Sunday, March 11, 2018

Evolutionary Pressure

My favorite professor in college was Patrick Winston, who taught me basically "Intro to AI" and "How to Communicate".   One of the cooler things I remember him teaching us about was the subject of genetic algorithms, which in a nutshell is a way to solve a problem that works in the following way:

1.  Define a problem space and a measure of fitness for a solution.
2.  Randomly generate solutions to the problem with some parameters.
3.  Let the randomly generated solutions fight it out (solve the problem).
4.  Take the fittest ones, mutate them, and let them try again.  Etc, etc.

Basically the idea is to mimic the evolutionary process we see in nature in a computer simulation in order to come to some reasonable solution for a very complex (perhaps NP complete) problem.  The example that was coded up in the class involved little creatures made of blocks who had to figure out how to capture the piece of food in the middle of their little world.  I can't find it...but you get the idea.  You started off with a few simple block beings and eventually you'd get all sorts of crazy things fighting over the food pellet.

Poker ecosystems are no different.  People have seemingly random strategies, they test them out against each other, the ones with the best results get to play longer, the ones with the worst results usually go broke or play less.  People adapt, and mutate....but not really.

So I was thinking the other day about the poker games I've been playing in these past few years, and something occurred to me seemingly for the first time.  I've always known that "mega fish", your truly special game starters that everyone wants to play with, that even regular fish know are terrible, are extremely important to a poker ecosystem.  But something that had never occurred to me was the following reason for it related to long term (very long term) game health.

True mega-fish remove evolutionary pressure from the ecosystem.

And that's really the simplest way to say it.  If you have a game that features some truly terrible players there is far less pressure on everyone else to improve in order to survive.  Regular fish don't lose nearly as much when there is a mega fish in the game for a few reasons.  First, because of schooling....if someone is playing J7o for two bets it's far less of a mistake for the regular fish to play JTo behind him.  Also they don't get bum hunted as hard.   Mediocre players (break even players) stick around longer.  And perhaps most importantly or at least most interestingly winning players can leave large leaks in their games unaddressed for months or even years and still get along just fine. 

And it's kind of that last part that I was really thinking about when I was driving home from a game the other day and texting with Pete and The Hammer.  The games I usually play in just don't have any truly good players.  Nobody has even a modicum of game theory knowledge.  Everyone goes on tilt.  Almost everyone chases losses and quits amazing games when they've won "enough".   And the winners can just get away with this because the games are so often just balls nuts amazing that they can make large glaring mistakes (both in tactics and meta stuff) and still win enough to just keep going, month after month, year after year.

And I mean don't get me wrong, I'm definitely guilty of this stuff, too.  Spending the last 2 years playing basically no higher than 40/80 has definitely left me in a spot where I struggle to remain comfortable if I ever get into a reasonably tough game with 3 or 4 actually good players.  I honestly figured I'd be back to software by now, but I've frankly been winning so much for the last 3000 hours that I'm just under no pressure whatsoever to make a change.  And there you have it again :)






Sunday, January 28, 2018

Tasks, Goals, and Resolutions

I just spent an hour walking on the beach (well not entirely on the beach, but like along the beach and some on the beach and you get the idea).  It was incredibly peaceful and relaxing, to the point that I kept going after I started to get a blister on my foot.  I'm going to try to "make more time" to do that sort of thing, which really just means waste less time watching NetFlix.  Which brings me to my point of the day, which I've always kind of had knocking around in my brain but had never really articulated until just now.  And that is...the difference between tasks, goals, and resolutions.

