Friday, December 13, 2013

my Ultimate birthday

I've never really been a big birthday person at all. Like anyone else I certainly appreciate a day where everyone is nice to me, but I've generally thought of it as pretty much just another day of the week. My birthday was this past Sunday, and rather than celebrate with some event, I scheduled a building move the day after, meaning that my birthday was mostly spent packing boxes and getting ready for the move.

I had scheduled Monday off for the move, and it took longer than expected so I ended up not going to the office that day at all. I was utterly shocked at what I saw when I came into my office!

The pictures doesn't really do it justice - but that's "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TERRENCE" spelled out on my wall, aa hand-written note there from virtually everyone in the office, decorations, cards and gifts. As soon as I opened my office door on Tuesday, half the office heard me exclaim "holy shit!".

I was impressed and touched by that, but there was another surprise waiting. I'm known around the office for my unholy love for BBQ ribs, and I opened up the fridge to find a gigantic platter of ribs with my name on it!

It was a simple thing, but a very touching and well-appreciated gesture from my excellent Ultimate Gaming co-workers.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Crosspost: Going From Poker Pro To Poker Industry Pro

This is a crosspost from content I originally wrote as a two-parter for Ultimate Poker's content page, "The Rail".

Online poker had a tremendous effect on the lives of a number of young people throughout the 2000s. Prior to the last decade, to earn a high-income living as a young person, you needed to be a brilliant inventor or entrepreneur, an extremely talented and famous actor or singer, or maybe a professional athlete in a major sport. Obviously, this represented only a tiny percentage of the population of all young people.
But in the 2000s, with the first online poker boom, a great number of young people were suddenly able to earn high incomes playing online poker. Many intelligent young people put their university and college educations on hold or skipped them entirely because the allure of making far more money than any newly-minted graduate at an entry level position would make – and all by playing a game they loved.
Many of these young people would go on to become tremendously successful poker players and stars of the game. However, not everyone made it in the long run. Some players “burned out”, tiring of the online poker grind. Others saw the games they were playing in getting tougher and tougher as their opponents grew more educated, resulting in a major drop in income.
These players on the margins were now in a tough spot. The former pros found themselves in their mid or late 20s looking for work, but lacking both formal education and any significant traditional job experience.
The good news, if you’re one of these people, is that your experience playing hours of online poker, participating in forums, and generally being involved in the poker industry, makes you a valuable asset to online poker sites, including Ultimate Poker. At Ultimate Poker, we employ dozens of poker players in customer service, game room operations, product management, marketing and technology – all the way from entry level to senior executive.
Whether your poker industry experience ends up being as valuable as that engineering or law degree your parents wanted you to get will be a function of your own talent, skills, and attitude – but the point remains that you do offer relevant experience to companies like Ultimate Poker who are headquartered locally. 
Now I’d like to talk about how to get that job. The key thing to remember when entering the workforce is that despite your job or education gap, you bring value to poker companies! You provide skills and experience. The problem is, so do hundreds or even thousands of other poker pros who find themselves in a similar spot. How do you stand out from the crowd?

Do include a cover letter, always. A customized cover letter is how the person reading your application (hiring manager or HR manager) knows that you spent the time to apply for position with this company and that you didn’t just spam the same resume to dozens of companies. It also should show you communicate effectively.
Do brag about what you know about poker. The cover letter is a good place for this. If you’ve played 2 million hands of poker on 10 different sites, you’re familiar with MTTs, SNGs, and cash games in hold’em, Omaha, stud and draw, brag about it here. While the hiring manager is probably not interested in how many final tables you made or what your lifetime BB/100 is, they certainly are interested in the breadth of your poker and gaming knowledge.
Do demonstrate your knowledge of the company. You should know a lot about the company that you’re applying for, whether it is low-level things like promotions and game features, or high-level items like jurisdictions and relationships with partners.
Do mention why you want to work for the company. A phrase that I absolutely love to see in a cover letter is “dream job”. More than any phrase on any cover letter, this makes me more likely to give a person an initial phone interview. Enthusiasm counts. Of course, you’ll have to be able to follow this up in both the phone and live interview, or you’ll be a big disappointment.
Do be specific about what job you want. “I’m really knowledgeable about poker in general, and I think I could fill a variety of roles in your organization.” I’ve seen this one many times, and honestly, I’d bet that it’s true most of the time. But you also have to realize that even in a new startup like Ultimate Gaming, applications are likely to be siphoned through a more traditional HR manager with a lot of corporate experience in more traditional brick-and-mortar based companies. So, even though you think you would be good at everything, you should indicate exactly what position you would like to have within the company. Gaming companies need people with all kinds of skills, from IT infrastructure to accounting to software development to customer service to marketing. While people with great general knowledge can bring value to any gaming or poker company, it’s the specialists who get noticed by HR.
And obviously, be realistic. If you are willing to work in an entry-level position but you say you’d be well suited as a Senior VP, well, it’s not very likely that the HR manager will consider you for that entry-level position.

