Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Eve is a Con-Artist

If New Year's Eve was a person, I would certainly describe him as a tricky con-artist to deceive the brain and it's function.  This blog will be somewhat negative, but hopefully eye opening for some people.  If you do not feel like reading thoughts on how most people approach the New Year incorrectly, then just discontinue reading here :).

While people look to the New Year for an inspirational platform to a better future, and a chance to change their lives, most people just use it for temporary change.  I see this in all aspects of life, people will change for short periods of time, but usually it is not a long term effect.  If you want change in your life, go for it each day, there is no reason to use an arbitrary day such as New Year's to make that change.  Those who have pushed it off until the New Year are much less likely to succeed than the motivated person who tried to begin implementing change a few weeks back.

New Year's Eve is actually a con-artist to help you fall further in to the trap of being lazy.  Those who try to change themselves at the New Year usually do so in a way that is impractical and not sustainable long term.   Let us dive in to some examples, and I will try to give ones from my life that I can relate t

1) Studying More - the brain is conditioned to where you currently have it set at, I did not go from playing 3 hours of poker a day to 12-14 hours most days by simply making a massive jump in hours.  My brain would not be ready for this and would burn out extremely quick.  It needs to be conditioned to the longer hours by increasing it's tolerance on a daily/weekly basis over time.  The same can be said with attempting to focus on studying for longer or any task that needs focus.  After the New Year, people will generally mean well, but they will over compensate, thus driving themselves to exhaustion and a plateau.  At this point, you will see them throw in the towel often and head back to old habits.

2) Working out and hitting the gym - Inevitably, the people who want people to know they lift on facebook or social media, will post about how upset they are that the gym is super packed with people who just made a New Year's resolution to get in better shape.  They will also comment how the people will be gone in a month, and this is true for the majority of these new gym go-ers.  But WHY?  It is because they have yet again not gone about conditioning themselves at the right pace.  By going from almost no training or nutritional discipline to all of the sudden four days of lifting and a strict diet, they will inevitably fail.  You need to build it up, it's the same through out all of life.  You put in the time and practice to continually get better and it just does not happen instantly.

3) Being a better spouse - Again, usually people will rush this and do too much at once, wearing themselves out.

I wanted to keep this short so I will sum it up and give tips.  NEW YEAR'S EVE is a CON-ARTIST, he gives the majority of people a false hope for the coming year, until to disappoint them and let them fall back in to poor habits.  There is hope though, you can alter your New Year by taking a better approach than you have in the past.

1) The first step is to realize that improving yourself is a process and not an instant fix.

2) From here, read some topics on the subject you are approaching to familiarize yourself.  For working out, you have countless forums and resources across the internet that will be a great step in learning the curve to take.  For a couch potato, this will most likely begin with some light cardio and a few weeks of light weight lifting just to get the body used to some physical activity without destroying the body in to complete shock.  Over the next month, the person may progress to slightly heavier lifting, while beginning to learn a little bit about nutrition and implementing it.

3) Set goals and track progress, by having a map of the progress you want to reach, you can hold yourself responsible by giving yourself penalties for falling short.  Do not make these too lofty that you will fail no matter what.  Rather, make them tangible.  For instance, set a goal to be doing what you can at the gym for four days a week, do not set a goal of a certain weight on a lift...that is more complex and should be left to people that have been lifting weights for a long time and have goals in that aspect.

4) BEFRIEND OTHERS who are more intelligent than you on fields.  This is the most under utilized resource that most people do not tap in to enough.  Your learning curve is accelerated exponentially when you have someone's brain to pick that is much more knowledgeable on a topic than yours is.  Do you want to get in to real estate, ask a friend who has been successful for it out for some drinks and pay for a night on the town while picking his brain.  Make sure that you are prepared and have done some research and learning on your own first though.  Those who are smart in their fields hate to waste their time.  They do not want to sit their discussing the absolute basics with you, and this information is available all over the internet.  Do your research, and then write down questions on the stuff you do not fully grasp along the way.  These are the questions that will be the best leveraged to increase your knowledge on the topic.

5) Compete with others - Perhaps find people who have similar aspirations to yourself, and set up friendly ways to compete with them so you have more drive to attain your goals.

That's all, be a better person in 2014, but don't fall in to the pitfalls that almost everyone else does.  Set attainable goals with time frames, and utilize the resources you have at your disposal more wisely than you had in the best.  Have a great New Year everyone.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Paris, France July 3rd-5th, 2012

I still have a bunch of other places I need to write up on, but think I will get to them when I can and will try to update on a few of the places in Europe that I've been to while they are fresh in my mind.  I'm also changing the format of the blog and just writing in plain style from now on.

I was not too excited to get to Paris to be honest...I booked this location because it was the cheapest entry flight in to Europe and I knew I'd see it sooner or later.  Why was I not excited?  Everyone I've ever met that has been to France has basically said the same thing, people are rude and I would not enjoy that.  Well, I've met quite a few people from France, with the experience never being anything but good.  For this, I was skeptical on others reviews.  However, they were spot on, I found the people in Paris to not be very friendly.  I loved the sights though.  I am not even an art buff, but seeing Le Louvre was incredible.  It is massive, an art aficionado could spend a month in here and still be fine coming back the next day.  Seeing the Mona Lisa was a big highlight for me.  I would recommend doing more research before going so that you appreciate the art work more.  I did not do this, and while I found a lot of the paintings/sculptures very neat, I would have liked to know more about what I was looking at.

Tip: There is a huge waiting line in front at the pyramid.  If you walk across the street and left a little, there is another entrance with no line.  So...wait a few hours at times, or walk in right away by simply walking 3 more blocks?

having fun doing typical tourist photo outside of the main entrance to Le Louvre

Examining the fuck out of a painting I'm sure

O Mona, what you do to me

having fun

the bad guy from the 3 musketeers

Napolean's stuff

Napolean's bed

Before heading here I had been to Notre-Dame cathedral.  It is very nice, and I would recommend getting there early in the day.  I went at night and during the day, and during the day there were way, way less people and it made for much better photographs and viewing opportunities.  Nearby, was Sainte Chapelle which was considered one of the greatest achievements of Gothic architecture.  If you don't care much about that, then don't visit as it was 8 euros or so and you see all of it within a few minutes.  If you do appreciate history and architecture greatly, then why not stop in.  

