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

Subscribe with Bloglines

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


  • 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004
  • 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004
  • 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004
  • 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004
  • 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004
  • 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004
  • 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004
  • 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004
  • 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004
  • 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004
  • 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004
  • 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004
  • 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005
  • 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005
  • 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005
  • 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005
  • 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005
  • 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005
  • 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005
  • 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005
  • 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005
  • 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
  • 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
  • 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
  • 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
  • 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
  • 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006
  • 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006
  • 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006
  • 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006
  • 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006
  • 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006
  • 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006
  • 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006
  • 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006
  • 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006
  • 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
  • 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007
  • 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007
  • 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007
  • 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007
  • 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007
  • 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007
  • 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007

  • Powered by Blogger

    Friday, April 29, 2005

    Random Stuff

    Many good suggestions for Shana Hiatt's replacement, all of them more aesthetically pleasing than David Cross. Except Bea Arthur.

    Of course I daydreamed of Isabelle Mercier taking over as WPT host, but I feared that she would take such a suggestion as an insult. She is, after all, a professional player having considerable success, and even though she announced part of the event in Paris I think the next time she appears on the World Poker Tour she'd expect to be at the table and not holding a microphone. As I'd rather drink paint than slight her in the least, I crossed her name off the list.

    And I did think about nominating Felicia for the job, but forgot to put that in the post. She could certainly handle the Poker Corner stuff (though viewers might start wondering there were so many references to Stud), and, Good God, can you imagine her vaporizing some jackass whining about not getting any cards? Get the popcorn!

    I need to ask Otis, what was up with all the hugging at this week's WPT event? Lots and lots of hugging. Which is fine, you see so much pettiness and whining and cutthroatedness at the poker table that having a bunch of decent guys who seem to like each other was rather nice. I'm not a huggy sort of person, though I can appreciate the concept, but...what's up with all the hugging? I get knocked out of a tournament, a handshake will suffice, and a hearty slap on the back is no problem. I don't need a hug.

    I was blown away by how gorgeous that place is. Was. Is. When I was in St. Thomas and saw the water I realized that I had never in my life seen that color of blue in person. It was almost like being on another planet.

    I didn't expect this to be a minipost, but here we are. Oh, forgot one thing! One of the sites I've written for is having a short story contest...why don't I just post the info I have:


    “The Poker Virgin”

    1st prize: $100 and online publication on and
    2nd prizes: $40 and online publication.

    To Enter:

    Write a very short story or “flash fiction” piece, at least 1400 words, up to approx. 3500 words. The story should generally be about someone's experience of playing poker in a casino, cardroom or online poker room for the first time. The writing may be humorous or serious; while it may contain adult themes we are definitely NOT looking for stories about someone's first sex experience.

    Poker terms should be used accurately.

    The characters do NOT have to be playing Texas Holdem.

    It must be written in English.

    No .wps files.

    Email entries to:

    with the subject line: SHORT STORY CONTEST

    Got that? I don't know when the deadline is, I'll check into that and let you know. Go scribble.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2005

    Who Should Replace Shana Hiatt?

    In case you didn't hear, the recently concluded WPT Championship was the last show Shana Hiatt will tape for the World Poker Tour. Shana apparently wants to get back into acting, so look for her soon in Law and Order: Special Frisking Unit or CSI: Boise. I wish her the best of luck, but as I said before she need look no farther than Vince Van Patten to give her pause about pursuing an acting career.

    Shana did her job and did it exceedingly well. She introduced the shows, did her Poker Corner features, asked the losing players a brief question or two, and usually took part in the presentation of the money. Nothing too taxing, but she managed without coming across as a ditz or a Vanna-like cipher. It also helps that she's a knockout, but she's an accessible knockout, she doesn't look as though scaffolding has to be erected around her to get her ready for the cameras. She looks good in an evening gown, in a bikini, in just about anything. Nothing wrong with a little eye candy to balance out Mike and Vince. Although, by the second season, she was probably more famous than all but a handful of the poker players she interviewed.

    Even, arguably, more famous than Richard Brodie, the Quiet Lion, whose good-natured stalking of Shana at the various WPT stops always made for entertaining stories. Though the most recent story he told left me slack-jawed. On the Party Poker Million cruise Richard and friends were at dinner, and he wrote this:

    Gary had the Mike Sexton New York Steak and I had a nice salmon without a celebrity name attached. Like last year, they named the dishes after the event staff and stars but I thought it was a little over the top to have (I am not making this up) "Shana Hiatt Red Snapper".
    I don't know what is more incomprehensible--the fact that "Shana Hiatt Red Snapper" got past whatever culinary copywriters Party and the cruise line employs, or that the Lion didn't call room service and place an order for a late-night Shana snack in his room. I mean, I know it's probably a billion to one shot that Ms. Hiatt herself shows up, but don't you have to take that chance?

    By and by, I wonder if they served Vince Van Patton broiled ham?

    Anyway. No one is irreplacable, and I'm sure the WPT will have it's share of starlets looking to bask in poker's reflected light. Who should be the choice? Well, if they go the starlet route, I have no idea. Whether the new hostess has Shana's easy charm we'll have to wait and see, but as the qualifications for the job are "Look really good and be able to speak in sentences" I think there will be no shortage of qualified applicants.

    Rather than go through a litany of hot young women who I'd like to see every week on the Travel Channel, let's think outside the box a bit. To be honest, Shana doesn't get in front of the camera all that much. I think John Juanda has had more face time than Shana this season. I think having an attractive woman introduce each show is a nice way to hook the male couch-potato, but you could have a fetching representative from each venue do that. What you need is someone to do the interviews, the little Poker Corner spots, that sorta thing. Do these tasks necessitate a hottie?

    I think not. Which is why I nominate David Cross to replace Shana Hiatt. Cross is one of my favorite...whatever he is. Comedian, actor, sketch artist, whatever. Mr. Show is one of my favorites, he's hilarious on Arrested Development, and if I recall correctly Cross won the first season of Celebrity Poker Showdown, so he actually knows a little something about poker. And if you saw Cross on CPS you know that he's a nut. The majority of the actors who appeared on the show were deathly dull, no doubt requiring someone funny and clever to come up with interesting lines. Cross was goofy and profane and gross and still managed to win the thing.

    After three years, how much basic information is left for "Poker Corner" to impart? I'd like to think Cross could come up with some crude and subversive segments to both enlighten and amuse. And think of the post-knockout interviews. How much would I pay to see Cross facetiously try to comfort a raging Phil Hellmuth? I'm afraid to say it out loud.

    Arrested Development is in danger of being canned, and if Fox makes such a stupid decision the Travel Channel should leap at the chance to add David Cross to the WPT team. I can actually picture Mike and Vince looking at each other with bemused befuddlement after a "Poker Corner" segment featuring Cross, a chicken, Scotty Ngyuen, and a hot air balloon. Don't ask me how that all might fit together, I'm not the one interested in the job.

