Thursday, December 26, 2019

Year in Review (from 36,000 feet)

I just ran what felt like a mile across the Houston airport.  It couldn't have been that far, but good lord did it feel like it.  My plane in Pittsburgh loaded a bit late, then we had some "rivet" or something that looked suspicious on our wing.  I swear to god the pilot said "we have maintenance on the way to see if that is 'pertinent piece' of the airplane".  Like, he said that.  So we take off around an hour late, land 40 something minutes late, and I haul know what, it doesn't fucking matter.  I made it.  My lungs are burning and my legs hurt and I'm sweating but whatever I made it.  Half the plane has the fucking flu pray for me.

I just reread my last post and boy was it brutal.  I don't feel quite that bad now, but close.

Anybody who knows me well knows this has been one of the hardest years of my life.  The only more difficult one I can think of was 2014, the break up year, and in retrospect while that sucked ass and was incredibly hard it was probably the best thing that happened to me since I got into MIT.  This year has been really hard and honestly I don't think it's going to be something I look back on and am like "yeah man, I'm really better off for having gone through all that".  Pretty much just everything has sucked. 

I'm starting to have some health issues; all mild but pretty annoying and nothing I'm going to go into detail about here.  I'm drinking too much.  I'm not sleeping well.  My anxiety is acting up.  Poker has been an abject disaster.  As of this writing I'm winning about $10 and .36 bets per hour for the year (which obviously means that I've run poorly when playing in my bigger games) when playing "freelance".  And in not that many hours.  It got so bad that I took a prop job for a bit in the Spring, working stone cold graveyard (2am to 10:30am).  I lasted 7 weeks before realizing the job was going to kill me and there was no hope of getting onto a human shift.  And for my trouble I basically lost almost exactly the amount they paid me, including a 50 bet loss followed by a 90 bet loss two days later.  And this doesn't count whatever I lost playing on KingsClub, which I have written down somewhere and is not...insignificant.  Basically I've broken even for something like 16 months, give or take. 

So when something like that happens everything basically falls apart around you if you're not careful.  I have to be playing badly, I just have to be.  I think I've manged to plug up some of the leaks and flawed thought patterns recently, but even then it's still difficult.  I still have days when I just don't have it;  I didn't even realize that until recently, when I forced myself to bring all my focus and tools to bear and realized wow you really were coasting through entire sessions there bro.  I don't have the armor I used to have.  I can't let mistakes go.  I get emotional (that was happening more early in the year when Glenn was literally bullying me like a middle school playground gorilla trying to get me fired from the Hustler) from time to time.  I get angry at my idiot opponents, sometimes even at people I call friends, for things that just should slide right off my back (and certainly did when I was winning $100/hour).  I have to take early outs.  I don't have the confidence to stick around in mediocre games.  The traffic is killing me (nothing worse than driving home at 7pm in still bad traffic stuck 50 bets wondering when you'll ever win again). 

I had a week recently where I won $18k, 10 of it on the same day spread across two 40/80 sessions at the commerce then the bike (that's right, I played 2.5 hours at commerce, won $5000, decided my game was about to get bad, drove to the bike and played 4 more hours and won another $5000) and I didn't even feel that good about it.  In fact I had a panic attack at the table the next day at 5pm the next day because the woman I'm "seeing" told me she was going into town for a few drinks and I fomo'ed because I wanted to see her.  I mean come on....Sure that can make you feel not awesome, but a full blown anxiety attack at the table?  That's just not healthy.  That just can't happen.

And this would all kind of be ok, I think, if my personal life was somehow firing on all cylinders.  But it's not.  Not even close.  I've lived alone now for 5.5 years, but up until this year only very rarely have I felt truly lonely.  It's happening more and more lately.  Maybe what I want is changing?  Maybe my value system is?  Maybe I'm starting to feel like I'm wasting my life?  Maybe I can no longer handle being in the same casually undefined relationship for 3 years?  Maybe I'm just bored of poker and not hungry anymore after achieving basic financial freedom?  Could it be as simple as I'm not learning and therefore not having fun? I used to think I'd go back to software after a few years of this poker stint.  Now....I'm not so sure.  Do I need to make things easier or harder?  I just don't know.  But I gotta do something.  I gotta join a softball team or a gym or meetup or something.  Poker is supposed to allow me the freedom to live my life the way I want to and I'm just not doing it.

