Unsolicited advice

Businessman drawing thought bubble over man Credit: Gary Waters/ Getty Images
Businessman drawing thought bubble over man
Credit: Gary Waters/Getty Images

A short reflection on unsolicited advice

Unsolicited advice — recommendations that others office without first being asked for input — seems to be quite common in my life. Family members, friends, acquaintances, and total strangers offer their advice likely with good intentions of wanting to help me although I don’t ask them to offer input. Some may become bothered when others offer unsolicited advice, but I largely do not become annoyed and can sometimes use unsolicited advice as an opportunity to learn new information, engage with alternative ideas, and explain my reasoning.

Advice others offer can conflict with our deeply held values and be viewed as an unwelcome intrusion into a conversation. Recently, I was speaking with a friend of a family member about poker. He offered what I considered to be uninformed and inaccurate opinions about poker rather than asking me questions; he said, among other things, that I should quit playing poker because all gamblers eventually go broke and that he’s worried I might have a gambling addiction.

I did not become bothered by the unsolicited advice, but instead took time to explain myself as I believed there was a serious lack of understanding on his behalf. Perhaps this person would reconsider his views [in time] and not think of me as a degenerate failure. I think that although he was well-meaning, he simply didn’t approach the topic well due to his own biases and lack of information. Why be upset with someone who doesn’t know that their advice is faulty? Surely the person is well-meaning, but they are simply uninformed. What about unsolicited advice from strangers who may not be well-intentioned?

Perhaps strangers will offer unsolicited advice in an attempt to appear intelligent, outdo others, validate their own perspectives, belittle, or even help others. Strangers’ intentions can be unknown although some context clues can be helpful in inferring intentions. However, I don’t become bothered when strangers offer such unsolicited advice. I can easily dismiss/ignore bad advice and people behaving in a nasty manner. Explaining myself to strangers who may not be well-intentioned may not be a great use of my time and effort.

Perhaps, though, some advice from strangers can be helpful, but this can be few and far between – left to a recipient of advice to determine whether the advice is good or bad. The open-minded, thoughtful person concerned with improving one’s quality of life should be receptive to advice — whether it be from strangers, friends, or acquaintances — they determine as worthwhile.


Remaining frugal

Reflections on week 24 of regular poker play at Sands Bethlehem Image: Swarm mobile app
Reflections on week 24 of regular poker play at Sands Bethlehem
Image: Swarm mobile app

Since posting about my continued poker success — particularly following my recent $13,800 poker tournament win — I’ve received varied feedback, mostly from non-poker players, concerning my frugal lifestyle. I explain why I maintain to stay true to my frugal nature.

I keep a modest monthly budget and lack desires to make extravagant purchases or otherwise radically change my spending habits. I’m rather content with my current quality of life and modest budget.

I own a 2013 car with low mileage that is in great working condition. I pay monthly installments on my smartphone which I do not feel compelled to upgrade until the payment plan allows for a no-cost upgrade following the contract agreement. My laptop works quite well. I’m content with the clothes I own. I’m happy living in a nice area of Allentown with the owner of a modest home.

I don’t eat out much. I prefer to save money by cooking at home. I buy food at the casino in which I play, but only use comps — free money only usable for casino purchases — I accumulate through poker play when eating at the casino. I restock groceries on a weekly basis and don’t spend too much on food. I spend some money on entertainment, but have no plans to fly anywhere or spend extended amounts of time on lavish vacations. I typically set aside one day of the week to take a break from poker and occasionally take an additional two to three days off per month to attend special events.

Shoutout from poker instructor Evan 'Gripsed' Jarvis following my tournament win
Shoutout from poker instructor Evan ‘Gripsed’ Jarvis following my tournament win

Additionally, a large portion of my poker winnings/overall wealth is tied up, set aside as a poker bankroll — – the lump sum of money I need to play poker so that I can persevere through and recover from the occasional short-term financial downswings inherent to poker — kept secure at the casino in which I play.

I’m also saving money to account for dental expenses (sadly, the work isn’t cheap even with insurance and is not all covered by insurance) and hefty six-figure student loan debt which will, in months to come, increase my monthly expenses. I’m also hoping to move up from my now standard $1000 initial buyin in the $2/$5 cash games I regularly play to a higher stakes $5/$10 cash game with a higher maximum buyin which will allow for greater hourly earnings.

Just because I make large bets while playing poker does not mean that I am a heavy or reckless spender. Just because I play poker does not mean that I have or want a ‘baller lifestyle.’ Just because I play poker does not mean that I have little concern about my money. Just because I play poker does not mean that I have money to give away. Just because I play poker does not mean that my personality has radically changed.

What better card and treasure protector can there be?
What better card protector can there be?

