Happy New Year!

Well, I've managed to pack my life into a backpack and one carry on suitcase. Truth be told, most of my "possessions" are now squirreled away on a 2 terabyte external hard drive. The physical items amount to little more than shirts and socks.

I'm curious to see what New Year's Eve looks like on a plane. Do people celebrate on New Year's of the place they left? The place they're going? It will already be 12:30 on January 1st in Germany when my plane debarks. Or do we go by the time zone we're flying through? It would be entirely possible to miss the whole countdown nonsense this way, since it could be 11:30 PM, then we hit a time zone change and it clicks over to 12:30 AM. I'm kind of pulling for that result.

I'll have a full report filed here by the end of January 1st, assuming all goes smoothly. Of course, my January 1st will end 6 hours before New York January 1st. So I like to see it as travelling to the future.

24 Hours

In 24 hours I'll be sitting on a plane sitting on the tarmac, waiting for takeoff. I have a list with 25 checkboxes, and only about 7 of them are checked off. So why am I sitting here writing instead of cleaning, packing, or nailing cords into the wall? For one, so I can check another box off on my list. But more precisely, because I said I would.

The funny thing about writing is that most of it isn't that good. I don't have any profound thoughts right now that deserve to be saved for posterity. But I said I'd write every day so I'm forcing myself to do it. Unsurprisingly, it's coming out forced. But the goal is to establish habit, and in the creation of good habits, there may be a little collateral damage.

A more profound blog may have had something to do with writing a letter to my friend who's in prison for poker-related activities, whereas I'm entering something like exile in order to play online poker. But as I move away from poker, that parallel seems less profound. There's a tiny part of me that hopes I won't get those Euro-sites set up, and I'll be forced to just write for 3 months. Doing nothing but writing might lead to some forced material over that time, but I think it would lead to some great stuff as well.


Stuff. There's always more of it. That's one thing I rediscover every time I move. There's always more stuff.

Some of it is in the form of physical possessions, though I've done a decent job of whittling those down to the essentials, plus some keepsakes. Okay, plus some crap I just didn't have time to go through. And that's because there's so much of it!

But there's also stuff to do. Make sure I have everything. Clothes, electronics, food for travel, tax information for next year. I've done my research, but there's always more things to think of. At this point, I hope anything that I haven't thought of yet is just not that important, or I would have needed it by now. It's not like I'm going to get to the airport and say, "My passport! That's what I forgot!"

No, it's going to be something like a USB cable for my phone. I'm pretty sure it won't be that, though, because I'm not taking my phone.

Gifts From The Dead

I’m leaving my homeland on Saturday night, spending the year abroad. Hamburg, Soderhamn, London, then expedia knows where. I don’t self-identify as an American, even if I am quintessentially so. But I am interested in being a citizen of the world, seeing the sights, learning the language.

In the process of putting my affairs in order, I’ve divested myself of the majority of my worldly possessions. Ideally, I’d like to own only what I can carry, but I have this really cool sword, and I don’t want to cause a scene going through airport security. So I’ve kept a few things at home.

Throwing things away is a difficult process, empowering as well. But how do you cast off gifts from the dead? So many of my belongings were presents from those no longer present. I can’t say I’ve discarded those as ruthlessly as I intended. But the greatest gifts from the dead are not things, but memories. And those I hope I never let go.

Lottery Strategy

Most people correctly assume that the lottery is -EV, unless the jackpot is ridiculously huge. But even if your odds of hitting 6 numbers are 176 million to 1 and the payoff is $206 million, the lottery can still be -EV. The obvious reason would be taxes, which drastically cut the payout. Another problem is the chance of splitting the jackpot. While winning only $103 million may not seem like a bad beat, sharing numbers with others can cut your EV in half (or worse). So that brings us to the only lottery strategy tip I'll ever publish. Pick numbers that no one else will. That way, when you win a fortune, you won't have to split it with anyone. Merry Christmas indeed.

