Dave Stamm is a surprisingly unexpected life explorer — not the man you would think he would be at first glance. A longtime tech guy, engineer at heart, he has now embarked on a whole new path. When he was working in tech, he spent time living and working in Turkey and Russia which was perhaps the first clue that Dave was willing to go outside his comfort zone. It was his attending Burning Man at 65, though, that really changed things for him, expanding his impression of what was possible. Next, he left big tech and flew his very low-tech 45-year-old plane cross country so that he could see the whole thing from 5000ft up. And then there is the poker thing.
Surprisingly frequently, we see people this age begin to see the world, and themselves, in a radically different way, and start to explore paths that stray far from the expected. Is it a normal life phase the result of decades of experience, or is it some outside inspiration? Who knows. But becoming a late-in-life champion poker player? To hear Dave explain it, this is just another version of the very soft-spoken Dave.
How old are you?
What are some of the companies you have worked at, or founded?
Early days of microprocessors at Intel, founded companies that went public in electronic design automation and customer relationship management.
What sort of work were you doing?
I was CEO and founder of Clarify, one of the first CRM companies. I also play poker at the highest levels and take it very seriously.
What was it like working in Russia?
I worked in Russia half time for 10 years. Almost everything you read in the US about Russia is dead wrong. Russia has been politicized by our political parties, which I find a shame. Saint Petersburg is a beautiful and very cultural city. I really loved the city itself and the vibrancy there. Unfortunately, corruption is widespread and the younger people who worked for me hated that aspect of the culture, but all you could do as a Russian millennial was to work through those challenges as best you could.
When did you retire?
6 months ago.
How are you feeling about retired life?
It’s allowed me to focus much more on my health and on family.
Beating Pros at Poker
Could you tell us more about your poker playing? When did you start, who do you play against, do you have a strategy and is it related to your previous tech work in the way you approach the game?
I hired a poker coach about 8 years ago. About 4 years ago, new software tools with names like PioSolver, MonkerSolver, and PokerSnowie were released. Using these tools plus a lot of discipline and hard work I was able to shortcut all the years of experience it previously took to become a top player. A few years ago, I won the Venetian main event for $325,000. The final table consisted of me — an unknown — and 8 top pros. I was wearing headphones and, jokingly, they were certain I must be getting advice from someone via my headphones as I played so well. It felt great to beat these young guys at 65.
“I developed a deep inner peace [at Burning Man] that has stayed with me”
Could you describe what happened to you at Burning Man?
There is no place on earth like Burning Man. Unless you have been, I can guarantee it’s not at all what you think. It’s not about sex, drugs, or even music —but you can certainly find that. It’s impossible to describe. I intend to go every year I’m able. It was life changing for me. I was 65 when I attended my first.
Age 65 seems older than what I would expect people to be at Burning Man. Are there many others your age there?
1 out of every 15 people is over 60.
How did Burning Man change you? What surprised you most about it?
I developed a deep inner peace that has stayed with me. No matter what comes my way, even death, I know it will all be OK. It’s helped me accept retirement. I could never have expected that type of life-changing event from what is thought of as a festival for young people.
Passion for Flying
When did you start flying, and why?
My Dad took me to a local airport when I was 13 and I was hooked after an introductory flight. I had my pilot’s license by 21 and now have over 4,000 flight hours.
What is the feeling you get from flying?
It’s exhilarating and I’ve always loved heights.
Do you use the plane for transportation or for recreation?
Both. I recently flew across the country and back — one of the first things I did after retirement. We live in such an immense and varied country especially as seen from the air at 5,000 feet. It took 25 hours of flying each way and I made lots of stops to see friends and visit national parks.
What kind of plane is it, and why did you choose it?
I bought a Cessna 172 trainer brand new when I was 24 from my stock option at Intel. I’ve owned much larger planes but that 4-seater 172 has been my loyal companion for 45 years.
What are the 3 non-negotiables in your life today?
Finding joy, especially in family, musical experiences — playing, singing, composing, listening, healthy living.
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