    Monday, April 25, 2005

    Tidbits and Nibbles

    Congrats to Bob who won the WPBTWSOP satellite and will be taking on about 2200 people in the $1500 NL event. I watched some of the late action and it was a tense affair, aside from the railbirds squawking. It turned out that the buy-in wasn't the only prize (in fact, when it got down to 4 they agreed to split the extra $840 in cash available) but with there really only being one winner it made for some aggressive play. No sense in getting down to 3 or 4 with only a scattering of chips, you had to come armed to the teeth.

    Lots of preflop raising and re-raising, bluff and counterbluff. Jason at TripJax won a monster 3-way pot when he had I think 8-9 clubs and was up against 2 players all-in with pocket kings and tens. If I recall, the other two players both made trips, but there were also 2 clubs on the flop and another hit on the river. Monster pot, a real gut punch for the other two.

    While I was following the WPBT event I also had my eye on the WPT Championships. If you don't want to know who won look away...well, too late. Tuan Le won ANOTHER big event. First Foxwoods, now the Champeenship. $2.8 million. He said in the Foxwoods show that he wanted to accumulate at least an eight-figure fortune before he quit poker. He's about halfway there now. Nearly three million bucks...its a bit hard to get the mind around that amount. Especially for one tournament. Especially as he already won about $2 mil at Foxwoods. And his brother came fifth at Bellagio in last weeks show. Not a bad year for the Le clan.

    But overshadowing Le's big win was the news that Shana Hiatt is leaving the WPT. Yes, last night was her last show. Apparently she wants to act or something. Shana, you need look no further than Vince Van Patten to realize how good you got it where you are.

    So the WPT season is at an end. And so is the EPT. And PokerStars, realizing that Otis has been sitting around the office with nothing to do, has started a new PokerStars blog called, uh, the PokerStars blog. I advise you to check it out.

    As I invite, nay, insist you check out the Poker Player Newspaper run by the estimable folks over from LasVegasVegas. I just realized this weekend I'd never mentioned it nor linked to it, so I kill two birds with one stone. They even publish poker fiction, if you can believe that.

    I would've gone walking at lunch today, but there's a solid inch of snow out there today, turning the walking trail into a quagmire. Volleyball tonight, most likely our last game in our current league. Up against the defending champs, lose and we're done for the season. I'd say we're about a two-outer to pull it off.

    Sunday, April 24, 2005

    An NFL Draft Recap; or, I'm Wasting My Life

    I watched a lot of the NFL Draft, but not all of it. Not even close. Heck, I even went out during the first hour of the first round. As I get older, my capacity to sit around and do nothing and not feel like crap diminishes. Not so long ago I could sit on the couch and watch 10 hours of draft coverage and enjoy every second of it, but now I find myself thinking that I could be doing laundry, or going for a walk, or even writing, and I can't fully enjoy the inertia. Last night I watched the NASCAR race while we had the draft on the split-screen, and it's amazing that people used to watch just ONE sporting event at a time. What do you do during commercials? Cautions? Time-outs? Talk? Not with my friends, thank you.

    Today I watched some of the draft, just to see what the Steelers were up to. I think they just draped a cloth over Mel Kiper when they went off the air last night and gave him a quick dusting this morning. Suzy Kolber chaired today's festivities, a good thing as I might have shaved my head and started shooting at passing cars if I had to endure another 10 hours of Chris Berman. I like Berman okay, but in such economy-sized doses he warps the mind.

    Speaking of warping the mind, what the hell has gotten into Merrill Hoge? I was a big fan of #33 when he played for the Steelers, and I think he's an excellent analyst. Plus I've always dug the wild suits he wears. But he and Ron Jaworski have this contentious on-air chemistry and it went loco today. They're talking about which rookies will have the biggest impact and which teams have improved the most since the end of the season and Hoge would not stop talking. He talked over Jaworski and Randy Mueller and Trey one point all four of them were blabbing at the same time for like 10 seconds straight, you couldn't understand a word of it. Every time Jaworski said something Hoge would start yakking. And they kept ripping on each other's selections. It reminded me of the Digger Phelps-Andy Katz chatwar before the NCAA tournament. Enough talk--I wanna see some punches thrown. Though not at Hoge's head, as he's had post-concussion syndrome. Maybe some kung fu moves.

    Speaking of which, saw Kung Fu Hustle Friday night. I like my chopsocky, and the flick was funny and entertaining, but...well, you'd expect a Chinese movie to be different from an American one, and this was differnt. A bit bizarre in places, but I like bizarre, so I give the flick a thumbs up.

    Back to the draft. Well, I think for drafting at the end of every round the Steelers did very well. Miller will step right in and contribute, McFadden will probably see some playing time, the guard they picked up in the sixth round, Chris Kemoeatu, looks to be a real player. The tackle in the third round, Trai Essex, was a reach but Scouts Inc said they liked the pick and so like an obedient little lamb I'll accept their verdict. We'll learn more when they all get on the field.

    So, no more football until August. Felt like football season today, what with it snowing like crazy. But I guess I can amuse myself until then with beach volleyball and drinking. Drinking is always amusing.

    Saturday, April 23, 2005

    Liveblogging the 2005 NFL Draft

    It's raining here in Pittsburgh with snow (snow?) on the way, so I may spend the day inside doing stuff and watching the NFL DRAFT, BABY! Losers of the world unite!

    The latest buzz in the local Pittsburgh paper is that the Steelers will indeed take Heath Miller if he's available. But we'll about 6 hours.

    This time last year I was in the ESPN SportZone in Times Square, watching the electric Paul Tagliabue announce "Welcome to the 2005 NFL Draft...blah blah blah". Tags does not inspire with his oratory. 49ers are on the clock, so they'll probably take Alex Smith, unless they don't. And even if they do, they might trade him. Eh, who cares? If he goes to Cleveland my Steelers will spend the next 10 years rending his skinny bones to flinders.

    SAN FRAN AND MIAMI: Well, Blogger ate my last post, and the "Recover post" function didn't function. Two picks that played out as everyone expected, snooze. Kiper said for the thousandth time that Alex Smith is the smartest player to ever come out of college. Hogwash. He's smart, but unless the guy is winning Nobels and speaking 7 languages I have some doubts. There have been lots and lots of NFL players, and I rather doubt Mr. Smith is the smartest of them all. Especially with the tie he selected with that suit.

    Ronnie Brown, tan suit, salmon shirt, purple tie. It should work better than it does, I don't know what's missing. But don't get me started on Torry Holt's ensemble. A blue suit, a slightly different but still dark blue shirt, and a red, light-blue, and light purple striped tie. Doesn't Holt own a mirror?

    KC: OK, sorry, had to run out to the bank (another article, another check, yowza) and I wanted to get a haircut but I forgot Tony is still on vacation. I'm sure BG is wondering where the hell Mike Williams fits into the Lions scheme of things. Three top ten picks on WR in three years is a lot of money to put into what I consider the last position you want to spend tons of cash on. I can only figure that the Lions will be moving Williams or Charles Rogers, tho how much of a market there would be for Rogers and his brittle scapulas I can't say.