That's all for now.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

You are a function f(x) of those you surround yourselves with

I am very thankful for all the birthday love on facebook as I'm in a new city with few friends and starting new as always.  I am glad to have made so many great friends around the World, and wanted to write up a quick blog on a few things to help people become more successful.

While working hard and studying are big proponents of achieving success in fields, some times they are arduous and extremely time consuming.  For this reason, most people never have the drive and always look back with regrets of what if's.  This write up will simply be the easy ways to ensure you are progressing towards a successful future which you desire.

1) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH TALENTED PEOPLE.  Perhaps the most easy thing that people continually do wrong is to not surround themselves with people that have the same or more drive than they have.  When they do so, they don't really have an outside forcing factor on them at all times.  I will try to relate a lot of these to poker as that is what I do for a living.

Example 1: When I live or travel with very successful poker players, I am most likely to learn more from them as they may be sharper in certain aspects or forms of the game than I am.  However, I can travel with people that do not play poke or do not have drive to put in lots of hours to it.  When I chose the second option, I am limiting my learning curve which is always accelerated when I am around people of similar or greater abilities than myself.  This is one of the easiest things people can do...when people that you hang out with on a consistent basis have no drive to study or continually push to better stuff (which I have nothing wrong with), then you should try to hang out with others more often that will drive you more if you want to be more motivated and learn faster.

A picture of Elon Musk, an idol of mine.  I watch everything about him that I can get my hands on to see how someone as successful as him approaches the World, both for motivation and drive for myself.

2) UTILIZE THOSE WITH MORE KNOWLEDGE THAN YOU.  This point is similar to point 1, but also very important.  Sometimes focusing on multiple fields can be counterproductive and not net a huge result.  An example of this would be if I studied everything about stocks daily to know how to invest to the level of a trader.  I have a solid foundation and knowledge of the stock market and investing which is due to me reading on my own, and then consulting an expert (2 of my brothers in finance) on the topic when I have questions I am not sure on.  I have no need to be the most brilliant hedge fund manager, so instead of wasting time studying, I compile a base knowledge for myself, and then utilize more knowledegable resources at my fingertips to help with the process.  The same is true of my brother Kyle, I have a solid foundation on nutrition and exercise, however he is the wisest person I have ever talked to about the topic and he focuses on it for a living.  Thus, I use my base and then I reach out to him when I have further questions as my time is best spent studying other topics.

3) STOP WATCHING REALITY TV.  For those on no path, and not happy with their jobs.  This is the most counterproductive trait of most of American society.  Most people get stuck in a rut where they are unhappy with their jobs, come home and have 3-5 hours to themselves and just plop in front of the television to watch nonsense that is not benefiting them in any way other than "instant gratification" which seems to be what most of society is built around and why people cannot maintain proper diets.  Do not feel sorry for yourself, keep studying anything you can get your hands on and reading during this will be amazed how fast you can absorb knowledge and it will help immensely with your future and getting out of the feeling of being "stuck."  Build your knowledge, don't decrease it with silly television

4) GET IN GREAT SHAPE, INCREASE YOUR FOCUS LEVELS...this is one I am still working on.   This one is one of the most overlooked things as well.  Not only does being in great shape lead to a higher sex appeal and a greater sex life.  It also is the first impression people get when they see does not matter what jobs say, they are bias and first impressions are massive, thus being in better shape always helps.  Food is the fuel for our brains as is oxygen and blood flow.  This all increases with exercise and my studies and poker ability progressed greatly with it.  I have much much higher concentration and focus levels for extended periods of time.  It will help a bunch for those feeling tired all the time.

5) TAKE RISKS, society raises people to go to school, go to college, get a degree, sit behind a desk, and then work and have a 9-5.  This is completely fine for those who want to do it, I have nothing against it.  However, a lot of people talk to me about wanting to work for themselves and reap the extra benefits.  Habits are tough to break, and this is a habit that is jammed over and over repeatedly in to the brain as to how we are supposed to live our lives.  Again, it is fine if you want to work a 9-5 and live this way, but if you do not then you have to condition your brain otherwise.  A great step would be to keep talking to friends who do abnormal or different jobs they are passionate about and pick their brains for advice.

I had lots of people questioning me with poker after receiving my engineering degree and business minor.  They pretty much pointed to the above and said what are you doing, you need to get a corporate job.  I even countered my risk.  I ensured I was making atleast 3x my normal starting salary with poker.  I did this as I know poker is a zero sum game with diminishing returns as the market becomes more saturated over time.  I then bought part of a restaurant...this was as an investment, but also as a resume gap filler to show drive and initiative had poker gone south.  Poker not going well was virtually impossible by the way with the study hours I put in while growing up through the game.  I basically never looked back.

6) I will write some more on finances in my next blog, but the last bit of advice is to REALIZE THAT YOUR LIFE IS 100% MATH!!! That is correct, even when you are deciding what to wear, you are deciding the how others will perceive you in it, your sex appeal in it, your comfort level, and so on.  Your brain is actually assigning values to these which you have become so sharp with that you don't even realize you are doing math.  The people you talk to, the unhealthy meals you eat, these are simply mathematical choices that your brain is weighing between risk and reward.  However, it is assigning values constantly to these.  By recognizing this, you can actually build math simulations or models to solve some stuff in your life.  My last blog dealt with the math of leaving a job if you want to take a peak back.  YOU CAN SOLVE YOUR WHOLE LIFE AND EVERY DECISION BY USING MATH, so do so.

Take care, and thanks for all the birthday wishes this week.

Leave any comments below.


Friday, October 4, 2013

When to leave your job and go for it on your own

I get a bunch of random messages on facebook sporadically with people asking me one of three things:

“What the fuck do you do for a living, I want to travel also”

“How do I get good at poker, I think I will do that for a living”

And “I want to leave my job but am too nervous to, any advice?”

Well the answer to the first question is that I play poker on the internet mainly and travel.  I am also pretty diligent and good with my investments on the side as one must learn to make their money work for them.
The answer the second question usually leads to me going on a rant about how very few people can get good at it.  In addition to the steep learning curve, it is even more seldom to ever make substantial money from it.  Lastly, you need to give up all your family and move out of the USA with whatever money you have praying that you will be the 1 in a long shot person.  Tis’ not intelligent at all.

