Australia Trip Report
My view in Melbourne
As most of you know, I spent all of October, 2014 in Australia. I decided to make the trip to play the WSOP APAC events even though EPT London, which turned out to be a much larger tournament, was going on at roughly the same time. I decided to travel much farther to Australia because Amie, my fiancée, wanted to take a vacation to Australia and I figured this would be our only opportunity to make the trip any time soon. Our plan was for me to arrive on 10/1 and for Amie to come after the poker tournament was finished, along with one of her friends.
Before you proceed, please know there will be very little poker information and a lot of talk about my travels in this post. If you want poker advice, please check out my other blogs.
Flying to Australia from NYC is rough. My total travel time was 31 hours. Even though most people complain about flights, I don’t mind them. I spent almost all 31 hours listening to podcasts, reading books, and hibernating. The flight went as smoothly as possible. Uneventful flights are nice.
I had the opportunity to spend six hours in the Hong Kong airport on the way to Melbourne. For some reason, seeing lots of things I view as strictly American in Chinese is funny to me. I somehow had dim sum at a relatively nice place and I also spent $50 on tea, mostly because I was too tired to figure out how to convert USD to HKD. I am a money conversion fish when I am tired!
It’s poker time!
I stayed at the Crown Casino, which is where the WSOP APAC was held. The venue is amazingly nice. That being said, I think it is about 50% overpriced. For example, in their food court, a salad is roughly $15. I ate a lot of salad because that was the healthiest thing I could find that was available whenever I wanted it. Also, the hotel rooms, at a discounted rate, are $400 per night. Maybe they give huge discounts if you play casino games? I decided to simply pay the $8,000 hotel bill. Ouch!
The other main issue I had was that the internet in the hotel did not work well at all. I planned to put in a decent amount of online volume, especially in the time between the end of the WSOP APAC and when Amie was set to arrive, but due to the awful internet service, I was afraid to play. I have no desire to play high stakes when I could get disconnected at any moment, costing me lots of equity. I tried a few times with no luck. That was disappointing.
Poker went fairly poorly for me. I won a $10,000 main event seat in a $1,000 multi-table satellite early in the series but besides that, I lost everything else. I played a bit of $5/$10/$20 no-limit cash games and won a little. Poker-wise, the trip was not too good for me, but that is fine. You get used to bad trips when you play a lot of tournaments. When I hear tournament players discussing whether or not they won or lost during any individual poker trip, it makes me laugh because you probably should lose around 4 times out of 5 simply due to the payout structures of tournaments. If you care about your short term results, you will go crazy. I learned a long time ago to not let short term tournament results drive me crazy.
Image © PokerNews
I roomed with Scott Clements during the 15-day poker part of my trip. Scott is an excellent roommate. He never woke me up when he came home after I was already asleep and he didn’t wake me up when he left before I woke up. He was also not loud and didn’t mind discussing poker. When we went to the gym at the same time, he constantly inspired me to work harder. I would give him an A+ as a roommate.
I was drinking a bit too much during the series, mostly to help me fall asleep at night. I am fairly bad at getting on the right sleep schedule, especially when traveling to the opposite side of the world. Anyone who knows anything about drinking knows that while it will put you to sleep, it will often not keep you asleep throughout the night and when it does, you will have a hangover the next morning. Drinking is obviously not a +EV play for a poker player.
On October 10, I decided that I was going to stop drinking. After listening to a ton of inspirational podcasts, I came to the realization that I was not devoting myself 100% to poker. While I almost certainly do more than most poker players, I had glaring holes in my game, mainly off the felt. Drinking was the main problem and I am proud to say I haven’t had a sip of alcohol during the last month. I plan to never again get caught in the viscous cycle where I am drinking on a regular basis. When I have the urge, I simply say “I stopped drinking” and forget about it. I also realize that most poisons look and taste good to the animal being poisoned. In my mind, alcohol and sugar both fall in this category. I am also making a point to get off sugar unless I am feeling especially naughty. So far, this change in mindset has worked amazingly well. I am excited to see what the future holds.
Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one’s desires, but by the removal of desire. – Epictetus
I also wrote down my goals in life and poker as well as how I am going to achieve them. So far, things are progressing nicely. In one of my upcoming webinars, I am going to discuss all of my goals, including numerous things I am working on to get better at poker. I am also going to discuss some of the holes I have in my game and what I am doing to fix them. I will use numerous hand examples to show you spots where I made mistakes in the past and how I have improved. If you aren’t constantly improving, you are falling behind. Be sure to sign up for my email list on the side of this page to get updates about the date of the webinar (and to claim your free poker training video).
After all of that soul searching, Amie and her friend Courtney arrived.
It’s vacation time!!!
The ladies arrived in the middle of the day, so we didn’t have much time left before the sun went down. Amie and I tend to not party (we went to a total of 0 bars/clubs during our Australia trip) so we are usually not out too late. We spent most of our time walking around downtown Melbourne. We went to a Peking duck restaurant in Chinatown. They brought out a nice plump duck and promptly sliced all of its meat off for us to devour. It was delicious. Poor ducky!
Shrine of Remembrance
We had breakfast in the city at a nice little café (I almost always ordered the “Big Brekky”, which includes eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, and beans), then went to the Shrine of Remembrance, which is an awe-inspiring building near the Royal Botanic Gardens. I thoroughly enjoy simply walking around and observing the sights. I find it to be calming. After that, we went to an amazing Malaysian restaurant, Mamak, which is a local chain. It was really good. They should try to bring it to NYC for sure . Before coming to Australia I was actually told by a few Australians that their food is crappy. I don’t think I had a bad meal the entire time.
We rented a car and drove along the Great Ocean Road. I was not a huge fan of this experience, mostly because it consisted mainly of us driving around in a car for 10 hours. I don’t enjoy sitting and doing relatively nothing for most of the day. Of course, we did see some amazing sights but I don’t think spending the entire day in the car was worth it. However, I did get to experience driving on the “wrong” side of the road for the first time. It took a while to get used to but I eventually figured it out. Now I am afraid to drive in America. I guess I forgot how.
We traveled to the Moonlit Sanctuary, which is basically a zoo where some of the animals roam free. We had the experience of petting a koala bear. That was fun. I felt bad for him because we clearly woke him up from his nap. Ohhh well.
We also got to hang out with some kangaroos. I didn’t realize this, but lots of people in Australia consider kangaroos to be pests, just as some people from the northeast United States consider deer to be pests, even though they are so cute. I always viewed kangaroos as cool animals. After searching the sanctuary for kangaroos and only finding one little wallaby, we found a section with about 15 kangaroos hanging out and relaxing. We decided to gamble a bit and hang out with them. We ended up petting and feeding them for almost an hour. They became our friends. They loved all of us, probably because we were feeding them. They would be relaxing and when you approached, they would walk over and see what you were doing. This was one of the best experiences of the trip for me.
After we left our new friends, we went to Phillip Island to watch the famous Penguin Parade. Every night, thousands of little penguins swim in from the ocean then walk inland to their homes in the sand. They were so cute! There is a giant boardwalk built so spectators can watch the penguins hang out before going to bed in their little holes in the ground. It was awesome watching them behave as if they were in their own little world.
We flew to Cairns, which is near the top of the east coast of Australia. We traveled to our hotel in Port Douglas and bummed around town during the first day and relaxed. Amie and I got the bright idea to go buy groceries. She put me in charge of navigating. Our 30 minute round trip turned into a 90 minute round trip because I can’t read a map. Sorry Amie!
We took a long boat ride to the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkeling along the reef was amazing. We saw tons of coral, fish, and even a shark. The water was fairly cold and they made us wear a body suit. I made the mistake of getting flippers that were a size too big and I ended up grinding blisters into my feet. When we saw the shark, I was worried about my feet bleeding into the water. Luckily the shark didn’t want to eat me.
After the Reef, we went to a local bar to watch cane toad racing. Cane toads are pests in Australia. The announcer claimed that the bloody Americans brought over 102 toads to Australia some number of years ago to take care of pests that were messing with the local sugar cane. The toads made boatloads of babies and now they are everywhere. In the race, people from the audience got on stage and blew party whistles at their selected toad to try to get them to jump off the table first. It was an enjoyable experience to witness.
