Thursday, 21 June 2012


It is weird to read my correspondences from the late August/early September period, being the time of transition between my old function in life to my new one. I am surprised at how much my attitudes have changed. Gone is the brutal, doctrinaire self-reliance, absurd sense of commitment and childish anxiety. These have been replaced by a more casual, comfortable, competent approach and a realisation that solitary ambitions (that is, ambitions focusing solely around personal achievement in specific areas, or status in general) are not all that sustainable and often bear little relation to the nuances of reality. In short, I feel more human and have never been more certain as to the general pointlessness of existence (something from which I draw only strength).

Most of this change actually came about during the recent exam season. One always goes in with the expectation, or indeed assumption, that with enough hard work and clarity of thought the learning materials can be mastered, even in the short space of time provided. I won't find out the results till the 20th July. In the end, everything ends up a messy scrap. One can not master the equivalent of three university modules' worth of material in six weeks - one simply has to hope that one has done enough to pass.

Another realisation (albeit one which came to fruition in January) is that one can not simply live life as a series of journies from one node of contentness and certainty to another, whatever these nodes may be. You must have the self-discipline to enjoy the journey itself. And it does take self-discipline. Any fool can fret and worry or give way to superstition. I use the term superstition in the broadest sense - trying to detect patterns in reality where there are none and forming false expectations of destiny as a result. It's familar but true - there are only so many months we have, and a month fretting is a month altogether wasted.

Success is not over-rated, and I think the thing I am doing at the moment is very much the right thing. What I do post-qualification is anybody's guess, but the rigid reliance on 'ambition' and 'hard work' as a means of personal salvation has run its course. I think one may be perfectly 'succesful' without set aims or goals simply by doing whatever it is in front of you well. But, generally, I have no idea what to do. I have never had any strong ambitions, only affectations - and I am beginning to think that the aforementioned reliance on ambition and hard work was in itself little more than an affectation, albeit one which was more practically benefitial than others.

Sometimes I wonder why I write this at all. It's all perfectly obvious.

Meanwhile I am enjoying the fruits of an 8-and-a-half day holiday. Tomorrow I am back to work, if only for one day before the weekend starts. Thus I will have had a week of Sundays followed by a Friday!

Saturday, 12 May 2012


Am back in Brighton. I do tend to come back around once per month. Nothing ever seems to change here, which frankly I find more frustrating than reassuring, but it is good to see the family now and then.

My last visit was three weeks ago, but though I was here I saw nothing of Brighton itself, busy as I was doing pre-reading for my exams, not leaving the house. Thirteen days I have been back at college now, having completed the Financial Accounting and Audit & Assurance tuition and halfway through Taxation.

They are a mixed bunch of papers. A&A is nice in so far as it is essentially what I actually do day to day, and nothing in the (surprisingly short) syllabus is at all alien to me, although like all essay-based exams the subtleties of 'answering the question' become as important as the knowledge itself. FA is a bit more mechancial and will, in essence, be more about bashing out pro-formas than thinking too critically. Tax, so far, I have enjoyed, and whilst the syllabus is huge the questions themselves are more like mathematical puzzles than essaylus or tables. I do feel most at home in Tax too.

The exams themselves are in four weeks time although in practice I want to have some sort of mastery by this time next week as I shall be taking three mocks in three days come Monday 21st.

As for the rest of my life... that concept does not really matter. I still sometimes labour under the misapprehension that everybody out there (including fellow ACA's) live their life on a subtle, down-to-earth plane than I do and that almost every goal I have is intensely self-absorbed and has pretty much no impact or benefit on the thing that perhaps most of all conspires towards happiness - meaningful and honest conversations and friendships with other humans.

That said, I intend to smash these exams.

Monday, 9 April 2012


I don't think it's a coincidence that this blog materialized shortly after leaving one institution (University) and withered away shortly before joining another (Audit Firm). Now that I have a daily function I feel more at ease with life and thus less compelled to write, as well as the obvious fact that I don't have as much spare time as before and have a greater taste for 'doing things' i.e. I would rather blog in person, as it were, through conversation and the suchlike.

