Monday, July 30, 2012

How & Why I Started My Blog (Reflections on Reaching 50K Pageviews)

I mentioned in my previous post, a few days ago this blog passed 50,000 total pageviews.  As I said when I “celebrated” my 25,000th pageview (see here), I don’t know if that’s good or bad but it does amaze me.  Now, it took me about 8 months get the 25,000 pageviews, and only about 2 ½ months to get the second 25,000 pageviews.  So I guess that’s an encouraging sign, even though I’m sure others can brag about better results.
So, as I did for the 25k milestone, I want to do something a little different to mark the occasion. So I thought I’d talk a bit about how I got this blog started, and how I feel it’s changed—and how I’ve changed—over the 10 months since I started it.  Those of you who aren’t interested in such self-indulgence—or don’t like reading my extra long blog posts—please feel free to skip this post and check back in a couple of days or so for the next entry, when I return to my normal type of post—assuming there is such a thing.
When I first started the blog, I did an “introduction to the blog” page, found here, which I wanted folks to see before they started reading the blog.  Although that was adequate at the beginning, I’ve long felt the need to update and revise it based on how the blog has become a bit different than what I original envisioned.  For one thing, I’ve hardly ever mentioned “LC1” or LC2”, referenced on that page (OTOH, I have indeed talked quite a bit about “BSC”).  I guess I overestimated how many interesting stories I had that took place at those two locals casinos.  I think I will replace (or addend) that page with this post, after it falls off the main page)
Then, a few weeks ago a reader left a comment on this post. You can find the comment, but the gist of it was that said reader was not enjoying my blog as much as he used to.  He liked the poker stuff, but was less interested in my reports of meeting fellow bloggers or the more salacious stories that I post, which frequently feature women saying dirty things (usually, but certainly not always, my friend Prudence.)  And while I haven’t given any serious thought to changing what I write about based on that comment, I did take the comment very seriously.  I did think about what he was saying, and it reminded me of a concern I indeed had at the very beginning, when I started blogging.
So, thinking about this comment is what helped give me the idea to do a post about how and why I got started doing this.  And then I figured, why not do it to coincide with the 50,000th pageview, which I could see coming up?  And thus—this post.
A couple of years ago, I found myself with some free time and thought about doing a blog.  I had several ideas, but one thing that kept coming up was poker.  You see, I have been going to Vegas (from Southern California) regularly for over 30 years.  For most of that time, I played pit games (blackjack, craps, pai gow poker).  Then a few years ago I tried playing poker—2/4 limit—on my last night in town for a particular visit.  To make a long story short, within a few visits, all I was playing when I’d go to Vegas was poker.  For awhile, I’d force myself to play blackjack or craps at least once per visit, but I soon found blackjack (and pai gow) too boring once I had played poker, and craps had priced me out due to the high minimum bets.
Poker engaged my brain (yes, even at 2/4) as no pit game ever could, and I also began enjoying the social aspect of the game.  Particularly at the 2/4 game I was playing, there was a lot of really nice social interaction that one usually didn’t find at any of those pit games.  I actually talked somewhat about that in my post here.
So why not blog about poker?  I had accumulated some fun stories over the recent years.  And I figured—without doing any real research, mind you—that while there were probably a lot of poker blogs talking about No Limit out there, there probably weren’t too many about the limit hold ‘em games (and very low limit) that I was playing almost exclusively.  Or so I figured, anyway.
I guess I should mention that once upon a time, in what seems a lifetime ago when I was in school, I did a fair amount of amateur writing on a totally unrelated topic.  This was well before the internet and it was distributed to a very limited number of people (it actually had to be printed to be distributed).  I enjoyed it even though back in those days, everything we wrote was pounded out on a typewriter and nobody ever heard of a “word processor.”  And I got some decent compliments for my output; even from people who weren’t obligated to compliment me.
So in theory I was looking forward to getting back to writing, but when I first sat down to start blogging, I got stuck.  I wrote one post, started another, and then just stalled. One thing I am very good at is procrastination and I just couldn’t get out of the starting blocks.
