It's December 24th, and I've been excited all day. For the first time in fifteen years, I feel much like I did on Christmas Eve as a child. But it’s not because I can’t wait for Christmas Day. It’s because I can’t wait for New Years Day. Yeah, I can’t wait for the year to be over.

I’m not much for the holidays. I enjoy spending time with friends and family, and giving and receiving gifts is great and all. But as a staunch atheist who believes that the way we mark time is as arbitrary as the turn of a river card, they don’t mean a whole hell of a lot to me. So why am I excited about January First?

Because I’ve hatched a psychotic plan to get Supernova Elite next year in a rather tight time frame, without limiting my play solely to PokerStars. This is something that I’m thoroughly unprepared for. So why do I plan on putting myself through hell for money?

After reading some of Dusty’s blogs and half watching It’s A Wonderful Life for the nineteenth time, I remembered that I’d really like to do some things that help people in my lifetime. And a lot of those things take money. So I’m going to get me some, ASAP. Then I can start my chain of vegan quick food restaurants, open an affordable dojang in this expensive city, and start some sort of scholarship program for the self-educated.

Over the course of my life, I’ve had a hard time motivating myself for long enough to reach much of my potential. I think keeping a sharp eye on what I really want to get done is what I’ve been missing. I don’t believe in god, religion, or even morality, but I do believe in good. And I’d like to do some of it. Quite selfishly, it’s what makes me happy.

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

My favorite TV show growing up was Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. I think I was a big fan of the little train that went around the set, but I also liked the whole shoe tying business. There was one lesson that the entire show was designed to teach. Every activity has three parts:

  1. Preparation
  2. Activity
  3. Cleanup

Somehow I failed to internalize this scheme (but I could still probably put a train set together in five minutes). To this day I blast through step 1, and often skip step 3 entirely. I'm trying to work this process into my Samurai Diet. More on this later.

I've recently spent some time working with Jared Tendler, the performance coach. He prescribes a three step process for every activity:

  1. Warm up
  2. Performance
  3. Cool down and review

This process works for poker, golf, music, martial arts, and pretty much whatever else you apply it to. The idea is to prepare yourself to perform at your highest level. Then to perform without second guessing yourself or worrying about improvement. Finally, you extract the lessons from the session and release the activity from the front of your mind. Sound familiar?

Incidentally, both of these outlines are identical to the shape of a good story. I guess it's time to try write my life into a more coherent narrative. Won't you be my neighbor?

Villain's Lament Live at Connolly's Klub

We played a show last weekend in Times Square to a bunch of rowdy Taekwon-Do buddies and other friends. Lauren and I had run over from a TKD demo that we'd performed in, so it was something of a double header. It was a blast. Here are a handful of clips from the show.

Sunshine Suicide, a reprisal of one of the catchier Voice of a Secret tunes:

Villain's Lament, our preponomously titled piece of thrash pop (the song starts at 0:53, after Lauren gets the crowd going):

Venice Is Going Down (it's a song, not a porno):

The Prettiest Card In the Deck, my Thrash Punk ode to dependency, codependency and bad river cards:

Dig, our first effort at a haunting dirge:


I almost got run over by a shiny red car coming home from a movie the other day. I had been jaywalking, so I wasn't entirely innocent. My first thought upon seeing this shiny red car was how lame it would be to have a shiny red car that couldn't turn into a robot. I've never owned a car, let alone a shiny red one. But when I do finally get my license and the resulting car, it had best be turning into a robot.

The movie was okay, but it fell into the typical sequel traps. More characters and less character. More explosions and less explosiveness. But what can you expect from a movie based on a toy? I guess it's better source material than an amusement park ride. On the plus side, my favorite non-lego toy, jet-fire, was featured in a pivotal role. The character in the movie was an old war plane, but the toy was a futuristic white jet.

I remember saving about twenty dollars to buy the complex toy for myself. It takes a long time to save twenty dollars when you're seven years old. I drove with both of my parents and two of my grandparents in our light blue van with airplane seats to either New Jersey, or White Plains, or some other exo-city location. Yeah, I made that word up. It took me hours to figure out how to transform the plane into a robot, but it was very satisfying once I figured it out. And no, the blue van couldn't turn into a robot. But it had airplane seats and a motorcycle in the back.

