How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Internet Piracy

April 18th, 2013

Hey Guys,

I get asked a lot about internet piracy and how much it affects me.  Pretty much anybody who’s ever tried to sell (or buy… or download) anything digital has thought about the piracy issue and felt a sort of odd sense of mixed emotions.

Let’s talk about it.

Internet piracy isn’t really *stealing*.  In fact, the provider doesn’t lose any specific copy.  To the average person, stealing is when there is a thing over there, it doesn’t belong to you, you take it, and now that thing is over here (and not over there).  With internet piracy, there is a thing over there, it doesn’t belong to you, you take it, and… it’s still there.  It’s almost like the never-ending stairs trick in Mario 64, where you run and run and run and then you turn around and you’re right where you started.  Everything’s still there!

download

So, if it’s not stealing, is it… copyright infringement?  Well, not really, because most of the time people aren’t selling your digital content.  They’re not actually gaining very much for it, if anything.  Well then… is it plagiarism?  Hmm, no, not that either.  Nobody’s trying to pass off the work as their own.  In fact, when people download content they do it almost entirely because it’s yours.

So what is piracy then?

I usually call it free advertising.

That’s good, now say, “Yarghhh!”

 

I’m a professional poker author with a very niche clientele.  I sell books to people well-versed enough in the online poker world to know who I am.  That probably constitutes <1% of the American poker community, let alone the global one.  In short, the vast majority of my target audience have ZERO idea who I am.  Not only that, but a lot of them would probably love the content (that’s a self-call, which is Dartmouthese for a not-so-humblebrag).  Simply put, there is a massive untapped audience that, short of me winning the WSOP main event, are unlikely to ever know who I am or that I wrote a book about poker.

Now, in the good-old-days, achieving market awareness was a task for lots of cash, friends in high places, and Don Draper.  Today, though, things are a bit different.  Ask Antoine Dodson how fast the internet spreads market awareness.  He’ll probably tell you that if you’re afraid of piracy, you are “So Dumb.  You are Really Dumb.  Fo’Real”.

Here are some reasons why many people, including Rovio CEO and Steward of Upset-Poultry Launching Mikael Hed, think that Piracy is actually a pretty good thing:

  • Brand Awareness is a viral affair now.  So, a leaked copy of an app, document, or song, could turn into millions of new customers, not dozens.  
  • Piracy is virtually impossible to defeat by brute force.  So, trying to stop it completely is a losing battle.  Don’t cling to the status quo, embrace the change.
  • A quality product leads to happy users.  Happy users want moar moar moar.
  • When you have a lot of users, you can combat piracy with a two-step solution; 1) release at a low price point and 2) ramp up DRM protection (or not).  Think itunes, Spotify, Netflix, etc. Lots of users means lots of exposure and, if people love your content, they’ll buy it if the price is right.
The last comment I probably wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t observed it myself.  I’ve been selling ebooks for a long time now, and they’re fully pirated all over the internet.  Yet I still receive the occasional message along the lines of, “I really want to purchase your book because I think you did great work and I want a legitimate copy”.  I’m always kind of stunned when this happens, but to me it represents a relatively large number of people who think that but don’t feel the need to email me about it.
To conclude, in the internet era the name of the game is exposure.  Get your product out there– if it is high quality, people will enjoy it, share it, and your brand will spread.  If it’s low quality, well, that’s just too bad.  But when you get that emotional, knee-jerk reaction (“I listed my product at $39.99 and now these people are taking it for FREE!!!! HULK SMASH!!!!”), remember that piracy represents the golden triforce of sales:  demand.  If people demand the goods, specifically your goods, you’re going to be just fine.
Until next time,
Andrew

PS:  Reshare this post ;)

PPS:  Music of the day:  Ben Folds ft Regina Spektor

 

Revisiting A-Ha Moments From a Different Perspective

April 4th, 2013

Hi all,

A little while ago, I wrote a piece about “a-ha moments”.  I discussed the difference between gathering information and actually connecting that information with your core value systems and mental structure.  Turns out that my father, CEO and founder of Cerebyte, specializes in the neuroscience behind this kind of occurrence.  So, when he read my blog, he had some pretty cool insights.

Before that, though, let’s describe who my dad is and what Cerebyte does.   My dad used to be a teacher, got a PhD from Stanford studying management decision making, became a consultant, got over the whole consulting thing, started Cerebyte based on his discoveries studying neuroscience and business management.

Cerebyte provides essentially a three-step service to its clients (generally large-ish corporations).  First, it identifies the top employees in the company.  Second, it gathers knowledge from those top employees– the goal is to figure out why they perform so much better than their co-workers.  Extracting expert knowledge is a critical (and fascinating) element of the process.  Third and finally, Cerebyte builds a training program to confer the expert knowledge of a company’s best employees unto the average ones.  ”Make the rest perform like the best”, as they say.  The key moment, though, is when an average-to-below-average employee starts exhibiting the behaviors of the premium-level employee.  At that moment, the weaker employee (or poker player, or whatever) actually adopts the knowledge of the stronger one.  That is what we call an “A-ha” moment.

After writing my previous blog post, my dad replied with some really interesting stuff.  He took issue with my reference to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve true expertise in a field.  He begins by saying, “I think the post conflates two different though related ideas – ah ha movements and karmic convergence”.  Then, he separates those two ideas:  

Gladwell and his 10k hours is only partially correct

o   Gladwell makes 3 key assumptions about learning and ah ha moments that are true for the first people through but do not have to be true for others with a modern learning program §  Assumes that experiences are essentially ad hoc and that it takes about 10k hours to accumulate enough of the right experiences to develop insight

§  Assumes that the individual through personal capability somehow brings analysis, integration and ultimately synthesis to the ad hoc experiences

§  Assumes that ah ha moments are essentially random events that happen as a result of the first two o   However, ah ha moments can be systematically created in about 10% of the 10K (i.e. in about 1k hours or less) because the underlying conditions of ah ha moments are well known (Gladwell doesn’t use any of this research – which is one of the reasons I don’t like his work – it is very superficial)

§  By identifying and focusing on the experiences that were most relevant to building to the ah ha, these experiences can be proactively replicated for anyone §  Almost anyone can be taught to analyze, integrate and synthesize the proactive experiences §  When combined, these processes (which is what Cerebyte does) don’t guarantee the ah ha moment but 90% of people going through these programs experience an ah ha moment after about 1k of fewer hours of work

Basically, Malcolm Gladwell says that a very average person doing a task for 10k hours will achieve (somewhat randomly) an a-ha moment.  My father’s point is that you can be very smart, or you can have amazing guidance, and get there much, much faster.  This is explanation for why I succeeded without getting poker coaching, yet I still believe that poker coaching is an effective tool.  If the average person takes 10k hours to become good at poker, and a smart person takes 5k, how fast can a smart person with guidance achieve those transcendent moments?

