Sunday, 19 January 2014

Restarting

What an...interesting year 2013 was for me. As with my previous years blogging, I tend to write very little when I'm not having much fun. This can be seen by just 2 entries for the entire year; one laying out my resolutions and then a random blog comparing BJJ to poker.

My blogs have always been poker-related. This was the reason I started blogging, and most of my network are poker players. Without any real poker content, I tend to not write. However, now poker has become such a small part of my life, yet I still have the hunger to write, I've decided to reinvent my blog and my choices for writing.

So, from now on, I'm going to write about absolutely anything I want. Be it reviewing a movie, laying out my views on something controversial, reporting on something exciting I've been doing, or even writing some fiction, if I get the urge to write I will. Writing blogs helped launch my career, connect me to lots of interesting people, and help me make sense of things when the going got tough. I look forward to what the future might now bring when spreading an even wider net.

However, for now I feel I should do the obligatory new year post, as it does help put things into perspective.

So firstly, why was this year not so fun? Most of it comes down to my career, as in it's hit a dead end. I've been left contemplating whether I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing, and if I wanted to do something else, do I have the skills? Do I have time to learn new things again? Do I even want to go through all of that? It's quite stressful.

This is one of the reasons I've made the changes and commitment to this blog, to try and understand what exactly I'd like to do. I'm hoping that through writing and exploring some of the many ideas I get, something will click, or an opportunity will present itself.

So, here are the goals I gave myself last year, and a quick look at if I achieved them or not.

1. Get settled with Anna. We are looking for a place, but it's not easy.

Done! We have moved a couple of times now but have settled in a lovely little bungalow and are very happy.

2. Get my dream job. I'm at touching distance right now.

FAILED. This one has been a disaster.

3. Get fucking strong. I've started to really enjoy powerlifting, have bought a power rack and some heavy weights, so time to get big.

Done! Whilst I might have been a little enthusiastic when writing this, I have kept up with my lifting and am much stronger than I as last year.

4. Get at least 2 stripes on my White Belt. My new BJJ academy is notoriously tough at promotions, so this one will be hard!

Done! Very surprised with this one, but I did receive two stripes, one in August and the other in December, from head coach Wilson Junior, which was a great honour.

5. Compete at least once. I can't wait to enter a BJJ competition, it will be a huge rush.

FAILED. For one reason or another, or just nerves. But I have just entered a competition which takes place in March, so this will be done by this year.

6. Get much fitter. This will come from spending a lot of times sparring and playing more squash.

Done! I had to stop squash because of my elbow, but right now through a combination of pushing myself at BJJ and hitting the gym I'm the fittest I've ever been, and it feels great. I also dropped about 2 stone in 2013 and hope to lose a little more this year.

7. COMPLETE A CREATIVE PROJECT! I have an amazing musical idea I want to get cracking on, I just need some free brain space.

FAILED. As always my career got in the way of this, but to me that's a decent enough reason.

So for 2014 I'm going to outline two general goals.

1. Stay healthy. This includes my fitness, strength, keeping training hard at BJJ, the lot.
2. Don't be in the same career spot.

And that's it. I'm hoping these two things will spiral into lots of achievements, but right now I'm not quite sure what they are.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Luck vs Skill/Poker vs BJJ

Let me begin by saying I'm not using Poker to represent luck, and I'm not using BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) to represent skill. I'm going to look at how luck and skill play a role in each activity and compare my experiences of taking both things quite seriously.

I played poker passionately for about 4 years, and at my most dedicated was playing online 4-5 hours a day, live 3-4 days a week plus doing plenty of study. I found it quite easy to pick up and retain information about the game and all of this meant I had some fairly decent results at the micro stakes. (sadly I'm not putting anywhere near the same time into BJJ, but it is now my main hobby outside of work)

For those who don't play poker and might think it's all luck, I can tell you it's actually a mixture. While the cards are randomly shuffled therefore making a single situation about luck, you can mathematically play each hand in a positive away. Therefore in the long term the skilful players will almost always win, but in the short term anyone can win.

It's because of this fact, along with success stories by people named Moneymaker and Gold, that keep good and bad players alike coming back to play, hoping that they might win that single hand that substantially increases their bank balance.

For me, I'd won a few thousand playing the smaller stakes at university (all of which had liquified itself in beer) and when finishing my last semester had to decide whether I wanted to make the leap and become a full time poker player. This would have meant increasing the stakes I was playing and I was not comfortable doing that - so this idea was off the table. I therefore started my work career and poker became very much a hobby, I severely decreased the amount of hours I played, started to rely on luck a little more but thankfully still enjoyed the game.

There is one thing that poker is not good for; your health. Lots of hours sat down stationary, lots of unsociable hours, junk food usually being the only thing available to you (when playing live at least). I put on a decent amount of girth doing my poker playing and after a couple of years working, decided I wanted to lose some weight. I tried the gym a few times and just couldn't get any momentum; running was torture.

I had become a big fan of MMA and decided to check out a local MMA school. I loved learning the skills and there was a lot of fitness thrown in; I quickly lost a bit of weight and reached new heights of fitness. It was at the MMA school I decided I liked one aspect more than the others; grappling. So looking to take things a little more seriously, I joined Carlson Gracie Camberley, home of dozens of European and domestic champions, to really see what it was all about.

Now, having come from a game where luck was a huge factor, it became obvious very quickly that there was little if any luck involved in high level grappling. It was simple; if you squared off against someone better than you, they are going to beat you 9.99999/10. There are a couple of things they could do to get unlucky; perhaps slamming you slightly too hard (slamming is illegal) and having a grumpy referee, or maybe getting a finger caught in your gi and breaking it, but really, from what I can tell at least, there are very few ways you can get lucky when grappling. Even if you somehow end up in a favourable position, your opponent will have a million options in their knowledge to counter it.

So, it's been an interesting change of pace. On one hand I love it; I'm learning an amazing martial art from one of the top teams in Europe, I'm getting fit and strong and meeting lots of interesting people. On the other hand it was frustrating at first; I wasn't used to entering a competitive scenario where I knew I was going to lose. Even when playing poker against guys who were lots better than me I had the luck factor to fall back on.