The third question is the most intelligent question that I get, and one that I try to truly help people with if they have the right attitude and are willing to push themselves.  As with everything else in life…this too comes down 100% to mathematics.  I will be able to keep them fairly basic in this blog and hopefully it can help some people that are thinking of quitting their jobs and starting something on their own.

The first step with figuring out if you can go this route is to come up with everything possible you can think of that should be included in your decision.  It is okay if this takes some time, you can alter your equations as you go.  I will for sure leave quite a bunch of them out of this blog as I am writing this on the fly, but that is fine as I am just trying to give you the gist of how to approach this.  The factors off the top of my head that I would include:

1)      Current savings (debt included if applicable)
2)      Current Salary & estimated future salaries
3)      Initial self-employment income
4)      Future self-employment income
5)      Ease of returning to old work force in same position
6)      Chances of making it with your business
7)      Happiness at current job
8)      Company retirement perks
9)      Happiness if self-employed (guess work included here)
10)   Tax Implications

If you analyze the list, you will realize that only 2 of the points that are tangible figures, and that the rest will be decided by values that you give to them.  People may have trouble assigning values to these, but it is something to keep practicing with a lot of your life decisions until you hone the skill to more accurately assign values.  Generally, people thinking of making this decision factor in numbers 1, 3, and 9.  They also tend to over value number 3 by a long shot, while leave out the other factors that also bring down number 3.  Due to this, the majority of people are left with a lopsided equation that is very incorrect when approaching this problem.  I understand why this happens as it is how the human brain is hard wired.

The first issue with how the brain works is that it over values one’s ability more or less, always assuming that it will go well.  While this is a good positive mindset, it is not realistic and the person needs to properly assess all risks and assign more accurate projections.  The second issue is that people do not approach it as a math problem and simply go, “I want to work for myself, I think I will go for it”.  When they do this, they are thinking of a few of the bullet points, but not all of them, and more importantly, they are not weighing them in properly.  This leads to my attempting to give a solution for people thinking of going down this route.  Please note that I left out some bullet points that I did not think of off the top of my head, and your values could be completely different than the ones I use in my example.  THAT IS COMPLETELY FINE, THE BIGGEST STEP IS RECOGNIZING THE MATH, AND approximating the values to the best of your ability.

First we will try our best to set up an equation, ultimately it will be a greater than or equal to equation, which means we will have to determine which factors to place on each side.  Initially I did it with powers as that is how you find your future earn with future salaries, but I began to do way too much math and it became confusing and potentially incorrect, I’ll leave that at the bottom of the blog if anyone wants to view it.  For this though I just used initial salary to a power and did not factor in initial and future to keep it simpler

((Initial Salary ^ (1 + 0.1n)) * chances of making it) * tax implications + happiness + current savings > current salary^ (1+0.01n) + retirement perks ^ (1+0.03n)   + happiness + current savings

Now let’s assign some values to are tangible… current salary is $50,000…but you can make life simpler and just divide by 1,000 and work with smaller figures, so we’ll denote current salary at 50 and $8,000 for retirement perks or 8.  We will use $20,000 or 20 as our current savings.

Where n = number of years at job, starting with year 1 and increasing by 1 with each passing year
*anything to the 0 power is equal to 1, thus future income will not be a large number off the bat.

I have left out he ease of returning to your work force as it’s something that can easily be factored in whenever the situation is close to neutral, it can be the deciding figure in that case.

Let’s plug in the tangible figures for year 1 (n=1)….
((Initial Salary ^ (1 + 0.1n)) * chances of making it) * tax implications + happiness + 20 > 50^ (1.01) + 8 ^ (1.03)   + happiness + 20

Giving us a simpler
((Initial Salary ^ (1 + 0.1n)) * chances of making it) * tax implications + happiness + 20 > 52 + 8.5 + happiness + 20

Now for the non-tangible figures which is the tough part.  Let’s take our initial salary at a base of $30,000 (30).  The chances of making it are where most people over estimate their own ability and that is bad.  You should map it with stuff you have a strong grasp on.  If you work at 150% higher capacity than colleagues, or outperform people at that rate with most tasks, then let’s take the average chance of making it and multiple that by 2.5 (100%+50%).  Let us say that people in our field of choice succeed at a 20% success rate.  This means we are succeeding at a rate of 0.2*1.5 = 50% or 0.5.
Tax implications, this is so dependent on how you file your corporation, but self-employed people get hit with higher taxes so let’s put this at 90% or 0.9.

Now Year 1 looks like this:

((30 ^ 1.1) * 0.5) * 0.9 +20 + happiness > 80.5 + happiness
39 + happiness > 80.5 + happiness

Ok, in this scenario our happiness of working for ourselves will have to be massive to overcome the large different…but let’s take a look at down the line.  You can solve for equilibrium points by solving the equations for the variables, but I will not delve in to that here.

Year 4
(((30 ^ (1.4)) * 0.5) * 0.9) + happiness + 20 > 50^ (1.03) + 8 ^ (1.12)   + happiness

We get

73 + happiness of self-employment > 89 + happiness with our company

From this, we can see that probably at this point, with our self generated figures for happiness that we will probably be at this point to the breakeven point.  Thus from all this, I’d gather that if you wanted to do it for 4 or more years then to go for it.  Now, be careful, I formulated a random formula from what I considered important.  Your figures can vary drastically from these, as well as your occasion.  The main points are to factor in what are the most important things to you, as well as being able to put realistic numbers to figures that are not tangible.  I hope you enjoyed, I rushed this one a little on my own with no proof reading.  I’ll re-read and edit some tomorrow.  Leave any comments below.  GL BEING SELF EMPLOYED.

I went more in depth below and got off on a tangent doing a little more complex math and confused myself a little so I knocked it out to keep it simpler, read on if you’d like to see what I was working on originally. Enjoy the weekend!


Let’s explain the equation in detail, we are adding in how much we will make now and in the future at our job, with the factor “n” just denoting time in years.  We put in our discipline and drive, our current savings, as well as our happiness in to the positives for self-employment.  Tax implications are deducted as self-employed persons from the USA (myself), have to pay an extra 15% on their income which is ludicrous.  This will vary depending on the corporation or company you set up as, so do your own research on this.
On the other side, we have our current salary plus our future salary, as well as our happiness and retirement perks.

