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Posted by on Dec 31, 2014 in Blog, Personal | 8 comments

True Confessions: The Many Mistakes I Made in 2014




This New Years Eve is an occasion to look back on what we’ve done these previous 364 days.

Right now, I shall do precisely that.  So, please forgive the self-indulgence.

What follows is a list of my mistakes and regrets from the previous year.  Only through an honest self-examination are we able to retool our energies and focus on the challenges to come.  While we shouldn’t dwell on the negative, we must all face the ghosts of our pasts, recognize them as a learning opportunity, and then move on.

Hopefully by sharing my thoughts and remorseful musings, I’ll enter 2015 with a clearer mind and even greater determination to experiencing a more purposeful and fulfilling new year.


Let’s begin with things I’ve written, specifically here at my website.  On most days, I post something.  I’m reasonably satisfied with my output and content, which shows no signs of diminishing even after two-and-a-half years and 902 posted essays (and counting — this makes number 903).

I tend to write quickly and post instantly (which explains the typos), and then move on to the next subject with little or no interest in reliving nostalgia.  If some readers think I should have regrets about a few things I’ve written and/or the way I’ve said them, then please don’t hold your breath awaiting my apology.  Because, it’s not coming.  That’s not intended as defiance.  I simply can’t think of any topic or statement that I would now back away from, unless it’s already noted in one of my follow-up essays.

That said, I do have several regrets about the written work I’ve done and the opportunities I’ve missed.

My work on the World Series of Poker this past year wasn’t particularly stellar.  Yes, I did put in the hours.  But my writing and reporting of events sometimes contained factual errors which are utterly unforgivable at this stage of my career.  On some of the official reports I authored, I simply did not put in enough time, nor pay attention to details necessary that were needed to make the article stand out as the official matter of record.  I pledge to be more much more focused and determined next year, and beyond.

I also missed an important editorial deadline entirely with a highly-respected magazine on an important article I’d promised, back in June.  I’ve only done this twice now in my 20-plus years in the casino and gambling industry.  There are no excuses.  When you give your word to get something done, it should be finished and delivered on time.  I’m afraid I let someone down that was counting on me, and for this I have sincere regrets and only hope I can make it up sometime.

On the positive side, I have discovered the subject of what will be my second book.  That’s a revelation.



I made several public speeches this last year.  At least two which are regretful to me, looking back now.

Last summer, I was touched deeply when Allyn Jaffrey-Shulman picked me from among the many people she could have asked to deliver her induction speech to a few hundred people in front of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, I committed a somewhat selfish act which distracted from what should have been the primary focus of that official engagement.  As I was speaking, I rambled off topic and instead of focusing entirely on Allyn, as I should have, I went off on some unnecessary tangents.  No one said anything afterwards about this to me.  But later I came to realize this wasn’t handled well, and for this I have some regrets.

Unfortunately, I did the same thing again as a public speaker at the annual Poker Hall of Fame ceremony, which took place in November.  Confident that the previous year went well with lots of comedy in the script, I wrote up a lengthy 15-minute stab at just about everyone on the room.  Some of the jokes worked.  Others bombed.  After about ten minutes, I realized I was hanging out in the wind in front of all my peers and fumbled around looking for a bridge to the real stars of the night — inductees Jack McClelland and Daniel Negreanu.  If that wasn’t a night of regret, it was certainly a learning experience and inspiration to keep things shorter and stay on message, something I have trouble doing at times.

I’ve never been comfortable as a public speaker.  Nevertheless, this area needs some serious work.



I began doing videos this past year, on topics ranging from politics to book reviews to football betting to restaurant reviews.  These were hit and miss.  The idea came from Steve Dannenmann and Gavin Smith, who said “do what you write on video.”  I tried that, with mixed results.  Last time I trust Steve and Gavin for career advice.

My videos at turned out pretty good and were generally well received.  However, I was disappointed that the daily news show which ran prior to the start of video coverage of that day’s final tables wasn’t more popular.  We’ll see what’s ahead for 2015.

