Thursday, February 26, 2015

She Will Lie to You

That's right.  Playing poker for a living (or even as a serious hobbyist) will cause your girlfriend to lie to you.  Before I get sexist banned let me clarify that it would probably cause your boyfriend to lie to you as well, but since I've never had a boyfriend I can't be sure.  I can say though that it will also cause your parents, friends, friend's parents, parent's friends, and girlfriend/boyfriend's parents and friends to lie to you (and him/her) as well.  Basically choosing to take this game on at a serious level will most likely poison your relationships with many of those you care most about, or at the very least put them under a great deal of strain and stress.  Here's why, I think.

First of all it's important to realize that almost all poker players lie to themselves and that most of us actually lie to the important people in our lives.  I'd like to believe I only ever did the former, but that's just not true.  I didn't tell my mom I was playing full time for close to 6 months after I started because...well I don't really know.  I didn't want to disappoint her?  It just seemed easier?  I thought I might quit/flameout and just never mention it?  So the point is that I did lie to her.  And beyond that I definitely lied to myself over the years about all sorts of things:

1.  How happy is this making you?
2.  Are you playing well?
3.  Are you getting better?
4.  What is your win rate in this game?
5.  On and on forever and ever amen....

Once you lie to yourself, about anything really, you set yourself up to be lied to by the ones you care most about.  They really have no choice, and most of the time they start off lying to themselves about whatever it is just so they can tolerate /reconcile your obvious inability to understand what's going on. The specifics aren't even that important, but here are some examples that could happen:

1.  It makes him happy
2.  He's obviously a rockstar
3.  I support whatever decision he makes
4.  It's his choice I have no right to intercede (this may be correct, but the person telling himself that likely doesn't actually believe it and therefore he is lying to himself)

So now what you have in the relationship (whatever it is) is two people who are lying to themselves, and that is just a ticking time bomb that's going to blow up again and again, piece by piece, all over the living room or over the phone or wherever because let's face it we're all not as open minded as Terrelle Pryor.  You see, in really close, intimate relationships (or in really long term ones, like with your parents), it's often easier to lie to yourself than the other person!  Your partner will realize you're lying to yourself before you do, and he/she will take that as you lying to him/her.  From that point on only the strongest and most permanent of bonds can survive.  You need to get through the fact that you weren't lying to her, just to yourself, and then ask her to realize the same thing.  Danielle and I never got close.  I'm not saying poker destroyed our relationship, we both did plenty outside of poker to ruin it on our own, but it sure as fuck didn't help anything.

I have heard some of the most ridiculous stories from extremely successful poker players; keep in mind all of these people are top 3% players, who actually win a large sum of money from the game.  I know two that didn't tell the parents they were playing for YEARS after diving in headfirst.  I know another who has seemingly destroyed his relationship with his mother over the game.  One more who wouldn't even ask his wife about adding on to his bankroll after he'd won 6 figures over the course of several years playing part time (all of which exited his bankroll) and then went on a 30k downer.  I mean, sure, I also know people who seem to have solved it, have it fit into their lives just perfectly, so none of this has to happen to you.  But it very likely will and you should be prepared if you want to jump straight in.

Don't lie to yourself.  Take time to take stock of what the fuck is going on in your life (this isn't just's everything).  Be as open as you can with everyone you care about regarding what's going on as well, what you're trying to get out of playing and if you're succeeding at doing so.  If your significant other really is in it with you, she will understand you nearly as well as you understand yourself and can probably actually help you figure out what your value system looks like and where you're missing the board entirely.  Or maybe she can't but she'll at least try.  Or maybe it's on you to figure out what her strengths are, relative to yours, and use those strengths to bring into focus the pieces of your life that you cannot see clearly.  Or maybe you're just fucked, who knows, but the best way to guarantee you won't figure any of it is out is to lie t yourself about it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Response to Optionality Comments

I have a good idea for another stream of consciousness rant but it will have to wait, because I've gotten some thoughtful comments on my last post.  So here we go:

Post a Comment On: Taking a Shot

1 – 4 of 4
Blogger RaleighRunner said...
Options aren’t intrinsically valuable; they are only valuable to the extent there is uncertainty or variation. You were a professional poker player (hard to imagine a job with more uncertainty both in terms of outcomes and preferences; your enjoyment of it changed from month to month) where as she worked for google which I imagine is pretty much at the other end of the spectrum in terms of variance. Wouldn’t it make sense that she values options less than you? Sorry if I sound like a stalker; I’ve been reading the blog for awhile, which I suppose actually does make me something of a stalker.
February 23, 2015 at 10:51 AM
I don't want to rain on anybody's parade, but your bona fides as a stalker are really lacking.  You have to do more than just read a blog to get that street cred, at least in my book which this essentially is.  If you want the title you're going to need to present more evidence.  I disagree with your first statement, but it's all semantics.  There is always uncertainty and variation in any situation in life worth actually discussing and considering the value of.  Sure if you go to lunch and order a sandwich you've had before you don't really need an option on what to do if it sucks.  If you take it back to your desk and it's not up to snuff even if the place will replace it for you you're not going to drive back and ask them to remake it.  That option would actually have no value.  But that's a trivial situation.  Anything real you do is going to come with some level of uncertainty.  If you want to go surfing for the day it could be way too cold or the waves way too big or way to small or you could get hurt or whatever.  If you try to drive to the top of Saddleback in your F-150 you COULD get a flat tire and therefore you SHOULD have a spare.  I swear to fucking god this happened....we got a flat tire like 500 yards from the top of the fucking mountain and she then informed me she hadn't replaced the spare.  Did we immediately start calling for a tow truck?  No.  We tried to fix it!  I wanted to call for help because that's an OPTION and you need to put it in place as soon as possible.  Forget the fact that driving up a mountain without a spare tire is one of the dumbest things you could ever do (some would argue you should actually have TWO spare tires for such a trip), but once you're flat and it's a national holiday and everyone is drinking and you don't have much cell coverage you need to start trying to get help as soon as possible.  Nope, she was sure we could fix it.  Someone had a can of fix a flat.  Seriously, that was the plan, drive 9 miles down the mountain over giant ass rocks with a fix a flatted wheel.  Yeah that worked out super good.  So like three hours after we got the flat and we're sitting on the side of the road with a shredded tire and cut brake line (lol....yes, she tried to drive on the rim and cut the break line, probably exposing me to like 200 millimorts) she then starts calling tow trucks.  Obviously nobody gets up there and the truck sits on the side of the mountain over night after we catch a ride down with a ranger.  She took the next day off of work and spent something like $2000 and 12 hours getting the truck down the next day.  Moving right along, sure you're correct that a job at Google would make you devalue options, especially if you're sure that's the best thing you could ever be doing.  And sure walking the professional poker wire is going to make you really value any sort of net you can put beneath you.  But I'd actually argue that her and I gravitated towards these things because we were already THAT way to begin with.
Blogger bravos1 said...
Instead of having amazing sex with Rihanna, just pencil into your calendar "have amazing sex with Rihanna or Nikki Minaj"

Money, as you mentioned, will bring forth many options. I have far more options in every sense of the the word than ever I had growing up at or below the poverty line. Having options is an amazingly important thing to me as well, but not utilizing those options to make you/your life better (how ever you measure it) is nothing but a waste of said options. But, having options can definitely complicate ones life. While this may seem counter-intuitive to some, I think it is pretty clear that simplicity equates to comfort for many people and having options is the opposite of simplicity.

You may not see it this way, but knowing you and talking to you, as little as it has been over the past year or so, I see you enjoying your life more now than before. I also think you see where your life can actually go, which is both exciting and depressing at the same time because you're not there yet. Keep strong and keep up the good fight and remember to explore and more importantly, ENJOY your options thoroughly!
February 23, 2015 at 2:23 PM
This is fucking brilliant and to some extent equates simply to "ignorance is bliss".  If you don't have any choices and don't know any better you're not going to waste any time thinking about what you have to do.  I definitely ran into decision fatigue in my days at commerce, and a similar effect certainly happens at a macro level of my life.  I am happiest when life is at it's most simple, but at the same time I know deep down that I have options and can make lots of choices to make things better or different.  Like right now I had the option to take a few months off, so I did.
Blogger mike l. said...
not to be nitpicking, it's a quality post, but you missed a zero here:

"(40/80 horses need 30k bankrolls)"
February 23, 2015 at 8:17 PM
If this is a thinly veiled attempt to ask for a $4/$8 stake I'm a little light but do know a guy....
Blogger psych said...
If you cherish having your option so much that you avoid taking it for fear of losing it, then its value never materializes... Don't keep Rihanna waiting too long! ;-)
February 23, 2015 at 9:13 PM
Absolutely correct.  I over value options and consequently have trouble acting decisively.  But I know this, and knowing is at least half the battle.

