Back around 1987 or 1988 my parents purchased a Macintosh Plus. It probably cost something like $3.5k in 2012 dollars, which is the kind of purchase that makes a born-again nit like me shudder with anticipated buyer’s remorse. Considering our family used it for the next 8 years, and considering it saved my dad the hassle of writing a dissertation on a typewriter, it turned out to be a pretty savvy purchase. Now seems like a good time to thank my parents for pulling the trigger on buying this expensive computer, which no doubt had a profoundly positive influence on my life:

Nine diagonal inches of monochrome magic!

Babby’s first computer. Thanks Mom & Dad!

Eventually, my dad completed his dissertation. I don’t know if the Mac Plus actually helped him write it; it’s not like five-year-old me was interested in watching my dad mash words onto a screen. For all I know he did write it with a typewriter somewhere. What I do know is that the Mac Plus helped my dad did with a most-essential non-dissertation-writing activity: graduate student procrastination. This was a boon to five-year-old me, for obvious reasons. Dad would fire up the external modem. A few mysterious beeps and screeches later, we would have at our fingertips a list of games we could download from some University of Pittsburgh BBS. We filled up quite a few 800 kilobyte disks (at the BLISTERING rate of 300 bytes per second). It was essentially my introduction to playing games and, moreover, to that sweet feeling of accomplishment that comes from beating an opponent or solving a puzzle. Seeing as I more or less play a game to make ends meet these days, I often think back to these old games that opened and molded my growing mind. At least I think of the more original games. Entertaining as it was to play “Mac-Man,” I don’t devote much thought to Pac-Man or Pac-Man ripoffs. Except when I inexplicably mention them on this blog. Yep.

Anyway, the occasional game sticks with me. For whatever reason, it bubbles up from memory into conscious thought. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to play the game on an emulator. One such game is The Fool’s Errand. It’s a cleverly-designed, reading-intensive puzzle game that I lacked the intellect and patience to beat as a six-year-old; as a 29-year-old with two degrees, I at least lack the patience. But seriously, I’m about 60% through the game and may actually conquer it if I don’t lose interest. I admit that I solved some of the puzzles from memory, but this is definitely the furthest I’ve ever gotten in this game. Take that, six-year-old me!


Here’s a solution to one of the puzzles in the game. You’re welcome! Note that I solved this the same way I learned how to play poker (by mashing buttons and hoping things worked out)

So, I got to and (somehow!) solved the above puzzle. “MUCH to ACCOMPLISH.” It’s an interesting phrase. In the context of the game, it’s a phrase snapped at the titular fool by a busy craftsman. The craftsman has shit to do: he has to finish monogramming eight copper dinner plates by sundown. He has a well-defined, attainable goal with a well-defined deadline.

In the context of my own life, accomplishment and goal-setting are quite different. Some of my “accomplishments” in life have been pretty straightforward: do well in school, pass the bar exam, etc. However, I struggle to define goals in poker (and, I suppose more broadly in life as well; it’s not like I have any well-defined goals for this blog, except for taking several hours to write a weird nostalgic tangent about a decades-old computer game before attempting to make some sort of tenuous, rambling connection to poker, in which case MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!). I have an ill-defined negative goal: “don’t go broke.” And so far, I’ve stuck to it (brag: without even having to get a real job!) But I’ve never had a really positive goal, like “make $x by the time I reach age Y.” I feel like people working actual jobs have “make $x by age Y” goals; hell, ING based an entire annoying commercial on this premise. So why don’t I set these goals too? A couple explanations (excuses) for this come to mind, one of which seems more valid than the other:

1. The Arbitrary Goals Will Make Me Play Worse and Be Miserable Excuse: “I don’t want burden myself with large-scale expectations that might I feel bad about failing, which will make me play worse poker and increase my likelhiood of failure.”

This excuse is ironic, and not in some sort of awesome hipster way. The sad fact is, I already set arbitrary goals for myself in poker. I do it all the time, just on a seemingly smaller scale. I often get angry when I make mistakes in individual hands, blaming myself when other players would just blame variance or, better yet, just move on and keep making good decisions. Even if on some intellectual level I know I cannot attain the goal of making each poker decision perfectly (and even if I did, I would not be guaranteed to win), failing to do so hits me in my emotional soft spot. It tilts me, even if it doesn’t tilt me as much as it used to.

