Mean Gene
Mean Gene
Pittsburgh's most decorated poker blogger, which I admit is like being the best shortstop in Greenland

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My Articles

Presto, the Arlo, & the Hammer
An Online Code of Conduct
The Ethics of Ratholing
"The Professor, the Banker..."
"Ace on the River"

My Columns

Lose the Shades
If You Can't Say Something Nice
Whither the Kicker
The Lady is a Champ?
Covering the WSOP (or not)
Statistics, Luck, and Poker
Poker and New Orleans
Managing a Bankroll
How To Tell A Bad Beat Story
Telling Lies
The Power of Poker Tracker
Advanced Card-Handling

My Greatest Hits

5 Things To Do Before I Die
Cafeteria Nostalgia
Mean Gene's Dubious Dating Tips
Poker and Business?
There's No Such Thing As Luck?
Isabelle, Je t'adore
No Shirt No Shoes No Service
Well, The Food Was Good
Good Morning, Mr. Matusow!
The Weekend of our Discontent, I
The Weekend of our Discontent, II
Books That Left Their Mark
Ode to a Fish Sandwich
Bill Simmons Ain't the Poker Guy
The Sports Guy Still Ain't the Poker Guy
Again, The Media Tackles Poker
Five Years After 9/11
Hitting Pretty Girls in the Face
Sixth-Graders Suck

Fellow Poker Bloggers

Guinness and Poker
Cards Speak
Tao of Poker
Up for Poker
Boy Genius
Chris Halverson
Poker Grub
The Fat Guy
Todd Commish
Poker Works
Bill Rini
Bad Blood
Love and Casino War
Double As
Lion Tales
Paul Phillips
Daniel Negreanu
Poker Nerd
Poker Nation
Poker in Arrears
Human Head
Sound of a Suckout
Chicks With Chips
TP's Table Talk
Royal Poker
This is Not A Poker Blog
Chick and a Chair
Go Be Rude
Poker Cheapskate
Poker & Other Stuff
Seven Two
Musical Poker
WPBT Online
Isabelle Mercier
Cardschat Blog
Amy Calistri
BJ Nemeth
Annie's Blog

Poker Sites

Cardschat Poker Forum
Barstool Sports
Card Player
Internet Texas Hold-Em
Poker Pages


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    Tuesday, July 31, 2007

    And Don't Forget...

    I guess I'll take one last opportunity to remind everyone who finds their way here that I've moved my online home over to Tell your friends, your readers, random people you meet on the street. Dammit, do my bidding!

    Poker Letter

    If you're looking for info on deposit bonuses, freerolls and poker room reviews I invite you to check out Poker Letter, which contains info on those subjects as well as a blog and articles about poker.

    Monday, July 09, 2007

    Remember, I Moved!

    Yes, I knew I said I wouldn't be posting here anymore, but since when is my word good? Actually this is just a reminder that I've moved my blog over to, and that my new site is absolutely fabulous and you will just love it. So I hope you'll check it out, link to it, pimp it, tell your friends about it...just do my bidding, OK!

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Another New Toy; or, Moving Day

    I started this blog back on December 8th, 2003. Cranked out about 700 posts here, hundreds of thousands of words, some of them even arranged in coherent order. Thanks to these pages I've met dozens of fantastic people, scored some ridiculous writing gigs, and had a whole lotta fun.

    And with this post, all that comes to an end.

    Yes, this will be the last post here at Mean Gene.

    Oh, no need to panic, I'm not going to stop blogging! Oh, you weren't panicking? Darn, I thought there'd at least be some wailing and gnashing of teeth. But I hope you'll forgive the dramatics and start reading my stuff at my new site, the utterly fabulous Yes, I'm now a Only 10 years too behind the curve.

    I've been thinking about switching away from my current URL for a couple of years now. But now that I'm writing for a living I wanted to have a more professional-looking site I could show to the world. So I asked Cindy Closkey at Big Big Design to build me the site of my dreams and she and her brother Anthony got cracking. It's ready, other than the usual last-minute touches I'll take care of over the next week or so. It's time for me to take WordPress for a test drive and leave my beloved behind.

    At the moment the tagline for the new site is "More Than a Poker Blog", and while I might change that I don't mean it as an insult the poker blogs out there. But I plan on writing about a lot more than just poker on the new site (which I did here as well) and I'm hoping people will have an easier time finding me and reading my work at my new digs. We'll see.

    I hope you'll bookmark my new site and subscribe to the feeds and keep reading my stuff. If you look the site over and there's anything you don't like about it, or something you DO like about it, or if you have any opinions to share, I'd love to hear 'em. You can just leave a comment or email me at Like I said, I'll be tweaking it here and there (the picture of me and Ernie on the front page WILL be changed) so it's not quite the finished product.

    But then, this blog never was never a finished product either. Until today. See yinz at the new site.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    My New Toy

    Because I've been a good boy I decided to treat myself. A lot of professional poker players (and professional poker writers) have these so-cool Bose noise-canceling headphones. I tried Garry's the other day and, oh my God. The blessed sound of silence. It's amazing. You can still hear people talking, but the exhausting background noise of everyday life is just...gone. It's beautiful.