Karmic events are only indirectly associated with ah ha moments

o   The dynamic is that the more ah ha moments a person has the greater their actual depth and breadth of knowledge and, more importantly, the greater the confidence in that knowledge

o   There is great contentment when this stage is reached – people really feel as though they know something meaningful and exude a sense of peace

o   Others sense first the contentment, then the confidence, then the depth of expertise and think –wow, this is someone special (probably the effect of “mirror neurons”)…and good karmic things happen

o   So, it is possible to make good karmic things happen if you do the right things…

I want to hang specifically on my father’s second point here.  People “exude a sense of peace” when they’ve reached a level of confidence and depth of knowledge.  Not to be an ultra fanboy, but observe how Phil Galfond interacts with people at and away from the table.  This man wins and loses massive pots, yet he always seems to do exactly that–exude a sense of peace.  So, in a sense, the more you know about the game (or life, or your job, or what-have-you), the more unflappable, concretely happy and content you are.  Our eager search for knowledge and success actually ends up being our search for contentedness and fulfillment.

To me, this ends up being a further argument to just take something you always wanted to do and dive into it.  The more passionately you attack life, the more likely you’ll end up with those “a-ha” moments, the more likely you’ll end up both successful AND exuding that sense of peace that we all crave.  Personally, I know that when I’ve been travelling alone, I’ve often found those two things (peace and enlightenment) come together.  On two different occasions, I can remember reaching a sort of clear-view that made my problems seem easier to solve and made the world seem friendlier in general.

At the end of the day, it boils down to an openness and a desire to learn.  If you’re excited by new possibilities (not everyone is), and if you’re willing to fail in attempting to understand things (not everyone does that either), you’re going to find yourself accepting failure more peacefully and achieving success more easily.

Catch you next time

Andrew

 

PS: Songs of the day are coming from The Bird and the Bee.  They rock.

Diamond Dave

Polite Dance Song

 

Determination & Entrepreneurship

March 27th, 2013

Hello Peoples

Been a while!  Today I’m going to write a little bit about my experience with entrepreneurship (normally spelled entreprenurrrrrship).  I’m also going to tie it into some cool ideas about determination and the will to succeed.  Sound good?  Okay ready break.

It seems to me that pretty much everybody has good ideas.  In fact, I went around for much of the last year asking lots of random people one pretty simple question:  What would you fix if you could?  I’ve heard so many incredible responses to that question, often from some of the least motivated, least entreprenurrrial people I know.  In fact, so many of these ideas are so good that I can’t help but wonder why they don’t exist yet! In a world full of technology, where everything is becoming more and more possible, where are these things:

  • Automated lawn mowers (think Roomba for grass)
  • Organic Baguettes (baguettes are so goddamned delicious, but what if I want bread without all the additives and stuff?)
  • Dragonfruit Juice (I mean seriously.  Dragonfruits.  I’d drink it just to feel like a wizard)
  • Pirate ship tours along the coast (I would SO do this.  yarrr).

The list literally goes on for a very long time.  So why don’t these things exist?

Where are my entre-purr-neurs at??

Starting new things is hard.  A body at rest likes to stay at rest.  People get routines (that usually include a lot of tedium and a lot of TV-dium) and the marginal gain of shutting the tube off and building something doesn’t seem worth the hassle.  The idea of making the world better, making lots of money, gaining independence and working for yourself all seem appealing until it comes time to actually haul anchor and float away, and then it seems somewhat challenging (insert:  terrifying, daunting, intense, not-quite-worth it).

So what is the magic sauce, the Jordan’s-secret-stuff that turns the wheels of industry, makes some people stand out from the crowd for their service, development, and giant bundles of cash, and separates the entre-pah-neurs from everyone else?

I’d say that it’s determination.

Here are three short stories to exemplify what I’m talking about:

First, I had a friend who really, really wanted to go to Dartmouth.  In fact, he was so sure he wanted to go to Dartmouth that he applied early (and made no plans to apply to other schools!)  Now, most people get screened out immediately, and some lucky few get accepted immediately, but there is a sort of “honorary dismissal” that’s called being “wait-listed”.  That means that they think you were totally good enough, just not “unique enough”.  Well, forget that, because my friend didn’t even get to that point.  Instead, he was promptly rejected, “have-a-nice-life” style.  The only problem?  He was determined to go to Dartmouth.  So, he spent the next few months traipsing around New York City gathering signatures on a petition that said “I should go to Dartmouth”.  When people asked him about it, he could explain in detail all of the reasons he wanted to attend the school.  In fact, he’s quite persuasive (as determination often is).  So, people signed (and signed and signed and signed).  Eventually, he had over 10,000 people who all signed this petition (I’m not sure of the exact number, but it was around the 10k mark).  Then, he drove up to Dartmouth’s Campus, walked straight into the admissions office that rejected him with his have-a-nice-life letter in one hand and a stack of signatures in the other.  He said, “I read here that you don’t think I should go to Dartmouth.  Here are ten thousand people who disagree”.  He tossed the papers onto this poor admissions officer’s desk and walked out the door.  The next day, his decision was reversed.

