and we would talk about random stuff.  Mostly they just asked me questions about whatever was on their minds or things they had heard of since I was obviously a traveler and they spent most of their time hanging around their shop hustling tourists.  I noticed that when I would see in the evenings, after I had spent some money on vacation supplies with them, that they would have brand new american style gear on.  I asked them about this and they told me that they spent all their profits on new clothes.  They also told me I should go back to America, fill up a bunch of suit cases, and fly back and we could all be rich.  This lead to many conversations where they would ask me what was cool for rappers like Snoop Dogg to wear and stuff like that.

Somehow, and I really don't remember how, I had found an NWA tape in the bag I had brought with me.  Can't really explain it since I definitely hadn't listened to it for years.  Anyways, I decided I would give the tape to them as a present on the day I left.  I walked down the street for the last time and put the tape in the main guy Squiggly's hand.

S: "Is this Snoop Dogg?"
Me: "No, it's Snoop Dogg's boys, it's better than Snoop Dogg"
(He looks noticeably upset that it isn't Snoop)
S: "Better than Snoop Dogg?  Snoop Dogg's friends?"
Me: "Yeah, his friends. This is the original, these guys are OG's"
S: "OG's?"
Me: "Original gangsters"
S: "Oh."
Me: "Yeah, OG's"
S: "Is Snoop Dogg OG's?"
Me: "Well no, but whatever just take the tape and listen to it, you'll like it, it's dope"
S: "Snoop Dogg's friends, OhhGee's, yaaah"

As I rode out of town I passed their shop and heard "Fuck the police...." blaring in the street and remembered why life is good.