    When the Cowboys picked Mikes Greenburg and Golic and John Clayton said the pick would come down to Shawne Merriman or Marcus Spears. The Pokes take Demarcus Ware, and they all say that this isn't a surprise, Ware and Merriman are the same sort of player. Well, if that's the case, why were you talking about Ware beforehand?

    Golic said that one reason the picks are taking so long is that Tagliabue is holding the cards for minutes at a time to allow ESPN to come back from commercial. Nice. The Steelers will be selecting around 3AM.

    Aaron Rogers has lost about $15 million so far. Projected to go #1, they're talking now like he might slip into the 2nd round. Has there ever been a suicide in the Green Room. That's the thing the ESPN guys haven't mentioned as they talk about Rogers' free-fall: that this is costing him millions and millions of dollars. Maybe this will give Rogers the impetus to become the first Jeff Tedford QB to be a non-bust.

    OK, let's watch a bit. Oh, Torry Holt is just awful. Awful.

    HOUSTON: I didn't hear Cedric Benson after he was picked, but I did hear part of his interview on the radio with Mike & Mike and they said, Hey, Cedric, what's up with the crying? Certainly this could be an emotional day, but one might hope that one's bruising new tailback doesn't regularly get weepy. I mean, Hines Ward shed a few tears after the Steelers lost in the AFC title game because it might've been Jerome Bettis' last game, and that was quite moving. But if Ward starts breaking down every time the Steelers punt, that's when it's time to be concerned.

    JAX: OK, here's where the players I want my Steelers to land could start coming off the board. The Jags could grab Heath Miller, or Matt Jones, or perhaps a corner that the Steelers might be thinking about. The local sports radio dudes said the Steelers loved Antrell Rolle and might've been thinking of moving up to get him if he'd fallen a bit further, but he didn't so they didn't.

    Well, there goes Matt Jones, not a big surprise, and I don't think the Steelers would've grabbed him at #30, but you never know. He would've been a fun pick. But fun picks don't translate necessarily to Super Bowls.

    BAL: How big a jackass is Mike Vrabel? First he defends Randy Moss for walking off the field with the game still in doubt, saying that production is all that matters (I guess all that selfless team ethic is just a mirage in New England) and then he says he doesn't think Matt Jones will be a success in the NFL because he doesn't know how tough he is. Not that Jones has to prove his toughness as a TE or WR, but that Vrabel doens't think Jones is tough. Uh, the guy did run for 2500 yards as a QB in the SEC, probably took a fair number of hits. Maybe all that gel is affecting Vrabel's brain wave pattern.

    How come we only see Andrea Kremer for about 15 total minutes during the year? She does standups (usualy from San Fran) for NFL Countdown, does a little during the draft, and then she disappears. She must have another gig somewhere, I dont think she covers any other sport for ESPN, and she's an excellent interviewer and, from what I've read, a top reporter. 'Tis a mystery.

    Is this where Aaron Rodgers goes, to the Packers? It would seem to be a nice fit, the Pack needs to groom a successor to Favre eventually.

    Uh...what's up with Randy Mueller's FACE? He's glowing. He's as orange as the Ultimate Warrior used to be. I think Randy needs to spend a little less time in the makup chair. He looks freakazoidish.

    ATL: OK, only few picks to go. Falcons won't take a TE, nor will the Chargers, nor will the Colts. So unless someone trades up, Heath Miller should be on the board. I think Roddy White will come off the board, the Chargers might grab him. Might the Steelers try to trade down, if they don't really want Miller? I think not, I can't see anyone moving up for a good price. So, only 3 picks more to go. Wow, they might pick before 6PM. It's still daylight. Amazing.

    SD: Cripes, make the goddam pick. SD might take Khalif Barnes, I don't know what WR they might want in this spot, Mark Bradley maybe? Then the Colts will take the best front seven guy on their board, and the Steelers will be able to grab Miller if that's their choice. Cripes, come on.

    Though it is nice when you look at the board and figure there's no way the guy you want will come off the board.

    OK, the Chargers take a guy who got busted for steroids at the combine. Pardon me, he was taking Andro. And we wonder why kids take performance-enhancing substances? It works, baby. It works. Hell, Sean Salisbury just gave the guy a free pass. Castillo had an elbow injury, he thought it might hurt his draft status, so he cheated. Understandable. Nothing wrong with cheating.

    OK, finally, Steelers on the clock!

    The predictable pick, Heath Miller. He fits a need, is a big upgrade at the position, at least as receiving goes. I remember watching the Virginia-Miami game and Miller had some amazing catches and someone said how good he'd look in Black and Gold. Pretty good prediction.

    He'll give Big Ben a nice target in the middle of the field, someone to throw to on first down with play-action. Now, for the 2nd round, I think we go OL. That pick'll happen around 10PM. But I think I'm done blogging for the day. Sorry this wasn't more interesting, but that's the draft for you.

    Friday, April 22, 2005

    Bring On The Nonsense

    I know I said I'd be writing something for BadBlood's WSOP Dream Scenario thingy, but there's no way I'll get it done by Sunday as I'm up to my armpits in stuff. And because I'm genetically incapable of writing a brief little blurb intended to amuse. This thing in my head is more like a goddam novella, and the question as to whether writing a 10,000 word blob is positive EV seems an easy one to answer.

    I won't be playing in the blogger satellite, alas, as I rolled the dice and failed to parlay my last $7 into the $33 required to enter. Not that I could've gone anyway, but it would've been fun. I played a SNG, and I thought that my attention would be focused on cashing so I could live to fight another day. I did play supertight and didn't waste chips, until one hand when I blew it all. Was dealt A-10, flopped an ace, bet gingerly with my weak kicker, turned a ten that gave me 2 pair but made anyone holding KQ a straight, and of course that's how it ended up, my two pair losing to Broadway. A terrible play on my part, but I feel somewhat better in that another guy went all-in holding A-4, a lonely pair with a terrible kicker his claim to the pot.

    I haven't played much lately, but from reading other people's blogs, have the fish out there gotten WORSE? It seems like everyone is raking in pots when they aren't enduring even more appalling beats. Just remember to throw a few back so there's still something left for me.

    The NFL Draft is tomorrow, and I'll probably stop my labors from time to time to see what's happening. The Steelers won't be selecting until about 11:30PM so I might as well be productive instead of just wasting the entire day. If you can call watching the Draft "wasting" the day, instead of a glorious exercise of male sloth. My buddy Mark is going to be at a wedding in D.C. tomorrow and is going to miss the whole thing, and he told me that if he were in my position he'd be sit on the couch for the whole day eating cheese curls and drinking orange pop. A man who knows what it's all about.

    There is no consensus about who the Steelers might pick. At first everyone thought we'd grab a corner, but as Heath Miller's stock slid due to his injury more and more mock drafts projected him going to us. Thing is, the Steelers don't throw to their tight end much, never have, and even if Miller would be a steal at #30 there's no point in using a first-rounder on a position you de-emphasize.

