May 11, 2013
There was some big news in the online poker world today, where some recorded conversations basically outed certain people as admitting to cheating poker players at Ultimate Bet and then trying to cover it up. No need for me to rehash that here, check out this link if you want to read more: http://www.legalpokersites.com/blog/travis-makar-releases-damaging-ultimate-bet-recordings/4044/
March 12, 2013
I've really only recently learned how much value there is by not taking every edge you can get. When you spend a lot of time gambling professionally you have to develop somewhat of a "take any edge I can get" mentality and constantly evaluate every decision based on whether or not it's likely to make money or lose money over the course of time. If it's a money making situation, you take it, if not, you pass. It's pretty simple when you think about it.People who are "good at business" take a similar approach. Your job is to make good decisions, over and over. They aren't always financially related, but ultimately they all collectively contribute towards pushing the organization towards making more money. There are exceptions, but not a lot of them.It's very easy to evaluate every decision in a vacuum. "What is best for the organization?" "How can we get more value of [something] or pay less money for [something]." "How can we get the deal terms to be better for our company?" These types of questions are often straightforward on the surface, certain factors are either better or worse for your organization. What I have come to learn is that the real difficulty is deciding when to knowingly compromise on what you could get in order to intangibly help some greater good. Maybe you give a key employee more flexibility on working out of the office, maybe it's offering better deal terms to a startup you are working with who you know could use the extra resources to make their business work long term, maybe it's taking the worst of an initial deal because you think building a relationship has upside down the line. It's really hard to quantify this stuff.Furthermore, it can become extraordinarily grating to deal with people who take every little edge they can get. There's been a few times where it's just become so nauseating to me that anytime that situation comes up it immediately makes my stomach churn. It is also incredibly refreshing to associate with people who are "reasonable" and you just know you'll quickly get to a fair resolution.There is an art to balancing all of this stuff, and I'm convinced that truly grasping it is what separates the elite from the "merely" successful. I definitely have a lot to improve in this area, but I'm a hell of a lot more aware of this than I used to be, so that's a start.
March 05, 2013
In recent years I've started to learn how important focusing on what I am calling "everyday happiness" can be. There's probably a more scientific word for this, but I don't know what to call it other than everyday happiness.I think a lot of high achieving people focus on big goals and think to themselves "when I get there, THEN life will be great!" A promotion, vacation, starting their own business, getting married, having a kid, retirement, etc. Things to look forward to in life, of varying degrees of significance.I am a very goal oriented person, I really like setting and working towards big goals. I used to find myself constantly rationalizing big goals in my head and being like "oh, if only I could get to this much money in poker winnings, or if only we could grow our business to this size, or I can't wait until this next big vacation when I can get some time off, etc."I've come to realize the fallacy of this way of thinking. I think you need to flip your outlook and make important the more everyday parts of life. Whether your job, your family, friends, your morning coffee, your workout, it could really be anything(s). The truth is, the big stuff is great to work towards, but the journey (anticipation) are often just as rewarding as the actual event, and after it's over, if you're like me, you're left wondering "what's next?" I think that if you aren't careful, you'll find yourself looking back on all the big stuff you did, not feeling like you thought you would, wondering "wow, why didn't I find more happiness from the in between?"I guess the practical takeaway of this is that whenever I find myself not "enjoying the everyday," I know it's time to make a change. Take some time off work, find a new hobby, switch up my routine, whatever it may be. I do try to set ambitious and fun long term goals and work towards them, but I'm at my happiest when everyday stuff feels stimulating, and I'm placing more emphasis on trying to optimize for that.EDIT: Someone tweeted at me saying the topic of this blog post was similar to that of a popular new book called "the Myths of Happiness." A couple months ago I had heard there was a book on misconceptions about happiness, but I haven't read the book and I don't really know anything about it. If anyone has read the book, I'd love to hear the similarities and differences between my thoughts and things discussed in the book. Check out the book here -- http://www.amazon.com/The-Myths-Happiness-Should-Shouldnt/dp/1594204373
February 07, 2013
