Don't Listen To Phil Hellmuth

That’s the name of the book I just finished writing with Dusty “leatherass” Schmidt. I finished my final edits yesterday, and in a marvel of modern technology and book design, you can already purchase and download the e-book at The hard copy ships January 2nd. That’s fast.

Don’t Listen To Phil Hellmuth took over four months to write, rewrite and revise. It felt like a long time because I expected the book to take just two months, and the delay pushed back my Supernova Elite chase to the point of extinction. Looking at the process, though, four months is an extremely short time frame for a project like this. After all, Dusty had to teach me the finer points of No Limit Holdem, then I had to put them into writing, and then we had to refine and reinforce the material to the point where it can teach you the finer points of No Limit Holdem. Learning something to the point of being able to teach it is an intense process.

When Dusty asked me to work with him on this project, I said yes for three reasons. First of all, there’s the money. I’ve never been overly motivated by the greenbacks, but the prospect of making good money as a writer appeals to me. Dusty’s first book Treat Your Poker Like A Business has sold very well, so I figure this book is a good bet to sell at least as well, maybe better since it’s bigger and jam-packed with strategy advice.

The second thing that appealed to me about writing this book was the chance to develop a bigger name as a writer. Ten years from now, I think I’d rather be writing than playing poker, although I imagine I’ll still be doing both. Having the opportunity to hone my craft, put my name on a book that will end up in a lot of hands, and get paid for it, was not something I could pass up.

Finally, there was the chance to work with Dusty Schmidt. He’s a polarizing figure in the poker world and possibly the biggest online winner outside of the nosebleeds. I admired his work ethic and assumed he must be doing something right strategically to be making all that money. So I thought talking to him for a hundred hours or so might be fun and would certainly be educational.

Well, we’ll see how motivations #1 and #2 pan out, but I have to say the book’s already worth it for me on account of #3. Not only is Dusty a thoroughly good dude, he possesses a keen mind for poker strategy and an ability to articulate the logic behind all of his plays. He never says, “Well, I usually do this here because I feel like it’s the best play.” Or, “I like a bet here.” Or to borrow a line from the book, “I led out here to find out where I stood.” He always has a well-defined reason for each play, and I think you’ll see that in our book. The second part of the book, “25 Hands With Dusty,” showcases this particularly well.

We had a hell of a lot of fun writing this book, and we hope you have a lot of fun reading it.

Reflections On 100,000 Hands In 10 Days

Well that was brutal. From November 19th through November 28th, I played 100,000 hands in 10 days. I only played about 13 hours each day, but the last one turned into a 28-hour, 25000-hand marathon. That's just too much poker.

My total profit for the ten days was about $5400, which is a not-so-unpleasant disappointment. That's a little over $40/hour, which is what I was making two and a half years ago by playing three tables of $3/$6. I value my time more highly than that now.

(If I had gone on to reach Supernova Elite this year, then the VPPs I earned would have been worth at least another $3900, bringing my hourly wage for this grind to a little over $70.)

Was it worth it? That’s a good question and I’ll try to give a good answer. To be brief, yes and no.

Examined from a monetary standpoint, I might have made three times as much by playing fewer hands, focusing on my opponents, sitting at softer tables, and eliminating time outs and misclicks. So there was unquestionably a more profitable use of my time. But I don't measure life in dollars. I don't even always measure poker in dollars.

So what's the silver lining we always hear so much about? Call it a cheap education and a journey of self discovery.

For one thing, I now know that I am capable of absolutely insane grinding. I already suspected as much, or I wouldn’t have made the prop bet. But you don’t really know you can do something until you’ve actually done it. And now I know that if I ever absolutely have to, I can lock myself up for 10 days and grind out however many hours and hands I may need.

Secondly, I’ve now concluded that insane multi-tabling is not the best way for me to make money. This is useful knowledge. The whole reason I started increasing tables and volume at the beginning of this year was to make more money. After all, making money is the reason a professional poker player plays poker professionally, right? Well, sort of.

While money is a primary motivation (and unfortunately still necessary at this point in my life), I also value the intellectual and psychological challenges of the game. Until someone literally finds a complete game theory optimal solution to Limit Holdem and everyone else starts applying this solution, there will always be more work I can do to improve, and there will always be new and changing opponents to adapt to. There are guys who were awful 6 months ago who are pretty good now. There’s been a rash of turn check/raises with middle pair (someone must’ve made a video about this). There’s always something.

Don’t get me wrong – I notice these things while I’m playing 14 tables of $5/$10 and $10/$20. I’m not flying on autopilot through a fog. But in trying to grind out a half million hands this year (and write two books, make like a hundred videos, play the WSOP, etc.), I forgot to leave time to study the nuances. I just filled in all of those blank hours on my calendar with more grinding. Blank hours when I should have been improving and moving up.

Does that mean this crazy grinding is not right for anyone? I don’t know. It may be the most comfortable way for some people to make money. And that’s fine. It’s possible to grind out Supernova Elite in about 1000 hours by playing six to ten tables. That’s not a rough life. I have a bit more ambition than that, though, and feel the need to indulge my ambitions. I always have. I don’t think that makes me better than anyone who just grinds like this all year. It just makes me me. And knowing that is its own reward.

100k Hands In 10 Days

My 100 Day of the Zen Madman has gotten both madder and less Zen. The book took a lot longer than I expected, and that pretty much torched my plans for balance. But I think it turned out fantastic. You can judge for yourselves - the book is called Don't Listen To Phil Hellmuth and is now available here:

As I was literally wrapping up my final edits on the book as I began my latest challenge - to play 100,000 hands of mid-stakes Limit Holdem over a 10 day span. I'm about 15k hands in so far, halfway through Day 2. Due to popular request, I recorded this video blog while 10-tabling:


Zen Madman Day 20 of 100

One week without an update. Things have been slow. Here's a running (behind schedule) tally of the first 20 days:
  • 39,000 VPPs
  • 6 Taekwon-Do classes
  • 5 music practices
  • 14 blogs
  • 17 poker videos
  • 1 party

Zen Madman Day 12 of 100

Today was both exhausting and unproductive. I'm spending too much time dealing with peripheral matters and not enough time accomplishing my primary objectives.
  • 1 Taekwon-Do class
  • 1 music practice
  • ???

Zen Madman Day 11 of 100

Draft one of the book is finally finished! Did some revisions on the new chapters, sent them off, then went out to dinner for the first time in weeks. Came home, played a couple hours of poker and made a few videos. This is going to be a busy week.
  • 1,100 VPPs
  • 3 videos
  • 1 blog

Zen Madman Day 10 of 100

It stopped raining, and I've stopped writing. Well, I'm finished with draft one, anyway. Now I finally get to start grinding some poker.
  • 9 chapters

Zen Madman Day 7 of 100

I woke up grumpy and unshaven. I'm going to sleep cleaner and happier. Today started off rough, but picked up. Tomorrow will be a long day.

  • 1,000 VPPs
  • 2 videos
  • 1 chapter
  • 1 Taekwon-Do class
  • 1 music practice
  • 1 blog

Another mediocre day. I wanted to write 10 chapters today, but managed to finish only 3. Is it possible that I've overwhelmed myself with too much stuff to do?

