The Dream is Dead.
29th December 2016 was my last day at Gravity Ltd.
3rd April 2018 was my first day at Indulge Media Ltd.
In the interim, I was allegedly a professional poker player.
This post is largely going to be a reflection of that time, as well as a little bit about what my future plans are. As with all my posts, I am probably going to come across like a self-absorbed twat, but at this point it can’t be helped. I’m going to try to be as honest as possible, mostly for my own sake.
Throughout playing poker full time I never maintained a good (or even positive) winrate. At my main stakes I spent most of my months in the -1bb/100 to 0bb/100 pre RB range, fortunately putting in decent enough volume that my bankroll wasn’t haemorraghing capital thanks to rakeback. I did have a lot of financial support too, for the first ¾ of 2017 I was living with my parents rent free, for the last few months I invested some of my bankroll into moving to live in Mexico with my friend/mentor/coach/backer Ted. Naturally that means I was backed during my time there.
From a financial perspective, poker was not a successful endeavour. I am not in crippling debt, nor do I have some legendary cumiconesque graph, instead I am somewhere in the middle. If I had kept my old job at Gravity then I would almost certainly have a higher net worth than I do now. I always made out like I was doing better than I was to almost everyone that asked, out of fear/shame, although I’m sure some of the more perceptive inquirers could see through that.
From an emotional/personal growth perspective poker was probably the biggest success of my life to date. It’s a cliché that we hear all the time in our current inspiration-porn culture, to fail often, because failure precedes growth. As with most clichés, I began skeptical with this one, but gradually came to believe it. Poker was a failure, certainly when viewed through the most obvious lens, that of finance. But I learned far more from this failure than I expected to, both about myself and about life in general.
Dota 2 is the thing I have been most passionate about in my life, by quite some margin. When I was younger “the dream” was to become a professional player, back in the time of EternaLEnVy’s legendary blog, before esports had one iota of the legitimacy it does now. I put in every minute of free time I had to try and get better, neglecting my school work, social events, and my girlfriend in order to watch pro matches, grind the ladder, review strategies and test mechanics. I wanted more than anything in the world to be able to play Dota full time, but eventually I had to accept that I was not good enough, and that I likely never would be. I don’t think the bubble popped all at once, so it isn’t as if I have some especially painful memory of losing a game, bursting into tears and realising I was never going to make it or anything. I always knew it was an ambition rooted in naïveté, so eventually I understood that I was going to have to stop disappointing my parents and get a regular desk job, probably in the finance industry, just like everyone else who I have ever met or ever will meet.
In the end I managed to dodge the finance industry and instead found myself in the world of online gambling, working for a sports betting company. It was fun, and sometimes we bet on esports. There was plenty of things I didn’t really like about the company, but at least I hadn’t sold my soul to the malevolent god of accountancy. And then, my huge (unbelievably lucky) SCOOP score hit, I joined Joey Ingram’s
cult GTO Club, and I was perfectly placed to try and play poker full time. It ticked all the boxes - it was appreciably close to playing Dota for a living, my parents wouldn’t like it, and it would feed my superiority complex that I was somehow achieving more than my old classmates who were now working for EY or KPMG or PWC or who-honestly-gives-a-fuck. Really, it was an absolute no-brainer to quit and try to gamble it up, after all; no gamble no future.
I knew that if I did not at least try to pursue poker as a profession then I would regret it, and indeed I do not regret my attempt to do so, or any part thereof. Poker pushed me in a way I’ve never been pushed before. I am the first to admit I have insanely fortunate life circumstances, and overall my life has been remarkably easy, with little real struggle. Sure, I always knew if poker went wrong then I had a safety net that was more of a safety trampoline, but I was under the impression for a long time that my ego would not bounce back from the fall. For a long time, I kept playing poker because I knew if I stopped, I would forever brand myself as a failure, someone who quit when things got tough at every point in his life.
And man, poker is tough. Way tougher than I thought. I will freely admit that I was incredibly naïve at pretty much every point in my journey, but that was one of the things poker did for me, it beat at least a little of that naïveté out of me. I was naïve about poker, money, friendships, my family, what “work” really is, my own ego and self-identity, stress, mental health, about life itself. And I still am ignorant of all of those things, just a little less so, I hope.
Identity is probably the biggest one. The emotional strain poker put me under (whether real or perceived) forced a lot of self reflection, swallowing of painful truths and all kinds of similar pretentious bullshit. I was arrogant about poker. I assumed I would succeed, because everyone always told me I was intelligent, and intelligent people succeed. As success continued to elude me, the way I thought about myself began to change. I have never had high self esteem (or indeed any other category of self esteem other than “low”), but the personal quality I have habitually clung onto as the root of any sort of positive self identity was my supposed intellect. When that was taken away…I felt like Theon Greyjoy, while poker was Ramsay Bolton, laughing in my face after he’d just chopped my dick off.