A Little Help From My Friends

Dear Friends,

I'm putting together my first work of published fiction, and you can help make it a success. My project is a collection of (mostly dark) short stories titled Zen Madman's Flash Fiction Folio. You can read samples HERE and HERE. I've launched the project on Kickstarter.com, which is an all-or-nothing funding site where you can pledge support in exchange for rewards. For $9 or $15, you can pre-order the book (PDF or hard copy, respectively), and there are bigger rewards as well. My goal is to raise $777 by January 16 to cover the cost of printing, shipping, and design. While financial backing would be outstanding, Kickstarter is as much about promotion as it is about funding. There are lots of totally free ways you can help:
  • Like: Right under the video on my project page there is a Facebook Like button. Click it. Easy.
  • Tweet: You can use this prefilled tweet, click the tweet button on my Kickstarter page, or compose your own tweet containing my project link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zenmadman/zen-madmans-flash-fiction-folio/
  • Share: Throw my link up on your facebook, tumblr, blog, or anywhere fiction lovers might find it. If you're more ambitious, you can embed my project video or even a full widget by using the Embed button below the video on my project page.
  • Forward: Perhaps the most helpful thing you can do is forward this email to everyone you know who likes fiction and might forward it on to their friends. Friends are awesome, but friends of friends of friends are geometrically more powerful.
  • Comment: Put a comment on my Kickstarter page letting me know what you think of my stories, what you'd like to see, and any questions you have.
And of course, you can:
  • Pledge: It's super easy; it goes through amazon.com - if you have an account there you don't even have to reenter your credit card info. You can pledge as little as $1, get the ebook for $9, the hard copy for $15, or both for $20. There are a bunch of higher pledge levels, too, but i'd rather get lots of little ones than a few big ones. Of course, no pledge will be turned away. :p

My long-term goal is to become a professional writer (and publisher) of fiction, so this is a huge first step. Not only is your help (in any form) useful, but knowing that my success comes with a little help from my friends means more to me than doing it alone.

Signed in virtual blood with actual undying gratitude,

- Paul

Christmas Solitude

Today I'm alone on Christmas for the first time in a decade. My mom's moved west, so I have no family left in New York, and my girlfriend's off on a cruise with her family. "Here I go again on my own" blares from my computer speakers as I try to psyche myself into being productive, casting off the feeling of loneliness by reveling in it.

That's all well and melodramatic, but the truth is that I'm not alone at all. I spent the 24th and 25th with friends - chosen family, as one of them says in his sermon. I'm lucky to have good friends that welcome me to their family events. I'm also lucky to have people whose absence I actively miss. I'd rather have family that I miss than family that feels like an unfortunate obligation. It's sort of the better to have loved and lost thing.

I've always felt comfortable by myself. That could be an artifact of my one-parent, only-child upbringing. Even when I still had two parents, I could spend hours alone, engrossed in activity. I can't say that I really get bored. There's always something to be doing, and a lot of things are better done alone. So today I'll value my friends and family, but also my solitude. I'm lucky to have both.

Let It Snow

When I was making the video for my Kickstarter project on Monday morning, I pondered how to make it less boring to watch. My plan was to sit in front of my webcam and talk, so I did this thing where I added some winter gear each time I paused the video. It didn't make much sense until today, when YouTube added a snow button.

To make it snow, click just above ... THERE ^ after you press play.

To Do (Ha Ha!)

I'm a big fan of To Do lists. Maybe it goes back to my parents' "To Do (Ha Ha!)" file*, but I'm great at making lists of things to do. I'm slightly less awesome at crossing everything off of them. I've pretty much been moping around the house all day, not for any particular reason. But we're coming up on low noon here on the East Coast, and that usually means I'm about to get productive. At the very least, it means I'll force myself to write a blog. Here's my to do list before dawn:

  • Print out a copy of "No Balls, Two Strikes" and mail it to my grandmother along with a Happy New Year card.
  • Get at least "very close to done" with Part 2 of my newest poker article.
  • Indulge in shameless self-promotion for my Flash Fiction Folio.
  • Eat some warm oatmeal with maple syrup.
  • Walk my girlfriend's sister's dog.

* (My mom had written "To Do" in pen. My dad responded by writing "Ha Ha!" in pencil, referencing the fact that items stayed in the folder past their due dates.)

No Balls, Two Strikes

I just finished up a new story for my Flash Fiction Folio. This one's about baseball and may have too much lingo for those who aren't fans. Let me know what you think, though. I'm always interested in the opinions of fans and critics alike. You can read it on Free Association.

