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
"Moneymaker"
"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
LasVegasVegas
Anisotropy
Felicia
AlCan'tHang
EvaCanHang
Poker Grub
Maudie
StudioGlyphic
PokErrata
The Fat Guy
Todd Commish
Drizztdj
SirFWALGMan
Poker Works
Bill Rini
Bad Blood
Love and Casino War
Double As
Lion Tales
Paul Phillips
Daniel Negreanu
Ftrain
Poker Nerd
Poker Nation
Ammbo
Poker in Arrears
DonkeyPuncher
Human Head
Sound of a Suckout
Chicks With Chips
TP's Table Talk
Royal Poker
This is Not A Poker Blog
Dragonystic
Daddy
Chick and a Chair
Mourn
Go Be Rude
JoeSpeaker
Poker Cheapskate
Meek
Mr.Parx
Change100
PokerWolf
Haley
Falstaff
Gydyon
Franklstein
Poker & Other Stuff
Seven Two
Musical Poker
Kipper
WPBT Online
Isabelle Mercier
Cardschat Blog
Amy Calistri
BJ Nemeth
Annie's Blog

Poker Sites

Cardschat Poker Forum
PokerMagazine
Barstool Sports
Card Player
PokerTV
TwoPlusTwo
Internet Texas Hold-Em
Poker Pages
Poker-News

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    Thursday, June 30, 2005

    Hard to Keep the Chin Up

    Read two very discouraging blog posts today. First, from Matt Matros, writing about a conversation he had with a friend:

    ...and about half an hour into our conversation it occured to him that he'd never explained to me why it's optimal to bet Pi/4 of your hands in the infinite pot hi-lo [0,1] game with no check-raise. (Bill, along with his poker-thought partner Jerrod Ankenman, has spent a lot of time studying variants of this game. You can check out some of their results here.) Yes that's right, the ratio of a circle's diameter to its circumference comes into play when determining what fraction of your hands to bet in certain poker situations. Bill found a piece of paper and a pen and drew out the whole proof for me.

    Terrific. I pretty much have addition and subtraction down pat, and multiplying and dividing only occasionally give me a headache. But fuck all if I have to start doing calculations involving Pi at the poker table. Forget it. Matros and Paul Phillips often talk about how they calculate the EV of situations and whether they're mathematically correct to call, fold, or raise. And I can follow the math. I understand where they're coming from. But I would need a ream of paper, several sturdy pencils, an eraser the size of my fist, and a towel for wiping my brow before I could run the numbers myself. And even then there's no way in hell I'd actually think that I got the numbers right, certainly not well enough to risk my chips.

    At the poker table I'd be like those kids you used to see on TV long ago advertising some weird manual calculating system--you know, they'd give this adorable 7-year-old Korean girl nine 4-digit numbers to multiply and she'd thump her fingers on the table in some bizarre pattern and, four seconds later, come up with the answer. I'd have to learn that system to have a chance. Or have my friend Jim sweat me so I could flash my cards and let him crunch the numbers for me. I think it's time to put whatever dreams I had of being a world class poker players (or fighter pilot, or President) to rest.

    So I'm already down when I read Pauly's latest post. I always save his WSOP reports for last, and I figure this will cheer me up. And then I read this:

    Bouncin Round the Room: I'm tired, exhausted, overworked, eating horribly, drinking too much, and I starting to get a little bummed out about some personal things. During the last break, I went for a walk and on my way back, I found myself in the long corridor connecting the casino to the convention center where the WSOP was being played. The hallway was empty aand I had my head down. At the last moment I looked up and saw the angelic Isabelle Mercier sauntering my way. She cracked a smile and as I caught a wiff of her tantilizing perfume I uttered, "Bon soir."

    She said the same thing back to me as her smile widened twofold. I kept walking and all of a sudden forgot about my problems.

    "Bon fucking soir?" Where the hell did he pull THAT one from? You understand my consternation, yes? This would be like me walking past Katie Holmes and asking if she wanted to go sailing. Not that I can imagine a scenario where I'd find myself in the same corridor as Katie Holmes, especially without Tom Cruise bouncing around like he's hepped up on pixie dust.

    OK. Deep breaths. Think cool thoughts. Ahhhh.


    Wednesday, June 29, 2005

    As Promised...

    My new column is up at Barstool Sports. Those of who who have been reading this blog for some time probably know better than to take my advice, but let me say that a visit to read my column would not be a total waste of your time--the cover girl this month is really, really cute. Really cute. Indeed.

    I feel at times that I've neglected this here blog. I need to massively update my blogroll. I still have a few layout issues that need tweaking. And I feel I need to post more. Though when I checked I do average a post every other day, which isn't bad. But of course quality always trumps quantity, and I don't think I've kept up my allegedly high standards. Part of that is because I'm writing for other sites and that's taking up a lot of my intellectual energy. Actually, that's the main reason. I'm still cranking, it's just not all showing up here. Which I don't think is a good enough excuse. More work, less...beer? No. Sloth, that's the word.