    Since I spend so much time writing I thought that a gizmo like this would be a wise investment.'s really cool! So I splurged and bought myself a pair yesterday. To say that I love them in no way adequately describes the depth of feeling I have for them. And look how cool they make me look!


    Long, fun day off. More later. Sleep now.

    Thursday, June 14, 2007


    I thought yesterday would be an easy day. I thought wrong. So far I've felt almost bulletproof but Wednesday was a left hook I didn't see coming. We're trying to process a vast amount of information in a brief period of time and it was one of those days where it felt like someone was standing on my throat. But I only worked 8 hours so it almost felt like a day off. I got a fairly good night's sleep and I should be ready to hit the Rio this afternoon and crank it out like a beast.

    I've been trying to get up and walk around the Amazon Room a bit so I can get an idea of what the hell is actually going on. I've been pleased to see a good bit of Black and Gold and Blue and White about the place.

    Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, the lighting in there is tricky and besides, I'm a lousy photographer. Something to work on for the future.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    The Big Time

    So yesterday I was assigned to cover my first WSOP Final Table, the $5,000 Limit Hold-Em World Championship. Big event. 5K. World Championship. I was looking forward to sitting in ESPN's Final Table arena with all the bright lights and cameras. Dressed up nice, just in case one of those cameras happened to linger over lil 'ol me.

    Well, turns out that ESPN doesn't think much of Limit Hold-Em. Instead of playing in the fancy new poker stadium, the Worldwide Leader decided to shoot a commercial there yesterday. Meaning the nine players contesting the $333K first prize and the bracelet had to play in a table shoehorned between the massive arena and the forbidding black curtains of "The Box", the sequestered final table where the Ladies Championship was played.

    The players didn't like it. They were told they'd be playing in the arena, and then they show up and they might as well be playing in a closet. The rail was, oh, 16 inches away from the table. Fortunately the spectators were a pleasant lot (and, for the most part, Norwegian, as Thor Hansen and William Thorsson made it to the final four). As for me, conditions were less than ideal. It was so cramped that I didn't have a table to write on--I had to rest my laptop on my lap. There were no electrical outlets where I was sitting, and when I tried sitting near The Box where there WERE outlets I was told by security that no electronic devices were permitted anywhere near it. Of course, six hours later there were two women from ESPN chatting on cell phones while leaning against the curtain, but whattya gonna do?

    Of course yesterday was the one day I didn't bring the extra battery for my laptop. I figured there would be plenty of power in the arena. So as my laptop died I had to run through the Stud/8 event, which attracted lots of big-name players and therefore lots of gawkers, to plug in. And then run back to grab updates. It wasn't an ideal situation.

    But we persevered, covered the event, and I got go home early. An eight-hour day almost seems like a day off, though it was pretty hectic. And now it's time to head back to the Rio. Only 34 more days to go!

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    We're Almost Engaged

    I'm charging Liz Lieu's iPod with my computer. Cool, huh? It'd probably be more cool if she'd actually been the one to bring it over, but she's probably a bit shy and all.

    In other news of galactic self-delusion, I'm thinking more and more about maybe playing a World Series event. I know, Je suis argent mort. But you try sitting here day after day, hearing the clatter of chips, and not daydream about playing. Playing, instead of writing. Doing, instead of watching. We'll see how strong this desire to sack up and sit down is over the next few days. My brain might just be a bit on the crispy side is all.

    Saturday, June 09, 2007

    Massaging the Information

    I think I should point out that I've been posting WSOP stuff over at the UltimateBetBlog too. Including something I wrote today about the most important discovery I've made about poker so far at the World Series.

    Friday, June 08, 2007

    Very Random Stuff

    I was actually pretty wired and hungry after I left the Amazon Room at 5AM on Friday so I grabbed a burger and a beer and played video poker for all of fifteen minutes when this happened:

    I'm not quite in Richard Brodie territory, but still.

    I won't be able to attend the Blogger festivities this weekend, as I already had my day off for this...month. No, I'm sure I'll get some other downtime as well. I feel good both mentally and physically, though I'm sure I'll be tested by today's $1,500 NL H0ld-Em event. The first of these cheap NL events had 2,998 players, and while I can't imagine this field will be as big there's a line stretching back from the Registration area. Gonna be a zoo.

    So, back to work. I've been slacking with my posting here but I'll pick it up. Lots of fun stuff to write about. But after writing about poker on my laptop for 14 hours about the last goddam thing I wanna do when I get home is write about poker on my laptop. I'm sure you understand.

    Wednesday, June 06, 2007

    Crazy Day

    I worked the 5PM tournament at the WSOP yesterday, $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo. Ugh. Split-pot games are a challenge. You watch a hand, a big pot builds...and then it's chopped up. And a chopped pot, with very few exceptions (there was one at the final table filmed yesterday) is not dramatic. By the end of the day the guys I worked with yesterday had glazed eyes and were mumbling, "You can't believe how many chopped pots I've watched."

    But if the action at the tables lacked suspense early in the tournament, the insanity going on outside more than made up for it. The tournament was held in the "Poker Pavilion" that Harrah's built outside next to the Amazon Room. It's a big tent that holds around 60 tables, and we've had some problems with it before. Like, we can't connect to the 'Net out there. I picked up the signal all right, but like everyone else I couldn't get anything to load.