  • 3 chapters
  • 2 poker videos
  • 1 blog

Zen Madman Day 5 of 100

It rained. I'm not sure that helped me get stuff done, but it was soothing in its own way. I quickly learned the drawback of having window screens to let in the breeze. This flooding was nothing like the dishwasher fiasco, though.

Not too much poker. Lots of poker videos:

  • 1,000 VPPs
  • 3 poker videos
  • 1 Taekwon-Do class
  • 1 music practice
  • 1 blog

Hand of the Week 6

Zen Madman Day 4 of 100

Day 4 was less than ideal. I let myself get distracted by black cards, poker championships (which I didn't play), and nuclear kittens. I had a lot planned for the day, but made some serious scheduling adjustments. I'd like to say I relaxed a bit and that I'm now prepared for a hard week, but the feeling only lasted until I woke up this morning. It's raining, which contributes atmosphere but not energy.

  • 2,000 VPPs
  • 1 video (The Sixth Star Volume V)

Zen Madman Day 3 of 100

I can't say things are getting any easier so far. A little quality sleep would be more than welcome. I managed to pick up the pace on the poker at least, largely by nine tabling. I also decided to spend 24 hours at some point writing a short mystery novel.

  • 7,100 VPPs
  • 2 videos
  • 1 blog

Zen Madman Day 2 of 100

I was physically exhausted all day, so I took two quick naps, Da Vinci style. My focus was been mediocre at best, but my spirits are high. I'll need to keep that fire to grind through the tough days like today. In other news I made a runner-runner royal flush. Very exciting.

I wanted to go to my friend and singer's third degree test, but after an awful night of sleep, there was no way to do it without falling way behind pace. I can't afford that this early in the game. I need a solid first week to keep myself motivated for the rest of the challenge.

  • 6,000 VPPs
  • 2 chapters
  • 2 videos
  • 1 blog

Zen Madman Day 1 of 100

I woke up exhausted today. Within an hour I was on the creative high of pounding out a couple chapters. I got a sorely needed haircut, played some bass and guitar, got a little free fighting in, ran a mile, then came home for round 2 of poker. I only had 2 hours scheduled, so that was no problem. After grinding out a couple more chapters for the book, my brain feels like mush. Hopefully I'll sleep through the night.

  • 2,100 VPPs
  • 4 chapters
  • 1 music practice
  • 1 Taekwon-Do class
  • 1 blog
Somehow it looks so paltry to me when I write it out, but it felt like a long day. Just 99 bottles of Buddha on the wall...hmm...should I have gone with luftballons?

Zen Madman Day 0 of 100

I began my 100 Days of the Zen Madman at the stroke of midnight. More like the click of midnight since everything's digital these days. I'm only five hours into my madness, and I'm already tired as hell. That's because I'm out of shape, out of practice, and thoroughly unprepared for what lies ahead. Rather, I'm mentally and physically unprepared. I'm emotionally committed, though, so I expect the body and mind will fall in line. Time for sleep.

Progress so far:
1790 VPPs (296,223 total)
1 video produced
1 chapter written
1 blog

Hand of the Week 5

100 Days of the Zen Madman

700,000 VPPs on PokerStars
100 Blogs (written or video)
35 Taekwon-Do classes (taken or taught)
35 Music practices (with band or solitary)
20 Poker videos (full length or short form)
4 Songs recorded (in a pro studio)
3 Parties attended (gotta have some fun)
2 Shows played (electric or acoustic)
1 Book published (with a co-author)

The hardest thing about extreme grinding is maintaining a balanced life. I began 2010 year with the goal of getting Supernova Elite in 6 months, but got sidetracked by other interests. Now it's September and I've only got about 300k VPPs, so I need to grind 700k more in 100 days to reach Supernova Elite this year (that's the pace for 2.55 million VPP/year).

I'm giving myself this challenge to prove that I can accomplish this without giving up on artistic expression, literary accomplishment, poker coaching, exercise, or even fun. My notion of a "balanced life" may sound unbalanced, but I can only stay sane when I let myself get a bit crazy.

The Professional

When you want something done right, they say you should do it yourself. I prefer to find someone who takes pride in their work. A professional. A true professional.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that my move has been less than smooth. I won’t re-list the problems with this place, but I will say that I was losing sleep over a number of them, particularly the menagerie of malfunctioning doors. Long story short, they’ve all been fixed.

Short story long, I met a member of the DragTheBar Limit Holdem squad a couple weeks ago at a party. In response to my complaints about this new apartment, he mentioned that he was a carpenter and a locksmith. I offered him the job of fixing the place. While he wouldn’t take my money, he did accept my offer of poker coaching in exchange for repairs. So I’ll be teaching him to take other peoples’ money instead.

After sitting here for three weeks watching the original contractor get nothing done, I needed to find a professional. I did. In nine hours, he fixed everything but the plumbing. My Taekwon-Do student (the master plumber) came back to fix that. Now everything in the apartment works, and I’m ready to begin my psychotic 100-day challenge on Thursday.

People ask poker coaches why they coach. The good ones do it because they love teaching. That’s true for all types of teachers. One of the most gratifying things about teaching is the favors students will do for you. It’s not gratifying just because it helps get things done (which is awesome). The gratification comes from knowing that your students are doing these things from their heart, because they appreciate the time you’ve taken to share your knowledge with them. And that’s really what it’s about on both sides. Taking the time to help someone else.

So thanks to my guys for taking the time to help me out. It’s made a world of difference.

When It Leaks, It Floods

If when it rains, it pours, then when it leaks, it floods. I have neither slept more than an hour nor eaten more than a snack since 11 AM yesterday morning. That's 41 hours of less than perfect existence. At least I received my weekly affirmation that I'm a little bit clutch.

Today's high jinks began at 9 in the morning when my friend and former student came by to repair the plumbing mess left by the guy who's been "fixing" the house. My guy is a master plumber, which means he knows his shit (the other guy, not so much). He replaced the valves on all of the heaters, repaired the leaky toilet downstairs (which had hot water melting the wax sealing it to the floor), and replaced the pipe beneath our clogged sink. He also shut off the gas and electricity which had been carelessly left on in the boiler in the basement. That's the thing that could've blown up.

The only thing he didn't repair was the pipe leading to and from the dishwasher. He asked if it was leaking, we said no (it wasn't), and he said it would probably be fine. Turns out it wasn't fine. I don't blame him for that. He already did us a huge favor by coming to fix everything two days before his knee surgery. He asked if the pipe was leaking, we said no, and that was that.

The guy I blame is the one who's been doing shoddy work throughout the house, and the guy who left the gas and electricity going to the boiler, ambivalent to whether or not we got blown up. (When confronted about this, he gave some bullshit excuse and acted snotty.)

Long story short (too late), we ran the dishwasher twice today. The first time we watched it like hawks and it ran smoothly. The second time, I sat in my office while the pipe broke about and blew water all over the kitchen, into the bedroom, bathroom and living room (and the shower downstairs). Once alerted to the disaster, however, I ran to the sink and grabbed the knob next to the spraying water. I turned it counter clockwise and it sprayed my face more forcefully. I turned it clockwise and the geyser subsided. Fortunately, we'd recently purchased two 12 packs of paper towels. We need to get a new one tomorrow.

Two hours and one blog later, the floor is dry and I'm exhausted. I hope this blog isn't incoherent, because I feel a bit delirious. I always look for the bright side in things, but right now the best I can come up with is humor. My life has become Grade-A slapstick. And hey, I still haven't gotten blown up yet.