This however has meant one thing; my ego has all but disappeared. It's an interesting feeling, when training against a guy much better than me I no longer think along the terms of 'winning or losing', only how can I use this experience to get better. It's great and has helped me in all aspects of my life. I mean, if every week you train with guys who could really hurt you if they wanted, what is going to be more challenging in the real world?

So to my poker playing friends, remember that luck is a big factor in what you do. You could be on the top of a year long winning streak for the wrong reasons. Keep on studying, never underestimate your opponents, and if poker is going to be your main hobby, do it intelligently. Keep fit and make sure you can account for bad luck when it inevitably comes. To my BJJ friends...thanks for reading my blog!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Twenty Thirteen

It's that time of year again, a recap on last years resolutions and setting another bunch for 2013.

Here's what I set out for 2012, and if I achieved them or not.

1. Make some big achievements with Black Belt Poker.

This didn't happen as a couple of weeks after the blog I was made redundant. I don't think it's fair to call it a fail though as the redundancy definitely wasn't by choice!

See I will call this resolution career progression as ultimately that's what it was about anyway. The first 1/3 of 2012 was shit career wise. I was unemployed for most of it, apart from a brief stint as a sales manager for genting casino. However, a week before my wedding, I got the call that Grosvenor Casinos wanted to offer me a role.

So I've now been there for nearly 10 months and it's been great not having much responsibility, instead a steady work flow I can work through. I've made big waves within the company and am in touching distance of something big. So I'd say this resolution was almost a big success.

However, due to the stress of all this, it has affected my other two resolutions somewhat, which is a shame.

2. GET HEALTHY (inc. get my yellow belt and win squash league).

Well I actually progressed two belts in Kickboxing, narrowly missing my third before having to leave (more on that later). I didn't manage a full squash league, but won whenever I played, so could have made that resolution if I'd tried harder.

In terms of getting healthy, I will say that I am much fitter and strong than I was last year, but no where near where I wanted to be. But I think that with the copious amounts of work related stress I had to manage, I did pretty well.

3. Complete a creative project.

Nothing on this front. Again, it's hard to be creative when your head is so full of worry. BUT this year is shaping up to be one when I don't have to think about rent etc... and can just focus on my life, so I'm excited to see what I can do.

So this years goals:

1. Get settled with Anna. We are looking for a place, but it's not easy.

2. Get my dream job. I'm at touching distance right now.

3. Get fucking strong. I've started to really enjoy powerlifting, have bought a power rack and some heavy weights, so time to get big.

4. Get at least 2 stripes on my White Belt. My new BJJ academy is notoriously tough at promotions, so this one will be hard!

5. Compete at least once. I can't wait to enter a BJJ competition, it will be a huge rush.

6. Get much fitter. This will come from spending a lot of times sparring and playing more squash.

7. COMPLETE A CREATIVE PROJECT! I have an amazing musical idea I want to get cracking on, I just need some free brain space.

I think these are all doable. gogogogogogo

----

Poker wise I've not been playing, it's just not something I can put any time into right now. It's a shame as I miss the game, but it will never be one I can again play casually, so I won't start until I can play with a half decent frequency.

Speaking of time, it's been something I've gotten shorter and shorter on recently, especially after making the genius call of joining a second martial arts club. So after a lot of thinking, I decided I'd have to drop one club.

It was a super hard decision, but ultimately it had to be my first club. I've focused more on grappling in the last 6 months and enjoy BJJ so much, I really want to give it my full attention. That's not to say I won't ever go back to kickboxing as am really proud of the skills I've amassed and have made some good friends at TMAS.

Thanks to all the guys and especially head coach Ross for the time they put into me, I'll definitely be back!

BJJ wise I've only been a couple of times since my last blog due to being ill and injured (niggling injuries). Both were daytime sessions when I had time off and were very different as there were only a half dozen of us each time.

The first lesson we drilled some half guard sweeps, which was interesting as it's never been a position I've had much success with due to my longer legs. However, it started showing me how important leverage is. The sweep was similar in principle to this one (start at 3:50)



Where, upon escaping from half guard and pushing against your opponent that counter this by pushing back, you then use their momented to sweep into dominant position. It was super interesting as like I said, without proper leverage, it didn't work (or required a ton of strength), but executed properly it was very smooth and easy.

With just a few of us there, and it being 3 x blue belts, 1 brown and 1 black, I figured I'd spar with the blue's and then sit out. Wrong! After getting a pasting from the bleu belts, I then got paired with Mark who'd just received his brown. After a coupe of amazing sweeps, he let me get full mount and just held his arms close to his chest. He is super strong and I just couldn't do anything.

After this I was EXHAUSTED, but jumped at the chance when the black belt, Andre Pimenta, signalled it was my turn to roll with him. He didn't hold back, catching me in all manner of interesting submissions.

The next session I arrived early and there was a Judo class going on (the gym is owned by british Olympic bronze medalist Karina Bryant) and recognised Ashley McKenzie and realised this must have been the national team! Was very interesting to watch such high level Judo.

Just as we started our lesson I said to one of the guys, oh that was Ashley who was on TV (the BBC made a very interesting documentary about him, see some clips here) and my training partner said, 'that other guy has been on TV more...' then onto the mats walks Alex Reid! He was similar to how he is on TV, 'boisterous' I think is the word, but also very approachable. People forget that he's done alot for MMA in this country, so I certainly respect him for that.



Here we are both very sweaty after training. I was surprised that he was only a bue belt seeing as he's been in the MMA community for so long, but I think he's more of a kickboxer.

We did some guard passing in this session and progressed it into a submission, a new one for me, the Ezekiel Choke.


This is my first specialised gi-choke. You can do it in no-gi, but it seems like it wouldn't be quite as effective without the strong gi grip. Needless to say it's really horrible!

I then sparred with a blue belt, who as usual gave me a tough time. I then started rolling with Mark the brown belt, until Alex got back from being on the phone.

I then had a rest as we had an odd number. It was here that Andre gave me a pointer that blew my mind, noticing that I 'give up' a lot when people pass my guard.

The only time you lay flat on your back is when someone is in your full guard

He then showed me that even if someone passes your legs, if you're on your side with arms out it's still super hard for them to get into any sort of dominant position. A great tip that could vastly improve my defence.

