Friday, February 24, 2012

Making a groove out of a rut

I'm in a bit of a rut.

I've had a few minor injuries that have prevented me from training as much I've I'd like to this week, which has in turn pushed me into this minor rut. When I'm training hard, twice a day, I feel great. I feel purpose-driven, I am chock full of good hormones, food tastes great, and I sleep like a baby. When I'm not training, I am stir-crazy, bored, and don't really know what to do with myself. I mostly read books, play video games and mess around a bunch online, all while wishing I were training. This has been one of those weeks.

Fight addiction > gambling addiction

Last week, I was chatting with my cousin Calvin, who is one of the people responsible for getting me into the sport. He is turning 35 in July and has unfortunately had to scale back a lot of his training (especially standup) due to injuries. I mentioned that when I am his age (I'm 31) I might be done with this fighting stuff. In his words, "you won't [be]. Unless you have some medical issue. It's like crack."

I thought that was an overstatement (well, I suppose the crack part actually is), but then I was kept off the mats for a few days and I fell right into this rut. Also, when I have too much time on my hands, I tend to get way too introspective and spend too much time wondering what I'm doing with my life.

I have scarcely played any poker since coming back from the Aussie Millions. I haven't been motivated to grind online cash and I've never been one for online tourneys (and all the good ones start at terrible hours here in Hong Kong anyway). I'm still beating online cash and when I play I still feel like I play well, and I want to stay sharp with the WSOP around the corner, but I often just can't be bothered. I'll play for an hour and be bored out of my mind. It just seems like menial, boring work now. I do still enjoy playing live tournaments. There is that great vibe, there is the thrill of competition, there's the social interaction, and there is a start and a finish. Is it strange that as a young poker player I was a Joey Knish and now, into my thirties, I am more Mike McD?

The Macau Poker Cup is going on this weekend. It's a large-field, medium buy-in (US ~$1100) tournament that's just an hour ferry ride away from me, so it should have been a slam dunk for me. But I skipped it, because the tournament organizers changed the Day 1 start time to 8pm which means play wouldn't wrap up until 4am. In my prime poker days, I wouldn't have batted an eye at that, but lately I have optimized nearly my entire life around my physical health and fitness. In the past that just meant exercise and nutrition being dialed in, but the more I read the more I realize that sleep quality plays a huge role in both health and sports performance. So I skipped a high-ev tournament right in my backyard that many of my friends were attending.

This would be a reasonable thing to do if I were a professional athlete, but as we know, I'm just a scrub. Since Black Friday, I've basically just been spending money and living off of savings and investments. Mostly the former because other than real estate, I don't have much of the latter. Financially, I am still in very good shape, but eventually I will have to do something for money -- and to keep myself sane. There's zero chance I will fight for a living, and even doing something like coaching is a long way off given my current skill level.

Options, options

One possibility I've been considering is getting into the finance world. It's not one that remotely interested me at all when I was a young adult, even as someone who graduated with a business degree and enjoyed the requisite undergrad finance courses. But I've been reading some interesting books and some of it seems kind of fun. Everyone says that being a poker player is great prep for being a trader (and vice versa), and that the markets are just like a big casino. Yet I feel like I would nevertheless be starting at a knowledge deficit. I honestly know so little about this world. I don't know how it is that individual people or even small firms can beat the market when there are these giant firms with their supercomputers and tremendous access to information.

On top of that, I wouldn't know where to begin. I've never been a person who was really capable of learning anything in any sort of traditional path. Despite being a reasonably smart person, I was a below-average elementary and high school student, a so-so university student, and I've definitely improved slower than average at MMA, so typical learning environments clearly aren't my thing. Besides, I've always felt that typical learning begets typical results, and I have no desire for that. Luckily I do have friends who are smart in such things -- my smart friends are the only reason I have ever been successful at poker -- and so I do have a valuable resource if I choose to go down that road.

That's just a sidebar to my life at this time, though. MMA is still my priority, and despite my bitching, I still love the training and the sport. If I can stay healthy, I think I can stay happy.

Coming Up

APPT Seoul March 7-11. This is an exciting one for me for a number of reasons. I've never been to Korea, and I've always wanted to go. That's a big one. But I also found out that there is are MMA tryouts (link in Korean) in Suncheon, Korea, the same day as the APPT final table. The winners get to compete in the "Young Guns" portion of a future Road FC card, which is the biggest MMA promotion in Korea. It wouldn't be ideal from a preparation standpoint, but if I were to bust Day 1A of the APPT main event, I would have enough time to cut weight, take a 4.5 hour bus ride from Seoul to Suncheon and compete in the tryouts.

Alternatively (or additionally), there is also an amateur MMA event in Hsinchu, Taiwan, on March 31. It is "D-class", meaning really watered-down MMA rules, but the idea is that you win your way up to C-class, B-class and A-class where the rules are progressively less restrictive. I wish they had stuff like that in Hong Kong, or even Vancouver, but Taiwan is only a 1.5 hour flight away, so it's not unreasonable.

On the non-poker, non-MMA front, I have a number of friends either visiting or possibly visiting Hong Kong within the next month or so. Having some real-world interaction with people I like always makes me happy, and so even if I am not at the gym twice daily, I should manage to keep the ennui at bay.


  1. I can totally relate to the poker stuff. I've just been coasting around, living off savings since BF. I've looked into finance, and granted I don't have your connections, but getting a foot in the door is extremely difficult. Beyond that, becoming good/great at something you know little about in your 30s seems like a lot to ask, although I could be wrong there. I've looked into buying an existing business, nothing worth pursuing has come up so far. Not quite sure what to do with myself. If you figure something out, be sure to share. It's such a strange feeling to be "secure" but aimless. I might just go the poker pro route, but that's something I don't want to go "all-in" on just yet.

  2. Finance covers a wide range. If you are thinking about trading, then you do not have to beat the market. You need to call it correctly. One "relatively" easy way is to pick one stock/ETF/etc and specialize in it. Study the charts and paper trade it for a while. Become the equivalent of a wise guy. The nice thing about this is that the broker does not care if you win or lose. They get their commission either way. In this aspect it is identical to poker.

    A friend trades only SLV (a silver ETF). He has done this for years and does very well. He swing trades and uses stop loses, among other things, so is not tied to the computer when the market is open.

    I believe SLV trades on the Hong Kong stock exchange as well, I know it trades in Singapore.

    I do not recommend Forex trading. Many brokers are also market makers. In many cases you are playing against the house. I have heard too many horror stories of people who make winning trades, only to have the broker refuse to honor them.

    Good luck.