I Didn't Get Blown Up

I didn’t get blown up. That’s the best thing I can say about the past three weeks.

Two days after moving in to my new apartment, I commented on a building bearing the plaque “Dadi’s House.” A neighbor related to me the sad tale of Dadi’s wife, who had smelled a gas leak, called 911, and gotten blown up, along with her child and two cops. The children in the neighborhood fashioned a plaque made of multi-colored tiles to rechristen the widower’s home.

I spent the first two weeks in my new apartment struggling to grind out chapters for the book I’m writing with Dusty. The struggle came not so much from the traditional writer’s block (although that was an element), but rather from the insane distractions coming from my mess of a new home. Renovations were supposed to be completed one month before we moved in, but here we are, no end in sight. A short list of what’s been wrong with the place:

  • Recently installed mailbox sucks
  • Front door doesn’t lock properly
  • Office door doesn’t fit the frame (drags on the floor, gap at the top – not quite the sound booth I was aiming for)
  • Bathroom door creaks on its hinges
  • Bedroom door handle falls off
  • Light fixtures not affixed
  • Mice
  • Insects
  • Paint all over the floors
  • Fuse box painted shut
  • Thermostat painted over
  • Poorly installed kitchen cabinets
  • Poorly installed microwave
  • No hot water upstairs
  • Hot water in the toilet downstairs (this melts the wax seal at the base of the toilet, causing water to leak all over the bathroom)
  • Kitchen sink won’t drain, except into the dishwasher, which leaks all over kitchen floor
  • Leaky water heaters with broken valves (covered in paint)
  • Broken water boiler valve sealed by a sock wedged in with a screwdriver
  • Broken water boiler in the basement, which was left empty of water, but with the gas and electricity on (this could have blown up at any minute, but it’s “fixed” now)

I called my former Taekwon-Do student, who’s a master plumber, so the water issues are getting straightened out. And I didn’t fall down the half-installed stairs (even when I was told they were fully installed). And I didn’t really need to go out last night, so who cares that the stairs got lacquered while I was upstairs eating dinner. Who cares that I couldn’t come home the other night because the stairs had been painted?

I didn’t get blown up, so I guess I’m running pretty good.

Hand of the Week 4

Shameless Self-Promotion

I don't know how long this offer will be available, but right now you can get my book, Way of the Poker Warrior, for free when you sign up for three months of poker training at DragTheBar. To make things better, they'll throw in a fourth month at DragTheBar for free. This has to be the best deal in poker training right now. My book is written to help you get the most value out of every training resource you use, and DragTheBar is the highest caliber of training resource available. It's a perfect combo.

Way of the Poker Warrior is all about applying things I learned from the martial arts to my poker development, so I'll give you a shameless self-promotion parallel in this blog. When I was first running my Taekwon-Do school, I was very awkward at sales. I had a hard time pitching the service I was offering and a harder time asking for money. I had confidence in my product, but somehow I felt it was impolite to push someone into a sale.

My outlook on sales changed when I realized one simple fact. Practicing Taekwon-Do made my life better. Wouldn't it stand to reason that it could improve others' lives as well? In fact, I had seen it change many of my friends' lives, sometimes in subtle ways, and sometimes in massive ways. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn't just going for a sale, but that I was trying to change someone's life for the better. I was never much of a capitalist, but this was something I could get behind.

In a rapid decanting, but I poured my heart and soul into Way of the Poker Warrior, and I believe it can improve anyone's life (not just poker players). I've gotten enough feedback from readers now to know it's not just my ego saying that I wrote a book that I'm proud of. It's not just the writing that I'm proud of though. It's being part of the continuity of education. The lessons that I teach in my book are not fabricated out of thin air. They're things that I learned from my teachers, from my friends, and from my life. All I've done is synthesize that wisdom into a series of easily digestible chapters. And that's a product I can sell, because I believe in it, and I believe it can help you.

So there's my shameless self-promotion.

Moving Sucks. Free Books Are Good.

I've spent the last 10 days moving from a studio apartment into a second floor two bedroom. It sounded like a great idea at the time, and I'm sure I'll enjoy having both a bedroom and an office, but right now it feels like a 500 big bet downswing. Complaining about everything that's gone wrong would be about as entertaining as describing every bad beat that occurs in a 500 big bet downer, so I'll spare you the gory details. Instead, I'll let you in on a way you can get my book, Way of the Poker Warrior, for free. It's late, so I'll be brief: Click Here.

Review by Instructor Ray Mannion

I'd like to thank my Taekwon-Do colleague, Instructor Ray Mannion for writing an excellent review of Way of the Poker Warrior on his website Aside from being a great instructor, practitioner, and writer himself, Ray can do backflips! I have a good number of talents, but that's something I never had the guts to learn. Read the review here.

Hand of the Week 1

This one took over 12 months from inception to execution, but I'm happy to finally give you Hand of the Week 1. This is the first installment in a series of free poker videos. Each week I'll pick one interesting hand and give it a thorough analysis. If you'd like to see me do even more in-depth analysis, check out my Hand of the Day series on DragTheBar.

Paperback Writer

I received a package slip from UPS two days ago. "Could it be my book?" I wondered. As I hustled downstairs, I employed a tilt-avoidance technique described in Way of the Poker Warrior. (I developed it for poker and martial arts to prepare for the full range of possibilities, but it's just as effective for avoiding wrong-package tilt.) There was a decent chance that this was not my book. In fact, I had three separate packages, and not one of them was my book.

It was six weeks ago that Way of the Poker Warrior was officially published, but the hard copies were not printed until last Wednesday. The ebooks went out immediately, but there were delays at the printing house. Still, in the publishing business, 4 months from inception to production is outstanding. I can't complain. Today I can finally hold one in my hands.

If you ordered the printed version, I hope you have your own copy by now. I apologize for the delay, and if you send an email to, we'll more than make up for it.

So I've got a stack of 20 books ready to be distributed among my friends, family, and teachers. All I have left to do is figure out which page I'm supposed to sign, what pen to use, and what to say. There was a Seinfeld episode about this.

Nothing makes you feel like a writer so much as holding a book with your name on the cover. And now I feel like a writer.

Insomnia and Projection

Throughout my life, I've suffered from various forms of insomnia. When I was young, I had nightmares of witches flying through my bedroom window. More recently, my dreams tend to focus on alien invasions and zombie-mashing. I've always felt like sleeping was a massive waste of time. There's so much to do! Sure, when I'm depressed, I can sleep all day. But when I hit my manic phases, I can't sleep a wink. It's just go-go-go.

My father used to help me with peaceful visualizations. I would play along and pretend to fall asleep, because I knew how hard he was trying. Sometimes I'd actually trick myself into slumber. But most of the time I'd just lie there and picture cozy trees on a hill.

A few years ago, I found a magic sleeping tonic: The Golden Girls. Yes, I own all seven seasons. Technically, my girlfriend owns them, since I got them for her as a Christmas gift. But if we broke up, I'd have to buy my own set. Put them on and I drift right off. I can't sleep without my Golden Girls.

Last night as I went to bed, I had Frasier on instead. Of course, this prevented me from becoming unconscious. But along with a recent forum post I read, this show about shrinks reminded me of a very common poker error: projection.