Lunch at Wimbledon
(or Why Sports Suck)

This match was ridiculous. I wouldn't accuse myself of being a sports writer (and I hope no one else would), but I feel the need to ramble on a bit about what I just saw. Two days after dashing the home crowd's hopes of a Brit winning at the All England Club*, Andy Roddick fell one break shy of delaying Roger Federer's bid to eclipse Pete Sampras's record of fourteen major championships. He did manage to delay it by a few extra hours, and an extra set and a half's worth of games.

How happy was Roger Federer to become the all-time world record holder? He seemed lightly thrilled. But this was one of those matches where you hate to see someone lose, because you know that the pain of loss exceeds the joy of winning. Emotionally, it's a negative sum game (although financially it's quite positive). Andy Roddick should be filled with pride for the level at which he performed. But at the moment, he just looks crushed. And that's why sports suck. Many of the best contests are difficult to enjoy unless you have an over developed sense of schadenfreude. So I offer my heartiest congratulations to both participants for grinding out four and a half hours of the highest quality tennis.

* I noted that Andy Murray was referred to as a Brit before he lost and a Scot afterward. The English are a capricious lot. I'm one of the least patriotic people in the US, but I took a little joy in seeing two American women dominate the singles and doubles final in England on July 4th, not to mention the Bryan brothers reaching the men's doubles final the same day, and American Andy eliminating British Andy the day before.

It should also be noted that if New York were a city-state, like it should be, I would be intensely patriotic.

Breakfast at Wimbledon

I'm eating vegan blackberry pancakes right now and watching Roger Federer attempt to defeat Andy Roddick for his record 15th major title. Many consider this to be the golden age of tennis, largely because of the rivalry between Roger Federer (who any objective individual will hold as the greatest of all time) and his good friend and arch nemesis, Rafael Nadal. Nadal happens to be the greatest clay court player of all time, as well as the only man to defeat Federer in a grand slam final. These two greats played arguably the greatest match of all time in this same final one year ago. But instead of Nadal facing Federer in a rematch of the past three Wimbledon finals, it's Andy Roddick. And while a Roger/Rafa repeat would not be an unfitting way to see history challenged, seeing Roddick across the net makes a certain amount of sense. Roddick has lost more than any other player to Federer's dominance, with a 2 and 18 overall record, including three grand slam final losses.

The Crazy Cat Lady

I visited my mom in Massachusetts last week. I hadn't seen her for over a year, so I was very happy to be there, despite the unfortunate impetus for my visit: her cat had died. She lives in a small town, but there are some nice vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Not totally surprising for a college town. Anyway, there was a little shop on Main Street with a bunch of action figures in the window. It was a rather strange selection:

Van Gogh

Sherlock Holmes


Crazy Cat Lady


Edgar Allan Poe

I guess what all of these figures have in common is that they're a bit loopy. I like the Crazy Cat Lady, though, because she comes with six cats of assorted flavors. I don't mean that in an Alf-like way.


I've recently been on a bit of a hiatus from everything, but I've still managed to keep incredibly busy. Last month I took a "vacation" to Las Vegas and San Francisco. I use quotes because I played poker three out of four days in Vegas, and six out of seven days in San Francisco. So it was more of a work-cation. The poker itself was a change of pace from my normal games. In LV I played in soft live $15/30 and $30/60 games, and got to meet a few of my online poker friends. I also went with my girlfriend to see Love, the Beatles/Cirque du Soleil show. In SF I began learning new games like Triple Draw, Badugi, and Pot Limit Omaha. Learning new games has rejuvenated my love for poker. We also went rafting and played some tennis, so it wasn't all work and no play. However...

The night before we left for Vegas I got a distressing email from one of my poker sites. It warned me not to deposit a check I had recently received because it would not clear. Well, I had already deposited the check, and it had cleared. And I had written checks to the US Treasury against that money. So I checked my online bank statement, and the check had uncleared! Now, I didn't know that checks could actually unclear. Since my flight left at 6 AM, I had no way to deposit cash from my live poker bankroll to cover the checks. I did my best to put this whole mess out of my head while in Vegas.

The day I arrived in SF I read this article, which explained what happened to my money: Feds Seize $30 million. A U.S. Attorney from New York had $30 million of online poker players' money seized, citing the Wire Act. But the Wire Act doesn't apply to online poker. In fact, there is no Federal statute that applies to online poker, so this seizure amounts to outright theft. To summarize, the Feds stole money from me that I was trying to send to them for taxes. Awesome.

