June 16, 2015 2 Comments
Everything in life is relative.
I’m updating finally and writing this mostly as a reminder to myself and to get some thoughts down on paper (and I guess there may be a select few out there who still care or know this blog even exists). Lately, there have been some extremely frustrating and nonsensical delays with our pending house closing, which has taken the forefront of my thoughts and mood often times. We should’ve been moved in at the beginning of April, and as I’m typing this in the middle of June on a plane to Vegas, we still haven’t settled. It’s times like these I need to reflect on just how fortunate I am, and how I’ve defied astronomical odds to be where I am today. Let’s start from the beginning:
My parents were born into somewhat poor families in China, a country with the world’s largest population, where countless millions of citizens and residents are trying desperately to find a better life elsewhere. My mom is the youngest of two children, and my dad is the fourth of six. Pollution is devastating, especially in major cities like Beijing where I was born and raised, education is subpar, and the chances of finding a way to make a decent living are automatically stacked against you since there are so many people competing for the same education, career, lives. The quality of life is far inferior to anything my spoiled ass could grow accustomed to. Because my grandmother on my mom’s side had a stepmom who immigrated to California, my grandparents on that side only were allowed to latch on and move with them. A few years later, my parents were granted this same opportunity, the absolute best blessing anyone in our position could’ve asked for, something that I take for granted far too often: we as a family were the only ones out of six to be able to move to the United States, the greatest country in the world. My parents picked up and left their families, everything they had ever known in their lives, and native country to move somewhere where they had no money or knowledge of the English language, all for one purpose: to provide an opportunity for a better life for my sister and I. To this day, the rest of my extended family in Beijing is still on the waiting list to immigrate here. It’s been over a decade. While they’re finally about to be called up on the queue it seems, we’ve had the sanctification of creating a life of comfort and luxury that the rest of them can only dream of. People in China literally give their entire life savings for the chance to come to the US.
Flash forward some twenty years, it’s 2007. I had little direction or ambition in life, no job, and not a dollar to my name. The lack of maturity, discipline and bankroll management had caught up to me and I had hit rock bottom. Once in a while I look back on those long sleepless nights in my parents’ basement, overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness and dread with what I was going to do with my life. Had my parents sacrificed everything for me to fail them? With no other options I hesitantly agreed to a short term staking deal at a local house game where the stakes were $1/2 NL. It was there I met and befriended Greg Merson (who went on to win the WSOP Main Event in 2012). At the time he happened to be establishing himself as a volume low stakes grinder on Pokerstars, and was getting into the investing side of the game. I recall that night was actually the one and only time I played at that home game (they subsequently, like most other home games in the area, got raided. I haven’t been back to a home game since and don’t plan on it). The stars aligned, and though I was always confident in my abilities as a player, I happened to run well that session too. Greg took notice and reached out to me to propose a staking deal to play on Pokerstars. He offered to set me up with an account and $2k to grind $1/2 NL 6 max in exchange for a portion of my profits. I felt like I had hit the lottery. I had never been a winning player online before that, but I was determined to learn how to beat it for good this time. I felt like I had no choice, and refused to let the second chance go to waste. I would stay up all night studying my hand histories and playing, four tables at first until I got the hang of it, and then slowly adding to six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve at once as I continued to enjoy a nice upswing. In the first three and a half weeks I won 17k playing no higher than $1/2 NL online, and haven’t really looked back since. I paid Greg his share and went on my own shortly after.
I often think to myself, what if I hadn’t agreed to that home game arrangement to begin with? What if Greg didn’t happen to be there that night, and what if he was but I was doing poorly? Would he still have staked me, given me a fresh opportunity at life? What if the game had been raided before that, or during that night? What if I didn’t go on a massive heater to begin the staking arrangement, would that have crippled both his confidence and mine? I was a losing player, after all, going into the staking deal, so I didn’t have the mental assurance that eventually I would win if I kept at it that I do nowadays.
As it turns out, eight years later, my life is amazing. It’s everything I could’ve dreamed for and more. I still get to do what I love for a living, and that is not something I should ever take lightly. Too many people I know hate going through the motions of having a boss, a job, someone to answer to. Being my own boss, I wake up, go to sleep, go to the gym, watch a movie, hang out with friends, go on a trip, basically do whatever I want, when I want. I “work” much less hours than conventional work weeks but reap much higher financial benefits than I would doing anything else. I talked to a good friend recently about my annoyances with the house delays, and he kept things in check by commenting that I should be so fortunate to even have the opportunity to play a game for a living and be in the position to have a house to wait for. Recently Tammy and I got married in front of some of our closest friends and our family in gorgeous Jamaica. It was the best experience I’ve ever had in my life. To see such outpouring of love and support, and of course getting to marry my best friend where we get to spend the rest of our lives together, was just simply incredible and something I’ll never forget.
The past three summers I’ve gone to Vegas around this time of year, and have not gone to a single event or outing save from my one time at a Above and Beyond show at Encore that I didn’t appreciate at the time. I’m a couple of hours away from landing at McCarran, where I will rent a car and drive to an awesome house off the strip to be shared with three of my good friends…and a few days away from attending the biggest music festival of the year: EDC. It still hasn’t hit me yet that it’s so close, and it being my first time I don’t really know what to expect except that it’ll be mind blowing. I look forward to a month of spending time with good friends, eating good in the hood, EDC and EDM related activities, and of course, doing what I love: playing cards and engaging in mental warfare. This year I won’t even set a monetary goal or be too concerned about that side of it. I will only focus on playing my best as often as I can and living with the results. After all, I’ve already won in life. I should keep that in mind and count my immeasurable blessings.