4 Tips to Staying Positive When Motivation Lags

4 Tricks to Recapturing Self Motivation When Energy Flags

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Sometimes Paul and I have a bit of trouble keeping up our self motivation over the course of a long day. If you read Paul’s post on Stumbling Toward Optimism, you know that a positive attitude is not in our DNA. However, we have a lot of important goals and very busy lives. We have three kids still at home, full-time jobs, multiple side hustles, and this great journey to plan (largely through this blog). So when our motivation hits a low point, we need to figure out how to bring it back up quickly. And, sadly, motivation often hits a low point.

Fortunately, through our years together, we have identified some tricks to remedy the problem. We’ve tried a lot of different methods to throw off the gloom and get back to work. Below are the four measures we have found to be most effective at recapturing our mojo when we hit a rough patch.

4 Tips to Staying Positive When Self Motivation Lags

Make a Plan to Maintain Self Motivation

We plan out each week on a white board with a set of magnets edged in washi tape signifying who is assigned each task. We have color-coded categories for our main work, side hustles, household tasks, and this blog. Further, each day we list specifically what we want to accomplish, and how we will fit them around other personal activities (errands, son’s hockey practice, exercise, etc.). It can be surprisingly motivating to clean off a magnet and move it back to the empty pile. And damn, it feels good when the day’s column is empty. In case you’re interested, we use this white board, which we have found to be the perfect size for our home office.


Okay, I have to admit right here that I truly suck at meditating. My meditation grade is probably a C- at best. The mere fact that I grade myself on meditation shows you how sadly ill-equipped I am for it. Nonetheless, I persevere. Even in my failure, spending seven minutes each morning trying to let my chattery brain shut down puts me in a better place.  And if I am struggling with motivation mid-afternoon, a few minutes of peaceful breathing gives me a real boost. If you’re looking for a way to get started, Insight Timer is a great meditation app. It allows you to follow thousands of guided meditations, or just set a timer to focus on your own breath. Best of all, it’s free!

When all else fails, bribery remains. Do whatever it takes to recapture motivation when your energy flags.Click To Tweet

Take a Walk

The idea of exercise to lighten one’s mood is hardly groundbreaking. However, it is extremely effective. Paul runs, but I prefer to get outside and take a walk. The endorphins released from walking, combined with the positive effects of sunlight will turn my mood around every time. As an extra productivity bonus, I always listen to podcasts when I walk. My favorite side hustle podcast is Nick Loper’s The Side Hustle Show. It got us started side hustling, and gives me fresh motivation to get back to work and start hustling every time I listen.

Reward Yourself

When all else fails, bribery remains. If I face an undesirable task, I promise myself a treat upon its completion. You have to be careful with this one. No promising yourself a Tahitian vacation for taking out the trash. That will kill your budget every time. Also, for your long-term health: no bribing your way through a bag of Hershey’s kisses in one sitting. But offering yourself a small grace note when you’re really struggling to complete a task can be a great incentive.

For example, I hate making phone calls. Thank goodness for the internet, because if my job depended on calling strangers regularly, I might be homeless. So if I need to call the accountant, I’ll promise myself that afterwards I can sit down with a book for 15 minutes. Although I do tend to use Hershey’s kisses as an incentive more than ideal, the reward method does miracles in helping me recapture my motivation to do what needs to be done and keep me on the path to reach my goals.

Now it’s your turn! What tricks do you use for staying positive when your self motivation has taken a hike? We would love to hear your thoughts on how to get motivated.

4 Tricks to Staying Positive When Your Self Motivation Lags










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Borgata Poker Room Review

The Borgata Poker Room Review

The Borgata is widely thought of as one of the East Coast’s premier poker destinations. I think this is primarily because… it’s true!

The Borgata Poker room is an attractive, spacious 80+ table venue that is quite comfortable and professionally run. To remain top dog in the Northeast, the Borgata must withstand pressure from newer venues like Maryland Live! and National Harbor. It is up to the challenge.


