Setting SMART Blog Goals in 2018

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January is the time for New Year’s resolutions, goal setting, and recriminations. I gave up resolutions years ago, once I learned that around 80% of them fail by February 1st. However, I am a strong believer in goal setting, and particularly in setting SMART goals. The concept of SMART goals has been around since the early 1980s (what I call high school), and originally came from the world of business management. SMART is, of course, an acronym, generally translated as:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Time-bound

Across the years, a number of studies have found that SMART goals are more successful than goals which do not meet the above criteria. We have created a set of SMART goals for Poker Pilgrims in 2018. As the website launched only in the beginning of November, our goals are pretty basic. Hopefully we will knock them out of the park and move on to a new set of goals before 2019!

Set SMART Goals

Our SMART Goals

Publish a Post with at least 100 Views by the end of March – Like I said, basic. This goal succeeds at being specific, measurable (via Google Analytics), and Time-bound. We hope that it is attainable, and it will certainly be relevant to our traffic building dreams.

Rather than bore you with how SMART our remaining goals are, we will simply describe each below with a bit of explanation as to why they are important. If you catch us in a goal that is not SMART, be sure to let us know in the comments!

Grow our email list to 100 people by the end of the year – We use MailerLite to collect email addresses and send out our weekly newsletter with post updates. As a new blog that can’t afford to even think about ConvertKit, we have been very happy with MailerLite’s capabilities. Of course, right now we have a whopping 3 names on our list (and one is my daughter!). So building that list is a big goal for the year. We have several ideas about how to do so, which leads us to our third goal.

SMART goals are more successful Click To Tweet

Creating a bonus printable by the end of March – We are already working on ideas for a great budget-related printable that we plan to offer as an incentive for joining our mailing list. More on that soon.

Create a Facebook Group specializing in poker related travel – We’re having a heck of a time finding any existing social media presence for folks who Will Travel for Poker, so we figure we need to create our own.

And finally

Make $500 in blog income by the end of the year – We will talk more about this aspect of our blog goals in future posts, but we definitely would like to monetize Poker Pilgrims in order to help us save for our pilgrimage. We would also love to be able to reduce our reliance on our Main Hustle as we move into our travel years.

So these are our goals for our first full year of blogging. We will check in at the end of March and let you know how it’s going and what we’ve learned from the first quarter of 2018. What SMART goals have you set?

Setting SMART Blog Goals in 2018

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Our First Side Hustles

We’re pretty new to this side hustle thing. We started our first side hustle only 18 months ago. Around then I also started listening to Nick Loper’s amazing Side Hustle Show podcast. The idea of a side hustle caught my imagination. Along with saving money, I saw side hustles as a way to make money that we could send directly to our Poker Pilgrimage budget.

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Side Hustle Central
Side Hustle Central

For context, our Main Hustle is not exactly a traditional office job. We are both freelancers in the area of research consulting and data science. We are lucky enough to have the freedom to work where we want, when we want, for a decent rate of pay. However, a couple years ago we were looking for ways to start building savings for our Poker Pilgrimage.

Given that we are almost always within 10 feet of our laptops, online hustles were an easy place to start. They didn’t require us to leave the house, acquire any goods or materials, or *gasp* talk to anyone.

Our very first side hustle was:

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Mechanical Turk is a site where one completes “micro-tasks” for small sums of money. We fill out surveys for the majority of our Turk time. However, we have also done some simple transcription and image recognition tasks as well. Each task is usually quick and pays a small sum of money (most well under $1.00). No one is getting rich on Mechanical Turk.  Having said that, we have earned a combined $1,917 from our Turk work over the past 18 months. We only do Mechanical Turk when we need a work break or have nothing else pressing in the evening. So it is not cannibalizing from our more lucrative earning opportunities.

A positive of Mechanical Turk is that it is run through Amazon. The site is trusted, run solidly, and you can feel comfortable that you will get paid. You can either deposit earnings directly into your bank account (our preference) or apply them to Amazon purchases (how convenient!).

If you are interested in Mechanical Turk, I strongly recommend Michael Naab’s excellent book Side Hustle from Home, which lays out the ins and outs of Mechanical Turk. I found this book invaluable as I started turking . Key among Naab’s excellent advice is how to find the best tasks and what chrome plug ins will aid your side hustle efficiency.  Other Mechanical Turk books have been written more recently, but this was the one that really got us on our way.