Do not be quiet and demure in your interview. A lot of good poker players are real introverts. And while they are often intelligent, thoughtful and would make tremendous assets to any organization, it simply doesn’t come out in the interview. Your interviewer is not Phil Ivey staring you down for tells, so you shouldn’t be staring blankly, talking softly, and avoiding eye contact. Be engaging and demonstrate that you’re an individual with a personality, the kind of person that people want to have as a co-worker.
Do not hide any skeletons in your closet. In both Nevada and New Jersey, employees have been required to undergo background checks to work for Ultimate Gaming. While it is not always an absolute dealbreaker to have been previously convicted of a crime, it most likely is a dealbreaker if you aren’t immediately upfront about it. Additionally, the more senior the position in the company, the more likely that your background will be thoroughly investigated, so if you harbor hopes of one day being a senior executive in a gaming company, you’ll want to be honest from the get-go.
Do not misspell the name of the person you’re applying to. Seriously, this happens with alarming frequency. It’s not that I’m so egotistical I can’t handle having my name spelled incorrectly, but if I see it that way — after I’ve already corresponded with you — I’m going to be think that you’re not a detail-oriented person, and if you can get something like this wrong, you’ll probably get other things wrong too. I definitely don’t think that poor spelling is necessarily an indicator of lack of intelligence, but when there are potentially dozens or hundreds of people all applying for the same job, why stick out for all the wrong reasons?
There are plenty more dos and don’ts I could mention, but that would start to stray from the topic of how to go from poker player to poker industry into being a general “how to get a job” essay. But if you keep these points in mind, you’ll find yourself a lot more likely to land your desired position in your preferred company.
Until next time, best of luck – regardless of which side of the virtual felt you find yourself on.

Friday, November 1, 2013

No-gi World Championships tomorrow!

It's been a long while since I've posted about anything other than work, because like most people working here, work is most of what I do these days. The last month and a half though I've been actually getting back in a good training routine, enough that I signed up for the World No-Gi Championships tomorrow in Long Beach, California.

The toughest part for me was deciding whether I wanted to register for the Masters (over 30) division or the regular Adult (18+). Masters has just 7 people in it; Adult has 26. Obviously the path to winning the Masters division is much easier not just because of the numbers but because people over 30 are a little less physical, might have jobs/families/commitments and contain the 22-year-old kids who live in their parents' basements and train 4 times a day. But I decided to take the harder road because fuck it, it'll be more rewarding in the end. I think when I'm over 40 I'll do the old-man division but for now, why not get more fights in for any given trip? At the end of the day it's not like there's any prize money or real reward; the competition itself is the reward.

Well, I might have regretted this decision (if only for an instant) once the brackets were announced yesterday. I Googled my first round opponent and found this video of him. Even though that fight is mostly on the feet, he seems like he has some good wrestling and ground game. But my potential second round opponent is a really tall (figurative, of course) task. It's 17-4 MMA fighter Danny Martinez. Martinez has been a pro fighter since before I even took up jiujitsu (and a college wrestler before that). Three of Martinez' pro losses have come to guys in the UFC and all were by decision; he has never been submitted as a pro and he has fought two different guys who were previously the #1 flyweight in the world. I think it'll be tremendously tough, but if I can somehow win, it'd be a huge feather in my cap. I'm looking forward to the experience, if I get past my first opponent (which is no small feat itself!).

Beyond that I'll still have 3 more fights. I have decided not to psych myself out any further by looking to see who else I might face if I advance further...

In any case, I'm quite excited to get back into a major competition. In the absence of being able to do 2-a-days 6 days a week, I've trained intelligently on both technique and conditioning, and hopefully I'll get to use that. The weight cut has been smooth (as weight cuts go), so that's nice too. So no excuses, let's find out if it's all paid off!

(As for sweating: I will try to live-tweet the results. There might be a live stream, but it is very unclear from that website whether my mat (Mat #1) will actually be showing at the time of my matches.)

UTG+1 with Ultimate Gaming CMO/COO Joe Versaci

I did another UTG+1 podcast for Ultimate Poker. I'm up to five total, which you can view here. This most recent one is probably my favourite because I've been trying to have my boss and company CMO/COO Joe Versaci on the show forever and he has consistently ducked me. This is despite the fact that I've always thought he'd be a great interview due to his epic Dana White-esque rants around the office. Well, he didn't quite go off Dana-style (even if I tried to goad him into it), but it's still a great interview and should provide the outsider with a good idea of what things are like working here at Ultimate Gaming:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Podcast - UTG+1 with Ultimate Gaming!

I've once again been neglecting the blog, but at least I am now generating content at work!

I've started a weekly podcast with the people I work with at Ultimate Gaming. The idea is that we actually have some fairly interesting jobs, backgrounds, and so on. A lot of people play online poker, but relatively few actually know what kind of work goes into running an online poker site, so I figure some people might be interested. My first guest is our Director of Poker Operations, Scott Yeates, the guy who is, well, the head of all poker room operations. He runs teh gamez.

So, here it is. The name is "Under The Gun +1 with Ultimate Gaming". (Or maybe just UTG+1 if that's a mouthful. Haven't decided yet.) I'm aware the audio quality is not very good (particularly on my mic) but we'll have that fixed next week.

