Because I was involved in the “poker bubble” last decade, I saw the link to the housing bubble and overall easy monetary policy. Playing poker in Las Vegas, Arizona, and southern California, it was not hard to see how much dumb cash money was floating around those casinos, waiting to be taken by solid poker players. It did not always work out that way, and there were plenty of nights where math (favored hands with more cards to come) was trumped by short-term luck, but in the end math and discipline won out for me. You had plenty of situations where gamblers bought homes with no money down in Vegas, and then turned around to get home equity loans to use the cash as gambling money. Other types of loans were easy to come by as well.
I had three cardinal rules while playing full-time middle/high limit Texas Hold ’em out west, paying off my graduate school debt along the way:
- Only play when I find a game where I figure to have an edge over the other players, when I felt I was mentally and emotionally sharp.
- Never loan or borrow money to or from anyone.
- Never drink at the casino (save this exception I wrote about here)
Why not stay out there and play full-time now in lieu of dedicating myself to the markets? The poker bubble burst several years ago along with the debt bubble. While The Fed has left rates low, easy cash money with which to gamble is not easy to come by for the “marks” in the games I play. In other words, many of the suckers went broke and there was not a huge new wave of them to come and take their place. In essence, I would be putting my ego above my wallet by playing full-time poker in a post-bubble era, in slightly tougher games with less “action.”
Beyond that, I find what I do now infinitely more rewarding than the lifestyle that is being a successful poker player. Anyone can take cash into a casino and call themselves a gambler, but being a successful poker player and standing up to the countless wrong turns/vices that many can and do take is far more of a daily grind than the market will ever be to me.
I used to go to sleep at 7 or 8 o’clock at night and wake up around 2:30 a.m. to go to the casino in order to push my edge. By the time I got to the casino and was ready to play at that hour, most of the players would either be tired or drunk, and likely losing, as the winners were wrapping up a good session. It was not a lifestyle conducive to enjoying your social time much, as the people sitting at your poker table, however pleasant they would be, ultimately wanted to take every last cent you had to your name. You had to force yourself to be a bit paranoid and assume every person you met wanted to hustle you dry.
No, I was certainly not finding a cure for cancer, nor teaching impaired children how to read and write. Society ought not to have any sympathy for casino gamblers, and I knew I was on my own regardless of the outcome. But I did enjoy the challenge of keeping my guard up in the toughest of situations to make consistent money. I thrived on surviving while many around me went broke due to them placing the glamor of gambling and Las Vegas over the chess match that it truly is. I relied on my background as a tournament chess player as a kid, and my fascination with the strategy and coaching aspects while playing football and basketball later on.
I thrive on competition, and always have. Pressure breaks the weak or forms the diamond. It is very easy on the internet to claim to be something that you are not. To be sure, a few trolls here and there over the years have claimed I am nothing but this, that, or the other thing. In the end, though, the marketplace of readers and subscribers have voted resoundingly in my favor because I am indeed the exception to the rule–I am not after short-term greed. I believe in long-term success and forging lasting relationships through trust and integrity. Putting it all out there, consistently and with heart, every single day is the main way I strive to achieve that goal with my readers and subscribers.
The best way to do that is also by forgoing all of the short-term hustles you see on the web on a daily basis. I saw it with my own eyes every single day in casinos around the country, and I see it every day with online finance. Guys who try to flip a startup social media firm, pump-and-dump penny stock traders, they could not care less about long-term success, their members, users, subscribers, or readers. They want a quick hustle and then to pick up and leave the table. They are called “hit and run artists” in poker, guys who sit down, win a big hand, and then leave the table. Eventually, though, they either realize that is not a long-term strategy for success, or they hit-and-run themselves out of money.
Always being aware of the situation is also key. Consider the following clip from final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event 2005, right near the top of the housing bubble. You want irony? How about this–The final two players were both mortgage brokers!
Good read. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best most challenging game in the world, where you are pitting yourself against the best. That’s always been the challenge for me, and it never gets old.