    I mentioned before that I've been working on some fiction, one part of the story is done, the other is mostly done but I've had to go back and rework it a bit. I hope to get it finished this weekend so I can get this metaphorical elephant off my back. But for now, check out the column, check out...Kim, that's her name. "Draping yourself in the flag" is usually a euphemism, but in her case I prefer the literal to the figurative.


    Tuesday, June 28, 2005

    Some NBA Draft Thoughts

    Sometimes your teams stinks, or your team lucks out in the lottery, and there's a Tim Duncan waiting for you. And sometimes, instead, you end up with Andrew Bogut. Bogut will probably be a decent pro, but compare him with, oh, Duncan and Shaq and Lebron James. Actually, don't bother.

    I remember watching Deron Williams play in the NCAA tournament and thinking he was gonna make a dynamite pro--plays defense, makes every big shot, physical enough to drive the lane. I didn't think he'd end up the 3rd pick in the draft, especially ahead of Chris Paul, but as the lithe Paul needs to seriously hit the buffet the Jazz may have decided the bulkier Williams was the better fit.

    I loved how the Suns drafted the diminutive Washington PG Nate Robinson, and the whole ESPN crew raved about how fantastic a pick it was...and then that killjoy Ric Bucher comes in and says that the Suns traded him. I figured the ESPN folks wouldn't be nearly as interesting as the TBS announcers used to be, and I was right, as there's no substitute for Hubie Brown and Charles Barkley. But I was stunned at how awful they really were. Tirico ran the show without the wheels coming off, buy Jay Bilas, by my count, described 47 of the draft choices as being "long". That was the buzzword this year--guys were long. And no, not in that way. Long arms, long legs...Bilas just did it again with the last pick, Alex Acker. "He's long," Bilas said as predictably as the proprietor in the Monty Python "Cheese Shop" skit. "He's got good length". Bilas didn't even bother coming up with any synonyms for "long". I mean, for Chrissake, these guys are top-flight basketball players. OF COURSE they're "long".

    I'm amazed at the total comtempt Russ Granik shows the fans when he announces the picks in the second round. The deputy commissioner does this every year, he looks into the camera like he's being forced to critique how well the domestic staff cleaned the silver. He read the last name, said "Good night everyone" and turned on his heel before the words were out of his mouth. A perpetual look of distaste.

    Steven A. Smith, one of ESPN's resident Insane People (Skip Bayless is another--I imagine a circle of Hell where Smith and Bayless do their "New School/Old School schtick for eternity. Sisyphus was a crybaby) was fairly subdued, other excoriating Toronto for their inexplicable pick of all-world underachiever Charlie Villaneuva.

    Speaking of all-world underachievers, Pitt's Chris Taft was taken in the middle of the 2nd-round. This after there was talk he would be drafted in the top five when he declared after the season. The ESPN talking heads cried over and over about how these kids (especially the high school kids who didn't go to the 2nd round) received terrible advice, that the people saying they'd go in the lottery didn't have a clue. Then perhaps they'd like to explain how just a few weeks ago ESPN's Chad Ford had a mock draft showing Taft going in the lottery to the Knicks.

    Here's a point that I think is important but I've never heard addressed--why are these kids punished for hiring an agent? Can someone explain to me why someone should be punished for hiring legal representation? And that's what an agent is--he's your lawyer. He's there to negotiate contracts. He's there to protect your interests. You have these 18-year-old kids who've never had anyone say "no" to them before, they think they're about to fulfil their livelong dream and play hoops for megabucks, yet if they sign with an agent they lose the right to pull their name out of the draft and go to school.

    Don't get me wrong--agents are evil. Jerry Maguire was a movie about an evil person. Drew Rosenhaus was almost certainly educated by a pack of jackals. But unlike creatures such as Sean Hannity and Nancy Grace, sports agents are a necessary evil. Most sports owners are evil themselves, so these two Dark Forces battle and cancel each other out, allowing us to occasionally enjoy the games. There's no way high school kids and their families should be foreced to make such momentous decisions without the help of experienced counsel. With, in fact, that help being illegal. It's unAmerican.

    Who had the best draft? Who knows? The ESPN folks thought Denver had a great draft, but then the Nuggets up and traded away Jarret Jack. Charlotte got two Carolina grads and Dick Vitale thought that was a good thing, but can Felton shoot and May defend well enough to justify that praise? We'll see. Though I can't imagine the Clippers taking some teenaged Russian named Korolev or something instead of the girthy May. Oh, wait. They're the Clippers. Now it all makes sense.

    A dry sports period looms, espeically for an alleged Pirate fan like myself. I can't get interested in baseball till mid-September. I like watching NASCAR, though I don't really have a favorite driver and don't care who wins. Golf? I can't get emotionally involved in a friggin' golf tournament. Tennis? I can get involved watching Maria Sharapova play, but it's not exactly an emotional attachment.

    I think Steeler training camp opens in late July. OK, just a month or so to go.


    Why My Column Kicks Jim McManus's Column's Ass

    Well, the headline should get your attention anyway. Jim McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street, is writing a poker column for the New York Times called, well, "Poker". His first effort, well, sucked. Blah blah, poker reflects the heart and mind of America, blah blah, riverboat gamblers, blah blah, Hold-Em is intrinsically beautiful...it's more an introduction to a column than a column itself. So I give Jimbo a pass on this one, which I'm sure will ease his troubled mind.