The hardest part is assigning values, if we take our income now and give it a value of $50,000…this will make the other numbers very tough to factor in and make it a mess.  This is why you should learn to simplify and reduce equations in to simpler forms to work with.  Thus, if we assign our income a value of 50, this will make the whole process easier.  For this problem, I will use random values I am assigning to each.

Current Salary = 50 ($50,000)
Current Savings = 15 ($15,000)
Initial Self Employment Income = 10 ($10,000)
The rest we are going to have to come up with on our own.  For future incomes, we can use our current values of salary and projected salaries, as they will increase at a factor that was denoted above.  Note that for self-employment, the rate of growth is higher for future income at 1.n-1 as opposed to the slower pace of income increase at the job where we just used our initial salary in the equation and let it grow at a smaller growth factor.

Now simplifying the equation as we go…
(Initial self-employment income  +  ((future self-employment income ) ^ (1.n-1)) + discipline and drive + happiness of being self-employed  + current savings – tax implications) * chances of making it   > current salary)^ (1+0.0n))  + happiness at current job + retirement perks
(10 + ((future self-employment income) ^ (1+0.n)) +) * chances of making it)  + D&D + happiness + CS –TI > 50^(1+0.0n) + happiness + retirement perks
As we continue, we just assign more values…I know it Is hard to equate values to “happiness” or “discipline and drive”, as well as being realistic and putting a value for chances of making it.
Let’s say our potential future income is $100,000, let’s add this and retirement perks in which I would value at maybe $50,000 or 50 but by years so it will be denoted as such.  I would typically look at how successful you are compared to others in most fields and use that to sway the chances of making it in either direction from what is normal in your field.  Let’s say I do countless things at about a 50% rate better than others, and the success rate in my self-employment field is 30%...I would go ahead and do (0.3*1.5) = 45% or 0.45 as percentages are written as decimals.  I multiplied by 1.5 as that means I am doing it as 150% of my competitions level.  With this factored in, we can drop discipline and drive from our equation as it was factored in to this.  For tax implications, I am taking our full value and multiplying by 90%, giving an estimate of losing an extra 10% to the government each year with being self employed.  Note that this is not nearly always the case, and can vary drastically, so do your research on how you can set up your corporation for tax filings. 
Our updated equation becomes
(((10 + ((100) ^ (1.2n -1))) * 0.45) + 15) * 0.9 + happiness > 50 ^ (1+0.n) + 50 ^ (0.n) + happiness at current job
We can look at this by year to see where the equilibrium point with money and happiness is achieved
You can solve the equation by being a math nerd, or you can plug in numbers for trial and error as it would be the easiest method for most people.

Year 1: 
(((10 + ((100) ^ (0.2))) * 0.45) + 15) * 0.9) + happiness being self-employed > 50 ^ 1.1 + 50 ^ (0.1) + happiness at current job

And analyze from there on out to find at what year you breakeven and how comfortable you are with that.

Monday, September 30, 2013

September in Review

I want to make sure that my blog is not too redundant with the same topic of travel.  Thus, I wanted to post some other stuff in addition.  I have never done a month review of my life, so I figured I'd do one.

I played poker for roughly 18-20 days this month which is a low volume month for me and took a trip to the Greek Islands.  All in all it was a very solid month for me with poker, especially given the drying state of the games these days. Very few have remained in the top echelon of poker players in the World for more than a year, so to still be here 5 years after I began is an incredible feat that I am really proud of in my poker career.  It took a bunch of hard work and discipline to do so...hell, I even had to become an ex-patriot at one point to continue down the poker path.

Besides poker, I took a 7 day vacation to the Greek Islands.  While they were just out of high season, I was still able to relax on the beach and block out the numbers of poker that constantly over indulge my brain on a consistent basis.  I normally have an extremely tough time blanking my mind from poker.  Just last night, it took me 3 hours to fall asleep while I was exhausted because my brain wanted to keep trying to solve this one poker scenario that I have been having trouble approaching and solving.  As for Greece, I will certainly go back next year when the islands are thumping in high season with crazy parties.  Hopefully I will spend a month in Ios or Mykonos.  To start, I began in Rhodes and followed that up with Santorini, Ios, and Athens.  For those wondering, Ios and Mykonos are huge party destinations to go wild in.  Greece was certainly one of my favorite countries to date our of the forty or so that I have visited.  It has so much history, from the greek mythology to the Acropolis.  Mix in pristine islands with amazing nightlife, and you have yourself an incredible country.  Here are some pictures from said trip.

 Castle outside of Rhodes

 Acropolis of Athens

 The Temple of Zeus in Athens

The beach in Ios

The lesser viewed side of Santorini

The more frequented and pictured side of Santorini

Sunset Bliss

Everything else is going rather well, I am continuing to get in better shape which helps in every single aspect of life, especially with daily focus levels to retain more information as I study to further my knowledge on new topics.  I try to not stay stagnant as that is no way to be successful, and I think nutrition and working out are the most overlooked aspects of what it takes to become smarter/focus for longer periods/feel healthier.  

I am sitting here in my apartment in Belgrade writing this as it drizzles outside and I continue to grind out small edges in poker while hearing Jay-Z playing from the cafe just across the street.  The city of Belgrade has been fun and the I have been having a great time with the friends I have made here.  The weather has turned pretty crappy, with rain every day almost seeming to be a daily given.  That's all for now, one of my shorter posts for ya.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jerusalem, Israel & Petra, Jordan

These 2 places really sank in with me for a few reasons.  The Middle East is a travel destination that many people do not make it to, and for good reason with all the conflict that goes on.  There are high danger areas and when you couple that with a lot of Islamic or strong cultures, you take away the bumping nightlife and excitement that most people are looking for in a vacation.  Hell, when I left Eliat, Israel, Egypt tried to bomb it just five days later.  Also, for the whole time that I was in Israel for two weeks the Middle East was on high alert for attacks and Americans were warned to leave.  I stuck it out and saw these places still as they intrigued me.

