Of late I’ve been throwing my voice so much that it seems almost disappointing to speak directly. I’d really rather be making fun of the outrageous characters and stories of poker or explicating its most difficult moments: it’s a lot of the fun I allow myself. Still, concrete things do happen here – in fact, they were never better from a coaching and game perspective, even if I’ve been struggling and sleepwalking through my own table time. It seems like you can never have it all, even if “all” is just a wee life in the desert.
Therefore, it is with some nostalgia that I am wrapping up the last run of the major poker course which I created in 2017. It was a dark, dark year for me, and teaching poker helped me through – if getting through is even itself a worthy end. Without bragging, Construction 1-4 changed the games of entire waves of my students, helped many become permanent winners, and even a few professionals emerged who can give me at least some credit. To have a logic for all actions, to have a principle from which we can deduce things down to the combos and sizing without having to punt our decisions to the latest solve, is a powerful framework. Maybe most importantly, Construction bridged the gap between amateur poker folklore and what the big boys teach, allowing my students to find no ceiling to their game or who they could talk to about the game.
However, Construction was not just a course; it was also a confusing lecture outline, one often difficult to follow, and almost always made me run long on seminar time. It made me feel a little messy, yet I kept going back to it because student hunger for learning never paused. The essential problem was that the course suffered from wanting to be simple and complete at the same time. Certain obscure maths have nothing to do with real-time decisions and ended up eating precious time and space. So, Construction needs more than a facelift, and I am therefore scrapping and pulling it apart in order to rebuild a simpler, cleaner and more contemporary learning process. Good luck me.
It’s worth mentioning that while many know I adhere to a certain philosophy of teaching, a Socratic and homework-heavy process, I also have beliefs on what should be itself taught. Poker is a simple science but an obscure art, one that deserves better than the information dumping that greedy, nervous coaches and training sites rely on for attention. I take only a few students at a time, and we keep much of the information behind closed doors. The OGs may object to even this much sharing and say that I am tapping the tank more than I should, but their time and wisdom has passed. A new consensus has been born on poker information, and my contribution is to be selective, open, and conservative with what I share. I want to respect my environment, to not shit where I eat, and live according to the strange principles our little world requires of us.
I have strained to be fair in many other ways, too, during this time in Las Vegas, much of which I will explain in a coming narrative piece where I finish this challenging series. One thing I want to mention now, though, is that the Sahara Game is indeed coming to an end. It’s possibly mere hibernation; I refuse to make promises because I need some time and freedom. I am leaving the city of sin to look after family, yes, but also to enjoy the open road and a break from the games. I will be taking up some hidden lodgings in the rainforest of my home state, looking to finish some important projects, too. I will miss Las Vegas and am already thinking about how and when I will return.
I have run the deep stack cash game at Sahara for two and a half-years, almost every week. The game has a specific vision: bridging the gaps between solved and unsolved situations, between mid-stakes players and low-stakes players, between the grind and a good time. That’s why we play small but deep; why we play with various side games; why straddles are unlimited but never mandatory; why we keep the rake low. At its best, it is clearly the best game in Las Vegas – social, fun, and just big enough to sting. So many players passed through and enjoyed themselves, from the heart of our game – the low stakes amateur grinder – to vloggers and poker celebrities. Like a true home game, it didn’t need to advertise itself much, and its participants didn’t go out of their way to expand it: that was natural, because it was not a promotion, it was real.
At its worst, however, we struggled with participation and game structure, especially in the first year when I was most ignorant of how Las Vegas functioned. Many nights ended with me playing heads up or simply going home. I struggled with the Sahara management and even had trouble containing my anger in many situations, leaving me morose – it’s hard to control our own temperaments, no matter how insightful we can be. I would step on my own toes, too: my sense of humor turned out to be too cutting, as I heard that some players did not return because of my jokes. My assumption that players didn’t want a nitty environment was occasionally wrong, and more than one player objected to loose talk or trying subjects. I could be bad with whales, as I did not flatter them enough or let them change the game on a whim. While I’ve corrected almost all the mistakes, my latest error was giving up my seat with a game composition that really did need my guidance; that was a real lesson in making delicate decisions, since temporarily surrendering my seat was usually an easy win.
Quibbles, though, because the game has been great. We have a month to go, meaning four more – grab that seat while you can.
However, leaving also means the end of the Mancha pop-up dinners I’ve helped my friend Joel get off the ground. While it’s rightly hard to trust people when they talk about food, you’ll have to take my word and the word of others that Joel is an excellent cook, or more accurately, a real cook, a scientist of the kitchen: someone devoted to the art, someone who does not disappoint and who overdelivers and undersells in the same way I handle my coaching practice.
One more meal, at least, and one where we get to watch the fireworks in comfort: Tuesday, July 4th, 7:00 pm-10:00 pm or so, in the hills of Summerlin. $100/person. Contact me privately to get a place, as the location is private and attendance is limited. Alcohol is included. Here’s the likely menu:
Grilled pork shoulder
Message me through any channel to snag a seat, eat great food and hang out with the poker people.
A bon voyage party, in some sense. That said, I am not saying farewell in spirit, merely in locale. I will continue writing and teaching and playing; even the pod Dean and I have managed to resurrect in the midst of busy times for both of us. In fact, our next interview should be a compelling one, as the ever-feisty Limon makes a return to the program. I’ll then get back to some of the earlier guests and see what they have learned in life and our games, closing the Poker Zoo and its mission to our corner of the poker world nicely.
As for the promised Bomb Pot Seminar, it exists and will be finished soon. It’s no Construction series, but it might be just what you need, especially if you struggled during the Series at this ridiculous and high-variance form of the game. Privates will continue, and I’ve found a great way to integrate them into groups: Office Hours on Tuesday for questions and review, and a Practicum on Saturdays where I take at look at whatever concepts seem important. Contact me for more information.
Back to writing, I’m considering narrating my own pieces. It’s an audio/visual world and maybe readers would like to hear them as I do – what do you think?
So, busy as ever, but this website is still that corner, and the blog and community around it is still a niche within a niche, an actual alternative in the hot air surrounding our game. If you are here, I thank you for being part of a circle of interesting poker people, and I so wish you the best, in the games, in life, in all the struggles to come.