    I found myself wondering if the wind had anything to do with it. Because the wind had been HOWLING all day through Vegas. When Dan and I left yesterday morning two palm trees outside the condo were bent nearly in half, and, to pointedly demonstrate the wind's power, somebody's Yellow Pages had blown off their stoop and was now sitting in the middle of the road.

    And that wind was still blowing as I sat in the Pavilion trying to get a signal. The fabric walls were rippling, the light fixtures above the tables were swaying, and it was pretty noisy in there. This picture just gives you some idea of what the place looks like:

    So I set up shop inside and the young guys we have to get the hands and chip counts and bring them to me say that the players inside the tent are FURIOUS about the conditions. The structure is creaking and moaning and the lights are dancing and every time someone opens the doors the wind rushes in and does unfortunate things like blow cards over. You could only get in through the front doors because the others had signs on them like this:

    So I'm writing stuff up and one of our runners says, "You gotta come see this, it's total chaos>" I run out there, go inside, and, holy crap. The whole structure, including the metal supports and pillars and crossbeams, is shaking and swaying. As I wrote in an update for PokerNews, it was like being inside some kind of funhouse attraction, like if they're trying to simulate an earthquake.

    The players did not like this, not one bit. "Let's go play down at Bellagio!" one player shouted, and from what the guys told me the level of displeasure had been far worse a bit earlier.

    Harrah's finally made the only call they could--they sent everyone on dinner break and found room for the remaning players indoors. They'd been moving tables as fast as they could break them in the Amazon Room, but there were 2 huge tournaments going on along with cash games and satellites and empty tables didn't fill up fast enough. By the time we got back from dinner, they'd found room.

    And not a second too soon, as a big section of the wall in the rear-left portion of the tent tore away, leaving a huge hole. I don't want to think about what would've happened had the players still been inside at the time.

    After than insanity the day ran out quietly. We got down to about 180 players and hopefully there will be interesting action to report. Though not quite as interesting as yesterday, as Dan's friend Tom Schneider won the bracelet in $2,500 Omaha/Stud Hi-Lo. As you might expect they were out partying and I took a cab home from the Rio around 3:30AM and lucked into a chatty driver who made the ride fairly pleasant. I gave her the address and she said, "Wow, I don't think I've ever gone that far out on Blue Diamond before". The condo isn't THAT far out, but I guess it's a bit remote. Dan is probably sleeping in his car at the Rio as we speak so I might be calling her again to get a ride in. At least she knows where our place is.

    Tuesday, June 05, 2007

    The Comforts of Home

    When I'm home, that's where I work--from home. The dining room is my office, the kitchen my cafeteria. There are times when I get a touch of cabin fever and I go to the library to write, but for the most part I like working from my apartment. It's a cozy little place that suits me.

    One thing I enjoy most about working from home (aside from staggering around all day without taking a shower) is that I can take a break from work to catch up on whatever domestic chores need done. I can throw on a load of laundry, get back to the computer, and feel doubly productive. And after I work up a sweat writing posts and folding towels, I like to reward myself by making myself something special for breakfast.

    Once a week or so I'll make myself a cheese omelet, one of the great comfort foods of my childhood. Actually, it still is--if I go to my parents' house to help with something or just for a visit my Mom will often say, "I'll make you a cheese omelet." So once I got set up in the flat I bought myself a non-stick pan and worked on my technique. I don't make 'em as good as she does, heavens knows, but they ain't too bad.

    So here I am in Vegas, thousands of miles from home, working long hours under borderline-insane conditions. I'm actually enjoying the frantic pace (when it's not too frantic) and so far I've been able to keep an even keel and not get too crispy around the edges. The fact the AC was blasting forth when we got home last night helped.

    But I thought it might be a good idea to remind myself of the sedate domestic bliss I enjoy in Pittsburgh by re-creating them here in the condo. With Dan out running errands I sorted my laundry and decided to wash some clothes. Turns out that the washing machine is so huge that, if you removed the agitator, you could use it for a hot tub. Or if you're into, uh, stuff, you could just go ahead and leave the agitator in. Totally up to you.

    So I was able to load it up and get that going while I made some breakfast. Craig bought 18 eggs during our first provision run and I thought today was the day to break them in (get it! break them in...Sweet Jesus.). First of all I had to find out if the kitchen had the equipment required to manufacture an omelet. What I found was, I hoped, adequate:

    I didn't have my beloved non-stick pan, nor the silicone spatula that's never let me down in the past. So I got to cracking eggs and stirring them in the purple-glass bowls we have here (the beaten eggs didn't provide an appetizing color juxtaposition) and heated the pan. It looked kinda I tossed in some butter to be sure and introduced the eggs.