Second, I met a guy on a train who was an entre-prah-neur.  He told me the following story about a similarly entre-brah-neurial friend who had a single life goal and was determined to achieve it– he wanted to own a mountain.  His dream life was to wake up in his cabin on his own mountain in the Rockies, amble out the door and snowboard down the slopes.  The problem with that plan was that he was broke, and that mountains cost somewhere upward of $40 million dollars.  So, he made a plan.  He picked out a mountain and then tracked down every millionaire he could get ahold of.  He approached them all and gave (roughly) this pitch:  ”If you agree to spend 1 million dollars, I’ll make you one part of a 41-person partnership in the ownership of this mountain.”  He called and pitched until he had 40 millionaires (or billionaires) ready to buy into his mountain split.  The only side element of the deal was that a small piece of the mountain would be set aside for his own personal use.  Everyone agreed, and now you can find this man on his mountain, living his dream.

LAST STORY I PROMISE:  My father worked with a guy who dreamed of being a trader on Wall Street.  Most of you guys know this, but it’s no easy gig to get.  A good friend of mine from Dartmouth was a top 10 student, interned at some of the most prestigious financial institutions in the world, and wasn’t offered any positions on Wall Street (despite applying desperately all across the board).  So when I tell you that this particular business partner never even graduated from college, you might consider his dream to be totally impossible.  However, he was determined and got himself a job working the copy machine at one of the major investment banks.  While he wasn’t making copies, he was getting to know the traders, asking them questions, and reading the books they suggested.  One day, somebody quit in the middle of the work day (as happens apparently quite often in our beloved financial capitol), and the team needed somebody to pick up the work.  When the copy-guy volunteered, everyone agreed it was a no-brainer: he’d been there for a couple years, he knew all the stuff, he could certainly handle a day of work while they looked for a replacement.  Several years later, he was a managing director of the trading floor.

The point is, when you know what you want you know what you want.  However, it’s easy to want something and lack determination.  The good news is that determination is something you can choose to have.  So the next time you want something, decide if you really really want it or if you don’t really care.  If it’s the former, you shouldn’t ever really give up.

 

Anything is Possible!!! I’m so blurry!!!

 

As some of you know, I’ve been working long and hard on a business myself.  I’m not going to discuss that business until it is ready for it’s first round of beta launches, but I’m excited to see it come to life.  I’ll be writing more about entrepreneurism in the future, but next time I’m going to revisit my “a-ha moments” blog from a little while ago with some cool neuroscience stuff.

Hope everyone is well.  I’m back on the writing grind, so you should be seeing more of me.  Remains to be seen if that’s a good thing or not ;)

Andrew

Music of the day:

The Weeknd- Wicked Games (HugLife Remix)

Mike Posner- Marauder Music

 

Hey, US Govt: Stop Deporting Your Friends

January 29th, 2013

Allow me to introduce you to Savina, a friend of mine.  She came to the United States from Bulgaria right before she started attending classes at an elite, private American liberal arts college. Aside from being fluent in Bulgarian, she speaks English better than most of my friends.  She has a real passion for poetry and English literature in general.  As a student, she spent a term in Argentina where she perfected her Spanish as well.  She’s comfortable in a few different programming languages (which she picked up mostly for fun).  In college, she ran an online women’s culture magazine that achieved reasonable success.  After college, she moved to San Francisco and started working for an upcoming technology start-up business.  She spent weekends negotiating a long-distance relationship with her longtime college boyfriend, eventually sharing an apartment with him in the city.  She loves to go out to concerts, drink wine, and spend time with her incredibly close-knit group of friends.

She has an infectious laugh.  She’s one of the smartest people I know.  She happens to also be incredibly beautiful.   Without a doubt, she is one of those people who is going to provide a disproportionate level of good to America.  In short, she is an enormous contributor to cultures both big and small, she is probably going to generate a lot of money, and she is just straight up awesome.

And, next week, the US Department of Immigration is kicking her back to Bulgaria.

For some largely unknown reason, Savina’s status as a fully employed legal immigrant wasn’t moving enough to preserve her American-ness.  Neither was her history of American education nor American relationships.  Simply put, there is and was nothing she could do to stay in the country to which she has given so much already.

Sometimes, I feel like the USA is like a popular bar that’s “at capacity”.  There’s a lot of people waiting in line, looking through the window, and seeing that it’s really not at capacity.  In fact, there looks to be plenty of room.  However, the bouncer at the door still says no.  Now, if we look even closer into the bar, we see lots of people who got to the bar early just loitering, drinking slowly, not talking to anyone or contributing to the success of the evening.  But, they’re still in, and everyone outside is still out.  If the bar was smart, they’d start to let some people in and usher these non-contributors out the door (or at least make them buy some more drinks).

My analogy started to fall apart there for a moment.

I know, I know.

I want to trade some of the less valuable Americans for people like Savina.  I can think of (easily) a hundred people I would trade for Savina.  It’d be a great deal for America:  we’d improve our human assets, we’d trim some of the fat (in this case, probably literal), and in the long run we’d generate more money, more business, more good-looking half-Bulgarian children.

For all the people out there who refuse to acknowledge that immigrants might actually be better at stuff than you are, I’d like to direct you to Mr. Jack White for just a brief moment:  ”White Americans, what, nothin’ better to do? Why don’t you kick yourself out?  You’re an immigrant too”.  Guess what– I’m a mix of Polish/German and English immigrants. Tesla was CroatianMadison Albright was born in Prague.  Oh yeah, there was that Einstein guy. He was either born in Jersey City or Ulm, Kingdom of Wurttemberg. I seriously cannot remember which. Can you imagine if we had been this totally backward back when it really, really mattered?

No, suddenly we’ve become so fat and lazy and useless that we look down on people who actually DO things (namely, immigrants). “Those Mexican immigrants stole that gardening job that I actually didn’t have and wasn’t ever going to do, and actually it’s kinda nice to have less expensive labor, I mean, wait, kick’em outta here, America!!”  Any of you Irish/Italian/German/Polish/anywhere else people want to think back to when YOU were the immigrants? Hint: It wasn’t that long ago.

The good news (?!?!) is that this cases like Savina’s are apparently happening so often that people are starting to take notice.  Today, I was sent an article with some amazing information, like the fact that 40% of MIT Graduate Students are not US Citizens or Permanent Residents.  After a little bit of searching, I discovered that the Senate will consider a bill to prevent highly skilled immigrants from being deported so easily.  It looks like the vague outline of change peering over the far end of the horizon. Sadly, it will come too late for my friend.

I’m going to miss Savina a lot.  She is planning on finding work in London after her deportation.  I am fully confident that she will continue to be extremely successful.  Our loss.