Things that are hard to measure and understand are most interesting to me. I've never been one to enjoy crunching a bunch of numbers knowing you'll get to an absolute solution, rather I like the mystery of kind of not knowing if you'll even figure something out or if there's a even a worthwhile problem to figure out. I think these situations make up a bigger part of life than they are given credit for, so I decided to list some aspects I've been thinking about as they relate to poker and business.PokerMost successful online players have a strong, math-based approach to the game. Most situations are generally "solved" in the sense that there is usually a widely accepted best decision to make. The math don't lie. Math doesn't lie, but it also doesn't tell the whole story. The math only works as well as the assumptions put in. The key to poker is making good assumptions about the likelihood of various things happening, and then making mathematically sound decisions based on those inputs.There are many players who have achieved great success with a less than a perfect fundamental poker game, and very few of the highest stakes players in poker would fit the stereotypical "poker math nerd" mold. I've always been of the opinion that "personal management" in poker is the most underrated part of the game. I think strong personal management was probably the biggest reason I was able to make a lot of money in poker.Personal management is everything from getting yourself into the best poker games, picking the best seat, keeping the game lively and fun, quitting when you aren't playing well, playing your A or B game often, not playing your F game, bankroll management, choosing the right poker variant to play, keeping a network of funding available for special situations, avoiding -EV gambling situations at the poker table (& away from it), and more. Notice not one of these things has anything to do with how you actually play your cards.The guy with the best personal management in poker is Phil Ivey. This is a funny statement to make because he's also one of the biggest gamblers away from the table. You can be a big gambler away from the poker table but still have great personal management, -EV game leaks are only one part of the equation. Furthermore, I would guess that Phil isn't getting the worst of it in these situations as much as people generally assume but I can't prove that. There's no doubt that his "gamble on anything" reputation helps him get action in situations where he does believe he is +EV, so it's possible his non-poker gambling is actually +EV when you consider all factors.The thing I've always admired most about Phil's poker game is his ability to quit. He's known to play marathon live poker sessions and definitely has as much poker stamina as anyone (except Phil Laak). But after losing a quick pot, the guy has quit seemingly juicy online games after only playing 5 or 10 hands. I mean that's fucking crazy when you think about it. NO ONE does that. The truth is that you don't play your best when you are losing. Poker is a game played by humans and humans are human. We make mistakes and have perceptions and tendencies that change as the game conditions change. I think a lot of great poker players are really misguided on this topic.These are just some quick thoughts on the matter, but Phil approaches personal management in poker different than anyone I have seen. Shouldn't it be really surprising to us that a guy who likely doesn't use Hold'em Manager and has never watched a training video is the biggest winner ever online? There has to be something else, and there is, and it's rarely talked about.BusinessIn the tech world especially, there is a lot of emphasis placed on getting the best technology team possible. Even in just normal everyday business, people tend to think that if you want to build the best house then you need to find the best builder(s), if you want the best restaurant then you get the best chef(s), etc. Well, it just doesn't really work like this. And even if so, how do you actually get the best people? Do they just naturally come to your company because you have money to pay them or because you have some great idea? (no)A lot of business just comes down to what I will call "getting the deal done." That's my not so scientifically named catch-all for just figuring shit out and closing the deal. Selling to customers, hiring employees, partnerships, buying companies, settling employee arguments, getting a new product developed, whatever it is, it very often comes down to just "getting the deal done." Whether or not "deals get done" is really is all about figuring out what is important to all parties involved and moving all the pieces towards a common goal. This is a lot harder than it sounds.Even if you can figure out exactly what is most important to each party, there is an art to getting to the end game. As mentioned above in the poker example, people are humans. They have egos, feelings, and biases. You can't simply just call out "okay you want this, I want this, let's meet in the middle." There are often times people don't even know what they want or the hide their true motivations. There is this massive, hidden value, in being good at this stuff. People always ask me "how do you run internet businesses when you can't build websites?" Well, at least up until now, I've figured out how to find people that can build good websites. It hasn't always been easy. I couldn't even begin to sit here and tell you exactly how I have done it, but I would bet that I will continue to be able to do it.I thought I could write some more articulate things on the business side of this post but I really can't get it out there exactly as I want (sign of an interesting topic i hope). This is something I'll keep thinking about as I get more business experience.As always I appreciate comments, follows / comments on twitter, and sharing this post if you enjoyed it.
