Pesky ash and lucky cash

So, I’m back from a trip to Las Vegas. I was away for a week, although it looked for a while there that I’d be stuck out there a lot longer. I flew out there the day before the eruption from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano caused havoc with European airspace. If my return flight had been cancelled initial estimates suggested I would be stuck out there for another three weeks or so. ‘Stuck in Vegas. Oh no, what a nightmare!’ a couple of friends mocked — but the fact was that I had left my wife and boy at home and as much as I love Vegas I didn’t really relish the prospect being apart from them for that long.

Thankfully, my scheduled flight back was the first to leave McCarran International Airport after the ash worry had subsided, so I got home as planned. I did, however, still manage to miss my boy’s first ‘proper’ steps while I was away. My initial reaction was one of frustration and regret but looking back now I guess I could just as easily have been at work when it happened.

The highlight of the Vegas trip, perversely, came once I had been knocked out of a big tournament. A couple of friends and I entered the first WSOP Circuit Event at Caesar’s Palace, which had a $230 buy-in and nearly 400 entrants. The top 36 got paid so when I found myself still battling away late on Day One I quite fancied my chances of making the money. Unfortunately, I got moved to my friend’s table and we ended up both getting our relatively short stacks into the middle pre-flop with 42 players remaining in the tournament. He table 77 and my AQ failed to catch up by the river, meaning I was eliminated agonisingly close to the money.

He, however, continued to duck and dive all the way to the final table. They returned the next day to battle it out for the WSOP ring and a top prize of $15,000. Long story short, he played very well and finished up in 3rd place for $7,000. Thankfully for me, we had agreed to swap 10% of any winnings so I made a tidy little profit from the tournament despite bowing out earlier than I would have liked.

But I’m back now, as I say. And I’ve finally got what I think might be a viable premise for a novel. Where to go from here, I have no idea.

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Risk and reward

Despite initial job-hunting disappointment I was pleased to be invited to an interview for an SEO Copywriter position with a digital marketing agency in the local area. This was much more the kind of thing I wanted to land — close enough to what I had been doing previously to mean that I felt like I was progressing my career, while still being different enough to take me out of my comfort zone.  I went along determined to come out with a positive result.

While I felt I started the interview well and performed strongly in the written task at the end, there were some technical questions in the middle that I fumbled over. I was told at the start that these would be coming up and that I shouldn’t worry at all if I didn’t know them. Despite the reassurance, though, when I get a few questions in a row in the middle of an interview where I’m really struggling to come up with the goods, it puts me off my stride somewhat. Nevertheless, I answered as best I could and looked to pull it around further down the line.

I came away worried that I had blown it but to my surprise I was offered the role the next day. The money’s still not amazing — a good £10k less than I was earning at the place I walked away from — but the work is interesting and it’s far and away the best office atmosphere I’ve ever experienced. People are happy to share their knowledge and, importantly,  for the first time since I worked for a year at HMV in 2001, I’m working with people who I  genuinely looking forward to socialising with out of office hours.

I’ve been there for just over a month now and assuming I make it past the 12 week trial period, it means that things are all starting to fit into place. We moved out of the in-laws’ place and into our new house on Christmas Eve and, while there are still things to do to get it how we want,  it’s really starting to feel like home now. Now that we’ve got some money coming in, we can truly start to enjoy our new life safe in the knowledge that we made the right decision to move to the South West.

So many people stick rather than twist when it comes to that kind of big decision, worried that the risks outweigh the potential benefits. I know, I’ve been there before and sided with caution. And this particular decision was a huge gamble, make no mistake about it; even with my newly-found job, we’re currently bringing in roughly £50k less as a household than we were in Kent. But you can’t put a price on happiness.

If anybody reading this has a big decision to make, I’d advise you to push yourself. Take a chance. Don’t look back in five or ten years and think “I wish I’d given it a go”. I don’t mean to trivialise such decisions; I realise I’ve been lucky to a certain extent and that things could easily have gone the other way. And that circumstances will need to change in a few years when my boy’s older as we’ll need more money to support him (and any siblings that may or may not come along). But time’s on my side and if things take a turn for the worse then we’ll simply reassess things from there and adjust as necessary. I doubt it’ll happen, but if we have to move back to where the jobs pay better then we’ll do it.

All I know is that I won’t ever regret not having taken the gamble.

Playing catch-up

NB: The most cursory of glances will tell you that this is another rambling post following on from the last entry. It’s a catch-up on my current situation so that I can get on and start updating the blog from my new position as a stranger in far and distant land. If you follow my infrequent and frankly rather banal tweets then you might have read some of this. And let’s face it, it wasn’t overly interesting the first time. So if you decide to skip this post, I won’t blame you. I’ll just hunt you down while you sleep is all.