Monday, February 23, 2015


As usual the idea for this blog post came to me in the shower;  the only salient difference is that it did so before 6am as the sun was just starting to think about coming up.  I'm an old man, you see, and routinely have trouble sleeping past 7 these days.  It's in my blood, what can I say other than "thanks, pops".  I'm super excited about this forest of ear hair, too!

As best I can tell there is a major difference between two classes of people on Earth; those who value options and those who do not.  As an aside the first group can be split once more into people who correctly value options and people who overvalue them, but for now I'm gonna leave that out and just focus on the distinction between people like myself (who love options!) and people like my ex (who place zero value on them).

It's hard for me to even see the other point of view here, as the value of options is so intrinsic to the way I think about the world on a day to day basis.  At a macroscopic level my entire life was built on having the option to return to software if/when I decided to quit poker.  A year and a half ago it came down to "go back to software or become a teacher."  Yes this happened.  You want to know what was the nail in the coffin for teaching?  I'll be just as unqualified for that in 5 years as I am now!  Not pursuing it immediately closes no doors, whereas eventually software options were going to start disappearing.  On a day to day basis as a poker player I learned to value options first hand;  if you're playing 60 you should probably be on the 40 list, cause that's an option you might want when the time comes.  If you're deciding what casino to drive to you can set it up in such a way that you have an exit ramp (for example if you goto Hustler at 10am, going to the bike at 1pm makes no sense, but if you start at the bike at 10am and the game sucks, going to Hustler mid day is completely valid).  If you live in a month to month apartment there is intrinsic value in your lease.  Every month you have the option to give 30 days and move.  If you move somewhere and sign a new lease you lose that option.  Holding on to your job keeps options open, but quitting it closes them (you can only quit your job once).  At my SES (big fancy acronym for socioeconomic status I learned from my psychiatrist friend) money is really only good for two things;  generating more money or keeping options open.  That's really all you do with it, honestly. For me the act of writing something on the calendar actually represents a giant failure, as it is the precise moment at which I have declared "At this time I will have no options;  I am going to pursue this specific activity at this specific time in this specific place!  How dreadful!"  Even if the calendar entry is "have amazing sex with Rihanna" it still causes me stress and pain, as now I'm locked in to that specific activity.

There is another class of human that views things entirely differently.  To them options are completely worthless.  I can only really discuss how I believe one of them (my ex) came to be this way, and even that is a stretch and mostly half measures and half truths.  She always viewed the world as black and white, right and wrong, success or failure.  A problem had one solution (all others were wrong), a day had one plan (if anything went off course you had failed), and mistakes had one person at fault.  The first time I really noticed this was close to a decade ago when she admonished me to put every dollar I possibly could behind the firewalls of retirement accounts.  You see to her that is the correct answer and doing anything else makes you an idiot.  There is absolutely no value whatsoever in having access to your $10k (or in her case, $500k?) before you turn 60.  None.  If you need it before then you fucked up and since she's never made a mistake in her entire life (seriously, I think she believes that...can you imagine the level of self confidence you'd have if you were sure you'd never made an error in your entire life?  you'd be invincible.  and impossible lol) and therefore will not fuck up it's absolutely correct to just lock it up.

But what if the rules change (as she complained to me about pretty much every election cycle, actually once saying "this is a game and I'm playing it perfectly they can't just change the rules") and the benefits of having that money in there decrease or disappear?  What if they cap how much you can put in your tax you on some of it or abolish the accounts all-together?  Or what if you decide you want to buy rental properties (I'm co-holder of two), or stake people (40/80 horses need 30k bankrolls)?  What if 6 years from now you get seriously into sports betting, what if a good friend needs a loan and offers you 10% interest for 3 months, what if another one falls on tough times and you just need to help him out, what if you want to play 100/200 and not worry about it?  Well these things all require folding money, and I have done or am doing all of them right now BECAUSE I didn't squirrel my entire net worth into tax advantaged accounts (about half of it is in them).  It is what it is.