It wasn't exactly a relaxing vacation. In the end, though, I got reimbursed by the poker site (who took the $30 million hit), and this may be the act that incites US poker players to unite and fight back harder than before. Speaking of silver linings, there wasn't a cloud in sight in LV or SF. Meanwhile, it continues to rain in NYC. Welcome home, I guess.

The Sky Is Falling:
Happy Mother's Day

When I left my apartment for a pleasant afternoon stroll, my plan was simply to call my mother and grandmother to wish them a happy pink bat day. I've been paying just enough attention to baseball to know that my Mets will be swinging the pink bats from first place today, in support of breast cancer research and awareness. My mom and grandmother are most of what's left of my family, as many have died from cancer, old age, and whatnot. So the news that one of the nicest people in the entire world, who happened to be my cousin, passed away at three this morning, was neither welcome nor surprising.

But this news didn't preclude having an otherwise pleasant conversation. So I chatted with my mom about tennis, and music, and baseball, and autism. Our rambling conversation was interrupted by a screaming little boy. A strong breeze had blown his hat into the middle of the street. I raced across the street to scoop up his hat to discourage him from running into oncoming traffic. I guess I set a poor example, but at least no one got hit by a car. The boy's father scolded him for yelling instead of saying something coherent, like "Dad, I lost my hat, would you get it for me?" The kid was like four, so the mere fact that the kid didn't actually run out into the intersection himself seemed like a big plus.

I kept walking and talking, making a full circuit around my building. I was about to get off the phone and go inside my building when I heard more screaming. Something made of blue glass had shattered and spread over a forty foot area. Two women checked their dogs' feet for splinters in their paws. A third woman was raving about how the glass object had missed her head by millimeters. I looked up to see a window open further than its usual range (you need a key to open the windows in my building). It appeared that the vase had come from the twenty-fifth floor.

Building security seemed disinterested, but the maintenance department was efficient in their response. The woman whose head was nearly bashed in was naturally quite upset. She called the police and was demanding action from maintenance or security. I told them what I had seen and they found the apartment the glass had fallen from. Presumably it was an accident, but that's just speculation on my part. What I am certain about is the uncertainty of life, particularly regarding its duration. Kids get hit by cars, adults get cracked in the head with flower pots, and older people get sick and die. But sometimes they don't.


Today is my birthday. I'm thirty-one, which technically qualifies as thirty-"something". Do I feel like I'm getting older? Not so much. I mean, yes, the gap between the present moment and the day I was born is constantly expanding. But the sense of my own mortality, the crushing weight of time, the feeling that my accomplishments thus far are somehow insufficient... well, I left those back in my twenties.

I remember feeling so old when I turned twenty. I also felt like a failure because I was neither the centerfielder for the New York Mets, nor the lead guitarist in a hugely successful rock band. Perhaps I had set my expectations too high. As a kid, my favorite athlete was Dwight Gooden. He won the Rookie of the Year when he was 19, the Cy Young award when he was 20, and a World Championship when he was 21. There wasn't much room for improvement, but plenty of room for a precipitous fall. Metallica were in their late teens/early twenties when they recorded and released their first three albums. They were closer to thirty by the time they became ridiculously huge, but the root of their popularity was established early on.

This is hardly the only path to success (where ever that is). Jimmy Page was twenty-eight* when he started Led Zeppelin. Page Hamilton was thirty when he formed Helmet. So I'll borrow something from their book, and see what I can get done at this point in my life. Speaking of pages, Lillian Jackson Braun returned to being a successful mystery writer at seventy-three. Sure, she published three novels in her fifties, but her life demonstrates as well as anyone's that the potential to break through in a new field is not firmly limited by age.

I still set my long term goals on the absurdly high scale. Yes, I would like to play $2,000/4,000 online and at the Bellagio. And be the best player at the table. And that's probably the most easily attainable of my major goals. But there's a difference between goals and expectations. Expectations must exist in a range. Just like poker, outcomes in life are governed by skill and chance. A given effort can produce a range of results. Anyone who thinks that will alone can effect an outcome is either delusional or a wizard. And as much as I want to believe in magic... I'll stick to setting my goals high, putting forth my best effort, and watching the chips fall where they may.