After my ego had had its metaphorical genitals removed, unsurprisingly I was at a bit of a loss, I had a lot of questions, and my mental health declined fairly rapidly. In another wholeheartedly undeserved stroke of fortune, I got an email from one of the directors at Indulge Media, which ultimately led to me being offered the job. The dream was already on life support, and I decided to pull the plug. The dream is dead.
Fortunately, dreams are like phoenixes, and from the ashes of poker, a new, not yet fully formed dream has emerged. Like Kid Cudi, my life also revolves around the pursuit for happiness, and my idea of happiness has changed a lot in the past 18 months. The things I thought would make me happy, didn’t. The things that were actually making me happy, I disregarded and took for granted. I used to have a burning desire to have some unique career path, to do something “different”, to be different, to be “better” than my peers. Now I realise, if my old classmates are working as an audit trainee and they’re happy, then I could be an astronaut-pornstar-Fortune 500 CEO and if I was miserable, the joke was on me. Now my idea of happiness is more focused on appreciating what I already have than striving for anything more. In Mexico, every day I would play 12+ hours a day, not get the results I want, stress, doubt myself, fear for my future, and go home, check my apartment for cockroaches, kill any I could find and try to get some sleep. After a few months of that, being able to go for a pint in the Cock and Bull with my friends makes me almost well up with happiness. Having a completely banal conversation with my brother makes my day. I barely struggled at all, but at least I struggled a little. It was the first thing on my life not handed to me on a silver plate, and now I can finally appreciate crockery made from precious metals.
So, what next? My main focus at the moment is on my new job, as a junior web developer. I have not been working at Indulge long, but so far I am absolutely loving it. It has made me remember that the point of technology is to improve our lives, something I think I easily forget having grown up with social media. I find coding immensely gratifying, and I am hoping my current thirst for learning more is not just a honeymoon period. Programming suits me well, as it is largely a series of logic problems that require solutions, a blend of creativity and analysis, which can result in something that improves somebody’s human experience. I am proud of the code I write - a novel feeling for me.
I already have a number of personal projects in the pipeline outside of work, although I am always on the lookout for ideas and inspiration. My ideas so far:
A new and upgraded version of this website, jonnyspicer.com
This site currently runs on WordPress, which is good for a complete beginner, but lacks the flexibility to build anything particularly spectacular or interesting, especially from a so-called developer’s perspective. My first project will be rebuilding this using Drupal, which will allow me to feature new projects on here in the future.
Aubury is a web app designed to help people deal with their emotions - essentially an emotional support chatbot. He/She/It (the name is intentionally androgynous) can have a basic conversation with you, and then based on what you say, give you some resources to explore how you’re feeling and hopefully help you. And by you, I mean me. I started building Aubury because I wanted somebody to tell me I’m pretty when I feel sad. So far that’s pretty much all the script can do, but I am hoping a more fleshed-out version of Aubury will launch as part of the new site.
Sisimito (working title)
Currently named after an ape from Belizean folklore, Sisimito plays off the Infinite Monkey Theorem, and was inspired by my awe at the Library of Babel, which I am nowhere near smart enough to understand. When considering some of the cool things I could do with PHP, Shakespeare’s monkeys came to mind, but then I realised I don’t give a shit about Shakespeare. So what do I give a shit about? Well… memes. I give a shit, about shitposts. The concept behind Sisimito is to brute force generate meme-like data, until eventually it produces a legitimate meme, which will be defined by some kind of parameters I set. It will post them to Twitter at regular intervals, and I’m hoping I can get some funny absurdist memes in the process. I haven’t figured out exactly how I’m going to define a “meme”, nor how much I am going to have to restrict the brute force element. Ideally Sisimito truly would be a monkey mashing random buttons, but once I’ve crunched some numbers it may turn out I need to at least teach Sisimito about basic grammar.
Esoteric programming languages play into one of my favourite things about people - our desire to do things for no good reason whatsoever, other than because we can. Esolangs are pretty much exactly that, bizarre programming languages that are technically usable but totally impractical, unflexible, time-consuming and really little more than a… well, little more than a meme. Creating one myself will force me to learn about low level languages and computer science in general, so I am very excited about that. Originally I was just going to plan to try to engineer one, but after some further research and consideration, I can’t choose between the following three options:
- A non-Turing complete language based on Dungeons and Dragons;
- A Turing complete language based on Dungeons and Dragons;
- A Turing Tarpit.
To me, it seems to make most sense to just try to do all three. Hopefully at some point there will be some code in one of these languages on this site, as well as a compiler available for download, proper documentation, perhaps even an editor of some kind.
If you got this far, thank you for reading. I plan to try to update this blog more regularly, both with programming progress as well as whatever is on my mind at the time. And if you are considering quitting your job to play poker… well, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.