    I have enjoyed the journal McManus is keeping while he's at the World Series, but as I read I keep rooting for him to get knocked out so he'll put on his reporter cap and write about something other than his own play. Because I don't want to read hand-histories in the goddam New York Times, I want to read something new and interesting.

    Like in MY column, which is about to come out with its third installment. The subject--when it's appropriate to fold after you've flopped a royal flush. Don't think you'll see too many folks in the mainstream media taking that subject on. That's because I'm hard-core, people.

    Another reason my column is superior to McManus's (what's the rule for possessives on a name ending in "s"? I always put the apostrophe after the "s", I don't think anyone's name should get shortchanged) is that while his writing appears in a publication nicknamed "The Gray Lady", mine is found in a publication featuring attractive young women in living color. These are MY reasons, of course; I'm sure the New York Times has other qualities to recommend itself.

    Now go read Pauly and Otis and the Prof and Flipchip for the real WSOP coverage deal. Those boys are livin' La Vida Loca, which of course is Spanish for "Vitamin D and sleep deprived".


    Saturday, June 25, 2005

    Panic Trifecta

    An easy, breezy day today. It's like 95 degrees in the 'Burgh so I saved my yardwork for the early evening. Took a late shower and went to Borders for Mocha Freeze and read Aces and Kings by Brad Reagan and Michael Kaplan. I didn't read the whole thing in one sitting, mind you, just a few sections. Didn't buy it, either, sorry guys. Good book, tho, I certainly recommend it. As I recommend The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King by Michael Craig. That's actually the book I planned on reading as I sipped my icy delight, but various bastards went and BOUGHT all the extant copies.

    An enjoyable time, despite two morons intruding on my personal space by jawing loudly on their cell phones while I tried to read. I understand that Borders isn't a library (though I obviously use it as one), but if you're going to talk on your cell, at least have the decency to keep your voice at conversational levels. I had to endure a pretty blonde giggling as some guy made a booty call and some self-important jackass declaiming in detail about his displeasure at a co-worker's recent conduct. Bitching about assholes and their cell phones is so cliche, but although it pisses so many people off there's no socially acceptable response to those who use their phones in inappropriate places. My suggestion--a polite request to desist, and then hit them with the pepper spray.

    So I'm driving home, and just before I turn onto the road leading up to my house a car coming the other way flies past me at, oh, 80 MPH. Two seconds later the interior of my car is flooded with flashing red and blue light. I hadn't noticed that the motorcycle following me was a cop, and he hits his siren and the paranoia hits and I start imagining corpses in my trunk and shrink-wrapped kilos secreted in the upholstery. Of course the cop soon wheels 'round and sets of in pursuit of the aforementioned leadfoot, but as I turn onto Middle Road my heart's still going pretty good.

    And it goes even better when a friggin' deer leaps out of the woods and crosses the road about 15 yards in front of me. I stand on the brakes and the idiot animal stands there and watches as 2000 pounds of metal hurtles toward her. I fishtail a bit but manage to stop about 3 feet short of making a big deery mess. She scampers off and I take yet another deep breath.

    And then, about 10 goddam seconds later, there's this flash of light to my left and all of a sudden there's a popping noise above me and more light and more popping and I nearly jump out of my seat, a real trick when you're driving a car. Assholes in the house I was about to pass were setting off a Roman candle pointed at the road. That's cute. Pity that it's illegal to own a 155mm howitzer, as I'd probably own one and would even now be programming grid coordinates to drop a few shells in their backyard. Just to keep the joke going.


    Thursday, June 23, 2005

    Kindness and Decency

    Not words you often hear used in conjunction with poker players. A few days ago I wrote about Pauly getting Marcel Luske to call Charlie Tuttle, a blogger suffering from cancer who's best friends with Jason. Charlie passed away yesterday, and like everyone I was sad to hear it. In the last few days before he died a lot of people in the poker community did some very kind things for Charlie, acts of simple decency that mean a lot when someone is about to pass on. Rather than recount them here, go read those who were actually there and got various balls rolling.

    Pauly

    Pauly, again

    Felicia

    If there'a Pulitzer for poker journalism Pauly should win it this year. And then he goes and plays in a WSOP event and gets sucked out on the river, AK vs A-10. There's no such thing as karma.


    Monday, June 20, 2005

    Poker, High Stakes and Low

    This is allegedly a poker blog, so before I begin I'd like to once again point you to the indefatigable Pauly slaving away at the Rio covering the World Series of Poker. While I'm enjoying his tales of urinating next to Howard Lederer (in the bathroom, I mean--Pauly's not walking up to the Poker Professor and relieving himself on the carpet) and his many pictures of Isabelle Mercier, I look forward even more to hearing more about his wacky neighbors. Today Pauly talked to a young lady with bowling-ball sized breasts. Actually, that alone is story enough.

    So hit the following links for all your WSOP needs:

    World Series of Poker Live blog

    World Series of Poker Photo Gallery

    World Series of Poker News

    World Series of Poker Podcast

    Oh, and Otis is out there too, I'm sure keeping Pauly in line. Heh.

