Over the course of a few months last year, blackjack player Don Johnson took three Atlantic City casinos for $15 million.

Don Johnson won nearly $6 million playing blackjack in one night, single-handedly decimating the monthly revenue of Atlantic City’s Tropicana casino. Not long before that, he’d taken the Borgata for $5 million and Caesars for $4 million. Here’s how he did it.


How 3 Poker Players Used Their Winnings to Build Their Startups

Given the similarities between poker and starting your own company, it should come as no surprise that poker pros are drawn to the entrepreneurial lifestyle. Here are the stories of how three poker pros used their skills, daring attitudes, and even winnings from the game to build companies:


Connected Neighborhoods

I moved into a young neighborhood with lots of kids and families. Someone clever took the opportunity to make a Facebook page for all the neighbors to organize events, warn others of suspicious activity, looking for lost pets, and post baby sitters jobs etc..It made everyone feel more connected.

Most of us are often in need of babysitters, pet watchers, and various odd jobs.  It’s very convenient for teens and retired people to post their availability for different types of tasks. Our neighbors are your natural customers. And when I’m looking for a real estate agent, or a mortgage banker, it would be nice to know your neighbor is in that business too.

Neighbors could organize discounts for various services, from raking leaves, to window washing, to pool and lawn care, to house cleaning.

TaskRabbit is an online and mobile marketplace that allows users to outsource small jobs and tasks to others in their neighborhood.[1] Users name the task they need done, name the price they are willing to pay, and a network of pre-approved TaskRabbits bid to complete the job.


It is based on the idea of “neighbors helping neighbors.”

March Madness Stats

There’s no escaping the buzz about sports and data and March Madness. Here are some interesting tips.

1)  look at wild-card players vs teams, is a better way to go when “predicting upsets. Try to garner information from the games you’ve watched over the past several days.

2) Last 5 years, of the 2 of 20 Final Four teams,  had a winning streak of 10+ games (2010 Butler, 2013 Louisville). Of those 20, 7 of them were no better than 6-4 in their 10 games prior to the Tourney. So it appears that last 10 games are not a great indicator. Last year, both Michigan and Syracuse were 5-5 in their last 10 entering the Tourney and reached the Final Four. So historical performance may not be a good trend to analyze.

3) Don’t pick your favorite team to win it all.

4) Shooting percentage on three-point field goals is the most frustratingly unreliable statistic in basketball. I think it’s a crap shoot.

5) Location and Timing.  If  an underdog  West Coast team playing an early afternoon game against a favorite East Coast team that traveled half way across the country…   would you shy away from that upset pick? Maybe for every mile traveled – 3 hour time difference = less time played.

Maybe statistical brackets based on proximity to the location where the game is being played might be a good trend to look at. Maybe not.  It’s not a perfect predictive model, but if the game still feels like a coin flip, this is a data point that could be valuable.

We don’t have the sabermetrics that baseball has, but there are a lot of data points out there to consider. Check out what the experts are saying with the Predict-O-tron..http://data.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/march-madness-predict-o-tron

More opinions on the pursuit of happiness…

I am sure you have seen the movie, Pursuit of Happyness. http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/thepursuitofhappyness/ There are many examples as to how people in humble beginnings persevere to a higher level. We all know that journey. I can relate because I had previously  pursued credible and challenging sales jobs with a very meager lifestyle earlier in my life. It wasn’t all that bad, but it was enough for me to get out of my comfort zones and pursue something more. It took lots of second jobs, patient landlords, dozens of job interviews and endless networking. I can comfortably say,  I feel developed and every step and obstacle along the way had its purpose.

In the movie, a salesman, Chris Gardner became homeless and broke while raising his son, played by Will Smith and his son.  Chris worked to become a top trainee at a brokerage firm. He persistently made calls to prospective clients and his efforts finally paid off when Gardner passed his exam and became a full time employee of the firm.

Was his pursuit  lucky?

Was it strategic?

What made him persist and overcome?