After this I sparred again with a white belt, with no stripes, who was roughly my size. This was exciting for me as I've never sparred with anyone close to my size and I assumed he was close to my skill level.

I was right, but he was much fitter than me, and by this point I was exhausted (see picture above for sweat amounts) so he was able to move much quicker. And for some reason he went mental, trying to brea my arm/neck/whatever within seconds of starting, and kneeing/elbowing in the head and face a half dozen times, giving me my first black eye ever. I HATE this type of person. Sparring is training, NOT fighting. Andre gave him a dressing down for doing this. 

He tapped me several times, but most of it was just from using strength, cranking on anything he could grab. On one roll I gave it the last bit of energy I had left, pulled of a lovely sweep, passed his guard, and executed a perfect americana. Just to show that when you're fit, technique prevails.

I'll be starting training 2-3 times a week as of next week and can't wait.

We went to see Stars of the Lid in London and it was incredible. That's all I can say on that.

Time to watch a movie, but I'll leave you with an incredible piece of music. Thanks as always for reading.

OSSSSSSSSS!




Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Poker and Health

I've never been the healthiest of guys, but this has meant that when I really make a positive change, I can feel the difference in a big way.

An example is my recent effort in training martial arts at least 3 times a week - my fitness has reached a point never before seen and I feel great because of it.

Back when I was really grinding the poker, I was fascinated by the 'new breed' of players, names such as Brian Townsend, who were clean cut and healthy looking, shaking off the cigar smoking obese gambler image.

I realised that these guys put as much effort into training their minds and bodies away from the tables, and this paid dividends in the long run.

I read an article recently which really got me thinking about this again, and I wanted to touch on a few of the points made. 

Firstly, the right kind of foods to eat and snack on.

Acai berries and Blueberries - Acai berries are popular with MMA fighters and who can forget Jamie Gold ordering a bowl of Blueberries at the WSOP Final Table in 2006. There's good reason for this, Blueberries contain more antioxidants than any other fruit and can help improve vision and cognitive functions, making them one of the healthiest foods in the world.

Wild Salmon - A favourite of mine! Low in saturated fats and containing plenty of Omega-3, Wild Salmon (the redder the better we used to say on the fish counter) can improve all aspects of brain function.

Whatever you're eating, remember what you put in your body has a direct effect on how it performs.

Eating right is only half the battle though and an active lifestyle is also a necessity. Here are some exercises that benefit poker players:

Stretches - Being static for a large portion of time can lead to stiffness, so try and keep moving as much as possible. Flex and hold your abs and glutes until they start to burn. Work your calves and legs by pushing up on the balls of your feet, hold and repeat. Try and set yourself a routine and stick to it.

Cardio - A personal tip I'd like to slip in, building up your cardio will keep you altert for longer when you're sat playing poker. Training doesn't have to be boring, practice a high intensity sports such as squash, football or my personal choice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Not only will you feel great when playing poker, you'll be able to relieve the stress after a tough session.

All this and more is discussed in great depth in this fantastic article (Click Here). If you're serious about improving your poker, I thoroughly recommend you check it out.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Welcome, to the Dojo, of The Real...



My intention for this blog was to write a simple review of my first BJJ lesson, but I've found myself reflecting on some deeper issues since taking the class.

I got into MMA a couple of years ago and wasn't too keen on the ground fighting aspect; it seemed like a way of stalling to me. It wasn't until I watched UFC 1 that, like many, I really appreciated how powerful ground fighting and more specifically BJJ could be.

About a year ago I finally started training in martial arts, a lifelong ambition, joining The Martial Arts School SW, a local MMA school. I was excited about this school as I noticed they did grappling (no-gi), something I was keen to try, but a little apprehensive due to it looking very physically demanding.

I did kickboxing only for about 6 months and it became apparent to the instructor that I was a huge MMA fan and he started encouraging me to grapple. I was so excited to do it, but kept putting it off. Finally when I felt my fitness had reached an acceptable level I hit the mats, learnt a couple of submissions and rolling for the first time. I was instantly hooked.

I said to myself I'd never train gi BJJ but found myself watching an increasing amount of instructional videos and getting sucked into the culture more and more. Finally, after shopping around for a gi which there was no real reason for me to buy, I admitted to myself that BJJ was actually something I really wanted to do.

However, finding a school wasn't easy. Being just down the road from London and having a football team in the Premiership, you'd assume that there would be at least one BJJ class here. But no! The closest I could find were Carlson Gracie Academy, Ze Marcello and Andy Roberts, all about 25 miles away.

After chatting to each one about their pricing (each were super helpful) and juggling their timetable with my current kickboxing and no-gi classes, I decided on the Carlson Gracie Academy.

My gi arrived (a Tatami Nova Basic, highly recommended across the internets) and after a couple of weeks off with a bad knee from a failed standing sweep during kickboxing sparring, I set my first date, this past Monday.

Before I go into the class, a little bit more info about myself; I'm a big guy. 6"6 tall, 18st. Being 'big' has many advantages, but it can be frustrating at times, as people can fail to see beyond it.

The last sport I put a lot of effort into was golf; I played seriously for about 12 years, but quit with very little to show. I never made it to a single figure handicap and only once broke 80. Basically, I was shit, yet was well respected for the fact I could melt a ball onto the green of a 400+ yard par 4, or hit driver-wedge to a par 5 like it was easy. No one cared it would often take me 3 or 4 puts to finish the hole, I was still an urban legend on the course.

Fast forward to joining an MMA school, straight away my size is the topic of discussion. After a few months training I developed decent kicking and punching power, which I put manly down to working hard on technique, but everyone credits it to my attributes. When grappling, as the average size of my partners is fairly small, I'm often able to use my power to gain an advantage. It's frustrating and I feel like I'm cheating, but it's hard not to do it when technically outclassed.

However, when stepping onto the mats at the Carlson Gracie Academy, the first thing I notice is several guys my size or bigger. Finally, my size means nothing!

Onto the lesson. We started with a decent warmup that really got my heart going, which quickly blended into the techniques for the day, Omaplata and variations. Straight away the gi confused me, using grips seemed really weird. I struggled with the harder variation, but felt I got most of the basics down.