    Back to the original content. My wife's out of town visiting family for a week, so while the cat's away, this mouse shall play. I gathered a few friends together and got a little poker game together, the first time I've had live cards in my hand since last summer. It was hardly an intense game--many beers were drunk, many cheese curls (ed--originally I wrote "girls". talk about a Freudian slip) eaten, and the tough laydowns could probably be counted on a single extended middle finger.

    We played a ring game for the first few hours, and the cards were hitting me in the face. Twice I went runner-runner to make trips by the river, and when I was dealt my lucky hand (pocket tens) I hit my set on the river to win a nice pot from Mark. I think the biggest pot of the night was when I held K-7, made trip kings on the flop, hit a seven on the turn, and got paid off by Mark who was chasing a flush. I more than doubled my buy-in, which sounds a lot better than saying I won twelve bucks. And I did show down the Hammer once, marking my territory as it were.

    We then played a $10 tournament, and I knew I was screwed when we switched decks. Bad karma. I didn't get a hand worth playing, which didn't mean I didn't play a few. My brother built a big stack which grew bigger when his KK beat Matt's JJ. I needed to double up to get well, and when I was dealt JJ I figured now was the time. Ryan had AK this time, your classic race situation. No ace or king appeared, and a jack hit on the river...the jack of clubs. Unfortunately, that put a four flush on the board, and while Ryan and I were too polluted at that point to see he had the king of clubs, Ted wasn't, and that was the end of me. My brother went on to win the thing, bastard. Even flashed the Hammer to me once. Bastard. Friggin' jack of clubs.


    Thursday, June 16, 2005

    Partial Nudity and Alleged Journalism

    My second column is up at Barstool Sports, where the cover girl is wearing, or not wearing, rather an interesting outfit. I wonder if there's a market in Pittsburgh for a sports/gambling/chicks magazine that would allow me to walk up to attractive young women and ask if they want to pose for me in various states of d├ęshabille?

    Not to sound mawkish, but if you want to read something uplifting check out this post from Pauly. If the Poker Gods exist they should shower Marcel Luske with chips this year. Hopefully we'll be hearing more good news about Charlie in the future.

    What else? Oh, Mike Tyson lost last Saturday night to Kevin McBride. Isn't he the guy Scotty Nguyen beat to win the 1998 WSOP? They're not the same guy? You're sure?

    There's been wall-to-wall coverage of the girl missing in Aruba. It's a terrible thing, for her family and community, but again Big Media has decided that a missing girl is worth 24/7 coverage while, oh, the war in Iraq and al-Qaeda and the economy is worth about 15 seconds apiece. Here's a question--from what I've read 120 students from this high school went on a chaperoned trip to Aruba to celebrate their graduation. Um, I guess high schools have changed a bit since I graduated. When I graduated my high school did...dick. We had a ceremony and then they ordered us off the property. Me and my buddies went crazy and played a quick 9 holes after our last day of school (and I had to hustle to work after that).

    Going off to the Caribbean seems remarkably indulgent. I mean, in five years, are you going to see diplomas handed out during graduation keggers while strippers wearing only their mortar boards give lap dances to the valedictorian? Graduating from high school doesn't impress me. I graduated from high school. When you get your second Ph.D, then we'll hit the beach. Beyond that, I'm sorry, an afternoon at the water slide should suffice for the newly-minted high school grad.


    Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    When NOT To Gamble

    I like playing poker, but I'm not much of a gambler. I haven't liked horse racing since I took a pony ride as a kid and the animal deposited a fragrant 13-pound dump next to a girl I was sweet on. I can't calculate the tip on a dinner check in my head, so how am I gonna count cards at blackjack?

    But last night I decided to gamble it up a little bit--and I lost. Oh, how I lost.

    Went to a local sports bar to watch my Bucs battle the Evil Empire. I was in the mood for a burger, and after all the trip reports I've read it's no wonder that I settled on one called the "Las Vegas Burger". Bacon, BBQ sauce, chedder cheese. Sounded like a winner. Plus, and here's the tricky part, after you finish you get to roll the dice to see how much you have to pay. Roll a seven, it's $3.99. Roll an eleven, it's free. Anything else, seven bucks.

    Well, all right! Let's gamble, baby. Ate the burger, it was very good. As were the fries. Good dinner. My third beer was about to meet its destiny when our very pretty waitress came up with the hostess and the dice. All eyes turned to Mean Gene, who gave the bones a little shake, found a clear spot, and made my throw with plenty of wrist.

    The first die settled on five, very nice. The second...came a three. I shot out of my chair and screamed "GODDAMMIT TO FRIGGIN' HELL!!" Well, maybe I exaggerate. "Oh well" is what I think I actually said. I shed no tears.

    There the story would end, if I hadn't woken up at about 4AM covered in sweat and shivering. Yes, I was sick as the proverbial pup. When I took my temperature it said 96.5, which I think means I need a new digital thermometer. I called off work, crashed until 11AM, and spent the rest of the day dealing with a variety of GI issues. Awesome.

    I guess I can't blame the burger with any degree of certainty (I had wings too), but it goes to show, when you gamble, there's always a risk you could lose. Sometimes your shirt...sometimes your lunch.