The second Mechanical Turk resource that I would recommend would be the Reddit thread Hits Worth Turking For. This thread encourages people to put up the best hits of the day as they come across them. These are the hits with the highest “hourly rate” if you consider the pay and the time spent working. Frankly, these are the majority of hits that Paul and I spend our time on these days. Spending five minutes filling out an interesting survey for $.80 is surprisingly rewarding.

In summary, Mechanical Turk was a great side hustle to start us out. The initial investment was small: a couple of hours reading Naab’s book and figuring out how to get started. However, we would like to find side hustles that offer us significantly better hourly rates.

Mechanical Turk was a great side hustle to start us out. Click To Tweet

Fiverr

Next up was Fiverr. Fiverr is basically a freelancing marketplace. Those looking for work in graphic design, research, voice work, transcription, and a variety of other areas post “gigs.” Those looking for such services at low cost with speedy service then purchase these gigs. In theory, Fiverr sounded great to us. We could bid out the research services that we are already expert at, and people would come to us.

Here’s the catch. Fiverr is named “Fiverr” because their ideal base cost is $5. While five bucks makes sense for some services, it is well below a reasonable rate for survey design or analytics. We had some great initial success with Fiverr, making about $500 over the past summer on a number of projects. We followed some online advice to start with a low price in order to build our recommendations and star ratings. This advice resulted in resounding success….for our ratings.

As soon as we increased our fees to a reasonable living rate (say $50 for a basic survey design) – crickets.  A few more tweaks to change our rates and offerings have garnered no further interest. We ultimately made the decision not to undermine our bread and butter work by essentially giving it away for free. In the future we may explore other freelance marketplaces, such as Upwork, or Freelancer. But for now, we’ve put side hustle freelance research on the back burner.

 

Mechanical Turk and Fiverr got us on the road to side hustling. They were certainly not the end. A future side hustle post will discuss our next forays: User Testing and Amazon Merch (we love our Amazon!).

Our First Side Hustles

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Magical Mystic Connecticut

This time of year we are always looking for a quick post-holiday get away to celebrate the fact that we’ve made it through another festive season alive. Between holiday preparations for our four kids, end of the year work demands, and celebration with our respective families, by the end of December we really need a vacation. We are fortunate enough most years to fit in a brief three or four day getaway before the new year rolls around.

We have three requirements for our December destinations. They must: 1) lie within a short drive of our home in the Boston area, 2) sport plenty of winter scenery, and 3) be in the general vicinity of at least one poker venue (of course). For example, later this month we will be heading up to Montreal (and will supply a full report after that trip!).

For at least three of the past six years we have taken our New Year’s break in Mystic Connecticut. Mystic meets all three of our criteria. It is only 3 hours from home, decorates for the holidays in style, and lies near not one, but two poker venues (Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods). We have thoroughly enjoyed each of our trips to this classic New England town. In fact, we enjoy it so much that we are certain that we will be drawn back again.

What do we love so much about Mystic? Let us show you:

Historic Mystic is appropriately Magical

The downtown is a joy to traverse, even when cold. Like many small towns, Mystic lights it up for the holidays and walking along the streets is a wonderful experience, especially at night when all of the holiday lights make the town sparkle. An added fun moment while strolling downtown is when the Bascule drawbridge that spans the Mystic River goes up to let a boat pass through. Always quite the sight up close.

Mystic at Night
Mystic at Night

There are a variety of great shops to check out along the main drag, from bookstores, to artisans, toy stores, to spice shops. In fact, one of our favorite shops is The Spice and Tea Exchange which is, of course,  filled with exotic teas and spices! We have become addicted to their Tuscan Spice mix, which makes a mean olive oil dip for a crusty french bread.

 

The Mystic Aquarium is Lots of Fun

Especially in Winter when they have plenty of special events to draw you out on a cold winter’s day. The aquarium is well-designed and very interactive. It offers penguins, rays and skates that you can touch, and even Beluga whales. There is a marine theater which hosts sea lion shows and a 4D theater which is currently playing a remastered version of the classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Mystic Ice Sculptures!
Ice Sculptures!

The aquarium hosts a variety of winter activities, including ice sculptures, visits from Santa, and even a New Year’s party.

 

The Real Mystic Pizza

Remember that great 80s movie Mystic Pizza? Well, it was based on a real restaurant, which is alive and well in downtown Mystic. And it really serves great pizza!