I think the pursuit of happiness is real. It is an authentic desire of our nature. Our personal Constitution. In our pursuit of happiness it is important to recognize which paths are illusions and which are dead ends. Some are misleading and some are authentic.  Sure, there are basic things, like eating healthy, being positive, exercising, treating people nice, having meaning and goals.  All of it is to ultimately chase opportunities, create happiness…to pursue happiness. Like Chris says, to his son…” You want something? Go get it. Period. You need to protect it.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajjGtsjI7CM

Chris started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He says, “I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. …No matter what.” If we label happiness as a highly unattainable lifestyle or a few unique events or an emotion that comes and goes or a disciplined mindset…is pursuing our version of happiness something we need to prepare for? Or is very little needed to make a happy life? I think if you strive for happiness in a meaningful and authentic way and connecting that happiness to others, it could be effective, long term and continuous. That’s what the experts say..right?

But, what about the ugly surprises, the obstacles and the unpredictable problems? We tell ourselves to be happy when it’s a smooth, easy ride, and  we  even try to stay happy when challenges and obstacles arise too. But, when we push away or surround fear with positivity, we eventually are caught off guard,  unprepared and have no basic steps toward resolution, except to maintain a good mood. By not even considering about negative potential problems or future scenarios, we never develop or utilize the skills of being able to handle them. We have no experience. Everything is unfamiliar. So, the (fake) happiness we hold on to never regenerates and becomes irrelevant. Some will disagree.

We all have our own way of engineering our own pursuit. We can follow some simple, basic, fundamental laws or rules out there that we can adopt and learn to vastly improve our lives and maintain that good attitude. All those books and seminars say so. Right?  We can also wake up, stop suppressing our fears and stop creating manufactured, false states of happiness when we feel otherwise.  We can become more capable and dynamic with solving problems. Our own and others. The experience is in the pain. Not in the positive thinking. ( debatable)

But……… It’s too hard.

The fight is hard.

The chase is hard.

Life is hard.

Maybe happiness is not a new car, or fancy clothes or social acceptance or cheap gratification. We know that. Maybe it’s a moment of clarity. An optimistic view of the future.  Maybe, it’s a culmination of many things. Maybe happiness just can’t be defined with words … which is why the ending of this movie is so good.

Before this scene: *IRS takes all his money

*Chris and his son are evicted, becomes broke.

*They are homeless, and are forced to stay in a restroom at a subway station.

*Chris develops a number of ways to make phone sales calls more efficiently and never reveals to clients that he is homeless or broke.

* His manager finally reveals after weeks of training, he is hired as a full time broker and repays him the money Chris had lent him earlier.

At the end of the movie…Chris says, ” ….and this little part of my life…this little part… is called….happiness.”

Being happy is good. Being continuously happy is great and pursuing happiness is a reminder of how far we have come but a reminder to how we need to improve  when it all goes wrong. Do you view happiness as a continuous struggle or a chase? A chase we should be pursuing no matter how bad or good it gets? Or, is happiness something we deserve continuously and we should handle problems as they come? Was it the positive attitude that helped Chris get this moment? Or was it all the fear, sadness, depression and ugliness that contained the key to his own liberation?

I think we don’t need to improve our happiness. It is what it is. Happiness will be there waiting for us,  when we are ready for it. Maybe we need to improve, change or alter our view of what we really think our happpiness is and how it fits into our own puzzle. We need to stop pounding square pegs into circles.

Is it just a day to day emotion? Is it a standard of living? Is it a destination to where we want to go? Or is it only meant for the lucky? Maybe only then…will we learn how to really pursue it…most importantly when we  lose it, learn how we can find it again…to make it a repeatable process.

Banks, Real Estate and Home Design Software

the Future of Banks

My wife and I recently discussed the idea of buying a new car. But, in my experience the car-buying process is a huge disappointment because the car I had my heart set on can’t be found on any dealer’s lot. I am sure this happens because the dealership selects a predefined set of a cars that they think will sell the most of, which didn’t include my prototype.

Before I knew it, we were on the Internet, building and customizing our own car. It only took 15- 20 minutes and the car was built and ready to be bought. The whole point of custom-ordering a new car is mainly to feed your ego, strengthen your identity and give yourself a sense of personalization and taste. You actually feel like you designed it. It was actually easy to figure what your next vehicle will be and how you want it equipped. When you’re done, you’re ready to buy.