* It turns out Page was twenty-four when he started Led Zeppelin. My bad.

Villain's Lament

After a four year hiatus from playing music outside of my apartment, I've finally got a new group together. I use the word 'new' rather loosely, since this group includes both Logan (lead vocals) and Danny (drums) from my old band, Voice of a Secret. But Logan is strapping on a guitar this time, freeing me up to play much more lead guitar, which is my principle reason for existence as a musician. What really makes this a 'new' band, though, is the addition of two new members: Lauren (lead vocals and keys) and Jason (bass and vocals).

Throwing two more excellent musicians to the mix has filled out the sound to something I feel I've always had in my head, but never quite put together. I'm even singing some now, leaving us with four vocalists, two guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. The burden of mixing all of this falls to Danny, who's doubles as our in house producer. So far he's put two of our songs together in commendable fashion. You can listen to them here:


The Difference a Day Can Make

And just like that... it was gone.

"At first I didn't want to think too hard about it. Sometimes when you look too closely you can't see things clearly anymore."

Apparently I looked too closely.

Relaxed focus ---> the zone ---> optimal performance ---> excellent results ---> self-reflection ---> tense focus ---> not the zone.

It doesn't seem that self-reflection should be a negative, and I can't say that it caused me to become self-conscious. The truth is that I don't know why last night's session turned bad. That's not so say that I played horrible or lost a bunch of money. But I did become frustrated to the point where I cut short my work for the evening.


They say that practice makes perfect, and I'm inclined to agree. Not just any practice, but perfect practice. So what makes practice perfect?

For most of January I was in the zone. My attention was divided among many things: playing solid poker, improving my physical condition, recovering my musical abilities, and recording my rambling thoughts. But for each activity that I engaged in, my attention was focused completely on the task at hand. I carefully thought through my opponent's range for every hand of poker. I kept my mind present and active while I exercised at Taekwon-Do and yoga. And I really practiced guitar and bass. What do I mean by "really" practiced?

There was a time when I was rather good at playing guitar. I got that way by staying home "sick" from school and practicing eight hours a day. The quantity of practice was helpful, but more important was the quality. It was solitary and solemn. My fingers bled. I loved it.

For two weeks I practiced the first 13 seconds of the guitar solo in the outro of November Rain. I spent the following two weeks practicing the next 13 seconds. I had been playing guitar for only five months, but by the end of the sixth month I was a completely different player.

This January, when I set out to reclaim my musical skills, I did my best to replicate the mindset of my early guitar practice. I didn't practice eight hours a day; I do have to make a living. But when I did practice, I was focused on nothing but the practice itself. Perhaps this focus spilled over into my poker play. Or was it the other way around? Truth be told, I have no idea (and I don't really care).

The thing about the zone is that most people eventually fall out of it. If you don't, then it's no longer the zone, it's enlightenment. But that's another conversation entirely. Suffice it to say, I have not attained enlightenment. So naturally I fell out of the zone and felt lost and unfocused for about six weeks. But for the past week I've been flirting with the zone again.

At first I didn't want to think too hard about it. Sometimes when you look too closely you can't see things clearly anymore. But then I thought about what I had been doing differently of late. And the only thing that occurred to me was that I had been practicing guitar again. The way that I used to. And this time I'm pretty sure that's what rubbed off on my poker game, not the other way around. But I can't say for certain. After all, the season has changed, so maybe it's simply time to wake up a little.


I just finished writing my very first article, and this morning it was published in thearchjournal.com. It's the first in a series and serves as an overview of online poker legislation. You can find it here:


If you enjoy the article, please digg it here:


Below is an excerpt:

"Over a decade ago a good friend of mine started playing online poker. Despite being an avid poker player myself, I was highly skeptical. Was it safe? Wouldn't it be easy for players to cheat? Could you trust the shuffle? How would you get money on and off? Was it even legal? Lacking clear answers to these questions, I put off playing online for several years. Unfortunately, there are still no clear answers to some of these questions, and many who would enjoy online poker are staying away for precisely that reason...

...There are several bills which will soon be brought to Congress that may clear up the situation. 
Among others, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has pledged to introduce legislation to regulate online poker. Perhaps a decade from now we'll look back and wonder how the situation was ever so confused. I hope so. No one should fear they're wagering their liberty to exercise their freedom."