    I've been hoping the Steelers might grab Arkansas QB/WR/TE/FN Matt Jones, who Chris Mortensen of ESPN said will end up as the best player out of this draft. Jones is 7'2'', runs the 40 in 3.6 seconds, has a vertical leap of 58 inches, and has a third eye growing out of the back of his head. Well, perhaps I exaggerate, but this FN (Freak of Nature) would be an ideal replacement for Plaxico Burress, and as the Steelers have had considerable success turning college QBs into WRs (Kordell Stewart, Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle-El) Jones would be coming into an ideal situation. But from what I've read the Steelers don't seem anxious to use a first-round pick on such a project. Could be a smokescreen, but I don't think so.

    Now everyone has Ole Miss guard Marcus Williams going to the Black and Gold. Which would be a savvy selection, in my humble opinion. We desperately need OL depth, and Williams can play both guard and tackle. The Steelers have done good business using high picks on unsexy linemen (Faneca, Hampton, Simmons) who went on to Pro Bowl status. It would not surprise me to see them go in that direction again. It would be nice if they could trade down and gather some extra picks and still get Williams, but if that's not in the cards, so be it.

    It was one year ago today that my aformentioned friend Mark and I headed to New York City in a doomed attempt to witness the Draft with our own eyes. Can't believe its been a year already...but it has. If you're having a slow day at work or enjoy reading about people's dreams being crushed by heartless corporations, I once again invite to read these mega-posts pulled from my archives:

    The Weekend of Our Discontent, Part I
    The Weekend Etc Etc, Part II

    If I do happen to watch the Draft I may do some liveblogging, but as I probably won't be watching, I probably won't be blogging. Equivocable enough for you? Sheesh.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2005

    They Learn Why They Call Me "Mean" Gene

    Who are "they"? Well, let's start at the begining. Or, at least the middle. I wrote an article a few weeks ago but I haven't found out if it's posted yet, and as I haven't heard anything back I started to wonder if maybe it's out there somewhere in the Internet ether. I Googled myself, which is always depressing. I found my blog and some old Amazon reviews I wrote, and then I found the stuff that depresses me. Do you know how many Dr. Brombergs there are out there? And here's the weird thing--they're all involved in gene therapy research or something along thos lines. Get it, "Gene" therapy? Depressing to me.

    Anyway, I did see a hit for a site called Huh. Never heard of them before. And so I clicked the link and found myself at a fairly slick new poker site, one that is part of a group of poker sites collected under a main site at And there, in the middle of the page, was a post I wrote a year ago about whether luck really exists or not. Actually, it wasn't the full post--it was hacked in half, with a bunch of other stuff cut out. What really infuriated me was that they'd added links all through the article, links that led you to other sites in their collective.

    The thing was posted under my byline, which pissed me off even more. It made me look like a friggin' shill, and while I have NO compunction about selling out, the key word here is "selling". This was theft, and it made me look stupid into the bargain.

    So I wrote a strongly worded email this afternoon and waited for a response. I recieved none, but I guess my words had some effect because my post is no longer on the site. And I was looking forward to a lawsuit. I haven't sued feels like years, it really does.

    Watched the poker segment on 60 Minutes. I think I'd pay Robin five grand a night to stay home so I wouldn't have to hear that laugh all night. Best line? Dan Rather saying, "The World Series of Poker was won by an amateur named Chris Moneymaker...and, yes, that's his real name". Glad to see you're all over the story, Dan. You're only two years late.

    I think Dan Rather would make a very good poker player, as most top poker players have only played against natives of Earth, and so might have trouble handling Rather, who is from the planet Zuon or something. Don't let that "I'm from Houston" nonsense fool you. Robin thought she was fooling Dan, but who's foolin' who? What's the frequency, Kenneth?

    Tuesday, April 19, 2005

    The Power of Groups; or, How the Hell Did They Know?

    The new pope has been selected, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany. Not a big surprise, he was one of the big favorites. But he's selected the name Benedict for himself, and that's the name that was the favorite of the online bookies in Ireland and beyond. How the hell did they figure that out? Benedict has been a popular choice in Papal nomenclature (the new pontiff with be the 16th so named), but still. He could've picked any name in the Universe. And the oddsmakers had it right. Unless Cardinal Ratzinger at one point let slip that he dug the name Benedict, I'm amazed that this was the odds-on favorite.

    I still would've like to see the new leader of the Catholic Church decide to call himself "Pope Steve". That'd be so cool.

    It's stuff like this that convinces me never to gamble on sports except for entertainment. I think I'm pretty smart, but pitting yourself against the collective and unconscious wisdom of huge populations is an uphill climb. And I don't like heights anyway.

    Sorry not much posting lately, not much to write about. Tho I do think I will take up BadBlood's challenge, even though I'm not playing in the WSOP Satellite. Let the mind wander a bit...

    Friday, April 15, 2005

    The Voices in My Head Like Air Supply

    Otis posted recently about the songs folks might be listening to on their iPods while sitting at the poker table. It got me to thinking about my own internal soundtrack, especially when I'm playing sports. Like most people I often get a song stuck in my head that won't let go, and I've often found that before taking the court it's important to carefully select the last song I hear, because more often than not that's the one I'm going to be hearing in my inner ear.

    Thursday night I played volleyball, and played well thank you very much. With, God help me, the theme song to "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" endlessly looping inside my skull. Complicating matters was the fact that I didn't know all the words. Or any of the words, save the opening stanza "MY NAME IS....Shake-zula, the mic rulah, the old schoolah...". I've only seen the show a few times, a cartoon about a talking Happy Meal a bit outside even my weirdo scope, but I'm starting to like it and the theme song especially. So much so that as I waited to return serve I was head-bobbing like Master Shake. And if that makes no sense to you, don't worry about it.

    Nine time out of ten I'm replaying some Elvis Costello tune in my head, something from his earlier, punkier days. I wish I kept tabs on what songs spur me to athletic heights, but I didn't. But I do remember one time when a song stuck in my head and set me firmly in the Zone, that mythical place where one can do no wrong, be it at the poker table or the basketball court or on the dance floor.

    I played tennis in high school (yes, I got all the chicks) and in my junior year I had to play a friend of mine for the #1 singles spot on the team. It'd rained during the day so we had to squeegy before we could play, and as I squeeged I listened to the radio on my Walkman. Pittsburgh's radio scene was then, and has always been, so hopelessly middle-of-the-road that it wasn't like a had a lot of options (well, there was on alternative-rock station, 100.7...but I digress). When the court was dry and it was time to take the court I frantically cycled through the stations, looking for a good tune to carry into the match. And found zilch. Commercials, country, blabbering DJs. I grabbed my racquet and just then I heard:

    Lost in love and I don't know much
    Cause to thinking about, and felt out of touch
    But I'm back on my feet, and eager to be what you wanted

    I slapped off the headphones and shook my head violently. I felt as if I'd been exposed to some virus but didn't know if I'd been infected. I don't think a gooey love song from Air Supply was the best choice to fire me up for the biggest match of my life. But I wasn't worried. I'm a rational human being. I would not allow myself to become mellow and emotionally pliant.