For audio only, go to the bottom of this page, right click anywhere on the grey box, and select Download Document

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Grappler's Quest/UFC 162/WSOP weekend wrapup

It's been a pretty interesting last 10 days or so for this now relatively boring corporate warrior. In those 10 days I:
  • Cut 11 lbs to compete in Grappler's Quest at the UFC Fan Expo
  • Medalled (silver) in the no-gi of said Grappler's Quest
  • Was eliminated in the first round of the gi of said Grappler's Quest after blowing a big lead
  • Watched UFC 162 with half the Ultimate Gaming company over at my apartment
  • Played, and busted, from the main event.

Weight cut/Grappler's Quest

The weight cut was terrible. Weigh-ins were July 4, so while everyone in this country was enjoying hot dogs and apple pies, I'd gone 24 hours without water and was doing fun things like taking 10-minute baths in scalding hot water and going outside in the 115-degree sun wearing plastics and a terrycloth bathrobe. I felt gross and weak and sick by the time fireworks rolled around. Much thanks to Robyn because I certainly wouldn't have made it without her.

Nevertheless by Friday I felt totally recovered. I won by points in overtime in the semifinals and then lost in the finals by advantages. The win was right there for me, but I simply wasn't aggressive enough. I took a private lesson with my jiujitsu coach Sim Go on how to pass more aggressively and I feel if we rematched now I would win. But oh well, lesson learned.

The next day I went in determined to be more aggressive, and it worked...for a while. I got out to a quick 5-0 lead and was threatening my second pass of the match with a minute left when I foolishly got caught in an armbar. I know what I did wrong now -- I should have controlled the head as well as the feet while passing, then moved to checking the hip.

In any case, no excuses: I lost because I haven't been dedicated and haven't been spending enough time on the mat. I guess that's an inevitable consequence of being really busy, but I really expected to win these divisions and I'm still very disappointed I didn't.

WSOP Main Event

Of course, nothing soothes the ego pounding of losing at an amateur grappling competition like potentially winning $8 million in the biggest money competition in the world, so the day after that, I jumped into 1B of the main event. I had a good but not great table; good enough that the 69k I finished with the end of the day was mostly the result of other people's mistakes.

Day 2B was a disaster though. I played a 115k pot where my opponent was absolutely crushed. At 250/500 and only 3100 chips in the middle, Villain managed to blast off his >55k stack with 88 on a 543 flop. I had 33 and I wasn't even sure I was ahead when I stacked off, and this guy puts it in with 88. Well, I guess that's why you play the main. Needless to say, I did not win this pot, and busted about an hour later.

The WSOP was obviously tremendously disappointing this year. Ten small cashes might be frustrating, but 0 cashes is worse. Who'd have thought.

UFC 162

Obviously would be remiss if I didn't talk about one of the most talked about fights in the history of the sport. Like everyone else, my mouth was agape when Chris Weidman cracked Anderson Silva with a big left hook and hammered home the coffin nails with some nasty ground-and-pound to make the former champ's eyes roll back in his head.

First of all, I'll just say that if you thought this was a work, you're a moron. The UFC has so much to lose from a worked fight. If you thought Anderson was paid to lose by someone outside the UFC, you're just as dumb because I can't imagine who would pay Anderson enough to harm his sponsorship agreements with juggernauts like Nike and Burger King. Finally there's the obvious: if for some reason Silva intentionally were going to lose, I'm pretty sure tapping to the kneebar/heelhook combo Weidman put him through in the first round would be better than being crushed and concussed by a 210 pound professional fighter. Just sayin'.

So with that bit of nonsense out of the way, the next talking point is generally going to be the question "if Silva didn't dick around, would he have won?" Well the great news is, we're going to find out on December 28! That's going to be a mega-card which approaches a million PPVs, the first time we've talked about those kind of numbers in a fight that didn't involve Brock Lesnar or Georges St-Pierre.

To answer the question - who knows? I think it's important to remember the showboating, taunting etc is part and parcel of Anderson Silva's game. He wants you to come at him aggressively with strikes. Guys who come at him aggressively with strikes usually get plunked, plain and simple. And in taunting Weidman, he actually did get the latter off his takedown game.  To say "would Silva have won if he didn't drop his hands" is like asking whether elite poker pros would make more money if they didn't screw around with small suited 2-gappers. Elite poker pros are elite because they know when and how to play those small suited 2-gappers, not in spite of it.

But -- and this is a huge but -- it's important to remember that Silva has done this before, and Weidman was the only one to make him pay. Silva did this hands down, chin up thing with Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Demian Maia and others, and no one made him pay for it. Weidman's better than all of those guys, plus at 38, Anderson is an aging fighter. Both his reflexes and chin simply can't be as good as they were before. I think Anderson should still be favoured in a rematch, but as I tweeted this morning, I think the line (currently -175/+145) will probably get very close to even at fight time. My advise is you should bet Weidman now if you want him, and wait to fight night to bet Silva if you want him.

That's it for now -- things are slightly less insane in the Ultimate Poker world these days, so hopefully I'll update more frequently. Hope you guys had better WSOP than I did! (Not exactly setting the bar high, I know.)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It's WSOP time - get after it! (for me)

So the WSOP starts in a week. Holy shit. When did that happen?