While ideally I wanted to continue to write in some capacity, I knew I didn’t have the luxury of turning my nose up at anything — and besides, Cornwall isn’t exactly a hotbed of media activity, at least compared to where I had moved from. Hardly anything related to my skill set came up during those first weeks, so I applied for any job I thought I had the remotest chance of landing and still got short shrift.

I had a chat with the owner of a smart little bar in the middle of the small town we’ve moved to about the semi-management vacancy he’d advertised. That appealed to me; it would mean a lot of evening work which would have meant I could spend lots of time with my little boy during the day and then have the perfect opportunity to meet new people in this alien town by night. I have bar experience (albeit from back in my student days) and felt like I got on well with the guy during our back-and-forth. He took me through all the different aspects I’d be taking on, commenting on the fact that he thought I’d be perfect for the role. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

Thankfully I picked up some freelance writing work thanks to previous connections, meaning I could keep a bit of cash coming in during what felt certain to be a long search for permanent employment. Assignments for features on subjects like videogames and poker — and cheese (!) — helped to keep me productive while I trawled the ads for that elusive permanent employment.

Shortly after, I landed an interview for a Marketing Executive role, which I was surprised by. Sure, I covered everything they asked for in the ad, but having been an out-and-out journalist/writer for the previous eight years, I had no marketing experience. My previous role, however, had seen me writing for a number of magazines that were directly relevant to the subject matter I would be covering if I landed the job. I nailed the interview and drove home with a huge smile on my face. Again, I was to be disappointed. (I later found out that I was second choice behind somebody who had more than ten years’ experience in that exact role in a very similar environment, so I’m not quite so upset as I was at the time.)

Dejected, I followed up a lead and called a bank manager in the next town over. He had a couple of entry level jobs going which I would have a superb chance of landing. Banking isn’t really what I had in mind when I moved to Cornwall, and the pay on offer was a how-on-earth-will-I-live-on-that £12k. But I’ve got a kid to support and that’s £12k more than I was earning at that point, so I went along to the interview. Again, it went well — but I was aghast to be told at the end of it all that the new positions weren’t technically confirmed. He’d need to speak to his boss to confirm that he could employ new staff and that I should call him in a couple of weeks if I hadn’t heard anything. That struck me as particularly unprofessional and I was pretty pissed off at what felt like a colossal waste of time. Consequently, I wasn’t at all surprised to find myself a couple of weeks older without having heard from the guy. Thankfully, I never did have to lower myself to chasing him up.

Living the dream?

I know, it’s not fair. To flit in and out of your bloglife like this, appearing briefly to raise hopes, only to dash off again for months and years at a time. I can see the stats page form here; don’t think I’m not aware that you constantly have a spare browser window open, hitting F5 habitually in the fading hope that a new post will magically appear. Can’t you see? I’m an online dealer, getting you hooked on the good shit early on, only to throw increasingly dire efforts in your general direction from then on in.

I’ve said it before; I’ll doubtless say it again. I want to start updating this blog on a regular basis once more — particularly given some of the changes in my life recently. When I posted back in June I had a plan. I was going to give up my job in journalism to stay at home in Kent and look after my newborn son. I’d pitch in where I could with some freelance writing (and play online poker) to supplement the income my wife would earn by going back to her (better-paid) full-time job following maternity leave. Didn’t quite turn out like that.

There was a massive campaign of restructuring at Mrs T’s place of work and, to cut a long story short, her job didn’t exist any more by the time it came to thinking about going back to work. They offered her a different role on the same money, although that would have meant double her previous commute on certain days — and besides, it wasn’t the job she knew and loved. So, with a little prodding, they also offered her an attractive voluntary redundancy package.

Not being ones to think that one life-changing decision is enough, we opted to go balls to the wall. She’d always fancied moving back to Cornwall where she spent an extremely happy childhood, so I posited that the recent turn of events set up an ideal opportunity to do just that. We had no family support nearby when in Kent — my nearest and dearest live oop North and hers are still in the family home in Cornwall — so with a new baby in our possession I could see the attraction of having some help nearby. Plus the idea of a more relaxed lifestyle appealed to me. So she took the payoff, I jacked in my job and we packed for Cornwall.

Now, I mentioned a relaxed lifestyle just there. But by November I found myself living with my in-laws and heading out to deliver a metric fuckton of Thompson directories in the bitter cold to (barely) scrape by, with no contact from any of the several employers my wife and I had contacted about ‘proper’ jobs. The dream was fast becoming a nightmare.

Call off the search

Two years, eh? Just think what you can achieve in two years with a little get-up-and-go. And yet, I’ve done very little. While there have been some major changes in my personal life, other areas of my life remain much the same. For instance, I still work as a journalist in a job I don’t really enjoy (the company has changed; my apathy not so much), although I do still do some freelance work in a subject area that I find infinitely more rewarding. More on that shortly.