Lots of love,

Andrew

 

The A-Ha Moment

January 25th, 2013

I want you to think about the person most important to you.  I want you to ignore your blood-relations first.  So, the most important non-family member in your life.  Now, I want you to imagine the split-second moment right before you met that person.  They literally didn’t exist.  You had no frame of reference, no history, nothing.  Your ducks were in a row, so to speak.  Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, another entity collides with yours, changes your point of view, changes your belief  system, really changes everything.  Flash forward a month, a year, however long it takes, and suddenly this person is a fixture in your life  and you can’t even imagine what life was like without them.  Obviously this person could be a significant other, a friend, a mentor, a coach, anyone.  One day, you just wake up, and they’ve ingrained themselves in your life, whether you (or they) wanted to or not.

I often relate this type of mental exercise to people when they’re talking about poker books.  Poker books, I usually say, are only understood once you understand them.  I read Doyle Brunson’s “Super System” as a 16-year-old, and while I found it terribly entertaining and engrossing, I learned roughly zero from that book in terms of application.  Then, many years later, I looked back at it (as a pro poker player) and found that not only could I understand all of Doyle’s advice, but a lot of it was really sound!  So, the information was all there, but the connective process wasn’t.  That connective process is often called the “A-Ha” moment in the poker world, and it describes that singular instant where you finally get it.

Apparently if you Google “a-ha” you get these guys.

 

Turns out, life is full of these moments when you suddenly “get” stuff.  Are they representative of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory (that you need 10,000 hours to achieve mastery of something)?  Or, do they happen randomly?  I genuinely have no idea. Sometimes, I feel like they can be associated with the “moments of enlightenment” or “flashes of inspiration” that philosophers and artists experience while creating their masterworks.  Well, the same thing happens in both life and in poker.

Usually, in my experience, it’s a process of condensing an excess of irrelevant knowledge and experience into the core foundation of a concept.  When people first start writing about poker, they write using gigantic, verbose paragraphs.  It’s virtually impossible to boil down to the really good stuff.  One story that I can remember clearly, on the subject of writing:  Elie Weisel, author of “Night”,  perhaps the definitive Holocaust novel, originally delivered the novel at over 1,000 pages.  Then he edited, re-edited, re-re-edited, and published it at 120 pages.  120 from 1,000.  The core, fundamental concept was almost 10% of the original content.

Not to compare myself to Elie Weisel, but the same thing happens if you look at my earliest poker strategy posts and compare them to my latest ones.  The later ones are very short and to the point.  When I released “Easy Game“, people blasted me for making it too short.  In my view, that’s a good thing.  I remember some statement like this:  real knowledge means the ability to explain it to a 3rd grader.  If you can do that, you’ve got it.

So how does one create these moments of insight?  Well, I don’t think you can reach out there and grab them.  People can spend their whole lives straining for that feeling of awareness & connectedness and come up empty.  Instead, you actually have to just make yourself open to it.  Every time in my life that something truly amazing has developed it has happened because I was in a steady mental state.  When you’re committed to learning, you will learn.  When you’re committed to happiness, you’ll be happy.

Just this week, I was thinking to myself about how great my current situation is.  I play poker sometimes, I coach and make videos, I sell books, I work with a couple of different startups that are really exciting, I take chinese lessons & eat dim sum and mexican food and I really don’t need to go anywhere but here to be really, really happy.  And literally at that moment, a friend contacts me with a potentially life-changing offer that would take me away from my home and challenge me in totally different and new, exciting ways.

The truth is, you can’t really control when those moments are going to happen.  A close friend (that I met while she was on a first-and-last date with a friend in probably the most profound chance-meeting of my life) told me recently that trying to control everything just isn’t the way.  You’re here, you’re there, it’s day-to-day.  And, while we disagree often, there’s a lot of truth in that.  You have to keep trying, but you also have to let it happen.

It’s a delicate balance.

For more, I’d read some Tommy Angelo and also some His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

 

Stay well

Andrew

Three Player Types in Life

January 18th, 2013

Hey,

This thought occurred to me the other day so I thought I would write about it.  Those of you guys who have seen my videos on DeucesCracked know that, at the beginning of every hand, I identify the players involved.  Invariably, it boils down to three player types based on three psychological profiles.  Those three are, in poker terms: bad-passive, bad-aggressive, and good-aggressive.

 

Did somebody say bad-aggressive?

Bad-Passive:  This player is afraid of risk and therefore only bets or raises when he is sure he is going to win.  As a result, he misses a lot of opportunities.  He also lets others dictate the terms of combat during a hand.  Basically, this player bleeds away money until he runs into an unfortunate situation that costs him everything.

Bad-Aggressive:  This player lives for risk.  They seriously can’t get their rocks off until they’ve taken the gamble.  Consciously or unconsciously, they’ll pay the extra theoretical money to take a bad gamble because the rush is worth it for them.  I’ve seen these guys bet tens of thousands without even considering their cards, just because the endorphin-rush kicks in and they get high.  These players are capable of compiling massive wins when luck is on their side;  but, they are usually first to bust, first to tilt, first to get angry and disappointed, and the first to blame others for their misfortune.  It’s great to be a bad-aggressive player on a good day– on a bad day, it’s the worst.

Good-Aggressive:  Whenever I coach poker, I always avoid making blanket descriptions of the “good-aggressive” player type.  In trying to give my students quick insight into the way bad players think, I made it really simple.  However, really good players are complicated.  They are aggressive (but not overly).  They can be passive (to trick or trap their opponents).  In short, you can’t give a one-liner silver bullet solution to defeating good aggressive players.  (You can silver-bullet bad-passives and bad-aggressives, though;  respectively:  ”Fold if he raises” and “Call if he raises”).

Most of you guys already know this stuff.  So why write about it?

Well, it occurred to me that those personality types transcend poker.  In fact, they exist in every day life.