I'll first start off with Jerusalem, "The Holy City".  When I think of Jerusalem, I think about those hours spent in CCD class (Catholic school until 8th grade) once a week, in addition to the masses I attended most Sundays with my family.  It is talked about over and over again in the bible, and has such a vast history associated with it.  Jerusalem is heavily tied in to religion, both with Jewish and Christian faith.  Due to this, you will see varying levels of Judaism displayed across the city.  I believe there are three tiers, which vary in the way one wears their hair and the style of their clothing.  Needless to say, it is an extremely religious city and a neat one to see.  I would not recommend it for nightlife of course, but it is a great see if one has the time and is in the Middle East.

As far as sites in the city, the main one to visit is the Old City.  It encompasses four areas that cater to different faiths in this tiny city area within the walls, they are the Jewish, Christian, Armenian, and Muslim quarters.  You can see the difference as you walk through and experience it on a recommended guided tour.  The main thing that you will encounter on the tour is the view across to the Western wall, which is arguably the most religious site in the whole Jewish faith.  It is where many Jewish people come to pray while on pilgrimage.  We did not make it down to it but I recommend giving it a go.

 A shot of the Western Wall from the Jewish Quarter

Apart from the Old City, there are a few other things to see in the city.  We made it to the top of the hill to get a view of the city, which is something I also recommend to do in each city.  Also, we went and saw the Israeli Museum where we were able to see a reconstruction of how Jerusalem and the Old City looked, as well as scrolls from the original Bible!

A shot of some romance and the city from above

A scroll from the original Bible

O yeah, they also claim Jesus may have been crucified here in the Old City in that tiny structure

 Afterwards, we decided to rent a car and drive to the Dead Sea.  The Dead Sea was very neat, it is a vast sea is that is so salty that nothing can live in it.  In fact, with such a high salt content, it makes it so humans are buoyant in it.  It was certainly fun to lie in it and float for the first time in my life, and I believe the salt also cleanses your skin.  An interesting fact is that the Dead Sea shores are the lowest elevation of land on the entire Earth's surface!  It is a must to see if you visit Jerusalem.

This is view you get as you drive along it

Some ultimate relaxation w/ Jordan in the horizon

But be careful! You may run in to the swamp thing

A last few side notes, car rentals are not like the USA, they don't care if you ding it up a little so don't worry about them not inspecting the scratches thoroughly.  Second, be extra careful to not get this salt in your eyes, it absolutely burned like hell and hurt very badly.  I hate to go in twice to get a t-shirt to wipe them out, and the pebbles are very unforgiving and scalding hot.

Now on to the country of Jordan.  For those who do not know, the whole Middle East pretty much loathes Israel and does not allow anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport to enter.  This is not the case with Jordan, as they will allow you to enter from Eliat as it brings in money from tourism.  Also, it is still possible to get in to other countries but you may be scrutinized heavily or not let in, so please have them stamp another sheet of paper when you return to Israel as they originally did for us.  After Jordan though, they stamped our actual passports so now I may not be able to go to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, we shall see.

Our first impressions of Jordan were certainly different than what we had thought.  We ended up seeing well built buildings that were in good condition.  Next, we ventured to the beach where we saw a bunch of people in their swimming trunks which I did not expect from a Muslim culture.  We followed suit and jumped in for a quick rinse.  Following this, we stumbled in to Pizza Hut which is not common in Europe.  Thus, we indulged to get our fill and appease our American palates that go through cravings which are unattainable throughout most of Europe and the Middle East.  We came to Jordan for one reason though, and that was to see Petra, an ancient city discovered in the early 1800's.  It was truly one of the most unique and memorable sites that I have seen to date.

 The rather lame beach of Jordan

Petra was unknown to mainstream society until the early 1800's and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and is now one of the list that comprises the 7 Wonders of the World.  They have also shot a famous seen from the Indian Jones: The Lost City movie at this site.  It is a massive site that is extremely well preserved and still requires much more excavation.  To travel here, I recommend a night right across the border.  The following day, have a private taxi take you to the site and wait to take you back.  This was not highly expensive at all.  I will be excited to return to this site with my future wife and kids in 30 years to witness the progress they have made.  The pictures speak for themselves below and make this a must see site on anyone's list that plans on seeing most of the World.

The most famous of the buildings, the Treasury Building (wear head attire at your own will)

A shot of the beautiful walkways you pass through

A shot of myself and my partner in crime for the trip, Thomas

You can just chill with donkeys if you climb to the top.  I believe they let people ride them up as it is steep.  They had many donkeys at the site and they used to not treat them right so I would not participate in this.  However, they have cleaned up their act and treat them better these days.

A derailed train we encountered on our drive out to Petra.

Leave any comments you have here, I hope you enjoyed this.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tel Aviv and Eilat, Israel

This post is for my boy Mister Michael Song

After a month in South Beach and 3 weeks in Vegas, I decided to hit the road again and ventured off to the Middle East for the first time.  The first stop was Tel Aviv, Israel as I'd been told by quite a few people to see this beach city.  To say Tel Aviv did not live up the hype is an understatement, I thoroughly had a bad time in Israel over 2 weeks.  It just fails in so many aspects and I apologize now for this blog and future ones to people from these places, as I am going to ultra brutal with places and not sugar coat anything.

Tel Aviv has one thing going for it, and that is the really nice beach that lines the city and is packed with paddle ball players up and down.  The water is rather clear and inviting, with a great water temperature to boot.  That is where the good of Tel Aviv ends, so if you visit I recommend going to the beach for a few days and then skipping town.

The first downside is how strict it is at the airports, you have to go through extensive searches each time due to high high security risks as every country remotely close to it in the Middle East wants to pretty much attack it.  I will get in to the fucking hassles I went through at the airport towards the end of this blog.

The highlights of Tel Aviv - The Beach - below are some shots of me in front of the beach or with it in the background.  The beach was a great temperature, enough to be refreshing and not cold at all.  The beaches are filled with people playing paddle ball that it is even hard to move in some areas.  I recommend lounging on the main beach area and taking in the scenery.  What is highly unique is that the beautiful beach is right outside of the main city area, which is not the case in many places in the World.  The ones I know of are Miami, San Diego, Rio de Janeiro, and I'm sure some others.  This is right up there with them as far as how nice the beach is and its proximity to the city.