I feel like I can't even remember a time where the WSOP would sneak up on me. For the last 10 years, I've had it circled on my calendar and been counting the days. The only reason why today it got on my radar was because I was checking my @ messages on Twitter.

I was tremendously flattered to be picked in a pool by a player I respect as much as Matt, but also a little saddened. First for him, because I expect to be a lousy pick this year. Second for me, because I love the WSOP and for the first time since 2006 I'll be at best a part-time player in it.

"So, about that job thing"

Wow, I can't believe I haven't even posted about the Ultimate Poker launch. Actually, I guess I can believe it. I simply haven't had the time! But since 2005 I've posted every major life event on either this or my previous blog, so it seems bizarre to look at my own blog and see that big gaping hole.

Without a doubt, Ultimate Poker surpassed expectations dramatically. We're doing so much better than we projected, and have had a ton of positive media exposure. We've had our problems too, and lots of people have been justifiably critical of our technology and our support. But there can be no doubts that in 3 weeks we've changed the poker landscape and taken a lot of people by surprise.

As for me personally? I've had some good days, and bad days. Today was a good one. It was a big day for me. Today, I actually left the office at 6pm, something I haven't done since launch. I got a ton of stuff done at work, but what was different was that I also left a bunch at work. My problem I have a really hard time letting go of work that needs to be done. That's what a lot of people have encouraged me to do: to recognize that the work will still be there tomorrow and to pace myself so that I don't burn myself out in 3 months.

So I'm taking small steps towards leading a more healthy and balanced lifestyle, but there's still so much work to be done that it's hard to predict when I'll get unburied. As I wrote a month ago, the best way to put me on tilt these days is to simply ask me when I'll get to fight next. I feel like I'm so far away from that. And that a 13-year poker player would move to Las Vegas for eight weeks and not play a single hand of poker in that time has a most Morisettian irony to it.

In previous years, when the WSOP grind wore me down, I brought myself up by remembering that there were so many amateurs, wannabes, dreamers, has-beens, and never-weres who would die for the opportunity to do exactly what I was doing. It made me feel grateful.

I'm going to try my hardest to be a significant part of the WSOP this year, and as Matt himself says:

(I don't know how "easy" it is, seeing as how I've played 140 of them and made five final tables without winning one, but the point is understood.)

But to those with the opportunity to play a full schedule: get after it. I'm jealous, but I'll be pulling for you.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

When a fighter meets a fighter

I met a guy today (personal trainer of Ultimate Poker chairman Tom Breitling) who has a boxing match coming up on Friday Night Fights next week.

When a non-fighter meets a fighter for the first time and the fighter has a fight coming up, the non-fighter will inevitably ask things like "Are you nervous?" "Are you excited?" "Where is it?"

When a fighter meets another fighter for the first time and one finds out the other has a fight coming up, the fighter will only ask one question:

"How's your weight?"


And, oh yeah, this Ultimate Poker stuff is fucking nuts. If you're a friend, sorry if I haven't returned your e-mail, text message, tweet, IM, Facebook, whatever.

Friday, April 26, 2013

"...and he was never heard from again."

That was the joke one of my exes, Jacqueline, used to make in a mock-ominous voice referring to individuals who had started playing World of Warcraft. The year was 2006 and she'd encountered an inordinate number of regular bloggers whose last blog posts began with, "so I signed up for World of Warcraft today" and correspondingly got sucked into the game so much that they were never heard from again (at least in the blogosphere).

Just as I have never tried crack or meth, I never touched WoW. But for the last month, I do feel like I've disappeared off the face of the earth. Sure, I've gone many long stretches without blogging, but this last month is the first time in my life I've been so immersed in work that I've had almost no interaction with the outside world. Many times over the last few weeks I've wanted to blog about how the working world has been treating me but the only thing I have time to do once I get home is work out (sometimes), cram a prepackaged dinner down my throat, and fall asleep. The only reason that tonight I have time to blog is that at this moment I'm on call, waiting for a co-worker who is on the road (it's 9:30pm) and could need my assistance online at any time.

Sadly, I haven't really been doing much in the way of MMA training. I make it to jiujitsu once or twice a week. I've hired a boxing trainer to give me private lessons twice a week. I've been trying to keep up general fitness and done a decent job of that. That's about it. Every time someone asks "when's your next fight?" I feel a little bit of life-tilt because there's no way I am in fight shape.

To be brutally honest, if I had known beforehand that this is what my life would be like, I might not have accepted the job. But despite the workload, I'm still glad I did. It's actually been fun in its own way. We have had a tremendously harried week here at Ultimate Poker, but the whole team has come together to support one another and get shit done. It's been nice to be a part of that. My stress level at times has been just through the roof and I have had my share of "omfg this is a disaster" freakouts, but there's definite life-ev in being part of a team.

I also like that I get to dabble in a little of everything in my work. I have had my hands in the technology, marketing, customer support, HR, and finance aspect of things. I definitely don't think I would have survived in a job where I was just doing one thing, and I hope the breadth of my work here at Ultimate Poker continues to increase.