But I actually was writing up blog posts, I just didn’t know it at the time.  You’ve no doubt seen comments to some of my posts from “Luv Malts” and “Woody Gentry.”  These are long time friends of mine; in fact, “Luv Malts” has been my friend for for about 25 years, long before she even met and then married Woody (and it is their dog who starred—and is depicted—in the post here).  For years I would come back from Vegas with stories from my trip and regale Luv with them.  She seemed to eat them up; even the more mundane stories seemed to amuse her.  That’s why I start taking a little notebook with me every Vegas trip, just to keep track of all the stories, small and large, that I would want to relate to her.
For the longest time, I didn’t really think anyone but her would find my stories all that interesting; but she started sharing them with Woody and he seemed interested as well.  So much so that I began telling him my Vegas anecdotes directly and he seemed to eat them up.  Of course, he seemed to especially enjoy the most salacious of my anecdotes, the more salacious the better.  He was especially interested any time I spotted a hooker, even if it was just in passing.
I had other friends who appeared to like some of this anecdotes, and sometimes, depending on when I saw my various friends, I would find it easier to write up these experiences as group emails to my friends rather than telling the same story over and over again to different people.  And this allowed me to feed that writing bug I apparently had.  My style back in school and now as I was writing those emails was always to include a lot of detail—clearly too much detail for some people’s tastes—and to throw in a few silly jokes, a few silly asides—some of them total non sequiturs—for color.  I really started looking forward to being able to write these emails with my anecdotes.  When I started taking a laptop with me to Vegas, it became easier to write up these email in a timely fashion while the details were all still fresh in my mind, although often I was having too much fun in Vegas to take time off to do them until I returned home.
I suppose I should have realized myself that these emails could be converted to blog entries for that blog I had started and put aside.  But I wasn’t thinking about it like that.  Since my friends were not poker players, I wasn’t telling them “poker stories” unless they were so unusual or interesting that even a non-player would find them of interest.  I was telling them of the other bizarre things that happened to me or that I witnessed in Vegas.  Now, a lot of them stories did indeed take place at the poker table, but they weren’t really about poker.  So I didn’t put two and two together for a long time.
But then on a trip to Vegas last year, that included Labor Day weekend, I had a particularly productive trip for good stories.  And I had time to email a lot of them from Vegas so they were still fresh in my mind when I reported them (note: I still haven’t published all the anecdotes I got from this trip). And so when I got back in town and visited Luv & Woody, they practically did an intervention.  They sat down with me and pretty much demanded that I do “something” with these stories and emails I had been entertaining them with.  They said I need to somehow share them with other people outside my small circle of friends, that they were too good to confine to just such a narrow audience.  They weren’t sure how, but they wanted me to get them out in the public somehow.  They suggested I publish a book of these stories, or perhaps put them on the internet somewhere.
And suddenly I remembered the long dormant blog I had barely started but never really got going over a year ago.  Hmm…..maybe I could do a blog with these tales?  I had never told anyone of my incomplete attempt to do a poker blog, but I mentioned it to them then.  So perhaps I could put these anecdotes in a blog about poker….and Vegas.  What if I combined all those poker stories I thought I had and wanted to blog about, with these other stories, the ones that were entertaining my friends, the ones that didn’t really have much to do with poker even if so many of them did take place at the poker table? 
But I did point out one problem to my friends.  Some of the stories I had been telling them could conceivably be embarrassing to some of the participants, who of course had no idea that things they did—or things they told me—would be aired publicly.  And since I was now going to Vegas very frequently—and typically played mostly in the same two or three rooms—I had gotten quite friendly with a fair number of the dealers and other poker room employees I regularly encountered.  I didn’t want to embarrass my “friends”, did I?  And if these friends of mine found out and read about my blog, did I really want them to know I found “hooker sightings” or “boobs mentionings” so fascinating (this was long before I even imagined “vagina mentionings”).  When Luv & Woody kept pressing me to press ahead anyway, I thought of the idea of using pseudonyms—not just for the people involved, but for the rooms that these people worked.  And thus, “BSC” was born.
I also knew there were probably some things I had recently learned that I could never reveal under any circumstances, even with pseudonyms, even if I tried to change some of the details.  OK, I could omit those, I would still probably have enough material. So I left that day promising my friends to get the blog going, combining the poker stories and the Vegas stories.