Passive people let others dictate the terms of their lives.  They don’t position themselves to take advantage of opportunity.  In fact, they often purposely avoid opportunity in an irrational (sometimes openly irrational) attempt to limit their risk.  This can mean money, work, relationships– anything.  Do you find yourself afraid to go up to a girl at a bar?  It seems risky?  Consciously you probably know that you have literally nothing to lose.  Your best case scenario is that you pick up a sexy/smart/cool girlfriend.  Yet, you avoid the risk and stay firmly planted to the bar.  Or maybe you’re annoyed by a co-worker, a friend, or a girlfriend, but you decide not to deal with it and just let the whole thing play out naturally.  If this sounds like you, you probably fit the passive stereotype.  Don’t worry, though– we’ll talk about it in a minute.

Aggressive people seize control of situations, but they often do it recklessly.  A friend of mine, eager to dive into the entrepreneurial culture, blew through tens of thousands of dollars riding the wave of a cool idea (with little chance of success).  In fact, the money was spent so quickly that it was gone virtually before his co-workers realized that they’d received no value.  Imagine what the people who funded homegrocer.com were like.  ”OMG everyone’s making so much money… let’s throw more in!  More!  Let’s see how big it can get!”  Pretty much describes the dot-com bubble.  And the financial crisis.  And the financial crisis before that one.  If you’re constantly bored by your work, you dream of sick yacht parties or playing bass in a sold-out Madison Square Garden Arena, and then you actually spend your time and money on it, you’re probably an aggressive person.  And you probably like jumping out of airplanes for fun too.

Here’s the beautiful thing about life, though:  we all can change.

If I can change… and you can change… then everybody can change!!!

 

When I first started playing poker, I was undoubtedly in bad-passive-land.  Even while I was cruising through the 2+2 forums getting premium advice at zero cost (the good ‘ole days), it took me 18 months before I finally became a winning player.  A year and a half!  About 540 days of actively trying not to be passive and actively failing.  Turns out, we can change, but it’s not easy.

Eventually, though, I gained control of my fears of risk and started seizing the opportunities in front of me.  My mind took over and my heart took a backseat.  And, as a result, I started winning.  Now, I’m considered one of the loosest and craziest players in my games, yet at the end of the day I still go to sleep with my passive foundation tugging at me.  I hate debt (even GOOD debt), I often leave my plans up to other people, I am almost always the first one to cave in a disagreement.  So, despite my training, there is still work to be done!

And, for all of you bad-aggressives out there, there’s room in the middle for you too.  To this day, I believe the best players in the world started as bad-aggressive and slowly worked their way towards good-aggressive.  Simply put, controlling the terms of engagement is the surest way to secure a conclusion in your favor.  It doesn’t have to be reckless, arrogant, or dictatorial– some of the best leaders are extremely aggressive in their pursuit of positive aims.  So, I’m going to make an active choice to grab hold of life and make it better, both for me and for everyone else.

This blog is going to outline how I do that, whether it’s building things (I have a new website on its way, which I’ll blog about when we launch it), learning things (blogging in Chinese at some point I hope), and of course, beating poker games.

‘Till next time

Andrew

 

 

Internetz Poker, Staying Healthy, and the Wikiverse

January 12th, 2013

Hey all,

 

When you’re building stacks (or trying to, at least), it’s not exactly an aerobic activity.  A true grinder will spend at least a few hours every day almost motionless.  Sometimes, in poker, you will literally be completely motionless. Some workout.

It can be pretty tough to stay fit and play poker, and not all of us get to be Patrik Antonius.

Who, me?

In fact, I played college football for my first year at Dartmouth.  I quit during the summer after my Freshman year, devoted myself to playing poker (and not so much to school, to my parents chagrin.  But that’s a blog for another day).  Needless to say, I also committed to my social life (read: Keystone Light) and the pounds started pouring on.  Pretty soon I had ballooned, picked up a big ole belly, and lost most traces of my previous athleticism.  But, I was making money, so I didn’t worry about it too much.

Eventually, after my years and years of travel had petered out, I decided to get back in shape.  I tried hitting the gym super hard.  I got buff, but the stomach stayed around.  I didn’t really understand why it wasn’t exactly working quite right.  After all, I’d spent many years in weight rooms for football throughout my youth.  I’d always been a pretty trim guy in general until that sophomore-year slump.  I just figured it was a lack of gym hours that was my problem.

At some point in the last year or so, I got a new roommate who happened to be an old friend.  He was always the funny fat kid growing up.  Except now, he was the funny kid who’d just lost 50 pounds.  I was, of course, super interested in how it’d happened for him.  But, when I asked how he’d done it, his answer surprised me:  ”Reddit”.

Sure enough, he had taken to posting and following along in the Reddit fitness forum (found here).  As he was explaining the series of trials-and-errors, book and article reviews, and massive volume of quantitative data amassed by an internet-going population, I couldn’t help but notice a similarity between that experience and my own on the good old 2+2 forums (begrudgingly linked to here).    I had arrived on 2+2 many years ago as a losing-but-curious poker player without any real glimmer of hope for a long-term future.  But, through the collective wisdom of the online forum community, I (relatively) quickly learned new skills, observed millions of hands of data via my own play and that of others, and slowly but surely began reaching my poker goals.  It turns out that the Wikiverse, the collection of global knowledge and experience, can make you an expert in pretty much anything if you’ll only dive in.

So, just like I had become an expert in poker (debatable), my friend became an expert in fitness (less debatable).  Pretty cool.  So, I started asking him what to do to get back in shape, and he started telling me.  And holy shit, did that shit work.