But it is a crazy pace and hopefully things do settle down a bit soon, because I definitely don't think I will last long at the current pace. My hope is to set up and establish systems that largely run without me, so that I can get off the daily grind of burning the candle at both ends and instead work towards making a lasting long-term contribution to the organization. Not to mention getting back to fighting and playing poker.

A lot of people have been asking when we're going to start taking bets here at Ultimate Poker. While I'd love to go into detail, all I can say is that things are definitely getting exciting around here. We are continuing that push towards hand #1 of legal online poker and we really think we have what it takes to be the market winner in Nevada and beyond!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Shady motherf***ers: TC goes used-car shopping

There are a number of occupations that have bad reputations. For example, people love to take shots at lawyers and many people have pretty bad names for them. But most of the lawyers I know are actually solid, honest people who really want to help regular folks navigate difficult legal issues.

The profession that is most maligned is probably that of used car salesman. The three words are nearly synonymous with "slimy" in the heads of most people. When I googled "professions with a bad reputation" for the purpose of this post, this result was the #1 hit, and it showed used car salesman as the profession with the worst reputation.
The used car salesman still remains the measuring stick for all professions that are frowned upon. Society views these individuals as sleazy shysters who will do whatever it takes to get you into hunk of junk. Many people won’t even go near a used car lot for fear of being ripped off. Also, being swindled by a shady used car salesman is the only instance in life that, when given a lemon, you can’t make lemonade.
I never really wanted to believe that any profession is inherently bad. I've gone through my life trying to stay aware of potential cognitive biases. I reasoned that most people probably only deal with a used car salesmen a few times in their life, so if they have a bad experience with one, it's going to be quite impactful. On top of that, people have been preconditioned to believe that used car salesmen are these slimy people, so surely there must be a lot of confirmation bias at play.

Well I'll be damned if my most recent used car buying experience doesn't validate the public wisdom!

I needed a car in Vegas. I know what kind of car I like: small, sporty convertibles that are reasonably comfortable but not too expensive. I sent the same form letter to about a dozen used car dealerships in Vegas. I told them all to send me their best offers because I'm not going to be popping into all of the dealerships and this is their best chance to get me in the door.

The tactic worked out quite well; I was able to weed out all the salesmen who wouldn't give me a decent offer by e-mail and wanted me in the door. I ended up getting a competitive offer on a BMW 128i from Desert Audi's internet sales manager which was about $2000 below what they had it listed for. I took it for a test drive, and they pushed me to make a decision that day, but I decided I should mull it over. There were some scratches and dents on the car and I e-mailed them back to say that if they cleaned up the interior and exterior, and removed the $400 "documentation fee" that we had a deal. They set up an appointment for me to come in on Wednesday where I was supposed to simply point out what I wanted fixed on the car.

When I came in on Wednesday morning, they told me the car had been sold last night. Okay, no big deal, it happens. The internet sales manager apologized and said she'd e-mail me some more vehicles. No problem.

She came up with another 128i. It seemed to be the same car as the previous (without the dents) but for about $1000 more. I went back on Sunday, test drove the car, and it looked great. I said if they could make it the same price as last week's car, they had a deal. They came back with an offer for $500 less and I hemmed and hawwed, negotiated some window tint, and took it. The manager and I both signed a piece of paper agreeing on the price. I shook hands with a bunch of people who congratulated me on my new purchase and got my checkbook out.

Then came some waiting, waiting, waiting. The salesman told me it was "to prepare the paperwork" and at the time I actually believed that (after all, I've already agreed to the price -- shouldn't they want me out of there asap before I change my mind?) but I'm convinced that they intentionally make the whole process take longer to increase your commitment.

Finally the finance guy took me into his office. I know this is the part where they try to get me on a bunch of features, extras, extended warranties, and other high-margin crap I don't want. No problem, I figured I'm pretty strong at this kind of thing and can just decline across the board. So when he got into his whole extended warranty speech, I cut him off by saying, "well, this is a certified pre-owned and covered until 100k miles right? So I don't think I need that."

"Oh, is it? Let me double-check." The guy gets on his phone with the manager.

He hangs up and says, "sir, the BMW is not a Certified Pre-Owned."

I'm flabbergasted. I'd been double and triple sure to check this online and here is a screenshot *right now* of their online posting:

You can see at the bottom their Certified Pre-Owned banner in the bottom, which isn't present on some of their other cars. Oh, and when I showed up on the lot, there was a huge banner in the windshield which read "Certified Pre-Owned by BMW".

I asked about this and he said (are you ready for this?) "yes, but it was CPO at the original price. We're giving it to you for this reduced price."

Oh. You dirty motherfuckers. They were trying to pull out the rug and quietly remove the CPO (45000 miles of warranty) just without saying a word. Then they tried to calm me down by selling me their "Platinum Service" which is "much better than the Certified Pre-Owned." I'm sorry for being profane twice in the same paragraph, but you shady, shady motherfuckers. Like, how do you do that? I can understand high-pressure sales tactics, but how do you just change the terms of the deal without telling someone? Why not just take out the steering wheel, the engine, and the seats while you're at it, and charge me for those? "Sorry sir, the engine was included with the original price, but since we're giving it to you for this reduced price, that's going to be extra."

You slimy, underhanded motherfuckers. The world is right about you people after all.