    I got to serve first, I dribbled the ball three times, squared my shoulders, and heard this inside my head:

    So lift your eyes if you feel you can
    Reach for a star and I'll show you a plan

    I drilled my first serve right down the middle for a winner. Next serve I eased over the net and volleyed the return into the open court. After I held serve I quickly broke my opponent. Everything worked, every swing was effortless yet fraut with malice. And the song was in my head the whole time. I couldn't rid myself of it. Perhaps I played so well because I desperately desired the match to end and free me from this curse, but I think not. Because by the time the second set rolled around I was singing along, if you'd watched me returning serve and read my lips you could've easily figured out what was playing in the 8-track inside my skull.

    I recall a few years ago reading a poll of Olympic athletes where they were asked if, in exchange for a gold medal, they would surrender 10 years of their lives. Some ghastly number (like 80%) said yes. Well, I guess I wasn't destined to be an Olympic athlete because I wasn't even willing to repeat the Air Supply technique for maximum performance. It isn't like Air Supply is the worst band in history, or terribly offensive, or committing some act of cultural murder. They're just lame and incredibly mellow. And Australian. But I can't think of any situation where a 17-year-old guy should be looking to them for inspiration. I've never returned to that well again, and I daresay I never will.

    I wish I'd had a copy of Air Supply's Greatest Hits last night. Empire Poker sent me an email gifting me with $10 if I played 300 hands in ten days. I haven't played poker in 2 weeks (well, other than poker with my family last week, where I won a cool five bucks) and I was in the mood for a little action. Could I make my half-sawbuck last 300 hands? Could, from this tiny acorn, a mighty bankroll grow?

    Nope. Lost it in a few hours. In large part, I have to say, because of the Hammer. With only ten bucks I had to play mega-tight, and a few hands in I was dealt my favorite hand, pocket tens. The Poker Gods flopped me quads, but I got no action. Then, a few hands later, I was dealt a sooted Hammer on the button. I felt morally obligated to push it. I raised preflop, then check-raised the one remaining caller after the flop came K-J-10. I figured I was dead meat, but I pushed on the turn and river and actually hit a pair of sevens on the last card. I couldn't shake him, and he ended up turning over a pair of tens. Ugh.

    Last hand I was dealt pocket nines, raised, flop came eight high but with two hearts, and I couldn't push everyone out. I ended up making a nine-high flush on the river, but that was only 3rd best. Alas, my return was all too brief.

    I think I still have seven whole bucks sitting at Party. I may go goofy sometime soon and play an SNG and see if I can't beef it up a bit. Ah, to have a six-figure bankroll, and play all the $10 SNGs I want.

    Thursday, April 14, 2005

    Mean Gene's Mock Draft #1

    I am of course a big fan of the NFL Draft (to read a massive recap of my vain efforts to watch last year's draft, please read these two mondo-posts) but this year will be a bit different. My fellow draftnik Mark will be in D.C. for a wedding, and that means I will be flying solo draft-wise. Which also means that I probably won't be watching the draft at all, as I'm sure I'll have work around the house to occupy my time.

    Not too big a deal, as the Steelers don't pick till near the end of the first round and won't be on clock till about 5PM or so. And this is probably the most boring draft of the last decade. The top end of the talent pool is so shallow that the teams holding the three highest picks are all desperately trying to trade down. Good news for teams like my Steelers, bad news for teams like the Browns, who have been making selections in the top 5 for the last 8 years or so and have bupkis to show for it. They need to hit a home run with this pick, and it doesn't look like they're going to get a good pitch to look at.

    The title of this post is a bit misleading, as I will not be posting my selections for the top 32 picks. Indeed, I come to mock mock drafts, because so many different analysts make them (and make so many of them) that they lose all meaning. It's impossible to predict who 32 teams will select, since teams deliberately mask their intentions (naturally) and because a single trade can transform an elegantly contstructed matrix of picks into a spilled Jenga of reaches and steals.

    I think Mel Kiper publishes 60 or 70 mock drafts a year. He releases the first one at halftime of the NFC Championship game and the last 9 or 10 in the hours leading up to the draft. I recall one year where Kiper had one mock draft on, a completely different one in ESPN the Magazine, and yet another one on his website. It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said that the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. Kiper must be wicked smart, to say in the course of a few days that he feels confident enough to predict that a certain team will draft a quarterback, a linebacker, and a safety, without once conceding that he might be a bit inconsistent in his views. You never hear Kiper say, "I have no clue what direction this team might go". His job is to be the Draft Oracle, and doubt and uncertainty would be fatal.

    What saves Kiper (and other experts) year in and year out is that fans never go back and compare what really went down with all the predictions. We're all too busy checking the 40 times for that cornerback out of Bethune-Cookman we grabbed in the fourth round. What Kiper (and the whole ESPN crew) do so well is, when each pick is made, they act as though they knew ALL ALONG that would be the pick. And so although Kiper has had the 49ers selecting Aaron Rodgers in his last 37 mock drafts, when Paul Tagliabue goes to the podium and announces, "With the first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select Braylon Edwards, wide reciever, Michigan", the ESPN gang will tell his that this was an OBVIOUS pick, that the Niners already have a young QB in Tim Rattay, that Edwards is the top player available, and that this pick will make Rattay even better. No mention will be made of Rodgers, nor of the fact that Kiper currently has USC WR Mike Williams at the top of his Draft Board. Joseph Stalin would appreciate such on-the-fly revisionist history.

    I say this although I hold Mel Kiper in the highest esteem. He may be, to some extent, bonkers, but the fact that he is not yet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a joke. He's a first-ballot, 100% vote-getter. The NFL Draft is a huge, HUGE pseudo-sporting event, and Kiper is in large part responsible for that. As is the late Joel Buschbaum, who also should be in the Hall of Fame and, from everything I read about him, truly was bonkers. But as I drove to New York last year to attend the draft and ended up standing in Times Square for five goddam hours waiting to get into a sports bar to watch the goddam thing, who am I to question another's sanity?

    But this year I don't think I'll watch it all the way through. I'll pop in from time to time, make sure the Steelers haven't traded up. I will be posting more about the draft as the time approaches (especially if I can't think of anything else to write about) but at the moment there are 2 players I really hope are available at pick #30. The first is an obvious choice, Virginia TE Heath Miller. We could use a tight end, Miller is a top-ten talent who may slip because of the position he plays and the fact that he hasn't worked out because of a sports hernia (are there other hernia? Vaccuming hernia? Math hernia?). He may not slip past the Jets, so that could precipitate a trade up to snatch him away.