Low Noon

You know how 12:00 PM is called high noon? Well, I like to call 12:00 AM low noon. It's gonna be a thing.

When in doubt, talk about the weather.

A few days ago, it looked like winter was finally here. The temperature dropped into the 20s for the first time since last winter. But now, on the winter solstice, it got up to 59°F, and at low noon, it's still 55°. What's that all about? Sounds like Armageddon to me.

I ♥ NY

New York is the Greatest City in the World. I say this not out of any disrespect to other cities. Sure, there are bigger cities, and yes, there are friendlier cities. And god knows there are cleaner cities. But nowhere in the world are more languages spoken, more cultures mingled, or more stereotypes debunked.

I used to love New York in an elitist way. I kind of thought everywhere else sucked, and The City (ah...my The City) was just better. But I had it backwards. What makes The City great is all the good things from cities around the world, and maybe some of the bad things too. It's not all here, but in one form or another, most of it is. And that's why this will always be my home, no matter where I am.

On that note, my New Year's countdown starts tomorrow at 10. That's 10 days until I leave New York, New York, and America for the better part of next year. I'm going to Germany, then Sweden, then the UK, then who knows where else. It should be an exciting journey, seeing some of my roots and some of my city's roots. Fragments of those places are found here, but I want to see the source.

I'll leave you with the following clip, the most stirring performance of The City's municipal anthem:

Flash Fiction Folio Kickstarter

Yesterday's blog was about writing every day. Continuing in that trend, I'm happy to launch the kickstarter for Zen Madman's Flash Fiction Folio. Kickstarter.com is an all-or-nothing funding site, where you can pledge to help me publish my first collection of fiction. Pledges are not donations. Instead, you receive rewards based on the amount of your pledge. You can essentially pre-order the book, get special stories just for you, or receive copy-editing, proofreading, or discount coaching services. Click here to pledge or learn more, and check out the video below.

Write Now, Every Day

Almost every book ever written on the subject of writing contains the following advice: "If you want to be a writer, start writing every day." Now that may seem obvious, a less generic version of "Just Do It." And while everything in life may seem as simple as that, two things make it particularly applicable to writing.

The first is that anyone can be a writer. In fact, you don't even need to know how to write. You only need to know how to speak. A friend recently related to me the story of his father, an illiterate man who wrote technical manuals by dictating to his secretary. Only if you're mute and illiterate are you precluded from joining the ranks of writers worldwide.

So it's easy to be a writer? Well, yes and no. The other side of writing is its permanency. Most would-be writers fall short because of a fear of commitment. When you write something, you commit those words to the page (or computer). Yes, your words can be edited, erased, or deleted later, but there's a special terror that comes with putting your thoughts down in a semi-permanent fashion. Even for those that overcome this initial fear, there is a secondary fear of showing your writing to another person, and the tertiary fear of the finality of publication.

How many great stories are left untold because of the teller's fear of telling? I fear many. So if you have a story to tell, put pen to paper, hands to keyboard, chalk to cave wall, and write now. I'll be going with the "every day" thing, writing an entry in this blog every day for the rest of the year. To put my money where my hands are (on the keyboard), I'll give 2 books or 1 hour of coaching to the first person who calls me out should I fail to make a post on any day between December 18th and December 31st (EST).

I Am Entropy

“You have, like, the worst superpower ever,” she said. For the third time in my life, I had just shattered a glass in my hand. Now, I’ve broken dozens of glasses. Most of them were on purpose. I’ve also smashed phones and lamps, computer mice and headphones, and even a television set. Breaking stuff is fun. My policy of non-violence towards living things apparently doesn’t extend to inanimate objects. But that’s not what this is about. This is about destroying things through no more than physical proximity.

A few years ago, a friend lent me his cell phone to make an emergency phone call. He dialed the number and handed me the phone. I spoke for five minutes, then handed the phone back. It never worked again.

I’ve never owned a phone or computer that’s lasted more than a year without some major malfunction. My last phone just stopped dialing 1, 4, or 7. Try to dial an NYC area code without those numbers. Others phones physically lost buttons or simply stopped working.

A friend and I used to walk around the Upper East Side a lot. Every time we passed this one streetlamp, it would go out. When we’d pass it going the other direction, it would go back on. When we formed a new band a few years later, we scheduled our first practice for September 11th, 2001. When that band went on to record a CD in August of 2003, the entire City of New York lost power.