Now for the bad about Tel Aviv which was more or less everything else for me.  I understand kosher and everything about it, however I know many people are not in to kosher foods, so be prepared to get no cheese on anything.  The city itself is okay, but nothing special at all and rather run down.  The rent is extremely high for what you get here...a comparable amount in Miami will get you a nice place near the beach whereas here it will get you a unit with not many amenities in a mediocre part of the city.  Which brings me to the cost of living.  It is outrageously high here for what you get.  Most beers out cost $8-12 and entry costs were high as well.  Couple that with the average annual salary not being very high and this leads to less people being able to afford buying drinks while out.  The phrase "real city that never sleeps" may be the most laughable way I've heard a city described in all of my travels.  First off, Fridays are rather dead as they have the Holy Day on Saturday, with Thursdays and Saturdays bring the bigger days.  There are two or three pretty okay clubs in the city, but hardly anyone drinks or gets drunk while out.  It is almost completely sober cliques that are cut off to everyone else and just having normal conversations w/ minimal music.  Adding this all together with a culture that is not very attractive, and you wind up with one of the more boring cities I've been to in all of my travels.  So much for the city that never sleeps.  On top of that they make you wait in unorganized lines at the club that take forever to get in to.

Another bad issue is the internet, it is very unreliable and expensive for what you get.  In addition to the cutting out, a lot of sites are blocked by the Israeli government.

On a positive note, the English is extremely good here and it is easy to talk to people if you need directions.

THE UGLY - Let me preface this section with the fact that I do have a bunch of stamps in my passport, which can bring you under more intense scrutiny with countries, as well as my profession drawing flags.  However, the policies at these airports and for everyone was so much stricter than I have ever seen.  With good reason as every country in the Middle East basically wants to bomb them so they have to be extra cautious.  Every person has their bags checked individually at each airport that I saw, where they go through each possession and run the chemical wand through all of it to detect bombs.  There are also no real sights to see as well, basically just the beach.

My experience - While trying to travel WITHIN THE COUNTRY, that is Tel Aviv to Eilat where I am just a US citizen, they had Thomas and I questioned detained for quite a while which was a nuisance, but no where near what we were going to encounter at the next stops.  I will get in to the country of Jordan in a later blog, but to get there and to the Lost City it is best to travel to the beach town of Eilat (which Egypt tried to bomb 5 days after I left, unsuccessfully).  

Eilat was a nice and relaxing beach city with the airport right in the heart of it.  You can actually just jump off the flight and walk to the beach within a few minutes which was fun.  This beach seemed to be full of a bunch of teens that I am sure come here for their vacations and to party. The beach here and the vibe seemed very relaxed and much better than Tel Aviv to us, however we were basically just passing through to see the country of Jordan for a day.  I recommend staying a few more days than we did in Eilat and I would certainly recommend it over Tel Aviv.

The view across the water to the country of Jordan

I will dive in to Jordan and the Holy City of Jerusalem in my next blog, but for this one on Eilat and Tel Aviv, I'd like to touch on what happened to us at various airports along the way.  Re-entering Eilat from Jordan was quite the hassle as they are rival countries.  The border shares an understanding for travel though and it should not have been this difficult.  Again, they took out everything from our bags and gave us about 20 questions each.  30 minutes later, we were allowed back in to Israel.  The worst part about this was the lady stamped our passports which means we will be under high scrutiny if we want to visit Dubai or another Middle Eastern country as they all have feuds with Israel.  Originally they stamp a separate sheet for you so that it is not in your passport but this lady missed the memo and gave us the stamp we highly did not want in our passports.  

A few hours later is where it gets much worse.  Thomas and I were leaving Eilat for Tel Aviv when we got stopped again at this airport.  They asked us why we were in Jordan and we replied that we wanted to see The Lost City like everyone else that did this trip.  Next they wanted to know why we each only had a back pack on us to which we told them we only did a two day trip and the rest of our stuff was in Tel Aviv where we were staying for 2 weeks.  This did not add up to them as they don't see people come with such little.  In addition, they go through our passports...I have quite a few places that they do not like, mainly Malaysia and Indonesia.  After giving them the explanation that I was just a tourist a few years ago in these places with an ex-girlfriend, they decide to separate us to interrogate us individually.  We were questioned separately for 20 minutes each roughly.  The conversation was suspect and I did not want to lie, but I understand stuff sounds ridiculous to the person when they have not heard of it before.

Lady - "Where do you live"

Me - "Nowhere really, I am in Tel Aviv for 2 weeks and then I'll probably go live in Europe for a little"

Lady - "Where did you live before Tel Aviv"

Me - "I was just in Las Vegas for 3 weeks, and prior to that I was in Miami for 3 weeks, Mexico for 2 weeks, and Europe for 2 weeks."

Lady - "And before that?"

Me - "Before that I lived in Cape Town, South Africa for 6 months" 

At this point she is so confused, she asks what I do for a living and I tell her that I play poker to which she does not understand.  Thomas is going through the same questioning and after having four people question both of us, they realize our stories are the same, but decide we are of the highest threat level and take us to a back room.  In the backroom they make us wait for a while and get down to our boxers.  We had to sit there for a good 20 minutes and then go through more questioning and searching (no anal cavity search thank god).  Finally, after a little over an hour they rush us to get on our flight and do not apologize or anything for's just routine in Israel.

Fast forward to leaving Israel, the same exact thing happens and this time they can't fathom how I can need 3 laptops and a monitor.  They try to convince me that they are pretty sure my monitor is a bomb and they take it from my possession. I am told I can get it at the airport in Istanbul whenever I want.  Well, when leaving Istanbul, my monitor miraculously is gone and they have no evidence or sign of it, how convenient.  I am so pissed even thinking about my experience that I am going to cut the blog off here.  I'll write up about Jerusalem and Jordan in my next blog...until next time.

Cliffs on Tel Aviv and Eilat :

-Eilat is a nice beach area with a younger and more friendly crowd
-Tel Aviv has a very nice beach
-Tel Aviv is very expensive, an unattractive culture, has bad internet, terrible nightlife, rude and cliquey culture

I believe people talk about Tel Aviv being better than it is due to the Birth Right trip where basically people with Jewish ancestry fly people for free to see the country.  This is different than how I see it as these people get guided everywhere, meaning they probably have friendly guides and see it in a different light.  Also, they are less exposed to the locals and hang out with the tourists in their own group.  They also have this group to socialize with.  Couple that with the fact that it's one of their main trips abroad and less to compare it to, and that is why more people talk highly on Tel Aviv.