We then lined up in grade order and the coach selected pairs to roll. He asked if it was my first lesson, I could have said no as I've got quite a few hours experience rolling, but seeing as I was already tired and wanted to make it through the whole session, I answered yes and he let me sit out the first roll.

On the second roll he paired me with a white belt with 2 or 3 stripes. We started and the first thing he did was grab my gi! Wtf! It still felt so bizzarre. He pulled guard and did an excellent job of just neutralising me. I asked for some advice on how to break the sleeve grips, and armed with this I made a few attempts at passing his guard, almost getting there a couple of times but he always grabbed me and pulled me back.

For the third roll I was then approached by a Blue Belt with 2 or 3 stripes (I should take more notice) and knew I was in trouble. Instant grips and butterfly guard, which resulted in him lifting me in the air a few times. If you noted my size earlier, then you'd realise I wasn't used to this treatment; this guy was very strong. Breaking his grips was nigh-on impossible, but he did give me a few openings to pass, each time though he would crush me with some sort of choke or lock.

The final roll I was all but spent, so quickly ran to another non-striped white belt who looked as tired as me. I went back to what I know, aggressive no-gi style, and was able to tap him a few times, but really  I should have been more open to giving him opportunities and experimenting with the gi, but my ego was hurt.

A really fun experience, but also MASSIVELY humbling. I'm no longer the big guy, only decent technique can carry me from here. I can't wait for my next lesson.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Wedding Bells and Heel Hooks

Almost 6 months since my last proper blog and lots has happened.

So, the big news first. I got married!


Yes, it was only the last blog I was talkin about our engagement, but it made sense and we didn't want to wait. We had a lovely small ceremony with just family, with the reception at the same hotel we spent our first night in, and got engaged, so it meant a lot. Honestly I couldn't be happier (drama king alert), I never thought I'd meet someone like Anna and I'm excited to spend my life with her.

Work wise, I talked about a project manager type role but that didn't materialise. I was pretty angry at the time as this company seems to have no problem hiring copious amounts of sexy birds to work in marketing positions, but when someone rocks up with actual experience and virtually guarantees to double the size of their new area of business, he's shot down. Idiots.

The work offers were pretty constant though, with a few small companies wanting me on board, but to be honest knowing I was getting married and being sick of the lack of job security a small company offers, I wanted something big.

I was offered a contract role at one of the UK's largest gaming companies and decided to take the risk, hoping that if I worked my buns off they'd not want to let me go. Well I'm on my third temp contract with them and I feel really confident I've made a huge impact and they'd be crazy to let me go. Hopefully early next year the role will be made permanent and I can actually talk about who it is!

Martial arts wise, I received my next rank in kickboxing and started grappling. I didn't think I'd like grappling that much, but after the first lesson and sparring straight away, I was hooked. It is much, much, much harder than it looks, but the satisfaction of pulling off a well executed technique is immense.

In fact, it's brought out my competitive side again, I can actually see myself competing in grappling tournaments and have decided to take that side of things more serious. In the next couple of weeks, I'm going to start Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; there are a couple of awesome schools/coaches near me and I'm excited to start this prestigious martial art. I will continue to train with my old school in Reading, but will probably just to kickboxing and move my grappling to one of the BJJ schools.

I'm also starting to focus on strength in a big way, investing in weights and spending a lot of time on S+C forums working on a program. I'm mostly following the 'Starting Strength' system, but have modified it slightly until I get more equipment at home. Next stage is working on flexibility.

So, expect this blog in the future to have a lot more martial arts content, as I love talking about things I compete in and with the lack of poker playing these days martial arts will fill that void. Am going to start doing some networking in the BJJ/MMA blogger community, so hi to any guys reading this post.

TV wise I was a little let down with the first half of Breaking Bad S5, I felt it was really slow and it was only the last episode that really got my interest. The same can't be said for Homeland S2, wow, the first few episodes were intense to the point where I can't see how the series can carry on for another season? Excited for tonights episode.

Not seen too many movies, but Expendables 2 was great fun. Everything you'd want from the movie, having Arnie, Willis and Stallone stood in a line firing guns doesn't get much better,

Musically I've not been really inspired by too much recently - listening to a lot of ambient, dubstep and black metal as usual. Nachmystium's newest album has a couple of killer tracks, and I've just received a copy of Wintersun's newest opus Time. Their last album was one of my favourites, but honestly, I can't see how this can be so much better seeing how long it's taken to come out.

Stars of the Lid are coming to the UK again after 5 years and I am PUMPED to see them. I've talked about how good the last show was before, so I'm expecting more of the same this time. If you're looking for some amazing music for playing poker or simply relaxing to, you won't find much better:



So that's a quick recap of the last few months. I am going to start doing at least bi-weekly blogs now I've got more to focus on.

Cheers for reading!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Sam Trickett Circa 2009

Before any Titans, Farms, Matchbooks or OneDrop Millions Sam Trickett was just a young lad wondering if poker could become his full time job. I was lucky enough to be part of his journey and with his recent success it's only fitting to tell the story.

Back in 2009 I was getting my break in to the industry by working a commission only role for PokerIcons, a media and PR agency mainly for professional poker players. I didn't make much money, but it gave me a great introduction to the gaming industry and helped me meet lots of decent contacts. More importantly though, it was bloody fun.

At the time our biggest client was Jamie Gold and we spent lots of time trying (unsuccessfully) to get him a sponsorship deal. Poker sites were weary of sponsoring players in 2009 and Jamie was asking for a shed full. We did some interesting things with him though - trying to gate crash Paris Hilton's boat party in Cannes being one of them - but I'll save that for another blog.

Another player on our list was 'one of the UK's brightest up and coming stars', a young lad by the name of Sam Trickett.  We did our homework and knew Sam was going to made it big, so we spent a decent amount of time pushing him to potential sponsors. Unfortunately he just hadn't had a big enough score to give him mass market appeal. (check his hendon mob pre 2010, and then post 2010 and shed a tear for me)

In September 2009 was the biggest event on our calendar, the WSOPE. For a couple of weeks, all the big names would be in town, and it was a huge money making opportunity for us. Me and my two colleagues squeezed into a room at the Metropole and we hadn't been there long before I got a call from Sam saying 'someone just gave me a patch deal'.

