My official retirement as a professional poker player
Open letter to family & friends.
I have made the decision to retire from poker. I remember once telling Dan, a poker buddy that I met in Buenos Aires “I will never retire from poker”. That was early in may I believe.
Previously in my life I have tried to do multiple things at once. Doing so often leads to procrastination and I end up doing everything half hearted and more importantly I end up drained.
The more time passes, the less poker I am playing and the more I focus on BlissfulWays.
I always have an obsession, when I was 14 it was Counter-Strike (a computer game that most of you have heard of). Without shame that’s how I met Simon.
While I was trying to become the next star in Counter-Strike I also tried to become the next awesome designer, I was teaching myself Photoshop. Both activities became boring so I had to find a substitute, that’s how I entered the Linux world, arguably influenced by Simon, I learned a lot about linux and at the same time I was trying to learn how to program, by doing so I became friend’s with Angel Leon which at the time was LimeWire’s Web Developer.
I never got particularly good at Photoshop and I never really learned how to program. Despite my obsession towards both, I think that I was trying to do too many things at the same time.
Pieces of my Poker Story for those who would like to know.
Through Counter-Strike, I met Luis Hermoso, he lives in the same city I did and he used to be a student in the same school I was going to (we never met in School). At some point in 2006 he introduced me to poker, at first I was really skeptical and declined because “I was too busy”.
Months later, Luis told me that he had won $600 (or so) by positioning 3rd (or so) in a tournament. That was mind blowing and enough to get me going.
From there despite being underage I started on a very random poker room, Golden Riviera. (I had my parents consent, I think it was a very good call from them despite what most people might think…)
I deposited $20 or so that my mother gave me out of faith believing that I could do something good with it. Long story short: I was very naive and very dumb, I raised those $20 with Luis help to $100 on the poker tables, then one night, I lost it all. Not at the poker tables but at the roulette table, a Martingale anecdote, everyone in the poker world seems to have.
My soul was crushed, I wanted to cry, I was making some money before through my blog but $100 was a lot of money to me. Possibly a whole month of work with the blog if not more.
At that time I was still blogging and trying to make some pennies in the Internet world through my blog. The more I did poker the less I did blogging. I had some money saved in a paypal account, around $100.
I never felt ready to leave the blogging world behind, in fact I have been paying for the hosting since then even though I never used it, I am very glad of that, otherwise I would have never started BlissfulWays
I knew there was money to be made in poker, I was sure of it. I wanted a second chance but I couldn’t ask anybody for money, that was not fair. Luis for some reason needed around $100 in paypal, I asked him if he wanted my $100 in paypal in exchange for the same amount in a poker site, we ended up doing the swap.
Here I am now, with a shiny $100 in my new poker account in a less random poker site (a very reliable one).
I was still dumb. The first week I lost $80 leaving me with $20. If at the beginning my soul was crushed now it didn’t exist.
I was determined to make this work, my ego wouldn’t let me fail at this. I downloaded a bunch of books in pdf format, around eleven. I read all of them in a week. I also came across with a System for microstakes, specifically 2NL (the lowest stake you can think of in the poker world).
By this time I was aware of bankroll management (arguably the most important concept in poker). I didn’t had enough for the 20 buy ins rule of thumb, so I had to shortstack (buy in for 50 big blinds) for a while, using the strategy I found turned out to be the best decision I took in regards of my poker career. I won $260 or something close to that in the very first month after I decided to take a more scientific approach to poker. That month I was really happy. I never thought of making millions, but a couple of hundreds seemed doable.
I kept moving up through stakes, always struggling but making improvements. Then I hit some milestones, the first milestone was one month where I won more than $1000 was in 25NL. (0.10/0.25 cents blinds for those who know a bit about the game). I was in ecstasy. (This was around six months after starting out again with my last $20 )I started to think about a couple of thousands a month and that was going to be a good living, considering my age and my location. (16, Venezuela).
I kept moving up through stakes always discussing strategy and willing to learn more everyday, I became a junkie of twoplustwo strategy forums, Luis and I always had a hand to discuss or a concept or a theory, we always ranted about poker and we used to spent a lot of time together, poker was always the topic to talk about.
My next milestone was the first month I made $10000. I earned Ten Thousand American Dollars in the span of one month (around 100 hours) . By this time I haven’t finish school, I am four months away to finish it, I rarely spent time doing homework, my homework was poker, study poker, learn poker, get better at poker. By this time things started to get more serious. (I mostly outsourced my homework to a classmate or did the homework in school, in case you are wondering…)
I have played for long now and never had a losing month. By this time I didn’t spent a lot of money, in fact my living habits were the same, I didn’t ask my parents for money but still it was not a lot that I was spending regardless. (less than $200 a month, possibly much less.)
The last year of high school, towards the end I played very little poker. My friends from high shool and I had a trip of one week to Margarita Island, Venezuela, to celebrate our graduation. I am proud to say that I payed for that myself with money I earned through poker.
In that trip I met a lot of people from the same city I was living in, Maracaibo. We became very frequent party acquaintances, partying every weekend (literally).
I played very little poker in those times. Around six to seven months after that mayhem, I got bored of it, so much partying became really boring.