Until next time,

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rambling on Life, Poker, and Misconceptions of the American Mind

I will get back to finally writing some stuff up on my travels for those that are interested, but I wanted to write a blog that does not necessarily have a direct point and may go off in a tangent.  I have not written (wrote?) one in quite some time, and figured I'd go ahead and put some of my thoughts here as I do not like cluttering facebook with non-important thoughts about life.

Since my last blog, I've been traveling about as usual.  I think I made a pit stop back in New Jersey to attend my college friend Jen's wedding, followed by New York, South Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Vegas, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, and now in the place I am currently residing, Serbia.  It was nice to get away from the grind of every day poker and relax in the US for a few months.  Most people just see my pictures on facebook, or my posts, and they do not realize the amount of work I put in to poker or anything behind the scenes.  This is solely due to me intending to not bore my friends w/ useless posts on facebook.  They get enough of the "today is Wednesday, 2 more days until the weekend" posts, so I try to give them something fun or different to read as they scroll quickly through their news feeds every 10 minutes while at work.

I'm already off on a tangent of some sort, so I'll delve in to the first thing that has been on my mind, the misconceptions about what I do for a living.  Playing poker professionally is construed so differently by the select few that do it, and it is also viewed so differently by varying groups, be it female, male, young, old, or nationality.

1) Old people do not really grasp it, and they relate it to pulling the lever on a slot machine, the questions I get from my grandparents are fun to field and they always give me a good laugh.

2) Males seem to love it, most guys played in poker home games with their friends, and they are eager to ask questions about it.  Most of the questions I field are about fallacies that were implanted in to their minds for whatever reason.  The questions are basic and hard to grasp at times, similar to questions a novice may ask a venture capitalist when starting out, such as how do I know what company to invest in?  Questions like these are so generic and impossible to answer, but I know that people are just being friendly and I try to field them the best I can.

3) Females fall in to two groups, friends like it as it gives me freedom.  While females that are either in to your looks or personality are trying to understand it to a deeper level as they would like someone with a strong career path if they were to date in the future (understandably).  This gets interesting as it is rather hard to convey to people in a good light.

Tangent 2 (or 3) - This is mainly due to movies/television, and what society has ingrained in peoples' minds over their lifetime.  Movies just show some random rags to riches stories while leaving out the learning curve in the middle, or any huge risks taken along the way.  Television on the other hand is basically the World Series of Poker.  These shows are meant to cater to the audience and thus they only show the most important hands in poker tournaments, this is due to them wanting to keep their audience.  In reality, most poker hands end rather quickly with no dramatic result, but this is not shown.  Also, most of the players in tournaments get shown with a big pile of cash in front of them when they win.  I typically get a store along the lines of "O, I have a friend that does that, he once won $150,000!"  This is not the full story though and just another random riches story implemented in to someone's newfound logic on poker.  This is not the case, most of the people who play on television or in live tournaments are completely broke or in debt in general.  There are some exceptions, but in general these players have minimal edges if any, and they overleverage themselves.  For tournament poker, and a $10,000 buy in event, most of the players will sell off action (give other players a percentage of their play, called a stake).  Thus when someone wins a $150,000 prize pool, they typically only win a portion of this, and then pay taxes and debts to people.  For someone buying in to a $10,000 event with all their own money, I'd generally say they should have at least a net worth of $1,000,000 or be smart at shot/risk taking and do this occasionally with only a few hundred thousand dollars to their name.  Most of these tournament players are not disciplined or skilled enough, and with their overall travel expenses, they are unable to turn a profit long term.

I play online cash games, these games are more difficult than live tournaments or any other form of poker and thus have the best players in the World playing in them every waking hour.  However, with online cash games, there is no overhead or extra cost associated with it.  If I have an edge of $150/hour on average as an example, I will make $150/hour long term given that I maintain that edge.  There are swings in the short term, but a skilled player with a large enough bankroll to minimize/eliminate the risk of losing it all, will make that as their hourly.  With the games I play and my bankroll, I have an absolute zero chance of ever losing my bankroll which is nice.

Out of the thousands of successful players in the World (those consistently making > $100,000 a year as a base), a lot of them have life vices like spending too much on partying, risking too much in games they cannot afford to play in, etc.

Back to females - From that long explanation there will be some outcomes here.  You will have your females who have hung out with very successful players in Las Vegas and see it in the eyes of a luxurious lifestyle.  While they may encounter a broke poker player (this is the most common by a long shot), who has convinced himself he is a winning player (as most somehow do even with no consistent winnings to prove this one bit), and thus they will perceive it as a gambling venture with an inevitable bad outcome.  Sadly, that is the most common case and these people are purely gamblers, who do not belong as professional poker players, yet they try to justify it to people. Avoid these people at all costs as they are only trouble and deceitful people.  Lastly, most females will have never encountered a poker player.  In this scenario, it is all about coming off in a good light, if you are honest, have a nice living place, are cultured somewhat, or make direct eye contact consistently, then most females will grasp this and be fine with poker.  Females are much much better than males at reading body language and coming to conclusions very quickly about people. Poker players are taught this same skill set and hone it to a high degree.

WHAT I ACTUALLY DO FOR A LIVING - I have played poker for my main source of income since my senior year at Penn State University some 5 or 6 years ago.  I did this due to a few factors.  As an engineer, I was set to make "x" amount of money upon graduation, and by the time I graduated I was making "y" from poker with projections of "x+(0.05x) per year forward with an engineering job and a projection of "y^w" from poker where "w" portrays an unknown variable that is larger than 1.

Let's look at these formulas in further detail as all of our live decisions should be driven by formulas we can make tangible as 100% of life is math and formulas even if you do not look at it that way:

Engineering path for career earn - we are making

        x + 0.05x from the start, this is assuming a yearly salary increase of 5% per year.

And poker

        y^w per year.

So if (y^w) > x + 0.05x, then we should play poker?

Absolutely not, this does not depict the full story, and this is where people have the most trouble making daily decisions, they are unable to add in additional variable that do not have tangible numbers.