It typically takes money to make money, at least in poker, and by maintaining a frugal lifestyle I can accumulate money to make even more money. Making wise financial decisions is essential for long-term success in poker.

$13,800 poker tournament win

Top 20 places of $100,000 guarantee event – @SandsPokerRoom

I won $13,800 at the final table of the August 2015 Sands Bethlehem $100,000 guaranteed prize pool poker tournament. 

Last night, I made it through a field of 813 total entries in a No Limit Hold ‘Em poker tournament to reach the final table at which I agreed to a multi-way chop — a fair split of the upper half of prize pool money distributed among the last remaining players — which awarded me $13,800.

The top five players who remained following a short period of play received slightly more than the others. We then concluded the tournament when five players remained to collect and split the upper portion of the prize pool effectively having a five-way tie for first place although official paperwork/signed forms said otherwise because casino staff cannot alter the original payout/placing structure.

Receipt from free tournament entry through top 50 hours promotion
Receipt from free tournament entry through top 50 hours promotion

I originally entered the tournament through a Sands Bethlehem promotion which awarded me and 49 other players who logged the most hours in poker cash game play from August 1st-10th a free entry to the tournament valued at $250 – the standard price for the entry of this event. Since I regularly play cash games at Sands, I won a free entry. I would have preferred to transfer the tournament ticket to another player who would compensate me for the ticket, but as per the rules of the casino I was unable to transfer the ticket.

After I discovered I was unable to transfer the ticket, I considered not playing in the event because I would very likely be able to make more than $250 playing cash games instead of playing in the tournament for several hours and possibly busting – making no money. After all, my focus and expertise is playing in cash games. Although I have watched some videos about tournament play and listened to some podcasts about tournament play, my focus is on cash game play. I played in fewer than five online tournaments — all free entries — and never played in a casino-hosted poker tournament.

Instead of staying home, I decided to play in the event mainly for the experience of a live poker tournament having a possibility of making some money. Even if I were to bust, I would learn something that would likely help me in a future tournament I may play in through a similar promotion.

Early on, I maintained a decently-sized stack of chips and progressed to day two of the tournament with 120,000 chips (a medium-sized stack compared to the field) – far from being a chip leader, but absolutely in the hunt for winning a minimum amount of money.

Day two began and I, about four hours in, experienced some downswings which crippled my chip stack. I mounted a comeback from a low chip stack — anticipating cashing out for about $700 — to a sizable stack which allowed me to comfortably reach what eventually became the final table. I maintained confidence, picked spots carefully, took intelligent risks, and experienced some fortune among the misfortune using my skills from cash games and slight tournament knowledge to experience success.

Chips counts, table placements going into day two - second half of alphabet
Chips counts, table placements going into day two – second half of alphabet – @SandsPokerRoom

I never imagined winning $13,800 [in one day] playing poker, but am obviously quite happy that what started as a hobby during a holiday break in 2013 buying in for a mere $5 in online cash games with $0.02 and $0.05 blind levels.

A large deal of thanks, although I are due to people who have assisted in my development as a poker player:

Thanks to my friend Steve for sparking my interest in poker, reviewing my online sessions, talking about strategy, and offering a good deal of support.

Thanks to Mohegan Sun Pocono players AJ, Tyler B, Eric, Leo, Justus and other regulars who have offered inspiration and helped me improve my game.

Thanks to Mohegan Sun Pocono and Sands Bethlehem staff including dealers, cage workers, and poker floor supervisors.

Thanks to Evan Jarvis of Gripsed.com whose YouTube videos — including tournament review videos I ‘crammed’ before day two of the tournament — have been extremely helpful. His extremely accessible free content provides excellent information for beginning, intermediate, and advanced poker players alike.

Thanks to James ‘SplitSuit’ Sweeney from ThePokerBank whose YouTube videos offer high quality, in-depth content.

Thanks to online content producers from the Gambling With An Edge podcast (Richard Munchkin, Bob Dancer, past host Michael Shackleford) ; Thinking Poker Podcast (Andrew Brokos, Nate Meyvis); and Crush Live Poker podcast (Bart Hanson) who all offer high-quality content.

Thanks to commentators of the excellent, unique Live At the Bike! video series which streams casino cash games.

Thanks to video producers and forum posters on Grinderschool.com including Joe ‘TheDefiniteArticle’ Towse whom I hired as a coach in late 2014 to primarily improve my lower stakes online play. Although Joe targeted his coaching toward my online play, I used information from our private sessions to help me succeed in casino play. Grinderschool videos were extremely helpful in improving my play.

Thanks are also due to others not mentioned here– non-poker players and poker players alike — including supporters who follow me on social media accounts, friends, and family members. The support is very much appreciated.