We raced over to the Empire as any patch deals had to be done through us, Sam was our client, so we negotiated the terms. When we got there I was quickly pounced upon by an agent from another company introducing himself and saying he'd scored Sam a patch deal with Full Tilt. After a few choice words, we agreed that we'd split the commission for that day, but we'd handle all his deals from that day on. (we spent 2 days negotiating with Ray Bitar, remember the days when we all thought FTP was prestigious and legit?)


Sam next to Negreanu on the feature table wearing his FTP patch


My camera phone picture from the rail (we had sick seats) 
http://twitpic.com/jf9p0

Sam didn't do too well in the event, but of course he was to go on and do amazing things. A top bloke who I'll always feel proud of as, in some micropercentage shape of form, I feel I helped him get to where he is.

It's hard to think that just 3 years ago I was on Skype with him ghost writing his profile. So here it is, Sam Trickett's media profile, Circa 2009:

'Sam Trickett was introduced to the game of poker in 2005 when he was invited to a regular game held at a friends bar. After enjoying the first night he went on to win the tournament regularly, including a three week winning stretch. Upon realising he could make more in one night at the poker tables than he could working for a whole week, he went on the search for more serious games. He took his first shot at a big tournament in Sheffield’s biggest casino and finished on the bubble, an experience he credits as starting his obsession with the game...'







Tuesday, 1 May 2012

New Blog: Getting Serious

Another month, another job gone!

I do feel a bit stupid, but as most have realised by now, I lasted just a couple of weeks at Genting. Firstly, thanks to everyone who wished me well when I announced I'd gotten the job,  I was really overwhelmed by it. So why did I quit?

The job title was 'Sales Manager'. Sales is a tricky one with me as I can do it well, but the idea of a pure sales job has never really interested me. However, things had gotten slow on the job front and the thought of working close to home was appealing, so when a recruitment agent called about the role I thought an application couldn't hurt.

Straight away they wanted to see me, great I thought, so I dusted off the suit and made my way to Richfield Avenue. It's funny as the Genting Casino in Reading (formally Maxims, Stanley, Tower etc...) was my first experience of proper gambling venue and I instantly fell in love. The place will always hold a soft spot for me.

I first met with the Casino Manager Jimmy Howard and their national recruitment manager. This preliminary interview was just to find out about me and see what I was like as a person. Talk about myself enthusiastically for 30 mins? No problem. I got a call back later the day for a second interview.

The second interview was trickier. Not only did I have Jimmy again scrutinising me but the regional marketing manager asking some very tricky questions. However, remember I said earlier I can do sales well? I smashed this interview into pieces, couldn't of done any better. It did leave me with some doubts thought if I was suitable for the role as I wasn't sure just how much sales was needed, as they hammed up my marketing experience and how useful it would be.

My mind was soon put to rest as I got the call that they wanted me for the role! I was overjoyed as this was my first traditionally secured job - what I mean by that is recruitment agent, interview, second interview, offer etc...

I went in for the first week and Jimmy told me he still wasn't quite convinced about me, but it was by far the best applicant they had and after next week I just had to prove myself.

So for the first week it was excellent. Swaggering around the Casino being introduced to all the staff and high rollers as a new manager, chatting to people with a sense of authority I've never had before, free meals and promises of other luxury, and all round fun experience.

Then the second week came, and the pressure started. Why wasn't I on the phone every day calling businesses to get them in? Why hasn't I made loads of sales already? Such and such who was in the office noticed you weren't on the phone etc... etc...

This was pressure like I'd never felt it. I mean I've been under a serious work load before, but this was corporate pressure, and I hated it.

Just before starting the job I'd received a call from another company (that will remain anonymous for now) offering me a project manager style role in poker, something I'd be much more suited too. They said if the job at Genting went wrong, to give them a call.

So with the pressure mounting, plus knowing a job I'd be much better at was out there but wouldn't be around for ever, I quit.

It was a surreal experience all around, but believe it or not, I did take several things away from the two weeks I was there.

1. A smart appearance goes a long way. So whatever job I land from now on, always expect a shirt and tie.
2. Straight talking gets the job done. I've always been one for babbling, but spending time with Jimmy the manager taught me just how a proper businessman works.
3. Good things can come from working with recruitment agencies.

So yes, expect another 'I got the job!' tweet coming soon, but expect this one to stick. Exciting times ahead!

Although this is the news most of you will find interesting, it certainly isn't the biggest news in my life recently. Last Saturday me and Anna got engaged! It seems like only yesterday we first met, but it was over 2 years ago now, and the time is definitely right for us to get married. I'm starting to feel 'wise' (old) and the need to build a home is really setting in.

So how did I propose?

Me and Anna have gotten into a bit of birdwatching recently due to seeing lots of different species in my families large garden. We took my Nan to a local bird sanctuary which was fun, so I announced I wanted to go to one in Canterbury, where Anna's family are. She said OK and we went stayed a night with her Aunt before setting off the next day for the bird sanctuary, but this just a ruse.

I'd actually booked the biggest suite of the first hotel we ever stayed in almost 2 years ago and she was so shocked as to why we were even there! I left her in the car while I picked up the keys and we drove the room. We walked in and she was gobsmacked by the size of the place, and when she turned around there I was on one knee.

We had a lovely night there and now have a wedding to plan. Gosh!

Anna looking beautiful with the ring and the roses from the room.

Speaking of weddings, my first close friend is getting married this weekend, by best mate Marc whose name you would of read in this blog over the years. It was a scary concept when he talked about the idea a couple of years ago, but now it's all starting to feel right. The wedding is at the Forest Of Arden hotel and golf course in Birmingham which is awesome. We checked it out last week and it was SO NICE being back on a golf course, I miss it so much.

The stag party was a couple of weeks ago in Cardiff, my first one ever! Really enjoyed it. First night was at a comedy club which was a big surprise, day 2 was paintballing which is always fun and go karting which I sucked at but enjoyed. 

Have continued kickboxing at The Martial Arts School SW and am still loving it, now having gained my Yellow Belt after my first grading!