Let me point out some of my early posts and show you how I differentiated the two elements of the prospective blog in my mind.  The poker blog I originally envisioned would have posts like Four 7’s! , Olivia,(she wasn’t a Jack Off), I Shouldn't Have to Say "Raise!" and Four Queens (And They Weren't Mine and I Don't Mean the Hotel). The Vegas blog (the one with the risqué stories) would have ones like Hard Rock Hooker. She Pointed To Her Crotch, "I Don't Have a Penis!", and Worrying About Her Boobs Falling Out.
Even as I agreed to do the blog based on my friends’ insistence, and came up with the idea of combining the two elements, I had my doubts if the two elements would fit together.  I even thought about starting two separate (but connected) blogs, one for the poker, one for the other kind of posts.  But what would I do with a story like Playing Like a Dick? It was definitely a poker story, but also a classic “woman said” story.  Which blog would it belong on?
So I dismissed the idea of two blogs and pressed on.  In late September of last year, I posted four entries in two days and was on my way.
And of course, for a long time, no one read the blog, except my friends, who had either heard or read all the stories before.  And when no one was reading, I again began to wonder if the combination of the two types of blog posts didn’t really fit together well enough to make my blog “work”—if it ever really could work.  Were the poker folks bored by “woman saids” and “boob mentionings”?  Were the people who would like the “woman saids” and “boob mentionings” not even aware of them because this was a poker blog? I was discouraged, even as I found myself enjoying writing the posts (and editing my old emails to turn them into posts).
But eventually I picked up some readers. That same night I met Prudence for the first time in late December, 2011, I met a reader of the blog for the first time—a reader I didn’t already know, that is.  The story of that meeting is told here.  And once I got the story of that first poker session with Prudence posted a few weeks later, things really started taking off.
Meanwhile, my poker playing habits started to change.  I originally thought that the poker posts were going to be about playing 2/4 limit poker, right?  Suddenly I started playing No Limit.  First, in tournaments, then in cash games. At first I was just dipping my toe in the water with No Limit, but now, I don’t see myself going back to limit.  I think that has made the poker posts more interesting; people have told me they’ve enjoyed following my transition from limit to NL.
But I did fear that such a move would cost me some of the more salacious, provocative stories I also write about. I expressed that fear in this post.  But as it turns out, I’ve somehow managed to keep getting the kind of stories that people like Woody seem to like.
And it turns out, just blogging regularly has directly contributed to changing the blog.  I stated earlier that one of the reasons I switched to poker from table games was the social interaction of the game.  Obviously, that social interaction appealed to me.  And it turns out that having a blog has also contributed to expanding my social circle.  Without overtly trying, I found myself welcomed into a community of fellow bloggers—you know who they are, the ones on my blogroll to your right.  Most of these blogs are poker blogs of varying degree, but each of us write what we want to write about.  That’s the great thing about having your own blog.  There’s no one telling you what to write about, you pick your own topics and you can make your posts as long (!!!) or as short as you want.  Of course, you listen to feedback but you don’t have any specific assignments, you write what you want to write about when you feel like writing.  A lot of those so-called poker blogs don’t discuss poker that much anymore.  And that’s fine.  If people write what they want to write about, rather than what they have to write about, they tend to write better.
So finding this community of bloggers, where I comment on their blogs and they comment on mine, has gotten me some new friends.  And therefore it is great when they go to Vegas (or already live there), as several did last month, and we all get to meet each other and play poker together or maybe even have a meal or two together.  And not only is that great fun, but it gives us all material to blog about.  Most people seem to like the posts about these blogger get-togethers (though others disagree).
And that is how I got started, and got to this point.  I’ve really enjoy doing this, more so than I expected when I began.  I enjoy writing and I love getting comments.  Even the not so flattering ones (but admittedly, I love the flattering ones more).  Mostly, I love it when I can get a good discussion going, or when someone comments back with a thought or a joke I didn’t think of myself.
Knowing that there’s a bunch of folks out there that I’ve never met—that I don’t even yet know exist—who read this silliness is really fun for me.  Whenever I hear from a reader who I didn’t know was reading this thing, I get a big smile on my face.
Thanks for reading this self-indulgent post—the two or three of you who read all the way through (yeah, I know it’s “too long”).  On to the next 50,000!