$13,800 deposit with some blurted information
$13,800 deposit with some blurted information

I do not plan on going wild with an extra $13,800 added to my worth; I won’t be making extravagant purchases, taking an inordinate amount of time off from poker, or changing much about my standard of living. I shall, for the moment, continue to play with my standard $2/$5 cash game buyin and only gradually increase the buyin even though I can now afford to play for higher amounts following my tournament win. The money has been added to a casino-based account and will be reinvested into poker.

The lifestyle of a poker player can obviously be rewarding, but often does not come easy because of the incomplete information/uncertainty and stress associated with poker. I’ve dedicated a significant amount of time away from the tables to improving my poker game so that I can experience better results. I plan to continue working hard both on and off the poker tables. There’s still much to learn and I am only in month eight of playing full-time. Although luck is part of the game, the skill component is very large and often underestimated – study and discipline in both the mental and technical areas of poker are important.

2015 has been a great year for me. Every month has been a winning month allowing me to expand my poker bankroll and account for standard life expenses in my monthly budget. The future looks bright.

Enjoy this short video clip produced by Kenny Luck recorded in February of 2015 in which I talk about playing poker:

A new direction

Recent Texas Hold 'Em earnings graph showing profit over 5000 hands
Recent Texas Hold ‘Em earnings graph showing profit over 5000 hands

This website has taken a new direction in recent months. While I occasionally write about atheism, separation of church and state, philosophy, and activism, I have been releasing videos in the new category of gambling atop this website – primarily in the areas of Jacks or Better video poker and No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em.

Followers of my work have generally been supportive of my gambling-related content, but some — friends and foes alike — hold various misconceptions about me and my approach to gambling.

Opinions range from me being a degenerate gambler — someone who isn’t playing skillfully and only when holding an advantage — to my gambling being a hopeless pursuit which will only end in bankruptcy or a serious financial loss.

My interest in gambling started with taking advantage of promotions on ReferLocal.com offered in conjunction with the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino. The deals, as I have explained in previous videos, when coupled with accurate video poker play and credit card rewards, allow for me and my friends to — in the long-run — eat and drink at a close to 97% discount with very little risk involved.

While I will not be ahead after every individual video poker session, and will not break even in the long-term [I will statistically lose 3% of the money I play with], I am content with eating and drinking, while having fun with friends and family, at an effective 97% discount – spending far less money than those who pay full price or close to it at bars and restaurants.

Since video poker is a game of skill, much unlike slot machines which typically only offer an 85% long-term return [as losing games for players], and I have ‘done my homework,’ I am confident in my play and have been doing really well in the close to two years I have been playing at a high level. I don’t put money in machines when I lack an edge. I only play in conjunction with deals offering food and drink in addition to play…which is well worth the lost 3% over the long term.

ReferLocal certificates usable for food within Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
ReferLocal certificates usable for food within Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs

More recently, starting in December of 2013, I started to play and learn No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em lamenting the lack of good East Coast casino promotions outside of the ReferLocal deals.

No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em continues to challenge me three months after beginning play. I have a great deal of fun in the process of making money at lower stakes, with hope to advance to higher stakes with more experience and skill, and learn so much.

Throughout my life — whether it was playing Super Nintendo games, World of Warcraft in top 100 United States guilds, playing and hosting Dungeons and Dragons games, or Scrabble — I have enjoyed gaming and competition with an urge to excel and outperform, but never before have I earned money through play.

Texas Hold ‘Em offers a unique opportunity for me to have fun while being competitive, stimulating my intellect, learning, and earning money. While luck is a small factor, in the long-run skill prevails and allows those with skill to profit [play while knowing very little about the game and see how much skill is needed to profit]. I am not a degenerate gambler, but rather am someone who takes calculated risk which offers a long-term profit – much different than those who gamble ‘for fun’ with hopes of chasing long-shot jackpots in negative expectation games.

At the moment, I am taking a break from the typical activity on this website and will instead be focusing on releasing videos, writing about gambling, and occasionally chiming in on issues in the categories of atheism, philosophy, activism, and separation of church and state.

20130822_182540Hopefully you will enjoy the new content and will understand why I am pursuing other interests – especially when a ‘community’ or ‘movement’ I once so enjoyed is tainted – particularly by a toxic brand of feminism and organizations which continue to enable people ruining the ‘community’ or ‘movement.’

I’ve written at great length about problems with feminism — particularly its manifestions in the atheist ‘community’ and ‘movement’ — and don’t find much reason to continue deconstructing the hypocrisy and fallacious claims. I think there is still hope in the atheist ‘community’ and ‘movement,’ but I am not too optimistic. As the Epica song “Living a Lie” says, “Hope is a desert running dry.”

I still hope, though, to engage in local activism and speaking engagements when opportunities arise. 2013 was quite a year for activism. Regardless, it’s good to cultivate new interests and not become burned out with the same content and interests.