Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Blog Announcement

As is obvious, this blog has been on hold for awhile.  But for those who are interested, I'd like to announce the creation of a new blog that is being authored by myself and my wife, Lisa.  Its called The Trip So Far and it is the official chronicle of a one year or longer trip that I am taking with my family around North America in our RV, Bessie.  We are one month into the trip and we are exploring Prince Edward's Island, Canada.

Hope you will join us online.  We are very interested in recommendations of places to visit as we travel.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Job Creators?!?

I just don't understand. Maybe you can help me here. The Republicans/ Tea Party say -no demand- "Don't tax the Job Creators!" So the natural question is; who are the job creators? They say its everyone making over $250K per year. Really? I find that hard to believe. I see trust fund babies playing (losing) poker because they don't have anything else to do. They "make" $250K per year, so I guess they are job creators?

But why take their word for it. Why take my word for it. Why don't we implement a tax code change that solves the problem so we won't have to take anybody's word for it. Here's how it would work. If a company or individual hires one person during the tax year, they get a tax benefit of X (we could work out the specifics later). If they hire 2 people they get 2X. On the other side, if one makes more than Y (say $250K/year) and they don't hire anyone, they pay extra their normal taxes plus Z. In this way, we would be using the most powerful tool in the capitalist quiver, incentives, to help get the job market kick started.

The reality of the average corporate balance sheet is that they carry a huge amount of cash. We (the nation) need these companies to put this cash to work now. If they work the numbers and see that they can invest in people and new projects at a price that will equal doing nothing, or to at least make it incredibly advantageous to invest that money rather than sit on it, they will do it. Trust me, I went to Columbia Business School. These folks want to maximize their return. They want to look good. They'll invest it. In today's environment, they are incentivized to do nothing. The global economy is shaky. Their bosses (everyone has a boss) are nervous about risk. So they sit on it and are praised for doing so. We all love praise.

More to point - Why isn't anybody talking about this? Why do we take the Republican moniker "Job Creator" at face value? Why aren't the Democrats challenging them? I'm concerned that the men of money in corporate America are making too many of the calls. They don't want to do anything like this (due too this concept of maximization discussed above)and they have the power to smother it. Let's hope that isn't the case. Let's hope that in America, we make decisions on the basis of one person = one vote, not one dollar = one vote.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Our Eletronic Brains

I'm hardly a Luddite. In fact I've been battling Luddites all my life. As a Professor of Management of Technology, I embraced technology in all its glory. I developed online courses which I turned into a profitable business. Technology is good. Its always coming. It changes things. It changes things faster and faster.

The problem, for me, now is that it is getting into my brain. No, I'm not talking about implants. It's not physically getting into our brain, its engulfing our world view.

How often do you check your email? Recent polls show that people check their email more than twice a day on average. With that comes the expectation that if you send someone an email, they should get back to you within 24 hours, if not faster. That in turn makes you compelled to keep on top of your emails, your voice mails, your Facebook, your texts and tweets and whatever else your hooked into. So you keep checking. And checking. And replying.

The brain is a very pliable organ. It likes routine. Why do you think most old farts like me are set in our ways? We developed our own rhythm to life. But this rhythm we are developing now is too rushed. Too obsessive. Too impersonal by feeling personal. How many people do you interact with whom you have never met. That number is skyrocketing for most of us.

Can't change it. Technology is what it is. No one controls it. Never have, never will.

I have decided to change it for me anyway. I check my email twice a week now. I don't use Facebook much, unless I get an interesting note for an old friend or I upload a nice picture for all you e-addicts out there. NO tweets. Way too voyeuristic and obsessive.

So how you doin? I'm gonna read a book.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Yes, it is true, I haven't posted in a while. The truth of the matter is that I have had nothing to say. I often wish the media would take that tact sometimes instead of filling the airwaves with crap.

Now I do have something to say, It has to do with our nationally cherished word - freedom. A word that seems simple enough to understand. The ability to do what we want seems to me to be as good a definition as any. As Americans (which is really a false way to refer to citizens of the United States. Aren't Venezuelans Americans as well?), we think that our country is the freest in the world - the freest that ever existed on earth. We have the right to think whatever we want. We have the right to do whatever we want (within the law). etc. It is a glorious concept and country we live in. Unfortunately, slowly and unceasingly our freedom has been eroded over time without us really noticing it. Freedom is disappearing in the United States of America.

Let me explain. As a young person, you are encouraged to select a profession that best suits your interests, needs and talents. But as a young person, you have very little information as to make the best selection. So lets say you select "exterminator." You learn how to exterminate by getting training which you get by borrowing money. Nobody is going to train you for free. You get a job. You climb the slow pay ladder to a reasonably comfortable position. You fall in love and get married. Have kids. Buy a house. Open a retirement account. Now you are saddled with a mortgage, debt to pay for the things all Americans must have - cars, furniture, vacations. Don't forget taxes. The biggest kicker of all is Health Care Insurance. Huge premiums are required to be paid every month. Pay up buddy, or die when you get sick. Now its all over. If it turns out that you hate being an exterminator - too bad for you. You can't go back a pay to train for another career. The debt and other fiscal responsibilities will crush you. Where is your freedom now, Mr. America? You can't pick up and go on that two month cross-country trip you always dreamed of - got to pay the mortgage. No time to write that novel - got to save to send the kiddies to college. No time for nothing. Just work. slave, work.

I know, in the past, I've cautioned anyone who has shown any interest in becoming a professional poker player. I'm changing my tune. Poker is one of the few professions that, if you become proficient, allows you to keep your freedom. You can play when and where you want to. If you have good year or month, you can easily take a year off and do something else. The biggest hurdle to even this last bastion of freedom is this insidious Health Care Insurance we all must pay for. I call it - the great enslaver. Its as much as a mortgage for most households. I would argue that other countries that don't have it are freer countries. Give me the Swedish system, the English system, hell I'll take the French system over ours any day. The people there are freer, they live longer (check that statistics), are healthier and are surely more happy than us.

Don't let the politicians pull the wool over your eyes. A single payer system for health care is the only way to go if you, like me, value real freedom.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Embracing Probabilities

I think the hardest thing for the non-experienced player to understand about poker is the concept that you can lose when you make the right play. So many people have come up to me and said (in essence) "Poker has to be all luck because I was watching a final table on TV and this guy was always ahead when the money went in and he end up in last place." And certainly that is true, often times the player who plays the best is not rewarded. Its seems to go against the meritocracy concept the US is said to embrace.

The thing is poker is all about the concept of probabilities. And probabilities is a concept that seems clear on the surface. If you flip a coin there is a 50% chance that it'll be tails. But the more you burrow into the deep underpinnings of future predicting, it become problematic to many people. Such as the fact that if you flip a coin 20 times in a row and it turns up heads every time, what are the chances that it will be heads on the 21st time? Same as before: 50%. So #1, probabilities are independent events. But at the same time, if you flip that coin 10,000 times, by the laws of math, it'll be heads 5,000 times almost exactly. Wow.

I had a recent run in with the probability monster, actually three run ins. Last week, I get all my money in with pocket kings (about $700). I'm up against Ace-King. I lose to a straight. Three days later I get all my money in (about $1500) with pocket aces against King-King. I lose to a set of kings. Just the day before yesterday I get all my money in with King-King (about $900) versus Ace-Queen and Jack-Jack. I lose when an Ace hits the board. I'm not saying these occurrences aren't painful. They are (for a little while anyway). Poker is a streaky game as is the case for anything involving probabilities.

But the way to consider it is, I think, in terms of a master, lifetime list. When these situations come up, your going to win most of the time, but you are going to lose as well. In the case of the last scenario, you'll win 2 out of every three times AND when you win you'll be getting 2:1 on your money. No real gambler would ever pass that up. But you WILL lose one out of every three times as well. So when you lose, you need to put it into the loss list and forget about it. Its inevitable that it will happen. But probabilities are an immutable law of nature. In the end, you'll be a winning player.

Trust me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

By Feel or by the Book

One of the most difficult aspects of poker is the concept of "feel." World class players, I believe, are born with a natural feel for the game. They understand probabilities intuitively. They find it easy to completely transfer themselves into the head of their opponents. And, maybe most importantly, they have no fear.

There are thousands of very competent players out there. They've learned to compute probabilities quickly and accurately. They have a good poker demeanor (poker face). Pricing opponents out, making big lay downs and value betting are not a problem. But what they don't understand is that those are the easiest parts of playing poker. The real tricky parts are; making the tough call, re-raise bluffing, trusting your read and sticking with a false story and completely immersing yourself into the other person's head. Anyone can win with an ace high flush. Win with a pair of fours and I'll be impressed.

I think one of the reasons that a proportionately higher number of top players come out of Europe rather than the US is that in this country we are so self oriented. We rarely take the time to see the world from another's perspective. Its all about me. Do I have the best car? Should I be making more money? How can I get this guy to do the deal that benefits me the best.

In Europe, people are more concerned about making other people feel comfortable. They are very hospitable. They are very interested in your opinion. This world view is great for poker. You need to care about the other person. What drives him or her? Where is their comfort zone? Then you need to act on that understanding. Faking it won't work. You need to really care.

I also think, they are less materialistic than Americans. Because they care less about money, they value it less and they don't care as much if they lose. This leads to a lack of fear and more aggressive stance at the table. Controlled and measured aggression leads to success. The best players are not afraid to lose. They know its inevitable and they accept it and use it to their advantage.

Ah Europe. When's the next plane?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Forest or Trees?

Poker as a microcosm of a philosophy of living continues.

I recently returned from a 5 day camping trip with my daughter to the Adirondacks. This is an actual picture from the lake we stayed on. This an annual trip and I've been doing it for 17 years. Just as yoga centers me on a weekly basis, this trip is a yearly cleansing experience. We leave our watches, cell phones and wallets behind. Our days are filled by reading, meal preparation, swimming, talking and, most importantly, thinking. The numberless, civilization void clears the brain paths for clear contemplation. Big picture thinking dominates. I look back at the previous year, the previous five years as well as set future goals.

This year, I find myself in a transition. I've sold my Internet Learning Company in December and I found myself going through a series of emotions. At first, I felt a dire need to start up my next venture right away. I almost frantically researched the marketplace for a significant gap that I could fill. I came up with quite a few ideas. Poker courses. A linking program to increase web site visibility. Commercial Real Estate. Writing my second novel. Financial Investing work for my fellow poker players. Applications for apps that can be controlled by the users brain waves. Only the "linking" idea I deemed a non-starter. All the others had merit and I struggled to select the one project to focus on. (I'm not a very good multiplexer.) Then I started to feel guilty whenever I was working on one idea because I was neglecting the others. My stress level gradually increased. My blood pressure rose. I was making myself ill.

But out there on Indian Lake, I could decompress and see the forest. I saw my life as a poker tournament. I was well into it. I had amassed some chips. Not enough to see me through to the end, but enough to sit back a little. Increase the percentage of hands I played in an ABC style. Don't need to jump into risky situations. I realized I needed to let the tournament come to me. Let it unfold a bit. Make mental notes on what was happening and, most importantly, give opportunities a chance to present themselves. Don't force the action. I have time now to enjoy time with my wife and my four kids. I can play poker to make ends meet. Feel everyday.

So I've changed course a bit. I'm monitoring all the project ideas I initiated, but I'm not stressing over them. When an idea materializes that is interesting, potentially lucrative and pings a passion within, I'll know it. I feel better already.