    The other player is one who has generated a lot of buzz lately--Arkansas QB Matt Jones. He won't play QB in the pros, but when I watched him play in college it was obvious that he could play SOMEWHERE in the NFL. He's 6'6'', weighs like 240, runs a 4.35 40 and has a 39" vertical leap. These are statisics more commensurate with a kangaroo than a quarterback, but Jones will be moved to WR, and the Steelers have a long and distinguished history of moving college quarterbacks to wideout (see Kordell Stewart, Hines Ward, and Antwaan Randle-El). Peter King and Chris Mortensen have both sung Jones' praises, Mort going so far as to say Jones will end up as the best player coming out of this draft. With Plaxico Burress moving on to New York to no doubt take up permanent residence in Tom Coughlin's doghouse, we could use another tall WR to create matchup problems. Jones would be an ideal candidate.

    But there's still 9 days until the draft, enough time for 30 or 40 more mock drafts and thousands of rumors and millions of talk-radio hours to fill with ludicrous trades. Baseball? What baseball?

    Tuesday, April 12, 2005

    New Poker Shows for the Fall Lineup?

    Haven't posted in a few days and I'm getting itchy. No long posts until I get these goddam articles done..actually, I may finish the one and put the other on the back burner. I don't really get writer's block, but for some reason I don't want to work on this one thing and it's keeping me from writing other stuff.

    I think I mentioned that we poker fans need some new shows to entertain us. I'm sick of watching celebrities I've never heard of playing poker at a 2nd-grade level. I'm tired of seeing top professionals playing shove-it-in poker like they do on Poker Superstars. I want something fresh, something new, something exciting.

    An obvious choice would be to televise the "Big Game" between Dallas banker Andy Beal and the "Corporation", a consortium of poker players led by Doyle Brunson. See Iggy for more info on this $80 million dollar freezout. Now THAT's something new, fresh, and exciting.

    But how to televise it? Beal has accused the players in the Corporation of telling tall tales about how much money they won off him when they last played, so I think the ideal solution would be to have C-SPAN show the game. Just one camera mounted so you could see the two players in action, and of course no hole-card cameras. Just a dry, dispassionate recording of the action for posterity. Just as Capitol Hill groupies watch their representatives give speeches to an empty chamber, I'm sure there would be a sizable audience of poker freaks willing to watch Beal and Chau Giang sling chips back and forth, even if we didn't know what they were holding.

    So there's one. I actually think that any show that featured a big cash game would be a huge draw. It's one thing to see someone move $100K into a pot in a WPT event; it's quite another when the player is moving a hundred large of his OWN MONEY that way. I don't know if any big cash-game players would want that kind of scrutiny, from nefarious types or from the IRS. How to get around that? Turn it into a game show, of course.

    "I DON'T WORK FOR PHIL IVEY!!" is the show I have in mind. The show's producers will sift through the RGP and 2+2 message boards and (of course) blogs to find some loudmouth hotshot talking trash about top pros. The blowhard will be whisked out of his/her house, flown to Vegas in a private jet, driven by limousine to the Bellagio, and plunked down at a table opposite Phil Ivey. The hotshot will be given five-hundred thousand dollars in chips and then required to play heads-up against Ivey for a minimum of six hours. Everything the hotshot wins, he/she gets to keep, and also gets to jump on the table and scream the show's catchphrase, "I DON'T WORK FOR PHIL IVEY!"

    If the hotshot loses, however, he/she must work off that debt by serving Phil Ivey in whatever capacity he sees fit. Caddy, chip mule, groundskeeper, whatever Phil wants. True, at the Federal Minimum Wage of $5.15 an hour it would take over 11 years to work it off, but those are the chances one takes. Getting this show off the ground depends in large part on whether Ivey would consider it worth his time to play for a mere half-million, and on the willingness of Phil and his wife Luciaetta to manage a small army of indentured servants.

    A show that I actually would love to see, and one that I think could be huge on a cable network like HBO, would be one about the old-time road gamblers. Guys like Doyle Brunson and Sailor Roberts and T.J. Cloutier, playing in the back rooms of bars, carrying guns, getting robbed, getting cheated. All those old-timers out there fading the white line...and many of them still winning tournaments. It would be a refreshing reminder of how far poker has come in the last few years, and how much of the romance has, for better or worse, disappeared because of the poker boom.

    My friend Jeff, who owns a mind that is twisted and subtle and malevolent, said that there must be some way for the Spice or Playboy channel to have a strip poker show. But hotties shedding their outerwear just isn't enough for me--wait, let me rephrase that. I'm TOTALLY fine with that, but if the poker adds nothing but an excuse to delay the disrobing, why have it at all? I must set my mind to creating a show that not only combines the skill of poker with the allure of barely-clothed women, but REQUIRES both these elements. I'll take my time with it, trust me.

    Sunday, April 10, 2005

    Some Random Thoughts

    An evening spent writing (yes, I party hard) so why not end the night by writing some more? Beautiful day in the 'Burgh, which I spent part of laboring in the back yard. "Pave suburbia", that's the bumper sticker I want. I have goddam mint growing everywhere and this goddam lemongrassy stuff everywhere and it's indescructable. I dig it up, I poison it, I spit on it, I curse it. With no success. Short of calling in an airstrike I don't know what to do.

    I watched the NCAA hockey game tonight, which only reinforced to me how much I miss the NHL. I know I'm only one of 17 people south of the border who feel this way, but even though my Penguins might have been El Stinko this year there's little in sports that can match the glory that is the Stanley Cup playoffs. And is there an announcing group in any sport that can match Gary Thorne, Barry Melrose, Darren Pang, Bill Clement, and Brian Engblum? The answer is no. ESPN should have had Melrose calling the NIT games, the Women's NCAA, bowling, curling...get this man out of storage and back in front of a microphone.

    So I sort-of watched the game while I worked, and they have a gizmo called "dasher-cam" that's I've heard about. It's a camera mounted on a track along the side boards, and it can zoom back and forth and give you a really neat view of the ice. Smart move, the NHL needs to make the game more attractive for TV. The only thing is, the dasher-cam gave me motion sickness. I'd watch a 3-on-2 break and the camera would glide along and I'd feel my stomach go "blurdy-blurp". It didn't happen every time, but a couple of times I had to look away else I turn green. And I'm not the sort who normally feels this way. I played "Doom" and "Quake" and all those first-person shooter games with nary a hard swallow. Maybe it was just something I ate.

    So, my stomach feeling queasy, I decided to watch The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. I know, what was I thinking? This being a movie that's liable to put you off eating for about a month. Have you seen this movie? I absolutely loved it. If you thought it was the worst thing you have ever seen in your life, I'd understand where you were coming from.

    Iwas discussing the movie with a friend once and someone asked me, "What's it about?"'s

    It's not a film that lends itself to a simple plot synopsis. Suffice to say, this is NOT a movie to rent for a first date. This bears repeating: Do NOT rent The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover if you and a special someone are getting together for the first time. Don't say I didn't warn you. The conversation that follows will move in directions that you and your friend may not want to venture to yet.

