<![CDATA[Phil Gordon:  Entrepreneur, Poker Player, Author, Philanthropist - Blog]]>Sun, 31 Jan 2016 20:20:09 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Golf]]>Tue, 25 Mar 2014 04:07:17 GMThttp://www.philnolimits.com/blog/golfAbout ten years ago, I used to be a good golfer.  I've shot par.  My lowest handicap was about 5.  I could play, despite poor putting.  Apparently, being 6'9" means you can hit the ball a long way, but it isn't incredibly conducive to a good short game.

Anyway, I'm trying to "revive" my game for an upcoming boys trip to the Masters.  I'm playing a few days with some of the Tiltboys at some pretty cool courses, and then we'll attend festivities at Augusta in the afternoons.  So, I hit the course for the first time in about 5 years last week.  I am no longer a 5 handicap.  Or a 15 for that matter.

I started thinking, "how do I make the most of this crappy, inconsistent swing"?  Golf is a game that rewards consistency.

So, on the range, I figured out that I could still hit a fairly consistent "draw" with my Driver, and a fairly consistent fade with my irons.  (When I was good, I could go both ways with all the clubs without much problem.)  A short cut, then, was simple:  STAY WITH WHAT YOU CAN DO AND DO CONSISTENTLY.  Creativity, as a relative novice, is where you get in trouble.  Try to stay "down the middle" until you can feel your way into a groove.  Only then is it wise to try something a little spectacular.

The same holds true for poker, specifically for poker tournaments.  If you're new to the game, don't go trying to "hook the ball under the trees, around the corner, over the lake and onto the green."  That shot (or hand) will be too difficult, and the cost-benefit is clearly negative EV.  Sure, it can be a great deal of fun if you pull off the miracle, but more often than not, your ball ends up wet, your score is inflated, and you go on monkey tilt on the next tee shot and pull out the driver when a more cautious 3-wood would be more appropriate.

I've mixed more golf/poker metaphors than I should have, so that is all.  Fore!

<![CDATA[Chess]]>Tue, 25 Mar 2014 03:59:14 GMThttp://www.philnolimits.com/blog/chessMy oldest son, Xander, is in love with the game of Chess.  Although I've played quite a few games at a very high level (poker, bridge, backgammon) I was never really into Chess -- I've always preferred games of "incomplete information" -- where some work in probability, psychology, statistics were more important than being able to see 10 moves deep.

That being said, I don't want my 6 year old to crush me in a year or two, and I definitely want him to continue to enjoy the game and learn.  So, daddy needs to learn.

I've been watching some videos on chess.com, and actually playing a few games as well.  Any other suggestions for books, videos, or otherwise to "kick start" my education?  It is embarrassing how terrible I am at this game.  I consistently lose to "easy computer" opponents ranked 1200, whatever that means.


<![CDATA[Slow Play]]>Tue, 11 Mar 2014 17:03:05 GMThttp://www.philnolimits.com/blog/slow-playThere are a bunch of conversations going on in the poker world regarding excessively slow play.  My buddy Matt Savage recently circulated a survey at a big tournament asking if players wanted a "Shot Clock" -- 30 seconds or so to make your decision or your hand is dead.  80% supported it.

I hate slow play.  On the bubble in a tournament, the action grinds to a halt as some players take way too much time in obvious situations.

I like the shot clock, but I fear that it could alienate many novice players.  And, what if you really do have a tough problem and need a little extra time?

So, here are two proposals:

1) Clock + 3 Extensions
30 second shot clock, and 3 "Extension Chips" that give a player up to a 2 minute extension for use at any time in the tournament.  When a special situation occurs that requires  some extra time, the players says "Extension" and throws an Extension Chip to the dealer, effectively buying the extra time.

Extension Extension:  Sell the Extension Chips for 1% of the entry fee, with all fees added to the prize pool.  Players would have to buy the chips when they registering for the tournament.

And, another more off the wall proposal...

2) Expose cards
If a player takes more than 30 seconds to act and then folds, the hand is exposed at the end of the hand.  This "penalty" of giving up extra information could be just enough of a deterrent.  It should also be effective in eliminating some of the more egregious stalling tactics employed by some players -- the T4-offsuit stall from early position on the bubble, for instance.

Anyone else have an idea to share?

<![CDATA[The River]]>Fri, 24 Jan 2014 00:17:30 GMThttp://www.philnolimits.com/blog/the-riverPicture
Winner / Loser. Success / Failure.  Fame / Obscurity. Rich / Broke.