    I hadn't cooked on a gas stove for about a year and I don't think the pan was quite hot enough. And then the eggs started sticking. Not too bad, I was careful to sweep and stir and not let them cook too fast, but things didn't turn out too well. I added the cheese, did some folding and flipping, and what I ended up with wasn't so much a light, fluffy omelet but a thick egg loaf:

    Tasted OK, though. And the laundry is a-tumbling away downstairs, so all is right with the world. Because I'm scheduled late tonight I'll be working into the wee hours, so this little bit or normalcy should help me stay grounded during what is shaping up as a brain-warping seven weeks. I got to work yesterday...and Pardon the Interruption was showing on the plasma screens ringing the Amazon Room. I used to get home from work just as PTI was coming on. I think I'll be trying out my omelet-making skills a few more times while I'm in Vegas.

    Monday, June 04, 2007

    The Glamor, The Glitz

    I got home from the Rio around 2:30 in the morning, my ass dragging a bit. But not too bad, I've stocked up on sleep the last few days and I felt pretty good.

    Until I walked through the front door.

    It was hot.

    Not warm. Hot.

    The air conditioning in our condo crapped out. Yes, I tried fiddling with the buttons on the thermostat. I fiddled and diddled and fashizzled and nothing happened. It was 84 degrees in my bedroom at 3AM. It's 90 in the living room right now. What am I gonna do--open a window? Sure. I walked out on our balcony and it's like a kiln.

    Allegedly someone is coming to work on it, but they've been here twice to fix our spotty Internet service and that hasn't panned out yet. I've been able to piggyback on some fleeting signal bouncing around the hills but you can't depend on it.

    Of course I knew that coming out here wouldn't be all showgirls and Sinatra, but having no AC last night was a body blow. Dan's trying to grab a few extra winks at the moment, but I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep. I'm just drinking lots of cold liquids (non-alcoholic, unfortunately) and hope that this gets fixed before I get home tonight/tomorrow.

    Here's a quick pick of my work station at the Rio. It's a lot more comfortable (and practical) than it looks:

    I got up and walked around a bit to see what the hell was actually going on in the tournament I'm covering and I saw Shannon Elizabeth (who'd just been eliminated) talking to Michael Craig. He just had his first WSOP cash and I wanted to congratulate him and, besides, I'm a fan (even if he's the competition and I've sworn to crush him like a grape).

    He was talking to Shannon and they were going to walk out of the tournament room together, and I thought it would be extremely bad form to butt in at that precise moment. But a few starstruck guys stopped her on the way to get their pictures taken so I tapped him on the shoulder, introduced myself and offered a quick "well done". I might've been the only person in the room who, seeing Shannon Elizabeth and Michael Craig standing side-by-side thought, "Hey, I should go talk to him." No offense meant.

    And yes, Shannon Elizabeth is quite pretty.

    At one point during the night a guy playing in the Omaha Hi-Lo/Stud-8 tournament (I get a headache just thinking of it) had three young ladies in slinky dresses stop by and chat with him. He got them chairs and had them sit near his table--and right behind me. I'm not sure what his relationship to them was (one thanked him for getting them their room) but the four of them took the time to chat at very high volume about their favorite TV show--"Extreme Makeover". One girl said that Ty Pennington had come into a place in Venice Beach where she used to bartend, and that he's only about five-ten.

    After he went back to the table the talk continued to center around Ty:

    "I thought he was gay."
    "Isn't he gay?"
    "I heard he was."
    "I thought he was."

    Etc, etc, etc. They sat directly behind me and I used my monk-like powers of concentration to focus on my tasks. The player came over later and chatted with them again, and while I didn't hear what he said to prompt this one of the girls said, "I don't think that's going to be in the pun intended!" This, they all seemed to agree, was one of the Funniest Things Ever Said. I was sad to see them go.

    I have to be at the Rio by two, so I'll go throw a bucket of ice water on Michalski to rouse him from what must be an uneasy sleep and start to get ready. It's 91, now, and I went to the window to look outside and the floor is almost too hot to stand on in bare feet. Vegas, baby.

    Saturday, June 02, 2007

    Sipping From the Fire Hose

    The first day of the World Series was about as I expected--nuts. People, everywhere. Standing in line, standing in the aisles, standing around. I sat at a table just outside the poker area and furiously wrote hand updates and chip counts as our floor reporters brought them in. At times it was a bit crazy, but everything was totally under control. We put A LOT of info out there yesterday. This is what it looked like from my seat:

    Of course you've heard about the huge controversy about the new style of cards Harrah's introduced this year--cards the players hated. HATED. To the point where there was yelling and swearing and demands for refunds. Harrah's started swapping out decks last night, I don't know if they replaced them all before things ended last night, but it wasn't a good start to the Series. The first hand wasn't completely before Hell broke loose. Not good.

    Nor were the long, long, LONG lines outside the Amazon Room. We heard from people who had to wait for 4 hours to register for the casino employee's tournament. When I left last night around 9PM there was still a line that stretched around the corner and down a long hallway. Wanna play in a WSOP event? Either register early, or load up on patience. Because, brother, you are going to WAIT.

    Fortunately I'm working with talented, hard-working people who don't take themselves or the game too seriously. It's fun. Yesterday the stress level was bracing--I don't know how that'll change today, what with the $5K Mixed Hold-Em event playing down to the final table and the super-mondo $1.5K NL event starting today. If yesterday was a zoo, today will be an asylum, as the fish and donkeys and home game heroes descend on the Rio to find out if it's their turn to become overnight (well, over three nights) sensations.