The last post I wrote made it sound like I was definitely quitting poker.  That's not the case.  In the last 6 weeks I've still mostly been playing (although there was quite a bit of time off between Christmas and Thanksgiving and a wedding in Mexico and of course drinking my face off on weekends) and actually kind of enjoying it.  I made an effort to improve my focus and procedures at the table.  I'm trying to get back to the basics of soft limit hold 'em games, just fucking punishing people for making the most basic mistakes of the game, not worrying about being balanced (just being aware when I've painted myself into a range corner) unless I'm in a hand against someone who has a clue.  I've worked Commerce back into my routine, and if the games go overnight I've found them to be pretty darn good and a nice fit to my natural rhythm.  And it feels good to play "big", even though I'm not playing anywhere near big (I haven't played a hand above 60/120).  My focus is a little sharper, I have a little more fun, I feel a little better about myself than I do bum hunting the yellow chip stone fish.

But I am attempting to make a substantial change.  A good friend of mine is an SAT/ACT verbal tutor, and he really likes enjoys it.  He's worked for a large national company for several years and suggested that I apply and give it a shot (on the math side, obviously).  I did a few phone interviews, went to their office and took a math test, and it looks like I'm going to get hired in January.  This isn't like panacea or anything, but it could be a nice complement to a part time poker schedule and there are opportunities to grow both my personal skill set and perhaps eventually build a small business.  And the market for math tutors is just absurd.  My friend gets billed out at $220/hour (which I expect is what they'll bill me at).  Obviously he (we) keeps only a small fraction of that, but you can kind of see where I'm going.  If you're good at it and able to get new clients, it's pretty easy to charge $100-$150/hour for your services.  And if you're able to get enough new clients that you can't handle them yourself....and you're able to hire people to handle get the idea.  There are lot of ways it could turn into something good, and in the meantime making $40/hour to do something constructive while learning a valuable skill doesn't sound that bad at all.

But now on to the point of this post.  This year hasn't been all bad; I've got a lot to be thankful for and I'm going to run down through the list now.

Despite my claim of health issues I have actually had a good year in terms of my physical fitness.  I'm down over 20 pounds from "peak fat" as I call it, most of it this year.  My cardiovascular health could improve, as well as my strength, but for right now I'm going to focus on losing another 15 pounds or so hopefully by summer.  And the important part here is that I (re)learned how to lose weight.  I simply have to count calories, I have to write down everything I eat.  That keeps me accountable and gives me the satisfaction of skipping that last snack before bed because it makes it so clear that eating it will mean I made no progress that day.  For the first time in several years I'm confident that I'll be in better shape every quarter this year.

I've developed a few valuable friendships (you know who you are), maintained some other ones, and rebuilt some that were deteriorating.  I went the entire year with really only burning one bridge (and it's not burnt down completely and wasn't that strong of a bridge to begin with).  That's a good year for me!

I saved a life.  I'm not sure if it was even mentioned on here, but I fostered a pitbull named Bronson for 5 months, eventually finding him a forever home with my neighbor's niece.  He was out of time at the Ramona Animal Shelter, going to be put down that day, and I volunteered, stepped the fuck up, drove to the IE to get him, and just figured it the fuck out.  For five months I lived in my 500 square foot apartment with him and....

Cora!  I adopted a cat this year and love her to death.  She originally just moved in as a foster because....well it's a little complicated.  The woman "I'm seeing" is deep in the cat rescue life and was fostering Cora and another adorable little guy I refer to as "Baby Chark".  Those two cats were going to be moved to "the cattery" which is basically a closet in an animal adoption center to make room for some more difficult cats that she could handle.  I volunteered to take the two of them, but Baby Chark was adopted before he could even move in.  So I got Cora, fell in love, and decided to keep her.  It's a little terrifying to think I'm going to have her until I'm in my 50s, but I have no regrets.

I bought two houses.  Well, half of two houses.  Very cheap houses with a partner.  We're gonna rent them out and it's gonna be fine if they don't fall down.

I'm getting really tired now, probably because I'm on east coast time and I ran my equivalent of a marathon 2 hours ago, so I'm going to stop writing.  Long story...well...long.  2019 sucked ass but I did do some cool things.  I'm not quitting poker, but I know I need to be smarter about it and work harder than I have been.  I'm pursuing other opportunities so that I don't end up stuck in poker like some of my friends.   So it's not all that bad.