Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The End Times

Everything ends.  Jobs.  Relationships.  Your life.  And apparently some things end more than once.  This blog hasn't really ended I guess, although upon review this is my 12th post in 4 years, so I mean let's be honest it's been "mostly dead" (which is part alive!) for some time now.  But it looks like my poker "career" is coming to at the very least some sort of long hiatus and (if things go to plan) basically ending in its current form.  And I mean this has happened before, I'm not saying I'm never going to play cards again.  But for right now I just have to face the facts that things are horrific, getting worse, with no reason to expect big improvements.

Honestly I don't even know what all I want to say, I'm just gonna write until I don't feel like it anymore.  It's therapeutic.

Nothing has gone right for 15 months.  Shortly after Vegas 2018 I just...stopped winning.  I had been on an amazing run for nearly 2.5 years (basically since the day I quit EMC), and was enjoying every minute of it.  You see, I had assumed when I quit software a second time that I'd get bored with cards fairly quickly.  Turns out you don't get bored when you're winning nearly 2 bets per hour for 3000 hours.  I ran so good for so long that I started to believe, while I must have been running hot, the results I was posting had to be somewhere near sustainable.  I mean, how could I possibly be winning literally THOUSANDS of bets more than I was supposed to be?  Sure, I was running hot, but you couldn't run THAT hot, could you?   Turns out you can!  I know a guy who beat the Hustler 25/50 for and I'm not even kidding, over $200/hour for something like 800 hours.

August 2018.  Cue doom switch.

I'd love to say it's all run bad, but it's not.  I haven't been working as hard as I should be away from the table.  Getting your head kicked in day in and day out affects you're play.  I'm surely, undoubtedly, playing worse than I was in 2017 when I won literally $100/hour (before promotions and jackpots) playing mostly 25/50.  $100/hour worse?  LOL obviously not.  But $25 or $30?  Maybe.  I'm not as sharp as I used to be.  I got really out of shape and don't have the energy or focus to play for as long as I used to.  My back hurts (from being old, from bad posture, and probably from the existential angst I'm putting myself through).  I just can't recover mentally like I used to.  I fucking stink, basically.  That's hard to admit, it's hard to say, but I fucking stink.

And on top of that games are getting worse every year, the rake is going up every year.  Fish are literally dying off and not being replaced (you just don't see 25 year old kids out there blowing their brains), and it's going to get REALLY bad when the economy turns south.  Like, hold on to your hats n glasses, this is the wildest ride in the wilderness bad.  The big games are mix games, and apparently I'm terrible at those (I played on kings club for a year and a half, lost a loaded Toyota Camry before I gave up).  And when this fantasy land made of money and 20% returns takes a shit, it's going to be a big smelly one for limit hold 'em for sure.  If I can't win now, what chance do I stand when half the games aren't even running anymore?

I already spend more time driving around the fucking urban hellscape that is LA county than ever, more than could possibly be considered reasonable.  Why?  Because it's harder to find a good game than ever, and with my confidence as shot as it is I can't even justify sitting in mediocre ones thinking "well I'm still winning I can just keep playing".  I just broke even for almost 2000 hours playing in the best games I could find;  how the fuck could I possibly be winning more than $15/hour in a shitty one!?!  And part of playing poker for a living is taking early outs when you're losing;  well guess what, that really adds up when you never win!  And of course I haven't moved closer to the casinos;  I didn't have to while I was running like God and inertia is a real thing and I do like it down here and ostensibly I have lots of friends and relationships but lol sure what the fuck ever.  If I just picked up and moved to DTLA or Long Beach or god I don't know fucking Australia I'd probably hear from like 3 people here in Laguna ever again.

I guess the hardest part of all of this is admitting that while a lot of it is bad luck, I definitely could have been working a lot harder this whole time.  I could have been studying more.  I could have been doing more to stay in physical shape.  I could have been doing more to foster and engender real, supportive, and positive relationships.  I could have worked harder to learn other games, to keep myself engaged.  I could have done a whole lot of shit.  But I didn't and now here we are.

And where exactly is that?  Here is basically broken I guess, at least in terms of poker.  Most of my friends, the ones I have left, have to just be completely sick of my endless negativity.  I have people in my life who are like that, for whom just everything is awful and woe is me I am such a victim.  It's awful.  How many bad beats can you listen to?  How many times can you hear someone bitch about how bad things are going, give them advice, and watch them make zero substantive changes?  How long am I going to feel and act like a victim?  Honestly.  This isn't me.