Recording for our next band hit speed bumps when my guitar mysteriously caused the recording computer to malfunction. Drums were recorded fine. Bass was fine. Vocals went off without a hitch. But when I plugged in my guitar, the computer stopped working.

I don’t tell you this with a woe-is-me intent. It’s frustrating when mechanical devices malfunction, but sometimes it feels like there’s a little magic to it. That much is fun.

It’s not fun when people start dying, which has been too common a theme. For someone who’s never seen war or famine, I’ve seen too much death in my life. Sometimes it feels like a curse. I know that people die and things break down. These are laws of biology and physics. But it’s hard to feel like it’s not me.

Facebook Poker!

That's right, Facebook is hatching plans to enter the real-money online gaming arena. Will this make them the world's largest online affiliate? Maybe. I ponder the question for Pokerfuse here: http://pokerfuse.com/features/editorial-opinion/will-facebook-become-worlds-largest-online-poker-affiliate/

Why Merge Should Lower Their Fixed Limit Rake

Some poker players sing a requiem for Limit Holdem. They think it’s dead. It’s not. About 20% of all poker hands played are still of the Fixed Limit variety of Texas Holdem. But only a small portion of these are played on the Merge network. Why? Because they’re strangling the games with high rake.

Sites like PokerStars understand that Fixed Limit needs a different rake structure from No Limit. Due to the nature of the game, a typical player will see more than three times as many flops in Limit as in No Limit. (In a sample of 90k hands, I saw the flop 31% of the time in Limit compared to 7.7% in No Limit.) Under a no flop/no drop policy, this means a Limit Holdem player gets raked three times as often as a No Limit player.

The solution is to increase the increments by which rake is taken. In a $1/$2 game, that means not raking the pot until it hits $5. In a $2/$4 game, it means not raking until the pot hits $20. This allows the Limit Holdem rake to fall closer in line with No Limit. Merge is raking the pot as soon as it hits $.20. The charts below illustrate the difference in rake between Merge and its US-friendly competitor, Cake. Notice how Cake rake moves up in steps while Merge rake follows a smoother line.
$1/$2 LHE Rake Comparison
$2/$4 LHE Rake Comparison
The pale yellow area shows the extra rake that Merge is taking. Does this mean that they’re making more money than they would with a lower rake? No. The rake is so high that playing Limit Holdem below $10/$20 is an unsustainable endeavor. They’re suffocating their traffic by preventing anyone from flourishing. There are many high-volume players who won’t play on Merge because of the rake. If they cut rake by 30% and double their traffic, they could increase profits by 40%.

Limit Holdem should be a goldmine for online poker sites. Edges are thinner than in No Limit, so recreational players last longer. They can’t blow off their whole stack in one hand. And the typical loose style of a recreational player is less costly in Limit, since proper play involves playing many hands and seeing lots of showdowns. Being stubborn is an asset, not the liability it is in No Limit.

I sincerely hope Merge listens to its customers, because they have the opportunity to be a leader in online Limit Holdem. They have quality software and reasonable deposit and withdrawal options for US players. If they make their rake equally reasonable, Limit players will flock to their tables.

Where the Hell Have I Been?

Casinos, not-so-seedy underground New York card clubs, and on my couch, watching Mad Men, mostly. I was going to write a blog reviewing the first six months after Black Friday, but it's looking more like seven now. I've enjoyed live poker a fair bit, but while the games are softer, it turns out to be a harder way to make a living than playing online. That's not to say it's impossible or not worthwhile. It just requires a larger bankroll relative to your hourly expectation, and even more patience.

I've played around on the US-friendly sites a bit, although the high rake and lack of game selection is frustrating. And the software! If you live anywhere but here, count your lucky Stars. It's easy to take excellence for granted.

I've managed to squeeze out a few videos here and there, even dipping my toes in the No Limit Holdem pond. But lately I've been thinking about writing a lot. I banged out this little story on 11/11: http://freeassn.com/drupal/node/99. It's my first flash fiction piece. More to come. For now, it's back to the poker tables, both physical and pixelated.