January 28, 2013
It dawned on me this weekend that 10 years
ago this month I tried to play online poker for real money for the
first time. Emphasis on tried, I wasn't able to successfully do it.I
returned to school in January 2003 for my second semester at Illinois.
College is a joke at the beginning of each semester so I had more time
than normal to screw around and do nothing (above and beyond the normal
ridiculous amounts of screwing around and doing nothing).I
was playing a lot of poker in the dorms, having responded to random
flyers on bulletin boards for dorm games and also playing with
people on my floor. Keep in mind that this was right around when the WPT
was starting. Moneymaker hadn't won the WSOP yet and poker wasn't
really "hot" per se, but it was still pretty popular. I didn't know one other person that was playing online poker at the time, but for whatever reason I decided I needed to play online poker. I
didn't have my own credit card, the one my parents got me was tied to
their bank account and was only to be used for stuff they would pay for
like food and school related expenses. So I called up my mom one night
and told her that I was going to play online poker and that I would just
pay them in cash for any money I deposited into my online poker
account.Her immediate reaction was "no." I can be pretty
convincing at times but this argument was not winnable. If you think
online poker is shady today, playing online poker in January of 2003 was
more so viewed as "stupid" and not "degenerate." It was just not
something people did. Hell, using a credit card on the internet was
viewed as "dangerous" by anyone over the age of 25. The good news was
that she said she didn't care if I played as long as I could figure out a
way to get my own money on there and not attach it to my parents credit
cards or bank accounts.Being 19 and having a million
things vying for my attention, I instead chose to play more video games
and keep my poker playing to live games around campus. Side note, it's
funny how small random things can change your life forever, to me poker
was just one of many recreational choices, it's conceivable I could have
found some video game to suck up my college years instead of giving
poker a try again later.When I got home that summer I
figured out how to get started with online poker without having a
personal credit card. I opened up a NETeller account and had to actually
go to the bank to get it properly setup (this was actually before my
bank had online banking).I had a full time job as a
lifeguard that summer but by the end of the summer i had convinced
myself I didn't need to work much and I could just play online
poker. I was probably making five bucks an hour at this point so it
wasn't a ridiculous proposition when compared to $7.50 an hour to sit in
the sun all day, but it was still pretty naive.The
good news is that sometimes naive decisions work out really well. The
bad news is that life is a long time so I'll have to wait until I'm on
my death bed to see if this career path shook out for the best,
I'm thinking it will though.
January 02, 2013
Pretty simple resolution for this year: Twelve small, one-month
resolutions. The resolutions will be "self-improvement" of some sort,
but could range from health, work, leisure, or really anything I guess. None of
them will be overly difficult, but hopefully some will stick and make a
positive impact on my life. I'm making no commitments to sticking to
anything past one month, though.The idea for this
resolution came from reading an article recently about forming good
habits. Basically the theory goes that you need to start with small
habits and build from there rather than trying to start with a big goal.
Pretty obvious stuff when you stop to think about it, but how often do
you hear people say "I'm going to get in shape" rather than "I'm going
to start by walking a mile 3 days a week and build a good workout
routine from there."I have only figured
out the first habit so far. It will be that I'm not going to use a
microwave during the month of January. Microwaving food is probably not a
great thing in and of itself, but the food that you often microwave is
mediocre quality at best so it's a pretty bad habit to be using it as
much as I do.If you have any good ideas of habits feel free to comment in the blog or if you don't have a CR account tweet at me @taylorcaby.