Projection is a term for perceiving your own thoughts and feelings in another person, instead of recognizing their true home: you. In poker, a sort of projection can be a useful way to read hands. If your opponent plays like you, simply put yourself in their shoes, and you'll know how they'll play different hands. But not all opponents play like you. And when your opponent's style and thought process differs from yours, projection is a dangerous thing. You need to think how your opponent is likely to play their hand, not how you would play it. In fact, you're never going to make any money off of someone who plays all of their hands exactly the way you would.

I'm not too worried about projection myself, as I tend to assume that most people don't think quite the way I do. I am worried about insomnia, though. In fact, I'm going back to my Golden Girls tonight to see if I can catch some shut-eye.


Lately I've been dragging the bar a lot, working on my No Limit game in conjunction with writing a strategy book with Dusty Schmidt. It's been fun, educational, and a little bit frustrating. While my NL game is improving by leaps and bounds, I'm still weak at the actual mechanics of bet sizing. For instance, I recently bet $51 into a $30 pot when I meant to bet $15. I tried the slider bar and wound up with some similarly oversized (but less dyslexic) bets. I've also timed out more than once while trying to get a raise exactly right. I know these issues will go away with a little practice, but sometimes a man just wants to click the button.

It was less than six months ago that I recorded the first Limit Holdem video at DragTheBar. You can tell by the name that DTB wasn't conceived with limit poker in mind. Nonetheless, we've already got over 50 videos, 3 coaches, and a great community in the forums. Not bad for less than half a year's work.

As we move into the second half of our first year, I'm particularly excited to have a well-rounded coaching staff. The addition of Dustin "La Peste" Cook provides a great perspective into beating smaller-stakes Limit Holdem for a living. One of my pet peeves is higher limit players making sweeping generalizations about how the lower limits play, when they haven't played those limits in years. Games change over time, so having a coach that's currently beating up on those games is a huge asset.

Also debuting this month is Emil "darkhorse" Jonsson's series on Game Theory. I highly recommend this series not only to Limit Holdem players, but players of all poker variants. His presentation of the material is the best I've seen. It also provides a great counterbalance to my more typically exploitative style.

I'll be wrapping up The Sixth Star, Buddha's Dojang, and The Sauna before the year is done. I've also got a few dual commentary videos/series up my sleeve that may debut in the next couple months as well. My video plans for 2011 include some much more advanced material along with some absolut beginner material. (No, that's not a typo.)

I've got a lot of book left to write, but I'm still gunning for Supernova Elite this year. I'm pretty far behind, so look for some crazy grinding/prop bet action down the stretch.

When Opportunity Knocks This Hard, I'll Answer The Door In My Underwear

It's no secret to anyone that knows me that I have a tendency to overextend myself. For instance, my plans for August included:
  • Promoting my book Way of the Poker Warrior
  • Making about a dozen videos for DragTheBar
  • Catching up on my Supernova Elite grind
  • Moving into a bigger apartment
  • Recording a single with Villain's Lament
  • Starting a record company
  • Doing some light writing for my next book
That's a fairly ambitious list and fails to include stuff like forum posting, martial arts practice, band practice, and having fun. Throw those things in and my schedule's looking pretty full.

Despite all of these commitments and plans, when I got a call from Dusty Schmidt asking if I wanted to work with him on his new book, my decision was a snap call.

I can't divulge the details of the project, but it's going to be a strategy book for No Limit Holdem. Dusty supplies the expertise, and I drop it on the page as eloquently as I can, throwing in a student's perspective and maybe some combo analysis here and there.

Penning a book with such an illustrious co-author is obviously huge for my writing career. I mean, who's not going to buy a strategy guide written by a guy who's crushed the everliving hell out of mid and high stakes No Limit for four years? It's also huge for my poker career.

In my quest to become a more well-rounded poker player (and someday to play $4k/$8k in Bobby's Room), I've been working hard on my No Limit game. The best part of working on this book is that I get to talk NL strategy for two or three hours a day with a world class player. I feel like I've learned more about big bet poker in the last three days than I had in the previous three years. And if I'm learning, that means the reader will, too. I guarantee that this book will make you rethink some things that you previously took for granted.

Don't worry, though. Limit Holdem will always be my home. Sauna 10 has just been posted on DragTheBar, and Sauna 11 is recorded and on its way. Sixth Star IV and Buddha's Dojang V are on their way as well, along with some super exciting news that I can't tell you all about yet.

Stay tuned!

There's No Place (Quite) Like Home

It's 92 degrees and humid in New York today, but it feels like a fucking picnic. They call the desert a dry heat, but I'll take this weather over 110 degrees in Vegas any day. That kind of weather makes me feel like my skin is cracking. Like I'll turn to ash like a vampire in the sun. Here, the summer breeze is actually cool.

Aside from the weather, I feel at home in Sin City. The Strip feels like one giant Times Square. It's big, loud, and not the most polite place in the world. And it smells bad, too. Like New York, the city comes to life at night. The familiar energy of people scuttling to and fro, going somewhere they just need to be. But where it has glitz and glamor, it lacks substance. It feels like nothing of consequence happens out there. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but does anyone really care? I don't.

Back to real life. Back to my city.

I've got a laundry list of things to do today (and a lot of laundry, too!):
[ ] Redistribute part of my $21k to my WSOP backers
[ ] Catch up on email and PMs
[ ] Practice guitar in my new rehearsal space
[ ] Record DTB video
[ ] Get back to the grind
[ ] Eat a falafel
[x] Write blog

Vegas Vagabond

I'm sick of Vegas. It's time to go home. Unfortunately, I'm checking out at 11 AM this morning, but my flight's not until 6 AM. So I'll be wandering around Vegas for the better part of 18 hours, sweating and sniffling. (I've managed to get genuinely sick for the first time this year.)

I'll be home late on Sunday, and should be fully functional on Monday. I'll be busy right off the bat - grinding, coaching, making videos, posting in the forums, shipping profits to my WSOP investors, and responding to emails and PMs. So if you're waiting on something from me, it'll happen Monday.

Right now I'm going to get the best night of sleep I can to prepare myself for one last long day in the desert.

Superstition, Synchronicity and Serendipity

Yesterday was July 13th, 2010. That's the day I busted out of the World Series of Poker main event. It's also the day I cashed in my very first main event, good for $21,327. Not bad for a guy who hated tournaments and hasn't played No Limit for a living since 2007.

The turning point of my WSOP came midway through Day 4. I had almost 190k chips when a dude dressed in a white cowboy suit covered with green shamrocks came to the rail.

"Rub the clover for luck!" his wife suggested.

"They ain't clovers, they shamrocks," he retorted.

"No thanks, I've got my Buddha right here," I said as I lifted my little Buddha card protector. "Today's backwards St. Patty's Day, anyway." I muttered something about the luck of the Irish, world history, and irony before I looked down to see two black aces. I raised and got one caller, yielding a stack-to-pot ratio of about thirteen.

Thirteen. The number holds special meaning to a lot of people. Triskaidekaphobia in this country is so strong that I haven't seen a Vegas hotel with a thirteenth floor. When we're talking about stack-to-pot ratios in No Limit Holdem, aces can be said to have triskaidekaphobia. I lost about 71k chips on the hand and wound up playing defense for the rest of the tournament. Luck of the Irish.