But tonight I do have a time. I have just enjoyed my first full week's holiday since starting my employment and do not believe I have packed so much genuine fun into such a short space of time in a while. The last four nights were spent in Manchester with 'that lot' (my Warwick non-housemate friends) for a classic long-weekend of scriptwriting, eating, playing boardgames and the occasional physical activity (in this case 'urban cricket') from which I returned today.

Seven months (nearly) have passed and I have completed my induction training, six exams and a busy season (to name but the highlights). This time last year was pretty much the low-point of applications, and it is satisfying to see how far I have come in a year.

But I do not know what to expect really over the next six months. Well, I know what to *literally* expect: six more exams, a couple more clients, a few more weeks of holiday (I have about three of'em saved up!). The one thing I've realised is that the intensity and difficulty of the actual work varies quite a bit. January was a 'character builder', February a sort of flourishing and March... I was pretty exhausted by March, as we all were. But I do think though that even the busiest part of busy season was far less intense than study was, or will be.

At least study has the benefit of beign compartmentalized. You know exactly what the 'nature of the beast is' - you just need to study very hard to slay said beast. In audits you can be doing different things from one day to the next and do not get the satisfying 'pass or fail' all-or-nothing drama of exams, and seldom the same sense of urgency.

The next six papers are 2.5 hour written affairs and legitimately difficult and I want to perform unambigiously brilliantly in them, and I believe I have every chance of doing so. I am sufficiently bright, enjoy studying and still have a chip on my shoulder about being lazy at school and university giving me a petty desire to 'prove myself'. Furthermore, I think I more than anyone else in my intake is willing to make myself a hermit for six weeks. Better yet, I shall have the opportunity to do this twice, once for the June papers and once for the September papers!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Hand History - Part 15: The Final Shove

Well it looks like I won't have much time for poker over the next three years. Or neccessarily that much money either. I've done the calculations and whilst I won't be living light and will no doubt have enough for some sort of leisure, I don't want to factor poker in to my estimates. For a start it would be a bit lame. And in any case I should like to begin saving, saving in such a way that each year can see a sort of incremental increase in prosperity until such time as I end up marrying and buying a semi-detached in Acton or something.

It even looks unlikely that I'll have a Vic session prior to my September start, although I would like to see the place again before too long. The last time I was there was in Janaury pretty much the weekend before applications started. And it's well over two years since I first set foot in there as can be read about in my previous Hand History.

Well now it is time to bring the story to a close. I don't pretend this to be an easy task: the gap between April 2009 and now has been a long one and there have been fewer great easily memorable 'set pieces'. But I shall do my best to relate them now.

The days immediately following the Vic session were pretty low. I did not feel that I had been through some odd rite of passage. I actually felt genuinely foolish. However the loss had no immediate financial effect and in no way impacted on my ability for study, which is infact usually strengthened in times of misery. Two days after my Vic session I was in a cardroom once more for the UKSPC in Birmingham. I was genuinly excited about the event but was playing pretty recklessly and was out before the dinner break. I decided my dignity was worth more than a free meal so rather than hanging around for the buffet I went home under the full veil of glumness.

There were no more major events during this period (up till the end of exams and after). I remember one May afternoon (self designated-day off) I pretty much sat downstairs in my dressing gown playing tournaments on full tilt, making a loss of about $50 which in my dense mental state seemed like a 'fucking waste' rather than a legitimate investment. Generally speaking if you're still in your dressing gown by mid-afternoon and have not washed it's hard to have a healthy mindset about anything. I also won Pokersoc a second time (post-exams) although it was only for a £100 prize. That plus a visit or two to Stanleys (or Noobleys or Stanjokes as we have alternatively called it) and the occasional home game (including an 8-man £20 tourney). DKSOP still existed but was neither as intense nor as regular as it had been in previous years- credit the fact that third year work actually meant something beyond simply copying and pasting! That and the fact that our second year poker-protaganist (always the first to suggest a trip to the casino or to double the stakes) had long left us.