For the purpose of this post I'm going to define a task as something you can do basically "right now".  At the upper limit it has to be something you can finish "today".  I'm very good at tasks.  I can make a to-do list and knock them down one by one.  Completing tasks makes me feel good about myself, and performing them (even menial simple ones) usually results in a break from the day to day background static anxiety I tend to feel.  The fact that I'm good at tasks is sort of the reason I've been able to be a live poker grinder for so long, and it's the reason I took to scrum mastering toward the end of my stint at EMC.  Playing poker for a living on a day to day basis is very task oriented.  Wake up.  Find a reasonable game.  Get to the game.  Play poker.  Quit when you're playing bad, get tired, or the game turns bad.  I gravitate toward poker because it's a way that I can productive without exerting too much effort.  The point here, however, is that you can achieve a task "right now" and get that little jolt of positive feedback that comes along with it.  Every hand of poker is a task completed.

Now a goal is one step up from a task, and a goal is the level of this chain where I kind of fall down.  A goal is something that you cannot achieve "right now".  It's something you have to work towards over at least a few days (although some of those could really be just big tasks) and more realistically weeks or months.  A simple goal most of us have is "lose weight" or "get in shape".  The problem with those goals, at least for me, is that they aren't quantifiable and you cannot achieve them "right now".  I need to lose about 30 pounds (that's right), but I cannot do that today, this week, or even this month.  That's like a 4-6 month day in and day out grind, and I tend to fall down on those sorts of things.  My Ex was incredibly good at medium term goals, to the point that she would always seem to sacrifice the current moment for some promise of future betterment.  I seem not to be, and I think it's because I don't really get any positive feedback along the way in any easy to digest "chunks".  And if I eat some extra tacos or have a few beers, that doesn't really affect my goal status for tomorrow.  4 months from now when I've not lost any weight it's like "well gee why" and that's why.  I'm just not good at it.

And the item here is the resolution...and that's something is even harder to do than a goal because you can't really measure it and/or you can't even ever really achieve it.  "Quit drinking" is a resolution.  You cannot actually quit drinking (they say this in AA).  All you can actually do is not drink today, or more accurately "right now".  That's it.  "Be more mindful" can't really be measured.  There isn't like a mindfullness meter or app you can get and just track it.  Resolutions are even harder than goals, and that's why people fall down on them.

So what's the point?  The point is that when you get down to it everything you attempt to achieve in your life can be broken down into some sequence of tasks.  When I'm being my most productive I have an active to-do list that just has things going on and off it constantly.  If I have a goal then that just needs to be broken down into tasks that will eventually lead to achieving that goal.  And resolutions....that just require....you guessed it....resolve!

I thought maybe this was going to be some large grandiose thing, but really that's it.  Hope it helps you think about some stuff.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

CryptoBossing

“Sir, is it true that you are a certified professional cryptocurrency baller?”

“Yes, that statement apparently is true. I’m at least as surprised as you are”

“How did you get to this point? What steps should one take to become a professional cryptocurrency baller?”

“Well Babar, to be honest I don’t have a fucking clue how I got here. But there’s just one thing you need to do before you can claim professional status. You have to quit your job.”

“I don’t have a job to quit”

“Then you, too, are a certified professional cryptocurrency baller.”

“Deuces”

I got into crypto currency officially a little less than a year ago. I had been holding some bitcoin for a while, but basically piled on when it was still trading for 3 figures. I bought some other coins here and there and there and here. I’ve sold a lot on the way up (goodness if I hadn’t sold...goodness). I’ve still made, in the parlance of our times...a pile. A big ‘ol pile. You see….you buy bags (big bags, little bags...it’s all bags) and you hold the bags. The stuff in bags either pamps or is rekt. You don’t wanna be the one holding the bag (trust me, someone is gonna end up holding these bags whence they are rekt), but you also don’t wanna miss a certified MOONING. That’s more than a pamp….a mooning involves lines indistinguishable from vertical. I swear I’ve seen some graphs that appear to go backwards in time they are so steep, like those rock climbing dudes who somehow don’t fall off.

I’ve missed some moonings, but I’ve caught my fair share, also. I mean for crying out loud BTC itself almost touched $20K and at the time of this pecking was trading in the 15k range. Etherium ran from like ones of dollars to $300, stayed put for a while, and is now just bouncing around like an ADHD 7 year old between 500 and 800. I’ve nailed some alt coins also….but honestly everything has just gone up so much that it would be impossible to miss. I’ve held BTC, ETH, lots of other coins. I’ve done some ICO presales. Shit, I’m even part of a mining operation.