Also, I was told I would wait at least 3 months to get my car. Ughhhh. But consider this: Your car is likely the second most expensive purchase you’ll ever make, which brings me to the future of the banking industry. I figure if we can customize a 40 or 50 thousand dollar car, why not walk into your local bank, get a pre-approval letter, digitally build a prototype of a house, customize it and keep it their database until a Realtor has a match. Maybe, you put an offer down on a house and it was counter offered by someone else and they took it. It would be very frustrating to start the buying process all over again. You could literally slide your debit card into the ATM, enter your pre-approval pin code, touch the screen and use your finger to customize a house right there, dragging and dropping new guest rooms or making the living room bigger. They save the information with a touch screen button. Sq footage, number of rooms, style, lay out etc. Sure, there is plenty of 3D/home design software already out there for builders to download and tinker with on their computers and maybe draw one up for a project, but usually it stops there. They are protective and do not share their designs. I say, take the existing technology we already have and take advantage of it and implement it in the bank’s systems.

If we as car buyers can build our own car without a mechanic or auto industry expert, why not build a house without an architect or bank consultant? The real value is making the pre-approval /qualified process quicker, more customized and accurate based on taste and needs of the future homeowner. Simple. Instead of listing hundreds of different houses, why not list 40 or 50 based on the most popular prototypes. Open Houses would be more relevant and useful. Maybe the market would pick up too. http://home-design-software-review.toptenreviews.com/

Maybe, you are a parent with three kids and quality family time is very important to you and all three of your kids are always in three different parts of the house doing three different things. Maybe, you could customize a big room that would serve 3 different functions all at once. Maybe, you are more focused on your pets, or being a weekend entertainer. Maybe, your kids are at college, but you are looking to downsize the size of your house, but looking for a way to accommodate your son or daughter when they return from school. You could make sure your den could easily transform into a guest bedroom. Or if you are entertaining the neighbors, you need to make sure your living room borders the kitchen. All of this is possible and this kind of technology already does exist, but to a bank or lender it’s non existent.

What if a bank analyzed the data of their local market and the result was that 80% of new local home buyers wanted solar panels? Would this sort of information be helpful to local sellers? What if a sunroof in the kitchen was the only thing that was needed to solidify a buyer’s signature? But there wasn’t a sunroof. What now? As a buyer, do you renegotiate a lower listing price with your realtor? Do you call a local builder you do not know?

I think banks need to get smarter and more diligent, but this would be a great base line as new technology can now cater to future maintenance and repair fees for a seller or a buyer. Maybe, you want to make changes before you sell your house or you plan on cashing out some equity to add on a deck or new addition. You customize your new house and your bank would tell you how much your new loan would be, before talking to any builders or contractors. Or maybe, you talk to a builder first, he gives you a quote and then you walk to your local bank, put your ATM card in the machine, modify your house based on new square footage and see if his quotes compares to theirs. Banks need to execute this kind of reassurance to their customers, in order to win them back. I think the auto industry has made more of an effort to be more efficient and effective after their bailouts. But, maybe that’s because people buy more cars in their lives than houses. Let’s talk about this.

Let’s say I go to my local bank, make a deposit, develop a prototype of my first house, picked a location, punched in my prequalified loan amount, and it showed me my rate and payment, taxes and insurance. I went back home and sitting in my email inbox is listing of a few houses not too far from my location, my payment was pretty close to what I could afford and had the specific space and yard that I wanted. Some of my choices are new construction houses and some of them are older models..

I am pretty happy right? Ebay meets home mortgage loans.

But a few years later I get married and buy. A few years later, I have two kids and need to sell. Two years later, I add on a bathroom and deck. Five years later, I get divorced and sell again. Two years later I get remarried and buy. Eight years later my kids want to go to college and I need to cash and refinance. And twenty years later, I want to downsize and sell. Thirty years my kids inherit my house and sell.

I am not sure about the numbers…but my wife and I attended 15 open houses for 1 purchased home. For 1 home mortgage, we spoke to 5 other banks. For every home upgrade…. we will need to speak to multiple builders too.

If reliable bank technology exists to give us an accurate, version of the truth…. we will no longer need 2nd opinions.