I was now in the position to play a lot more poker simply because I didn’t had a lot to do, I even tried to enroll to med school (mostly to make my parents and family members happy because they really wanted me to go to university), turns out that is not my thing, too long of a career, kind of boring and honestly I am not passionate about it..
I realised that I was not going to go to school and if I ever did it was probably going to be philosophy school or psychology school. I have always been fascinated by how the mind work.
I was being an idealistic back in those days. I wanted to travel and see the world, I had money, my poker earning were steady and I knew that I had the knowledge to beat it. I didn’t had a passport, some bureaucracy problems, I had to wait over a year. I got my passport the last days of september of 2009.
I was unsure where to go, I always wanted to go to Thailand, there was a huge pool of poker players residing there and I have family in Hong Kong, if I ever decided that I was bored in Thailand I could visit my family in Hong Kong.
Instead, I decided to go to Colombia with Luis, we bought a plane ticket to Bogota, October 3 of 2009 we flew over there. The plane ticket return day was October 13, our plan was pretty much to know Bogota and Medellin if we had enough time.
We ended up traveling Colombia for 31 days, and visiting Bogota-Salento-Medellin-Santa Marta-Cartagena. In other words, we backpacked half Colombia. I could have never afforded to do this without poker. In medellin we met other poker players, two of them lived in Buenos Aires before.
After coming back from Colombia I felt like living in a bigger city, seeing more of the world. Maracaibo, my hometown, was feeling small. Four months after, in February 2, Luis and I, move to Buenos Aires, there were a lot of poker players living there.
I was going to live on my own for the very first time. I knew a local, Esteban, I had given him some poker coaching.
In Buenos Aires, we rented a furnished two bedroom apartment for three months. After that Luis had to go back to Venezuela. (I went to Uruguay for a visa renewal over those three months with Nathenael, a former poker player… I used to tell jokes about how he was going to return to poker in two months.)
I decided to stay in Buenos Aires indefinitely (I didn’t feel like going back home), after all I was going to cooking clases (which I failed).
I rented out an studio apartment for myself and for the very first time of my life I was living truly on my own and alone. I was 18 by this time. It was a very nice experience to live on my own and in my own place.
Now, most of the poker players I had met in Buenos Aires were leaving, I could have stayed in Buenos Aires, besides people leaving the weather was getting worse, I really like the 12-16 degrees Buenos Aires and the fact that I can communicate with most people makes it a real nice place. (After all Spanish is my mother language)
Kind of randomly, I made the decision to visit my family in Hong Kong, for a moment I thought of going to Thailand instead but I said to myself that I could always flight from Hong Kong to Thailand after all they are really close.
In all this time, I am playing less and less poker. What at some point was my obsession, the thing I did and talked about all day long because I enjoyed it turned out to be my job.
The fact that I was not enjoying poker as much as I previously did made it more obvious that I was exchanging my time for hours, just like a normal job or a freelance job. At the same time I have been trying to build Blissfulways. In the past four months we have had many fails in Blissfulways and many new ideas, we started with Gossip Philippines, which was arguably one of the biggest mistakes and yet possibly one of the greatest lessons we have encounter.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for all of what I have learned through poker. Possibly not other job would teach what poker taught me.
Some teachings from poker that extrapolate to life:
- Bankroll management: In poker you don’t play a game that if you lose you are broke. This was a recurrent mistake I did at the beginning and learned the hard way.
- Emotional control: There are so many situations in poker that will make you angry, losing a pot where you were 90% or 99% favorite to win, for example, it happens more often that you might think. In poker terms: Learn not to tilt.
- Table selection: Pick tables where you can win at, pick markets that you can beat.
- Strategy: There are millions of ways to approach a problem, which way is more profitable?
- Improvement: There’s always room to improve.
- Learning curve: There are a lot of things to improve and to learn, those take time and more importantly you need to fail before you succeed.
- Variance: Randomness can be a bitch. Learn to work with it.
- Identify the edge: Where does the money come from?
For those wondering about stakes: I climbed up the ladder from 2NL to 1000NL with some sporadic shots at 2000NL and one epic shot at 5000NL.
BlissfulWays, life and final words
In August 3 of 2010, I received the bad news that my grandmother passed away (my mother’s mom). I hadn’t play any poker in about a week and after that I really didn’t feel like playing. Poker is certainly an activity that drains my brain.
Today, nineteen days after that, I have took a decision that I believe I took long time ago, possibly I was in denial, now I have accepted it.
I am retiring from poker. I believe that’s imperative that I quit poker in order to dedicate myself fully to build BlissfulWays
BlissfulWays is my new and shiny obsession. I am sure I am going to fail many times, is part of the learning curve, I just have to do it enough and one day it will take off.
That’s it. In simple words I am not going to play Poker. I have around one year of expenses in savings. I am giving myself one year to build some cash flow through BlissfulWays. If I ever need to exchange my time for money Poker will always be there and there are many other jobs that I could take (maybe flip burgers in McDonald’s).
I can only finish this by asking all of you to wish me Good Luck (despite that I think of myself as a not superstitious at all)
Thanks for reading.