So how did I get here, and what’s my plan going forward? I did so by following the advice of Patrick Henry Winston, who taught me most of the truly important things I got out of my $100k education.

Ask someone who knows.

And that’s really the answer to most of life. If nobody knows you can get a Ph.D, that’s basically the way we’ve set it up is my understanding. Usually someone knows. Anyone who has worked at a software company can attest to the uncomfortable phenomenon of being pinned down as the guy who knows.

“Oh really you should ask Patty, she knows more than me”

“I did, she sent me to you”

“What about Oleg?”

“Sat with him for an hour, he said to go see Jesse”

(Fuck)

“OK...what do we got?”

At your job sometimes it’s in your best interest to avoid being seen as the guy who knows; that’s just going to get you more work, more responsibility, and more time helping people. That attitude could be why I didn’t seem to get promoted very quickly in SWE roles…..In crypto, however, it’s the opposite thing going on. EVERYONE claims to be “the one who knows”. Everyone. And that is super dangerous. Pete said to me this last Vegas that the reason he likes me, that we get along, is that unlike everyone else in the world I actively try to downplay my achievements. And you know, he’s sorta right. It’s not that I try to downplay what I’ve done, I just don’t believe that anything I have accomplished has ever been that special. Maybe that means I’m clinically depressed. I am extremely comfortable arriving at the answer of “I don’t know...what’s everyone else doing?” and then just doing that most of the time except a little better.

The catch is you have to be smart enough to at least determine who is smarter (or more accurately, who knows more) than you. Ideally you’ll be smart enough to get even more granular than that. “This guy over here knows more than me, but he’s still pretty freaking oblivious. This other dude on the other hand knows all sorts of other stuff!” Up until a few weeks ago I was basically just working on the assumption that other people were try-harding and they were pretty sharp and I could ride their coattails and hopefully make some more piles while I continued to play poker for 30 hours a week.

NYET! NO MORE.

I am going balls deep. This market (if you can even call it a market….it’s a freaking joke really) is probably the opportunity of my lifetime (except perhaps for the Floyd v Connor fight….lock of the century I can’t believe I only made a few thousand). I’ve never really bought into technical analysis for stocks, and I didn’t really see how it could apply here since there are like zero underlying fundamentals, but when you can go on an exchange and literally see the order book for all the buys/sells that are live for a coin….I mean, that’s not too hard to figure out. You can actually see the walls of support and resistance. The new guy I’ve found, who apparently was giving his picks to the guy(s) I was working with, knows what’s going on and is basically batting 1.000. And I’m not talking about like they went up some. I’m talking about hitting 5 baggers. 10 baggers. He has a 60 bagger. He does the legwork. He schedules calls with developers. He has zero confidence that he’s actually better than anyone else at this, but is just working kind of hard and trying to stick very basic buy and hold principles (backed by some technical analysis of support and resistance lines).

I have hitched my wagon, and if necessary I will attempt to ford the river. Or perhaps I will caulk it and float it across. It does not matter, my wagon has been hitched. I’m gonna start doing the legwork myself. I’m going to gamble big (muy big...big big) and see what I can do. And yeah, i’m probably gonna end up holding some bags at the end, but I’m not going to be one of those people who basically just let it ride the whole way. I’m gonna take stuff out, try to keep my bags a reasonable size, you know the drill.