I didn't actually drop any f-bombs in the dealership, but I told the manager that I thought this was shady and unethical. He didn't even try to argue, and I left the dealership. They had a sale in hand, an absolute lay-up, and they lost it by trying to fuck me over just one last time. And the scary part is that it damn near worked. If I weren't such an incredibly meticulous person on this type of thing and checked the CPO online before walking in, they would have gotten me.

What gets me is that the whole time, I actually did get the feeling they weren't trying to fuck me. Now I think the tactic with the whole sold car, the extra waiting, all of it is just a tactic to get me to make multiple trips and wear me down. When I look back on things, I can think of at least five different ways in which someone in the company simply lied to me to get me more committed to buying.

In general, I'm a conflict-avoider. I'm one of those people who feels bad about asking for what I really want. I'll often take a little the worst of it to avoid conflict. But when I get fucked over or someone tries to pull the rug out from under me, my moral outrage goes off the charts. I become the Incredible Fucking Hulk of moral outrage. I will spite people forever and make them mortal enemies. And yeah, maybe I'm being unfair painting all used car salesmen with the same brush, but now because of these guys, I've got the whole industry on notice.

I believe in capitalism. Always have. Always believed that voluntary transactions between individuals are beneficial to both parties; that they're win-win. But used car buying -- that's now adversarial. This is now me against you. When I play poker, I don't cheat, and when I fight, I don't break the rules. But now I have found that used car salesmen are pretty damn likely to short the pot, mark the cards, rub ointment on their gloves, and load their hand wraps. So now I'm on notice. Now it's on.

Ultimately, it seems the most important thing to remember when buying a used car is the same thing to remember when you're in a cage fight:

Protect yourself at all times.

Monday, March 18, 2013

PokerListings "Easy Game" mini-documentary's Matt Showell approached me a few months ago to say he wanted to feature me in one of their mini-documentaries. Egotist that I am, I couldn't say no! Matt messaged me to let me know that the video is now online, and here it is.

If the above doesn't work, you can always click through to the original page here.

I think the documentary turned out great and I'm really happy with it! In particular I like the part where I get to talk about my motivations and reasoning for doing this. Matt was super easy to work with and the whole thing was far more fun than work.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I'm joining Ultimate Poker!

I've teased a couple times on this blog over the last year that I had something in the pipeline brewing. It's with great pleasure that today I get to announce it.

I have joined the Ultimate Poker team.

For those of you who don't know, Ultimate Poker is the newest venture out of Ultimate Gaming. Ultimate Gaming was one of the first companies to receive an online poker license in Nevada, way back in the fall of 2012. We are also majority-owned by Station Casinos and are partnered up with the UFC (who are of course, also owned by the Fertitta brothers).

It should seem fairly obvious that this is a pretty good place for an MMA-obsessed poker pro to land, from both my side and theirs.

I was first contacted with the idea of joining Ultimate Poker almost one year ago to the day. Since then it's been in my head the whole time. It was a struggle to decide though. I thought, "hey, my life as a poker pro/MMA nerd is great. Why mess with something that isn't broken?"

For the last two years (when I started to seriously get into MMA), my life has been a repeat of: wake up, work out, eat, nap, train MMA, eat again, and sleep - and I simply fill the gaps with a small amount of online grinding. Once in a while when there's an exciting major tournament somewhere cool, I go to that -- and try to find a fight gym worth training at as well.

Despite how content I was with everything, I still couldn't shake the idea. I talked to a few close and trusted friends and they thought it was a great opportunity for me. I thought back to my PokerStars days and how much fun it was to be part of a poker startup, to watch a business grow from infancy into something massive and awesome. At the same time, playing poker started to become less exciting to me. Ten WSOP cashes is great and all, but when you cash ten times, that's a ton of hours at the poker table (and no real big payoff, in my case). In the fall, I played only five live tournaments and had a 1st, 2nd and 4th. I ran super-hot in that period and yet I still wasn't sure if I wanted to play poker for a living. I thought, "if I'm not super-excited about poker when I'm running good, I'm a little worried what's going to happen when I start running bad..."

So I kept coming back to the Ultimate Poker thing. I had been mostly talking with their Chief Marketing Officer, Joe Versaci. Joe was North American Marketing Director at PokerStars for many years. Our respective Stars careers barely overlapped, but we know many of the same people, and the people I talked to all said great things about him. Joe not only wanted me because I had past experience starting up the PokerStars support team, but he also loved the idea that I'm a poker player who lives and breathes MMA and the UFC. So I said to Joe that I'd love to work for the company -- as long as you can promise that I'll still be able to train MMA the way I'm used to. When it came to salary, I didn't ask for a dollar more than they were offering; I only wanted the freedom. He agreed, and in fact told me that not only supported, but actually wanted me to fight and play major poker tournaments as it would be great for our brand. And that's why I'm sitting here with a real j-o-b in an actual o-f-f-i-c-e for the first time in nine years.