July 13th was also my aunt's birthday. I say "was" because she died of throat cancer on my friend's 21st birthday in 1999. She may win the award for nicest person I've known in my entire life. Unfortunately, she's not the only family I've lost to cancer, including my father, my uncle, and a bunch of cats.

This year the WSOP has an official charity,, and suggests donating 1% of our winnings to the fight against cancer. I was sporting the green 1% patch all tournament and gave 1% of my winnings, which only amounts to a couple hundred dollars. But if everyone donates 1%, that will amount to over $680k from the main event alone.

Coincidence and synchronicity often exist where you look for them, but yesterday, it felt like they were looking for me.

Why People Hate Live Poker

I've survived Day 3 of the WSOP main event with 108,400 chips. I reached precisely zero showdowns, so you could say that my cards didn't matter at all. I ran sort of well. In eight hours of poker, I had aces, kings and queens at least twice each. I flopped kings full, an ace high flush, and a set of deuces. Unfortunately, I got no action on any of those hands. But I didn't get called the times I was squeezing with air, either.

Several times I saw my opponents reach for their chips as they contemplated playing back at my 3-bets, but each time they folded. I'm beginning to think I have an intimidating table image, even without a huge stack. My confidence has increased each day. I think a year from now I could be pretty good at this live tournament business. Maybe I'll play all of the $10k events next year - Limit Holdem, No Limit, Pot Limit Omaha, Deuce to Seven, HORSE, etc. We'll see.

Anyway, today started off in unpleasant fashion. The first guy to my left was a real nice guy with a real short stack. He played tight until he accidentally got it in with KQ after losing track of the action. Bummer. He was replaced by my least pleasant opponent of the tournament. Double bummer.

Despite the fact that we're all fighting for a piece of a rather large pie of money ($68 million), everyone else has been polite, sportsmanlike, and of generally good cheer. Not this guy. From the moment he sat down to the moment he left the table, I could tell he was "one of those guys."

Our table was full and I was correctly positioned at the table, but he asked me to move over to give him some space. He was in the 9-seat next to the dealer, which is an uncomfortable spot. I was in the 8-seat on his right. He had a bag of foul smelling food, so I tried to oblige, but there really wasn't that much room.

With antes of two black chips (200), he kept asking me for change, despite the fact that he had two stacks of them. This is inconsiderate and slows the game down. The chips, the smell, and the cantankerousness were on the slightly irritating side, but it comes with the territory. I just tried to ignore him and engage some of the other players in more pleasant conversation. Then it happened.

I folded my hand under the gun, and our friend folded his hand next. Two players later, a colorblind offensive lineman tried to open limp the cutoff. We want to encourage this behavior. The blinds were 600 and 1200, and he put a 1000 and two 500 chips in the pot. "Oops," he said as he reached for one of the 500 chips. The dealer pushed it back to him, making this a call.

The button folded, then the small blind asked, "Is that a call?" That's when our buddy to my left chimed in.

"It's a raise! It's more than half the bet. It has to be a raise!"

First of all, it's none of this guy's business whether the cutoff limps or raises. He's already folded. Second of all, it was clearly a mistake. The button didn't care. The small blind didn't care. The big blind didn't care. They're the only guys who should get an opinion. But this guy had the dealer call the floor, who declared the play a min-raise.

As we returned from the second break (but before he returned), I asked "Would somebody bust this guy?" This is pretty out of character for me, but I don't have a lot of tolerance for a single person ruining the vibe of a whole table. He busted soon after and was replaced by a pleasant Aussie (who unfortunately played better than the curmudgeon).

There were two other incidents that I was going to mention, but I'm pretty tired, so I'll save them for another time, but they involve a couple of live poker faux pas. One is an "I want to see that hand" abuse, and the other is a "You're good" at showdown miscall.

Enough of that. I'm excited to make it to Day 4. I certainly didn't expect to get this deep. In fact, I'm supposed to be on a plane at 2 PM, so I have to go rebook that now. Best of luck to Jeremy and David. I met both of them at the DragTheBar gathering, and I hope to meet them again down the line in this tournament. Not too soon, though, as they're both tourney pros and I'm just a humble Limit Holdem coach.

New Friends

I had lunch today with acclaimed poker author and vegas vegan, Ed Miller. He was kind enough to bring me a box of Ronald's (vegan) Donuts and give me a ride to Whole Foods, where I restocked on coconut water and bananas (among a bevy of other items). It's always nice meeting someone that you have a lot in common with, and as a new author, it was great to pick the brain of one of the best poker authors out there. It doesn't hurt that Ed's a super nice guy, either.

After a late afternoon nap, I hailed a cab over to the Palms for the PokerStars party. I'm sure an open bar, Go-Go dancers, and Snoop Dogg appeal to a lot of people, but to be honest, I was pretty bored for the first hour after I entered the club. I had more fun waiting on line chatting with a couple strangers. Both are still in the main event, and one of them turned out to be friends with the next DragTheBar coach. (I can't tell you who it will be, but he sounds like an awesome addition.)

Things picked up once I met up with two of my Limit Holdem buddies, Jesse "Thor" Haabak and Jake Abdalla. Last year they finished 26th and 72nd, respectively, so they gave me a little WSOP pep talk. They're both cool and pretty laid back, and probably had a lot more fun tonight than I did. I wish I could have hung out longer, but I've got a lot of poker to play tomorrow. It's great to have an insider's view into how the main event plays as the bubble approaches, but first I have to make it through Day 3. Today wasn't all that restful, but it was fun and social, and if tomorrow turns out to be the same, it will be a good day.

Ready To Rumble

Day 2 of the WSOP began with a colorful introduction from Bruce Buffer, voice of the UFC. I had 42,700 chips when he said "Shuffle up and deal!" I ended the day with 96,100. That's a good day, and leaves me with an average (mean) stack size. I should be well above the median.

My table was very pleasant. There were no absolutely terrible players, but my opponents were straightforward. Many of them were short stacked, so I was able to push them around a bit. I also had the pleasure of flopping a few hands. I had a good feel for the table and played with more confidence than I did on Day 1. The overall mood was very good, too. People were friendly and we had fun. In 8 hours of poker, we only saw two eliminations.

I was well prepared with 4 bottles of water, 2 bottles of coconut water, goji berry trail mix, candied pecans, 3 types of Clif bars, and a banana. Nonetheless, I felt tired and hungry at the dinner break. These days are long.

I spent some time wandering around the Rio, walking into Gaylord's Indian Restaurant, but decided against waiting on line. I came back later when there was no line, and a few folks strolled in behind me.

"Are you Bruce Buffer? I loved your interview," one guy said to another.

"Thanks, bro. I just tell it like it is."

Long story short, I end up having dinner with Bruce Buffer. Very nice guy. We talked about martial arts and poker, and it turns out he's written some articles on the connection between the two. I gave him a copy of Way of the Poker Warrior, which he said he'll mention on his radio show. It turns out he's got his own poker room at Luxor, which I'll have to check out.

I ran good today, and I'm excited to head back to the Rio on Monday for Day 3. If I survive that day, I'll either be in the money or very close to it.

Dreams Come True

I am proud to announce that my first book, Way of the Poker Warrior, is officially published as of today. You can order it on my brand new website, E-books ship immediately, and hard copies will be on the way in a week or two.

