Black Friday Three Years Later

Black Friday Three Years Later

That day three years ago, I’d just moved to Vegas a few weeks ago, and woke up to a flurry of texts from Katie Stone.

“Have you seen this yet?!”

Katie Stone + Me at the 2013 WSOP

In a groggy state, I logged onto 2+2 and clicked on an hours-old thread with hundreds of replies.

I had to see for myself.  I went to the PokerStars website and was met with that fateful seal of seizure.

Like other bad poker news in the past, I hoped I was just blowing it out of proportion. Even though I had already been a disillusioned libertarian for quite some time, there couldn’t be any way the government would just steal my job in an instant, right?

Over steaming mugs of ironically Mexican coffee, Collin helped calm me down, but as the day wore on, I was glued to poker websites and my usual optimism was fading away.  Signing a check to pay my taxes felt a like a cruel twist.

Three years later, and the pre-Black Friday era is spoken of by poker players like we’re aging frat boys harkening back to the “good ole days.” While many steps are being taken in the right direction, I can only hope that we make further progress to accessing world-wide internet poker in America in the next three years than we have come in these first three.

My life has changed a lot in those three years— as I have chronicled on my blog and various articles, I’ve moved to Rosarito, México. When I first arrived, full of American naiveté, I found it tough to get used to things like an internet company missing their window for arrival for the 5th straight time. On the flip side, I was immediately drawn to the friendliness of strangers and their warm acceptance of my broken Spanglish.

I’ve found that I feel more at home living in a foreign country every day. However unscientific the studies are, Mexico is continually ranked higher than the US in terms of general happiness, despite that the median income for a Mexican is almost 1/10th of the median income for an American.

I’ve learned a lot by watching and befriending people here (thanks in no small part to my vast improvements in speaking Spanish). One person I admire is a man that gets groceries for me.  He used to have a stained glass business downtown, but after September 11th, the border security was vastly increased at the Tijuana crossing and tourism fell sharply as the wait time back to get back into the US rose.

He was forced to close the business he was so passionate about, but explained to me that he is actually happy about his new job because he spends more time now with his wife and kids. This is despite the fact that he makes 10% of what he used to make years ago.

While we unpacked groceries together this week, his excitement extended beyond finding perfect purple eggplants for me. When I ask him how his week was, he answered with a smile that “every day is a gift.”

It turns out that the gift to me three years ago today was to get to live in a country where I’m inspired by the man that gets my groceries– where the focus of the culture is on happiness and finding el sol even on a cloudy day.

The Top 5 Poker Clichés in Movies

The Top 5 Poker Clichés in Movies

Perhaps the most cruel cliché ever is that clichés are well … cliché, with the full negative connotation that word carries. Maybe I’m alone here, but I really enjoyed each of the clichés I collected below and count myself as a fan of each of these movies!

5.) Risking it all:

Oftentimes, the “no table stakes rule” cliché shows up in cinema with our hero throwing the deed to his house on the table.  While at a cash table once, I witnessed a new player try to reach into his pocket to get out his wallet to call a bet that would have just put him all in. With this cliché being so rampant in entertainment, his confusion is understandable!

4.) Weird and 100% reliable tells:

If only poker were so easy! In real life, players often strive to be read-less by wearing sunglasses, keeping their poker face on, or splattering their mug with reverse tells that make a thinking player question their motives.  Sadly, I can’t ever say that eating a cookie has changed my decision in a hand!

3.) Royal Flushes:

In real life, a royal flush occurs once in about 650,000 hands in Hold ‘em. Fortunately for our viewing pleasure, the probability in movies of a royal flush occurring when a player holds AKs is about 100%!

2.) String Raises:

Clearly the old “I see your bet….and raise you!” doesn’t fly outside of a very relaxed home game—or if the words are uttered by George Clooney!

1.) Slow rolling:

The most common cause for bickering at the tables I’ve been a part of is with slow rolls—though I have never been at a table with a person that takes over a minute to display a straight flush! Sometimes a dynamic evolves in certain games where slow rolling becomes part of the fun.

Here’s a link to perhaps the most dramatic slow roll in real life, which makes the cut because, although this isn’t in a movie, it feels like it is and should be!

Clichés can be a form of stereotyping that can offer us a glimpse into understanding a world that we know little about. For many people, poker is one of those categories, and to make it entertaining for the masses, clichés allow the audience to feel a part of the game without so much as knowing the all the rules. Exposure of poker to the mainstream, even in the most cliché fashion such as the colloquial use of “going all in”, is undoubtedly something that has a lot of power to get new players into the game we love!

Meanwhile, I’ve got to get back to playing poker as I have just been dealt AKs, have thrown the deed to all of my possessions on the table, and am preparing for an epic slow roll when I inevitably hit a royal flush!


Three Nights in Paradise

Three Nights in Paradise

One of the best parts about living in Rosarito is a built in location for quick vacations that’s only 45 minutes away: San Diego. From the indie vibe of Gaslamp quarter, to the smattering of great restaurants, scenic hiking areas, and high-end movie theaters, San Diego is a wonderful mix of outdoor recreation with the bigger city feel I sometimes miss while living in a small town in Mexico.