The poker room occupies such a large space within the Borgata that it almost feels like a separate venue. When playing there you likely will not hear the clatter of the slot machines or hubbub of table games. For those of us focused solely on poker, this is Nirvana.

Add to that very high ceilings and wide spaces between tables, and you have the perfect spot to play poker. I usually do not care about decor in poker rooms. However, the Borgata poker room’s thick carpet, soft tan hues and stately columns render the room quite pleasant. The chairs are comfortable, but not so large you knock into your neighbors. Extras like charger ports at your seat are a plus for those of use whose cell phones are always near death.

The Borgata Poker Room is a joy to experience
Borgata Exterior by World Poker Tour

Borgata Poker Room Staff

The floors and dealers are top notch. The dealers are skilled, control the action, and rarely make mistakes. Floors keep the tournaments moving and are always accessible for questions. Service staff circle frequently for drink orders. Overall, the staff is professional but approachable and friendly. Customer service is clearly a priority here.


If you have never played live poker before, I would not start at the Borgata. The tournament players I encountered were more skilled than those at top Vegas rooms, including the excellent Venetian, or premier Northeast venues like Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun. The mix of experienced locals and players who come to Atlantic City to play poker is unique. The Borgata does not host a lot of tourists wandering in to give poker a try.

Simply the best poker venue I have been to on the East Coast.Click To Tweet

Tournament Structure

It is remarkable how difficult it is to find a good tournament structure. The Borgata’s daily tournaments provide an array of options each week, from inexpensive Turbo formats (15 minute blinds) to $100 buy ins with deep stacks and 20 minute blind levels. If you’re willing to pay $200, you can find deep stacks with 25 to 30 minute blinds.

That is just the Borgata’s standard fare. There are also the Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall Opens with bigger buy-ins and prize money (and generally longer blind levels). The Main event in each of these series draw top names in poker.

The Borgata has something for all levels of competitive tournament player.



Channelling my inner Tina Turner one more time: the Borgata poker room is simply the best.


Habitat 67 in Montreal

Montreal: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Montreal is one of the most complex cities I have ever visited. It is culturally rich, steeped in history, and ground zero for French-English bi-culturalism and its attendant debates. It is also an industrial port, forged by its strategic location on the St. Lawrence river. It’s modern and international yet traditional and insular. The beautiful and ugly co-exist in single perspective views of Montreal as in few other places.

I have been to Montreal 5-6 times in my life and three times within the past two years with Heather. Our recent sojourns were driven by initial curiosity about the poker scene after seeing the Playground Poker Club on a televised tournament. It turns out that the Casino Montreal also has a decent poker room. Enjoying both, and the fact that Montreal is only a 5 hour drive from our house, we have returned twice in the summer and most recently over the New Year’s weekend.

However, I must admit I am still divided on Montreal as a vacation destination. Let’s start with the positives.

The Good


Much like New Orleans, Montreal’s food scene is a key component of its desirability. I develop an instant chocolate croissant addiction as soon as I enter the city limits. The Boulangerie Premier Moisson in the Gare Central underground is my go-to supplier. Premier Moisson is a chain with 13 locations throughout Montreal, so you should be able to find one nearby wherever you find yourself downtown.

The city is replete with good quick lunch options as well, including a couple of places in the Gare Central and several in Old Montreal. Things really get exciting as dinner approaches. Nothing feels more decadent than fondue. Heather and I had a great fondue meal at Creperie Chez Suzette in Old Town last summer for a pretty reasonable cost. As a bonus, we sat on the patio and watched the crowd wander by as we ate.

This winter we had a great Mexican tapas style dinner at Escondite. Escondite has a bar and about 15 tables, and the small space makes it a bit cramped.  But that is a small price to pay for the fabulous food.  We started with guacamole, jalapeno cornbread, and their “amaizing corn esquite” from their tapas/appetizer menu. Then we had two different types of chicken tacos: the mole and the big winner the Pollos Hermanos, a deep fried chicken with chipotle crema. Five tapas courses with tax and tip ran us about $40 US dollars. One of the greatest value meals I have ever had.