    It's a bit odd walking around and hearing spectators and even some players exclaim "That's Chris Ferguson! That's Doyle Brunson!" when they see a famous pro. If you get that excited just SEEING someone you recognize from TV, how the heck can you PLAY against them? Truth be told, it would really affect me. I'd either be paying so much attention to the big-name pro that I couldn't concentrate, or I'd be trying so hard NOT to pay attention to them (because I'm so cool) that I couldn't concentrate.

    For example, as I was walking around taking a few pictures Jennifer Harman was standing in the aisle and she turned and walked toward me. Let's not forget, this is her workplace. She makes a living doing this. And not only does she have to contend with the people at the table, but she has spectators watching her and media people snapping her picture and asking questions...I'm sure it gets old, fast. So she started walking toward me and I toward her and we exchanged one of those millisecond smiles two people share when they're stepping on the same elevator. She probably has to do that kinda crap a thousand times a day, wondering if THIS is the person who will ask for a photo or an autograph or just HAS to wish her good luck. I'm sure it's something you get used to, to a certain extent, but it has to wear over time.

    I really never had any desire to become a professional player (nor, to be honest, the talent or dedication or I'm getting depressed) and yesterday proved to me that not wanting to be a pro is nothing to be ashamed of. They've got their gig--I've got mine. It's all about making the choices that are right for you, baby.

    Looking forward to today, even if it'll probably be insane. I think we did a pretty kickass job yesterday...we just need 46 more kickass days in a row!

    I need to take some better pictures, but here are two players who caught my eye, for obvious reasons. Don't know if they're still in the the tournament, or if they're from Pittsburgh at all. I should've asked but they'd started up again and I didn't want to bother them during the course of play.

    So, yesterday we sipped from the fire hose. With today's certain-to-be HUGE field, we'll be taking a good, long drink. Gonna be a long day, and hopefully a good one. Will definitely eat a big breakfast. I think I'll need it.

    Friday, June 01, 2007

    Here We Go

    Yes, the World Series of Poker starts today, and yes, I'm nervous. Keyed up. Want to get started, want to do the kick-ass job this event deserves. I'd like to think that I know what I'm about to get mixed up in...but in truth I probably have no idea. I'll just have to experience it for myself.

    Checked out of the Imperial Palace yesterday and as I waited for Craig to get the keys to the condo and swing by to pick me up I played a little video poker to pass the time. After I dropped twenty bucks a pretty blonde woman asked if I was waiting to play $1-2 NL. It didn't sound like a pickup line and I said, no, I was just hanging out. The poker room was actually empty, but a bit later the woman and a guy wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses started playing heads-up, and the brush asked if I wanted to join the game. I passed. Short-handed NL is not a game I want to get involved in when my mind is elsewhere, even for those stakes.

    So I played my video poker, missed a royal flush draw that had me licking my chops, and quickly dropped sixty bucks. I moved to a different bar to see if that might change my luck (plus the poker game had expanded to four players and I was getting twitchy) and this happened:

    Yes, dem's quads, bitches. And to prove my self-control I cashed out right then and there, breaking even for the day. I went up to the sports book and watched the French Open until Craig arrived.

    We drove to the Rio to check out the scene, and they were still fine-tuning the place. It's really a gorgeous room, all those tables, all that felt. And they have these HUGE posters of the former World Champions ringing the place, it's an impressive sight.

    As is the final table area, which is tucked in a back corner that we couldn't get close to. It was good to at least see the place where I'll be spending so many hours over the next 47 (!) days. And especially good to get my press pass ahead of time. I think that's going to prove to be one of the best moves we'll make, because it took a good bit of time and today is going to be chaos.

    The other smart move we made came last night, as we were driving from the condo to look for a place to eat. The place is further out than I expected, but it's a straight shot, the biggest impediment is the construction near a strip mall and lots of red lights. There's this lonely patch of road with nothing but scrub and abandoned trailers and I half expected to see a lone coyote howling at the moon.

    We were going to head to a sports bar in one of this developments when Craig hit the brakes hard after just a few hundred yards. "Montana Meat Company" he read off a neon sign to our left. The sign said they offered steaks and gaming, a good combination, and a crowded parking lot gave me confidence. It turned out to be an important discovery--my Kobe burger was excellent, the steak fries sizzling, and the nachos we ordered were excellent too. And they have Bass Ale on tap. We could almost walk to the place, and I think we'll be visiting there many times during the next 2 months. Especially as they serve breakfast 24/7.

    The condo is very nice, and as always other people's decor decisions can be puzzling. Fortunately I brought my silk leopard-print pajamas, so I fit in nicely with my bed:

    But it's a nice place, quiet (other than the inevitable construction going on across the road). And nice scenery, surrounded as we are by mountains.

    I tried to get a photo of the moon hanging low over the mountains, but they didn't turn out. And I'll try to post other interesting photos here over the next month-and-a-half. I'm sure I'll snap a few. But now, there's a grindstone out there calling for my nose. Time to get to work.

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007

    Ominous Clouds Gather!

