A homeowner?

Don’t get any crazy ideas. This doesn’t mean I am settling down. It just means there is a room somewhere on the beach in Mexico full of high end electronics and high speed internet connectivity.

I officially moved into Part I of the Berwick Life Plan today. Part II and possibly III and IV will likely soon follow, where I will get similar accommodations set up in, most likely, Thailand and down the road, perhaps a small lodging at a South American ski resort for snowboarding excursions and possibly a place somewhere in Eastern Europe such as Estonia or Kazakhstan just to ensure I have facilities on nearly every continent as home bases when in the region.

But Part I was completed on Friday when I moved into my seaside enclave in Acapulco. As usual I wasted no time.

I awoke Saturday morning with the intention of ‘picking up a few things’. I went downstairs to speak with the resort manager and he suggested that he send me out with one of his staff… it’ll be easier that way, he said, because I “look a little too gringo.� He was suggesting that I may end up getting some bad deals so he asked Enrique to drive me around for the day.

Just having a guy drive me from place to place and know all the best places would have been excellent on its own. But this guy was no slouch! He questioned, bargained and haggled for everything. It almost felt like I was barely part of the process except for the odd “si� or “no� for any questions. And he would carry all the stuff for me, open doors for me and everything!?

Helper friends of his even seemed to pop out of nowhere at just the right times to help carry stuff out to waiting vehicles which he arranged for delivery.

Considering all the effort and trouble it would have been to do this all on my own, I thought, I might as well get almost every single thing I need today while I have my own personal assistant!

Nearly maxing out my credit card (and that is saying a lot) and a few hours later we returned to my condo where all those delivery guys were waiting patiently outside my door with boxes and boxes of stuff.

There was a large flatscreen LCD monitor, full surround sound system, Xbox, Fridge and a new air conditioning system (which Enrique told me they would install ‘manana’!) amongst other things.

And that was just the stuff we could take today. Still to come were the bed, sofa, chairs, tables and other miscellaneous items in a few days from the warehouse.

The condo was still full of all the really ugly furniture from the previous owners. The guys who delivered all the stuff asked me if I wanted to get rid of all of it. I happily said yes, please! They responded, “no problema� and an army of Mexicanos emptied my place of its horrid furnishings within minutes.

And so, by mid-day on the first day I moved into my condo, it is almost all fully furnished and ready to go!

I had to ask Enrique how much I owed all those guys for delivering all my stuff for me and he was almost embarrassed to tell me $25. I obviously tipped Enrique much more than that, as well as the helpers. Enrique’s haggling alone likely saved me hundreds of dollars and the value of not having to lift a finger the entire day was worth a lot to me! I just love the attitude here in Mexico as opposed to the vile residents of places like Las Vegas where no tip is good enough and where service is rarely of the exceptional variety. And even if the service is done well it is almost always solely to get a big tip whereas, in places like Mexico, people do good jobs for the sole reward of having performed a job well done.

I was already in a great mood but it gets even better! I asked the condo manager about setting up a satellite dish to get Canadian HDTV. If you asked that anywhere in Camerica the initial response would almost certainly be an insta-no. However, in the land of the free, his response was, “Ya sure, whatever you want. We can set it all up for you. We can even buy all the equipment for you,� and he went on to tell me that a French Canadian guy in the building already set-up a satellite and that if it is the same one I want that I could possibly even just tap into that! So, if it is the same one, I could even have my sat tv all up and running in a matter of days too.

Everything in places like Mexico and Thailand is just all so nice and easy. It’s like bizarro world compared to living in unionized, over-regulated, socialist welfare states such as most of the anglosphere. I’m just so used to hearing ‘no’ that it is always so refreshing to be in a place where 99.9% of the time the answer is yes… or, more specifically, “si� or “chai�.

