February in Atlanta can be a bit chilly, so this year I decided to opt out of winter. As cool as that sounds, it’s not 100% true, but thanks to poker, fact was not that far from fiction.
My buddy and fellow grinder Mike invited me to come visit him in San Diego. Being the thrifty type, I decided to buy a $50 plane ticket instead of driving and bundle this visit with trips to other friends in the area. Before it was all said and done, I’d hung out with poker friends in San Francisco and Vegas as well.
My primary reason for going to San Diego was to participate in Mike Sneideman’s film project. Like me, he is a former member of the rat race trying to find his way in the world of poker. Mike and I were joined by our friend Steve Barton. The two of them host the Heads Up Poker Podcast. Mike was filming his journey of trying to make it as a first-year poker pro. He invited Steve and I down to get some advice and an assessment on his chances of making it.
Unlike me, Mike is a big spender. He has no problem bringing the money in, he just doesn’t hold on to it for very long. Due to this, Steve and I soberly put his chances at around 15% unless he gets his costs under control. I don’t think he will ever go crazy and move into a van like I did, but hopefully some of my nitty antics will inspire him to cut costs in his own way. In this game, the ability to save money is almost as important as the ability to make it.
After San Diego, I decided to go visit my friends Andrew Brokos and Marc Alioto in San Francisco. They are both coaches at the training site Tournament Poker Edge, where I learned how to play. Andrew was a wonderful tour guide showing me around the city and, man oh man, San Francisco is a beautiful city. Every direction I turned was like looking at a living post card. It was amazing.
One morning, Andrew and I decided to play a $250 tournament at his local card room Lucky Chances. As chance would have it, I was unlucky to be seated at the table with November Niner Neil Blumenfield. It’s not every day you play a small stakes tournament and have to contend with a player who was trained by Matt Stout! At one point, I was the chip leader with 18 left. Unfortunately, I ran KK into AA and was out in 12th a few hands later.
The next day, Andrew had a special treat for me. We took the train over to Oakland to hang out with poker legend Tommy Angelo. As if meeting someone who has been so influential in my life wasn’t enough, he and I seemed to click right away. Surprisingly, we had a lot in common. The three of us had lunch and then spent the day walking through a local park just enjoying a peaceful Monday. This is something none of us would have been able to do had it not been for the game of poker. This was one of those days that I will never forget. The next day, I hung out at Marc’s place until it was time to head back over to Vegas and catch my flight home.
At this point, I’d been in California for two weeks and I was getting a bit van sick. Yes, I’m serious. Unfortunately, my flight was canceled and I was stuck in Vegas for another night. Not the worst thing in the world obviously. This weird twist of fate meant that I was still in Vegas when some of my other friends were in town for the WSOP Circuit event at Bally’s.
As I was heading to the airport, I decided to stop by and visit my buddies Ryan Van Sanford, Irene Carey, and Marshall White. Irene and Marshall are a couple. They convinced me that it made no sense to leave town when I could stay and play the circuit. They changed their room to double beds and offered me one for the entire week. Who does that? I know I talk a lot about the hospitality of the people I’ve met in poker, but I am constantly amazed at how kind all of these guys are to me. Not many of the so called “normal” people I worked with prior to discovering this game would ever do anything like that. I will be forever grateful to the people I’ve met in poker.
Irene and Marshall treated me very well. The circuit events? Not so much. I busted the four tournaments I played, but I still had fun hanging out with these guys and all the other players they introduced me to. After this bonus week in Vegas, it was finally time to go home. As I always say, the best thing about the game of poker is all the great people you meet. Obviously, this trip was no exception. Even if I never make another dime in this game, the time I’ve spent meeting the other players will be something I cherish for the rest of my life.