Went to the Daintree Rainforest. I wasn’t even aware that Australia had a rainforest. The American school system failed me again! We were told by our guide, Dave, that the Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world. There are lots of animals living there that are somewhat unevolved compared to other parts of the world. For example, there is a giant bird called a Cassowary that looks rather like an ostrich but is apparently quite vicious. We got lucky enough to see one of them! There are also little birds that bury their eggs in a giant communal nest on the ground, similar to how some reptilian dinosaurs were thought to lay their eggs.
We also saw tons of cool trees. Ever since relocating to NYC, I have fallen in love with trees. I constantly admire their beauty when I stroll through the parks. There is something about them that is awe-inspiring to me. They seem so peaceful. We got to see a wide array of trees. I loved it.
Dave enlightened us about many aspects of the rainforest. We learned that some of the land is saturated in salt water, which results in only specific types of trees growing in that area. We also got to lick the butt of an ant, which tasted like lemon juice. It was an interesting experience.
There is also a famous ice cream shop in the middle of the rainforest. They have a farm where they grow all of the foods they use to flavor their ice cream. Even though I am making a point to be a good boy when it comes to my diet, I had four small scoops. It was naughtily delicious.
We woke up at 3am to catch a shuttle to the airport, then flew to Hervey Bay, which is a little below Cairns, and rented a Land Rover plus camping equipment. We stopped at the grocery store to get our food rations for the next six meals. I came up with the genius idea of buying 12 side salads for Amie and me to split. She decided to be smart and buy some calories in the form of things to make s’mores. Interestingly enough, they don’t have graham crackers in Australia. We bought similar-looking cookies instead. I was super hungry while camping. Being hungry is good sometimes.
We then took a ferry to the largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island. I had no clue what to expect going into this part of the trip except that I knew we would be camping. It turns out that the roads on Fraser Island are not really roads. You can go about 15 miles per hour on most of them. They were by far the most rugged “roads” I have ever driven on. They reminded me of riding in Hoyt Corkins’ jeep through the Red Rock Mountains in Nevada. We spent about 90 minutes driving across the island to where we planned to camp. Seeing how I am a southern boy and I was traveling with two ladies from NYC, I was in charge of setting up camp and making sure no one died.
We arrived at our camp site right as the sun was going down. I proudly got our two tents and chairs set up right as the sun dipped below the horizon. To be fair, it wasn’t all my doing. The ladies worked hard to make sure we got our camp set up. As I pulled out the propane grill (no wood fires are allowed on the island) to make our s’mores, two rangers drove up and told us that we had to relocate because a pack of dingoes attacked some people near our location a few days earlier. Bad beat!
We quickly packed up our camp and we drove a little ways down the beach. We set up our camp again. It is much harder to set up camp when there is no light. We eventually got it taken care of. We slept soundly.
I convinced the ladies that we should ditch the idea of having any sort of planned agenda while camping. My idea of camping is relaxing and doing whatever we have time for. We drove our Land Rover up the east coast of the island. The west coast of the island is not safe to drive on due to the overly wet sand. If you try to drive there, your vehicle will surely get stuck. Along the way, we saw a few landmarks but we ended up spending most of our time at a waist-deep creek filled with crystal clear water. The creek was SUPER cold. I drank lots of the water. I liked it! We met a few locals there and talked with them for hours. After that, we drove back to our camp. We saw a few dingoes walk by but they left us alone. We devoured our salad and s’mores, and then slept.
At around midnight, Courtney started yelling and woke us up. The flap on her tent that was supposed to keep out the rain blew off due to extremely strong winds. Since it was the middle of the night, I told her to get in our tent and we would figure everything out in the morning.
I woke up the next morning and looked outside to see Courtney’s tent already packed up. I was happy that she was being proactive and packing up the camp. In reality, the wind blew it away. Both of the girls were convinced it was gone. Amie started looking around and found it in a tree. I made the short trek to retrieve it. Before 5am, we had finished our salads, packed up our camp, and embarked on another long bumpy ride across the island.