On one hand, it's a huge change for me. I know from experience that being part of a startup is crazy work. Stuff always goes wrong and there are always challenges and hurdles you didn't anticipate. But more than anything I'm excited. Excited to be hopefully a good team player and leader. Our Vegas office is a couple dozen employees and they're an awesome group who has welcomed me. We have a lot of fun in the office throwing around poker ideas as we stand on the precipice of the first legal real-money hand of online poker in the United States. There's so much talent here, all channeled towards the same goal, that I can't imagine anything other than success and good times.

As for what you'll be seeing from me: more of the same! Any time anyone ever sees me at a poker tournament, they want to know when I'll be fighting again. Well, I've now relocated (yes, legally) to the biggest fight town in the world. So, let's hope the answer to that question is, "soon!" And I'll still be at the WSOP; look for me rocking the Ultimate Poker gear at the tables. I might not have month-long training vacations in Thailand or be able to fly down to Australia or Europe as much, but I'll still be in the poker scene.

One of the nice things about having been successful and reasonably smart with my money over the years is that I only have to do this as long as it's fun, and if it stops being fun, I'll go do something else. That goes for poker, MMA, or working in a poker startup. But I'm loving the people and the environment so far, and I'm excited to be a part of something big. They say that when one door closes, another opens. But I've walked through a new door here, and I still get to keep the other ones open. Good deal for me!

But that's enough self-indulgent writing for now. If you'll excuse me, there's work to do to get Hand #1 dealt!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Waking up to paternalistic jackassery

If you're like me, one of the first things you do when you wake up in the morning and get your caffeinated beverage of choice, is roll on over to your computer and log on to find out what you've missed in the last eight hours. The other day I encountered a post called 13 Healthy Ways to Start Your Day. Among the 13 suggestions?

Set the Inner Conversation
[B]egin your day thinking on a positive and productive note. Skip the computer, TV, radio, and even the newspaper. Do you really need to start the day with news of 3,000 dead in an earthquake? There’s plenty of hours left to inform yourself.
Not a bad idea, I thought. So today instead of immediately logging on, I grabbed my caffeinated beverage, took a stroll outside and breathed in a little fresh air. Then I came back to my Twitter feed. What greeted me there?

The first notable tweet was from poker media personality Jess Welman who tweeted a link to this article:
N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg bans 2-liter sodas with pizza delivery: report

Say goodbye to that 2-liter soda with your pizza delivery, pitchers of soft drinks at your kid’s birthday party and some bottle-service mixers at your favorite nightclub, The New York Post reports.

The mayor’s new rules prohibit restaurants from serving or selling soda in containers larger than 16 ounces.
Awesome. Just awesome. This is some of the most paternalistic bullshit ever.  I don't eat pizza and rarely drink soda. And even suggesting that I have a favourite nightclub is amusing. Oh yeah, and I don't live in New York or have any plans to.  But if you're in any way a principled person, you see how fucking ridiculous this is. I mean you know how the story goes. First they came for the carbonated sugar water drinkers, and I did not speak, for I was not a carbonated sugar water drinker...

But then I scrolled down my feed a bit more, and found something that hit closer to home: SD Senator seeks to ban MMA, calls it 'child porn of sports'

Within the article, a blog post by a state representative is copied:
MMA Cage Fighting is the child porn of sports. The psychological community will tell you that desensitization to violence works exactly like desensitization to porn. You know how porn progresses... a peek at topless isn't enough, it all has to come off, then a pic is not enough... it goes to video then to virtual and then to the devaluation and mistreatment of women, human trafficking and sex crimes against women. Violence works the same way. Boxing wasn't enough so they took the gloves off, then they allowed kicking, kneeing people in the head, then elbows to the face, then they put a cage around it. The point is to knock the other guy unconscious while pay per view crowds cheer it on. Why not nunchucks? In Rome they'd gather in colosseums and bring out prisoners and entertain themselves by making them fight to the death. That wasn't enough so they brought out the helpless and the hated and brought in the hungry lions. Crowds cheered.
No, really: someone competent enough to use a computer and put together grammatically correct sentences actually wrote the above. *HEAD EXPLODE*

I care passionately about MMA, but the New York soda/pizza law won't ever affect me. Pretty much the only thing they have in common is paternalistic, vote-pandering politicians.

So a big "fuck you" goes out to both Mayor Bloomberg and State Representative Hickey. I was having such a good morning before I had to read about you two jackasses being jackasses.

(I guess the walk didn't really help. Oh well, it was worth a try.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

A personal announcement

Effective today, I would like to announce that I am no longer a sponsored pro for Hero Poker. Hero Poker has treated me extremely well and I am very proud to have represented Hero over the last two years.

I would like to make it very clear that my departure from Hero Poker is not in any way a reflection of how I feel about Hero Poker’s future. Rather, I have a bit of a personal project that I am focussing on which will conflict with my ability to be a member of the Hero team. I will make an announcement about that project when it becomes official and I can discuss it, but I want this post to be about Hero Poker.

David Jung, Hero Poker's CEO, has been tremendous to me and the other Hero pros. He has asked very little of us and given tremendously. This is a man who, when I complained about being hungry at 11:30pm one night at the Aussie Millions, drove to the supermarket to cook me a steak at his house. He also accompanied me on a 6-hour train ride through South Korea to assist me in my second amateur MMA fight. I don’t know many poker site CEOs who would do that for one of his pros. And I know he carries this extra-mile attitude towards his customers as well. Despite the challenges that have faced Hero (such as Black Friday occurring three months after launch and the issues with their former network), I’m confident that upon their relaunch, Dave and his customer-first attitude can navigate his ship to prosperity.