Mystic Pizza
Mystic Pizza

We make it a point to visit Mystic Pizza whenever we’re in town, and we are never disappointed. There are, of course, many other great restaurants in Mystic as well.  Some of our favorites include Bravo Bravo on Main Street and Kitchen Little on the waterfront. Kitchen Little serves possibly the best breakfast I’ve had this side of Paris. It is definitely not to be missed.

So if you live in New England (or if you don’t, but want to visit a real small town Winter Wonderland) consider a visit to Mystic for your next mid-winter break.

 

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Our 5 Favorite Cities in the US

As we ponder our Poker Pilgrimage, we need to decide where our year of travel will take us. We have three basic criteria for places to earn a spot on our journey, a location must either have a poker room (or rooms: Hello Las Vegas!) we want to visit, be a spot that we have never been but would like to go (such as Charleston, SC), or be one of our favorite cities, and thus worthy of a return trip. Today, we thought we would share our five favorite cities and start to pin some way-points on our journey.

 

Boston, MA

Boston: One of our favorite cities
The Boston Skyline

Boston is an easy one. We live in the Boston area, and thus this is where our journey will begin. Boston has history, museums, culture, natural beauty, and sports teams galore. For the first time visitor we would recommend the aquarium, the science museum, Faneuil Hall, a walk down the Freedom Trail, a walk along the Charles River, taking in a game (Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox, or Bruins depending on the season), and a visit to any of the many historic and beautiful outlying towns. Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, and numerous New Hampshire cardrooms are within a couple of hours if your poker jones needs to be fed.

 

Washington, DC

One of our favorite places: Washington DC
Washington Monument at Night

Washington DC is next on our list. DC is a beautiful city replete with monuments, museums, an excellent zoo, and of course our seat of government. One of my favorite things about Washington is that many of the attractions (more museums than you can count and the zoo!) are completely free. You could spend days exploring the city without paying a single entrance fee. I dare you to name another city where this is the case.  Also, if you lean toward the political, you can plan a visit to Congress or even the White House. Also not to be missed are the amazing Arlington Cemetery and the (sadly expensive) Spy Museum. If your thoughts take a turn toward poker, Maryland Live! is only 45 minutes away and the new MGM National Harbor is just a few minutes drive from the heart of DC.

 

New Orleans, LA

One of our favorite cities: New Orleans
Jackson Square, New Orleans

We love New Orleans so much that we got married there! While we probably wouldn’t pencil New Orleans in for a summer visit, the weather is lovely in the late fall or early spring. So many things make New Orleans one of our favorite cities. We love the food, the music, and the very spirit of the city. While we do our best to avoid the craziness of Bourbon Street, neighboring Chartres and Royal offer a wealth of interesting stores, galleries of local artisans, and cafes. Frenchman Street hosts numerous hardworking musical acts every night of the week. And if you are fortunate enough to be in the city for one of their many parades, the joy of the people is infectious (again, Mardi Gras is perhaps out of our comfort zone, but the St. Patrick’s parade we experienced was a delight). On our most recent visit we went to the new World War II museum and were blown away by the experience. Sadly, Harrah’s Casino in the heart of the city would not make our top five poker destinations, but it is there for those looking for some cash play. There are also riverboat casinos nearby that we have yet to investigate.

 

San Diego, CA

San Diego: One of our favorite cities
Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

Over on the Left Coast, we have two favorite cities.  First, San Diego has beautiful weather practically year round. It has the ocean, and it has all of the culture that one could wish for. From the museums and beauty of Balboa Park, to the missions and Mexican restaurants of Old Town, San Diego has something for everyone. San Diego also hosts the world famous San Diego Zoo and my favorite, San Diego Safari Park. Nearby you will find the wine-making area of Temecula, and Julian, known for mining and apple pie. It’s even a quick drive to Tijuana, if a visit to Mexico tickles your fancy. San Diego offers a number of poker rooms which we look forward to exploring on our big trip.

 

 

San Francisco

San Francisco: one of our favorite cities
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

While we have never been to San Francisco together, we both list it among our favorite cities. As with the other destinations on our list, San Francisco has a wealth of experiences to offer. Some of our favorites are Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park, the Exploratorium, and nearby Sausalito. Visitors must check out Coit Tower and ride the famous trolley cars in order to claim that they have “done” the city. Most will find a visit to Alcatraz worth their while as well. The Bay 101 is the most famous poker room on offer, but several other rooms are in close proximity, making San Francisco a worthy poker stop as well.

 

So there you have it: these five favorite cities will serve as anchors on our initial intinerary for our Poker Pilgrimage. Now we can start our map!

