In the last 12 months I’ve played 105 live tournaments, traveled to 47 cities (27 unique), and took 56 flights. Without counting the one and a half months I was living in Vegas for the WSOP tournament and four week leisurely break, the longest I have ever stayed in the same city is 15 days (which only happened twice)
Throughout the year I have an insanely OCD organized travel schedule that’s carefully planned from as little as 3 months to as long as 6 months in advance. I continue to plan my year in advance up until the end of the World Series of Poker in July, which is when I embark on a 4-week non-poker vacation. (The schedule goes 3 years back so I have listed down where I was and what I had to do every single day for the last 3 years!)
The World Series of Poker is THE MOST INTENSE month and a half of a poker player’s year. It also feels like “The end of the year” or “The end of the season” to some extent. With all the hard work, ups and downs, and large financial investment we all go through over the course of the summer, it’s hard to predict what you’ll feel like doing when the WSOP comes to an end. This time frame is known to me as “BLANK” (as you can clearly see on my travel schedule), which is my favorite time of the year!
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I ended up taking the first week to do a short little road trip with my friend Lukasz Grabowski, from Poland. He has never been to California and hasn’t seen much of the US besides Vegas. I told him to just follow me wherever I go during my time off and that I’d make sure he had a good time.
I travel around the world all year long and meet so many wonderful people that I have never done anything for those who are willing to host me and show me around. (Even those who don’t know much about my poker career) There is this AWESOME culture between travelers where we are always willing to host people and show them around our city even if they might never be able to return the favor. Chances are that we’ve had someone do the same for us in the past and it’s kind of a cool community that just gets it. When we meet each other on the street for the first time there is just an immediate bond and understanding. When I meet travelers in a city I know well, I’m always willing to take them out with me and show them around if I have some free time.
So we planned to drive from Vegas to San Francisco, which is nearby my hometown San Jose. We stopped at Bakersfield, CA for the evening to visit a good friend of mine who has been telling me to visit for ages. A lot of people asked me why the hell I would go to Bakersfield, a farm town of 350,000 people for my vacation time. My response to them is: I get tons of people asking me for advice on where they should visit to have the best experiences.
Most of them are comparing the major and most talked about tourist cities like London, Paris, Berlin, etc. I love all three of those cities but at the end of the day all my BEST experiences have been when I go to cities where I knew a local who could show me around and introduce me to all his or her local friends. That’s where you get to truly see the local culture and find places that yelp or Google searches would have never directed you to. I’m certainly not saying not to go to a big city. I have a bunch of local friends I met while traveling to Paris who have been showing me the ins and outs of the city every time I visit, so I end up popping in every now and then and having that amazing localized cultural experience.
Bakersfield was an awesome time. We shot guns, went grape, blueberry, and tomato picking, and played in the most entertaining poker games I’ve ever been to. I felt like a little kid jumping in and out of trucks filled with tomatoes and dancing on haystacks. The people who are around that stuff their whole life might find it mundane but when you haven’t had a chance to experience it, you end up appreciating it more. Hence why I think its important to keep switching it up and experience all sorts of different lifestyles or else you’ll forget how amazing and wonderful everything you’re already surrounded by is!
The poker games we played in were HILAROUSLY awesome. We played in private offices that eventually turned into more of a party that just happened to have a poker game going on at the same time. Most of the players were rich farmers or oil guys some worth as much as 9 figures. We weren’t playing for giant stakes or anything but I met a lot of really cool people. It was fun to make new friends and business connections, along with making enough money to fund our next few weeks of traveling. =D
Each day we went to a new game that had a completely different atmosphere and crowd. It was fun because it reminded me of when I first started playing poker at the game of 19 and had my rounding partner Ben Lefew (chong94). We would just run around different games in Illinois day in and day out rounding up games. One day we went to my friend’s casino in a nearby city and played a sit and go and met some cool waitresses and staff that partied with us the next day. Another day my friend took me to his country club where I found 6 different games of either Gin Rummy or Poker where the average age was around 50. It literally felt like a scene out of the movie “Rounders”
Our one night in Bakersfield turned into four nights because we just kept having too much fun. We ended up having to completely skip the San Francisco portion of our trip and drove straight to San Jose to catch out flight to Chicago the next afternoon.
The rest of my time off consisted of taking care of business and getting things organized before I hit the road again. There are a lot of things that pile up when you are on the road all the time. Organizing where your mail goes, how bills get paid, staying in shape, personal development goals, and even just making myself available for interviews and podcasts that I couldn’t get around to during the busy season.
I am an investor in a new nightlife app called “Own The Night” that allows big spenders to skip lines and cover at clubs in Chicago and San Francisco and hopefully some more cities soon. This week I’ve been putting in some hours at the office in Chicago to be a part of the business, helping out where I can or just being around to learn from the people running it. As I invest in their businesses, I live vicariously through all my entrepreneur friends, as that would be my alternative gig if I weren’t playing poker full time. On the other hand, they invest in my tournaments living vicariously through me, waiting for the day they are ready to just run off and travel the world playing poker tournaments.
I plan on doing blog posts regularly from here on out so check back regularly to find articles, interviews, or blog posts that might interest you. I haven’t forgotten about part 2 of my Monastery trip report. Was unfortunate that I wasn’t able to get to it before the WSOP started. Now that I’m done with my website makeover will promise to get that out to you guys in the next couple weeks! It’s a piece i want to make sure i do well and do the best job getting my experiences across to people so didn’t want to just throw it together while i was busy just for the sake of getting it done.
The tour starts back up next week in Florida for the $5,000 re entry 10 million guarantee at the Seminole Hard Rock in Holywood. Will see you guys at the final table 😛