Even as I write this blog I had to go to the door and fight off the maid (apparently I get daily room cleaning included in the price of my condo fees… go ask about that at your condo office in Camerica and see what kind of response you get!). She had just cleaned it thoroughly yesterday during the few minutes when I had left the apartment and so I told her I didn’t need anything. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was like, no, I don’t really need anything cleaned today. She kept asking and looking around, managing to peer past my shoulder to see a garbage can with something in it and pointing excitedly, “la basura senior, limpieza!� (roughly translated: the garbage sir, I clean�)

I finally had to let her clean something as she would not allow my place to go uncleaned for the day. She thanked me profusely.

Between being taken care of by my crazy Thai gf poolside in Bangkok and service and amenities like this in Acapulco, I foresee myself quickly getting way too comfortable. Don’t worry, I won’t let more than a month go by before I pull up Google Maps and hit the road!

Mucho Monterrey

I wanted to get from Las Vegas to Acapulco. There is a direct flight from Las Vegas to Monterrey. There are also direct flights from Monterrey to Acapulco (on Viva Aerobus, Aviacsa and semi-defunct but still operating, Magnicharters), so I thought, why not go check out Monterrey.

Monterrey has to be one of the least known big cities in North America. I hadn’t even heard of it until about a year ago when I kept noticing that many of the airlines I was looking at for flights flew to Monterrey. After doing a few quick google searches I kept seeing BEAUTIFUL pictures of the city and the surrounding mountains, which appeared to be right on top of the city itself.

Next I wikipedia’ed it and it very quickly became apparent that this was a culturally significant, modern and cool city. Other factoids that grabbed my interest were stats stating that Monterrey was the “safest� city in all of Latin America. Which is saying a lot, as you could drop your wallet in cities like Santiago, Santo Domingo or Managua and virtually be assured that a few minutes later someone would be running along behind you, “Senor! Senor su moneda!�

I take most statistics to be circumspect and I assume all government statistics to be guilty of falsity until proven innocent, especially in the area of ‘crime statistics’, seeing as how the government is the biggest criminal enterprise in every jurisdiction. Nonetheless, I found that stat to be interesting.

So, I always kept Monterrey in mind as a potential stop over en route one way or another and got my chance last week in Las Vegas.

I’ve been here a week already (man time is flying, is it just me??) and Monterrey has not disappointed. The city is really beautiful. Just do a Google Image search for Monterrey and you’ll see a multitude of beautiful shots, from the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains which frame the city to the architecture, statues and parks within the city itself.

There is sort of a main hotel area where most of the hotels are in the centro. The hotels all are within walking distance of the main walking/shopping street, which is nice. The walking street is similar to those in most cities, including Santa Monica and Sydney, Australia… only difference is, of course, much less mentally insane and street people here in Monterrey than in socialist countries such as those.

There is an ‘old city’ part of town, known as Barrio Antiguo, which is within walking distance from centro. This is a really cool part of town. It is full of restaurants, pubs, bars, discos and tatuajes (tattoo) shops. This area is similar to the old town in places like Montevideo, but I give Monterrey extra marks for just being cool. Mexicans, in general, usually have such a great style, but it is even more so in Monterrey. Everyone was so damn cool there I almost felt like I didn’t belong! From the usual Mexican rich kids to the plethora of funky, stylish, engaged college students (Monterrey has numerous schools and is generally known as a college town). The Mexican rich kids seem to like a disco called Uma, in Barrio Antiguo. The school kids can be found at places such as Coco Loco and Zocalo.

Being so close to the Texas border, Monterrey is, by far, the most Americanized Mexican city I’ve been to. This has its positives and negatives. On the positives, a lot of people here actually speak some English, which is NEVER the case anywhere else in Mexico, so for those whose Spanish is less than fluent, it is a nice benefit. Negatively, the city is laid out a lot like an American city. Meaning, having a car is almost a necessity to get around. There are lots of taxis though, so that is not a problem. But the town is very car centric, from the hotel check-in asking me if I needed a parking space to the multitude of parking lots around the city.