Furthermore, the “negative goal” of not going broke is nothing if not a “large-scale expectation that I might feel bad about failing.” I was nearing that emotional nadir a year ago when I could feel the busto monster stalking me, his breath reeking of rotten failure. That probably wasn’t too good for my in-game decisions!

my depiction of a busto monster is undoubtedly more frightening than goya's

The Sleep of Bankroll Management Produces Busto Monsters

So, I already make myself play worse by feeling bad about failure, either real or imagined or anticipated failure. It doesn’t really matter if I die from a million pinpricks or a two chainsaw whacks; whether my failures at poker are on the scale of failing to make one correct decision or failing to meet a longer-term goal, my goal should be to keep my emotions from turning them into larger subsequent failures, not to avoid opportunities that can result in failure. Essentially, this excuse blows.

2. The Jedi Excuse: There’s a great line in a great movie: “Adventure, excitement… a Jedi craves not these things.”

it's a schooner!

It was this movie, and by the way Yoda is a coward (click on the pic t hear why).

Basically, I felt that not setting positive goals would help me be satisfied with what I have. It would totally suck to make $X, where $X is very comfortable to live on, only to always be bummed about not making $Y, where $Y > $X. Being content with a relatively modest lifestyle seems to me a reasonable trade-off for not having to sell my labor out of necessity, so why ruin it by making $X some number I’m unlikely to reach?

Also, I always thought that avoiding “positive goals” was a good way to avoid one of poker’s ugliest and, unfortunately, most common emotions: envy. Envy blows; it ruins friendships and bums people out in general. Honestly, I don’t want for much and only rarely feel envious. So, if not having a positive goal keeps me from being an miserable, jealous prick then so be it!

But, the thing about poker, or any competitive pursuit, is that want of ambition leads to stagnation, and stagnation leads to failure. The busto monster lurks there, waiting to devour your heart and shit out your digested dreams. Well, I’m going to try my best not to fall into his clutches. So, I’m going to spend the rest of the year coming up with goals for 2013 as well as goals to accomplish by my 35th and 40th birthdays. Monetary goals, health and fitness goals, all sorts of goals. Maybe I’ll even write about them in this here blog! Can you feel the excitement?!?!!?!?!? As for some shorter-term goals…

0. Come up with those aforementioned goals. And better goals. Less vague goals.

1. Focus more on expected bankroll growth rather than mere expected value. This essentially means no more MTTs unless I put serious work into my MTT game. This is probably a subject for another post (good lord I’ve spent so much time on this one…so many words…I swear one day I’ll plan a post out before I start writing one) but I doubt I’m psychologically fit for MTTs at the moment; I get so easily and strongly attached to the prospects of how much my stack is worth in a MTT that I play worse (and feel worse playing when I make mistakes). Am I a winner in MTTs? Probably! But the variance of MTTs will crush you if you’re a merely “good” MTT player and not a super duper ridiculous soulcrusher elite MTT god like Dan Smith or Vanessa Selbst. Even though I enjoy the challenge/glory/dynamism-of-thought that MTTs offer, I am probably better off (from a bankroll growth perspective) grinding cash games.

2. Fix all the stupid physical ailments that keep me from getting into good physical shape. I hold out hope that getting into physical shape will help me get into better mental shape, which will not only be evidence against Cartesian dualism but will also help me make more money at poker and be happier generally. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: eat it, Descartes!

3. Customize this blog so it has the look I want, and also write some more coherent entries and articles. Maybe even stuff about actual poker decisions as opposed to peripheral mental game type stuff. Or maybe more stuff about old Macintosh Plus games I was unable to beat as a child (a game called Zoony comes readily to mind).

Hope you take less time to read this than I did to write it! ‘Til next time!

A heaping pile of self-centered prose

I was going to grind some live poker, but I just realized my clothes will be in the dryer for the next 50 minutes or so. Sounds like a good opportunity to see how fast I can crank out a blog entry. Nothing like imposing arbitrary time restraints to get me to accept the fact that not everything on this blog can (or deserves to) be a full-length, polished, overwritten article. I gotta build that momentum to overcome years of inertia, right? I mean, I should probably try to produce those kinds of articles at some point, too. Regardless, like they say in Les Mis, “a worm can roll a stone.” Let’s get this stone rolling…

i'm probably going to cry when i see it too

Who else can’t wait to see this in theaters? Anyone?

Let’s see. What’s happened since I last posted on this thing?

1. I played a cash game session. 5-10-20 at the closest casino to my house. It went pretty well! I even got two free shots of Johnny Walker Blue out of it (I normally don’t drink while playing, especially at stakes nearing high end of my financial comfort zone, but this was a worthy exception). I was especially pleased that, despite making some mistakes early on, I didn’t really let them really get to me.