November 27, 2012
If you've followed this blog over the years then you may have noticed its wild transformation over time. What started in 2006 as essentially a poker journal evolved through various transitional periods. Posts ranged from very short to pages long and topics varied wildly (as did the level of emotional baggage aired out to the world, but I digress).My opinion on the value of blogging has changed a lot as well and I think talking about why is an interesting topic.I've long been a big believer in developing your personal internet presence / reputation. It's pretty much your own brand, but it's on the internet. The main reason why I'm such a big fan is that it allows for (good) randomness to occur. It's kind of like taking the positive benefits of attending lots of networking events -- and then somehow injecting steroids into those benefits (actually it's like taking HGH, steroids are so 1999).As long as you work at giving people a realistic shot to actually find you (which is another post), anyone truly can and eventually will read what you're doing. You aren't limited by people at one event, one city, one industry, etc. Below are the major reasons why I think keeping a solid blog is so important.Differentiation from the crowdSometime in 2010 when I truly realized the value of Twitter, I started to doubt the importance of keeping a good blog. I thought to myself "why waste the time and effort to write longer stuff when I can share short bursts of insight and get almost the same value, plus build a directly engaged audience? It's also a lot less time consuming." Twitter is mega powerful and a great way to express thoughts and ideas. However, many if not most "driven" people are now utilizing the platform (to varying degrees), making it hard to stand out. There's also the crowd who will never get on Twitter and thus won't see content here. Finally, Twitter (and Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and the shift to mobile) have led a surge of just generally short and I'll say "simple" content across the web. They just make it so easy to produce this type of content so people do what's easy.So, by keeping a good old fashioned blog, there's built in value in just being different. An aside, but I think taking a different position from "the crowd" is one of the single most important things you can do in life. If you take the same approach as most, you'll get the same results as most. Think about that. Given the fact that most people are unwilling to put the extra work in, take the relatively cheap value and be different. You can spend 2 hours a week on your blog and be way ahead of the curve.It's harder and harder to find great content onlineI've been a hardcore internet user since the first time I got on AOL when I was ~12. What started out as mostly geeks, early adopters, and kids posting whatever the hell they felt like has now evolved into a more "mainstream" internet audience. The internet truly is a pretty good sample of the general population. When you combine this with the fact that the "business" side of the internet has evolved to the point where getting eyeballs is more of a science than anything else, you have a recipe for formulaic, cookie cutter, headline grabbing, and just generally shitty content that's the path of least resistance to making dollar bills. Search engines and now even social media "tastemakers" are dominated by companies who are profit maximizing. While great for a few people's bottom lines, the content pumped out is usually pretty meh.You can write short but still worthwhile blog postsThis sounds really silly but I used to think you had to have some amazingly long and well constructed post to really provide any value to people. Some of my favorite blogs these days are by people who just post an idea and a couple paragraphs supporting it. If you're into technology and startups I definitely recommend checking out Chris Dixon's blog, (@cdixon on Twitter, good follow). I pretty much have him to thank for turning me on to simple ideas as blog posts. Feel free to tell him he should read my blog and / or follow me on twitter if you really like me.The future is uncertain, but it will be more efficientAt a very high level, the connected nature of our world is breaking down barriers to entry in nearly every industry (ironically less true in my industry, gaming) and the people that truly bring the most value stand the most to gain from this. I have this vague idea that somehow in the future we are all going to have a personal "score" loosely comparable to a credit score. It's theoretically possible that through science and art some company is going to create some system whereby we can "prove" to others that we rank highly in some way.For example, if I have a