This is a working and school town. Monterrey isn’t thought of as a tourist town, but I’d definitely consider it a great town to visit for a weekend if not longer.

The people, in general, are very nice and friendly… which is normal for Mexico. The taxi driver, on my way to the airport, was a good snapshot of the style here.

Taxi Driver (TD): Where you from?
Me: Canada
TD: Frio
Me: Si
TD: Monterrey is beautiful
Me: Si
TD: Everyone nice
Me: Si
TD: Chicas bonitas
Me: Si
TD: Legs
Me: Si
TD: Ass
Me: Si, bueno

That is just the normal type of conversation and the normal way of talking in these parts where not much matters other than women, tacos and tequila.

Monterrey weather is a bit different than I am used to from all the coastal areas I normally inhabit. Monterrey actually has seasons. The winters can actually get below freezing, quite regularly, in the evenings while the summers are extremely hot. It was 42c today! I looked at the weather and prepared myself mentally before going outside but after 20 minutes of walking around I realized I had barely broken a sweat. I briefly started to panic. My sweat glands are broken! They are broken! But then I realized, it’s a dry heat here… again something I’m not used to on all my coastal adventures. In places like Acapulco I would have had to stop and buy a new shirt after twenty minutes of walking about in the hot sun. But in Monterrey it was actually quite comfortable.

Another thing Monterrey has reinforced for me is the size of Mexico. A lot of northern Norte Americanos just kinda look at Mexico as a small country at the bottom of the continent. I’ll tell you, after having spent nearly a year just trying to sail all the way down the incredibly long west coast and having now visited dozens of Mexican cities, all with their own cultures, styles and unique geographical locations, this country is HUGE. It is huge and incredibly diverse.

If you’ve been to, say, Cancun, and figure you’ve “seenâ€? Mexico, give your head a shake. First, the Cancun that most people see (the tourist zone) isn’t even really Mexico. I call it Florida del sur. It’s basically just a place where American college kids can go so they can feel like they have traveled the world, while they eat at McDonalds, stay at the Holiday Inn and, gasp, drink a Corona, what a crazy, exotic adventure! And secondly, as I just said, this country is geographically, economically and culturally huge and diverse.

In fact, now that I think about it, I’ve spent well over a year travelling around Mexico now and there is still a half dozen places I can think of, off the top of my head, that I haven’t been to yet but am very interested in checking out. Including Veracruz, Puebla and Guadalajara. Mainly because I have met fantastic girls who said they were from those places. I’ve also heard Guadalajara is really beautiful and unique.

Well, hopefully in the next few days I’ll get possession of my new condo and continue on my semi-residency in Mexico and can easily hop a $50, one hour flight to any of those places to check them out.

On a side note, however, I personally believe Mexico, the country, will likely dissolve in the next five years. Why? The great majority of the money in this country is derived from oil production. Oil production that has been declining at shocking rates. The Cantarell oil field, long thought of as one of the world’s biggest producers has gone from full production to almost negligible production in a matter of months! In a few more years it’ll likely be completely dry.

There are so many geopolitical variables involved that it is impossible to guess the future. Will Mexico start to collapse, and then the US will try to take it over? Or will it collapse and a new, free state be born? Anything is possible.

So, knowing that the country could go through a major upheaval, you ask, why would you buy a place there now? Are you kidding, the best thing that could happen to any country is to have its government dissolve! I was driving to Burma once in Western Thailand when I heard a coup broke out in Bangkok… I couldn’t have driven back any faster! Going to shoot all the politicos and bureaucrats? Not without me you’re not!

I have no doubt that if the nation-state of Mexico collapses there will be a few interesting days/weeks/months as the natural order of things coalesces after years of corrupt bureaucracy. No problemo. As long as I can keep my satellite TV and internet connection running, and someone is still making tacos al pastor in the neighborhood, I’m good.