    Tomorrow (well, today) I'm heading to my parents' house for a little family poker game. My dad, brother, a collection of uncles and cousins. We'll play the usual ludicrous games with nine wild cards, the kind where you make a king-high straight flush with one card to come and you muck your hand because you have NO CHANCE to win. A few beers, a nice sandwich or two, and some Boston Cream Pie. I don't know why, but whenever we have a family poker game there's always Boston Cream Pie. I think my Uncle Bob likes it. I plan on getting nicely drunk and enjoying the clink of chips and the waxy feel of fresh cards.

    Flipping around, the Battle of the Sexes is on GSN again. I forgot how much I hated the announcers. That show sucked, the newest incarnation of the Poker Superstars sucks, I haven't seen the new celebrity poker show yet, so I cannot say yet if it sucks. When I find out if it sucks, I'll let you know. Hey, here's an idea for a future post--what poker show should they be putting on out there? Instead of these contrived teams or ludicrous blind structures or celebrity slogfests? Have to think about this one a bit.

    Sorry I haven't been posting much lately, I have two articles I'm finishing up and maybe even the odd short story will be done soon. Maybe get up early to finish the one up. I hate having half-written stuff hanging over me. It really weighs on me. I'd love to be locked up in a cabin for about a week to finish all the stuf I have hanging in limbo. Like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

    Wednesday, April 06, 2005

    Losing With Grace Is For Losers

    I played a 3-table SNG a few days ago, the last poker I'll be playing for awhile. We were down to 10, one more to go before the final table, and I was low on chips. I was dealt the AQ of spades, raised, and my one caller had about the same size stack as myself. The flop came 8-7-2, with the eight and the deuce spades. I checked, the other guy bet $200, and I raised to $800. I was prepared to go all the way with my flush draw and two overcards, and when he put in another $400 to put me all-in of course I called. I expected to see a set, or at least an overpair. Nope. He had 9-10 offsuit. I was stunned. I was positively poleaxed when a red Jack appeared on the turn and knocked me out.

    I went bonkers. I don't usually get too upset when I play, usually I confine myself to a muttered "motherfucker" when I get sucked out bad. But this time I flipped. I jumped out of my seat, threw my hat across the room, and let loose what I have to say was a pretty eloquent stream of obscenitites. I don't think I repeated a word for about 15 seconds, I brought the full arsenal to bear.

    This was five bucks I lost. I wonder how I would react if I lost five-hundred grand, as I just watched Layne Flack do in tonight's WPT Aruba tourney. Flack was feeling pretty good with his pair of nines against Erick Brenes' deuces, but Flack's merry teasing came to an abrupt halt when a third duck popped up on the turn. A two-outer that cost him half-a-million. Flack clenched his jaw, probably clenched a few other orifaces, and shook Brenes' hand.

    Mike Matusow didn't do quite as well, bemoaning his fate in typical Mike the Mouth fashion, and convieniently ignoring the fact that he'd nailed Flack on the river with a 9-1 shot earlier on. But when Brenes hit a five-outer on the river to take Matusow out, I don't think you can fault Mike's conduct too much. He bitched a bit about how he loses this way every time, that he never gets lucky, etc etc. Pretty much boilerplate.

    I wonder how I would react in similar circumstances. I played in a charity tournament last April, and got knocked out when a guy hit a six-outer on the river to beat me. I took it like a champ. At first the dealer thought I'd won (I had two pair, but a queen on the river paired the board, counterfeited my lower pair, and let the other guy outkick me) and he actually started to push the chips my way. I knew I'd lost, stood up, shook the hand of the guy who sucked out, and wished everyone good luck.

    I walked to the bar...well, I ended up in the bar. I don't recall exactly how I got there. I was in a bit of a daze. I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl inside my bottle of Bud. Some of the players I'd been up against had been submoronic, and they were still in while I was out.

    This was a $100 buy-in tourament. I was a long, long way from the money. Losing $500K to such a bad beat would, I think, paralyze me with horror. Flack looked like he'd taken a punch to the gut, which is how incredibly bad news usually feels. You feel it in your stomach, and in your knees. I remember how I felt when the girl I was sort-of dating my freshman year of college told me the giggly story of how she'd lost her virginity the week before (years of therapy that followed: six) and it would've been kinder if she'd just speared me in the gut with a hockey stick. The sensation was much the same.

    As they signed off Mike Sexton congratulated Flack for his play, and they passed out bottles of Amber Bock, the official beer of the WPT. I noticed that Flack wasn't holding a bottle, which is a good thing, as the recent Card Player cover story on him mentioned that he'd gone through a rehab program. One wonders what might have happened if Flack had won, since I'd hope Shana would have the good taste not to hand him a bottle. Instead he stood there with his hands stuffed in his pockets, bouncing on his toes, no doubt wanting to get somewhere private so he could either scream, throw something, or get consoled by his daughter and other well-wishers. Of course, he did win half a million, which is, uh, only half of a million, but not chicken feed either. So that might have softened the blow.

    I'd like to think that I would just rap the table, shake hands, and head off to the beach so I could jump in the ocean and drown myself. With dignity, I mean. A 30-second, profanity-laced, FCC-scrutiny-attracting tirade might feel better, but you can always do that after the cameras are turned off. You can have the best of both worlds--look like a stand-up pro for the masses, shriek for mommy later. Some good advice there, if I ever end up on TV.

    Monday, April 04, 2005

    At Least I'm Not Insane

    How often do you describe someone as "insane"? No doubt the answer depends in large part on your personal circumstances. If you work retail, or have teenage children, or watch a lot cable news, you're far more likely to encounter behavior that might be described as "insane". Of course that's just a colloquialism for any bizarre or aberrent or just wacko behavior, as few of us are practicing psychiatrists who carry official rubber stamps with INSANE written in backwards type.

    Diagnosing someone as insane is thankfully not in the hands of the average citizen. If it were, how many people would be walking around free and clear in America? A few thou? No matter how benign and banal you may be, there's someone out there who probably thinks you're a kook. You voted for Bush?! For Kerry?! You VOTED AT ALL? You eat meat? You DON'T eat meat? You think she's hot? You think you can eat that all by yourself? You think the Pirates will win the division this year?

    You must be insane.

    As anyone who watches cop dramas on TV knows, defining insanity is tricky. Any decent trial where the defendent pleads insanity will feature $325-an-hour experts who will testify, alternately, that the accused is a barking moonbat or an icily rational death robot. It's up to the jury to decide which expert is correct, I'm sure the one with the more exquisitely tailored suit getting the benefit of the doubt more often than not.

    There is a working definition of insanity that you might not find in a medical textbook but which has a nice ring of truth about it. It goes like this: "Insanity is performing the same actions repeatedly while expecting different results."

    Not bad. We learn from our mistakes, allegedly, and if we do something and get a negative result and then keep doing the same thing while honestly expecting a positive result, that's not rational. If you stick a wet finger in a light socket because you think your nose will light up like Rudolph's, and instead you wake up a day later in the hospital, that's just stupid. But if the first thing you do when you get home is stick a wet finger in a light socket because you think your nose will light up like Rudolph's, well...