    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    Fish...They All Taste the Same

    You don't think my beach volleyball crew would lose to a team called "The Fishes", would you? And we didn't. It's a co-ed league, three boys to one girl, tho their ratio was reversed. Which is nice on both a competitive and aestheic level. We didn't play that great, especially with the Wrigley Field-eqse conditions, but a win is a win is a win. The only downside is that my shoulder problem--and it's about time I just started calling it my rotator cuff--gets worse day by day. I took a swing and my shoulder about exploded with pain, all the way down my arm. I can hit relatively pain-free at times, but depending on how I catch the ball there are times it kills me. Add the fact that the ball tends to soak up moisture as the match goes and by the third game it's like trying to spike roundshot. I can hit lefty so-so, but I think I'd better start practicing a bit.

    I've spent the last ten days or so reading all the blogger Vegas reports. Reminds me of Kurosawa's Rashomon, in that we see the same event from many different points of view. Tho I don't think Kurosawa did quite so many shots or lay down the Hammer. Lots of pictures too, which were fun to look at, matching names to faces. I'm still trying to get a decent pic of me on here, for promotional purposes, of course.

    After seeing pictures of Otis both with and without the goatee, did anyone else say that it reminded them of the "South Park" episode where the evil Stan and Kyle come back from the other dimension to bring back evil Cartman? Just wondering.

    This is going to sound weird, but here goes: There were lots and lots of bloggers out there having a good time. Drinking, playing, partying. And there are boy bloggers, and girl bloggers too. And, of course, that's a very good thing.

    Here's the weird part--some sourpusses have compared this little community to a high school clique. As if that's a bad thing. Or, a totally bad thing. But of course it's not high school--it's a collection of like-minded people having fun yada yada yada. Who cares? But. If I found out that a boy blogger, and a girl blogger, like, hooked up or something...I would be totally scandalized. Not that there's anything wrong at all with that, love conquers all and so on. But I would need to sit down with a fan and a glass of lemonade. My stars.

    I had something else to write about...maybe not. I've been working on a short story...but with me the word "short" never applies. I hit 4,000 words and hadn't even gotten to the main part yet. Get out the red pen, cut, cut, cut. I look at 700-page novels and wonder how the hell the author filled all those pages, and then it takes me 25 pages just to get the goddam narrator into the goddam room where the action takes place. Brevity is the soul of wit. Well, maybe that explains things after all.


    Saturday, June 11, 2005

    The Glamorous World of Poker Journalism

    Pauly is working like a galley slave covering the WSOP, you really must check out what he and the Prof and FlipChip are doing out there. He's gonna age about 10 years during the next 40 days. Sounds like he'll get a novel just out of his motel neighbors.

    One of the events you can read about is the $1500 7-card stud tournament, and Dr. Mark Burtman, who's book I reviewed last week, took third place and won $63,180. Like I said, the part of the book I liked the best was when Dr. Burtman was writing about playing big cash games and tournaments, and obviously he knows of what he speaks. I don't think this event is due to be televised, unfortunately. I really liked watching the stud events, even though I haven't a clue about playing the game. Stud hi/lo is my brother's game...oh, crap, today's his birthday. Looks like he's getting a gift-wrapped half-filled bottle of liquor again.

    Speaking of booze, last night me and my wife and a bunch of friends went to Hartwood Acres (which is a big park with a gigantic lawn where they have free concerts all summer) to hear Los Lonely Boys. Good show, good time, even with some lightning and occasional rain. Back to my friends' house to sample another sip of Scotch (forget which kind, though I'm sure Mr. Halverson would approve) and a glass of a Washington state table red that was really fantastic. The word "velvety" would be well-chosen to describe it. I went from cans of Miller Lite to pricey Scotch to fantabulous red wine. Which may explain why I slept in till noon today.

    OK, that's enough. I'm going to link all these WSOP sites in the next day or so (just to make it easier for me to maneuver there myself), but if you like poker, these sites will render you unproductive at work for hours at a time.
    • Tao of Poker, for real-time tournament reporting and various nonsense including what promises to be a month-long drama involving the coked-up stripper-neighbors
    • LasVegasVegas, the Poker Prof and FlipChip providing all sorts of in-depth coverage and lots of pictures...tho so far I think only one of Isabelle Mercier...
    • PokerPlayerNewspaper, whole lotta stuff from the above-mentioned folks as well as the occasional columns from a well-known Internet celebrity
    • Poker Wire, for up-to-the minute chip counts and great reports from Jay Greenspan
    OK, there's my public service announcement for the day. And now...I'm gonna cut my grass. Party on!


    Friday, June 10, 2005

    CNN, I'm Available, Really

    I just read the column John Walters posted yesterday about the WSOP, and there's no reason for me to be this ticked off about yet. And yet I am. I guess I have a problem because I spend a lot of time reading excellent and informed writing about poker, almost all of it produced by folks writing because they enjoy the game, and here's Walters writing for one of the biggest media concerns on Earth seemingly without a clue.