Did you by any chance ever run into Gabe __ aka “Mr. Carter”? I heard that he was the man about town there. And had made a name for himself there.
I wanted to ask yesterday when you put up the Welcome Back track.
Anyway, I’d love to play cards looking over and seeing Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington be my competition.
I love reading candid posts like this. The team of bloggers here at iBC really are top notch people. I’m very new to the game but I have learned quite a bit about trading, as well as life, from reading your posts and just wanted to extend my gratitude for all the lessons you’ve laid down.
Fascinating stuff, Chess. Thanks for this post. Always wanted to know more about your background.
You are a great role model for all of us here. Focusing on long-term strategies for success. Integrity. Making sure you survive rather than taking undue risks. Words to live by.
And that’s a riot. 2 mortgage brokers, LOL.
Great post Chess. And what a clip!
Been reading for awhile and appreciate all the great advice.
Did you happen to play poker with Todd “Dan Druff” Witteles? I read some of his poker advice and you both have the same mindset.
Great post. Great strategy. I have always compared the stock market to one huge poker game. After playing all day in the stock market I play video poker for free drinks and food only.
Solid as always, chess. Your market recaps and 12631 service are phenom. Reading your gambling story brought me chuckes – I flipped houses to pay off my grad school debt.
I know what you mean about a poker grind. But the Online Sit-N-GO, if ever legalized, is the way to go (if vig is low). One great thing – you can’t make a HUGE ALL IN MISTAKE with this structure.
It’s Always Great. Thanx very much for sharing it with your readers
Indeed a nice biography with pearls of wisdom. Glad you are out and in a better place.
Poker is really folks fighting over one pie. No wealth created, no new ideas funded, no future.
Never much for the gambling myself. Too many vices already. But I was in Las Vegas a lot for business when poker was really popular and the poker rooms were really crowded. Seemed like a tough way to grind out a living for the guys who looked like pros.
Great stuff Chess. More posts like this IMO.
I learned interested marketing because of poker.. It was big and I found out online poker rooms wanted people to bring the customers and by don’t so you could earn a percentage of the rake. If poker fad was more than an easy money bubble I would have had some pretty serious stable income but after neteller went out and housing market came down there wasn’t much popularity left.
I’m still using Internet marketing to supplement income though, but no more gambling unless I take a vacation to Vegas for fun,
Fascinating story. I love poker. And I love trading.
… good stuff, chess !
Always thought Hachem looked a bit like Dylan Rattigan !
damn if i might ask how old r u?
and when i start school in october and won’t have the time to sit and do all the HW alone i’ll sign up to the 12631just because of your blog and you of course
Excellent post Chess, love the personal history.
Love the strategy of what time you went to go play poker, you found an edge. Thanks for sharing.
Wonderful life story. You are not even close to weaving even more interesting visits along the path.However, there are two words that never go away during this journey….GOOD LUCK.
I remember thinking that if poker was this big then things in the world were really out of control.
Wow. Interesting stuff!
Dear IBC Board,
Gift Che$$ a Mont Blanc.
(entertaining video too)
.:. $CZR: http://goo.gl/uyaIx
Two thumbs up, Chess!
That’s a great post Chess. I am happy to have you as my “advisor” on trading ideas. Your cautiouos advice on how to preserve my capital makes even more sense now. The market is a tough opponent
Nice post Chess…thanks for sharing.
Joe Hachem was a chiropractor.
and a mortgage broker http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Hachem
I likewise played seriously in Vegas for a while. I do think it’s the best possible training for the financial markets in general. But it does get a little old having to be constantly on guard.
I’ll still play the 40-80 limit holdem or 10-20 NL when I’m in town. Sometimes mixed games if they’re something other than 4 variants of triple draw (I’m sick of triple draw).
I’m not sure you’re right about the boom being over though – there are still plenty of crap players in those games even during normal hours. By 2am it’s a donkfest more often than not, even in otherwise leatherassed NL games.