In June there was also the pokersoc final HORSE and NLHE deepstacks, both of which I enjoyed but neither of which I cashed in.  I recall the very last poker games I played at uni being as followes: a fancy dress NLHE tourney at Pokersoc (I came as Phil Hellmuth but busted v. early on) and a three-way £1/£2 mixed game with Goblin and the Conjurer. The pokersoc game was rather offputting: when you see four maths/physics/computer science students/graduands jumping up and down to some music drunk on lager in the Ramphal Building you sort of lose respect for the majesty of the institution (Pokersoc). I feelings when I first entered Pokersoc 33 months earlier were a mixture of florrid confusion and reverence. Gone were the heavy smoking pro's of 2006 (a high proprotion of whom were humanties students). In were the geeks. It isn't gangsters who give poker a bad name these days, it's the misplaced-testostrone bermuda shorts striped shirt BSc's with no discernable interests outside drinking, mathematics, gambling and pornography pay-sites.

Not that I was too different back in July 2009 anyway. From a period stretching July to November (excluding October when I was in Peru) I did get to know the evening tournament schedule on Pokerstars fairly well, and valued having spare evenings in which to grind. To be honest this was one of the most unproductive periods of my life but then... 'life'? I had not decided yet what I wished to do with it anyway, and I had the luxury of time.

One of the features of this period was the WkdSOP, an online series set up by a uni player from the year below and co-managed by me. Aptly enough he came first and I came second. But I didn't really enjoy it. I got easily and quite intensely frustrated at losing to these pokersoc people.

In early September Goblin and the Conjurer came down briefely for another Brighton rack. There were no huge cashes and we lost quite a bit of money. It wasn't even that fun either - when you have two gamblers and it's going badly it's easy enough to cope with. But in a group of three it's easier to get cantankerous, and the idea that you should be doing something better with your time becomes more infectious.

In late September (just before Peru) I had two significant poker experiences. One was live cash at the Vic: Goblin and I had a split going. I finished up quite a bit, but he finished down by a greater amount. So overall we were down quite a bit (no specifc numbers here!) but it was good to play sensibly at the Vic in contrast to my previous attendance. A few days later I scored just under $1,000 in a $5 turbo on Stars. If there had ever been a time for me to consider playing with a serious bankroll, this was it. I had nearly $1300, and ample cushion for comfortable 25NL play, $11 MTTs and $16 STTs, presuming I was EV+ at all three. But I had this little holiday to Peru coming up, so I pretty much withdrew most of it and, ironically, exchanged it for dollars (this being the peg-currency of the Pervuain New Sol).

It was after Peru that I decidedly started playing less poker. I was still interested in it and still drooled over live/online series scehdules but... I wasn't really playing. The long sessions and frequent nights of online tournaments never really returned. It was more sporadic. In early November I did sort of set off on a $25NL grinding project but I stopped that after about a week, and never again was there the same sort of  'project-based' approach to poker. I wanted poker to fit in with other aspects of my life, not the other way around, and I was more interested in the quality of the games I played rather than the frequency.

So it was, that in January I had a trip to the Midlands. It was mainly to visit friends but I also planned to play some poker. Not that the two are incomptabible. The Pokersoc (at least those from the year below) were still about and a home game was organized (5p/10p, deep stacks and a lot of pizza and lager). Goblin lived up in Nottingham, so we went a few nights to DTD. I love DTD even though I've never actually won anything there* and it's odd to think that, though I haven't been there for ages I still remember it extremely clearly.

*Actually I did win something there, just not a tournament: I managed to triple my £40 stack in a 50/1 game after flopping a low flush.

The next major poker session was in early April. I had gone to Goblin's house in Surrey. The election had just been called and it was an exciting time, although frankly I was in the grips of hypochondria (when one worry is over a new one quickly fills the void) something which I snapped out of by the summer when my life became more interesting. Still, this was one of the best poker sessions ('racks') we'd ever had. Despite there being very little in the way of cardrooms nearby (we mainly played online) we were only 40 minutes from Waterloo (I say only...). We were both now enthusiasts for the Vic (Victhusiasts) and I proposed the idea of an all-night session there. After all it was already early evening and if we wanted to go there, we'd better do it properly. So we did. After dinner we sat down at around 9 and weren't out till dawn (which at that time was around 5am). We took a morning tube service to Waterloo and then the early train to Hampton Court. Oddly enough I can't actually remember the result of that session, but it was a great experience. On the final night of the rack we managed to get in the top 1% of the Sunday Quarter Million (as it was then - I don't actually know what it is now) but that only fetched us a couple of hundred, enough to cover earlier losses, I dare say.