The Plateau Mont-Royal district is also filled with great shopping and dining options.  We ate at La Raclette at the end of December. We had a good solid three course meal that warmed us up on a cold winter night.

Montreal: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Hotel Bonaventure

I’m a stick to a hotel you love kind of guy. So I can write about exactly one Montreal hotel: the Hotel Bonaventure. It’s website describes it as “an urban oasis.” I can think of no better descriptor. Sitting atop the Place de Bonaventure, this hotel rises above Montreal occupying its own unique space. The rooftop is replete with rooftop gardens and waterways speckled by various species of ducks. Sitting and reading amid the gardens in good weather is the best of escapism. The year-round outdoor heated pool is a challenge worth taking even in the depths of the chilly Montreal winter. The ice forming around your head as your body moves through the warm pool is a unique and exhilarating experience.

Despite having nearly 400 rooms, we have never felt an overwhelming crush of people even when it is clear the Bonaventure is fully booked. Easy access to the Montreal underground and Metro is a lifesaver in the winter, and the hotel’s central location makes getting around pretty easy. Rooms have plenty of space to spread out, and comfortable beds. The showers are a bit finicky, making it hard to find that sweet spot between scalding and lukewarm, but that’s a small price to pay for such a fabulous hotel.

The Underground

Heather and I had explored the underground a bit in previous visits, but the sub zero cold drove us to maximize our use of the underground this past visit. We’re glad we did. We walked in both primary directions from the Place Bonaventure. The walk to the Museum of Contemporary Art was particularly fun, taking us through several interesting buildings replete with artistic installations. Finishing our journey with a stunning exhibit/tribute to Montreal native Leonard Cohen at the museum was the cherry on the sundae!

Montreal Underground


The Bad

The Infrastructure

Driving in Montreal made me long to drive in Boston. For anyone who has driven in Boston, I need say no more. The roads offer unexpected twists and turns with ambiguous signage and pot holes that form in front of you as you go. Driving in Montreal feels like you are Katniss Everdeen making her way through the war ravaged Capitol in The Hunger Games. The bridges in particular are ravaged and decaying and frankly a bit terrifying to cross. The weather is tough up there, not really Montreal’s fault, but it is a challenge to navigate.

Cold, You Don’t Know Cold

Prior to the the New Year’s trip, we of course looked at the weather reports. A cold snap was descending on the Northeast, so we expected low temperatures. However, when I looked up the Montreal predictions, my first thought was “this must be in Celsius.” No, it turns out, that -5 degrees as a high, yes a high, for our five days there, was good old sub-zero Fahrenheit .

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Driving in Montreal made me long to drive in BostonClick To Tweet


The Ugly

The view of Montreal is much better at street level. When you drive around the main thoroughfares of the city, the industrial aspects and infrastructure deterioration mar the overall aesthetic. The architecture of the downtown area also lacks the sleek modernism of Toronto or  the old European feel of Quebec City. Several of the taller buildings (limited in height by code to be below the height of Mont Royal) were built in the utilitarian era of the early 1960s, an era that has saddled many North American cities with regrettable structures. The Brutalist movement added several other buildings, most famously Habitat 67 built for the 1967 World’s Fair. The sharp divide on Brutalism will likely never die (see debates about Boston’s City Hall), but certainly even adherents would not describe it as “pretty.” Montreal is just not a pretty city.

Habitat 67 in Montreal


As I write this, I must admit that my affection for Montreal continues to grow. And looking back, I think my affection has increased with each visit. After all, there must be a reason I returned for my third visit in two years.

Montreal: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly









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Set SMART Goals

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:






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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Casino de Montreal poker room review

Casino de Montreal Poker Room Review

Heather and I spent our New Year’s vacation dodging frostbite in Montreal and retreating for warmth to the poker room of Casino de Montreal. We played three tournaments over four days (the fourth was spent at the Playground Poker Club outside the city). This was our third poker jaunt to Montreal. The last was so profitable that we were itching to return. Let’s just say that the results this time were not as positive. I’ll try my best to divorce that fact from this review of the Casino de Montreal’s poker offerings.