But before I get to the actual advice, I want to wrap up the other main prong of this blog-essay.  If you WANT anything in the world, the internet is filled with literally thousands of people who want, will want, or have wanted that thing.  They’ve tried to figure it out, they’ve tested things, they’ve talked about it and written about it.  There is countless expertise floating around.  Why would anyone become a history major in college anymore?  All the world’s history is accessible online for free.  If you *really* want to learn about history, just boot up some wikipedia links and some youtube videos and you can get on the learning train for hours and hours and hours.  And it will cost way less than a degree, I promise.  But, so, whether it’s poker, fitness, music, business, lock-picking (yes, I actually googled/learned this once), particle physics (most amazing youtube videos of all time… there are actually hundreds of them).  Once upon a time, it took a ton of courage to go from nothing to something;  two quick anecdotes.  Number 1:  My dad worked with a successful businessman who’d never graduated from college.  His dream was to become a stock trader at a high-end firm in NYC.  So, he got a job in the print shop at that firm, making copies for everyone.  He kept asking which books to read, asking “what would you do” questions, or “why would you do that”.  He was always around, always learning and improving, until, eventually, somebody quit their job.  They needed to fill the post in a hurry.  You can guess who got the job.    Number 2:  A good friend of mine from New York City knew, back when he was in high school, that he only wanted to go to Dartmouth.  He applied early decision and was summarily rejected– not even deferred, just given the blanket, “You don’t deserve to come here” letter.  So, he went around in NYC and gathered signatures on a petition that said, “Dan should go to Dartmouth”.  Then, when he had collected over 10,000, he drove north to Dartmouth unannounced.  He walked into the admissions office building with his stack of signatures in one hand and his rejection letter in the other.  Tossing them both down on the stunned administrator’s desk, he said, “I see that you don’t think I should go to Dartmouth.  Here are 10,000 people who disagree” and left.  And yeah, his decision was reversed the next day.

The point of these anecdotes is simple– it used to be really, really hard to gather the knowledge or the resources to get what you really, really want.  Now, though, it’s almost too easy.  The classic JFGI meme is right on the money– you want something?  Just Fucking Google It.

And now, the part you were all skipping through that last wall of text to see (if you even made it this far).  Here’s the magic recipe to get back in shape that was handed down to me:

 

1)  Drink a ton of water.

2)  Eat your body weight in grams of protein.  If you weigh 200, eat 200g of protein (if you can)

3)  Eat the minimum possible amount of carbs.  Vegetable carbs don’t count to your total.  Breads and such, of course, do count.  Shooting for less than 50g/day is the way to go.

4)  Eat 1000 calories less per day than you’re supposed to.  How many are you supposed to eat?  This site will tell you.  Use the sedentary lifestyle button, even if you plan on being active.   Don’t count exercise an excuse to eat more, as it’s difficult to really know how much exercise boosts your metabolism in any given day.

5)  Booze will absolutely kill you.  You can drink through 1000 calories in literally no time.  So, if you want to drop the weight, put down the beer.  You can still get away with drinking once or twice per week, but college-style binge drinking 5x/week will make it literally impossible.

6)  Lift weights, but don’t over do-it.  Personally, I lift 3x a week, and it’s pretty much just the big ones– squat, bench, deadlift, pull-ups, shoulder press, and curls.  Currently I do something like Squat Mondays and Fridays with Deadlift on Wednesdays, then I just alternate bench+ curls and shoulder press + pull-ups every time.  That’s pretty much it.  It should take less than 45 minutes to do.  Do 2 sets of 5 and a 3rd set of as many as you can.  If you get 5 or more, increase the total weight by 5 lbs the next time (this means ya gotta use the 2.5 lbs weights… emasculating, I know).

My advice:  get an app like LoseIt! or Fitocracy to help you manage it.  Then, just eat less and move more.  You may notice that items 1-5 on the “how to get back in shape” have nothing to do with exercise and everything to do with diet.  Here’s a cool story:  A guy who weighed like 600 pounds didn’t eat ANYTHING for 382 days (he had vitamins and salt tablets).  He lost like 410 pounds and then resumed a normal, healthy life.

If you want to read up on this stuff, the items that were recommended to me were Eat Stop Eat and Starting Strength.  They’ve been fundamental to helping me avoid scams and get to real, solid knowledge.

So thanks for that, internetz.

 

A Tough Poker Question and a Word on Diversification

January 4th, 2013

Hi guys,

Been a while.  I wanted to write about something and then I want to give a quick update about what’s new with me.

We’ve all been there (all of us poker players, at least).  You’re at a bar or a party, everyone’s having  a good time, and then that cute girl you’ve been talking with asks the inevitable, uncomfortable question– “What do you do (for a living)?”

I’ve known some poker players whose preference is just to lie– “I work in finance” or “I’m unemployed”.  Others simply dodge– “What do YOU do?”  or “What I do is boring” or “I don’t want to talk about work”.  However, if you ever want to actually get to know somebody, you can’t run from what you do.  In fact, most of you guys are playing anywhere between 3 and 7 days per week.  Often, the hours start looking more like real-job territory than the “messing around in my spare time” we all imagine poker to be.  So let’s ask ourselves the question:  Why is it uncomfortable to proudly declare that you’re a pro poker player, a deductive and mathematical whiz-kid who pays his own way and lives an independent, financially successful life?  If you ever want to develop meaningful relationships with people, you need to get past that question.  First, I’ll show why it’s uncomfortable for me.  Then, I’ll show how I’ve gotten over it.

1)  Poker, especially online poker, is an antisocial activity.

You might not want to admit it, but it’s true.  If you’re playing online poker like I do, you’re sitting at home in your PJs melting your brain into your computer screen for 4 hour stretches, clicking the “withdrawal” button every once in a while and watching the numbers add up (or, as it may be, not add up).  The most interaction you get via the average workday is when someone G-chats you or your roommates get home early from work.  Those roommates, meanwhile, are attending social work environments where they have to deal with people every day.  They have company parties and group events.  You might get a few of those things from the occasional big-buyin live tourney event (PCA has events and parties, for example), but it’s not a mainstay of your work experience.  Even though live poker tables are filled with a variety of people (some more unsavory than others), there’s still an element of cutthroat competition and total lack of cooperation that is the exact opposite experience of a healthy workplace.  At least there shouldn’t be any cooperation, you dirty cheating colluding bastards.

2)  Poker (and gambling in general) is not a terribly productive industry.

Surprise! You’re part of the entertainment industry.  How, you ask?  Well, consider the case of the average fish.  He likes poker, he’s not too good at it (he may or may not know this), and he sits down to play against you.  For arguments’ sake, he wins 25% and loses 75% against you during a 1 hour heads-up session.  If he plays with $1000 for 1 hour, he pays $750 theoretical dollars for the privilege of playing poker against someone at the very moment that he wanted to play.  He pays for his own entertainment.