2. I also played some MTTs. They did not go so well. Fortunately for my bankroll (but unfortunately for my ego), none of them had a buyin greater than three figures. Even worse for my Faberge ego, I made a slew of inexcusable mistakes. The kinds of mistakes that really drive me crazy, especially in MTTs. I find it frighteningly easy to get attached to the concept of winning in MTTs, which is almost certainly a leak. This should be the topic of a lengthy article (if not a book): which poker mistakes drive me most crazy? Yes, an exhaustive taxonomy of poker mistakes (I can think of so many more than Sklansky did), that’s the ticket. Enough with this digression, my clothes are almost dry so I’d better try to wrap this up.

Venom also a pretty great stand-in for tilt, am i rite?

This is the first GIS result for “Faberge Ego.”

3. I’ve been tearing through Weeds. You know, the Showtime series. I stopped watching it after Season 3, but I don’t really remember why. I guess that was around the time of the WGA strike, so maybe that was why? Anyway, I was reminded of this show’s existence this week. Apparently, I played two HPT day 1′s with Matt Salsberg, or as I knew him then, “oh shit why does this guy look so familiar he’s gotta be a reg and he’s playing like a good reg guess i’ll go back to paying attention to the table instead of obsessing over who this guy could possibly be.” Somehow I stumbled upon his twitter page, saw his picture and connected the dots. Turns out he shipped a WPT event (so I guess my “good reg” read was at least in the right ballpark) and he also wrote/produced for Weeds. As a showbiz fanboy, I gotta say that’s more impressive than a WPT title, but maybe that’s just grass-is-greener thinking.

By the way, I’m totally cheating on this “write fast” challenge. I’m going to pretend like my clothes aren’t dry enough (they might not be!!!) and put an extra 30 minutes on the dryer. Hey, at least giving myself extra time is better than putting this off and never getting it done at all, right? I’m totally stabbing Procrastination in the liver!

He would be so proud!

Anyway, back to Weeds. My vague impression from talking to people and reading stuff on the internet was that it had fallen off. I don’t remember many of the specific knocks on it (maybe I’ll read some reviews later), but maybe people thought it strayed too far from what made it appealing in the first place? Beats me. To be honest, it’s been so long since I watched seasons 1-3 that I’m not sure I remember what made it appealing back then either. Anyway, after taking in seasons 4 and 5, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Both seasons were enjoyable, and season 6 has kept me engaged so far. Even though sometimes the more overt jokes come off a little forced, the banter between the characters and the small asides/references to the absurdity of the show’s entire universe make me smile. Off the rails? YOU BET! Ridiculous contrivances? FILLED TO THE BRIM! Am I really just imitating Drew Magary imitating Robert Evans because I’m running out of things to say about Weeds? INDISPUTABLY!

Well, that’s enough rambling for now. Maybe next time I’ll try to organize what I write or try to say something interesting. Or not. Also, I really dislike how the captions look, but it’s not time to dicker with wordpress. Nor is it time to proofread this tome. It’s time to grind.

Edit (11/25/2012): Apologies for leeching images; I was under the mistaken impression that WordPress would automatically store images locally. My mistake.

Prop Bet Anyone?

I’m going to have to make this quick, as there’s allegedly a good cash game running nearby.  But, if I start playing with this blog entry unfinished I’m totally going to obsess over it and play my C-game. Hey, maybe this is a good way to get myself to write super quickly; convince myself that writing efficiently will directly help me play better poker…

Anyway, enough with that digression. I was finishing up my daily “browse through every unread google reader item” routine with Deadspin’s weekly edition of drunken hookup failures. If you don’t want to click through, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: reader-submitted stories of failed debauchery. Penthouse Letters with less sex and more (delightful) shame.

Because I’m the type of obsessive who reads comments on the internet, I noticed this comment:

yep i'm an obsessive enough nerd to read comments

I’ll avoid a half-baked, pretentious epistemological aside and just say this dude is right. It got me wondering, though. First off, I wonder how many people actually submit these stories; considering there were only two published this week (usually there are three) I can’t imagine there are too many submissions. Further, I wonder what Drew Magary’s (my favorite Deadspin writer, btw; I even enjoyed his novel!) thought process is when he selects which stories to run? Does he aim for truth, salaciousness, some combination of the two? Does he just outright reject stories that cannot possibly be true?

Well, that thought led to this one: “hey, I wonder if I could write a drunken hookup failure story under a fake name, and sneak it past Drew?” The story would of course be completely fabricated because I make good snu snu nobody wants to read about my vanilla reality. So then I thought “I wonder if I could find a way to gamble on this?” The upshot: who wants to bet that I can get a fake drunken hookup failure published in Deadspin over the next however many weeks? I am definitely no fiction writer, but I feel somewhat confident that I could sneak one past the goalie, so to speak. This admonition, on the other hand, should really stack the odds against me…

aw cmon drew it's not like i know any other way!

