Come Hang Out in the Founders Channel on

One of the hardest things I’ve found about working from home is the lack of the normal socialization that you get at a traditional job.

I hang out on Twitter most of the day, but it’s difficult to have back and forth conversations with several people at once. I looked into starting an IRC channel on Freenode, but quickly learned how much of a pain managing one can be (and IRC clients are horrendous), so I started searching for web-based IRC alternatives. Most of the services out there are geared towards teams of people and are priced per user so that the more people you want in the chat, the more money you have to pay. Not really ideal for what I was looking for.

This is why I was thrilled to stumble across, which is based on an open source chat application built on with the same name. It has a minimilist interface that reminds me of the 37Signals’s applications and seems to have everything you need to chat it up with a few friends during the day (and who doesn’t need another way to procrastinate?).

I’ll be hanging out in the founders channel most of the day from now on. If you’re interested in startups or have your products, stop by and say hi. I think we can get a nice little community of folks if enough people join and participate every now and then.

Check it out: Join the founders channel on

Poker and Startups: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

While browsing 2+2 today, I came across an excellent post by Greg Tiller, a long time contributor to the Heads Up Sit-and-Go forum who was just getting started around the time I stopped playing 4-5 years ago. Greg plays professionally now and his post is titled Playing Poker for a Living: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

It’s a great post that’s filled with lots of actionable advice for both poker players and startup founders. Startup founders, when you’re reading it simply replace poker with startup and player with founder and you’ll find the advice no less-valid.

Here’s the full post:

Two Plus Two is where my poker career began. The lessons I learned here have been the foundation of my success. Through my pursuit of a successful poker career, I hit numerous bumps in the road and learned countless lessons from it. This post is the culmination of my infinite trials and errors (lots and lots of errors). I hope some of you will take my advice and make some changes in your approach to the game. I wish you all the best.

A special thanks to: PrimordialAA, ChicagoRy, Mersenneary, Skates, Spamz0r, rumnchess, cwar, and many others that I’m forgetting to mention.

Playing poker for a living: it’s a marathon, not a sprint

I came across the following statement from a successful HUSNG reg on 2+2 a little while ago:

“Playing poker for a living is an incredibly stressful lifestyle; it’s a sedentary, antisocial, unhealthy lifestyle; I hate it sometimes, but I love the money and the freedom, and it’s better than my alternative options… “

A couple of posters immediately chimed in with the traditional “+1”, which got me thinking: it’s interesting how the majority of people seriously involved in the game would agree with parts of that quote. It’s probably a very true observation for most of them. And why wouldn’t it be? How can playing what is essentially a video game, full time, have different consequences?

What I will try to convey here is that it doesn’t have to be this way. 
Accepting this as a basic reality of the game is a fundamental mistake.

You can’t socialize via the internet, roll in and out of bed to glue yourself to multiple computer screens day after day, not care about diet or exercise, and expect to be rolling around in money five years from now. It’s unrealistic, and what’s more, it’s the reason why so few grinders enjoy long-term success.

I have a very clear picture of this today – because I used to feel exactly the same way.

When I dropped out of school to focus on poker, I found myself losing touch with a lot of my non-poker friends, most of whom didn’t understand or agree with my choices.My free time was almost systematically invested in grinding, thinking about grinding, working on strategy, etc. In just a few short years, poker had gone from a hobby to an all-consuming way of life.

As a general rule, once people achieve a certain level of success and start making serious money, they often fail to identify that this is despite their stressful, sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle, not because of it. Things could actually be better, but they can’t see that because they are making more money than ever before. But if they constantly chase the next dollar, as if their life were a never-ending session, they risk waking up one day and realizing that the passion they once had for the game has gone completely. And how do you go from making 100k a year while sitting in your underwear, back into the real world?

Make no mistake: the average player is getting more and more competent. As for you, if you reach a point where you think you’ve “made it”, and you stagnate, or even regress, because of your bad habits, inevitably the game catches up with you. Suddenly the success you were enjoying only a few months back becomes a distant memory, and you are dealing with atrocious breakeven stretches, dropping down levels, wondering where it all went wrong. Quite a few regulars who not so long ago were able to get lobbies at the 300s/500s, are hardly even able to sit the 110s anymore. These players had majestic Sharkscope graphs, sometimes well into six figure profits, but nothing to show for it. They are absolutely irrelevant in the current context. They float around, unable to make a comeback but not strong enough to quit. How sad is that?