Our primary destination was Lake McKenzie, which is an amazingly clear lake that is filled with rainwater. We arrived super early. There were only a few other people way down the beach, meaning we pretty much had it all to ourselves. I spent the next few hours swimming. I eventually got tired and took a nap. One of my feet was stuck out from under my multiple layers of protection and it got super burnt. It was toasty for the rest of the trip.
This is me taking a nap on the beach.
We took the ferry back to the mainland and returned our Land Rover and camping gear. We checked into a hotel in Hervey Bay, which was both seedy and homey at the same time. Since I was overly hungry, we decided to go to an Indian restaurant. The food was amazing.
I was so hungry. I ordered tandoori chicken, aloo gobi, then when it was time to consider dessert, I ordered another order of tandoori chicken. It was so delicious. We got caught in a rainstorm and sat in the restaurant for around two hours. I really could have used a drink then but I abstained. The rain eventually stopped and we walked back to the hotel for the night.
We slept in a bit, had breakfast at a trendy-looking local café with fun food then flew to Sydney for the last leg of our journey. Every time I mentioned Sydney to a local Australian, they said, “You mean Shitney?” Apparently they think Sydney is shit. I was expecting the city to be an absolute dump. The airport seemed nice, but I was still skeptical.
It turns out that Sydney is awesome. At least in my mind, it is comparable to a clean NYC. There is great architecture, large parks, and great food. We spent our first day walking around the town. The ladies shopped a bit. While they were shopping, I read various books on my iPhone. I used to never read books. Now I am constantly reading. I have found that reading is much more beneficial than playing mindless games on my phone. I am a true genius, I know.
We took two ferry rides to various ports around the city. I wasn’t expecting much from a ferry ride, but in reality, these were fairly high speed boats that only carried humans. They seemed to be a surprising part of the local public transportation system. It was fun and relaxing. Seeing the Sydney Opera House was a great experience. I never thought I would be moved by a building, but I was. There is something special about it.
We woke up and had breakfast at a great place called Bobby’s that was a block away from our hotel. We ate breakfast there two more times while in Sydney. Obviously I had the Big Brekky every time. We walked around the city and the ladies shopped some more. I read some more. We did the touristy thing and climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was actually much less intimidating than I expected. My only other experience climbing something I perceived as “scary” was climbing to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park in Utah. That actually was scary. The bridge climb was super safe. Everyone was strapped in. You would have to try really hard to fall off. The views from the top were great.
After that, we went to a local chain called Pancakes on the Rocks. I would have loved a gluttonous pancake topped with ice cream, chocolate, and Nutella but instead, I had a crepe that looked more like a salad. It was surprisingly good.
Impromptu work out
We spent our last day walking from Bondi beach to Coogee beach. The walk, which was supposed to take about 45 minutes, ended up taking about two hours because there was an amazing sculpture exhibit going on. We saw lots of interesting sculptures from various artists. In the evening, we walked around a part of Sydney that is comparable to Brooklyn. The area was a bit grungier than the main downtown area in a charming way. Amie loved the beautiful trees with purple leaves/flowers. She snapped a picture of me impromptu working out on a pole below one of them.
We had dinner at a fun place called El Loco. It was overly crowded when we arrived so we had to fight to get a table. Of course, there was no sort of waiting list. We eventually found a seat and had delicious food. I had fish, steak, and a “special” taco that was essentially a pile of goodness. It was great.
We woke up early and headed to the airport. We flew to Hong Kong, where we had a 40 minute layover. That was a bad beat because I wanted to play some more in the Hong Kong airport. An agent greeted us as we disembarked our flight and rushed us through all of the security lines to our final flight to NYC. Again, I listened to podcasts, read books, and hibernated the whole way.
All in all, I had a great time in Australia. I got to swim along the Great Barrier Reef, play with kangaroos, hang out in a rainforest, go camping, and spend time with Amie and Courtney. I would strongly suggest visiting the country if you have the opportunity. Perhaps most importantly, I learned a lot about myself and have developed a solid strategy for self-improvement. I am excited about the future! As much as I enjoyed the trip, I am happy to get back home and get to work. I have lots of new ideas to share with you.
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. Thanks for reading!