I got a fortune (cookie) tonight which read:

"Golden hours are coming to you."

To 99% of the folks receiving this fortune, it must seem like a generic omen of good luck. But to me it is special. Why? I'm glad you asked.

I've been writing and playing music again this year. Faith No More wrote a song whose lyrics consisted entirely of cookie fortunes. So will this fortune become part of a song? No. Because it is already the answer to a song which was authored and played in a basement on Rivington Street a decade ago. The song in question is called Long Run. The chorus asks:

"When does the long run kick in? When does the golden hour begin?"

As you can see, I took this as more of a name brand omen of good fortune. Sort of the Xerox of fortune cookies. So what sort of golden hours are we talking about? Does it mean that I've finally put together the band that I really want to be playing in and recording with? Does it mean that I'm finally going to get that absurd run of luck at the poker tables that evens out all of the bad beats I've incurred over my career? Does it mean all encompassing happiness through every aspect of my life?

Hell, I don't know. But combined with winter winding down (goodbye February), it sure made me smile.


So I've mentioned that I'm mildly manic-depressive. Not the clinical lithium taking kind (although Lithium is my favorite Nirvana song, and all I can remember of chemistry is that lithium burns hot pink). Rather, I'm the sort of manic-depressive which I suppose all artists are. Periods of creative productivity and unbearable optimism alternate with periods of apathetic ineptitude. Well, that's how it feels, anyway. The truth is rarely so dramatic.

February has long been my least favorite month of the year. I suppose I'm lucky, since it's also the shortest. January typically starts off with some renewed promise - not resolutions per se, but that's the gist. But by the time February is drawing to a close, enthusiasm wears thin and I become quite sick of the cold. It's like Tuesday. Most people hate Monday because they're returning to work, but I always hated Tuesday. The second day of drudgery is worse than the first.

Or maybe it's just because my father died on a Tuesday in February, exactly twenty-two years ago on a sunny day like today. But if I inherited my dark sense of humor from my mom, my unyielding optimism surely comes from my dad. Having a day to codify the darkness gives me a starting point to renew the light.

But light and dark sounds so trite. I'd rather think of life in terms of waves. In the ocean, waves can carry you out to sea or back to shore. In life you can surf the waves and make the most of both the ups and the downs. There will always be good days and bad days. But to learn something from the bad days and make the most out of the good days... well, that sort of makes them all good days.

No Fortune

I'm sitting at home sharing vegetarian Chinese takeout with my girlfriend. I've got some buckwheat noodles in spicy peanut sauce and veggie kung-pao. She's got some veggie chow fun. The food's good, but then we break open the fortune cookies. Hers says something about travelling for business and pleasure, which is amusing since we spent last night discussing travel plans. I open my cookie. No fortune.

I stare my empty cookie. She comes over and asks what my fortune is. "That's not a good sign," she says. Is it? Is this because I'm not watching the Super Bowl? I've become a conscientious objector in the wars of the gridiron. But I don't think that's it.

I prefer to regard my cookie as a koan. The future's unwritten. It's up to me to make my own fortune. Meaning is not something you look for but something you find. Or is it vice versa? Either way, I'll go finish my kung-pao now.

More Fun Than
Chucking Blueberries

Last night I played bass with a "band" for the first time since May of 2002. Outside of playing on a few recordings with my old band (for which I played guitar and never found a suitable bassist), I'd hardly touched the thing in seven years. It turns out that I'm still somewhat capable. Playing with two superb musicians certainly helped. It was also the first time I had played with my good friend Max since that last L.A. show in 2002.

The studio had the appearance of a run down wreck. A sign posted on peeling drywall spoke of renovations to bring the place from "your last resort to your first choice". No matter - the gear was actually quite good for a rehearsal studio. At one point Max was extolling the virtues of my Les Paul (he didn't have a guitar in NYC, so I brought mine), prompting Alan to ask, "Are you mad at it?" 

Anyway, Alan had not even heard the songs before. So Max took out his little internet/phone gadget and played the songs streaming live from his website. Pretty high tech. But the phone isn't too loud, so he held it up to a microphone and played it over the PA. Pretty low tech.