July Grindathon Day 1

What's a July Grindathon? This month I've decided to catch up on my poker hours and work a little harder for US poker legislation as well. My plan is to play 12 hours per day for 28 out of the 31 days of July. I'll be donating a percentage of any profits to the PPA, and posting daily on facebook pages and twitter to support the cause. I invite you all to join me in this summer madness and fight for poker rights through your play and posts.

Session 1: I got off to a good start by literally playing all of last night - it was light out when I started at 7 PM and it was bright out when I quit at 7 AM. The game was mostly $2/$5 No Limit, with maybe twenty hands of Pot Limit Omaha thrown into the mix. My results and overall play were good, despite one catastrophic fold with pocket tens when I was offered 4-to-1 on the river. I literally talked myself out of calling the river bet, which leads us to today's topic: talking at the poker table.

I'm a huge fan of talking at the poker table. That's one big thing that online play is missing - genuine human contact and conversation. I have a lot to say about this (and a slightly amusing annecdote from last night), but I'd like to know what you think about it.

It Won't Rain For You

I didn't listen to much music when I was a kid. I had some singles on 45, like "We Are the World" and Weird Al's "Eat It." But it wasn't until I was thirteen that music really struck a chord with me. A friend of mine told me to get Nirvana's Nevermind and GNR Lies for these two girls who were sharing a birthday party downtown. Not only were the gifts well received, but when they played the tapes, the sounds filled me with an intangible feeling. It was something I couldn't lay hands on.

From Nirvana and GNR I moved on to Metallica, whose black album is one of the best selling yet most underrated albums of all time. For hardcore metal fans, the record represented the sell out of the most respected band in the genre. For me, it bridged the gap. I wasn't a metal head. I was a kid who wore grey sweatpants and pastel t-shirts from my aunt and uncle's Florida Keys retreat. But the black album showed me something about music. It showed me how heavy it can be, and how sad. While Metallica doesn't have the complexity of structure that albums like ...And Justice For All or Master of Puppets contain, it does have the dynamics and range of emotion. After investigating those earlier albums, I realized something. There was a way to lay hands on these emotions. Literally.

I didn't want to play music. I had to play music. Like a junkie needs a needle, I needed a guitar. I needed to have it in my hands. So for my fourteenth birthday, my mom took me to Sam Ash where she told the salesman I was looking for a guitar.

"What kind?" he asked.

"A black one," I answered. And with that, a young metal guitarist was born.

I'm 33 now, and I've been playing on and off with varying degrees of seriousness for the past 19 years. I've recorded an album, a couple EPs, and a swath of demos. It Won't Rain For You is the first recording that sounds almost exactly the way I want it to. (I say almost exactly, because if you can't find something you'd like to improve, you're not trying hard enough.) It's just three songs, but Villain's Lament and I took our time crafting them, demoing them, and finally recording them.

I play almost all of the guitar and bass on the recording (Logan pops in for the third of four solos in "Fifth Time's the Charm"), and I think you'll find that I'm still that metal guitarist that was born 19 years ago. The rhythm guitars are heavy, and the leads are abundant. But like the black album, the arrangements are modest and the vocals are accessible. We have two lead singers, and I'd like to think they both have nicer voices than James Hetfield, if not the same rugged enthusiasm. You can judge for yourself:

If you like what you hear, the disc and downloads are available in the following places:

More from Villain's Lament at: villainslament.com

Good Game Stars

I signed on to PokerStars today to convert my remaining Frequent Player Points to cash. Having purchased a $4k Supernova bonus shortly before Stars closed shop to US players, I only had a few hundred dollars worth of FPPs to convert. When I opened the cashier, I was surprised to see almost a thousand dollars sitting in my account. Thanks to Stars’ quick agreement with the Department of Justice, I had been able to cash out my previous balance within a week of the US shutdown. So why was there money in my account? Because Stars is the best.

The PokerStars VIP program is built around milestone bonuses, where you earn a few thousand dollars every hundred thousand points or so. Since I was caught between milestones with 8 and a half months left to play, they prorated the bonus and deposited the cash into my account. While this seems like the logical course of action, few online poker sites would make good on their promised rewards in this fashion. But Stars does the right thing.