Success doesn’t magically last forever. Don’t waste your talent! 

So… how do you avoid these pitfalls? How do you stay motivated, keep the drive to become a better player?

About a year and a half ago, I got to the point where I found myself making very decent money from my play, but somehow feeling unhappy, or incomplete. I was no longer Greg Tiller, who happens to play poker. I was Greg Tiller, the poker player – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I was 26 at the time, and asked myself: is this a realistic long-term lifestyle? Could I be in a serious relationship or raise a family living like this? Could I be more balanced?

I decided I wanted poker to be a part of my life, but not to take over my life. That I needed to be able to separate myself from the game whilst still pushing myself as a player, becoming more efficient within the fewer hours I spent at the tables.

I started doing a million little things to tweak and improve my routine. Tracking what I was doing daily in a journal, trying to identify trends that lead to success or failure. In this long trial-and-error process, some of my ideas worked, and most of them didn’t. In the end, I came to the conclusion that one of the things that attracts a lot of players to the “poker way of life” – the lack of schedule and absence of daily responsibilities – is a big part of what can pull them into the wrong mentality.

So I decided to take this into my own hands. I called on mental coach Jared Tendler for help, which turned out to be one of the best investments I’ve ever made. The most important thing I learned from him was the concept of “mental muscle”.

I prefer this analogy: If you go to the gym to lift some weights, you would normally tend to warm up in order to loosen yourself up, before going through your workout and pushing yourself really hard. This actually breaks down your muscles initially (which is why you are so exhausted by the end of it). You don’t go back to the gym the very next day and simply repeat the process. You give yourself a day or two for your muscles to recover, to get stronger. And when you go through your routine the second time, it actually seems easier.

That’s exactly how Jared wanted me to picture the mental muscle. Something that needs to be warmed up before it’s pushed hard, and which needs to recuperate afterward . You can’t just go at it with everything you’ve got every single day, just like you can’t go to the gym and bench press every day without hurting yourself physically. You don’t see players who grind day in, day out, for five or six years and who are still successful – it just doesn’t happen. If you want your career to last for more than a year or two, you need a plan.

I decided to break down a schedule for my week, working around the times where I thought the action was best. Remember, a month is a long time. Setting a monthly goal is important, but you also need to have even shorter-term, less results-oriented goals.

Here’s a peek at my weekly routine. I consider it the organization of a mental athlete, designed to help me keep my edge over the competition.


My off-day. On Mondays, I stay away from my computer completely and recover from the previous week.. I do something different, and barely think about poker at all. It doesn’t have to be meditating or composing haiku, going out with friends and just having fun is perfectly acceptable; in fact, it’s recommended!


My first day back on the grind. That’s when I take care of coaching-related tasks, emails, study/watch videos, etc. Having set a volume goal for the week, say 250 games, I’ll put in about 10 to 15% of that volume on Tuesday. It’s my warm up day, so typically, I’ll one-table and consciously focus on my decision-making. After all, you can’t expect to take one or two days off and be comfortable firing up three tables at your highest stakes the minute you sit down at your desk. You want to loosen up your mental muscle, so you can push hard the days after.


I’m still not hitting full gear, and take some time for more studying and coaching. Of course I know that not everyone reading this article is a coach, or even a professional player. For them, this time could be used to get life stuff out of the way, papers and phone calls that kind of thing, so that the next few days can be just about poker. I try to do 15 to 20% of my volume on Wednesday, two-tabling.


These are my heavy volume days. My goal is to play from 20 to 25% of my weekly volume on each of those days.

The fun thing about this schedule is that if you hit your highest allotted volume goal every day, you will be done by Saturday, and then you’ll get your Sunday free: a nice, healthy, short-term incentive. But most importantly, it’s flexible : if at any point you’re finding it difficult to play your A game over long stretches and are taking too many breaks, you can just try to get as close as possible to the minimum allotted daily volume. It’ll leave you with 15 to 20% of your weekly volume to play out on Sunday.

This setup makes me more predictable. My girlfriend likes it because there are days when she knows I’ll be less busy. I can go out for dinner with my family and plan it two weeks in advance, whereas in the past I’d have always been asking myself: “What if the games were really good?”.