So what were we playing? Max has a new project, Max and the Marginalized where he writes a topical song every week and posts it up as a political blog entry on The Huffington Post. It's more of a band now, since he has two other guys in California that he plays and tours with. The songs have Max's typical tight arrangements and sharp lyrics along with his signature style of guitar abuse. We worked on three of those: Rope (a semi-straight up hardcore tune about the glorification of lynchings in the South), Free Evenings and Weekends (a jaunty tune about the complicity of phone companies in illegal wiretapping practices), and Hounds (I had never tried playing reggae before, but I can see why people like it).

So what were Alan and I doing there? We're sort of the East Coast ringers. If there's some shows over here and not a full tour for the West Coast band to come on, maybe we'll play those. It feels good to be playing music again, especially on great songs that have something to say. But more than anything it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Ending Prohibition

So it turns out that poker players are, in fact, lazier than pot heads. I wrote the following in my poker blog last week: 

"President-elect Obama is giving the American people an unprecedented opportunity to give input to our new government. His transition team website: change.gov has a special section where citizens can post issues of concern for anyone to vote on. As per the site: "The best rated ideas will rise to the top -- and be gathered into a Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in." 

To tell the President to explicitly legalize online poker, all you have to do is click this link: 


Vote Up, fill out the quick form, and leave a comment if you wish. That's all. You can even do it while you're playing 8 tables."

Similar messages were plastered across poker websites for the past week. After a strong start, the well worded suggestion to "Boost America's Economy with Legal Online Poker" finished in eleventh place. It had a net positive count of under 5,000 votes, about half of what first place "Ending Marijuana Prohibition" received. Now, it's possible that marijuana has a broader audience than online poker. But I choose to think that poker players are simply lazier than pot heads (not that the two are mutually exclusive).

Don't get me wrong. I've never smoked pot in my life, but I support ending marijuana prohibition. The government should not be telling us what to do in our own homes. Further, the hypocrisy of allowing alcohol and cigarettes but not pot mirrors the absurdity of allowing poker in casinos and on TV but not online.

So to marijuana law reformists, I'll say "good game" and best of luck. To all of my friends who took the time to vote I send a hearty thanks. Together we can make a difference. This wasn't the first time the incoming administration asked for input, and it won't be the last. So keep your eyes and ears open. I'll be here waving my arms and making all the noise I can.

Note: This post has been edited to reflect the closing of the polls.

Chucking Blueberries:
A Recipe For Fun

In what may quickly become a Sunday ritual, I spent this morning cooking up some blueberry vegan pancakes. I'm not sure what non-vegan ingredients one would desire in pancakes (besides regular milk), but I'm convinced they're thoroughly unnecessary. These pancakes are fluffy goodness and taste great with or without blueberries, raspberries, or whatever else you want to throw in there.

The following recipe feeds two:

Preheat your non-stick griddle (or greased up sticky old thing). In a mixing bowl, whisk together:

1¼ cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar (or substitute)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Then add:

½ cup water
1 cup soy milk (vanilla or plain)
2 tablespoons apple sauce

Stir it up and plop it on the griddle in whatever shape you fancy. Add the blueberries. Cook evenly on both sides and douse (or drown) in maple syrup.

It works a little better if you kind of chuck the blueberries down into the batter. It's all in the wrist. Perhaps you could just mix the blueberries up with everything in the first place, but I like to control how many blueberries are in each pancake. Besides, what's more fun on a Sunday morning than chucking blueberries?


I play poker for a living. I love being my own boss, setting my own hours, and doing something fun for a job. But at times it can be boring, terrifying, depressing, or just generally make you want to punch a metal door. With your face. So to avoid punching too many metal doors, it's imperative to cultivate a proper mindset to maintain throughout each session. Following the advice of Stoxpoker mental game coach Jared Tendler, I made a little warm up video to help me achieve this mindset.

The second slide of the video says:


  • Relaxed Focus
  • Honest
  • Fearless

Relaxed Focus: I call this Zen-lite. Literally it's about living in the moment. Operating at peak alertness and awareness, but not by straining. Introducing unwanted tension (mental or physical) saps your strength. This extra tension is wasted energy. Energy spent doing something which doesn't need doing. A lot of the emotions that arise at the poker table create tension, thus it can be useful to reduce the amount of emotion floating around. This isn't done by forcing them out of your head, but by observing them and allowing them to pass. This self-observation will help later in  removing the cause of  unwanted emotion, but that's a topic for a different day.