Map of our Favorite Cities
Our Very First Trip Map!

What are your favorite US Cities? Help us plan our trip!

 

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5 Great Gifts For Your Favorite Poker Player

Christmas. You know it’s coming. I know it’s coming. As much as we may want to hold it off, that desperate, happy, exhausting, gift giving time of year is absolutely, unavoidably here. So Poker Pilgrims would like to help you out by giving you suggestions for great gifts for the poker player in your life.

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. However, we love all of the products and services listed here. We promise! For more information, see our Disclosure page.

 

  • A book to curl up on a long winter’s night and brush up on their game. Which book, you ask? Here are some of our favorites:

For the Beginner: We love Phil Gordon’s Little Book series, starting with The Little Green Book: Lessons and Teachings in No Limit Texas Hold Em

 

 

 

Poker Tournament FormulaFor the Tournament Player: Arnold Snyder’s Poker Tournament Formula is a must read for any player who wants to get serious about tournament poker

 

 

 

Poker Cash GamesFor the Cash Player: Harrington gives some good solid advice in Cash Games (How to Win in No-Limit Hold ‘Em Money Games) Vol. I that still holds up today.

 

 

 

Peak Poker PerformanceFor the Experienced Player who wants to enhance their play: We love Peak Poker Performance by Dr. Patricia Cardner and Jonathan Little from D&B Poker which covers the mental and physical aspects of being ready to play your best game.  If only we could do a better job of following their advice!

 

Positively Fifht StreetFor anyone looking for a great poker read and crime story: James McManus’ Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binions World Series of Poker

 

 

 

Great Gifts
Happy XMas! by Mrskyce
  • A set of beautiful and durable playing cards to enhance the home game: We love these Copag Cards and use them heavily at our own kitchen table
  • A subscription to a poker training site to help them brush up their skills. We are admittedly biased here, as Advanced Poker Training pays us to do work (and blog) for their site. However, we can honestly tell you that their approach to training is the best that we’ve seen. Rather than just offering a series of videos and articles about how other people play poker, APT invites you to play your preferred game (tournament, cash, sit n go, whatever’s your poison). They then analyze your play and send out a weekly plan with practice exercises and advice about how to work on your leaks.
5 Great Gifts For the Poker Player in Your Life Click To Tweet
  • A fun poker t shirt: There are a variety of t-shirts out there that can be found with a quick amazon search. However, we have created a few Ts for our own personal use, that you are welcome to gift to your loved one.

 

  • If you’ve got real money to burn, every poker player’s secret dream is a buy in to The WSOP Main Event for a mere $10,000. If that is a bit out of reach, perhaps a buy in to a smaller event at a card room near you.

 

We hope that our list of great gifts for your favorite poker player has been helpful. I know that I would love to get any of the above (hint, hint Paul). If you have ideas for other good gifts that you have either given or gotten, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

 

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Building a Budget for a Dream

Although our Poker Pilgrimage is still five years away, we spend a lot of time thinking about its viability and about building a budget for our dream. We are fortunate to work as consultants and thus know that we will be able to take our jobs on the road.  However, a year of travel (and poker!) will certainly lead to reduced hours, and a wide variety of costs (gas, food, lodging for a start) that are different than those we face today.

Building a Budget
Building a Budget
Image by GotCredit.com

On the other hand, we plan to give up our apartment and one of our cars, as well as taking other actions that will reduce or eliminate costs that we bear today. Our Pilgrimage budget will both help us get an idea of the costs we can expect during our year of travel, as well as tell us how much we need to start saving today for a successful trip.

Building a Budget for a Dream Click To Tweet

While we will offer a rough budget today, we intend to update this budget regularly as we take deeper dives into each aspect of our proposed travel experience. We will categorize these posts in our “Building the Stakes” thread if you would like to follow along as our budget develops. We will also keep our most current budget posted on our Trip Status page.

For our first budget, we share our original baseline estimates for our yearlong trip.

Monthly Budget CategoryAmountNotes
Lodging1800Assumes $60/night at VRBP or AirBNB
FIOS0No cable
Utilities0No Utilities
Phone / Internet Access150Need to Explore Options
Health Insurance (couple)1200Need to Explore Options
Car Insurance (1 car)60
Groceries300Need to estimate
Accounting230
Gas400Need to calculate
Car Property Tax50
Medical100
Dining600Need to estimate
Entertainment200Need to estimate
Gifts200
Household0No household!
Poker1000Need to estimate
Charity50
Emergency Fund100
Total6440

As you can see, we are starting with a very rough estimate. Over time (and a number of future posts!) we will fully explore each of the items above to refine our budget. We will share each of these explorations in a post so that you will learn the financial ins and outs of poker travel along with us.

