My Poker Past

It’s hard to pinpoint where my poker complex came from. I remember being about 12 and the family would go over the my grandma’s house where all the uncles would play Hi-Lo Stud games for nickles and dimes. I never played in these games, but my brother did (he was about 10 at the time). Anyway, I didn’t really understand the game, but it was fun seeing who would end up the “big winner” each night. 

Note: “big winner” = +$5 in a pocket full of silver change.

I also remember being a junior or senior in high school. It was about 2002 or 2003 and it was right before the poker boom when then amateur Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker and netted about $2.5 million. That year, I remember our high school bookie getting together some guys and playing tournaments in his parents basement. I think that the buy in for these tournaments was about $40. I never won, but I did develop a nasty habit of betting on baseball games that year. I remember putting $100 in an envelope and putting it in his parents mailbox with the bookie’s name on the envelope. I am not sure that this was the beginning of my love for the game, but I remember how much fun we had playing “Follow the Queen” or “Pineapple” where anything holding a sword or only had one eye showing was wild. Good times…

But the honest start to my “obsession” was freshman year in college.  It was fall of 2004 and ESPN was up to their ears in poker coverage. Not only were they broadcasting the entire 7 days of the main event, but people were watching Omaha, Stud, and even Razz tournaments on TV. I dare anyone reading this who isn’t as far gone as I am to Youtube a WSOP Razz tournament and try not pulling your hair out. 

I remember this was the time when online poker was really taking off. I wasn’t sure how good I was, but that didn’t stop me from playing in some free-money games for imaginary dollars on Pokerstars. I remember talking my roommate into getting into it with me. Sometimes, there were free-money tournaments that didn’t start until midnight, and we would stay up until 3 a.m. playing for pride and not worrying about letting our classes get in the way of all this new found excitement. 

Eventually, I got better and began playing for real money. I remember depositing $50 into my account and playing the $10+$1 multi-table tournaments and, occasionally some bigger money tournaments. I eventually figured out my strengths and learned how to make some decent money at the game. I played on Pokerstars, Party Poker and Absolute Bet my entire freshman and sophomore years while living in the dorms. I distinctly remember one Saturday, not having any big keg party that day, declaring to my whole mod that  I was going to win $1000 that day, which was a bold declaration even for me back then.  Sure enough, I won $900 in one tournament, then cashed in a $100 buy in tournament, giving me a total win of about $1200 for the day. I was the king of the castle that day and I think I realized that I was a pretty decent player. More than anything, I wanted to get better and learn as much about the game as I could.

So by the end of college, I had made a pretty decent haul at online poker. Not enough to pay for school, but enough to keep me fed and hydrated on the weekends, and able to attend social functions without digging through the couch. Then, on April 15, 2011,”Black Friday” happened. For those of you not in the know, “Black Friday” was the abrupt end of online poker as we all knew it. All activity was halted and the government seized all assets accumulated in player accounts. People did not know what to do. Luckily for me, my poker bug had cooled and I didn’t have any money lost on any sites. 

At this time, I was going to “brick and mortar” poker clubs around Columbus and learning the live game. I had gone to a few casinos and played against some talented players, but cutting my teeth against “regulars” who knew how to play cash games was a crash course in strategy and money management. I honestly believe that the Gemini Club had some of the best live players around the country. Aggressive, fearless, calculating, these players would try to take my money as if I were wearing a big sign that read “ATM.”

Anyway, that’s a long history on where I’ve been. I think most of America kind of dulled out on poker once ESPN stopped airing most of the shows and the thrill of online gambling has been limited to just a handful of states. But, to be honest, I am still fascinated by poker as much today as I was when I was playing every Saturday in college. I love thinking about the strategy of poker, about multiple ways to play the same hand, and about all the fun I have when I sit down at a poker table and play. 

I like the idea of being able to be whoever I want. I love the psychological aspect of it where I can dress up like some sko-bro (TM) and make people think that just because I look a certain way, it must mean I play a certain way. I love hiding behind a pair of sunglasses and listening to The Game. “Dead presidents. Big paper!” I love listening to people at the table talk about this or that, some tournament they played in or some guy who just got up that was as (insert any of the following adjectives: crazy, drunk, loose, loud, funny, perverted and hitting on every waitress that walked by) as anyone has ever seen. I like the thrill of winning money, but more so than that, I like the thrill of mastering the game itself. 

So this Sunday I am going back to the casino to play in the first live tournament I’ve been a part of in the past couple of years. I am extremely excited and I can’t wait to sit down and start playing. I am also excited to follow up with this post about how much I (hopefully) won! Now all that’s left to do is decide who I want to be on Sunday, and get ready to go!

Motivation isn’t just for Mondays

I am a pretty healthy eater, which is a good thing. However, I am also a self-sabotager, which is a bad thing. One little game I like to play with myself is the “I don’t need to work out today because I had a sensible day eating-wise” game. The way you play the game is right at the moment your little Jiminy Cricket conscience tells your body you should probably get up and do something active, you listen to the little guy on your other shoulder who says, ” You don’t need to work out today because I had a sensible day eating-wise.” It’s not a complicated game, but I have mastered just about every way you can convince yourself not to do something you should.