Casino de Montreal poker room review
Casino de Montreal by Philip Lai

Casino de Montreal Setting

The Casino de Montreal lies on the Ile Notre Dame in the St. Lawrence river 5 minutes from downtown. The Casino has a very futuristic look as its two main buildings were built as exhibition space for Expo ’67.  The casino opened in 1993. The entire casino, including the poker room, is non-smoking.

The poker room lies on an upper floor of the annex, and you walk through the rest of the casino proper to get there. A modern bar bisects the poker room. The primary space has fifteen tables lined with one massive television and several smaller ones.

One of the nice features of the Casino de Montreal is a self-service beverage bar that dispenses soda, coffee, juice, and water. The self-service bar obviates the need to wait for table service for non-alcoholic beverages.

The Casino de Montreal poker room is dark. The low black ceiling and dim lighting create a cave-like feel.  The tables themselves, however, are well lit, so you can see cards without issue. The chairs are comfortable yet not so large (unlike at the Playground) that you are bumping into other players. The tables are also reasonably spaced, so you can move around without difficulty.

Poker in French

I took four years of high school French, yet am limited to little beyond “Oui” and “Merci.” During this visit to the Casino de Montreal, I was typically the only English speaker at my table. Thus, picking up verbal tells was not a factor. The other players might as well have been speaking Swahili. Players stated bet amounts in French and were repeated by the dealers in French most of the time.  Sometimes dealers also translated to English. Interestingly, the main poker actions such as fold, call, and all in are spoken, and repeated by the dealer, in English.

One of the larger adjustments is that the letters on the face cards are in French. Kings are R for Roi, Queens are D for Dame, and Jacks are V for Valet. Whenever I was trying to figure out if I had a Broadway draw I had to practically mutter the translations under my breath. It’s amazing how tricky this simple change in the cards is to process.


The dealers were skilled and knowledgeable and kept things moving efficiently with minimal mistakes. They were informal and at times playful with players. The floors were rarely called, but were pleasant in greeting the players at the beginning of the tournament. The tournaments were very well run overall.

At the Casino de Montreal, the waitresses circulate with drink and food orders. Each table also has a button to call a waitress, which I found more civilized than the shout-for-the-waitress-as-she-zips-by style of many card rooms.

Casino de Montreal Players

The players at the Casino de Montreal are generally pleasant and social with the widest range in skill I have ever seen. There were a few tricky players in every tournament, and some truly talented ones. But there were just as many young men seemingly new to the game. Finally, there were a lot of recreational regulars who were out to enjoy themselves as much as win.

Interestingly, there was very little alcohol consumption at the tables. No one was intoxicated and few people even ordered a single drink. This was true even for the tournament that we played on New Year’s Eve. This added to the pleasant environment and meant that testy exchanges were rare.

Playing Poker in French is both Fun and ChallengingClick To Tweet

Tournament Structure

The Casino de Montreal hosts 1 to 2 tournaments per day (at 1pm and/or 7:30pm). All are described as Deep Stack, with chip stacks starting in the 15,000 to 25,000 range and opening blind levels at 25-50. The Regular tournament has 20 minute blinds, while the turbo blinds go up every 15 minutes. All tournaments are re-entries. Like any small buy-in tournament, the structures are aggressive and you have to play accordingly.

The tournaments typically get between 60 and 100 runners. One aspect of the tournament I did not like was that buy in occurs at the table. Every time a new player joins, the dealer has to stop to process the buy-in and present their stack. When lot of players are rebuying, this process slows things down to an extent that is not ideal with such aggressive structures.


Overall Assessment

Playing poker in French is both fun and challenging. The Casino de Montreal provides a rich French atmosphere, yet is comfortable for the  non-native speaker. If you are a recreational player looking for a fun environment with reasonable play, the Casino de Montreal will fit your needs.