    I nearly conked out last night at 9PM, not good. I'm trying to get my circadian rhythms set for Pacific time and that wouldn't have helped. So I brushed my teeth, combed my hair, and headed down to the IP's new poker room. Priority #1 was to stay awake till at least midnight. Number two was to win the money.

    The good news is that I stayed up till 12:30! The bad news is that I dropped a hundred bucks playing $2-4 limit. I just wanted a nice friendly game where I didn't have to use my brain, and that's what I got. Had a good time, folks were nice, dealers were friendly. Had a couple of beers too. Well, more than a couple. Five, I think.

    But the cards! They smote me! Things started off poorly when I hit top two against a guy who flopped a set. Then I flopped trip nines and built a nice pot...until the attractive blonde in the one seat also turned over J-9. "You play that garbage?" she actually said to me.

    Four times I had AK and lost thrice. A guy rivered a gutshot on me. I had a guy on the hook with aces when I made 2 pair with QJ, but the board paired fours and another big pot eluded me. Not once all night did I hit a draw, even on the last hand when I tossed in my little all with an open-ender.

    But I managed to stay up "late" and enjoyed myself. Mission Accomplished.

    Tuesday, May 29, 2007

    Raging Solo...Minus the Rage

    Since this was my last free day before I put on my hardhat and boots and descend into the mines, I decided to play tourist again and wander among the big casinos. Eight hours later, I think I might've overdone it. A bit.

    Especially as I overdid it a bit yesterday as well. Somehow I didn't see Caesar's Palace the last time I was in Vegas, so that was the first place I hit. I checked out the hushed stillness of their poker room, but the silence was rudely broken by my stomach's growling. I realized I hadn't eaten in about 15 hours and so I went foraging.

    When I walked past Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill I froze in my tracks. The day I had the worst hangover of my life I lay in bed, so very, very sick, watching a show about Flay getting the Mesa Grill ready for opening. Since then I've always equated that eatery with abject misery. Could I really pass up the chance to put that horror behind me? I also hadn't eaten for 15 hours, so in I went.

    I had a nice meal there, though the Mesa Burger wasn't anything extra-special. The horseradish mustard was hot enough to clear the sinuses, but the fries, nicely seasoned as they were, disappointed. They specialize in margaritas, and since I think I've had maybe 2 margaritas in my life I put myself in the hands of Ben and Ashley, who were tending the bar. What they presented me with was pretty doggone good, though I'm not an expert on the subject.

    I was told that Jennifer Love Hewitt was supposed to lunch there later that afternoon, and while I was tempted to stick around, my wanderlust won out. Not that I recall where I went after that...maybe back to the IP, where I played in their 2PM tournament. I brayed my way to the final table, playing such horrid poker that I wanted to put a bag over my head. I finished 10th, my shortstack skills doing me no good when my A-4 ran into A-J.

    Feeling the need to wander again I moseyed over to the Bellagio. I looked in the poker room to see if Linda was dealing, and when I didn't spot her I found a comfy chair in the sports book and watched Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Sitting in one place for more than two hours did my feet some good, as did the three beers I drank, and when I wandered back I searched the room again, and there she was. I almost didn't recognize her without the cornrows she had in Aruba. I didn't think I should go up and bother her at work, especially as I'm the bashful sort. Plus, I'd had a few. As you can probably tell from this pretty awful photo:

    I planned on playing some poker after I got back to the IP, but I just didn't have it in me. I blew forty bucks on slots in about fifteen seconds before I decided to head up to the room. I'm trying to get my body on Vegas time so I stayed up past midnight before I surrendered and got under the sheets.

    After eight hours solid I was up and ready to head north. I'd never visited the Mirage before--I liked, very much. Visited Treasure Island before hopping across the road to the Wynn. Wow. Wowie wow-wow. I wasn't just impressed, I was gobsmacked. It's a beautiful place.

    This might've been due to the fact that, again, I hadn't eaten in about 15 hours. While skipping a few (hundred) meals might do me some good, I decided to allow myself some nourishment:

    I drank my Pilsner Urquell in the Parasol Lounge, which was a pretty nice place to drink a beer in solitude and contemplate the Meaning of Life, and other weighty topics:

    I reluctantly left the Wynn and headed toward the Venetian, which required me to walk a good distance outside. The sun felt good--at first. And then it started sucking the moisture out of my brain. Hydration, I think, will be important over the next seven weeks.

    The Venetian was pretty awesome too, though I can't see myself ever going for a gondola ride. Even in Venice, I don't think I'd want to do that. Not for fun, anyway. To get from point A to point B, sure. But not for kicks.

    OK, this has gone on far too long already. After that I headed back to the IP, and after checking my email saw that the WPT's Mandalay Bay event was going on at, uh, Mandalay Bay. So why not head up there and see what I could see? I didn't have a press pass and I wasn't supposed to be covering it, but what does a poker reporter do? He heads for where the action is!

    Thing is, I still hadn't eaten. I thought about stopping to grab a bite at a half-dozen places, but I never did. I wanted to get there first--food could wait. And like the 40-watt bulb I am I didn't decide that until I was past the Bally's monorail stop. So I walked all the way up to the frickin' MGM in the burning sun, crossed over to Excalibur, and rode the tram to Mandalay Bay. By now my brain was so parched I was only operating at about 50% of peak.