    Walters wrote a number of the articles at CNN about poker being playing on college campuses, articles I didn't think much of. Nor do I think much of this collection of his random WSOP thoughts. He talks about the dramatic increase of players in the Main Event, and he writes, "This year? I was told that the Rio is capping the event at 6,600 entrants..."

    It's the "I was told" that slays me. That the Rio might limit the field to 6,600 has been bandied about for about nine months now. It's as if Peter King, shortly before the start of the NFL season, said, "I was told the Super Bowl is going to be in Detroit this year".

    Walters makes a few more observations that appear insightful but sound business-as-usual to me. Phil Hellmuth was signing autographs? He's been (in)famous enough that people have been asking him for years (and he's been telling us that, too.) If you tell me that people are asking Chau Giang and Miami John Cernuto for their autographs, then I sit up and take notice.

    The part that really riled me was when Walters talks about a conversation between Daniel Negreanu and an "amateur" named Marco Tranello. Negreanu is described by Walters as "(having) the mannerisms of Ed Norton in Rounders". Uh, no he doesn't. Negreanu is at times antic and talkative, but that hardly makes Kid Poker = Worm. Perhaps Walters is trying to establish some cred by showing that, yes, he thinks "Rounders" is, like, the coolest movie of all time. Yeesh.

    Anyway. Walters describes the scene:

    "Then he (Negreanu) looked at the man who'd taken him out and said, "I need some money. You got any money?"

    Tranello looked at him. "Seriously?"

    Negreanu, who has earned millions playing poker since dropping out of high school, replied, "Yeah. I gotta enter a tournament tomorrow." It was a bluff, of course, but Tranello called it. He pulled a thick wad of bills out of his pocket, wrapped by a rubber band, and tossed it to Negreanu. Impressed, Negreanu pulled out five $10s, then tossed the roll back.

    Only at the WSOP."

    Or, only every time those two are hanging out together. See, the amateur "Tranello" is actually Marco Traniello (I once got an F in a journo class for misspelling someone's name), who happens to be the husband of poker pro Jennifer Harman. And if you read Negreanu's blog, you know that he and Jen and Marco hang out a lot together. And that Marco is hardly just some shlub tossing money around. They KNOW each other, Mr. Walters.

    Walters then talks about the final of the College Poker Championship. Displaying the same keen insight into the game he showed in his previous articles, he writes:

    "The pivotal hand occurred when Coughlin was dealt pocket rockets (pair of Aces) and Flood, in the big blind, was dealt an 8d2d (8 of diamonds, 2 of diamonds). Coughlin called. The flop came 2h8h8s, giving Flood a full freakin' house. Flood went all in (more than $200,000 in chips) on the river and Coughlin went with him. Flood doubled up (more than $400,000 in chips) while Coughlin was left with $137,000."

    The writing is unnecessarily clunky, its sufficient to just say "eight of diamonds and deuce of diamonds" and dispense with the 8d2d, and there's no need to say $200,000 "in chips". But that's just me nitpicking. No, what ticks me off is where he says "Coughlin called". Called what? (Actually, re-reading this, I guess he just called the big blind. My bad. But it still could've been made clearer). He has aces, did the guy holding the crap hand raise him? Or did Coughlin slow-play his aces after Flood limped? This makes a difference, people. Is Coughlin a total idiot or was he being cagey and just got unlucky? Again, it'd be as if Peter King wrote, "Donovan McNabb dropped back to pass, and shortly thereafter David Akers kicked the extra point to give the Eagles the lead". What happens in between is important, yes?

    So, CNN, drop me a line and I'll send over a resume. I clean up good, and I work cheap. Pauly and Otis and the Prof are already busy.


    Thursday, June 09, 2005

    A Nguyen-Nguyen Situation

    I can't believe Mike Sexton actually said that during last night's WPT event. Men "The Master" Nguyen went all-in with queens against local dealer Danny Nguyen's jacks...I guess the joke was just sitting there, it would've been a tough laydown to NOT say it. Though I thought it would've been Vince who pulled the trigger.

    Last night's event was, in my opinion, the most bizarre show in WPT history. I was doing other stuff while it was on, but I caught enough to know that something strange was going on. For one thing, Danny Nguyen played, oh, 97% of the hands that were televised. For another, Gus Hansen, the poster boy for loose-aggressive play, proved he's much more than a maniac by playing tighter than a snare drum. At least compared to Nguyen (Danny).

    But what made it bizarre were the quantity and quality of the suckouts. And the at-times inexplicable decisions made by Danny Nguyen. First off, that Nguyen-Nguyen situation ended up in Danny's favor when he spiked a jack on the turn to send Men the Master to the rail muttering darkly to himself. And M the M does look PISSED when he gets sucked out on, let me tell you.

    Danny Nguyen (from now on I'll just call him Nguyen, as he was the only one remaining at the table, Men and Scotty and Mihn and the rest of the veritable army of Nguyens who populate the poker world having been knocked out) then beat Hansen out of a hand where he had just a gutshot draw after the flop, called bets I believe on the flop and turn, hit his straight on the river, and beat a bewildered Gus out of the pot. Another time Nguyen CALLED a not-insubstantial all-in bet with nothing but an inside straight draw. Sexton couldn't believe it.