I’m saddened that due to my government’s rectal-cranial inversion, I can no longer play poker on the best site on the internet. What will happen in the future? Who knows. Maybe Stars will fight the DoJ and win. Maybe regulation will come in the form of legislation. Maybe the smaller sites will learn from Stars’ example and pick up their game. But for now, it’s good game Stars.

Good game.

Patriotism Is A Character Flaw

“USA! USA! USA!” the crowds chanted outside the White House. “USA! USA! USA!” the crowds chanted at the ballpark. What few of these people realize is that this feeling they have coursing through their veins as they shout their brains out - that’s the feeling that inspired the murder of everyone in the World Trade Center. That feeling is the cancer that has had the human race destroying itself for all of recorded history. It’s us against them. They call it patriotism. I call it disgusting.

I wrote a piece about my views on patriotism. Read the rest here: http://www.freeassn.com/drupal/node/39

Bin Laden Is Dead

Can we focus on something important now, like explicitly legalizing online poker? To be honest, I find it hard to care about world politics and missions of vengeance when U.S. domestic policy is so embarrassingly hypocritical.

Speaking of embarrassing, I wrote a little piece about Mason Malmuth's recent behavior on his internet forum: http://www.freeassn.com/drupal/node/32

Yesterday was my birthday, so I took a day off from the live grind. I ate lots of vegan banana cream pie, too. Now it's up to Foxwoods for a two day session, back home for music practice, then down to Atlantic City for another two day session. Then it's time to make some poker videos over the weekend. It's not a bad life, but I could do without the travel. Some explicitly legal live poker in NYC would be nice. But I guess I'll have to settle for dead terrorist leaders on my birthday.

Live Poker

Back when the Neteller fiasco hijacked the online poker money train, I decided there was no way I was going to give up the game. Still, I came up with a back up plan that can be summarized in two words: Live Poker.

The consensus among online professionals seems to be that live poker is either boring or torturous, depending on the cards and the company. I'll admit that there are a lot of negatives to playing poker in person:
  • Fewer hands per hour
  • No shorthanded tables
  • Smelly/obnoxious neighbors
  • Having to wear pants

I've played thousands of hours of live poker in my life, largely because I appreciate many of the positives:

  • More laid back
  • Weaker players
  • Physical tells
  • Interesting folks to meet in person
  • The feel of the cards
  • Dragging a big pot and stacking the chips
  • Carrying racks upon racks to the cashier
  • Getting paid in crisp hundred dollar bills

Now don't get me wrong, I haven't given up on playing online. Black Chip Poker looks like a solid option for the US player. But I'm not going to throw five figures back on to a site until things cool off a bit. For now I'll play a few sessions here and there. I'll be spending the majority of my working hours in casinos and card clubs, though. Playing live poker.

Happy 420

I don't smoke pot. I never have. That's not to say I'm opposed. It's just not my thing.

The fact that the majority of my friends and previous girlfriends were potheads meant that every day at 4:20 there would be giggles and high fives and the refrain of "let's go smoke a bowl." I would roll my eyes, not because the smoking bothered me (it didn't), but because having some official time, like it was a holiday to get excited about - well, it just struck me as arbitrary and annoying, like somehow that was more their time than it was my time.

But I get it now. For almost a hundred years, marijuana has been criminalized and scandalized. And for what? Alcohol is a harsher drug, but that's legal. Cigarettes can kill people who don't even smoke them, but they're allowed. I've always been in favor of legalization. I even sponsored a bill in mock congress when I was 14. (When it lost 6-6-1, I literally fell backwards out of my chair in frustration. Ironically, the one dude who abstained from the vote didn't abstain from drugs. But I digress.)

What I understand now, on 4/20, is that when you're a group that's been fighting for your rights for the better part of a century, it helps to have a rallying cry. A rallying time. A rallying place.

It may be 4/20 today, but now is the time for poker players to rally as well. Now is the time and this is the place: Free Association

Villain's Lament Dot Com

After months of incubation, my band finally has a humble new internet abode. Right now, villainslament.com is nothing more than a glorified collection of social media links, but it exists and it functions. And isn't that what life's all about?

Detachment (PCA Day 2)

January 10, 2011 – Paradise Island, Bahamas. It’s 5:45 PM on Day Two of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. No more than 280 players remain out of the 1560 who entered the $10,000 main event. Only 232 of those players will walk away with money, the minimum payout being something like $15k or $17k.