It was hard work but the grading system is excellent as it pushes you to work hard for the next belt. Am already well on my way to the next grade which is Yellow Belt Black Stripe. 

My fitness level has also gone right up and I'm now ready to start grappling! I've been keen on learning Wrestling and BJJ for a couple of years now (ever since watching UFC) and TMAS's grappling system combines the two which is exciting. Bought a pair of MMA gloves and being the geek I am I had to find out who made gloves for the big organisations:

My newly purchased gloves.

Ouano have made gloves for UFC, WEC, Elite XC and many others fo the years, and also looking a bit like Pride gloves, I just had to have them. I've also bought all my protective gear so I can start sparring which is a little scary but something I have to do for my next belt. 

Since my last blog there was a TV void left waiting for new seasons of Homeland, Breaking Bad and Walking Dead, so I finally took the plunge and started watching Lost. I'm half way through Season 5 and fans of the show will know how much my head is hurting right now. Fun though.

Me and Anna area also really into Storage Wars and American Pickers, so much so that we're going to try doing some gold digging ourselves, although I doubt it will pay off!

That's it for now. Thanks to everyone for your support, it does mean a lot. and I promise I'll soon be in an interesting position again!


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

New Blog: Working in Poker

Now I'm back to being an independent entity for the time being I feel it's only right I crack my knuckles and give my honest opinion of mine and the UK Poker scenes current situation. I'm going to cover two main points in this blog.

1. My departure from BBP.

2. The UK Poker Scene - radical ideas.

Leaving BBP

It wasn't long after my last blog that I was given the unfortunate news that my time at Black Belt Poker had come to an end. It came as a bit of a shock although working for a small company you accept that it's always a possibility.

I really enjoyed my time at BBP. Having worked for a Scandinavian brand before, I was eager to join a UK focused company as that's where my passion, contacts and marketing network had always lied.

I was part of some great promotions and two popular live events and met lots of excellent poker players. We parted ways on good terms, I certainly wasn't fired, nor was I replaced.

I have to congratulate Neil and all the BBP staff for what they have achieved. Neil especially is one of the hardest working guys I've ever met. BBP was basically an idea of his that he worked relentlessly to make a reality.

I really do think BBP could became a large success IF some major changes are made. I won't go into detail, but members of the site will know what parts of the site do and don't work both technically and theoretically. They've always had large ideas, but you have to get the basics right first, otherwise expansion is impossible.

I wish them all the success in the world and will always have my eye on them.

The UK Poker Scene - Some Radical, but Scaleable Ideas

As my recent departure from BBP proves, times are tough in the poker world. Everyone is playing catch up to Stars, but will one new site or current network ever get close? I think not as there are too many ideas floating around and too many people thinking they can become a success.

Year upon year we see sites come and go, thinking they can take the same old ideas and make them a success. Some try something new, usually with little success. BBP is hanging on in there, but like I said before I don't think they have a chance for large expansion until changes are made. Real Deal Poker had a real shot at being big. They had a product that could attract the fish to online poker, which in turn would attract online players to take them on. Had they of been smart, i.e. not greedy, with their idea, they could of been a big success. Yet they tried taking on the big dogs themselves and failed.

Can anyone do it?

I believe so, and without the need for fancy ideas and crazy business plans. What's needed is co-operation, utilisation of local knowledge, conquering separate markets and then forming a large entity. Let's take the UK for example.

We have several independent online brands in this country all taking 90%+ of their business from UK players. The best examples:

Black Belt Poker

Sky Poker

Dusk Till Dawn

Rags 2 Riches (The Western Club)

One Way Poker

Gutshot (The International Club)

Sure there are the Genting’s and Grosvenor’s, but I'm not worried about them, they pull enough revenue through their casinos to make online nothing more than a fashion requirement as opposed to a real necessity (I'd be interested to see their revenue figures).

Then there are the big brands like 888 and Party with a strong marketing presence in the UK, but they are hardly 'local brands'.

So, let's take the list above. Online the biggest is Sky by far, in fact they've been so successful they are on their own independent network. Add up the rest and you're probably close to doubling the player base Sky has to offer, but not only that, you bring into the mix some serious assets.

DTD is obviously Europe's best poker venue and the Western and International are both solid clubs in the London Area. BBP and One Way both have strong live poker ties with various smaller clubs and groups.

What if each of these companies merged to form one UK super network?


Photobucket

(please don't laugh at my graphical skills, this is just an example!!)

Here are some of the online benefits I feel this mega merger would bring:

1. Great traffic at reasonable times for UK players. Nearly everyone on the network would work, so would be playing mostly in the evening, just like live games.
2. Regular influx of recreational players. Let's not hide the fact, live games are always fishy, and the goal is to bring these players online. Affiliate deals can work, but it takes a lot of effort. If it's all the same brand, then it's much, MUCH more likely these players will play online.
3. Games are ALWAYS good. As I just mentioned, live games are always fishy. Sure there are some good players out there, but they are mostly lost within the wash of recreational player of varying skill. These type of games would be better mimicked online, making it tasty for the good players, but still fun for the recreational players, as they are never really picked on.

Some points about the software:

1. MAKE IT TRANSPARENT. People need to KNOW it’s a fair deal. Get regulated in the UK. SHOW people how it works. There should be no question about it.
2. Integrated HUD/Tracker software. Yes, the argument is that this is open to everyone, but the casual player will never go through the hassle of buying or learning it, or even knowing about it. What if it was all integrated, with options for beginner and advanced users, and of course plenty of info to help one learn. Now the playing field is definitely level, and the site can monitor what information is shared and used within their games.

Some of the live benefits:

1. The first ever CHAIN of UK poker clubs, not connected to a casino. A uniformed standard would be set, so you know whenever you step into one of these venues, you’re in for a great game of poker.
2. An easy route to expansion. With a wider stretch of players, and a wider audience, opening a new venue with an already established name will be much easier than opening a new brand.
3. Influx of online player live. While it’s usually the goal to get live players online, if we have a brand that’s happy with either, we can get nervous online players venturing out more.

Could anyone else join?