    Playing that way took its toll, and eventually Nguyen was down to $250K. He was dealt pocket kings, limped for the first time all night, was raised by Gus who held K-10, and went all-in. Hansen called, and when Nguyen showed his cowboys Gus got up and wandered away from the table. The 'ol limp-reraise, and Hansen looked at the ceiling and said "I knew it, I knew it, I knew it".

    The very next hand Nguyen goes all-in with A-7. Shandor Szentkuki, holding AK, naturally calls. Once again, Nguyen is dominated. And after the flop comes K-x-x, there's no escape. He has no flush or straight draw. He needs runner-runner sevens to stay alive. They show the percentages, and for the first time in WPT history we see a "1/2%" listed.

    Do I need to tell you what happened? Bang, bang, two sevens. From reading the tournament reports I knew what was coming, but it still left you shaking your head. Un-freaking-real. Szentkuki took it like a champ, just shaking his head a bit, unlike me, who would've been calling for Mommy.

    Hansen did have a chance to knock Nguyen out, but he only had 2nd pair with no kicker and after Nguyen pushed all-in Gus probably figured that he'd get a better chance to dispose of this maniac later on. But it never happened. And Nguyen won the who shebang when he didn't raise holding an ace and trapped Jay Martens. Jay Martens. Who's a doctor. Meaning you go could with two obvious nicknames--Dr. J, or Doc Martens. Yet his friends nicknamed him "The Statue". Which he did a pretty good impression of. So either his friends disdain obvious nicknames, or they're totally out of the loop culturewise. Eh, who cares?

    Just a wild tournament. Hopefully some mathematically inclined soul will crunch the numbers to determine how unlikely it was the Nguyen would win (win, not Nguyen) with all those underdog hands.

    And the promos for the WPT hit yet another low, as the voiceover had Paul Darden insulting the coiffure of another player at the table. Terrible. Unacceptable. Who do I write to about this?


    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    My New Column Debuts

    Just like me to forget to toot my own horn. I'm writing a poker column for a fine publication up in Boston called Barstool Sports. Their motto is "By the Common Man, For the Common Man", and while it may seem odd that such an elitist snob such as myself would write there, they do have the incredibly redeeming quality of having pictures of girls in bikinis on the cover. Oh, how I've dreamed of having my byline in a publication featuring half-naked girls on the cover...I'm actually having a dream right now. And it's a nice dream, too.

    So check out my first column, hope you enjoy it. As my regular readers would expect, there's no deep thinking about strategy or theory or that crap. No, my first essay is about why you shouldn't wear goddam sunglasses at the table if you're playing low-limit poker.

    I'm also going to (finally) have some poker-related short stories coming up very soon. One's almost done, have a few more in the pipe, have a place to publish them. When they're ready to be unveiled, you shall learn about it here.


    Monday, June 06, 2005

    Let's Mess With the Federal Government!

    I can't think of any circumstance when you'd want to receive a bulky envelope from the Federal Government. Especially these days. But that's what I got on Saturday. Well, actually, the envelope went to my parents house, where I haven't lived for about a decade. Those of you who worry about the Feds turning into an omniscient Orwellian state should rest easy. I've filed taxes with my new addresses about 10 times since I moved, I've had to renew my driver's license three or four times, I applied for duplicate Social Security cards...twice. And the government STILL couldn't keep track of my whereabouts.

    Nor did they update their master database when I sent my reply to their latest missive about a month ago. At that time I was informed that my name had come up for Federal jury duty, and the letter I got Saturday confirmed that fact. Yes, Uncle Sam wants me...to sit in judgement against those he believes have broken his laws.

    Normally, I'd be more than happy to do my civic duty. Jury duty is just that--it's your duty. When your nation calls, you serve. And I'd be more than happy to do my part.

    But. When you get called up by the Feds, you don't just show up for a day, maybe or maybe not get selected, collect your per diem, and walk around town the rest of the afternoon. Federal jury duty, as the letter told me, is a 2-week gig. If you don't get picked on day one, you might be asked to come back the next day. And the next. And the next. And if somehow it's decided you're actually worth to sit on a jury, you might end up on some complex financial dealy or a multi-count drug trial that goes on till Christmas.

    Which presents a problem for me, because I'm a temp. And as I found out when I got my first letter, they don't pay indentured servants like myself when we're asked to perform our civic duties. So, the letter I got says that if serving would cause financial hardship, you can request that you not serve. You just need to do it in writing, and your employer needs to send documentation saying that you won't get paid. Well, not getting paid for an extended period would be a Bad Thing, not to mention that I might just be replaced if I vanish for a few months.

    So I call the temp agency, speak to them in my most chipper voice, explain my problem, and say that I need something from them, it can even be a printout of their company's policy, so I can send it in.

    The answer I get? "Well, we don't provide any written documentation, for anything."

    Sigh. I sort-of expected this. So many companies are paranoid about, like, communicating with, like, other human beings, that they make ridiculous statements like the one above. "I'm sure this has happened before," I say reasonably. "If you can just fax me the page out of your employee manual, that'd be fine."