When I last wrote in 2007, I was gearing up to get married. I’m pleased to announce, albeit extremely belatedly, that the wedding went down without a hitch. Well, it pissed down with rain, but apart from that it was all good. I can’t quite believe that I will have spent two years as a married man come next month, but I guess time flies and all that. The other major change came about with the arrival of my son in February. Clearly, all parents are naturally biased, but he’s a little belter. He’s a handful at times, granted, but on the whole we’ve been really lucky with sleeping through the night from an early age, etc. He’s generally very well behaved; we’ve heard some real horror stories form the other new parents we’ve met recently.

Anyway, when I was last regularly updating this blog I began to write a little more frequently about poker. With life being as hectic as it has been recently, my opportunities to play poker diminished spectacularly. Now, though, the little man is going to bed at an earlier hour and I’m finding myself with some time in the evenings to get back into the swing of things. There’s a real possibility that my wife will go back to work in the New Year, with me taking on househusband duties. If that happens, I’ll be looking to bring in some extra cash with freelance writing and poker. If that’s to happen, I need to ramp up my game – starting now. I’ve hit a handful of low-stakes final tables since my return to online poker, so I want to use that as a platform to push on and evolve my game a step further. I’m primarily a tournament player (a good one at that, but with a couple of key areas which could do with improvement), but I need to drastically improve my erratic cash game if this ‘do the odd bit of real work in-between gambling for a living’ pipe dream is going to become a realistic option.

So I plan to get back to the regular blogging. It’ll still be about a range of stuff, but I’d expect it to be heavily poker-related as I try and ramp up my skills between now and the new year. I fully expect it to be a roller coaster ride of excitement*, so why not drop by now and again and see how I’ve been getting on?

I know, I know – tl:dr. The short version? I’m now married with a kid and – more importantly – I’ve stopped talking in the third person.

Incidentally, if you’d like to receive dull, infrequent updates of a more concise nature, you can join literally tens of like-minded individuals and follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/trendthrift

*Excitement not guaranteed.

Frustrating times

This post is later than intended because, yes, I have been busy finishing off the work I was supposed to be doing yesterday. Pity me.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m making a concerted effort to improve my poker game online. While I’ve been on a great run in general since I started recording my results, I’ve hit something of a slump in the past couple of days. Bad players are getting rewarded for silly moves, and it’s getting a little frustrating. Of course, I’m far from the finished article myself, and I’m all too aware that although skill plays a big part, poker is still very much a game of luck in places. A couple of examples:

 10-seat SNG

Six players left, I’m holding Q7o in the Big Blind. The guy in the Small Blind, who has been agressive the whole game, calls. The flop comes Q-J-x, so I’m in decent shape here with top pair. I raise around 2/3 of the pot, only for the SB to re-raise all-in. From studying his play so far, I read this as a huge over-bet because of a weak hand. I call, and he turns over KJ. My read was spot on, and I’m very happy. Until another Jack comes down on the turn, of course.

$5 MTT

899 entrants, around half of those are left. I get moved to a new table, and in the first hand there I get dealt pocket Kings in first position. I raise a little more than three times the Big Blind to show strength (I’m new to the table and so have no information about the other players; it’s best to play ABC poker here). The guy to my left calls. The flop comes J-J-10. I bet out big, he calls. That’s a worry. If he’s got pocket Jacks, then fair enough I guess, but any other hand with a J would be a strange call to such a strong pre-flop bet from first position. When the turn card is a low card, I push all-in. He calls instantly and shows J9o for trip 9s, and I’m out of the tournament. I have no idea how he’s calling a big raise with J9o pre-flop, but this is the kind of thing I’m talking about.

I don’t go in for slating other players for making money with ‘bad’ moves, for a number of reasons:

  •  It’s not really necessary; I find some of the slagging off you find online a little unsavoury
  • What’s the point in telling somebody they’ve made a move that will lose them more money than it will make them in the long run? If they take note of what you’re saying, that’s one less person to make easy money from in the future
  • Although I’ve moved up a level recently, I’m still only playing $10 games. I shouldn’t really be surprised that there are still people who haven’t studied the game to the same extent that I have at this level. After all, $10 isn’t exactly huge money

The problem is that I consider myself good enough to be playing at a higher level where these kinds of things will happen less often, but I’m realistic enough to know that I need to build up a significant bankroll before I even think about playing higher up the ladder. I just need to get my head down and ride through it. And more importantly I need to stop whinging about it on here. Sorry.

Set in stone

It is done. There will be a wedding on July 28th, and I will be there. Getting married.

Angry Anderson will be freestyling over some fly beats as the bride turns cartwheels down the aisle. No doubt Dustin Hoffman will turn up at the last possible moment, begging me to reconsider my actions. No can do, Rain Man.

It’s all pretty exciting, although I imagine my bank manager is less than thrilled. I wouldn’t know though; I don’t take his phonecalls any more. He’s resorted to texting recently, but despite being a relatively young man, I’m not really down with that. I tried a Caeser cipher, but I’m still no closer to decoding ‘Soz m8, u gt no phundz :(‘