    They have the tournament set up right in the middle of the casino, and the gawkers were out in force. One guy spotted Barry Greenstein sitting near the ropes and was so surprised he dragged his buddy over. I walked around, seeing lots of faces I recognized from TV and from Aruba. I guess I could've identified myself and maybe been allowed inside the ropes to do a little reporting of my own, but again, I was dehydrated and hungry. And my feet and back hurt. I was pretty much a mess.

    And then, as I nearly completed my first circuit, I saw Isabelle Mercier sitting at a table with Erik Seidel and the Grinder. I didn't swoon, I didn't burst into joyful tears. I was cool. I smiled at her, but she didn't smile back because I was behind her. I didn't think now was a good time to introduce myself. Not with all that security around.

    I took a couple of pics of her, none of which came out at all. Nor did the pic I took of World Champion Jamie Gold chomping down on a hoagie. I need to learn a bit about photography.

    After that, I surrendered. I rode the tram back to Excalibur...and then couldn't find out how best to get back to the MGM for the monorail. After twenty minutes of circling I said the hell with it and walked out into the sunlight. I was actually at the rear of Excalibur, so I couldn't see the MGM to get my bearings. "Biggest goddam hotel in the world, I'm a half-mile away, and I can't even SEE the goddam place," I fumed. I did more fuming as I followed a half-dozen pretty Japanese women who walked in a staggered line and kept me from passing them as they zombie-marched along the sidewalk. I took Japanese in college, I wish I remembered how to say, "Get the (deleted) outta my way!".

    It took about 15 minutes hiking through MGM to the monorail stop, after a brief pause at the poker room to reminisce about the good time I had there during my visit two Decembers ago for the blogger get-together. Finally reached the monorail stop, the monorail finally arrived, I finally made it back to the IP, I finally got some food and drink in me. And then, I started writing this.

    And now I'm done. Not sure what I'm gonna do the rest of the evening. But a trip to the Stratosphere is out. Oh, jeez, I didn't even tell about my aborted attempt to walk to the Rio. Let's just say, I don't know if you can get there from here. And if you can, I wasn't about to find out. Not when I was walking and saw a sign on the on-ramp for SALT LAKE CITY. Yeah, that can't be good. I guess I'll see enough of the Rio over the next 47 or so days.

    Monday, May 28, 2007

    Memorial Day

    Before you head out to a picnic or the park or even the couch to watch whatever ballgame is on, read this Op/Ed from Andrew Bacevich, whose son was killed in Iraq on May 13th.

    Sunday, May 27, 2007

    Go West, Still Moderatly Young Man

    Sitting at my gate, waiting for the plane that will take me to Cinci, and thence to Vegas. As always before I fly I'm a bit freaked, but the freaking-level goes down with every flight. I'm pretty much beat, especially after the little adventure I had last night. See, I thought I left my cell phone in the pocket of some shorts I washed. And then after getting wet up to my elbows rummaging around for it I couldn't find the damn thing. Turned out it fell under the seat in my car...but it caught on the springs underneath and hung there, just out of the reach of my frantically-searching hands. Great way to kick off the expedition.

    Had a very nice breakfast (eggs, bacon, ham, hash browns, toast, coffee). No beer--I told you I'm getting better at flying.

    It still hasn't hit me that I'll be, like, in Vegas for seven weeks. That I'll be covering the World Series of Poker. I'll probably start believing it after the third night working till 6AM and I start hallucinating purple pandas. But by then I'll believe anything.

    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    Liverpool vs. AC Milan

    Two years ago I was at work following the Liverpool-AC Milan final thru ESPN GameCast. After Milan took a 3-0 lead I shut it down and went back to doing my actual job. I checked back an hour or so later to read the game story...only to find the game was in penalties. That'll learn me.

    Last year I liveblogged my Gunners losing to Barcalona, and this year I'm in the bar with my brother to watch AC Milan try to take their revenge. The beer is cold, the wings are hot, the WiFI signal is strong, and our waitress is a doll. JoeSpeaker himself couldn't wish for more...although there are two guys wearing red-and-black striped jerseys here. We'll outsing them.

    UPDATE: Liverpool dominates the action...and trails at halftime, thanks to a brilliant handball by Inzaghi. That goal wouldn't have counted in the NHL.

    Did I mention our waitress is a doll? A pretty, hot doll, who is treating us like Arabian sheiks? Lately every customer-service interaction I've had has been top-notch. What's changed in America?

    UPDATE UPDATE: OK, Inzaghi was onside...though the other guy wasn't. Still, good goal. Jeez, what a dull game. Compare this to NHL playoff hockey...well, don't. One is the Beautiful Game. One is the Greatest Game on Ice.

    Tell you what--playing poker in a bar, six beers in, in the afternoon, is very nice. Very nice indeed.

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Breakfast of Champions

    This, of course, is a leftover slice of Pittsburgh Pirogi Pizza from the Church Brew Works. Mashed potato, with onion and garlic mixed in, fills a chewy pizza crust. Cheddar cheese spread thick on top. Fantastic.