For me it’s usually exercise. Sometimes I’ll kind of play the game in reverse and say, “well, since you ran this morning, this 730 calorie Cold Stone milk shake craving that is coming on strong is kind of a wash. Not to mention, yesterday I had a sensible day eating-wise, so at the end of the day, I’m still probably coming out ahead.”

The point is, we all have something in our lives that we struggle with and we all can be pretty good at convincing ourselves to stay in bed, or spend the money, or DON’T spend the money (see: me, shopping). There is always going to be that voice inside of us who will tell us to take the easy path, or accept the temporary pleasure despite the long term consequences. I can have the milkshake now, and my body will not look any different tomorrow. But if I have the milkshake now, I am probably going to have the milkshake the next time the craving comes, and eventually the series of short term decisions that seem harmless in the here-and-now add up to some pretty serious problems that become a whole lot harder to remedy over time.

Motivation means seeing past the present and focusing on the long-term. If you’re in school, it means you might be bored studying for the next hour, but when you’re ACTUALLY prepared for that mid-term in a few weeks, that gratification will outweigh your temporary laziness. 

Motivation means getting up when your alarm clock goes off 45 minutes before it normally does (remember how ambitious you were last night when you set that alarm?) and putting on your running shoes and going outside (take your dog, he is always motivated and will thank you by not tearing through the recycling while you’re at work).

Motivation means the next time I have that craving for a milkshake, I will remember that the brief satisfaction I get in drinking it does not make up for the long term damage I am doing to my body. 

Now I don’t want to say you can’t ever have an extra drink when you go out on the weekend or you should never touch chocolate again, but the key is recognition. Recognition and motivation are key building blocks to long term success. Recognition means knowing that once-in-a-while is not a reoccurring pattern; it is being able to sleep in one Saturday because you genuinely have put in the time over the past few weeks or months and your body needs it. 

I guess the devil is in the details, but what it all comes down to is being able to be honest with yourself and not making excuses. If you have to make an excuse as to why you did something, it probably was the wrong thing to do. 

So the next time that little voice tells you to stay on the couch, stay in bed, or reach for that doughnut in the office kitchen, remember the difference between what you want now, and what you want for the rest of your life. Rewards don’t come in sugary calorie-bombs or another 15 minutes in bed, they come in the satisfaction of improving yourself, little by little, one decision at a time.

 

 

The Journey to Home Ownership

My wife and I are starting the home buying process. And by “starting the home buying process,” of course I mean we’ve been watching House Hunters, Property Brothers, Designed to Sell, Property Virgins, Love it or List it (original and “too”), Million Dollar Listing, and the occasional Say Yes to the Dress to remind ourselves that we just got married and our lives aren’t “totally” about finding our first home. To that point, we also watch Cesar Milan to remind ourselves to be good dog parents and occasionally, I get to watch some hockey or football on TV to remind myself that if I watch nothing but renovation or animal shows, I will lose my mind. But, to my original point, we are starting to talk about actually what it would take to buy a home.

In reality, we are a few steps beyond just watching the design and renovation shows on HGTV. We have met with a lender my parents use who seems to want to help us out. We are going to meet with a Realtor we like whom my wife has known for some time through her Young Professionals group. Everything is falling into place, and we are really trying to figure out what it takes to become first time home buyers.

Beyond getting together the initial lump sum of money together, my wife and I are going back and forth on Trulia and Realtor.com websites picking out houses in our price range that we both like. For us, we have a similar idea of what we both want, which makes this part of the process a whole lot easier. I cringe when I watch those HGTV shows where the husband and wife have two completely different ideas of what they want.

Usually it goes like this.

She wants something with any one of these key words: modern, turn-key, kid-friendly, chic, walk-in, updated …with a view.

He wants something with any one of these key words: craftsman, fixer-upper, rustic, vintage, floor-plan, yard for my “insert outdoor project.”

My wife and I are looking for something relatively modern, with an updated kitchen, walk in closet (more for her) and fenced in yard. Other than those items, we both have a few things on our wish list. She wants vaulted ceilings in the living room, I’d prefer 3 bedrooms to 4.

Anyway, my idea is to detail our journey from renters to owners over the course of this summer. We have a good group of friends who have recently bought homes around the price range we’re looking at, so we feel somewhat prepared for what the next couple of months will bring.

Here is kind of where we are at in the process (and if anyone reading this has any insight or helpful advice for us, please let me know!):

  • Met with lender and have been pre-approved
  • Attending open houses to get a feel for design, cost and locations we like
  • Set to meet with Realtor to describe what we are looking for and time frame (looking to buy in about 4-6 months)
  • Starting to push for aggressive saving’s plan over next 4-6 months
  • Learning about closing costs, Fannie and Freddie, escrow and a whole list of new words so to hopefully limit the amount of up-front costs and hopefully get a good deal when we eventually buy

I don’t know what the next steps will be, but I hope to learn more about this process and pass on whatever it is I gain from this experience. It’s crazy to think that in 9 months I can get married and buy a house, but I guess that’s what happens when you finally grow up. 

Right now I am anxious, excited, nervous and ready to move forward with this process. I know I am beginning something big, and I only hope that the payoff is worth the trouble, but in my heart of hearts, I know it will be.

**ANY INSIGHT OR INFORMATION WOULD BE HELPFUL AND EXTREMELY APPRECIATED**