The good news:  entertainment pays really well.  A good poker player will make a lot of money.  An average poker player will still make pretty good money.  In this sense, you’ve got it better than almost everyone else in the entertainment biz (an average novelist, or actor, or screenwriter, is probably making way less money than you.  So hooray.)  Also, entertainment has an important role in society– people must be distracted from their lives, they’ve got to experience some sort of excitement, beauty, challenge, something.  Poker can deliver that to some people, and for that reason, it has value.

The bad news:  entertainment has a sense of emptiness that, most likely, will never really go away.  Read some David Foster Wallace for a masterful takedown of entertainment as a concept.  From my lesser, more mundane point of view, I’d just say that it bothers me that I’m not really helping anyone in a concrete way.  There’s some real stuff going on in the world, and every hour that I spend playing poker is an hour I’m not spending making things better (this could mean building new technologies, helping people in need, taking a hand in the development of new political policies or environmental protection, etc.)  So, it becomes a little indefensible when you ask, “What do you do?” and that cute girl says, “I work as a nurse” or “I do biochemical research to help cure ALS” or “I help develop new social media apps to help people share their lives” and your only comeback is “I get to sleep in until 11AM every day”.

3)  Poker (and gambling in general) exist in a grey area, both legally and morally.

I’m actually not going to spend any time talking about the ethics of poker, but let’s just say that I think it’s pretty clearly moral and ethical to play poker.  However, a lot of other people might not agree, hence the tagline.

However, the legal argument is not in dispute.  The term “legal grey area” might even be putting things a bit lightly.  The Feds’ shuttering of online poker speaks pretty clearly:  the current public policy of the United States Government, and by association the people of the USA, is that online poker is kaput.  This is why, when you say to that cute girl, “I play poker online” her instant response is, “Isn’t that illegal??”.  This invariably leads to the gut-wrenching and totally awful cliff-notes explanation of Black Friday, which serves to make nobody feel any better about anything.

 

So how do you get past this?  Diversify, my friends.

Wu-Tang Financial knows what to do.

Diversify Your Income

Keeping all of your eggs in a not-totally-government-sanctioned basket has clearly shown its repercussions.  Let’s not do that again.  Sometimes, this may mean working at something with a lower hourly than playing poker.  For example, my good friend started a business recently that involves some grunt work but leads to recurring monthly payments with minimal upkeep.  I clearly make less per hour working with his business than I do playing poker.  However, if poker were to suddenly disappear, I would be WAY less screwed.  In fact, the presence of my book sales, seminar sales, DeucesCracked instructional videos, and coaching, helped a lot in the wake of Black Friday.  Of course, this hasn’t even mentioned the far-more-likely scenario:  you run ice cold and lose a ton on a vicious downswing.  Basically, if you stick solely to poker, you’ll get exactly what poker chooses to give you.  If you do more than just poker, you might get super rich slightly less quickly, but things will never get too bad for you financially.

Not to mention, it helps you…

Diversify Your Interests

Poker players have a ton of free time and there is literally a ton of stuff to do with it.  Here is a quick list of the things I spend my free time on:  working on a new business, working on my friend’s new business, learning a new language (Chinese at the moment for me), playing/learning music, reading books, learning to sail a boat, learning to code, drinking with my friends and meeting new people, and of course, writing wordy blog posts.  Everyone has a a list of stuff they’d love to do– maybe you’d love to ride a motorcycle, or dance the tango, or make tiny-but-fucking-perfect toy car replicas.  I don’t quite know your style, but I’m quite sure that YOU do.  So, instead of queuing up the NetFlix and grinding out that next season of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, start working on SOMETHING.

Everyone’s ideal scenario is to work on something that they love.  If you love it, it won’t feel like work.  So, start doing more until you find that thing.  I don’t think too many people really want to end up as a 45 year old poker player.  However, you have to understand that you’re proudly wearing a pair of golden handcuffs and that, if you wait too long, you might never be able to take them off.

So, the next time that girl asks, “What do you do?”, you can say, “Lots of stuff.”

 

Andrew

PS:  Quick note on me: I’m doing great.  Best shape of my life.  Poker’s been pretty good.  Just renewed my deal with DeucesCracked, which I’m very happy about.  I’ll post more about all of those things in a few days.  I’m going to be blogging more now.  I know I said that before, but this time… I’m sincere!  (kudos if you get 1942 movie reference).

PPS:  For a perfect example of what I’m talking about, read MagicNinja/Martin’s post in the high stakes thread here.

Morocco Trip Report Part 4 (finally)

April 23rd, 2012

Hey guys,

Sorry for the loooong delay between part 3 and part 4 (with a quick Dartmouth fraternity discussion interlude).  I’ve been in the process of moving to a new apartment and am almost fully set up.  Still need a new ethernet cord to arrive in the mail, blah blah blah.  Excuses, who cares.

Anyway, I’m going to pick up where I left off at the last juncture in my discussion of my Morocco trip with my brother.   We took the long, long train from Fez to Marrakech and conversed with an educated, pro-Syrian revolution young woman, a more conservative woman, a very pleasant common-sort-of-man, and a couple of school girls excited to be speaking in Arabic with an American.

Finally, we arrived in Marrakech, found our way to the Riad Nomades.  The Riad was gorgeous, though somewhat significantly more Frenchified than Dar Dmana, the riad we enjoyed in Fez.  But then again, Marrakech is more Frenchified in general than Fez, so that’s to be expected.  Our host was a delightfully effeminate French guy in Ed Hardy Jeans who spoke in what can only be described as a caricature of French.  It reminded me of the great Alec Baldwin French Teacher Skit.   We headed to the Jmaa Al’Fnaa, the central square in Marrakech for a late night glass of Orange Juice*  and some food.

*Orange Juice in Marrakech is incredibly delicious.  In fact, oranges originate in the Andalusian/North African corridor.  In Arabic, the word for orange is “Portugal”.  Fun facts.

The next morning we ate a delicious breakfast at our Riad:

 

Fresh Fruits and Cakes. Not very Moroccan, but very delicious.

Then, after breakfast, we spent the day walking around the Jmaa al’Fnaa drinking Orange Juice and eating.  Well, I should say mostly eating, because we sat on a rooftop terrace and ate for like 5 hours.  Not joking.

So. Delicious.

It was in Marrakech that we solidified the Tagine d’Kefta as our favorite Moroccan dish.  And we had a lot of them.  Here’s one on the terrace:

Spiced meatballs and eggs in tomato sauce. What's not to love?