So yeah, more cryptobossing posts to come, I hope. And no, I don’t fucking know anything and I don’t know what coin you should buy, just like sports. I do however believe that cryptocurrency is here to stay and will be one of the most disruptive forces in our lifetimes, and anyone who doesn’t at least attempt to understand how it works is doing himself a big disservice.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Musings from Spirit Airlines Flights

So I’m on my flight home to Pittsburgh for the holidays and I only have one book so I figured I’d try and write something. I should have brought two I guess, but whatever. I haven’t actually read a book for pleasure in years (I honestly can’t think of reading one in Laguna Beach). I guess it’s because I’ve let Netflix/Hulu/Amazon take over that aspect of my life; the list of shows I’ve watched in the last 3.5 years is quite simply mind boggling and horrifying. But back to the point….I’m trying out Spirit Airlines which quite frankly hasn’t been that bad. Sure I paid $6 for a coke and a water, but honestly I’m OK with that. There was TONS of space in the bins because they really only let you bring on a personal item (I have my man purse, which is way more than I need). And boarding took like no time at all because nobody was tryign to bring all their luggage for a week long trip in roll aboards. My middle seat is empty so I guess I cannot speak to the lack of legroom but honestly it doesn’t seem worse than usual. And actually it appears that the plane is devoid of exceptionally large humans, an effect that I suppose could actually make it better for everyone else? I mean probably not….but people don’t look too crammed.

The thing I can’t really abide is there is no option to pay for internet. I’d pay a lot. I’ve proven how much I will pay time and again by paying every single time. $30? A bargain! But they don’t even have it, which doesn’t seem to fit with their model of nickle and dime you for everything. Like, how can sattellite internet at $20/pop not be a profit source? I get that I can’t stream 17 episodes of the shield, I get that I really do. But like….my village could be BURNING and my troops are awaiting my orders and 14 people have probably nudged me in words with friends.

So I’m writing because I don’t want to run out of book! It’s proven to be a great book so far; a detective/pyschological thriller almost as old as me. But I can’t waste it! That should give you a decent look into the inner workings of jesse8888 (who by the way has sort of morphed his online presence to “da yung jeeze” thanks to someone once calling me jeese a million years ago). God bless dat young jeezey. As an aside, wow way to go Google somehow every doc I’ve ever had access to is saved and ready to go on this $200 flipbook that weighs about 17 ounces without me preloading a word. Should I actually destroy 2/3rds of those documents? Absolutely. Was it enlightening to read the journal entries from January 2014, 2 months before Danielle and I broke up? Absofuckinglutely. Wow...I was MISERABLE. I was ANGRY. I was HATEFUL. I was….wow. Just wow. Definitely not reading the shit I wrote after the breakup, that’s for damn sure. We’re going to go with those were just a therapeutic exercise.

As I’d guess most people reading this know I’ve had a bit of a weird two years (fuck, 4 years...8?). I quit my job at EMC (now Dell) in early 2016, with the plan of just playing poker for a while and seeing where things took me and probably eventually moving and getting back into software. At the end of my tenure at EMC I was actually morphing into a combination scrum master/engineer. I’m well suited to the task of scrum mastering, honestly. But none of you really care about that, right? Shit I never really understood why anyone cared about any of this blog, but to this day I get people wishing me well, telling me they read (or even reread) the entire thing. I guess I had flashes of interestingness? Honestly the reason the whole thing stopped is that I sort of felt the need to stop being completely honest, and the blunt honesty was my best guess as to why it was popular. Like, I realized that people in the real world were gonna read it and the whole sports betting thing made me and I guess more specifically Danielle extremely uncomfortable. Man you should have seen the fit she pitched when sailboats stopped in for goodness I don’t even remember what. He laughed about it and said “so you’re not allowed to have friends over” and i just kind of um...went to my room and cried? She treated me like a disabled child. Lol anyway.