Visceral contrast.  The first words evoke visions of grandeur -- the hoisting of the trophy, the victory lap, the acceptance speech.  The second summon images of destitution, arrest, pitifulness, squalor.

The truth is, there isn't much separating those that experience the thrill of victory and those that suffer from the agony of defeat.  Very often, making the "right decision" gets the "wrong result" -- and vice versa. There is a a healthy dose of luck and good timing associated with nearly every success story.

I've often theorized that if I could go back in time and change any ten river cards for any poker player in history, I could change a "lifetime loser" into one of the world's biggest winners, and I could change the world's biggest lifetime winners into penniless losers.

The 9 of clubs making a flush instead of the 3 of hearts -- a whiff.  A King on the river for the Ace-King to beat pocket Queens.  

It wouldn't take much and it wouldn't be all that difficult to pick the "key hands" that reverse the course of history.  Enough early bad beats in a career and there is no doubt many of the greatest players would be broke and out of the game.  The supremely talented player that suffered just a few too many "bubbles" early on and went broke before his talent could see him through?  He'd be wearing the World Series of Poker Main Event bracelet.  No problem.

When all the money is in the middle and the river card has yet to be dealt, the outcome is out of your control.  If you avoid taking the bad beat, everyone thinks you are a genius.  If you get a little unlucky, it is the "loser" tag.  Very few will know that you had way the best of it.  Very few will care.  All that will be reported and remembered is the "result"  -- the winners and the losers.  That is very unfortunate.

<![CDATA[Vegas -- ugh]]>Mon, 13 Jan 2014 21:57:21 GMThttp://www.philnolimits.com/blog/vegas-ughPicture
I used to love Las Vegas.  I lived there for many years, down on the strip and later off in the suburbs.  As my poker playing days winded down, I haven't spent much significant time there.

I just got back from a week at Caeser's Palace, and I have to say, Vegas has changed quite a bit, and not for the better.  A few observations:

* Caeser's Palace has seen much better days.  The rooms were terrible and dated.  The ambiance was dead and decaying.  Bathroom fixtures coming away from the walls.  Dirty carpets.  Ridiculously long waits for customer service of any kind.  There is a reason that Caeser's is $24+ billion in debt, I suppose.

* Poker is pretty dead at Caeser's.  This was CES week, one of the biggest conventions in Vegas with more than 150,000 people in town for the show.  And yet, on most weeknights, there were fewer than 3 tables running.  Sad.  Some of the pit bosses there said that was similar across some of the other properties.  I was at the Rio for a few days as well and they had exactly ZERO games running.  That casino was even more of a wreck than Caeser's.

* I don't miss the smoke at all.  After a few days in the place, I could really feel the dirty air.

* The price gouging starts to grate on you as soon as you land and never stops.  Vegas used to be a relatively good value, but now, it is nothing but a money-sucking vacuum giving little back to those who visit.
  • $12 for a Keurig coffee pack in the room
  • $4.50 for an iced tea
  • $24.99 for internet service -- per day
  • $24 for a crappy omelette and coffee at the diner

* No one seems to care at all about WSOP.com or online poker.  I took the opportunity to ask nearly 50 different poker room players if they had played online.  Despite the signage on every table, bulletin board, room key, I found only 1-2 that had tried it.  They had nothing but terrible things to say about the software and experience.  The outsourcing of the poker software to 888 is clearly ridiculous.  How does the WSOP not own its own platform and software?

* More and more of the table games are being dealt by computer.  You know, the cute video of the blackjack dealer calling the action, etc.  It removes all the personality from the game.  I can't see why in the world people would pick such a sterile, unsatisfying experience.

* The Forum shops were completely empty and deserted.  During CES week.  I did quite a bit of walking the mall for exercise and it was rare to see a shop with any sort of traffic.  I have no idea how those stores stay in business.

A few, small positive notes:

* Gordon Ramsey's new restaurant and pub at Caeser's is really great.  Friendly, great food, (almost) reasonable price but good value compared to the other restaurants in the joint (Mesa Grill, Nobu, etc).

* The poker room staff is still as competent and friendly as ever.  That is one of the best run poker rooms in the city.  It is a real shame that they don't have many games to manage.

<![CDATA[Bridge]]>Fri, 03 Jan 2014 17:40:17 GMThttp://www.philnolimits.com/blog/bridgePicture

When I left home for Georgia Tech, my mom explicitly warned me about the perils of the card game, Bridge.  "It just about ruined my life, I got so addicted," she said.  She made me promise to stay away from the game.  It wasn't a tough sell.  Bridge seemed like a game for old people.  And, it didn't seem like a path to meeting girls, either, not that there were that many around the GT campus back then anyway.