Naturally, I do not recommend blindly adopting this routine; it’s tailored specifically to my personal needs and my speciality as a poker player, HUSNGs. However, I strongly believe that any poker player can and should find a variation of it that suits him. It’s simply one of the most +EV decisions you can make.

The basic ideas of how to approach the game should remain the same. You warm up, you push yourself hard, you recover. Rinse, and repeat. The structure you establish and the time you put aside for non-poker activities encourage you to be social, to be active, and avoid burnout. You know your off-days are just as important as the times you grind, because in order to come back stronger, you need your mental muscle to recover. Finally, the short-term, non-monetary goals you give yourself allow you to detach your emotions from how good or bad you’re running.

The actual breakdown of the days varies a lot. When I was still allowed to play on Pokerstars, some days went by quickly – in maybe four to four and half hours – because I was getting constant action. Even when I finished early though, I wouldn’t really push myself past the 25 percent limit. If the action is so good during the week that I’m way ahead of pace and reach my goals early – then more often than not, I just cut it short. Deciding to play an extra hundred games can be tempting, but remember, your volume goal is the estimation of what you’re capable of handling while still playing well.

How many hours you play consecutively varies from player to player. Personally, I can handle three-and-a-half to four hours and focus on a high level, but that’s my limit. After that, I’ll take a break, come back and put in another two hours. It’s pretty rare that I can go back-to-back four hour sessions. Although I want to push myself, I’m constantly thinking about this as a long term thing: if I overextend this week, I’ll survive, but it’s going to take it’s toll somewhere down the road.

Attempting things like doubling your volume over the course of a month or string seven hour sessions together is not “sucking it up and grinding”. It’s suicidal. You simply do not have the mental muscle. And that’s the root of the problem, it’s the reason why there are so few long-term success stories in poker: too many grinders break down their mental muscle, instead of building it up gradually.

Consistency is key: playing poker for a living is a marathon, not a sprint.

It’s natural to try to achieve success as fast as you can. But not enough people are happy to pace themselves, to have consistent results week after week. Not financial results (a week is too short of a unit to measure your success by a dollar amount; i.e a few hundred games), but by setting realistic goals and accomplishing them. Work your way up gradually, and be realistic about improvement.Odds are you’re not the next livb112. Don’t try to compare yourself to other people. Compare yourself to what the best version of yourself can be, and try to get there.

I don’t want it to seem like I have a perfectly laid out, highly specific poker plan set up for the next five years. I’m open-minded about whatever comes up. Poker players (those who survive at least) need to be adaptive. As Black Friday painfully illustrated, the poker environment is constantly changing, sometimes at a drastic pace – and I’m ready to change with it. Five months ago for example I’d almost never touched a hyper turbo. Since then, I’ve worked hard, read almost everything relevant on the topic, watched all mersenneary’s videos. Now a sizeable part of my volume is at the $250 hypers (the highest limit on the Merge Network).

The great thing about the schedule I’ve outlined is that anyone can try it out straight away, and get postive results very quickly. I started organizing my weeks like this two months before the Austin camp. Initially, my students were somewhat reluctant to dive into something similar, because it felt “too much like a job”. By the end of the month though, everyone there, including PrimordialAA, had adopted some aspect of it that fit into their lives.

It almost boggles my mind that there is so much training material out there yet barely anyone touches on this, when in my opinion we are dealing with the biggest leak of the average player, one that guarantees that they don’t get the best out of themselves. The average reg is improving, but these bad habits remain extremely widespread. No matter how good the average player becomes strategically, the vast majority will still succumb to this black hole of a lifestyle. Don’t let that happen to you.

You can read the full post and comments over at 2+2.

What are you working on? How can I help?

My nights and weekends pursuits over the past five years can be divided into two overarching categories: poker and startups. In both cases, I’ve received a ton of help from individuals as well as online communities including Two Plus Two and HackerNews. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of many people along the way.

In an effort to pay it forward, maybe I can be of some help to you. I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing poker and working on a poker bot (~3 years) as well as working on various startup endeavors (~2.5 years) and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

If you’re working on a poker bot or a startup and need an outside perspective to bounce your ideas off of, review what you’ve done, or anything else drop me a note:

Startup Blogs To Make You a Better Entrepreneur

As an aspiring startup founder, I’m always on the lookout for blogs that will help me become a more adept entrepreneur.  Fortunately for me and for the startup community there’s a lot of really talented entrepreneurs who write regularly about what they’ve learned so you can benefit from their experiences.