On my return to Brighton there came what can probably be called the very last thing even resembling a poker 'project', an attempt to grind up a little money (c. $120 on my Stars account) multitabling $3.25 45 seaters. I don't think I played more than 20 or so of these in the end. Over the next few months I playing activity basically came to nil.

It wasn't until late June when I came to the Midlands again (and what a bittersweet trip that was!) that I was back to the card table. There was the Pokersoc annual deepstack. I was disappointed by the pokersoccers amongst me - I began to realise I no longer had anything in common with any of them (if ever I had). In the second leg of my Midlands trip (early July) I was at Nottingham again and played what to date has been my highest-buyin tourney, a £168 monthly special at DTD. I actually made it a few hours in but no cash.

From July to January I hardly played any poker at all. This is essentially because I was trying to sort out my life which, piece by piece, I did. However, I didn't have any particularly strong desire to play poker either, certainly not online. The only sort of poker which did interest me was live cash at the Vic, where I had a session in early December with Goblin.

At the end of January I had my final Vic session. It was a 1/1 allnighter with Goblin and was the first time I'd gone to the Vic with anything resembling a proper roll for the occasion. We did well and had a great time too, leaving the cardroom around 10 or 11 hours after our arrival. My experience inspired me to reread Harrington on Cash but all that enthusiasm came to and end very quickly. I think I had known at the time that that Vic session would be the last for a while. We all need inspiration from time to time, and much came to me in the late January/early February period. My friends were going places, my London Lust was never stronger, I had nothing else on the horizon and I had sorted out everything else in my life. All I needed now was a good graduate scheme in an accountancy firm. This would keep me away from the poker rooms right up until July (although I had my offer in June).

I still played a bit of poker during applications season but it was minor online stuff. Friend-from-uni set up another mini-series in March using Pokerstars homegames (excellent innovation). I only played a few events but soon stopped in favour of interview preperation. On 6th April (two days before my Big Four interview telephone interview) I remember seeing myself registered for the tourneys thinking to myself "why on earth am I playing a poker tourney tonight? I have an interview in two mornings' time. What makes me so special!"

I made myself lots of promises about things I'd enjoy post-applications season. Whilst I had banned myself from live poker during applications season, it was not specifically one of the things I looked forward to as a motivator. I had always supposed that I would have one live tournament session (which I did in July) and one Vic Session (which I may yet do this month) but nothing more extravagent than that. I think it's fair to say that I'm no longer really a poker player like I was at university. I have my own interests and an ambitions now which have nothing to do with poker. Sure, having a good salary will no doubt make it easier to play any big tourneys I might one day be interested in (liferoll permitting) but this is no longer something which dominates my thoughts. And if ever I needed confirmation that having poker as your main hobby essentially destroys your social life and (to some extent) self-worth, I saw it at the UKIPT, sitting with the grinders

As the title suggests this shall be the last hand history. If I have any more significant poker episodes during the lifetime of this blog I shall post them. But I'm not planning to rebuy anytime soon.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Pretty busy 20 days or so. Two weeks ago Goblin came down for a spot of poker. We played the £5 rebuy at the Grosvenor, a £110 6-max side event at the UKIPT and a £50 second chance at the Rendezvous as well as a bit of online. Over all we were up by just about enough to cover meals and (his) transport expenses. A lot of fun too. I did find the UKIPT a little depressing though - most of the people seemed to be classic travelling semi-pros with little to say. If ever I needed reinforcement of the idea that poker is in many respects a tepid, low-testostrone scared-of-the-outside-world pastime then here it was. The Rendezvous was quite fun though. Still, it's the last tournament poker I expect to be playing for many months now, certainly before September. I may have a quick Vic session in August but that's only if I have a spare few hundred pounds or so.

This most recent week I was in Paris for four nights to spend some time with a cousin who happened to be there. Pretty fun time - the group of us (4) saw the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Disneyland, Versailles and the Seine. As with poker I doubt I'll be having an adventure like this again any time soon. From now on it's all the practical stuff of moving house and settling into a new job.