widely read and shared blog about [some topic], an engaged Twitter following of people known to be in [that industry], good peer / supervisor reviews and endorsements, relevant job experience, some "thing" should exist that more easily conveys this information to people who would want to know about it, ie potential employers, others with similar interests, etc. I don't know how exactly this stuff is going to evolve but I know it's going to evolve. I believe that I have a lot to offer as an entrepreneur and as a member of the online poker / gaming industry, so continuing to build and convey my skills and ideas seems like a no-brainer towards getting ahead in this future I envision.You learn from making mistakes and from people who know more about something than you do.You can read my previous blog post for more on this, but posting on a blog and interacting with other people is a great way to learn. Back in the days where we used to have a much larger membership (pre Black Friday) some of my posts woud get dozens of replies, I learned a lot from them and always appreciated the feedback. The way CR's blogs are setup now you have to be a CR member to comment on things. We're going to change it so anyone can leave feedback and I look forward to interacting with people on here.It forces you to actually learn and do things.The more you say, the more you better know. As someone talks, it becomes a lot easier to tell if they know what they are talking about. In this day and age, there is a LOT of talking and not enough doing. It's insanely easy to spout off some confident sounding tweets or paraphrase things you've heard other people say. Also, people are somehow "experts" at things after having spent a short amount of time in an industry or even worse having a "relevant" college degree. Let me tell you something, the real learning starts after college and really well into your career. I've definitely learned more in the past few years than I did in my early to mid 20's and I felt like I learned a lot at the time then.I've heard the reason people don't keep a blog is often "I don't have anything to talk about." If that's the case then I would argue that you aren't learning and doing enough. (or you just don't care to put the time in to keep a blog, which is fine, I realize it's not for everyone). If you are looking to get started, start small, read a book, read other blogs and just link to what you read and post what you learned or what you disagreed with, join a relevant internet community, take a class part time, anything. Just start talking about what you are doing.----Hopefully this got you thinking a little bit, I'll close by saying that every single time I've hired someone or looked into doing business with them I will always check what their internet presence looks like. If someone has an active presence, be it a homepage, Twitter, blog, really anything that just shows a little more about them in a positive way, it really gives them a bonus in my mind. I realize that I probably value this more than most, but doing so has been successful for me in finding good people so I'll keep doing that.Finally, I have to admit that my mom told me recently she's been enjoying my blog. I half doubt she made it this far, but that's definitely a little nudge in the right direction towards pushing my own blog forward.
November 19, 2012
I find "self improvement" to be one of the most intoxicating parts of life. It's a great feeling to better yourself in some way.In thinking about what actually makes it happen for me, it seems like it's always a product of:1. Making mistakes2. Learning from more experienced / skilled people (or resources)It's that simple. When I look back on situations where I was learning a lot I had a whole lot of both of these going on. Typically these times are some of the most rewarding in retrospect even if frustrating or difficult at the time.IMO, it's ridiculously easy to get into a routine. There was a period of maybe a year (late 09 to mid 10) where I didn't find my job that challenging and professionally I wasn't very happy. I didn't even really realize it until I look back on it. The money was good, the hours weren't long, it wasn't that challenging. Then we started building DraftDay and then Black Friday happened and it really kicked me into gear, partially out of necessity, but I wish I could have that time back because it was wasted just kind of floating along.Things are really challenging these days, I'm making mistakes, but learning, and I think it's leading to a lot of personal growth. I'll try to blog more about that sometime.Bottom line, if self improvement is important to you then a quick check of "do you have 1. and 2. from above in your life" is something I really recommend doing.