Initially, I had no intention of appearing on camera and being a part of the show on “Poker Night in America.”  But we tried out a few new things and it was decided to do a kind of Andy Rooney “60 Minutes” close to each show.  The crew did a really nice job on these, but I need to deliver more.  One regret I have is the Daniel Colman rant in September, which came across as somewhat clownish.  With more time removed from the situation, the more I’ve come to respect Colman’s stance on things.  I’d probably do that wild rant over again, or nix it altogether if I had the chance.


In Memoriam

I gave two eulogies this past year.  One was for my late grandmother, who passed away at the age of 88, in August.  I also delivered a eulogy for Chad Brown, who died in June.  I’m not sure why, maybe it was the intense emotion of those losses, but those speeches went without incident or regret, other than losing two wonderful people in my life.

Speaking of regrets, I’m still broken up by the loss of Joe Sartori, who I worked closely with on Poker Night in America.  Joe suddenly passed away in October.  Oddly enough, the further removed from Joe’s death I get with the passage of time, the more I’m reminded of him.  I regret I didn’t know Joe sooner, that’s all I can say.



I’m not particularly a good friend to anyone.  I’m admittedly selfish with my private time and make no attempt whatsoever to hide my longing to be independent.  I suppose that’s another word for loner.

A great many people, more than I can possible list here, have been very good to me over the years.  They’ve been there when I needed them the most, and didn’t deserve support.  They’ve said things, done things, or just been there to listen and lift me up.  These are debts that I cannot repay.  That which I can never pay back.

Regretfully, in many cases I don’t even try anymore.

I’ve let some of my closer friendships deteriorate, and this makes me sad.  These people know who they are.  It’s not intentional.  Some of it’s due to my work load.  Part of it is just wanting to enjoy my free time in solitude.  I suppose I’ve gotten very selfish with my time.  I don’t share it with anyone.  There’s no way to justify self-imposed isolation.  Just that I need it and covet it.  And so, it will likely continue.



Writing and talking comes easy, some might even say naturally.

But that’s not necessarily communicating.

It’s much easier for me to write on the history of Karl Marx or dissect a pro football game than to discuss private things which are inherently more vital to my own life and happiness.  All writers that I know suffer from a certain undiagnosed affliction I will deem as projection, which is to project your deepest frustration and aspirations onto your chosen interests and beliefs.  Okay, so I just made all of this up on the spot, but I still believe it.

I write reasonably well.  I can speak somewhat coherently if given the time to organize my thoughts.

Still, I do not communicate particularly well, and should try and work on that.



I’m reasonably happy with my progress on my own health and fitness.  I weigh about the same now as one year ago.  I still exercise, mostly running, every single day.

I’m blessed with a great wife who is an even better cook.  She also makes healthy dishes.  Most of all, she provides exceptional emotional sustenance and encouragement, which is all I can ask for.  We dine out regularly, and eat and drink what we want.  We’ve been blessed with good health.

I certainly hit the lottery in this department.  And if you’re going to hit the jackpot, this is the category you want to do it in.  If your health suffers, nothing else matters.


Skills and Talents

Linda Johnson taught me a valuable lesson a few years ago.  She said that our goal shouldn’t be to change the world when it comes to making new year’s resolutions.  “Just learn one new thing,” she advises.  “Develop one new talent within yourself.”

Well, I took that advice to heart.  I hoped to work on two things this past year.  Unfortunately, I failed at both.

I intended to learn to play the piano beyond the elementary chord stage.  I spent many hours practicing finger exercises.  But I could never get entirely comfortable playing the piano simultaneously with both hands.  It just never felt comfortable for me.  And so, this past month I gave up the piano and decided to sell my keyboard.  My career as a concert pianist came to an abrupt and merciful end, which should be music to the world’s ears.

My work on the guitar also never materialized much.  I played with some degree of familiarity many years ago and hoped to get back into the mechanics not just of playing guitar, but writing songs and making music.  I’m not surrendering on this ambition just yet.  I will continue to work at the guitar and hope to improve in 2015.


Football Handicapping

Let’s just leave this section blank, okay?