20 months on the lamb and I’m not so sure that return to software is imminent. Last time 6 weeks turned into 5 years, right? So if I was planning for a year, carry the one….I have over a decade to fuck off! Laguna Beach has been fantastic. Sure I go out drinking too much, but that’s kind of the point, right? I’ve met some women (not going to go into how that’s going presently because that seems like something I’d want to ask her about posting and honestly I have plenty of other stuff to write about). I’ve made some friends. I don’t go to the beach itself enough, but just SEEING the ocean is amazing. I’m too out of shape to surf; heck I’m probably too out of shape to ski but we’re going to find out about that in a few weeks. And actually things there are getting better (I’m down 10 pounds from Vegas). Not quickly, slowly, but as my friend Victoria says to me like once every few months “if you want to get out of a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging”. Several years ago I got pretty into weight lifting (I was processing a lot of rage, I think) and I got quite strong and gained a bunch of good weight. Then I stopped pushing the plates and continued eating and drinking like a workout fiend and well….yeah. How do you gain 35 pounds in 3 years? 1 pound a month! In theory that’s less than running a 100 calorie/day surplus.

Somehow I accidentally started following Pete’s advice from years and years ago, which was to make sure you have multiple streams of income. I had a job for a while; most people have a job and that’s really all they have in terms of making money. During that time I picked up two rental properties in Pittsburgh (with a big assist from my dad). The management company I’m using is possibly the least competent entity I have ever actually paid money to, but it comforts me to know that I at least have those buildings. I’ve of course been doing sports for at least 5 years now. 2016 was a phenmonal year in that regard. 2017 has been about 40% as bad as that one was good (changes are probably coming down the pipeline in that regard). Of course if the superbowl goes my way and Tommy doesn’t teach me a lesson about respect after I got down something like 20k at ATL +4 +100 (something like 30 cents better than the close I think), the year looks just kind of meh. But as it is it looks like a damn dumpster fire. So I don’t really know if that’s going to continue, the guy I work with at first was just getting sick of my bitching, but in our most recent communication he stated pretty plainly that he needed to figure out what was up and take a good hard look at things. Honestly I wouldn’t miss it one bit lol. The running around, the people taking shots at you, the occassionaly getting stiffed, the wear and tear on friendships (I lost my “acting best friend” over a petty sports square up earlier this year), the endless spreadsheets and accounting. I dunno. I liked writing because it usually gave me energy, but right now I feel like it’s giving me some fresh perspective on things. Maybe I do need to just shut down or clam way up on sports. Who knows. Moving on….

Here’s maybe where I’ll get to the meat of an actual blog post! This year I’m on pace to play about 1400 hours of limit hold ‘em (in 2016 I played a slightly smaller number). That’s nowhere near a fulltime job, and I’m sure is much lower than all of my posted totals during my 5 year “shot” (I had a year where I played 1900 butt in seat hours). But I actually am enjoying it the vast majority of the time. I’m driving 45 to 60 minutes each way, and there are days when I quit after 3 hours (either because I’m losing or because the game prospects are less than amazing). And there are 11 hour days also (probably more of them than there ever were before).

And this year I am going to post my best result by a vast, vast margin. I am winning at a frankly impossible rate. Going all the way back to the middle of 2016, it is something like a 2200 hour heater of over 2 bets per hour. For my five year shot I believe my total number over all medium to large stakes LHE games was like .7 bets per hour. Point. Seven. I’m winning close to 3 times as much. At .7 bets per hour when you’re mixing stakes the downswings can be truly brutal. At 2 bets per hour when you’re basically always playing the same you pracically can’t have losing months. It’s been….amazing. Wonderful. Fucking great. Fucking amazingly wonderfully fucking great.

Obviously I’m running hot, and obviously I haven’t solved limit hold’em or anything like that. I get it. But I’m doing SO many things SO much better. I’m quitting bad games, camping out in good ones. I’m playing the majority (all?) of my hours in smaller (softer) games with a huge home field advantage. I think I’ve gotten much better in terms of my true “A” game, my standard “B” game, and avoiding playing hours really any worse than that. Like I said, obviously there has to be some rungood involved here, but you don’t just triple your winrate over a nearly 100k hand sample on run good. I mean OK, maybe you do. But from a bayesian point of view (maybe I’m using that wrong) it’s pretty likely that conditions have improved, or more accurately the conditions I’m putting myself into are vastly better. On the technical side I have truly embraced my inner lagbox and just fire away relentlessly. At every step of my career there as been someone in my ecosystem who was just unimaginably laggy to the point couldn’t believe he/she could possibly win. And yet the evidence pointed to he/she winning. I don’t think I’ve gotten to WTK or Kim levels, but I’m probably closer to them than the 2008 version of myself. And big shocker, playing that way when you’re super duper hyper dyper over rolled for your games is really fucking fun. It’s cool to go on 100 bet rushes, it really is. It’s fun. I’m having fun playing cards, people!