And I expected this trip to be my favorite to San Diego ever, because Collin and I were celebrating our 5th anniversary and staying in the nicest hotel I’ve ever been in.  The Grand Del Mar is situated a bit north of San Diego’s city center, but it feels a world– or at least a country– away.

Surrounded by Mediterranean landscaping and hiking trails, I can’t even hazard a guess as to the large number of gardeners that must work here full time!


Once we were in our lush room overlooking a perfectly manicured garden, they even brought us sparkling wine and strawberries for our anniversary! Every night they brought us a different treat with the turndown service, ranging from delicious truffles to chocolate covered Oreos. The rooms were equipped with Nespressos—which is the best coffee I’ve ever had outside of Europe or a fine dining restaurant. Also, when I left my phone charger plugged into the wall with its cord dangling like an ornery serpent, I came back to find it neatly roped together and tied with a pretty bow of gold ribbon.


Having only showers in my apartment in Mexico, I turned my skin into a giant raisin in the deep bathtub at least twice a day—throwing in scented bath bombs and soaking in every second of it!

When I was able to stop soaking in the bath for long enough, there were great activities abound, such as going to the San Diego Zoo safari park, where I saw white rhinos for the first time.  Our hotel also boasted free croquet for hotel guests, and though we were playing with rules that we invented, I won!

Hiking in Torrey Pines park was one of those rare moments of beauty bathed in yellow sun that was so picturesque that it almost felt like we were on a movie set for the dramatic kissing scene at the end of a romantic comedy!

2014-02-18 16.43.15

Collin surprised me by taking me to the restaurant I most wanted to go to: Addison. One of the dished we were served had special resonance for me.


When I was in culinary school, my phase one chef had trained and worked at La Maison Troigros in Roanne, France. Their most famous dish was salmon with sorrel, and the special dish we were served was a modern, fresh take on this classic of French Cuisine.

And this will go down in history as the best ice cream sandwich I’ve ever tasted:


Fortunately my high expectations for the trip were actually exceeded, and I headed back to Mexico very relaxed and ready to hit the tables again to go for my goals of 200k VPPs on PokerStars this year! Thanks so much to Collin for planning on of my favorite vacations ever!


Latest PokerStars “Anatomy of a Sunday Grind” Released

Latest PokerStars “Anatomy of a Sunday Grind” Released

Here’s a link to my first Anatomy column update of 2014:


Goals vs Dreams for 2014

Goals vs Dreams for 2014

I think Tom Marchese summed up my feelings about poker goals very aptly:


The tendency is to make goals that don’t really equate to being goals— they are actually wishes and hopes, and it was something I’ve been guilty of in past years.

I just had a talk with Wilbur about how this is not a real goal for 2014:

Wilbur goal

Now don’t mistake me for Scrooge after Christmas has passed—I am a big supporter of positive thinking and how that helps in many ways to enable us to get higher in our aspirations. Perhaps it is simply a difference of semantics, where I think of things out of my control as hopes/wishes versus goals that I have the complete option of achieving if I only push myself.

Of course I have some big hopes for what 2014 brings for me in terms of poker: I want to win the $55 Women’s Sunday, the Sunday Million, and the WCOOP Main Event….but those aren’t goals because they amount to many things that I don’t have control over.

For the most part, I can control the number of tournaments I play, and how frequently I study. I think focusing on what you can control to give you the highest chance of reaching your dreams is the best way to go. For example, I told Wilbur that he might get more steaks if he stopped pulling me around like a rag doll when I walk him!

For 2013 I had a goal of playing 15,000 tournaments and hitting Supernova. I played over 23,000 tournaments and hit Supernova soon after I dressed up as one for Halloween:


In 2014 I want to hit at least 200k VPPs and play over 30,000 tournaments…and come up with another super corny Halloween costume!

One goal for last year that I failed to achieve outside of poker was writing a Young Adult book. I made the mistake of not specifically planning how I was going to do it, and I didn’t set aside enough time to complete it (often in favor of playing poker). Instead of a completed manuscript, I have about 20,000 words and a better idea of how to specifically outline my goals in 2014.

Best of luck to everyone on achieving their goals, hopes, wishes, and dreams for 2014!

Wilbur is getting a steak to celebrate New Year’s Eve tonight so maybe all of our poker dreams will come true after all!

Ain’t Sayin’ I’m a Gold Digger, but I Love Golden SNGs!

Ain’t Sayin’ I’m a Gold Digger, but I Love Golden SNGs!

Upon discovering that PokerStars will be running their Golden Sit ‘n Go promotion December 2-8th, I could hardly contain my excitement for my favorite poker promotion of all time.

So, I decided to make a goofy video!

Don’t worry, I don’t plan on quitting poker to pursue a career in rap! ;)



I hit a turkey on PokerStars Sunday by winning 180-mans in three different buyins ($35, $15, $3.50Rebuy)!

It made for a nice finish to the week before I take a few days off from grinding to spend with family that’s visiting us in Mexico for Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving resultsIn total I won 4 180 mans, which I guess makes for a double-necked turkey! :)

Rebekah Mercer wrote a great article for PokerStars Women about Thanksgiving– thanks to her for deciding to include me in it! Here’s the link.

Also, my most recent video is out for PokerStrategy.  In it I go over an MTTSNG that I’ve grown to love in recent weeks, the 27-man.

I’ll be making this turkey again this year:


Happy Thanksgiving!