I need to incorporate extra variables for important factors which include:

a) Opportunity cost for future career earn if I decide to leave poker
b) Risk involved with resume gap
c) Potential for more passive income through extra savings
d) There are a bunch more that I am forgetting or leaving out as they are minor and just over complicate the equations

With engineering we get a solid career path with room to be promoted up in the company.  Thus our x + 0.05x will remain consistent, with extra room for more income as the years go by

it may be something like x + 0.05x for 4 years, with room for being promoted which may be incorporated by a variable, somewhere along the lines of

x + 0.05x + (20,000 * 1^(5-z)) where $20,000 would be the average pay jump multiplied by expecting this in year 5 roughly. However, as z increases, the yearly decreases, and with an earlier promotion we make more earlier on.

For poker we have out equation where we need to figure out how our income changes over the years

In year 1 it may be "y"

In year 2, we will inevitably get better at poker if we put in the hours, however others will get better as well as poker becomes more popular and people see it as a high reward profession.

In year 3, even as we have gotten better, there will be so many good/strong players eating in to our income, along with less novice players out there, thus our income may be on a steady decline after this.

We also need to take in to account the risk associated with having a resume gap, represented by variable "s" for this problem

Thus our final formula could look along the lines of:  "y^(1+(w-t)) - s where "w" represents our progression as a player and "t" represents the progression of novices and professionals that eat in to our income.

Sorry for all the math, I kept it basic and inevitably made a bunch of minor mistakes as I tried to breeze through it and keep it simple.

Finally...  if      y ^ (1+(w-t)) - s >    x + 0.05x + (20,000 * 1^(5-z)), then I ultimately could chose poker as a profession.  When it is close the decision could easily be swayed either way.  In addition, I left out a multitude of factors to keep the formulas much more basic.

For myself, the poker scenario was much greater than that of engineering.  If you factor in the freedom, traveling, life experiences on top of it, it made it a no brainer for me (I left these out of the formulas).  I hope this explains it better, this is how all aspects of your life should be approached, and those that are the best at guesstimating unknown variables the best are those that succeed the most in every day life even if they do not look at it from this perspective.

My every day life consists of working more than anyone I know basically, except for possibly the exception of Wall Street professionals, but I'd venture it is close.  I work more on a weekly basis than they do, but I also take off for more vacations inevitably than they do.  I do not post any of this on facebook of me sitting at the computer 10-18 hours most weekdays and 4-10 hours on most weekends as I do not want to bore people.  In all, I absolutely love my life and am so happy I went for the route of self-employment, I would not have it any other way.  However, recognize that I do put in tough work and I have worked very hard at poker to climb the rungs of the ladder, as poker is a game that very few can get good at even if they put all their abilities in to it.  I'd guess that roughly 1 in 100,000 people that actually tried to reach a spot near the pinnacle of poker would fail. It is a risk I took and pushed for and I'm extremely happy at where it has gotten me.

For those who complain about daily life.  Recognize that you can change it, and always be honest with yourselves.  The majority of people in the World are lazy, and how do you expect complaining about your 9-5 to change when you just go through the same routine daily?  You are not creating your opportunity for yourself.  A quote I recently heard is some of the best advice I live by - "Going through the motions is the most disadvantageous thing you can do".  I wrote misconceptions of the American Mind in my title and that is why I am touching on this point.  Most Americans that have not been abroad ever do not realize the amplitude of opportunities that they are exposed to that people from other Nations only dream of.  Most other cultures do not have as many options or nearly the same opportunities to make it huge in industries.  In a lot of other countries I will see so many happier people as a percentage of the population than Americans.  It is not because of their wealth or what have you, but because of their viewpoints on life and what they learn to enjoy.  So do not complain about small aspects of life as those in other countries have no where even close to the amenities you have as Americans and the resources that you have.  Do something different with your life each day that you would have put on the back burner, and see where it takes you...

Leave any feedback here instead of on fb.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Budapest, Hungary

It has been over a year since my last blog...the software on the site was not working properly and after a bunch of frustration, I gave up on it.  Recently I have had quite a few people asking me to start writing again so I figured I'd try to knock out some of the destinations I went to.  In the new blogs, I won't be using the same format, I will simply be giving my honest opinion of each place along with a few pictures that either sum it up or that I enjoyed.  Enough ranting, on to Budapest, Hungary.

Budapest is the capital of Hungary, which lies in Central Europe.  I lived here for 3 months while traveling to neighboring cities.  One of the great features of the city for myself was the extremely fast internet which blows away American speeds that are not on the fiber optic internet yet.  It makes life much simpler when working online, as well as quick streaming/downloading.

The city is rather scenic, with the massive Danube River cutting the city in the middle and dividing it in to the Buda and Pest sides.  Pest contains all the commerce and the majority of the clubs, while the Buda side has more of the major sites and some hills to overlook the beautiful city.

The city is nice to walk through, with the historic architecture that is common all over Europe, and the River seemingly near you at all times.  The cost of living is rather low as well, a really nice one bedroom apartment will be under $1,500 USD per month, and you can find mediocre places for even $300 in the city per month.

The nightlife is okay, but not exceptional, with Romkert and Otkert being my favorite bars.  You have other bars across the city that are okay, as well as cheaper bars more geared towards backpackers.  It does a good job of catering to all crowds.  They are also home to Balaton Sound, which has been the best music festival I've attended, it is 5 days of electronic music located on Lake Balaton, so basically it's a bunch of good looking people in bathing suits all day partying.  They also have Synergy in the city a few months later which is extremely similar minus the beach stuff.

A shot from Romkert

As for the food, it is just okay, you do have lots of options, although you do not have the access to great food at all times.  A very nice plus for travelers is using the website where you can order from lots of options even in the early morning hours which is a luxury for a poker player to have.

The women in Hungary are stunningly beautiful, easily in the top 5 for cities I've seen, and I'd say #1 from everywhere I've been, just gorgeous women all over.  However, the level of English is not great in the city and that can wear on you quite a bit as far as making more friends.

The other great positive of the city is it's location, it is a main hub for WizzAir and it literally costs under $50 to go to most cities that they fly to in other countries.  It makes for a great home base if you have a while to stay in Europe and plan on traveling often.

Sites to see: Chain Bridge

Hungarian Parliament Building

You should also make it to Buda Castle for great views of the city.  Lastly, there are countless baths in the city that are packed with people and fun to see and well known.

Overall I'd give the city a 8/10 as far as livability for myself, and how much I enjoyed it.  I'd absolutely recommend visiting for someone with quite some time in Europe, but with under 2 weeks in Europe I would advise on seeing some other cities instead.