November 06, 2012
One of the things that always baffled me when I played high stakes poker was how there were so many so called poker geniuses* discussing high level poker theory on internet message boards. Here I was playing pretty much the biggest poker games you could find making good money doing it and yet there were regularly long, jargon filled posts that didn't make much sense to me. I always wondered how it was that these people were discussing strategies that either 1) genuinely confused me or 2) sounded like a really complicated way of saying something very obvious. I always wondered, "if these guys are so smart, why the hell aren't they beating me out of all of my money?"I've come to realize a similar phenomenon exists in everyday business and life. Maybe it's a sales guy throwing around the latest buzz words of the day explaining why you can't afford to not buy his product. Maybe it's someone interviewing for a job talking about all of the amazing previous successes they had in a confusing or overwhelming way.The smartest people I know typically make complicated things seem simple. Not the other way around. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and really try to boil everything you do down to its simplest form. Say it in a way that even a novice should be able to understand. This might be scary because you may realize you actually don't know what the hell you are talking about, but that's the first step towards actually figuring something out.*This is not to say there aren't actual poker geniuses discussing things on message boards. There are, and I've learned a ton from them, there's just way more people masquerading as poker geniuses than actual poker geniuses.
November 02, 2012
This phrase (which I'll take credit for coining) helps me think about business and life. I'm basically of the mindset that people overreact to almost everything and it leads to significant mistakes / problems / opportunities.At a very high level, some common overreactions: -Entrepreneurs and investors all piling into the same tired ideas. -Gamblers inferring too much from an insignificant sample size or unlucky break and losing their ability to make good objective decisions. -People making silly emotional decisions in their personal livesThe list goes on of ways that IMO people overreact to things. Off the top of my head, I put together a ridiculously random list of overreactions I have thought about recently.Overreaction: "I'm awesome because ____"Reality: You're probably not that awesome. The truth of the matter is that most people are very ordinary. Remember that and use it as motivation to try to become extraordinary (awesome).Overreaction: "My small business' social media presence is lacking. I need a world-beating social media strategy."Reality: Social media isn't always, or usually, the answer. It's okay if your small business doesn't have a robust social media strategy. Social media is best thought of as something to help magnify everything else you are doing. Use it to connect with customers and to show them you aren't some faceless corporation that doesn't understand we're all just humans. You probably aren't going to make significantly more or less money because of something you do or don't do with social media.Overreaction: "People from my peer group are doing such awesome and fun things (job, marriage, kids, vacations, etc). My life isn't exactly like how I imagine theirs to be and it's pissing me off."Reality: It's natural to compare yourself to peers, we all do it. Everyone's life could be better. Be glad you have your own, just live it. Try to keep in mind that people usually share their best moments on social media and exaggerate how great everything in their life is. Admittedly, avoiding this pitfall can be hard for me at times, my career path and life are somewhat abnormal and sometimes I long for something different. Overreaction: "XYZ happened in the NFL last week. Due to that, I think _____"Reality: People vastly underestimate the amount of variance in the NFL. One or two plays, often luck based, can have huge outcomes on games or fantasy football performances. Try to think more about historical trends that have significant samples sizes rather than inferring much or anything off a small number of games. My favorite example of this is from 2007 when the Patriots were steamrolling everyone by 2-3+ touchdowns for the first half of the year. They were playing the 5-5 Eagles on Sunday Night football. The point-spread was 24.5 points (!!!). Given how close NFL talent levels are and the luck involved on a game to game basis, a 24.5 point spread is outrageous, much less against a 5-5 team. This was an example of every casual fan overreacting to a hot team led by a superstar quarterback in a primetime game -- my guess is the true spread was close to 10 points lower.My recommendation is to try to avoid making any definitive judgements based off small sample sizes. Rather, look to go in the opposite direction when the most people are likely to be doing that.Bonus: I'm rooting for the 7-0 Atlanta Falcons to win their next 3+ games to get to a headline grabbing 10-0+. They've had the easiest schedule in the NFL to this point and have had some very close (lucky) wins. I'll then proceed to bet my net worth against them.Overreaction: "The world is changing so fast, this technology / practice / behavior is going to be dead soon."Reality: The world is changing faster than it ever has, but it doesn't change overnight. I don't think anyone can really predict adoption rates of new technologies and what will be built on top of them, but you should always remember: human nature and sound business principles don't change. If what you think is going to happen requires either of those to change, you're wrong about the future.I'd be curious to know if anyone got some value here -- you can reply in the comments or tweet me @taylorcaby.
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