This book draws from two of my favorite pastimes (and careers), poker and martial arts, with the occasional nod to a third, music. You can read the reviews on my website, or this one on Poker News.

In this first of hopefully many books, I strive to extract the most valuable lessons from the martial arts, and show you how to apply them directly to your poker game. While the lessons can be applied to all aspects of life, I analyze 29 individual hands to help you get immediate value from the ideas. With forewords from Grandmaster Suk Jun Kim and DragTheBar coaches Dusty Schmidt and Hunter Bick, I'm joined by some prestigious company.

Being published is a dream come true. I love being a professional poker player and coach, but I didn't cook up that idea until I was 20. I've known I would be a writer someday since I was 13. I had always put it off because writing holds no age barriers. It's something I could always get to later. But I'm done waiting. Now I'm a published author. I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Leaving Las Vegas

"Drive Safe. Come Back Soon," the sign read. As we passed it, I glanced over my shoulder and read "Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas." The strip doesn't look that impressive under the scorching sun, but the view on the way in looks a lot better than the view on the way out.

Here's the thing: I'm from New York. I don't drive. Where I come from, we walk everywhere. Even when it's 104 degrees under the desert sky. Las Vegas wasn't built for walking, but I still trudged several miles northwest from the strip to Chinatown, and then so far south that I literally walked right out of the city.

Here's the other thing: I'm vegan. I don't eat meat. Or fish. Or eggs. Or dairy. I often get asked what I actually [I]do[/I] eat. Trust me, there's a wide range of foods that I love to overindulge in, all of them completely devoid of animal products. But Vegas wasn't built for vegans, so I had to leave.

Now, I didn't go far. I just moseyed on over to Whole Foods, located in the Town Square themed strip mall. It's only about 3 miles from my hotel. A city boy can walk that in under 45 minutes, but with all of the twists and turns of the strip, it took two hours. I got cereal, soysages, and fauxgurt for breakfast; pasta, burritos and spring rolls for dinner; coconut water, bananas, and two kinds of trail mix for Day 2 on Saturday. Some fresh fruits and veggies now round out my well-stocked kitchen.

The toughest part of main event Day 1 was the dirth of viable food options. I was delighted to see a fresh salad stand in the Poker Kitchen. I was appalled to see the preparer dig her hands into the lettuce, carrots and bacon, then mush them all around with the same hands. As a result, I was relegated to bananas, dried mango and the Clif bars I'd brought with me.

Hopefully I'll survive the full 9 hours of Day 2. If I don't, at least it won't be from starving.

My Callback Is On Saturday

I don't think I got on television yet, but my first audition for the final table of the main event went well enough. I finished the day with 42,700 chips, which is about average at this stage of the game. More importantly, I'm still alive, and I'll be back on Saturday to play Day 2B.

Day 1 spread a few minutes of excitement throughout twelve hours of boredom. There were colorful characters: some dude dressed up as Batman was sitting next to Dan Harrington across from my table. A Full Tilt Pro was wearing a puffy Unlce Sam hat and an all white jump suit as part of their 1% pledge to [URL=""][/URL]. I was the first to take a patch from Phil Gordon (happy 40th, Phil). I can confirm the reports - he is very, very tall.

I only saw two guys bust at my table in 9 hours of play. I was fortunate enough to bust both of them.

The first was Dan Shak, winner of the $100k buy-in event at the Aussie Millions. I had been trying to figure out where I knew him from until the other players informed me of his exploits. I don't watch much poker on TV, though, so I'm pretty sure I've actually played with him before. He's a hedge fund manager from NYC, so the latter explanation seems likely.

The hand was pretty straightforward. He opened in early position and it folded to my big blind. I held AKs. I just called, and crushed the flop of AK6. I figured I could get a c-bet out of him, so I went for a check/raise. He checked back. A third spade fell on the turn and I led into the 1,300 pot for 1,000. He made it 3,000. I expected him to semi-bluff spades on that flop and there are only 8 combos of sets on that board, so I shoved. He called and flipped up middle pair with the nut flush draw. A red seven on the river maintained the status quo and shrunk our table to 9.

The second guy was an unknown (to me) wearing Stars gear. He had been opening a ton of pots and I had re-raised a couple times already (earning folds from him). With a 12k stack, he opened the cutoff for 875 and I looked down at black tens. I made it 2,500. He did a fair amount of hemming and hawing before shoving. I paused to consider whether this was sincere or an act. It felt genuine enough to me, so I called. He flipped AT and I had him dominated. The flop of KQ9 bought him an extra 4 hours, but the turn and river bricked off and I was back up to 43k chips. There were a couple other interesting hands, but that's it for this blog.

Live Tournament No Limit Holdem has to be the slowest poker game on earth. (Well, Omaha is probably worse.) The majority of my nine hours of poker were spent waiting and watching. I can say that on two occasions my heart was racing, and that's something that cash games have completely ceased to cause. I'll take the good with the bad, and hopefully avoid the ugly.

I May Never Go Home

I arrived in Vegas about six hours ago. During my irritating trip through airport security, then my first flight and layover, I was planning to write a Seinfeld-esque blog about air travel. "What's up with those 3 oz. containers? I mean, you can't take a pair of scissors on board, but pen's are okay? I guess they never saw Grosse Pointe Blank or The Bourne Identity." But we all know about airport security. It sucks. It's a pain in the ass, and if someone was really motivated to hijack a plane, I'm sure they could still do it. Moving on.

On my second flight, I witnessed an amusing game of musical chairs between a middle-aged woman, her redheaded daughter, and some dude.

MOM: What seat are you in?
DUDE: The middle one there.
MOM: Would you mind switching with my daughter? She's the redhead over there.
DUDE: Sure. What's Her Name?
MOM: Kristin.

DUDE goes over to REDHEAD, sitting across the aisle.
DUDE: Kristin? Your mom asked me to switch with you.
REDHEAD: Oh. Thanks.

REDHEAD gets up and smiles at DUDE, who takes her seat.
DUDE: Sorry guys, I know I'm not as good looking.

REDHEAD blushes and sits next to her mom.
MOM: Would you take the middle seat? Sacrifice for your mom?
MOM: Or would you like me to switch seats with him?
REDHEAD: Actually, yeah. Danny already gave me permission. He said he wouldn't mind. I told him he would.
MOM: Guys always mind.

Anyway...the reason I may never come home is that I've luckboxed myself into a thoroughly ridiculous hotel suite at Vdara. They ran out of the room size I had reserved, so they gave me a massive free upgrade. This thing has a full kitchen complete with dishwasher. The master bathroom has separate shower and bath, along with two sinks. There's a second bathroom in the living room, right next to the washer and dryer. The living room itself has a desk with free wi-fi, a huge couch in front of a 52" TV, and another table with four chairs. And the bedroom has a comfortable king size bed and its own TV, of course.

The hotel itself is between Bellagio and Aria, both of which have cash games I'll be playing in, but are far back enough from the strip to feel like a relaxing escape. I'll be here for 11 days, so this was the right time to pick the right hotel. I was in a good mood on the way out here, and things are beginning to look even better.

Rollin' Up A Stake And Goin' To Vegas

I watched Rounders again a few days ago. The poker isn't quite state of the art, but it's still the best movie ever made on the subject. It goes to show how much you can do with a good script and a great cast.

