Hey guys, it has been a LONG ****ING TIME since I last updated. What happened? Well, I'm basically retired from poker now, but I still play a bit. This post will also contain a bit of history incase you are new to the thread. It's kind of personal which I know some people don't like but whatever you can't please everyone. There are two parts: the first part is from Thailand until the end of PCA plus me reminiscing about my career (plus **** talking like usual); and the second part is what I am doing now - living in Waterloo, and making a game.
I realize the first part reads like one of ADZ's bull**** tirades where he constantly talks about how much of a boss he is. Ayyo, my alligator shoes are $1k, so you tell me if I am a boss or not huh? Hope you guys forgive me here on this ego **** because it's coming down raw and unfiltered. I'm like kayne west's head or something, HUH? But this first part is really what I was feeling before and I wanted to capture that for you guys.
PART 1: EGO ENRAPTURE
When I last left you guys, I was headed to Thailand. I never actually could explain to you guys the reason I left Canada, but now I can: I feared taxes. Who knows how much I could make if I really tried? In poker, the stakes were getting higher, and that could mean higher rewards. I didn't want any chance that any money, potentially hundreds of thousands, would just vanish if I were a resident of Canada.
I remember January 2014 so well. When I was living in Canada, at home, I never initially felt cooped in. I felt like an olympic athlete; because I basically was. In order to play at that capacity, I literally had to do everything right at all times. That meant eating perfectly, studying perfectly, exercising, and going to sleep at exactly the right time. I was averaging something like 15k hands a day that month -- Urubu's challenge x1.5. For the 6m hyper grinders here in particular, I think my record is something like 2500 games in a day (like 50k hands), to give an idea of how sick it was.
It reminded me of this TED talk I saw where this guy put a computer in rural india. He comes back later and says does the internet work? Kids are like "Yeah, but the damn PC is in English, so we had to teach ourselves English to use it." Overcoming something impossible could be just a natural consequence of a larger goal. I had to teach myself exercise (and not looking at any screens 1h before bed) just to sleep on time so I could get my games in. In those days, I was proud of myself, and while I wasn't at my full potential that whole month, overall I did well, and I dealt with that first big career downswing ($100k total below EV) well.
In Thailand, a lot of things changed. I thought a nicer living situation would relax my mind; but really, I just got caught up soul searching. As you guys may remember, I rented a really stellar place, with a pool on the balcony, a grand piano, and a hot tub. I met a lot of awesome people, and threw some really ridiculous parties. Some of the best times of my life were in Thailand. Poker never was a focus of my life for over a year -- I never studied a single hand since I came to Thailand.
At the same time, I felt my ego was really hurting me. Self proclaimed the best overall player at cash hyper turbo sngs, what was once likely actually true really began to slip even as I continued to play the highest stakes. It became increasingly difficult to play poker consistently - my winrate got worse, swings got bigger. I remember keeping $180k in my account -- I did some variance calculation and figured I would actually need it psychologically; then watching it go up and down $100k at a time. There was one brutal stretch of 1000 games where I lost $80k. By the time I left Thailand, I would definitely end up being one of the worst players in the highest stakes, as the game move past me.
Overall, I did well and won pre-rb overall, but it was a struggle and I am honestly lucky to make it out with a golden parachute the way that I did. Players were also figuring me out, while I did no work to figure anyone else out. When you look at it factually, it really is amazing -- I was playing poker for ridiculous stakes on a tiny, 11 inch laptop (Vaio Pro 11), with no HUD. Infact, I still do play on that tiny laptop. The internet in Thailand constantly frustrated me too. Even purchasing a $400/mo MPLS leased line -- the same kind of internet banks use -- never completely solved connectivity issues.
My ego also hurt me in other ways. When I threw parties, the next one always needed to be bigger, like I needed to live up to something, or I was worthless. A live band, chef preparing wagyu beef, duck, burgers cooked in foie gras, macarons etc. wasn't enough. Dates needed to be a picnic on my helipad, because how else could I compete with xyz CEO? I remember getting embarassed by something so stupid: I was carrying dozens of bottles (of premium booze) in an elevator, and some Japanese businessman sneered at me: "you couldn't of gotten a guard to carry that for you? [LOL.]" Like in every other elevator in the world, people would see the booze and be like wow, nice party you must be throwing! I guess thats why private elevators exist in Thailand, hah.
It's weird because you know, deep down I know what would make ME happy: a ****ing bucket of KFC. So why couldn't I just live genuinely? Adding fuel to the fire, it didn't help that the price of bitcoin was surging; I sincerely thought my bitcoin fortune would be worth on the order of 50 million very soon. That's the kind of fungible fortune where you don't trust a safety deposit box in a bank any more: you get some cryptic multi signature cold storage **** and hide your treasure with a map, X marks the spot style.