As a super side note, I expect similar things for many of the nation states on the planet over the coming months and years as banks collapse, currencies collapse (first and foremost the USD, of course) and famine and energy crisis’ (who predicted all this, btw? points at self, smugly) roll through the planet. If you haven’t bought gold, silver and some agriculture and energy stocks, yet, I don’t know what else I can tell ya. Time is running out.

In the meantime I just arrived back to a place that is beginning to feel like “a home� (I could never just have one), Acapulco, every time I return. My Mexican love affair continues…

Now hopefully at some point they finally finish my closing documents. They told me initially it would be 2 weeks… 3 weeks max. Well, it’s been 3.5 weeks so far and still nothing. But, as Siu Yin told me, “It’s hot and mucky down there. And they sleep all afternoon, what do you expect?”.

Right, as usual, she is!

Updates and some pics

I’m still in Vegas. I think I’ve been here nearly two weeks now, time flies. I’ve been having a good time though. This town definitely suits my tastes. It is 24 hours, even more so than Bangkok! It has tons of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Has lots of hot girls from around the world. And, of course, it has poker. I guess that explains why I’m still here!

I’ll hopefully be getting a call soon about my Acapulco condo and then will head back there to finish up the paperwork and take possession. There are direct flights from Las Vegas to Monterrey, Mexico. And on the weekends there are direct flights from Monterrey to Acapulco, so I think that will be the way I’ll make it back there. I’ve never been to Monterrey, nor even heard much about it, but every time I do a web search on Monterrey I keep seeing stunningly beautiful pictures of the city and it’s mountainous surroundings. It looks really nice, so I want to stop in and check it out.

Here, btw, is a pic of the approximate view from my condo in Acapulco. Bueno!

And now, onto the poker.

Here is a pic of me playing with my usual chip stack at the World Series.

I’ve played five tournaments now, I think. The first four I literally got zero cards and my chip stack always looked like the one in the pic.

Then on the fifth one, the floodgates finally broke and I got a crazy amount of big hands. QQ, KK, AK, AQ, KK… and literally, one after another. I more than doubled my chip stack in the first two hours and was finally able to play my game. I had the whole table off its game. I was raising and reraising and stealing blinds and bluffing.

But then, disaster struck.

I had 11,000 chips (starting was 5,000 chips). I had A10 under the gun. I limped in. Four others limped after me and then a short stack raised 2,000. I sensed it was a steal attempt and I put him all in for 4,000 chips. Everyone else folded. He turned over Q 7, offsuit, sheepishly. The flop, K 9 2 7 2. Agh.

So then I was at 7,000 chips.

The very next hand I was dealt KK, for the third time in an hour. The guy under the gun limped in, the girl to his left raised. I reraised to 4,000 chips, hoping to isolate her. Turns out I was the one about to get isolated.

The guy under the gun re-raised my re-raise! This, really, could only mean one thing. Bullets. Aces. Although, it was possible he also had KK’s. It was highly doubtful he had QQs.

But, there I was, sitting with only 3,000 chips left, with KK’s and having to decide if I am going to call a double reraise for the rest of my stack. I don’t know too many people who could fold KKs in that position. I pretty much knew he had AAs but had to call on the offchance he had KKs and the very off chance that he thought I was bluffing and had nothing.

I called. AAs.

Ten minutes later I was in my hotel room.

I do, at least, feel somewhat happy that for at least an hour or two I got to play my game. And it worked very well. I had that table turned upside down once I finally got some cards.

I am thinking of playing one more tourney, on Monday, and then I think I’ll call it a year and head back to Mexico.

I’ve really enjoyed the atmosphere and the vibe of the WSOP. ALL the pros are here. At nearly every table in the tourney are big name pros. I’ve watched some of their plays and haven’t seen too much that they do much better than me. Their reading abilities are what sets them apart and that is also something I am very good at. I’ve yet to have any of the players I respect sit at my table and get to duel with them to really test my skills. I had Kathy Liebert at my table. But it was at the rebuy tourney and she was basically just moving all in with any hand.. so not much to learn there except to bring lots of money to a rebuy!