About two weeks into classes, I wandered into the student center, and lo and behold, there was a bridge game going on with about 4-5 tables in play.  I had an hour to kill in between classes, so I sat down and watched. Seven hours later, I had skipped all my classes, missed basketball practice, and had three bridge books in my backpack on loan from the bridge club.

25 years later, and I still completely love the game.  I think about it all the time.  I dream bridge hands.  I can still remember every "big hand" I played a few years ago when I won my second (and much more important) national title. I read bridge books and magazines.  I constantly work on my game.

Bridge is, by far, the most complex and nuanced card game I've ever played.  Poker is tiddlywinks in comparison.  It is a perfect blend of math, psychology, strategic planning, creativity, and, most importantly, communication.

See, bridge is a partnership game: you always play with a partner.  During the play, you're constantly communicating in code -- a code that you and your partner will work on for years if not decades.  There are partnerships that have been playing together and working on their system for 40+ years.  Their "system notes" are hundreds of pages long.

It is this partnership aspect that makes the game so much fun.  Not only do you have to play well yourself, you have to work to ensure that your partner plays well.

Today, I'm spending an hour watching the Polish Premiere League match -- in real time -- on a site called BridgeBase.  Watching and studying the best players in the world is a great way to learn.

I'm going to be talking more about bridge and introducing some of the mechanics of the game in future blog posts this year.  I sincerely hope you find the game as interesting and attractive as I have.

<![CDATA[January 02nd, 2014]]>Thu, 02 Jan 2014 16:53:02 GMThttp://www.philnolimits.com/blog/1Picture
Next week, I have the distinct honor of teaching Tim Ferris (the "4-hour man") poker for a week for his awesome new television show, "The Tim Ferris Experiment".  In this show, Tim goes from zero to hero by taking lessons in some subject for a week and intensely focusing on improvement.  For instance, in the first episode, he takes drum lessons from Stewart Copeland (drummer for the Police) for a week and then, miraculously, performs on stage with Foreigner.  Quite impressive.

I've been thinking quite extensively on how to go about my 168 hour sprint with Tim to give him the biggest chance at improvement.  Complicating matters is the fact the 1 week of intense lessons has to be boiled down to 23 minutes of airtime.  I wanted to frame his lessons with a pithy, accurate, single sentence.  Here is what I've come up with:

Play your position and your opponents, not your cards.

Sound positional play.
Pay attention to opponents ranges.
Pick on the weak.

I think if he can master these concepts, I can get him about 80% of the way to proficiency.  Sure, there is some math, pot odds, etc.  That is all fine, and I'll be teaching that stuff too.  But, I think that one concept is really the essence of playing good, solid, winning poker.

So, what do you think?  Can you think of a more accurate encapsulation?  If so, please share it.  Lessons start Monday morning.  If you're down at Caeser's poker room this week, come by and say hello.  I'll be at the table next to Tim working with him on his game.  My prediction: He'll be easy money until about Tuesday afternoon, and then you won't want to play against him.

Phil Gordon

<![CDATA[2014 -- Back in Action]]>Wed, 01 Jan 2014 20:55:23 GMThttp://www.philnolimits.com/blog/2014-back-in-actionI'm embarrassed.  It's been 25 months since my last post.  That is unacceptable.

In 2014, I'll have a modest, achievable goal:  3 or more blogs a week.

Topics I'll likely try to cover are the things currently near and dear to me:

* Family -- My boys, Xander (5) and Zachary (4) are such a joy.  I'm really having fun trying to challenge them.  Being a good dad is my most important work.

* Mobile Gaming -- Jawfish has some interesting challenges in store.  Last year was interesting, to say the least.  We launched a bunch of games on our platform and got a little traction, but not enough to help me close a venture deal.  The gaming landscape has changed considerably since we started two years ago -- user acquisition is a real challenge.

* Poker -- while "retired" officially from playing, I think there are still plenty of things I can add.  I want to start a weekly Google Hangout to talk poker.  I miss my weekly radio show on ESPN radio.  I want to bring some of that back.

* Bridge -- you may not know, but I've been a huge fan of the game for almost 30 years now.  I've won quite a few important tournaments, and now I find myself addicted yet again.  It is a beautiful, nuanced game.  I hope to share some of my passion for the game with you in the blog.

* And, new pursuits -- I've got some ideas for things I want to tackle in the new year.  I'm thinking about trying to learn to play guitar with "Rocksmith" -- any one out there have a suggestion for a good mid-range guitar to buy for this purpose?  I've never played a note on one and have no idea where to start.