And I'm no fucking good to them either; I'm no fucking good to anyone like this.  I'm angry.  Depressed.  Anxious.  Scared even.  I never had an over-abundance of self confidence but shit now I've got basically none.  Try sitting with these people for 2000 hours and not winning.  They are stone fucking idiots, the lot of 'em, and yet me and my supposedly big brain cannot defeat them, day in and day out, month in and month out.

So yeah, here is no fucking place to play poker.  Here is losing all my friendships and not building new ones.  Here is completely out of balance.  Too much drinking, too much Netflix, too much driving.  Not enough learning, not enough working out, not enough sex, traveling, sunshine....not enough of anything good.

So I'm just not gonna stay here anymore. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Going Insane: A Two Part Instructional Guide

Fun fact of life....a lot of processes have basically two ways they can go.  Someone can play a hand of limit hold 'em and look like st1ckman, mostly because he had two options and just happened to flip heads.  The st1ck rides again.  Next hand he aborts every street and you stop wondering what you were thinking.  The st1ck is dead; long live the st1ck!

Going insane is no different.  You can go insane in two basic ways.  The first one is just what everyone accepts as going insane.  It's not as clean as they show on TV (nothing is....the white house...a court room...being a cop....saving the universe from a guy with a big chin), but it happens roughly the same way.  One day you wake up and your brain simply can no longer process and handle the world it is currently occupying.  You cannot cope with your environment, it's all fucking madness, and to the outside world you look like a stone lunatic.  You effectively cease to function.  I've done that one and let me tell you it's no fucking bueno.  Nothing makes sense, you can't solve the simplest of problems, everything is insurmountable, and waking up in the morning becomes a herculean effort that, once achieved, you literally question the point of.

The second way, unfortunately, walks the first path, but continues on to a more interesting place.  You wake up one day and realize that your brain can no longer function in the world you've built for it.  That's the same.  But there isn't a sense a panic, loss, or failure.   You aren't incapacitated.  You don't cease to function.  You realize that that the problem isn't necessarily with your mind, with you, but rather with the world you've carefully constructed around yourself.  That's the source of the madness.  In effect you're going insane, but what you're actually doing is leaving behind your past (insane) choices and moving on to a different (scary) place.  To the outside world, and to all but your closest friends, you probably look the same as you would in the first method.  And that make sense, as you have to basically go through there to get to this place.  But it's very different.

I suspect that many extremely successful people have gone insane in just this way.  They wake up one day and simply decide that their world is bullshit and that they no longer respect its norms and customs.  Elon Musk, as much as I hate him, is extremely successful and probably didn't want to flip the world on its ass at age 7.  The same argument could be made for Donald Trump.  It's entirely possible that the ability survive going insane could be a driving force in human evolution.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

5th Most Drunk Wedding Protocol

I'm on a flight to a wedding which historically is a good time for me to actually write a blog post. I was talking to friend who asked me the following simple question:

"Are you going to be the biggest drinker at the wedding?"

Innocent question. Fair question. Good question. The answer is maybe yes, but I explained to him that the goal is always to be somewhere around 5th most drunk, at the wedding or otherwise. You ever been to a wedding where 5 people got kicked out? They can't kick out 5 people! And even if they do by the time they get to you all bets are off anyway and the bride is either loving it and number 6 drunk or in tears anyway so fuck it, it's not on you and at least you got your money's worth for the personal foul.

I've been number 1 drunk at a wedding before. That's an entirely different magilla, because you can be number 1 drunk and just WAYYYY out in front, settin the pace, lappin fools. That's not a good place to be. Things can go very wrong, very painfully, very quickly, out there. You can come around a turn and put it into the wall at 170 MPH like it's nothin out there. You do not want to be out there. It's scary out there.

Somebody has to be there, though; someone is the most drunk. We can't all be 5th most drunk; that's not the way counting works. If you find yourself number 1 most drunk, I have great news! The fact that you noticed you're most drunk means there is still time to get things under control! Choose your next steps very, very carefully. Proceed directly to the dance floor with a glass of water and let someone pass you right on by. Everything is gonna be fine!

Failing that you need a good friend who can simply explain the situation to the groom:

"Either you didn't know Jesse well enough to invite him, or you should not be surprised here. This is at least a little on you, man"

5th Most Drunk. That's where you wanna be.

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 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.