I played a cash game with Chris Moneymaker. I’ve watched his plays on tv and watched him live now and have to say, he is really not a good player at all. His reads are wrong more often than not and his plays are weak. Even if you watch the highlights of the WSOP that he won, more than 80% of the hands he won he played wrong and just lucked out.

Anyway. Poker to me is just a fun hobby. I really couldn’t see myself playing it very regularly, like the pros. It can get pretty boring quite quickly. Sure, you can always learn something, every day, which is part of the reason I like it. But compared to, say, the stock market, or economics in general, it is very limited. There is only so much you can do and really you only have three options. Check, bet or fold. Not exactly mind bending stuff. But, as a nice way to get my mind off the stock market and economics from time to time and still get to use my brain, it is a great pastime.

I think I’ll try to get to the WSOP every year now. I’ll add it to my ‘recurring’ trip itinerary. That makes three things I’ll try to do every year. The WSOP in Vegas in June, Thai new year in April and Boracay for New Years. And Bangkok, Acapulco and adventures in between.

Not a bad life.

From Acapulco to the World Series of Poker

I’ve got lots of updates and opinions, so simma down na and grab a snack.

First, I indeed have purchased a condo in Acapulco. It is the first real estate purchase I’ve made since my brief, ill-fated townhome purchase circa 1994.

It also denotes a change in my lifestyle. After 3+ years of pretty much living out of my backpack and travelling the world, I am looking for a place, or two, to call my own.

Unlike my prior, failed condo purchase a few months ago in Acapulco, this place isn’t anything too special. It is just a studio apartment. But the location is nearly unbeatable. The studio is on the 29th floor (of 31 floors total) and faces the bay. And, as I said before, if there is a more beautiful urban setting than Acapulco Bay, I haven’t seen it. The building is right on the beach and has two huge, 5 star hotel style swimming pools (complete with bar at the pool and everything!). On the other side of the building is the main street known as ‘the costera’. The building is about as central on the costera as it gets. 50 meters from the building is disco row, restaurants and any amenity desirable. In fact, in the building itself are many restaurants and shops including a tacos al pastor place! I don’t even have to walk outside to get my daily taco!

The building is facing the exact right direction to receive Star Choice Canadian satellite TV which is receivable in southern Mexico with a 85 centimeter dish. The balcony is large so I will throw up a satellite dish there and get a 50� flat screen, sound system, Xbox and a few computers. And voila, the perfect bachelor pad.

I’ll be watching the Oilers next year, in January, in HD, at the beach. Excellente!

It’ll be another week or so to complete all the paperwork and then I’ll hopefully get possession. I’ll likely stick around there for a while (a month or two).

In the meantime, however, while I wait, I thought I’d fly up to Las Vegas and play in some of the World Series of Poker events.

Some may take some of my comments on the USA as being anti-American. I’m not, though. The US government is heinous, but most governments are to one degree or another, but the people in America are the same as anywhere… there are some amazingly great people and some horrible people.

Actually, that is probably the best way to describe America. It has the best of everything (for the most part) and it also has the worst of everything (for the most part).

Let me start with the bad. I’ve seen two people nearly get killed (hit and run on pedestrians), seen numerous heated confrontations and had two people actually make a point of remanding me for not tipping them enough (one of which was a taxi driver who I made very clear that he had best get back in his cab and drive away very quickly or I’ll give him a tip he’ll remember). I’ve also seen a collision between two morbidly obese people on their industrial strength motor scooters. The collision was only at 4mph and was over instantly, but the jiggling and rippling of cheese-looking, pasty fat white skin resonated long after!

But, I’ve also seen and met numerous people (mostly at the poker tourneys where I spend most of my time) who are really interesting and nice. I’ve also greatly enjoyed my stay at the Rio hotel (where the tourney is). It is cheap (actually everything in the US seems cheap now thanks to the perpetually shrinking dollar) and very nice and the service has been excellent. And barely a minute or two goes by without an attractive girl walking by, of every race and color. And it is just so nice to talk to them in my native language where I don’t sound like a complete retard… notice I said complete.