C’mon, you knew I couldn’t go a whole post without some self-deprecation. Anyway, let’s discuss odds and terms (eg how will we prove it’s me who actually wrote it?!?) in the comments please!

Wow, I wrote this whole post in under 45 minutes. A new record! Time to put it out of my mind and replace it with grind. Whew!

Let’s try this again…

I’ve made a few pseudonymous attempts at blogging over the years. None really stuck. Well, they stuck around because the Internet never forgets, much as I sometimes wish it could. Looking back, my old blogs all epitomize whiny, self-centered, immature, uninteresting writing (except perhaps as a case study in neurosis, pretentiousness, entitlement and risible poker thinking).

So, at the risk of sounding insecure, I can’t help but admit to proceeding with trepidation. Will this blog, no longer “protected” by the easily pierced veil of pseudonymity, be just as trite and full of embarrassing, self-pitying prose as the rest of my attempts? Am I enough of an egomaniac to believe that I can produce writing worth reading once, much less consistently? Is this the way I want to present myself to anyone who might google my name and stumble across these ramblings?

The answers to these questions are as of yet unknown. But, I’m going to give blogging another shot. Why bother? Because I’m at a bit of a crossroads. A year ago, I was on the brink of taking my withered nest egg, quitting poker and looking for a job. Anything to get a variance-free paycheck while I rethought my entire life and battled regret. But, having spent almost two decades taking shelter in America’s academy, and having experienced the incredible freedom and intoxicating highs of poker success, the prospect of a tedious job hunt (followed by, gasp, working) filled this emo-prone manchild with overwhelming dread. Anxiety set in. So did depression. You’ve all heard some variation of that cliche, “do what you love and you never work a day in your life.” Well, all I could see was its monstrous inverse staring me in the face: “do something you hate and you’re a slave to it the rest of your fucking life.” In retrospect, this strikes me as spoiled, shallow, and shortsighted. Such an angsty attitude about doing what pretty much everyone else does is almost as pathetic as unironically referring to myself as a “unique snowflake.” But, sad as it may be, I’d be lying if I told you I felt otherwise in late 2011.

Fortunately, I’ve experienced the good side of variance in 2012, and I now find myself with enough of a financial cushion to avoid selling my labor out of necessity. At least for a while. But, the question lingers: what am I gonna dooooooooo, you guys? Most things that interest me as potential careers, other than grinding live poker until it becomes unprofitable, require me to articulate thoughts and ideas in an efficient, engaging manner. Hell, writing more (and writing better) should even help my poker game, in that it might help turn my thought process from some impenetrable black box of intuition (and all too often, emotion) to a shining paragon of rationality and logic (a man can dream!). Hopefully, posts on my poker thought process, whatever it may be, will be a mainstay of this blog.

But, here’s the rub. To put it gently, I am not exactly the best at efficient writing. This simple introductory post has taken me fooooooreeeeeeeverrrrrr to write. At least two hours. Probably more. I’ve lost track of time. See, I have quite the capacity for getting bogged down in details, writing and rewriting and re-re-writing and editing and checking and rechecking before I commit to the “right” word or syntax or turn of phrase. Too often, the act of writing becomes an exercise in compulsively wandering the forking paths of inconsequential decisions, most of which eventually lead to me getting super frustrated and giving up. This is certainly not helped by the panoply of non-writing decisions blogging provides (who should I link to? what tags should I use? which theme do I like best? what, if anything, should be this blog’s title?); nor do these piddling decisions help answer the larger, more nagging questions that plague my blogging experiences from the outset. Does my “voice” comes across the way I want it to? Who is the audience for this blog? What will it even be “about?” Will I have enough to talk about to keep this from being another “make a few posts and forget about it forever” enterprise?

I suppose we’ll eventually have the answers to those questions; either way, I’d better wrap this up before I get walloped by self-doubt and chicken out on posting this. At the very least, I hope this blog can help me practice writing for an audience, even if said audience largely only exists in my imagination. Perhaps, with time and practice, writing will become a source of pride and satisfaction for me (and reading might inspire something other than yawns in you). I hope to give myself various goals and challenges for poker and other aspects of my life, and to hold myself accountable for my own self-improvement by chronicling my progress on this blog. Assuming I learn to write faster than two words per minute, I also hope write about other stuff (without mashing the emo button too often). I have ideas for this thing, I swear!

If anyone has any tips for improving my writing efficiency (other than “practice more, you lazy fuck!”), feel free to tell me in the comments. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading; don’t hesitate to comment on what you might like to see on this blog in the future!