@AndrewNeeme on why he joined a gang
My phone lit up with that ever familiar ringtone of an incoming text message, this time from HemmaCuda: “So what’s it gonna take to get you to start coaching at Stackem?”
When I first moved to Las Vegas, I knew almost nobody in the city. I had one contact here: a girl from high school named Rochelle whom I have no recollection of ever saying one word to in those four years at Grosse Pointe North. She would become one of my best friends here in town and through her I would meet others, but for a long while I was rolling solo. This didn’t worry me moving from Los Angeles to the desert. It was a move to a smaller city but I knew I would never be bored. It was Vegas after all — parties culture galore, a revolving door for visitors, and I would always be able to jump in a card game at any hour of the day or night where the hours would fly as they do when you’re in the poker time warp.
For almost a good solid year I just did my thing by myself. Occasionally (appreciatively) Rochelle and I would go for beers at various dive bars around town but I was basically playing poker and being a loner.
I poached a couple of her friends and slightly expanded my social circle from there. Of course, none were degenerate full-time gamblers so I was still very much doing my own thing, but at least it was now with the occasional happy hour drinking buddies. As for work colleagues, that number remained firmly planted at zero. I was playing poker for one obvious, selfish reason only: to support myself. Get up and grind for 8 hours, come home and chill. Rinse. Repeat.
I remember meeting Jaymes Rosenthal and Brad Golomb at the old Palms poker room. They had a pretty sweet score in the Sunday Million on Pokerstars a while back where they swapped 50 percent, and Brad (who is now one of the best live 5/10NL players in Vegas) took 4th place one week. Jaymes followed that up with a deep run in a WSOP 1k event in 2010 — giving them ammunition to fund their poker exploits full time in Las Vegas.
They were living it up in the swanky Palms Place condos when we ended up in the same 1/3NL game on the purple felts. I remember running great that night, getting AA all in preflop for a big pot, and other fun hands that played themselves and made me look like a better player than I was. It hardly occurred to me to try and build my social/poker circle with people in the rooms I frequented. However, Jaymes was (and is) always looking to do just that so he took my contact details. He would later become one of my best friends, but at the time he was the first “poker colleague” I had.
We talked strategy, something I had done with basically nobody before. We talked about life as poker players, the huge ups and vast downs that come with that rollercoaster lifestyle. We swapped percentages in live tourneys. Those usually benefited me more than him but whatever. And he introduced me to other fellow degens like Jon Hemmer and Nick DiVella; players that Dan refers to as Grinder Thugs — I guess because for some reason he couldn’t help but see them in their poker attire and hand over his wallet.
So I came to have some semblance of a “poker crew”. But my daily routine and its motivation was basically the same: grinding for one. It’s weird. A part of why I took this “job” is because I wanted to do my own thing for myself, rather than being paid to work on someone else’s dream. And after 3 years of doing just that, what I thought I didn’t want ended up being something I missed most — working on something tangible and toward goals, together with others on a team.
When Hemma’s text hit my iPhone it was a combination of surprise, nervousness and relief.
Surprise because I had no clue they were considering me to join their poker coaching startup. Nervousness because I didn’t know that should I accept (which I kind of knew I would) whether I would make a fool of myself. And relief because it was like all those sessions of grinding through the swings had impressed somebody enough to want me to help represent their project. It was like there was suddenly more reason and substance to all those hours of playing cards for a living.
It’s still very early days for Stackem Coaching and by no means do I think “I’ve made it in life!” It’s a startup and we all know how treacherous those waters can be. But all the coaches there are supremely dedicated, and together we all get to work on something that we believe others will find both helpful and entertaining. It didn’t take much for Hemma to get me to be a coach. All I had to do was see that those guys were as committed and excited to helping people develop their poker lives as I was to developing mine. As a grinder used to being in predatory mode, it feels good flip the switch and encourage others to do well. It’s a far cry from my loner days of nothing but the grind and I’m definitely happy about that, and I look forward to continuing my poker story there.
P.S. I’ve intentionally left out of this blog and all previous blogs the person who’s been most influential in me getting my shit together, regarding both poker and life. She knows who she is. <3