Indeed I have my first houseviewings tomorrow. I really am going to move out as soon as possible. The push and pull factors are both strong and in are in perfect balance. Life awaits me!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Sunday Lunch - The Lion and Lobster

Date: 3rd July 2011

Location: The Lion and Lobster, 24 Sillwood Street (south off Western Road)

Price Range: £8.95 (all roasts)*

Drinks available: Selection of ales

Despite the name, there is no possibility of either roast lion or lobster. That said, the range of roasts is for from disappointing: Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Pork Belly, Nut Roast. What's more, you can have half of one meat and half of another. All meats come with potato and vegetables, but you can purchase extra sides too, namely yorkshire pudding, stuffing, angels & devils on horseback and cauliflower cheese.

I went for beef and pork and found myself served very quickly, and with none of the microwave steam of my Shakespeare's Head visit. I was in a bit of a haze so I have forgotten what the vegetables were. There were roast potatoes, of course, but also delicate things like celariac mash (or it might have been sweet potato mash) - unfortunately I forget the rest. The pork belly was great and the crackling as hard as a slate of toffee. The beef was normal. It was clear that the ingredients and cooking methods were of high quality here, but somehow this did not translate directly into taste. It wasn't exciting.

Nevertheless it's something I'd come back for. For a start, the option to mix two roasts in one dish appeals to me greatly and allows me to try meats I wouldn't choose to have by themselves. Also the place has a friendly atmosphere. That they were showing the exciting Wimbledon men's final on television was a bonus. Furthermore, I'd also be inclined to return here on non-roast days to sample their general menu. Plus the dessert (sticky toffee pudding) was good.

It seems only fitting that finding one pub which has many of the benefits of another but a lower price should skew the star-rating of the former in favour of the latter. Neither the Good Companions nor the Lion and Lobster are culninarily compelling but I suspect there a 'fair chance' that I would return to both. However I should make the distinction that the Lion and Lobster is probably better as part of a group (as I was in yesterday) whereas the Good Companions is more condusive to dining alone and reading a newspaper.

I suspect next week I shall try somewhere like The Prestonville and perhaps the week after The Crescent.

Updated star ratings:

Lion and Lobster:
Good Companions:
Shakespeare's Head:

*65p is added for any credit card transaction, so arm yourselves with cash!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Sunday Lunch - Shakespeare's Head

Date: 26th June 2011

Location: Shakespeare's Head, 1 Chatham Place

Price range: £9

Drinks available: Small selection of high-quality ales (Badger brewery).

The Shakespeare's Head specialises in sausages. Alas, the cookery skills required for a good sausage meal are not the same as those for a good roast.

The selection of roasts was similar to that of the Good Companions, although instead of Turkey they offered Chicken. I ordered the beef. After a decent wait (I was not the only customer) my plate came.

Let us start with the vegetables, for that is where I started. Uncompelling, wet. The meat was much the same, and everything had steam rising from it as if (as indeed may have been the case) it had come straight out of the microwave. The potatoes were satisfactory. The whole meal would have been a lot better if had been set in a hot bath of gravy. But the only moisture was meltwater. This was little better than school dinners. I would even go so far as to compare it to Gekko, that almost incomparably bad all-purpose buffet (unless your purpose is to 'have a good meal') that since my visit in March has actually closed down.

There was also a cheese and cauliflower side and a yorkshire pudding on the side, neither of which I have anything bad to say about. However, they only seemed good in comparison to the rest of the dish, a relieving break I could occasionally turn my knife and fork to.

Normally I quite like this pub, and I was sat in a nice shaded area overlooking the main road (coming down from the Dials towards Preston Circus) once again with my Sunday readables. It is on the basis of the quality of the roast (and the price demanded for it) that I have concluded to give this place the lowest possible score - i.e. I never intend to come for a sunday roast here ever again.

There are three other pubs in my immediate area (Crescent, Palmeira and Prestonville Arms) which I believe do roasts. I already have a high opinion of the Crescent roast so will try the other two first. After I've toured this lot I shall find places further out from Seven Dials.