Everyone has been sounding the death knell for limit hold ‘em in LA since I fucking got here. And maybe they’re right, maybe there are fewer games and fewer people making a living off of it. The rake has just gone up and up and up and up (I pay $7 in most of the pots I take down, if I don’t tip) and I firmly believe that has forced a bunch of breakeven or even slightly winning players to go broke or simply give up. The games that we’re left with sure SEEM to be pretty freaking good on a pretty regular basis. That said I’ve logged probably 90% of my hours at the same freaking table, so maybe I’m just talking out of my ass and as soon as that game dries up I’m going to in for a 3000 hour break even stretch. But from where I’m a sittin’, everything appears to be fine.
(Trip home happens….5 days later)

The only people who can afford to play fulltime are strong winners and those who can afford to be huge losers. And most of the strong winners seem to have promoted themselves to white chip games or draw games and stuff like that; not a lot of people slumming it at the 25/50 table trying to make a living, and those that are typically have huge leaks and are pretty easy to exploit. But the key really is just to never play on tilt, and I probably do that better than almost anyone else in the game. Even if it appears that I’m tilting, and I probably am, it’s nowhere near the demolition tilt other people go on after the simplest of beats. A hand….

Super easy to play against guy either limps or raises the HJ, I raise with 65cc in the CO, dude who takes himself way too seriously and is very bad raises the button, it gets capped, one of the blinds is in, I don’t fucking remember that’s not important

755

Infinity bets go in. In this case infinity is 4 (not 10, which was infinity in AP calculus...here infinity is just 4)

755-8

Infinity more bets go in. Again, 4. The blind finally folds 44 when facing two cold which should have been folded several decisions ago obviously…..

75594

I get raised for the 15th time, 3 bet, am rage called by his aces, and extend my arms with a shit eating “it’s a boy” grin on my face as the dealer ships me the 5 pusher.

What’s important isn’t so much that I won a $1500 pot that should have been half that size (that’s not not important, but it’s just a little you know less important). The main thing to realize here is that not one but two of my opponents advanced directly to full-fledged, demolition, banana, poo-flinging tilt. The guy who folded the pocking 4s was beside himself for 30 minutes, playing every hand until the eliminator (the turn...which determines if you pick up a draw and can see the river or are eliminated) at a minimum. The guy who raised me 2 to 3 times more than necessary with the aces...his day was done. He couldn’t believe how a “good player” like me could “go that far” with 65cc. You see, you only get aces once every 4 or 5 hours, and those were his and I basically stuck them up his ass. And he wouldn’t let me forget it, which obviously means he wouldn’t forget it himself, which means 50 hands later when I three street value towned him with like ace jack high he could do nothing but shake his head and lament his misfortune.

And that’s kind of the point of being a lag box. I’ve been saying things like this for years:

“You have to bet that river….it makes you harder to play against”

And you know what? It’s true. I’m hard to play against. And I run like the very wind itself. Just ask that guy….he probably told the story at the Christmas dinner table. He probably had a nightmare about that hand lol.

Friday, January 20, 2017

I can't see how I annoy them

Preflop.  There is action.  Flop

JT7cc

SB bet/3 HJ raise/4 SB calls

Me to SB: no no no don't stop!!!

Entire table looks at me. 

Me: You just can't stop there!

Turn is a card

I look at sb:. Check

SB checks

I look at HJ:. Now he cheeeeKKK

HJ checks

River is a card SB bets

Me: See?  Now he canna call you with Ace Queen!

HJ folds Ace Queen face up.