In future posts we will also talk about how we have started side-hustling to make a little extra cash to start putting away for our trip. And how we work to shave our current budget to get more into savings for our dream.

If you have any questions about the initial budget we are building or why any of our numbers are as they are, feel free to ask in the comments.

 

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The Poker Room at Hampton Falls

Hampton Falls is simply the best poker experience in New Hampshire for the player looking for a well-run room, quality dealers, and reasonably competitive play. If you want to match wits with tournament players who can actually fold correctly, well, your chances here are far better than many of the other local rooms. The cash games can get fairly wild with loose aggressive play being a seeming badge of honor.

 

Hampton Falls Poker
Upstairs at Hampton Falls

Hampton Falls has some of the best value tournaments in New England. the Friday and Saturday 1pm tournaments are our favorites: $90 entry fee with 30,000 chips, 30 minute blinds starting at 25-50, antes starting at level 4, and levels that increase gradually enough that the tournament does not become a shove-fest after hour 3.  In fact, if you plan to money in this one, set aside 10-11 hours of your day. This tournament typically draws 70 to 130 players.  Skill levels vary, but not many “bingo” players are chasing gut shots to the river.  However, there are plenty of solid, unspectacular players who can be exploited. Hampton Falls also features special monthly tournaments with higher buy-ins (e.g., $250) that tend to draw big crowds.

Hampton Falls has a nice two floor design, with reasonable space between tables and comfortable chairs for a non-casino poker room. The lighting is decent and for those who want to beat the summer heat, the room is kept very cool.

Aside from tournament structure, the major differentiator between Hampton Falls and its local competitors is the quality of the dealers and floors.  Most dealers are fast, friendly, and knowledgeable.  There are a few weak spots, but they do such a good job rotating dealers that you are rarely saddled with a mediocre dealer for very long.  There are few issues, but when there are the floors maintain control and have the respect of the players. They know the rules and are able to articulate the logic behind their decisions clearly. Hampton Falls features the most professional staff we have encountered outside of a major casino or very large cardroom.

Our Review of The Poker Room at Hampton Falls Click To Tweet

One down side is that the food is fairly mediocre.  We have tried a few things on their menu, with the fried appetizers certainly solid, but nothing stands out.  We ordered a grilled chicken sandwich once and it was basically a protein delivery system at best: unseasoned breast slapped in a humble bun with wilted lettuce and a tomato slice keeping it company.  Generally the food and drink crew are well staffed; they circle frequently and are attentive, but we have seen some complaints of food taking a long time when things are bustling.

On the other hand, you’re not here for the food, you’re here to play some poker. Hampton Falls delivers the best poker experience in Northern New England.

 

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Welcome to Our Pilgrimage

Welcome to Poker Pilgrims!

I am Heather and I have built this site with my husband Paul in order to share our thoughts, experiences, and research as we work toward (and hopefully experience!) a grand adventure in poker travel.

Paul and I are both avid poker players and travelers. It has long been our dream to travel the country for a year, playing poker along the way. As our youngest children approach college, we can see this dream within reach and are now getting serious about planning for our journey. Our target date is September 2022. It feels so close, yet so very far into the future.

 

Poker Pilgrims
Poker Pilgrims

 

Along the way we hope to share with you what we learn in all areas related to our journey:

Poker

  • We have created a map of poker rooms across the US in order to help us plan our journey
  • We will share reviews of the poker rooms that we visit and allow you to offer your ratings as well
  • We will review poker books that we have found helpful as we work on our game
  • We will also share various thoughts and insights that we have from our years of (mostly tournament) play
Join us on our Poker Pilgrimage! Click To Tweet

Travel

  • We plan to share the tips and traps of spending a year on the road
  • We will let you know of any resources we find for travelling on a budget
  • We will of course blog about our journey once we embark

Finance

  • We invite you to come along on our journey to Financial Independence as well, as we hope to fully support our trip from the road
  • We will share our budgets, spreadsheets, plans, and financial updates as we move toward the Pilgrimage

Philosophy

  • We will also share with your our developing thoughts on life, optimism, and the pursuit of everything

We hope that many of you, whether poker players, travelers, seekers of financial independence, or all of the above will find something here to help you on your own journey in life, wherever that may lead.

 

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