    But I had to gild the lily. I couldn't help thinking the pizza needed a little something. And when a little something is needed, bacon is always a good alternative. I decided against crumbling the bacon and sprinkling it all over. I'm a purist.

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    An Even Bigger Deal

    I must've gotten one of Amazon's first copies of Anthony Holden's Bigger Deal, because I actually finished it more than a week ago. I haven't read any reviews of it around the blogosphere, which surprises me, and I haven't written one myself yet, because I'm a lazy sloth (and that probably doesn't surprise you). Suffice to say you should get a copy and read it post-haste. There's actually a long section about why writers tend to gravitate toward poker. I felt Holden was speaking to me directly. Though he didn't mention me by name.

    I read Bigger Deal with a sense of dread, because I worried that at some point I could come across a line like "I spent the evening playing poker with a wonderful chap named Brad from PokerStars" and I think I would've burst into tears. But I made it through the book without crying. Heh heh heh. I'm sorry, I default to envy.

    From Otis, we also learn that Holden, Al Alvarez, Lee Jones, and other big-time writers are now collaborating on...a poker blog. It comes full circle, does it not? Holden and Alvarez inspire scores of writers (myself included) to start blogging about poker, and now, years later, they're starting a blog of their own. Maybe now I should write a biography of Prince William.

    I heartily recommend you subscribe to their new blog, even if it's sponsored by Stars and I am Professionally Committed to Wiping Them Off the Face of the Earth. The fact that Holden, Alvarez et al are blogging about poker is, if you'll pardon the expression, a Big Deal. Actually, that's pretty much unpardonable. Anyway, I'll write a review of Bigger Deal very soon. And you should read Big Deal and The Biggest Game in Town if you haven't already. I'm actually re-reading the latter book for about the 15th time just now. Think I'll get back to it, if you don't mind.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    The Heavy Hitters

    As you've no doubt read elsewhere, PokerNews will be providing live updates and chip counts at this year's World Series of Poker, and I will be a part of the pirate crew supplying Total Coverage. I am honored, humbled, and, yes, a little bit frightened to be working with such an elite force--Pauly and Amy and Change100 and BJ and the Shrink and a bunch of other hardnose, hardcore reporters. And me.

    Seven weeks in Vegas. Jeepers. Reading about Pauly and Otis's hijinks the last two years I've dreamed about covering the WSOP myself, and now that I've got my chance it all seems a bit surreal. Not that living and working in Las Vegas for nigh on two months won't be extra-surreal.

    Actually, things have been weird for me on many fronts lately. The thing is, all the weird stuff has been GOOD weird stuff, which is a nice change of pace.

    And yes, it has been pointed out to me that, at some time during the World Series, I might find myself in the same room as Isabelle Mercier. I think "petrified" is the right word to describe how I feel about that. But I'm sure Pauly and Otis won't do anything to embarrass me. If I thought they might, goodness, I wouldn't be able to sleep!

    I'm still writing for the UltimateBetBlog, which is undergoing some major upgrades as we speak. When the new and improved site is up and running I will trumpet the news far and wide. And this site is also going to be changing in a big way in the near future...but I think you've had about all the news you can handle at one sitting.

    Thursday, May 10, 2007


    You never really leave high school, do you? OK, I got tagged by D to the P, so here are seven random things about me you probably didn't know:
    1. My internet writing career started on, where I was one of their top 100 reviewers for awhile, but my big break came, uh, when I entered an erotic story writing contest (under a pseudonym, of course). And I won. No, I will not provide a link to it, nor will I ever share it with another living soul. No way, no how.
    2. After dropping a pass on the playground in 3rd grade I screamed "Shit!" at the top of my lungs. I don't know that I'd ever even THOUGHT that word before. I immediately slapped my hand over my mouth, but the teacher on duty heard me, and the squeaky-clean Gene received a stern lecture about using blue language. In retrospect I realize that my teacher was quite bemused by the whole episode...but I didn't use a curse word again until I was like a junior in high school.
    3. I hate karaoke and wouldn't dream of ever singing in public. But I sing in my car when I'm driving by myself. And I belt it out, dammit. There have been times when I've gone to the lake for the weekend when I've arrived almost hoarse.
    4. I don't like broccoli--I freakin' LOVE IT. Not raw, don't like it raw, but I can eat me a whole bowl of steamed broccoli and be a happy guy.
    5. I tend to stay friends with my ex-girlfriends. To a disturbing degree. How disturbing? Try this on for size--I did the reading at the wedding of an ex-girlfriend...and I brought another ex-girlfriend as my platonic date...this after I'd just gone out a few times with my future ex-wife.
    6. I missed my first exam in college. Blew off the class to study for another exam. See, I thought the Astro test was on Thursday...International Relations on Wednesday...whoops. Still got a B+ in the class. Still have nightmares that I have to take a final in a class I haven't attended all year. And they're BAD dreams, man.
    7. When I was a baby I developed cysts around my ears that had to be removed, and to keep me from looking even more freakish I had to have some plastic surgery afterwards. Years later the guy who operated on me appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show, and the topic that day was "Plastic Surgeons Who Operated On Their Wives". get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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