At one party with something like 50 people, I mistakenly ate too much weed brownies and got so high I could not talk to anyone anymore, but it kind of crept up on me. I was wearing my light blue, silk pajama pants with elephants on them. They are my favorite. A good friend pulled me aside and told me: uhh, are you gonna put some actual pants on? I was like nah I'm good. Then things got crazy, there was a reality lag. Like if real life had a ping of 10 seconds. It was a little scary. I remember speaking out something like: "I'm sorry, I can't hear you or myself talking, I'm really high, please help." And the "screen" of reality being nearly frozen infront of me, "updating" in one second intervals of what things looked like 10 seconds ago.
I remember a girl talking to me in Thai, and then somehow I knew she was saying "are you having fun?" Just then, I remember sitting on my couch and feeling like I was in the movie Scarface sitting on all that blow. That I had somehow made it, I was the epicenter of everything, the universe revolved around me, yadda yadda. It was an incredible feeling. Normally, conversations around me that I could pick out effortlessly, became this primordial soup that I couldn't emerge from. But also it was very spiritual, blissful in a way. It just let me be at peace. I wondered internally, if this is what stupid people get to feel? I know that sounds cynical, but I wondered it because, well, I don't often get to feel unburdened with analyzing information. So much so that I don't even realize it was a burden. At that moment, both with what was going on around me, and what was going on in my mind, I was face to face with my ego in its purest form -- the rest of my brain seemed to turn off. And I was also completely alone, but this wasn't a bad thing.
I met a girl that ended up writing me a three page letter. Cutting to the chase, she told me I need to lose. my. ego. And recommended the book "The Power of Vulnerability" -- if you have Audible, get this book because it changed my life and I think everyone could learn from it. She decided to fly to PCA to hang out; honestly I was flattered someone would drop that kind of cash to fly halfway around the world after meeting me a couple times.
I really felt tested on the flight there from Bangkok. The original plan was to hang out for a night in Toronto then fly from Toronto to Nassau. With weather delays, I ended up being in an airport on flights and such nonstop for 4 days straight, wearing the same ratty t-shirt that started to get really gross and smelly. I checked into the hotel at something like 11:45 and ran out onto the tournament floor -- basically on Day 2, the last possible second I could play. I had to deal with looking like **** and not being able to explain. I had to not care. I had to let it all go.
That tournament I played nicely. Live poker becomes amusing when you come back to it. I remember when I used to play poker on the live circuit. It was all about convincing investors you were good, and selling packages with markup. How good you actually were didn't matter. Being broke didn't matter. Bracelets, the epitome of What Doesn't Matter At All, were king. When I played on my own in 2012, it was much more rewarding. Somehow I had come back to that negativity -- trying to convince everyone I was better -- and then come around again. Nowadays, I am just playing the tournament for fun. Playing as well as I could was just as natural as breathing. Of course it's easier to do when you win and lose $5k every day without missing a beat.
I know there's a Rounders-esque thing where every good poker player says they remember every hand they ever played, but damn dude, I've played millions of hands. I don't remember **** anymore. I'm retired. In the words of Glover, "I'm too old for this ****." I think in my career I went through the competence cycle that people talk of: where you are bad and think you are bad; bad and think you are good; good and think you are bad; good and think you are good.
Reminiscing about that, there was once a time I was probably actually finally good at live poker for that time. Because I think before my EPT final table in Deauville, I definitely wasn't. I wasn't mentally there, and honestly I didn't know **** about poker. Deauville was probably one of the only tournaments in that time period where I played nearly every hand well from start to finish and didn't just randomly tilt. The only thing it really took was, "Alex, I will play my best today." Funny how spoken commitments can alter your self image.
I also remember a tear I had at commerce where I won $100k playing 10/20 and 20/40 NL in two weeks during the LAPC. I had mental coaching since that PCA (2011) and I had these beats headphones and I studied my opponent so intently. I literally felt like I could see their cards. One time 4 ways, I betcall, call, called allin with KJ high on something like 842fdQxQx and won, because I'd do **** like "put them on a low gutter." On the river I called in under 1 second, about the same time it took for him to muck. Of course after confirming his hand is mucked with the dealer, I showed. Why show? Because **** you, pay me. I'm the best.
Now, "I put you on this" probably sounds ******ed to any professional player reading this, but it wasn't like that. It was like my mind was SHOUTING at the table, "HE HAS A LOW GUTTER, HE HAS A LOW GUTTER, HE HAS A LOW GUTTER." How could I ignore it? I felt invincible. I sincerely thought I would move to LA.
Until of course, I took my 100 and pissed it playing various nosebleed games I've never played more than once. Wasn't even the last time I would do that -- I'd have a similar run again playing in Vegas before I pour a literal brick of money away at chinese or whatever bull****. Felted is the most accurate word to describe it. I said I'd study chinese poker -- I even had an app I wrote on my phone, but honestly, I never did. Because I'm the best, so **** em, right?