Of course. I really like the franchise business model. People pay to represent the brand, then earn income based on their personal performance. Other online sites can come on board and join the network, but instead of multi brand under hand competition, we all represent the same company, and all have the same goals. The same could happen with live venues.

What happens abroad?

Once the UK is conquered, we then launch networks in other countries made up of independent brands, using the exact same model. We succeed as we’re bringing in people with local knowledge, who know their market.

Once several countries are up and running, we have regional tables, and joint tables online. Perhaps you’re content to play against your fellow countrymen, but sometimes you might fancy the challenge of playing other regions. One word is important here, CHOICE.

Think about it.

Wouldn’t it be amazing? We take the best bits about local brands and turn it into a worldwide community. A poker network by poker lovers.

I wish.

Time to reel it back in. Where to next? I’m speaking to a few people with some interesting things on the table. I’m ready to get back in the mix and dedicate myself to a brand once again. I’m looking forward to the future.

Thanks for reading and thanks for all the support over the last couple of years. I will be back!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

New Blog: Resolutions


Time for the obligatory new year blog. Obvious I know but I've done it for the last few years now and it is a good way to track results. First though I want to follow on from my last blog.

I've not blogged since October for the simple reason: Twitter makes me lazy. The purpose of my blog has always and always will be to document my life. Why? I don't know, hopefully it will bring me joy when I'm older and hopefully serve to inspire my kids one day. (if you're reading this junior, fetch your old man a beer!)

Actually I just checked and my last real blog was fucking August! The last two were just cut n pastes of old articles to show in some discussion or another. Wow, almost 6 months since I last blogged? Can time of really gone that quickly? A blog at least once a month has to be a resolution. Right, let me write down all the subjects I need to cover...

*checks twitter*

Phew. Right. Here goes.

Let's start with Black Belt Poker as we've had some amazing things going on recently, the biggest undoubtably being Nottingham Live.

For such a small company, we've always had big aspirations and doing a second large live event was definitely ambitious. Still, we went full steam ahead and ended up going well over the 400 runners needed to make the guarantee, in fact finishing just shy of 500 runners. As expected DTD was a quality venue and everyone I spoke to had a great time.

I didn't fare too well, with a super aggressive opponent directly to my right (opening 80% of pots) and the rest of the table being super tight. I was really card dead so never had a chance to really win anything.

Great weekend and I'm really looking forward to our live events next year. We will be going one step further, at least adding a 3rd event to the roster, and then who knows...

As well as all our successful academies, we did a free poker workshop inviting players who hadn't played on Black Belt Poker for a while. The venue was, of course, the Vic and this was the first project I was fully in charge of. I was very happy with the end result and think we learned a lot to fully unleash this once again later in the year. Here is the Vic looking all tidy before we started:


This was, shamelessly, the first time I'd heard any of our pro's in an academy type setting and I was really blown away, especially by Blue Belt Kevin Williams. It's not that long ago I was learning the cutting edge of 6max theory (5 years) but the game is completely different today. We watched Kevin play for a while and some of his theories were amazing. My favourite was bluffing one street knowing we would get called so we could get more money in the pot knowing another barrel would make them fold. Awesome.

We also did something a little similar for high roller players, inviting them for a free night out at the Ritz and offering them something a little special. I didn't attend as it was a school night, but it went well and we have a new Blue Belt from it, Mr Ross Jarvis.

For those who couldn't make the event we did a follow up one at the Vic and had a low turnout (one person lol) but the night was a fun one. We decided to sit down for dinner which was superb (Grosvenor food in general is excellent, Genting food however is TERRIBLE). Neil got a call while at the table and said we were going to be joined by a guest, which turned out to be none other than Ms Jennifer Tilly! Yes she's made a few errors on screen playing poker but she's had an amazing career (see the excellent 'Bound') and it was fascinating spending time with her, she had some great stories about the big Hollywood poker games and she was very down to earth.

Online we hosted the iPops, the iPoker Online Poke Series, which had $1m in Guarantees. This was super sick and one the online tournament pro's really shouldn't of missed out on as there was over $100k in overlays! Whether this will happen again or not is anyones guess, but I'm sure someone at iPoker is in trouble.

Last week we had the office christmas party at, your guessed it, the Vic. Great food and great banter, all the BBP pro's and office staff came together as well as Ken from Northern Poker Stars and Karl from the Little Vic in Slough.

The food was great and afterwards we had a £100 SnG. I was eager to play but against a lineup of Channing, Wooldridge, Bradpiece, Williams and Burland it was not a great idea, so I sold half my action to a missing Sam Razavi.

Whilst nearly everyone else had had a drink, I drove in and actually tried to win the damned thing. I said to myself I was going to play tight but couldn't help raising T5o in late position and getting called by Bradpiece on the button. An 88J flop wasn't great and I was sure if I bet I was getting called, but I bet anyway. The turn T was a lucky card for me and usually I would check here, but I wanted to stick with my plan and try double barreling, assuming Jerome called me on an obvious floatable flop. I bet again and Jerome finally folded, claiming 9's. Yes! What an ego booster.

I continued playing aggressive before getting my dream two opponents 3 handed, Mr Channing and Mr Wooldridge:


With the blinds nice and high and some decent shoving spots, I made quick work of these two amateurs and took it down. It's going to be a fun year of bragging in the office. In fact, the first thing I will say when going back in tomorrow is 'anyone played any poker over the holidays?' and 'I only played once, but won' hahaha.

I've been playing quite a bit of poker, trying to play at least one tournament a week. I've been playing most my poker at The Little Vic (an article I wrote about the place) which has been fun, but I've not had many results, save for a couple of final tables. I've travelled around a little and had another final table at the Western, but again not for much. The biggest win I had was the christmas party SnG. However, I do think I've had my best year ever, with 3 wins, so that feels good.

My poker plans aren't changing much really, just trying to play whenever possible. Now BBP has Razz, I'm going to try and play that as much as possible, but really I'm not planning on doing anything serious.

After missing last year, I made the trip to PITP this year to see BBP win a couple of awards. We were going to host a tent, but after getting a quote and analysing player performance from last year, we decided it wasn't a cost effective exercise. I bumped into Sam Trickett for the fist time in a couple of years and it was great to see him and humbling he seemed so happy to see me. For those that don't know, I was one of Sam's agents in my first major poker role, the head UK agent for PokerIcons. This was sadly just before Sam broke into the big time, otherwise I'd be driving a Porsche now instead of being in debt!

