Friday, December 23, 2011

Why I do not, cannot, and likely will never support the PPA

Apparently poker got some good news today, as the Wire Act was deemed by the US Department of Justice to not apply to poker. I am not a legal expert and so I defer to those who are for an in-depth examination of this news. That's not what this post is about. This post is about the following quote from John Pappas of the Poker Player's Alliance, which jumped out and hit me square between the eyes with as much force and surprise as any left jab I've seen this week:
“The PPA commends Assistant Attorney General Seitz for recognizing this. However, this ruling makes it even more important that Congress acts now to clarify federal law, and to create a licensing and regulation regime for Internet poker, coupled with clear laws and strong enforcement against other forms of gambling deemed to be illegal.” (Emphasis mine.)
And this, very simply, is why I cannot in good conscience support the PPA. "My gambling is okay, but your gambling is illegal and should be punished," is the height of hypocrisy. It is indefensible. It is, morally speaking, little better than if the civil rights movement were to have argued for equal rights for blacks but continued oppression of Hispanics and Jews.

I've, at times, wanted to support the PPA. After the passage of the UIGEA, I actually got as far as the signup page on their website. But the John Pappases of the world do not represent me and can never represent me as long as this is their position. This, in my view, is the worst type of special interest group; the ones that are willing to actively throw others under the bus so that they can emerge from the wreck.

These people are no friends of liberty. In the end, what matters is not the freedom to play poker. It is freedom, period.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Three days in at Phuket Top Team

I'm three full training days into my retreat here in Phuket, training this time at Phuket Top Team. I've been enjoying it quite a bit. The last time I was here, at Tiger Muay Thai in April was enjoyable, but somehow less so. It wasn't really the training at TMT, which was good, but I think this time I'm just more acclimated to both the training and the lifestyle.

First the lifestyle. I've always been a city boy who loves his big city, first-world distractions. And here it's quiet, the internet is terrible, I know almost no one, the food is pretty much the same every day, and I can't get a decent cup of coffee to save my life. And yet in spite of all that I'm happy here. I wake up and train while in a fasted state, and so I'm pretty much down to eat anything when I'm done. Then I'm tired and it's time for a noon nap. Then it's time for the afternoon training session and the process repeats. I'm in bed well before 11pm and I don't really have time to think about not having my industrialized-world comforts.

As for the training, I think it helps I'm a little more fit than I was last time. When I came to TMT last time, I had been training consistently for a few months in Hong Kong, but certainly not as hard as I was this summer/fall in Vancouver. Maybe it's the pollution or that I get less sleep but I definitely train harder in Vancouver. That fitness level leads to an increased ability for me to do multiple sessions daily without too much fatigue, whereas in April I felt I was truly crawling out of the gym after every session. And I think most of the classes are a 7/10 in terms of difficulty as opposed to a 9/10 where I wouldn't be able to do multiple sessions daily. Doing more sessions also means I sleep more and have less downtime in which to get bored.

I have met a few interesting people while down here. A lot of the long-term students I've met here are actually pretty cool people and not typical bro/meathead fighters at all. I don't know how social I'll be here -- after all, I don't go out and party back home so I'm certainly not going to do it now when I'm wiped from twice-daily training -- but it's nice to at least be able to have a decent conversation over dinner.

Training is definitely good. Muay Thai is great, especially for the 7am class, because so few people show up for it that the trainer/fighter ratio is often close to 1:1. Thus you practically get a private lesson and many rounds of padwork, which is great. They also seem personally invested. I've had the same Thai trainer holding pads and coaching me every day, so he is quickly learning my strengths and weaknesses. Without question this is the biggest advantage of doing this second trip here at Phuket Top Team as opposed to the gargantuan Tiger Muay Thai.

The no-gi/BJJ training situation is a little different. Classes are similarly small; there are a lot of people who are complete newbs but there also appear to be some real studs and pro fighters. I don't think I have a large enough sample size to see what's going on there yet but I haven't encountered anyone like me who is just sort of intermediate level. The instructor is a former instructor of mine from Hong Kong, Silvio Braga, whom I like and have learned a great deal from in the past, so I'm sure I'll end up getting better no matter what the sparring partner situation ends up being. I haven't trained with the MMA instructor yet but I look forward to doing that on Monday or Tuesday.

This feels like kind of a boring blog entry, but that's because to most people this trip would be pretty boring: wake up, train, eat, sleep, wake up, train, eat, sleep. It's not what exciting blogs are made of, but it's keeping me happy. And it had better, because I still have 26 more days of it!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

off to train in Phuket

It's been a while since I posted, mostly because not much exciting has happened. I cashed small in the APPT Macau main event but failed to cash in the high roller event, so it was a trip that ended up in the red. Since then I've just been in Hong Kong training BJJ and MMA at my home gym here.

One thing that did transpire was my 31st birthday. As my cousin was quick to point out, that means I'm not just 30, I'm now in my thirties. Coincidentally, I happened to watch the MMA movie "Warrior" on my birthday. The movie contains a scene where the main character, a career journeyman, is told by his trainer, "c'mon, you were barely a .500 fighter when you were on the right side of 30!"

"The right side of 30" clearly implies that I'm now on the wrong side. Ouch. Just like that, I'm officially old? Hey, if Hollywood says it, it must be true. And I suppose there is also that wealth of anecdotal evidence and scientific study that indicates explosiveness, power, and so forth are now on the downswing at my age too.

Nevertheless, I am off to continue my quest for self-improvement in the MMA game by heading off to Phuket, Thailand on Tuesday. Once there, I feel like I'll be able to isolate myself and do nothing but train for a month, ideally working my way up to twice-daily, 6-day-per-week training, as a pro would.

It will be an interesting experience for me. Obviously I have already once set aside a long block where I did essentially nothing but train (the 8 weeks leading up to my fight) but this will be different as I will have no real support network and no tangible goal at the end. This time, the goal is the process itself. If an appropriate MMA or Muay Thai fight does come up during my time there, I will happily take it, but I won't put pressure on myself to do it. I'm fine waiting until spring time in Vancouver to fight again.

People frequently ask how much longer I plan to do the MMA thing, and I think until I am 35 or so seems quite reasonable. The other thing people ask is what I want to achieve. I'm not a big believer in setting very specific goals myself, but I do want to challenge myself, develop the best possible version of me, and see how far I can get in that time. The ultimate goal is to have no regrets and to never wonder what might have been.

Of course, the UFC did today announce it would be opening the 125-pound weight class starting in March. Which of course makes me think thoughts like, "my walking weight is about 137-140 these days, the division isn't so well-developed, and while I utterly lack experience the one upside is that I haven't taken much damage..." And then I realize there's also the part where I'm a 31-year-old with exactly one fight on his record and who still gets tapped out by blue belts. Well, dare to dream, I suppose.

But ultimately it doesn't really matter. All that matters is a little self-improvement, every day. And for my next little dose of self-improvement, I find myself packing my bags for Phuket.