Honest to god, it just felt good to sit with all that sweet cash behind. I know that sounds like something whales would feel, but it was true for me, and that's why I would sit. When you are in that world, when you grind high stakes every day and feel like you can win every day, sometimes you just want the action that makes you feel alive. Like scarface, again. Just sitting there gambling, because "my life is dope, and I do dope ****." That's a gambling problem -- but I don't regret that.
Back to the story of PCA 2014, the only hand I sort of remember from that tournament is, someone opened early and I decided to flat TT pretty shallow for some reason. Maybe I had 25 bigs or so. Then it came like 842r four ways and the early player bet. One fold, and on me. I stared at my hand. I looked at the early position player intently. Then I looked at the BB, and then I laughed. "Live poker is stupid." I thought that only to myself, and I mucked my hand. The BB (who I happen to remember was Mercier) got it in with a set of 4s vs AA immediately after. I saved the $10k infront of me.
At various dinners, and the PS after party, I met a lot of people who complimented me on my blog. Turns out a lot of people have read it. Overall, I felt good about the new path I was on: living with authenticity, being vulnerable, loving myself. But envisioning the path and walking it are two different things. I had to do more things for myself. One day, I wanted to come back to writing.
PART 2: LUNARCH
When I went to PCA, I thought I would go back, but I never ended up going back. I read the chinese blog of a girl I used to live with in China. I read it before but with Google Translate, which turns out sucks and the meaning never was communicated well. So I never really knew the whole story: she loved me so much, she basically told me to go away and that she didn't love me, knowing that would allow me the freedom to have a better life. If she told me otherwise, I would have stayed in China forever. The actual blog itself was just a sporadic sequence of titles of the days since I was gone (the first day, the second day, the 180th day), with how much and what she missed about me. Having this translated and reading it was a catalyst for me to pursue bettering myself again.
Meanwhile, work on my company, Lunarch Studios, started to get more serious. In November, we got incorporated, working on an incredible game, Prismata -- a turn based strategy game. I decided to live in Waterloo and work on this for the next while, cementing the decision I already made to leave poker completely behind.
From timex in this thread:
Originally Posted by timex
after Alex and the other designers showed me a preview of it- I'd highly recommend anyone who likes strategy games send off an email for when they start beta testing.
One night we were considering what to do that evening at 5:30pm and they decided to show the game... next thing you know its 9am and I've got a new favorite game
(Even though Prismata is still something like a year+ away from release, I'm still looking for feedback as our company develops it. We are releasing a beta soon and hope to keep iterating on that. I can't advertise links here but you can check my profile if you are interested.)
Now, it actually costs millions of dollars to get a game going -- a lot more than most people expect. As our company expanded with new money and we hired more people, I had to grow to fill the shoes of a management role. Overall, working on Lunarch (and owning a good chunk of it) is my dream job because it gives me autonomy and makes me feel like my decisions matter. That's much like poker, but its in a positively framed setting that I enjoy more (instead of just taking money and being secretive about it.) I really like games: watching games, playing games, and making games. And I get to provide enjoyable experiences for people (real value), using my creativity and analytical skill. At Lunarch I did do stuff like write server code, but nowadays my focus is just on three things: design, look and feel, and marketing.
As for poker, I still get 50k VPPs a month. I mean, I need to in order to maintain SNE. And I am something like 200 hours away from my 5 millionth VPP: an important, Hall of Fame milestone for me. But nowadays, like I have said before, I consider myself retired more or less. I basically just grind midstakes a few days a month to maintain -- its stressfree, profitable, and not too disruptive on my life. On twoplustwo, my blog here will just be about getting 50k vpps a month to complete my retirement with a hall of fame nod.
The upshot of this is that I can now talk candidly about poker strategy. There aren't any consequences for me anymore. Actually, on my other blog, I wrote an article with information on how to win more playing poker: information that I have never dared write in public before. Actually, some of it has never been written by anyone. It's against the rules for me to link the blog here, but you can easily find it on my 2+2 profile if you are interested.
I'll still be around this thread to answer questions from time to time, post updates on my 50k vpp goal, and talk strategy. Thanks guys again for the incredible ride.
Wow, what a post. Sounds like you really did some soulsearching as you call it (though I hate that word) and got to be where you want to be, or at least on the track to it.
I don't know you, but I'm sincerely happy for you. gg Alex.
May I ask how moving to Thailand would shield you from poker taxes?
Here in the states we must still pay taxes on our income (there is a small 330 day tax exemption) if we move to another country unless we plan to never return and or roll the dice on not being audited.
That's one thing that I don't think gets talked about enough (partly because there aren't many winning players in the first place) is the tremendous advantage Canadians have when it comes to the online poker boom. Not having to chunk off 30-40% of your year's winnings and then not having government interference into your games is just hugeeeee. Canada by far #1 country to be a citizen of when it comes to online poker.