Anna came with me and we headed into China Town for some munch:


(mmmm, beer in the photo, brb getting one...ahhh nice) Sadly we ended up in a restaurant that catered mainly for real Chinese people as the food was 'weird', no sweet and sour british chinese food in sight! It was still nice though and afterwards I took Anna on her first gambling expedition, first to the Empire where she hit a number on the nose playing roulette and then to the G Casino where we had cocktails and I won a little playing BlackJack. I've started teaching Anna to play poker as it I'd love to take her to some small competitions, it will be interesting to see how the guys react to playing against a tiny asian girl!

I've been on the hunt for a decent pair of Noise Cancelling headphones after my Bose QuietComfort 2's literally fell apart. I've had them for the best part of 5 years and they've been used vigorously, so they'v done the job well. I researched hard to find a cheaper replacement as the Bose's go for ~£27o new. I first tried the JVC HA-NC250's which had great reviews on Amazon and were only £81.

In terms of sound quality and noise cancelling capabilities they were great, however, I found the on-ear design (as opposed to the Bose over or around ear design) became super uncomfortable about a couple of hours use. A shame but they had to go back. I then tried the Sony MDR-NC60 which were a little more pricy at £135, but had the over ear design I needed. They were super comfortable and the noise cancelling was fine, but they picked up and amplified the signal noise from my BlackBerry like crazy, making it unbearable without having the phone miles away from you. I could of gone back to using an iPod, but these days I like travelling as light as possible and having a 35GB memory card in my phone means I shouldn't have to use anything else.

So back to square one, looks like I will have to shell out for the Bose's. I'm a little worried as there's been two models since the QC 2's, the QC 3 (which were on ear) and the new QC 15, which go back to the QC 2 over ear design.

Am still building up my Cigar collection and my humidor is now bursting at the seems:


Holy cow, the SMELL when opening it up is amazing. I shall definitely partake later on tonight. Here is a recent pic of me and Anna on a nice cold evening while I was puffing away. I really like this one:

And another of her looking beautiful after we had a little candle lit dinner:


TV wise I watched all of Breaking Bad an loved it, for the most part anyway. It dragged a few times but the ending of Season 4 was amazing. Looking forward to Season 5, who knows where they'll take it. Also watched The Walking Dead and enjoyed it too, the same thing it dragged but the mid season finale was pretty epic and the preview makes it look like it will step up a gear when it comes back.

Curb Your Enthusiasm was awesome. That's all that can be said. Movie wise I've not really been impressed much this year, although X Men First Class was brilliant. Here are my epic moments of 2011 (SPOILERS OF THE ABOVE SHOWS/FILMS):

The end of Gus. Holy FUCK this was amazing. I loved this character and the fact he went out the way he always lived, being smart and professional.

The hunt for Sophia was pretty boring and drawn out, but I never would of guessed her end. When you saw one more person was coming out the barn, you knew it was her, great ending.

What can you say, the bringing together of my two favourite comedians, and a proud day for all us Readingensian's.

It was brilliant to see Kevin Bacon back in a popular movie and his end, plus the creation of evil magneto, was great viewing.



And finally, it was a big year for UFC. Am looking forward to seeing Overeem take the title, but my favourite fight was a short one, Mir breaking Big Nog's arm. Amazing show of Jiu Jutsu.

Music wise I've had a nice and varied year. I won't go into it but here are my top artists of 2011 according to last.fm:

1. The Black Dog
2. Stars of the Lid
3. Back to Comm
4. Brian McBride
5. Jóhann Jóhannsson
6. Clams Casino
7. The Flashbulb
8. The Sight Below
9. Kriptic Minds
10. M83

So, a recap of last years resolutions (blog). I'm actually quite proud with what I've achieved.

1. Advance my experience/career/results as much as I have done over the last year.

What can I say about this one. This time last year I was sat in my room all day every day struggling with my last job and now I'm working in London for Black Belt Poker. I more than achieved this goal.

2. Work in a more efficient manner.

I achieved this by default as working for Black Belt Poker means regular(ish) office hours so I sleepy normal times and pack as much work as possible into the times I'm at my desk.

3. Take up a martial art.

I DID IT! Finally! After years of saying I'd do it, last month I joined a local MMA school. I almost started Wing Chun, but a friend was starting MMA and deep down I knew that was what I wanted to do. First the first year or so I'm just attending their striking classes, a hybrid style including elements of Mui Thai, American Kickboxing, Boxing, Karate and San Shou, which they call Thai Kik Jutsu. I am LOVING it, it's such a great workout. Here is the promo video of my school and what they do:


It's the perfect school for me as it combines everything I'd want out of martial arts. Effective styles (striking and grappling, I wont be doing the Kung Fu) with just a little bit of tradition (uniforms and gradings). Looking forward to getting my Yellow Belt this year!

4. Become healthy.

This one has been a fail. For most of the year I stopped playing squash and except a few sporadic diets where I lost some weight, I'm back to square one. However, I'm not too disappointed as I've made preparations to start getting fit with the MMA training and have joined the squash league again. I will touch back on this in 6 months.

5. Complete at least one large personal project, either launching a small business, finishing a poker documentary or releasing a piece of music.

Another majority fail. I've done little tweaks here and there on each thing though, so not completely stagnant.

Here are this years resolutions.

1. Make some big achievements with Black Belt Poker.

Hard to qualify what this is going to be, but I will know in my heard next year if I've worked as hars as I could have.

2. GET HEALTHY (inc. get my yellow belt and win squash league).

I'm turning 27 in a couple of weeks, so using my youth to compensate for bad eating habits has finish. I will get healthy this year and have two mini goals of getting my yellow belt in kickboxing and winning at least one squash league.

3. Complete a creative project.

This is releasing a piece of music, launching a small business or doing a mini film. I still have a few of these in progress and there's no reason why I can't finish one this year.

So that's it. If I can achieve these three things, it will of been a good year.

Hope everyone has a cracking 2012.