23 comments:

  1. I skimmed your post -- if that will make you feel better. : o P

    Poker blogging, like most everything in life, changes over time. Before I ever became involved the people who wrote were hard core writers, most blogging because of their passion for writing. Several had journalism backgrounds. There was a focus on reporting and originality. Many of those folks quit blogging over time.

    As the federal government sought to crack down on online poker and as the idea of poker as the "next big thing" wore down, less and less people wrote about poker -- and less and less people blogged period. Twitter seemed to become the communication mode of choice.

    I trust that you have never lurked about my blog posts from a few years ago. They would surprise you: hand histories and analyses, reports of goings on in the greater poker world ...

    So .. we are where we are and poker blogging is what it is. If online poker has a renaissance I imagine that we would enter into an interesting new era.

    Congratulations on the 50,000th pageview. I hope that you and your car will be able to make it out to Las Vegas on my trip in September.

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    1. Thanks, Lightning. Yeah, I knew the hit that online poker hit did a number on a lot of blogs, among other things. So when online poker comes back, do you expect to go back to really in depth poker posts?

      I need to know the dates of your September Vegas visit so I can make sure I'm there and make sure my car is serviced before then! Please let me know asap.

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  2. Rob, Woody does indeed like your "salacious" blog posts. The dirtier the better. I think that I should start my own blog so that girls will talk dirty to me! Why is it that they talk trash to you but are polite and "lady like" to me? Again, it must be the blog. Further, I have NEVER had 3 women approach me and pull down their shirts to expose their cleavages. Oy vey... My only request at this point is that I want more "hooker sighting" stories. It seems the Vegas cops scared you into not even LOOKING at the hookers. There must be a way to satisfy my itch for more of these stories. Please work on a plan in this regard. Also, the story you told us last week about the female dealer who got wasted and asked you for a ride to the Red Rock Casino. That story is just too good to not have blogged. Get on it please.

    Keep up the good work, and DON'T stop going to Vegas. I want stories. Woody

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    1. Thanks Woody. I've actually seen a lot less of those ladies for rent lately, honestly. I think the same cops that scared me off have sent them into hiding. Perhaps if you give me a notarized letter that says, "If Rob gets caught looking at hookers, I swear, he's only doing it for me," it will make it easier for me to scout them.

      A female dealer who got wasted and asked me for a ride? Does that sound like something I'd say yes to? Come on!

      Oh yeah, I meant to thank you and Luv Malts for giving me the push I needed to start the blog. Thanks, guys. I'm glad I took your advice.

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  3. Rob, congrats on the 50k milestone. Btw I read the whole post!

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    1. Thanks Josie, I could get no bigger compliment from you!

      And btw, did you notice Woody's comment above yours? PROOF that, before I reformed, when I went looking for hookers, it was only for Woody's benefit, not my own!

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  4. I am going to start a new service for your readers. Ima write the Grump's Notes Versions. Grump's Notes Versions are like Cliff's Notes versions of books, but written by me and without risk of violating trademark laws. I can't promise to do this every post, but I will when I can get around to it. The average time saved per reader should be, oh, I dunno, around an hour each per blog post.

    Without further ado, I give you the very first ever...

    Grump's Notes Version:

    I had a lot of Vegas stories saved up. Some friends liked them, so I decided to start a blog where I could share them with others.

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    1. Thanks for the service, Grump.

      And seeing as how you'll now be co-writing my blog, I don't suppose it would be too presumptuous on my part to ask if you would mind adding me to your blogroll when you get a chance?

      Thanks in advance.

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    2. Here's an even quicker version of Rob's blog:

      "tits, tits, tits."