So I guess my point is that no matter what you do in life, try and keep your options open because they are intrinsically valuable.  If you start a poker career make sure you have a backup plan, and get out before you get stuck.  I have seen so many friends (and just...people) get trapped in poker.  It's not pretty if you don't have an out and things stop working or you start to hate it or just plain get bored.  Try to have options, I think, at all costs.  Don't over-value them (as I probably do), but don't ignore them either.  Because for the other 99.9999% of us, things are going to go wrong, mistakes will be made, U-turns executed, and it sure is comforting to still be on some sort of road and not mired in the muck when they do.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Not. Dead. Yet

Surely I've used that title before.  I mean, surely, right?  Who fucking cares it's my blog and anybody who still reads this obviously will give me a pass, too.  So let's see where are we?

I've always prided myself on being completely open and honest about everything that's going on and happening in my life on here, and I think that's part of the reason at least some people enjoyed reading what I had to say.  Lately I haven't been posting and that's been simply because posting the truth has been simply unthinkable.  It's not that I was ashamed or afraid to share it, honestly, but more that I simply couldn't believe/accept it was happening.  I mean, sure I played some poker last year, but mostly I was trying (sort of) to revive my software engineering career while casually ignoring the smoking rubble of a preposterous decade long "relationship".  I quote my dad, sort of...holy fuck.  Are you kidding me?  That all happened?  I tried having a positive outlook on the whole thing and that was just so laughable I had to give it up.  So I took Johnny Baseball's advice and decided to actively not think about her (anytime she crept into my head I actively replace her with another thought).  It seemed like a good plan but pretty much resulted in me drinking all the time.  I'm not really sure how it did that, but it did.  So I stopped that plan and started just sort of letting my mind wander wherever it wanted whenever it wanted.  Also big mistake.

Turns out, shockingly, that there is no easy answer.  You can't just keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something different to happen:

If you are a crayon eating window licking mother fucker, and you do the same thing day in and day out for 10 years, you will simply have clean windows and fewer crayons at the end.  It is what it is.  So I'm taking 9 weeks off from work and trying to do whatever I can to shun the crayons, ignore the windows, and somehow, some way, figure out what exactly matters to me.  That's the catch, really.  I spent a decade living with someone else telling me what my values were.  I mean, she didn't do it that actively, but the upshot was she had values (she didn't know what they were...but she acted on wanting them to be upheld, viciously and violently) and I was terrified of conflict so I just let her win 972 times in a row and then boom I had no value system whatsoever to go to to check what was right/wrong/desired/silly.  It gets worse and worse and worse but like I said above the whole thing is just unthinkable.  I'm ashamed of all of it.  I used that shame/anger to drag myself into the weight room and move my 3x8 bench weight from 125 to 155.  But I mean, so fucking what?  That's not a core value.  It feels good, but being strong doesn't matter at all to me.  I don't give a fuck.  It's better than nothing, I guess, except now I weigh 183 pounds instead of 154 (seriously I gained 30 pounds in 5 months...this happened) and I mean....again HOLY FUCK.  Awful.  Upon inspection you know what is a core value?  Being not fat!  Shocking.  So we're doing that now (swimming, running, etc instead of pushing around heavy things for no reason whatsoever cause I mean really unless the zombies come my bench ain't ever gonna matter and even if they do my time in the 10k will be WAY more relevant).

Mostly I'm angry.  And sad, regretful, etc.  And anxious, worried.  You know who has something to say about this?  The Buddha!  Seriously check it out Buddhism is awesome.  The religion has no deity and a fucking hall of fame.  Is your religion this awesome?  Oh, it is?  Good job little buddy!  Keep practicing it!

Just don't tell me what the fuck to do/think.  Cause if you do, like Mario did at the Bike last week, 19 please let it go looks from Randy Kim won't stop me (see Einstein, above, bro).

Ok that's about all I have.  I could talk about how I just got skull fucked in the 60 by Ted (I told Johnny baseball the story basically without breathing and his response was "are you sober" and I was like "shockingly yes") or how I literally took 88 to war on the 99889 board in a 6 way raised 100/200 pot and lost exactly 3 bets on the big streets (and told Phil I fired of the last $200 mostly just for his viewing pleasure cause I never, ever, ever, ever win)....ok I guess I already did.  The point is I've got two more months off and fuck poker, it's not the way out of this fucking mess.  I'm not sure software is either, but at it deserves the old college try at least, and so it shall have it.