I find myself in much the same spot as Mike McD - a pocket crammed with cash and a plane ticket from New York to Vegas. This will be the first main event I've played at the World Series of Poker. I'm looking forward to the madness, but I'm much more excited about my first book, Way of the Poker Warrior, and my new website. Details to come.

In fact, there's a possibility that I'll play my first hand at the Main Event on the same day that my book is released, and one day after meeting Hunter, Dusty, perhaps our bracelet winning coach Ian, and who knows how many other awesome coaches and players. Considering that two years ago I was grinding it out at $3/6, it feels like the big time.

I'll be making regular updates on Facebook and Twitter (GiantBuddhaPoke - yeah, funny, huh?). If anyone's in Vegas, shoot me a PM, or stop by and say hi if you see me. When I'm not at the WSOP, I'll be at the 2p2 parties, playing some crazy mixed games, and at the Bellagio, camping out at the mid-high Limit Holdem tables.

Road Trip

Unlike most online poker pros, I love live poker. I love it for all the reasons many hate it. The people. The pace of the game. The sound of the chips clacking together. The feel of dragging a big pot and stacking my winnings into massive pyramids. Well, everyone loves that last part.

The pace is what kills most online players. We see so many fewer hands per hour. Patience, which was once paramount in poker, can almost be sidestepped online by adding more tables, or playing this aberration they call RUSH. I like to do everything fast, unless it's worth doing slow. But the best life advice I can offer is this: don't rush.

So I'm going back to where patience is at a premium. I'm heading down to the Borgata in Atlantic City tonight. I'll be there until the sun comes up. If anyone's in the neighborhood, feel free to drop by and say hi. I'll be getting my live poker reps in, taking my time, warming up for the WSOP.

Way of the Poker Warrior

It turns out that writing a book is both difficult and time consuming. It's also a hell of a lot of fun. I am proud to announce that I have spent the past six weeks writing and revising my first book, titled Way of the Poker Warrior: A black belt's guide to conquering the tables. Better yet, it will be published by Imagine Media and available on my new website and elsewhere within the next few weeks.

This is not the first book I have written, but it is the first book I have finished. They say that writing is rewriting, and that's the difference between a completed book and a finished book. Completed first drafts of a novel and a screenplay sit on my shelves, but I never got around to sanding the edges and making them the best they can be. I only spent six weeks doing that for Way of the Poker Warrior, but I had two huge advantages: an editor and a deadline.

Writing for a deadline is tough. Harnessing creativity on command is not simple. But being on a mission can be inspiring in its own way. Knowing that I had a deadline to make and that this was actually getting published provided the drive to push through to 4 PM on days when I had to. 4 PM may sound like an early quitting time to some, but when you begin work at 8 PM the night before, it has a different feel.

Writing for an editor is easy. Well, writing for a good editor is easy. Criticism can be hard to take, but when it's constructive criticism attached to intelligent suggestions, it makes the process more efficient and productive. While I did all of my own writing for this book, Scott Brown made sure to get the most out of my poker, teaching, and writing abilities.

I'd like to thank Scott for helping me write the best first book I could. I'd also like to thank my teacher, Grandmaster Suk Jun Kim, legendary grinder Dusty Schmidt, and DragTheBar CEO Hunter Bick for contributing awesome forewords and afterwords on my behalf.

So what's this book about? It's about martial arts and poker; learning and teaching; and a way of life. There is blood and sweat; peace and discipline; and sexy river check/raises. I do my best to be honest, introspective, and informative while switching gears from entertaining narrative to broad poker lessons to in-depth hand analysis, with the pride of a samurai and the humility of a monk. Or some crap like that.

You can read it soon enough and let me know if I hit my marks.

Grilled Cheese, Eh?

I just ate a grilled cheese sandwich for the third time in 15 years. The other two times were this past week in Toronto. The time before these three was over 15 years ago in Montreal. I'm not from Canada, but I guess it's kinda like the land of grilled cheese for me.

There was a big difference between the two Canadian grilled cheese sandwiches, though. The Montreal was a regular grilled cheese sandwich, eaten by a hungry vegetarian searching for protein options. The Toronto was a tapioca cheese sandwich, eaten by a gluttonous vegan at the 8th vegetarian restaurant of his week-long trip.

Soy cheese has come a long way in the past decade and a half. It went from practically non-existent in the nineties, to not very good in the noughties, to pretty good in the past couple of years. Now, it may be on its way out with the introduction of tapioca cheese.

There is a brand of soy cheese that melts (Vegan Gourmet), but there is no non-dairy alternative that compares to Daiya's tapioca cheese. It's the first vegan cheese that I would describe as awesome. I've frequently said that cheese is the only thing I miss as a vegan, particularly on pizza. Now there is nothing that I feel I'm missing out on. In fact, I enjoy tapioca cheese considerably more than I ever did traditional cheese, particularly after a decade plus of soy cheese.

May Day

Happy May Day, Beltane, and seasonable warmth to all! And happy birthday to me. Yes, I'm 32 today. The nice thing about being born in the spring is that birthdays never make me feel old. Sure, they did when I was 22. But now they feel like a rebirth of sorts. A reinvestment of energy and rededication to purpose. And there is much for me to be excited about right now.

Just this week I have committed to playing the Main Event at this year's World Series of Poker. As I write this, I'm playing the PokerStars $1 Million freeroll as sort of a warm up. I'll be playing some of the SCOOP events on Stars as well, to make sure I'm in good tournament shape before plunking down $10k on a buy-in.

But I'm doing something much more exciting (to me) than playing in the WSOP. I'm hoping to have my first poker book published before then. This is an absurdly ambitious time frame, but that's sort of what I'm all about. I'm still working on a limit holdem strategy book (or two), but my first book should have more universal appeal. I'll share more details once the process is further along, but needless to say, I'm overwhelmingly excited. I've wanted to be a writer since I was 13, and having a book published is the beginning of a dream.

I've also started private coaching again, but given everything else going on right now, I'm keeping this on a small scale. I'm offering half price session reviews which become Drag the Bar bonus videos as part of The Sauna series. Details Here.

Finally, if my poker work isn't keeping me busy, there's always music. I'm playing a show tonight with my band Villain's Lament at Arlene's Grocery (95 Stanton Street). We go on at 10 PM, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate my birthday. If anyone's from NYC, stop by, say hi, and I'll buy you a drink. Cheers.

Grindathon: Day 28 (Final Day!)

After 207.5 hours and 80,022 hands, my Grindathon is finally done. I will leave my building tomorrow and not play poker. At some point, I will post a coherent summary, but for now, here is today's video:

Grindathon: Day 14 (Halfway There!)

8 hours
3,268 hands
5,385 VPP

Two Week Total:
101.86 hours
38,055 hands
63,026 VPP

So far, so good... so what?

Gettin' My Grindathon On

It's Day 1 of GiantBuddha's Grab-Bag Giveaway Grindathon! I'm psyched to get started. I've already lined up a number of pledges, but I'm still accepting new ones. Feel free to post pledges or go get 'ems in this thread. Expect a video blog update in the A.M.. I'll also have my first hand review video up on Drag the Bar sometime tomorrow.