The following is a list of the best startup blogs that I’ve run across, which I thought I’d share in the hope that you find something new for your collection. In no particular order…

  1. Derek Sivers – Founder of CD Baby and several other companies, the word “wise” comes to mind. His post Let pedestrians define the walkways is always in the back of my head while I’m working on my startup.
  2. Gabriel Weinberg – Ballsy Philadelphia-based founder of Duck Duck Go, an inspirational (and quite successful) one-man search engine startup. Really nice guy too.
  3. IIlya Lichtenstein – Internet marketer who recently helped more than 150 startups with their marketing efforts and wrote about the lessons learned in a series of great blog posts.
  4. Jason Baptiste – Boston-based cofounder of PadPressed. His posts on startups are some of the best I’ve read. See, for example, If You Build It, They Won’t Come (something I’ve learned the hard way) and 16 Ways Your Startup Needs to be Getting Customers.
  5. Eric Ries – Eric has changed the way people approach building startups with the Lean Startup movement. He also coined the phrase Minimum Viable Product, which is now common lingo in the startup world.
  6. Ben Cashnocha – An all around brilliant guy, he writes on topics including entrepreneurship, travel, and philosophy.
  7. OnStartups – By Dharmesh Shah and others, it offers troves of invaluable advice for startup founders in posts that always seem to begin with a number.
  8. Jason Cohen – Another very successful startup founder who writes about how to do it well. Rich vs King: Why I Sold My Company and Why I feel like a fraud are great places to start.
  9. Paul Graham of Y Combinator fame — his essays are essential reading for startup founders.
  10. Rob Walling – Software by Rob is a new addition to the list. I recently read his new book Start Small, Stay Small and immediately identified with his approach. Highly recommended for anyone running or aspiring to run a small online business.
  11. Matt MaroonFormer poker player turned YC-backed startup founder of Blue Frog Gaming, Matt excels at seeing the big picture and articulating it for his readers (just not on HackerNews).
  12. Chris Dixon – Cofounder of Hunch and active angel investor who writes on investing, technology, social media, etc.
  13. Mixergy – An excellent series of interviews by Andrew Warner, who relentlessly pursues the execution details behind many successful startups.
  14. Sebastian Marshall – Sebastian offers practical advice drawn from a breadth of knowledge and experience on how to excel at just about anything. Here‘s an inspiring post from yesterday and here‘s a list of his top posts.
  15. Balsamiq Products Blog – The more I work on jMockups, the more impressed I am with Balsamiq’s incredible execution. Too bad I’m going to destroy them (just kidding… maybe). :)
  16. Steve Blank – Former Air Force officer turned Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur, Steve invented the Customer Development process which is the foundation of the Lean Startup movement.
  17. Patrick McKenzie – Of Bingo Card Creator and soon-t0-be Appointment Reminder fame, he inspired me to create Preceden, a web-based timeline tool.
  18. Spencer Fry – Creator of Carbonmade, a site for designers that lets you show off your portfolio, who writes about entrepreneurship, freemium, and more.
  19. Jacques Mattheij – A pillar of the HackerNews community and thought leader in earning money from web apps, Jacques’s blog is not one to miss.
  20. Daniel Tenner – Cofounder of Woobius, who puts things in perspective with posts like iPad: Apple for Mom and The questionable value of the real time web.
  21. This Week in Startups with Jason Calacanis
  22. Furqan Nazeeri – Boston-based serial entrepreneur who writes about startups, venture capital, and entrepreneurship
  23. Seth Godin – Seth is a brilliant marketer and businessman who shares his seemingly endless supply of insights via his blog. He’s also got some great books including  Small is the New Big and The Purple Cow.
  24. Mark Suster at BothSidesOfTheTable – Musing of an entrepreneur turned venture capitalist. I came across his blog via his post How to Talk to Investors About Your Competitors.

And two non-startup blogs that you might also like:

  1. Less Wrong – Less Wrong is about how to think better–a lot of it will make you go whoa. For example, check out Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism.
  2. David Mangold – Dave is a big picture, outside-of-the-box intellectual who writes about topics including evolution, astrobiology, metaphysics, and more.

Know of a blog that might make a good addition to this list? Let me know in the comments below.