Then, we trekked off to have the most Moroccan experience of all– the Hammam.  To give you a sense of our experience:  James and I pay 20 dirhams (3.5 dollars) and walk into a dark, damp, changing room area.  We get into our underwear, and are then lead into an even darker, damper room, where we are instructed to take a seat.  The masseuses, in underwear themselves, come pour hot water on us and begin part one:  the scrubdown.  This is where they savagely scrub all the dead skin off your body with a scraping sponge.  It hurts so good.  Then comes part 2:  the “massage”.  The “massage” is really much more of an athletic exercise where they stretch your body to the breaking point.  It is impossible to get a massage like this and NOT scream out in pain.  What a life!  It was much fun watching James writhe in agony at the hands of the skillful masseuse.  Of course, as soon as the pain subsides, a feeling of deep, deep relaxation overwhelms the senses.  So, after spending 40 minutes getting cleaned and then beaten, we stumbled out of the cave and back onto the streets.  We went back to the Riad to change, then figured it was about time for another Tagine d’Kefta.  Count me in.

I see you James.

That was our last night in Marrakech, a wonderful cap to a memorable, exotic, and exciting adventure.  For such a short time, we experienced a lot– some of the greatest food, art, architecture, and history on earth.

And, of course, we flew through London on the way home, so we enjoyed yet another of the world’s finest treasures:  Guiness Extra Cold.

Yes please

Until the next adventure.

 

Andrew

The Dartmouth Greek System and What Should Change

March 30th, 2012

There is a lot of hubbub at the moment surrounding the Greek Fraternity system at my alma mater, Dartmouth College.  Basically, a student named Andrew Lohse made a series of allegations in an op-ed piece that was published on a variety of blogs, and eventually, at the College’s newspaper, The Dartmouth.  The story then got picked up by Rolling Stone magazine and became widely disseminated.   There are a few things you need to know about this whole story before we get to the actually important stuff:

  1. Lohse has a chip on his shoulder.  He was caught doing cocaine at his fraternity (SAE), then he threatened the guy who turned him in (a war veteran and the House Manager at SAE), then he was involved in the sending of emails to the house asking people to both lie to the police and to ostracize the key witnesses.  Some guy.
  2. People don’t join fraternities at Dartmouth until their sophomore year (sometimes secretly at the end of their freshman year).  It isn’t like many larger schools where people pledge before they’ve even been to class.  At Dartmouth, you know the character of the house you’re going to join.  You know the brothers, you know the culture, it’s your choice.  Now, sometimes you join a house and find that the culture wasn’t what you were expecting–that’s okay too, you can depledge.  Several people depledged from my house over the course of my 3 years as a brother, and there were no hard feelings.  They were always welcome to come back and hang out (and they all did).
  3. Most of his allegations are probably true.  I was in a fraternity at Dartmouth, as were many of my friends, and I can verify that hazing does indeed occur.  Some of it is quite frankly hilarious and clever.  Much of it is gross.  Most of it involves alcohol.  Basically all of it is consensual.  I personally refused some hazings.  As my fraternity brother Gus Lubin wrote in Business Insider, people refused hazing for athletic reasons, academic reasons, or simply because they didn’t like it.  At least at my fraternity (and those of my closest friends), if you really didn’t want to do something, you didn’t have to.
  4. The College administration absolutely knows what is going on.  So, Lohse’s allegation that the College has purposely turned a blind eye to hazing is definitely true.  The College is caught between a rock and a hard place in this one.  Many of their most generous donors are fraternity alumni; alienating large contributors to the Dartmouth Fund compromises the College’s future plans and program budgets.  The College also lacks significant evidence for hazing; there is a lot of hearsay and very little in the way of photographs and videos.  In the rare occasions in which photos, videos, or incriminating emails have shown up, the College has been swift and heavy-handed in punishing offenders (Zeta Psi and Beta instantly come to mind here).  So, the College pleads ignorance because it considers its other options unpalatable (shut down fraternities?  Restrict alcohol?  Somehow increase monitoring inside privately owned fraternity houses?).
  5. The social scene at Dartmouth revolves almost entirely around fraternities.  A majority of eligible students join.  Fraternity brothers provide free alcohol to basically anyone 7 nights per week.  As a result, the social scene tends to reflect the reality:  a lot of freezing, drunk men hanging out in their basement waiting for girls to show up.  This leads to the recurring Dartmouth theme of sexual harassment and strained gender relations.
Here are some things the College can do to make things better:
  • First, host a weekly party for students that features free alcohol.  The College has tried to offer social alternatives, but they’re always either non-alcoholic or pay-per-drink.  College students are trying to drink, so they’ll go where the cheap booze is.  If the College provided it, they’d be providing an equivalent, alternative social space over which they’d retain a modicum of control.  Some of my good friends went to Pomona College in Claremont, CA.  Every week, Pomona hosts “Pub”, a place you can go drink, dance, hang out on the College’s dime.  It’s a great time.  The scene there felt so distinctly healthier and happier than the average basement night at Dartmouth.  This is something that Dartmouth College can recreate.
  • Second, stop pretending like hazing doesn’t happen, like there’s nothing the College can do, like the College and the Fraternities have opposite goals.  Open up your doors with more aggressive advisory programs to help people who might be struggling with the fraternity system.  Acknowledge things like the all-campus Masters Pong Tournament.  The College and the Frats have the same goal– create a space for people to safely have a good time.  Stop acting like you’re living in two different worlds.
  • Last, integrate non-fraternity social groups with frat-based ones.  A lot of my best friends weren’t in fraternities, but they did participate in some really awesome Dartmouth programs (DOC trips, the DMC, athletic teams, etc.).  At Dartmouth, the Frat scene is it’s own animal, distinct from other social groups.  Would it be so hard to have the DMC invite a frat or two for a hike?  Some of these connections happen naturally (guy from DMC happens to be an AXA and makes it happen), but the College can take a more active role in breaking down the social barriers between fraternities and non-frat groups.  Promoting a united social atmosphere should be a priority of the College.
So those are my thoughts.
Oh yeah, and bring back Tubestock.
Andrew