Actually, I don’t regret much about posting a losing season betting football games, other than possibly swaying an opinion or two out there among readers, who might have lost money also.  That’s not something to be proud of, but given how little time and effort I put into the science of handicapping this season compared to other years, I got exactly what I deserved.  I suffered my worst financial loss since 2001.

Lesson learned?  There are no short cuts.



Finally, I haven’t been the writer, the speaker, the friend, the skilled communicator, nor the football handicapper that I hoped to be when 2014 began.  So, why would my career — which involves working on Poker Night in America, the World Series of Poker, and freelance writing be an exception?

As I look back, I should have done more, and then done it even better.  This is a wake up call to begin anew.


The new year must be a time of refocusing.  It requires an infusion of new energy.  It demands fresh enthusiasm.  Perhaps my confession will make you think of your own past, present, and future.  We all need an occasional time out.

Come to think of it, I can’t wait for tomorrow.  I can’t wait for the new year to begin.


Coming Next:  Highlights and Lowlights:  Looking Back at the First Season of “Poker Night in America”   

Coming Up Tomorrow:  My Hopes and Dreams for 2015 and Beyond



  1. Thanks for the entertaining and thought provoking posts this past year.

    May Gods blessings of health, happiness, and prosperity follow you in 2015.

  2. Nolan, you wrote: “I’m not particularly a good friend to anyone. I’m admittedly selfish with my private time….”

    I’m calling BULLSHIT on this one. Yes, you can be selfish with private time, but that’s why it’s called PRIVATE TIME, but to suggest that you are not a particularly good friend to anyone is just nonsense.

    It’s NOT about quantity; it’s about quality. I can immediately think of two occasions last year when you made the effort and took the time to share some pretty intense stuff and also to listen. Not hundreds of hours. Not even a dozen hour, but still very important. I’m willing to bet that I’m alone.

    We can’t be everything to everybody all the time. But we can be ourselves and we can be there when we are needed, offering support.

  3. Always good reads, I love when you get personal and speak about yourself and your wins and losses. You ARE a good friend and the folks who know you and love you understand who you are. Hope 2015 is your best year ever,
    Jan Fisher

  4. Happy 2015 Nolan. I understand about personal time and the need for it. I do appreciate getting together with you for a private talk during this past year and love when we get time to reconnect. Your column is inspirational. Good luck with your goals for 2015.
    Linda Johnson

  5. Great read, Nolan, thanks for sharing.

    In Edward Bernays Wicki page, is found the following :

    Due to negative implications surrounding the word propaganda because of its use by the Germans in World War I, he promoted the term “Public Relations”.

    Using this logic :

    Due to negative implications surrounding the word loner because of its use by the main stream media when describing serial killers and domestic terrorists, he promoted the term “pro-solitude”


    Happy New Year!

    Loner is a negative word, usually associated with anti-social serial killers and domestic terrorists. I therefore prefer the word pro-solitude 🙂

  6. Just a repeat of kevin un! You make the time you give others very meaningful. You offer the world so much with your writings and your personal time (regardless of the length of that time). Thanks for all you give to us!

  7. I am very glad to have found your writing and everything else, and you are part of what made 2014 a good year for me.

  8. Nice post. Take your foot off of the gas a little when handicapping football. There are only two choices to make, Team A or Team B. You gotta think outside the box. If a monkey can pick 50 percent winners against the spread, then all you have to do is find games where there is a lazy consensus, and go against it. You don’t need to spend hours doing that.

    For example, the San Francisco 49’ers were a wreck all season long, yet the lines didn’t reflect that at all, not until the last week or two. I also remember you talking about Detroit before the season, and when you mentioned their qualities, you specifically pointed out their offensive prowess. Of course, that insight was 100 percent wrong, and betting under on them every game would have turned a huge profit. Jim Caldwell is a conservative coach.

    Remember, you are already at 50 percent by just being a monkey. The next time you analyze a game, ask yourself what the laziest sports fan in the world would predict, and then take the other side. That takes about 30 seconds.

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