    For the last few weeks I've been that guy. Not electrocuting myself, but I've been performing the same actions while expecting different results. I play poker, badly, and expect to win. And then I play poker, badly, and expect to win. Not only do I play poker badly, but I'm playing badly while watching TV, reading blogs, writing, and shouting at my cats. And yet I keep expecting to win. Am I insane?

    Perhaps. But no longer can we use my poker-playing as part of a diagnosis. Because after some careful and rational thought I've decided to stop playing. Not permanently, but it's going to be awhile before I pick up chips again. I love poker. But lately it hasn't been any fun. I believe it was Doyle Brunson who said that a game doesn't interest him unless the stakes are so high that it hurts to lose. Well, playing at the $.50/$1 tables just hasn't provided the oomph necessary to hold my attention. Playing higher limits makes no sense because I'm playing lousy and I'd just be losing at a faster rate. And even though I've only been losing like three or four bucks a session (and at work I make more than that in an HOUR, easy) those little losses cut me to the quick. I'm one of those hyper-self-critical people who can take a minor mistake and turn it into a hair shirt to be worn for all occasions. Getting nibbled to death by fish I used to bake in a 375-degree oven with a little lemon and onion is fucking with my self-esteem.

    Plus I feel guilty when I play, because there are other things I should be doing. Like writing, which I bitched about not doing enough of in a previous post and was told by a commenter to shut up and go write. Good advice. There are ways of spending my time that have a higher EV than playing penny-ante poker. Hell, just getting more sleep would have a higher EV.

    So, to sum up: Poker is no fun at the moment, I'm playing lousy, the games I play in bore me, and I have more worthwhile activities I need to focus on. The obvious question seems to be, what the hell took you so long? Well, maybe I'm just a little bit insane. Just enough to keep things interesting.

    If anything I'll be writing more, here and in other places and spaces, so the only difference you may notice, dear readers, is that there will be no bad-beat tales here. Someday, when I'm in the right frame of mind, and can adequately bankroll myself, I shall once again return to the fray. But they say that a poker player, if he hopes to be a long-term winner, has to be honest with himself. To be honest, right now I'm not even a fish. I'm bait. I think I just wriggled off the hook.

    Friday, April 01, 2005

    Five Royal Flushes? Not a Bad Hour of Poker

    In the middle of an uberpost Iggy mentioned a brief article on ESPN about a 75-year-old poker player named Allen Hanley, who won one of ESPN's qualifying tournaments by outlasting a field of 1473 players. That's a remarkable feat. But there's an even more stunning fact later on in the piece--Hanley said that, while playing poker in a casino, he oncehi five royal flushes in the course of an hour's play.

    Let me repeat that to make sure you get it--he had FIVE ROYAL FLUSHES. IN AN HOUR.

    Iggy suggested ESPN should hire some fact checkers. I decided to go right to the source and e-mailed Andrew Feldman, who wrote the article. I insinuated something along the lines that he needed to have a new bullshit detector installed because the odds against this were something along the lines of eleventeen gazillion to one.

    To my surprise, Andrew wrote me back, politely informing me that, yes, he knows that five royals in an hour is a bit out of the ordinary. But when asked Hanley insisted that it happened, that every time he turned over a royal flush the casino people gave him a jacket (their prize for hitting the hand) and everyone gathered around to make a fuss. So maybe this is a story that's just strange enough to be true.

    But it's pretty strange. I mean, if I hit five royal flushes the first thing I'd do would be to call the good folks at Ripley's Believe it Or Not:

    ME: "Hello, Ripley's? Mean Gene here. Hey, I was playing poker today and I made five royal flushes in an hour."

    RIPLEY'S: "Sorry, don't believe you". (Click)

    Actually, strange isn't the word. Impossible? Uncanny? Spooky? If I hit five royal flushes in an hour, I'd be pretty creeped out. I mean, all that luck, concentrated in such a tiny sliver of time, would make me fearful for the future. And not just because I'd be afraid that the casino operators and/or my fellow players would think I was cheating and drag me to a back room for a date with a hammer. And I mean the ball-peen sort, not the 7-2 offsuit variety.

    Could you ever, ever, bitch about a bad beat again? Your buddy goes runner-runner to make a flush, you say your goddams and bullshits, and he says, "How can you complain? You had five royal flushes in one hour. Shut the hell up". You could slip into a variance trough three years deep and still not get so much as a sympathtic nod. You'd walk by with that thousand-yard stare after your 397th consecutive losing session and hear someone mutter, "Five royal flushes in an hour...lucky bastard".

    Would that fear spread to life beyond the poker table? Is Luck parcelled out at birth, some of us getting a healthy pour, others merely a splash? How much of that luck would you use up spiking five royals in 60 minutes? Hanley seems to have done all right--he's 75 years old and still winning poker tournaments. But if I got a third royal and then looked down at the ace and king of spades the next deal, I might have to fold that hand. Because the jitters would start coming. What if I make ANOTHER royal flush? Does this insane luck herald my imminent death? Tomorrow, are people going to be saying, "Ah, poor Geno, made five royal flushes in an hour but couldn't avoid that out-of-control Good Humor van. Never got to buy that Scooter Crunch with his winnings...".

    What are the odds of making five royal flushes in an hour? Long. The odds are long. Let me steal some info from Jeremy from Love and Casino War. You'd expect to make a royal flush in Hold-Em every 30,940 hands. Playing in your average cardroom, where they deal about 35 hands an hour, you should see one royal flush every 884 hours. So, to hit 5 royal flushes, you'd expect to wait 154,700 hands and 4420 hours. So, while Hanley hit five royal flushes in one hour, the odds say it would take 185 DAYS playing non-stop to expect the same result. If you extend that to playing a reasonable 8 hours every day (let's see, we multiply by three...) we would expect to turn over five royal flushes in 552 days.

    One hour. Five-hundred and fifty-two days. Stunning. But no matter the activity, if you have a big enough sample size you're going to see some unusual results. If there have been tens of billions poker hands dealt throughout the universe since the game was invented, it stands to reason that a bizarre outlier like five royals in an hour might pop up. And it makes even more sense that, when such a miracle took place, it didn't happen to me. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

    Play Poker Online
    Play Poker Online at Full Tilt Poker
    Learn, Chat, and Play with the Pros at the fastest growing Online Poker Room.


    Play Poker Online at Blind Bet Poker. Bonuses and promotions by online poker rooms like Doyles Room, Titan Poker, Full Tilt Poker and Noble Poker. Poker strategy for beginners, advanced, and professional poker players. A poker terminology section, news & online poker tournaments.

    Poker Forums
    Definitive online poker portal, featuring a poker odds calculator, poker forums, an excellent poker bonus code section with deposit bonuses.

    Full Tilt Poker Freerolls
    Party Poker Strategy Guide

    The 2006 WSOP
    Total Coverage
    From the Urinals to the Hooker Bar



    Poker Savvy