Hiking down the poker road

When you're a poker pro, you wind up spending lots of time on the road. It's almost unavoidable, especially if you're constantly seeking out the best games and the best tournaments. Three or four years ago I was playing poker, but not the way I am now. Back then New York was my home and I would stay there most of the time like a normal person, just making a few trips every once in a while. But over the last year and a half, I would say I've been in New York a maximum of one week every two months. The rest of the time I'm on the road, and I'd say 90% of it is poker-related.

The other 10% is what keeps me sane. Late last month I spent a week in Thailand and a few days in Hong Kong before flying to Macau for the Asia Championship of Poker. When I arrived in Hong Kong with ElkY and our personal trainer Lincoln, I was reminded that Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities in the world. It's this extremely urban city, with skyscrapers that remind me of Manhattan, surrounded by unspoiled mountains.

ElkY, Lincoln and I are all avid hikers. Ever since I started working out and hanging out with them, I've been telling them we should try to make our way to Hong Kong for this amazing hike that I did four years ago called Dragon's Back. When we saw ACOP on the schedule in Macau, it seemed like the perfect time to give it a try.

Dragon's Back is, according to many internet travel sites, one of the best hikes in the world, mainly for the views it offers of Hong Kong and the surrounding seas. The last time I was in Hong Kong, several years ago with Nick Shulman, we did Dragon's Back. It was the first time I'd ever done any hiking and I was NOT in good shape. I remember it being extremely strenuous. We were really proud of ourselves that we finished it but at the same time we were exhausted.

Now, ElkY, Lincoln and I are in such good shape, it was hard for me to say if the same trip would be as strenuous or as rewarding. For me, it was more of a comparison of how different I am now from what I was four years ago. Back then, I remember how good I felt, how much satisfaction I felt when I finished what was, for me, a hard hike.


That was my first hike ever. I'd never done a climb like that one before, not a real one, and It's fair to say that I really fell in love with it after that. Since then I've hiked in Las Vegas, in Greece and in a bunch of other places. But after all of them, Dragon's Back is still the most memorable one.

Poker keeps me on the road a lot more now than it used to. It's changed me as well. Physically I'm much healthier than I was four years ago. I'm assuming I've changed a lot in other ways as well. I hope so. I hope I've evolved. Certainly I hike more than I used to, and for me it's a great thing. When you spend as much time on the road as I do, the simple pleasures of a hike help to keep you grounded.

Eugene Katchalov
@PokerStars in PokerStars news