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    3. As the person who used to travel with Rob to Vegas to play PaiGow Poker and Craps, and one of the early readers to his pre-blog memoirs, I can assure you, Josie, there is a log more to Rob's blog than just "tits." There is also, in no particular order:


      Bazooms, Beacons, Beanbags, Big Boppers, Bikini Stuffers, Billibongs, Blinkers, Bombers, Bombshells, Bon Bons, Bongos, Bonkers, Boobers, Boobies, Boobs, Boops, Bops, Bosom, Boulders, Bouncers, Bra Buddies, Bra Stuffers, Bronskis, Bubbies, Buds, Bullets, Bumpers, Bumps, Butterballs, Caboodles, Cannon Balls, Cantaloupes, Cha-chas, Charlies, Chesticles, Chihuahuas, Chimichongas, Coconuts, Congas, Cream Pies, Cuhuangas, Cupcakes, Dingers, Dinghies, Dirigibles, Doozies, Double-Whammies, Dumplings, Ear Muffs, Flapjacks, Flappers, Flesh Bulbs, Flotation Devices, Fog Lights, Fried Eggs, Funbags, Gagas, Garbos, Gazingas, Gazongas, Globes, Globlets, Gob Stoppers, Gongas, Goombas, Grapefruits, Grillwork, Guavas, Gum Drops, Hand Warmers, Head Lamps, Headlights, Headphones, Hefties, Heifers, Hills, Hindenburgs, Honeydews, Honkers, Hood-Ornaments, Hooters, Hot Cakes, Howitzers, Hubcaps, Humdingers, Jemimas, Jobbers, Jugs, Jukes, Jumbos, Kabukis, Kalamazoos, Kazongas, Kazoos, Knockers, Kongas, Kumquats, Lactoids, Lip Fodder, Loaves, LobLollies, Love Melons, LuLus, Macaroons, Mammies, Mams, Mangos, Marangos, Maraschinos, Marimbas, Mau-Maus, Melons, Milk Cans, Milk Shakes, Molehills, Montezumas, Mounds, Mulligans, Mushmellons, Nectarines, Niblets, Nibs, Nippies, Nippleos, Nips, Nodules, Nose Cones, Oompas, Peaches, Peaks, Pears, Peepers, Pillows, Plums, Pointer-Sisters, Pompoms, Pontoons, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Scones, Scoops, Shakers, Snuggle Pups, Spark Plugs, Spongecakes, Spuds, Sugar Plums, Sweater Meat, Sweater Puppies, Sweater Puffs, Sweet Rolls, Tamales, Tartugas, Tatas, Teats, Tetons, Thangs, Thingumajigs, Titbits, Tom-Toms, Tomatoes, Torpedoes, Tortillas, Twangers, Tweeters, Twin Peaks, Tympanies, U-Boats, Wahwahs, Zeppelins, Zingers, traffic cones, milk makers, milk depot, snow caps, mosquito bites, lady lumps, sweater mints, hubba bubbas, not to mention Bibbity Bobbity Boobs.

      Hope that clears that up.

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    4. Ew flap jacks? I do like the term "hand warmers ".

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    5. Thanks Norm, but.....what? No credit for "vagina mentionings"?

      Josie....they can be used to warm your hands? I'll have to try that some time. Who knew?

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    6. Rob, you don't mention vaginas, you report on PRUDENCE mentioning vaginas.

      As far as hand-warmers: yes, but not if you're dating a witch.

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    7. Really? I seem to recall you dismissing that old wife's tale.

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    8. Yes, but the witch I was dating at the time WAS an old wife.

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    9. I'm not touching that one.

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  5. Congrats, Rob. I am considering starting a blog about the bad beats I've seen when people play Shit on Your Neighbor. We'll have to do a link exchange.

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    1. Thanks, Prudence. I couldn't have done it without you. Literally.

      Ahem....I believe you are referring to "Screw Your Neighbor"? Brutal.

      I'll exchange links with you any time!

      Delete
  6. Congrats! I can only hope that my blog becomes a fraction as good or well read as yours.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Herb.

      Delete