GiantBuddha's Grab-Bag Giveaway Grindathon

For the 28 days beginning at 1 PM EDT on March 15, 2010, and ending at 1 PM EDT on April 12, 2010, I will not be leaving my apartment complex. For the majority of my waking hours, I will be playing or studying poker. Aside from poker, I will be eating, sleeping, playing a little guitar, running on my building’s plaza, and watching the occasional movie (at home, of course). Each day I will post a daily video blog here at Zen Madman and a Hand of the Day video at Drag the Bar.

Who cares? (And why am I doing this?) I have 3 main goals:

1. Play a lot of poker
2. Improve my game
3. Raise money for worthy causes

Goals 1 & 2 are pretty straight-forward. I’m devoting four weeks of my life to playing and studying poker. Goal 3 is where I need a little help. I’m calling this a Grindathon because it’s like a walkathon or a danceathon, except I’ll be seated for most of it. I play a certain number of hours, and you donate a certain amount to a worthy cause based on those hours. I won’t be pushing the limits of human endurance, but I will certainly be pushing the limits of my endurance.

How does it work? I will be playing exclusively mid-stakes Limit Holdem: $5/10, $8/16, $10/20, $15/30, and $30/60. This will primarily be on PokerStars, with a few (thousand) hands on Full Tilt. My screen name is GiantBuddha on both sites. You can pledge based on Hours Played, Hands Played, or VPP Accumulated. I will post daily updates of these three totals.

If I play fewer than 200 hours, 80k hands, or 125k VPP, I will pay you 100 times your hourly pledge. If I leave my building for a reason other than medical emergency (mine, family, or friend’s), I will pay you 100 times your hourly pledge. If I leave my building AND player fewer than the above hours, hands, and VPP, I will pay you 200 times your hourly pledge. If I pay you, then you will not have to donate anything.

Your pledge will be capped at 400 hours, 160k hands, and 250k VPP. Units will be Hours, Thousands of Hands, and Thousands of VPP. Before the Grindathon begins, you decide which one you’d like to use. Once the Grindathon is over, money will be donated to one of the following causes:

1. Cancer research
2. Autism research
3. Poker Player's Alliance
4. Johan, Stephanie, and their children: read their story here

You may pick a foundation for the first two, or I will select one for you. If you have another cause you’d like to donate to, let me know, and we can work something out. For more information, contact me at


No, I'm not talking about the most recent Pocahontas remake. I'm not talking about the visually impressive box office juggernaut with wooden performances of cardboard cutout characters. I'm not talking about the film that will likely provide a titanic shafting like the one doled out to L.A. Confidential 13 years ago. I'm talking about my poker avatar: the rolly polly Giant Buddha.

Lately, I've been resembling my avatar a bit too much for my comfort. At 6'1", I can accommodate 190 lbs. without too much trouble. I think that's around Christian Bale's height and weight in The Dark Knight (if you want to talk about Oscar hosings). But I'm not exactly sporting the batman build these days. It's more of a soft 190. While I wouldn't call myself a fat vegan, I have put on 40 or 50 pounds since I was 20, and it's not all muscle.

The answer is of course diet and exercise. I've invented a crazy fad diet for myself: The Samurai Diet. This has nothing to do with what Samurai actually ate. It's simply Sushi, Soup, Salad, and Smoothies. I've used it before to good effect (although adding S'Mores didn't help much). So I'm going back on this diet until I start my Grindathon next Monday.

As for exercise, it's finally nice outside! The slush has cleared away, and I went running by the river for the first time this year. I'll be running every day this week, so by the time I'm ready to shut myself in for 28 days, I should have the physical stamina to go with the mental stamina necessary for extreme poker training. It's easy to forget how much physical energy playing poker all day consumes. I intend to remember.

Farewell February; March First!

February 2010 was the worst month of my poker career. Well, sort of. I lost about $5k at the tables, and made about $5k in rakeback and bonuses. So we'll call that about even. I also won several percent fewer showdowns than I usually do, and suffered a 600 BB downswing. This was the first 400 BB downswing of my Limit Holdem career. I did not tilt. But I didn't exactly play my A game the whole month, either. I gave in to a host of distractions and played half as many hands as January, at about half the level of focus. I can take responsibility for my poor effort, while running awful was largely responsible for my poor results.

On the other hand, I put out a solid effort and ran quite well in other areas of life. I produced four videos for Drag the Bar, which was a lot of work. Two of those came out in February, and the others will be released this week and the next. I also played a great show with my band, did some coaching, and wrote a fair bit. But what I feel most fortunate for, was luck that was not mine.

On February 24th, I wrote a blog about finding a purpose. My plan was to play a psychotic number of hours in an effort to raise money for Johan's cancer treatment. This may not have been the wisest plan, but I was looking forward to having a reason to play. You know, besides the money.

Also on February 24th, unbeknownst to me, the Dutch government agreed to pay for Johan's treatment; (he's Dutch). This was of course outstanding news! It was also surprising news. Why? To begin with, the treatment costs about $300k. That's a lot of money. While the Netherlands has national health care, bureaucracies will typically stall until a patient is terminal, then deny treatment because it's "too late." Fortunately, since Johan is only 39, they managed to get this one approved.

Where does this leave me? Very happy, to begin with. It's pretty easy to stomach a losing month when something so unexpected and fortunate happens to someone who really needs it. I'm still going to follow through with my four weeks of poker solitude, but I'm making some modifications. I'm optimizing for performance instead of audacity. For now, I'll take my health and my happiness, and go do some kicking and shredding.

Purpose Reprised

December 24th, 2009:

"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."

This was one of my motivations for cranking up the volume this year. I felt like I had a purpose. However, this purpose was vague until recently: play lots of hands, make lots of money, help some people out. To explain how this purpose has become personal and particular, I first have to take you back 23 years to the day.

February 24th, 1987: It was around 11 AM on a bright and cold Tuesday when the phone rang. I had stayed home from school, so I snapped up the phone. When the doctor asked to speak to my mom, I knew I would never see my dad again. I waited for confirmation while my mom talked on the line in the other room, but I knew. That was when I learned to read someone by the tone of their voice.

I was eight. For the next ten (twenty?) years, my mom did everything in her power to make sure I got what I needed to grow up happy and healthy. We had great friends, generous family, and quality schools. These things mean a great deal, and they make a huge difference. But they say a boy needs his father. Well, that's not exactly true. We need food, water, and shelter. But a father sure is a fantastic luxury to have, and one that should never be taken for granted by anyone.

So how does this give me purpose now? A few weeks ago I found out that my mom's friend's daughter's husband Johan has metastasized kidney cancer. He and Stephanie have four children. If he receives standard treatment, he might have one or two more years to spend with them. However, there is a high-cost treatment available that could give him a chance to see his kids grow up, and give his kids the chance to grow up with two loving parents. The treatment is expensive, but some things are priceless.

I have decided to take four weeks out of my life to do nothing but play and study poker. I will not be leaving my building for twenty-eight days. I will be playing over 300 hours of poker, and studying another 30 plus hours. I will be recording daily video blogs and posting them here, plus short daily poker videos which will be available only on Drag the Bar. How on earth is this related?

Well, my plan is to try to get action on some sort of prop bet. If I win, the money goes to Johan's treatment. If I lose, whatever. If I don't get any action because quarantining myself to play twice as many hours as I ever have in a month is not enough of a challenge, then I'll simply make a donation myself 28 days later.

If you would like to donate or find out more about Johan and Stephanie, here are some links:

Stephanie's blog:

Johan's blog:

Donation site: