Forced Contemplation

I do some of my best writing when it’s least convenient. Perhaps I do the majority of my writing this way. I do it on planes and trains and buses and foot. All of the places where I am limited in activities to contemplation and observation. Those are the places where I do my best thinking and idea gathering.

Whether you’re a writer or some other kind of thinker, I recommend taking your body on a trip to nowhere when you want to take your mind somewhere special.

So Yeah, About That Buddhathon…

The words EPIC FAIL come to mind. Apparently, they come to mind in such an epic fashion as to require bold, italicsand CAPS. Right. I have two competing thoughts when it comes to analyzing why I failed at something:

  1. What mistakes did I make and how can I avoid them in the future?
  2. Don’t dwell on the past.

The truth is, these thoughts are not really competing. The analysis begins with a review of what happened. It continues with the consideration of how I can improve my process. Then it ends. That’s it. The analysis is over and it’s time for new action. So let’s try to follow that process.

Why did I fail? Let me count the ways.

  • I tried to do too many difficult things at once. It’s reasonable to set a single difficult goal, or a set of simpler goals. But creating a set of difficult goals is folly. I’m big on folly.
  • I tried to sell a product before it was finished and before I had developed the proper infrastructure. Either/or may have been okay. Combining both was a mistake.
  • overused italics.
  • I ignored how much work I had to do in addition to the goals on my list. In other words, I overestimated my free time.

How can I avoid these mistakes? I’ve got a few ideas. Some of them are even serious.

  • Set fewer and/or more reasonable goals. Less folly.
  • Enjoy the proper use of less and fewer more often and use italics less often or in fewer instances.
  • Make fun of myself for being a grammar and usage nit who loathes dictionaries and everything “proper.”
  • Avoid tangents.
  • Accurately assess how much work I have to do outside of the goals I’m setting.
  • Something about italics.

Don’t dwell on the past. What’s the easiest way to avoid dwelling on past failures? Set new goals for success! In the next 3 weeks, I’d like to:

  • Lose 1 pound a day. (Playing poker in British currency does not count.)
  • Finish the rest of Critical Concepts. (Those italics are legit, yo.)
  • Play some poker. (Playing poker in British currency does count.)

That’s all doable, right?

RIGHT? 

Fuck my life.


My inner self-non-loather would like to remind me that in the month of February, I did play some poker, relaunch a website, and publish 28,000 words, including two booklets and a series of articles. So maybe the “epic” in fail should only be in italics, bold, or CAPS. Go me.

Buddhathon Week 1

I’m just 8 days into my Buddhathon and I’ve already discovered what a wonderful and stupid idea I’ve come up with. That’s pretty much how I roll, so I should just deal with it.

On the poker front, I’ve played a little more than 10,000 hands. That’s not exactly on pace to hit 100,000 by the end of the month, but goals are made to be broken. Or is that rules? The list of excuses is formidable:

  1. I never play more than 6 tables.
  2. It takes up to 30 minutes to get 6 tables running on NJparty.
  3. NJparty bumps me off every 90 minutes, forcing me to get new tables.
  4. NJparty often crashes before 90 minutes, just for fun.
  5. Borgata.com is even worse than NJparty.
  6. Sometimes there are fewer than 6 tables of the stakes I play.
  7. The other sites are worse and/or have less traffic.
  8. I made two videos and wrote a book.

Now that I’ve sufficiently buried the lead, let me tell you about my new book. It’s more of a booklet, really. 8,000 words. It’s called Turn Your Hand Into A Bluff, it’s available on Leanpub, and it’s a collaboration between me and Dusty Schmidt. It’s about turning your hand into a bluff. More specifically, I get into The Math of how you decide whether your hand has more value at showdown or as a bluff. There’s also a section titled The Not Math. That part’s filled with guidelines to help you find the best play without crunching a lot of numbers.

This is Part 2 of Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts, and as such it contains 10 real-life hands, thoroughly dissected. It’s just $2.99, so it’s a bit of a steal. That’s funny, because, like, bluffing.

Anyway… back to the grind. At a minimum, I want to push my way through $.10/$.25 this month. I’ve been running like garbage, suffering from “they always have aces” syndrome, or TAHA, but things will turn around. They always do. Small sample size and all that.

February Buddhathon 2014

January is over. The Year of the Horse is here. That means this immovable object is getting ready to become an unstoppable force.

February is my least favorite month. Good thing it’s short. 28 days. Four years ago, I managed to do something pretty useful with 28 days. I did this Grindathon, where I locked myself in my apartment building and played 200+ hours of poker, made 28 poker videos, and did 28 video blogs. I raised a few grand for some causes and made ten times that playing poker. It was a good month.

So yeah. I’m gonna do that again. I’m playing smaller stakes these days. It’s part of my 2014 poker plan. I want to put up statistically significant winning samples at every limit from $.05/$.10 through $5/$10. Ideally, I’d like to get even higher than that. Maybe I’m dreaming.

In January, I eked out 31k hands of nickel and dime with an 8.90 bb/100 win rate. My all-in EV adjusted win rate was 13.62. That gives me 99.8% confidence that I’m beating that limit. I’m gonna call that statistically significant and move on up to $.10/$.25.

Dime and quarter poker is still the micro-stakes, but I imagine there are more decent players there. Weren’t many of those at nickel and dime. Regardless, I hope to give the limit a sound thrashing for 50k hands and then play another 50k hands at $.25/$.50. That’s where you can almost start making some money to live off of.

So if that’s my February – 200 hours, 100k hands, and pushing through 2 limits – then in March I’ll be ready for $.50/$1. Maybe that’s optimistic. I’d call that an upper-quartile outcome. I need to run good, play well, and keep improving. Still, it doesn’t sound like that much of a challenge, does it? Let’s make it harder, then.

I’m also going to spend about 90 hours working on four new poker booklets, Parts 2 through 5 of Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts. That’s a lot of writing and not a lot of time. I can write between 500 and 2000 words per hour (or up to 3600 if it’s just a stream of consciousness), so the actual writing won’t take a terribly long time. Maybe 30-odd hours. But then there is editing, proofreading, publishing, and shameless self-promotion to think about. All in all, it’s a lot of work.

We’re still only looking at 280 hours of work, which is a 70-hour work week. So let’s tack on up to 7 new poker videos for DragTheBar. We’re three hours in and I’ve already knocked one of those off the list, so maybe this will be easy.

Then again, probably not.

Why Leanpub

I woke up this morning to see we’d sold 18 copies of Pay Attention To Bet Sizing, along with 2 copies of Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts. That’s not bad for the first day, especially considering promotion consisted of a few blogs, tweets, and facebook posts.

The less exciting news was that one of our early readers had uncovered a mistake. A flop was missing along with the action on that street. I was frustrated to have this error in the text, given the several rounds of editing and proofreading we had performed.

Editing is actually the source of many typos and errors. The writer writes the sentence just fine, then decides to change a few words, but leaves some unwanted artifacts of the original structure. That’s why we need to perform a round of proofreading after every round of edits.

With Pay Attention To Bet Sizing, we went through multiple formats, and that’s where we lost the flop. I should say that’s where I lost the flop, because I’m the one who extracted the content from my original Word document and stuck it into Markdown. It was a joy writing in Markdown, which is the format necessary for Leanpub. It’s much more straightforward and literal than writing in Word, which hides a lot of information from you in its WYSIWYG interface. Markdown is lean.

It would be easy to blame this error on Leanpub, because if I didn’t have to convert to Markdown, I never would have lost the flop. But this error demonstrates the strength of Leanpub, and a large part of the reason we’re using it for the first releases of our books.

20 people had already purchased a copy of this version 1.0 with the mistake in it. If this was the final version and they had bought it on Amazon, I would have little chance to contact them and get them a fixed copy. I could put the errata on Poker In Practice, but I would be unable to get a corrected version in their hands. Enter Leanpub.

After learning about the error, I took the following actions:

  1. Check the PDF to verify it was wrong.
  2. Check the original Word document to find the right information.
  3. Correct the mistake in Markdown on Leanpub.
  4. Correct a formatting issue that was bugging me.
  5. Publish the new version of Pay Attention To Bet Sizing.
  6. Email everyone who had purchased a copy to notify them of version 1.1. They can now download an updated PDF, MOBI, or EPUB.
  7. Repeated steps 3-6 for Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts, since we’ve essentially published the same material twice already.

After 15 minutes of noodling around on my computer, I had released new versions of two books, contacted 20 people about the changes (allowing them to download version 1.1), and instituted a new policy as follows:

The first person to notify us of any legitimate error in one of our lean published books will received a free copy of the next booklet we release. This applies to actual mistakes, not words I make up like expondicate or opinions about ranges and stuff like that. We’d still like to hear about all of those things. So expondicate on them at Poker In Practice!

I’m not totally in love with everything about Leanpub, but now that I know how everything works over there, I’m convinced it’s the best available method for quickly distributing written content. If you’ve been thinking about starting a writing project but you’re not sure how to get it going and get it out there, I suggest you give it a whirl on Leanpub.

Pay Attention To Bet Sizing

I’ve been a busy bee.

Aside from playing and studying lots of poker (more on that in my end-of-the-month post), I’ve finally managed to hack through Skynet’s defenses and get my new written poker product posted for purchase.

“What’s this written poker product?” you might ask. (You might not ask, but I’m sitting alone in front of the computer, so I pretend you’re asking anything I’d like. And yes, how thoughtful; I would like a cookie.)

Pay Attention To Bet Sizing. It’s Part 1 of Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts. I’ve written it with the help of my Don’t Listen To Phil Hellmuth co-author, Dusty Schmidt. We used 10 of his real-life hands to illustrate this most critical concept of No Limit Holdem.

“Where can I get this and how much does it cost?” You can click on either book title above to follow the links over to Leanpub, or you can visit my publishing home on pokerinpractice.com. Part 1: Pay Attention To Bet Sizing is a whopping $2.99. That’s two hundred and ninety nine pennies! (Though we prefer paypal.)

“Why is it so cheap?” At roughly 8200 words, it’s more of a booklet than a book. That’s why I referred to it as a written poker product. It’s a complete idea. A thorough treatment of a single subject.

“How many parts are there?” So far, just the one is finished. But there are eight more already in the pipeline, at various stages of development. Our plan is to polish up one of these each week and send it out into the world. So the full book, Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts, is available for pre-order on Leanpub for $19.99. If you buy that, you’ll get weekly updates with new sections and edits on prior ones. Once we’re completely finished with the series, we’ll probably bump the price up to $29.99 or something, but we’ll see how it turns out first before deciding on a final price point.

I’m very excited to be releasing written content again. The best thing I can say about the booklet is that I gained a tremendous amount of confidence in my bet sizing by writing the piece. So if writing it helped me that much, I hope reading it can do the same for you.

GiantBuddha’s 2014 Poker Plan

I like challenges. Fun challenges. Difficult challenges. Weird challenges. This time I’ve decided to keep it simple. Sort of.

My single poker goal for 2014 is to play at least 100,000 hands at every limit from $.05/$.10 through $5/$10, winning at each level.

As I pursue my poker goal, I will record 3 DragTheBar videos per limit. The first will cover my assumptions going into the limit, the second will track my progress through the first 50,000 hands, and the third will review what I’ve learned throughout my 100,000 hands at the limit. All videos will focus on reviewing hands that I play at the particular limit.

I’m also working on an enormous series of books called Poker In Practice. I’ll be working with various co-authors on these, including my previous collaborator, Dusty Schmidt. More details to come in the very near future.

First Kindle Release

First_ThumbFirst, my high school noir novelette, is now available for Kindle on the Amazon. I’m having some issues with the Look Inside feature, but the actual .mobi file should work correctly on your Kindle or computer.

I’ve priced First at $2.99, which is a lot for 11,390 words, even if they are all carefully chosen. The read is about as long as a 1-hour episode of television, or maybe a 90-minute Woody Allen film. So as entertainment goes, it’s a lot cheaper than going to see a movie and the same price as one episode of Mr. Selfridge.

Price points are a big deal when it comes to selling stuff. Truth be told, I wouldn’t mind selling a novelette for $1.99, maybe I’ll even have a sale at $.99 (I’m not supposed to say that now, am I?), but Amazon provides a robust royalty rate of 70% on ebooks priced from $2.99 through $9.99. They only offer 35% on everything else. So they’re strongly discouraging me from pricing anything under $2.99 or between $10 and $20. I would have to sell about 3 times as many books at $1.99 to break even with the $2.99 price point.

The moral of the story is: don’t write short fiction! Except that short fiction is great and I love it. And you’re supposed to write what you love. And I love what I wrote, otherwise I wouldn’t have published it. So that’s how it is.

Happy Black Cats and Ladders

That’s a variation on the kids game Chutes and Ladders, but it’s all about bringing a cloud around over your head and wearing it as a reverse umbrella. It’s a score of minutes past six in the morning, so it’s a good bet this post won’t make a lot of sense. Then again, maybe it will be revelatory. One or the other.

I was walking down the street on Monday when a black cat crossed my path. Then I walked under a ladder. I don’t consider myself superstitious, but I do take the time to make a wish when the clock’s digits are all the same or in sequence. I could chalk that one up to my number fetish, but I do the same when I blow an eyelash into the air. And I do not have an eyelash fetish. It’s all about as rational as pi.

I don’t believe that wishes are granted by the universe or anything, but I do believe that making a wish can serve as a form of positive reinforcement. My wishes are less wishes than they are statements of intent. I’ve been making a lot of those lately. Not so much with the follow through. In fact, less than an hour ago, I was planning to write a post about how this was going to be my last post. Something about the Rambling Path coming to an end.

I won’t be as dramatic as all of that, but there are going to be some changes around here, very few of them cosmetic. I’ve decided to publish my fiction on this website, and maybe start writing some “serious” baseball articles as well. I’ve got PokerIsASkill.com for my instructional poker writing, though I may write some poker stuff of a more personal nature over here.

But overall, zenmadman.com will be less bloggy and more like a one-man magazine. Good morning. And good luck. Happy Triskaidekaphobia Day.