I’ve actually enjoyed my stay so much I briefly took a look at the local real estate listing, considering getting a little condo here and playing some poker on a more regular basis. But, I quickly nixed that. Hotels are so nice and so cheap here, I’ll just stay in hotels when I visit.

The rest of this blog entry is about poker, so if that doesn’t interest you, go ahead and click off.

I played in some cash games to start and was quickly well up. The winnings from the cash games paid for nearly all the tournaments I played. To date I have played four tournaments.

Sadly, though, on my first try at the WSOP, I got ZERO help from the cards. I must’ve played a total of 18 hours of poker and had, maybe 4 playable hands. I’ve never actually seen such a run of atrocious cards. I survived about 7 hours in two of the tourneys and made it close to the money… but it was almost ENTIRELY on bluffs and blind steals! If I would have just once gotten AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 10 10 or AK or AQ and got action it would have been a whole other story.

I played very well though. In one of the tourneys I hadn’t had a decent hand for 4 hours and I looked down to AQ. Finally, I thought… a hand I can actually play a bit! One guy before me min-raised and the next guy re-raised. I took a minute to survey the action… and remember, this is after 4 hours of getting 10-6 offsuit! Your average person woulda jumped out of their shoes to get in that pot. I surveyed and didn’t like what I saw. Based on their prior plays I put them both on monster hands. I FOLDED. They both ended up all-in. The hands: AK & QQ!!!! I was practically drawing dead! I later ended up all in with my small stack with A9. I got one caller, 66. The flop, A J 4… then 7…. Then, of course, 6. What can you do.

I made one bad call in the four tourneys, that I know of. I put a guy on a bluff and ended up all in with one pair against a made full house! I did learn from that, though.

And in the last tourney I stuck around for 7 hours stealing blinds and bluffing and waiting for ANY A or ANY K to go all-in on as I was very short stacked. It took nearly an hour to get it! I got AJ. All-in. Call. AA! Sigh. Not one break all week.

One thing is for certain, the level of play, in general, at the WSOP is far and away better than any I’ve seen elsewhere. Only the Sydney Star City casino has competition that is similar.

I don’t think I was out of my league… but it’s really hard to tell, given that I had no playable hands the entire week! But, for sure, I cannot include myself in the upper echelon (like with the Daniel Negreanu’s and Phil Ivey’s) yet. This I learned. But I never really had much of a chip stack to play MY game (my game is a lot like Negreanus… I’ll raise with almost anything and call with almost anything, content to use my post-flop reading skills to outplay them after the flop). But I was out played a few times this week. This definitely isn’t your half-drunk casino crowd!

One thing I learned this week is NOT to play rebuys at this level! I played a $1,000 buy-in rebuy. I walked up to the table at the very start and half the table had $5k-$10k worth of chips in front of them! People like Negreanu go all-in dark for the first 30 hands trying to build up a massive chip stack! And, in general, it works. Him and Phil Ivey and others were in the final 27 people in that tourney… but most of them probably paid well over $10,000+ to get there! Whereas I walked in, like a dufus, with my $2,000 and was quickly just run out, getting called by 3 people with ANYTHING, pre-flop and quickly I was out the door! It makes sense for the top pros to buy in for as much as $30k because if they get to the final table or win a bracelet, their sponsorship money increases by much more than the $30k. As for me, my sponsor, Team Berwick, isn’t quite so generous!

I am thinking of leaving on the weekend. Part of me wants to play in a few more tourneys and at least, once, get more than the amount of chips you start with, in front of me (I don’t think I had much more than the starting amount the ENTIRE week!!). I kinda feel unfulfilled leaving now.

But part of me already misses Mexico!

We’ll see what happens… go with the flow, as usual.