Game on.  2014 should be a blast.

Phil Gordon]]>
<![CDATA[The Netflix Mistake]]>Tue, 01 Nov 2011 18:19:20 GMThttp://www.philnolimits.com/blog/the-netflix-mistakeI've been a Netflix customer for about three years.  I've happily paid the $9.95 per month charge months on end to receive a quality service: DVDs delivered directly to my mailbox.  I was, for the most part, happy to be a Netflix customer.  There was a time a few years ago that my wife and I cycled through the entire Sopranos DVD series over the course of a month or so, watching 1-2 episodes every night after the kids went to sleep.

But, other than those 5-6 DVDs, I didn't use the service.  Did I cancel?  No way!  What if I wanted to get a DVD-by-mail or a movie sometime in the near future?  No, my last Netflix rental, the Curious Case of Benjamin Button sat, unwatched, by the DVD player for a good 6 months.

And then, Netflix announced their price increase.  Now, finally, I had an excuse to cancel my membership.  The price increase, though not a life changing amount of money per month, made me realize that I wasn't getting my money's worth from the service.  Cancellation was easy -- just a few clicks on the web page and dropping Benjamin Button back in the mail (still unwatched).

I'm a huge fan of subscription businesses -- they are easy to evaluate from an investment perspective, and they are, by far, the easiest way to "big money" -- find a product business that excites people enough to buy a subscription, and you've got yourself a money printing machine.  Even subscription service businesses are great.

One of the key components to these businesses is "underutilization" -- effectively monetizing those who pay for your service or product but don't use it.  When the subscription price is small enough, it disappears into the credit card statements and lazy people won't bother to cancel.  Only a major shift in business strategy and the associated announcements will awaken these sleeping customers and get them to act, removing very valuable margins in the process.

Another great example of this happened recently: Bank of America hiking the price of some ATM cards to $5 a month.  As soon as that happened, I knew it was going to be a disaster for BofA and unlikely to stand.  ATM cards are the equivalent of a subscription business with small fees.  Raising those prices would likely send millions to the bank to close their accounts.  My thesis held true in my local branch of BofA here in Newport, WA.  Immediately following the price hike announcement, the branch was overrun with customers looking to close and/or modify their accounts.

So, here is my investment thesis for you:  any time you see a subscription business make a change to their pricing, "back up the truck" and sell that stock short. ]]>
<![CDATA[Going for the Gold]]>Mon, 10 Oct 2011 17:43:48 GMThttp://www.philnolimits.com/blog/going-for-the-goldI'm thrilled that my "Little Gold Book" is released worldwide tomorrow.  This is my fourth and last poker instructional book.  I gave it everything I had.  I had tons of help, including insights and tutoring from some of the very best in the game: Phil Galfond, Annette Oberstad, and Daniel Cates.  I also spent a great deal of time with one of the truly great "young guns" Anders Taylor.  This book, and the revamping of my game, couldn't have happened without them.

Writing is very difficult, especially when under intense stress.  Poker 2.0 (combinatorics, range analysis, combined probability, simulation, heads up displays) is complex and difficult.  Teaching to a worldwide, diverse audience of different skill sets and keeping it readable for all is more or less near impossible.  And still, I gave it my best shot.  There is something in the Gold Book for everyone -- of that, I'm sure.

I have enormous pride in my books.  I can't begin to tell you how great it makes me feel to walk the halls of the WSOP and have people come up to me and say that they loved the Black, Green and Blue books.  I've had many sessions at the table where the guy next to me was actually listening to the Green book on his iPod while I'm sitting next to him -- strange, but awesome.  There are 500,000+ copies in print as of today, and I have 12 different translations sitting on my shelf.  That is amazing and humbling.

As my "professional" poker career comes to an end, I realize that beyond the television shows, unsuccessful bracelet chase, successes and dramatic failures, I am most proud of the fact that I've helped hundreds of thousands of people understand and enjoy this great game just a little bit better.  

My results and reputation as a player won't get me into the Poker Hall of Fame -- of that I'm certain.  But, I'm equally certain that there are players out there -- perhaps you, dear reader -- that learned from my books that absolutely will end up in the hall and wearing bracelets.  That is good enough for me.

This Gold Book is for my two sons, Xander (now 3 1/2) and Zachary (almost 2).  In the dedication, I say: "With everything you do in your lives, go all-in."  And now, with the publication of this book, I'm all-in too.

October 10, 2011
Phil Gordon
Order your "Gold Book" on Amazon.