Honest: It may seem odd that I remind myself to be honest just before playing a game which hinges on bluffing and deception. My intention is not to be honest with my opponents. It's to be honest with myself. There are times at the poker table (as in life) where you know what you're supposed to do. But you talk yourself out of it. A poker example would be where you call down when you know that the odds aren't there, but you don't want to fold, so you convince yourself that your opponent may be bluffing. Your intellect and your instinct told you to do one thing, but you did another. Doubt? Fear? Perhaps. 

Fearless: The trick is to not give a shit. Yankee fans beware: I'm going to use the 2004 Red Sox as an example. These guys didn't care that they were down three games to none. They didn't care that they were facing the best closer of all time. It was simply see ball, hit ball, steal base, score run, win ballgame. That's the absence of fear of failure. The majority of competitors pay too much attention to the forest when they should be looking at the trees. 

Those same Red Sox can teach us more. In the first game of the World Series they made four errors and blew a five run lead. Manny Ramirez fell down. Twice. The whole team looked like a bunch of, well, idiots. But they didn't give a shit. They weren't worried about screwing up. They weren't looking at the fans covering their eyes. They were looking at the trees.

In poker it's easy to worry about what your opponents think of you. In fact, it's important to know how they perceive you since it affects how they play against you. But it's not important to impress them. And worrying about what they think about you can only get in your way. As long as you're not afraid to be honest with yourself, it's easy to consistently make good decisions. In poker and in life. So relax.

Being a Better Boss

For all of my adult life, I have taken on careers which require me to be my own boss. In fact, I have never had an actual "job". So I don't really have any idea of what a good boss looks like. And the trouble is, I'm not that bossy.

But I recently had a few realizations which are enabling me to become a better boss:
  • I'm mildly manic depressive
  • I'm more productive when I'm manic
  • I enjoy checking boxes more than I like crossing things out
Okay, so the first two I already knew and the last one sounds like no great revelation. But I'm using these three things together to get better at telling myself what to do. By saturating myself with creative activities, I'm getting myself stuck in a manic phase. While in this phase I am working to establish habits. The primary habit I'm establishing is a compulsion to check things off.

In the past I would make lists of items to cross off after they were completed. That never worked so well for me. So on New Year's Day I made a list with check boxes next to each item. By the end of the day I had checked everything off of the list. But instead of a post-it with a bunch of stuff crossed out, I had a post-it with a list of things which I had accomplished that day. The first list was really simple - I set myself up to succeed.

So where do we go now? Well, putting something on the list for enough consecutive days will develop a new habit. The whole system is a positive feedback cycle, where one day's activities fuel the next. It's like feeding an addiction, except instead of being addicted to Tetris and soy ice cream, I'm addicting myself to work, exercise and creation. So excuse me for a while as I go check this off my list and feed the cycle.

Introduce Yourself

Who am I?

I would label myself a "free-thinker". I'm not really into thinking outside the box. I'd rather leave the box out of the conversation. Ironically, I've just failed to do that.

Quick life story: I grew up in Hell's Kitchen, NYC. My first ambition was to be a cheese delivery man. This didn't pan out as I became a vegetarian at age 5 (pretty much when I found out that chicken came from chicken) and a vegan at age 20 (I'm not so good with moderation). For most of my childhood I wanted to be a professional baseball player. That dream was waylaid by the lure of technology.  My computer programming career was cut short at age 14 by the difficulty in generating truly random numbers on a machine - more irony to follow.

Now I use computers to make my living playing something which ESPN alleges to be a sport (that would be poker, which requires random numbers). I also play music (guitar and bass mostly) and practice martial arts a little bit. Okay, I don't do anything a little bit - I think I mentioned the thing about moderation. In fact, Taekwon-Do is the only thing which drags me out of my cave on a regular basis. Actually, I live in a Manhattan apartment.

I'd like to travel a lot in the next few years, find a way to prosper in these bleak times, and maybe even make a small dent in the huge problems our world faces. Okay, so I can't settle for a small dent (again, not so much with the moderation). But I've found that when you aim to hit something as hard as you can, something usually gives.

I left out the bit about wanting to be a writer when I was thirteen. I suppose that's the reason for this blog. But what I am I going to write about? Your guess is as good as mine. After all, when a Zen Madman sets along a Rambling Path, he doesn't know where he's going unless he's lost.