With blinds of $1500/$3000 and antes of $300, I’m sitting on a $50k chip stack. That’s not quite small-stack life support, but my chances of a decent payday are fast dying off. In the past hour, my table has become quite aggressive, leaving me few chances to attack the blinds or even attempt to resteal. Every pot is raised and re-raised before the action gets to me. But not this hand.

I’m under the gun and look down to find a pair of black jacks. I make it $7500 to go and only the small blind comes along for a flop. He’s got close to a million chips, so he’s eyeing my stack like it’s an appetizer. The flop comes out 986 with a couple clubs and he checks to me.

My hand is strong enough that I’d like to get all of my chips in the middle, but shoving $43k into a pot of $20k seems unlikely to get my opponent’s chips in there keeping mine company. This guy has been very aggressive, so I try to bet small enough to give the illusion of fold equity – I want him to think he can push me out of the pot.

Before my $12k chips are even out of my hand he declares himself all in. The rest of my chips make it to the middle before he’s even reached for his. He flips over a queen and a ten. I flip up my jacks and ask the dealer not to give me a set. The king on the turn is safe, but the queen on the river ends my tournament.

I feel nothing. I’m not talking about that numb feeling where you’ve lost everything and your dog’s just died. I mean nothing. A double up would have almost guaranteed a cash for $15k or more, but the river Q elicits not even a blip on my emotional radar.

I shake some hands, exchange some “good game”s, and walk away from the table. I turn back to the table and quip to the dealer, “He had me covered, right?” This is worth a cheap laugh from the table and lets me feel good about how well I’m taking the loss. The tournament was fun (and a freeroll for me), and I now had six days of vacation in Atlantis, so there’s no reason I should have felt too bad. But shouldn’t I have felt something?

The Prettiest Card
(Villain's Lament
live at the Lair)

Here's a live performance of the first track off my band's upcoming CD. The song's called The Prettiest Card and the band is called Villain's Lament. It's about poker. Sort of. And sex. And relationships and all that jazz. Mostly it's drawing thin and wanting what's not good for you. It's sort of a shred filled pop-punk rock song.

New Review

Despite my best efforts, February insists on remaining my least favorite month of the year. At least it's short. On the bright side, Poker News just published this awesome review of Don't Listen To Phil Hellmuth, the book I wrote with Dusty Schmidt. Here's the link: http://uk.pokernews.com/news/2011/02/book-review-don-t-listen-to-phil-hellmuth-6258.htm


I began last year on a quest to reach Supernova Elite and have my best poker year ever. I failed at that. I made it more than halfway there and made a good living along the way, but I came up short. I could blame it on the fact that I wrote two books and recorded a hundred videos, but I won't. The fact is, I just didn't play enough poker to reach that one goal. But that doesn't mean the year was a failure.

The truth of the matter is that Supernova Elite just didn't matter enough to me. It didn't matter enough to forgo an awesome opportunity to write Don't Listen To Phil Hellmuth with Dusty Schmidt, and learn No Limit Holdem in the process. It didn't matter enough to stop me from playing in the main event of the World Series of Poker for the first time. It certainly didn't matter enough to keep me from writing my first book, Way of the Poker Warrior, and getting it published.

In retrospect, going for Supernova Elite was not a great idea in the first place. It was an effective motivator early in the year. It got me to put in my two biggest months ever. But ultimately, I wound up focusing too heavily on volume. It got me to focus on quantity over quality. I think it's a great program and a great opportunity for those who want to grind out a million hands of break even poker. But that's not for me. I won some at the tables in 2010, but not half as much as I wanted to - probably not a tenth as much as I could if I focused on that, instead.

So 2011 will be different. I don't have any arbitrary goals. I have some lofty ambitions for sure, but more than anything, I'm looking for greater consistency out of myself. All that will have to wait, though, since I'm heading to the Bahamas today to play in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure! Fun in the sun (as much as a city boy like me can stand) and a free poker tournament.

Looking back, 2010 was pretty good to me. Like every year, it had its ups and downs, but I can't be unhappy with what I achieved and what luck brought to me. New friends, new opportunities, and a comfortable enough life. Here's to all of your 2011s. Let's live like 2012 really is the end of the world because, hey, who knows?