So, I would like to close by thanking Dave for bringing me aboard the team, and to the Hero Poker players who signed up due to my endorsement. Good luck to Dave, my former teammates on Hero Poker, and of course, the players for playing there!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nit or risk-taker?

"Have you ever had an MRI?" she asked, seemingly out of the blue.

"Yes," I answered, with what surely was a look of great confusion. This seemed like an abrupt change of topic because I'm pretty sure the previous question had been something about poker.

"Do you happen to know the size of your prefrontal lobe?"

"Well, no...I had it done on my knee."

I'd only met Jennifer a couple hours earlier, but we found ourselves seated next to each other at dinner. A pretty Chinese-American woman in her mid-20s (of course, the "you can never tell how old Asians are" point of conversation had already been covered), Jennifer was a mutual friend of Bill Chen, who had organized our dinner. The setting was Greycliff restaurant, the well-known 5-star Bahamian fine dining restaurant converted from a centuries-old colonial house. Jennifer's dress and style indicated to me that she was very familiar with such fancy establishments. So I certainly would have forgiven her if she'd largely ignored this poker player, who'd arrived in the fanciest clothes he'd brought on this trip: a Roots zip-up sweater, moderately dressy jeans, and a pair of New Balance Minimus trail shoes.

But if she passed judgment on my attire, it was unapparent to me. She had too many questions to ask. Her curiosity about the size of my prefrontal lobe (that's what she said?) stemmed from her formal education in neuroscience. Apparently, individuals with larger prefrontal lobes are more inclined towards risk-taking behaviours, like perhaps participating in cage fights or quitting one's job to play poker for a living. Hence the inquiry.

I went on to explain that while something like playing professional poker does seem like a risky activity, it was a decision that I deliberated on for quite a long time before acting on it. I further noted that I no longer play the biggest games online, and prefer more medium-stakes games and tournaments in an effort to reduce my stress level. And while I can't argue that MMA isn't risky, I generally don't participate in other risky or thrill-seeking behaviour. I've never been one for alcohol or drugs, I am pretty good about wearing my seatbelt, and I don't really have a particularly strong urge to try skydiving.

Just one day earlier, I was sitting in a side event and playing at a table of mostly young pros. The table chatter on this occasion was also about risk-taking and life. A Swedish player named Ramzi Jelassi was being talkative and splashing around in a lot of pots, at one point late in the day raising on the button, c-betting into three opponents and showing 93o after they all folded. The same man also admitted to being "a total life nit."  Ramzi said he basically takes as few risks in life as possible, saying with a smile, "I'm too good at life, so I can't risk it." Not long after that comment, he called off a large 3-bet shove with A7 from middle position and lost a big chunk of his stack.

At the party on the final night of the PCA, I once again heard the words "life nit" used in a self-descriptive manner, this time from the mouth of British pro Max Silver. I've only played with Max once, but most of it was heads-up. It was the second table of the shootout event of the WSOP Europe in 2011, and Max had gotten most of his chips by 5-betting Vanessa Selbst with 64s, flopping trips and turning quads to smash her KK. I don't know Max well enough to know whether or not he's a life nit, but I faced enough of his 3-barrels on that day to confidently say that he's no poker nit.

The word "nit", in the poker world, is used as a near-antonym of "gambler" (alternatively, "degen", "sicko", "LAG", etc). Whom do we consider nits? The ultra-tight, conservative players who never play above their bankrolls and often even play below it. We picture these guys walking instead of taking a cab to save a few bucks, scrounging around for buffet comps before the dinner break, and eyeing the money bubble of any tournament they play. But is this an accurate depiction? What of the Max Silvers and the Ramzi Jelassis? And what am I? Is Terrence Chan some adrenaline-junkie MMA fighter, or a guy who leaves 10 minutes early on dinner break to make sure there's no possibility he'll miss a big blind? Consider the old adage, "lucky in cards, unlucky in love." Should we add to it, "sicko at cards, nit at life?"

For most regular folks, the idea that there are people even walking around with $1000, $10000, or $100000 of cash on a regular basis strikes them as incredibly risky, much less gambling it in a poker tournament with less than a 15% chance of getting any of it back. But I'm not convinced that poker players are that much more risk-seeking than the rest of the population; rather, they have simply become very good at compartmentalizing that risk. What else would explain all the self-proclaimed life nits in the poker world?

I dislike it when people not in the poker world say, "I could never do that; I'm not much of a gambler." Everyone gambles, because everything is a gamble. Crossing the street is a gamble, and so is driving to your destination. The gamble is simply that you will pick up enough value by getting to your destination (whether it's your office, the gym, the grocery store, or your grandmother's house) that you are willing to fade the possibility of being hit by a bus. To limit the idea of gambling to wagers involving dollars and cents is to misunderstand the nature of human existence.

So just how big are the prefrontal lobes of the poker world? The Jennifers of the world are dying to know.