    I'm put on hold for about 10 minutes. Sigh, again. I've worked enough customer-servicy jobs to know where this is going to end up. When she gets back on the line to say that I need to call their corporate benefits department I already have pen and paper in hand. I take down the number, call the number, I'm given a different number, call that number, get transferred twice, and end up in someone's voice mail.

    This is going to be a challenge. Today was my nice-guy attempt at the info. Tomorrow I will trot out the dickhead tactics. Just as you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar, nothing cuts through bureaucratic inertia faster than acting like a total prick. That's not my default setting, it takes me some time to rev my engine to the "bastard" setting, but once there I can usually maintain pretty well.

    'Cause I'm not fucking around with the federal government. Not over something like this. When the time comes for me to man the barricades it's not gonna be due to a piece of paper someone doesn't have the wherewithal to push through a fax machine. You don't see statues built for guys like that.


    Welcome to the Working Week!

    Yeah, now I get to hammer back (no pun intended) at those bloggers who just spent a few hyperkinetic days out in Vegas. Though from what I've read in the brief reports posted so far, I have to say it mustn't have been the blowout I anticipated. So far the word "deportation" hasn't been used. Nor has "autopsy". Ehh, I guess y'all had a good time, I guess...

    So welcome back to work, welcome back to those cubicles and those piles of paper you left behind on Thursday! Welcome to my world! Bwhahahahaha!

    Not that I spent the weekend pining over Vegas. Friday...what the hell did I do Friday. Oh, took the wife's car over to get inspected, then grabbed a beer and a bite and did some browsing at Borders. I know, not hugely exciting, but a day that involves a trip to Borders always gets a gold star. Saturday we went to a barbacue at my friend Matt & Kris' house, which means lots of food and wine and beer. Opened a bottle of a nice red I've had for two years (well, I actually put it on the floor under our bar and then stacked cases of pop behind it. So I inadverently aged it). Good stuff. And I also tried Scotch for the first time. It bears further study. Sort of like drinking liquid distilled from a three-alarm warehouse fire.

    So that's my exciting weekend. Oh, took the wife to pick up her car, returned a shirt she got me and ended up getting an equally-priced shirt for $5 (don't know how that happened, didn't ask) and went to Borders again to make it a truly successful weekend. Beer, Borders, wine, more beer, steak, Scotch, more Borders...Vegas Schmegas.

    Looking forward to reading the tens of thousands of words that will be written, and even more so the pictures. It helps to put faces to names. I had my friend Matt take a few pics with his new digital camera, but I don't they were especially flattering of me. Mostly because there was a lot of...light. I need to get some actually usuable pictures of myself to use for my writing, so I may have to groom and coif myself a bit before I subject myself to the lens again. I'm just not photogenic. Or maybe it was Matt's fault. Yes, push the blame on someone else, ooh, that feels nice.


    Sunday, June 05, 2005

    An Explosion of Poker Books

    Went to Borders yesterday, and it was the usual little slice of heaven. Books, books, thousands of books. Including an increasingly massive stack of poker books. Not so long ago I had trouble finding a copy of Gary Carson's Hold-Em Poker. No more. You can stack 'em up to the ceiling now, and it seems that every poker player with a Q-rating over 2 has a book in the works.

    Most of these are strategy guides and/or biographies, but so far there hasn't been much poker fiction published. But I just finished reading A Girl in the Game, by Dr. Mark Burtman, who writes for PokerPages and plays in big-time tournaments. It tells the story of a Tunica pro who meets up with his estranged daughter at an unusual place--his regular poker game. And then from there the father teaches the daughter how to play the game--all the way to the Main Event of the World Series of Poker.

    The best part of the book is when Burtman is giving inside information about what it's like playing in these big events, or in a big cash game. Some of the plot is a bit melodramatic, but if you're looking for something pokery to read other than essays on starting hand selections and game theory, it's a book that might slake your literary thirst.


    Friday, June 03, 2005

    Paul Darden > Phil Hellmuth

    A good cover story on Paul Darden in the most recent issue of Card Player, including an early nominee for Best Quote From A Poker Player 2005. Darden, talking about how he's rebounded this year from a tough run, said:

    "I weathered the storm, and now I am the storm. The cream is going to rise to the top, and this cream is dark."

    Loved that line. Have to find a way to use it at some point. Wouldn't make much sense coming from me, but who cares?

    Contrast that line with this misuse of a cliche in Phil's most recent column about his heads-up battle with Paul Phillips:

    "I would trap him like a fox in a chicken coop by checking all of my strong hands to him."

    I have no idea what Phil is saying here. If he's saying that he's the fox...it makes no sense because once the fox is in the coop, there's no more need for deception. No need for trapping, as the fox will merely use the teeth and claws God gave him to make fricasee. If he's saying that Phillips was the fox, and he was trapping Phillips in the coop...and Phillips is a fox...then Phillips eats the chickens before you get him out. And what good is that? Plus, Hellmuth CAN'T be the fox because in his inane book his said that he's an eagle. Not a mouse, or a jackal, or an elephant, or a lion. Or a fox. No, he's an eagle. So...now my head hurts.

    OK, very brief post. Go read Pauly to get the skinny on what's happening in Vegas. Maybe more from me later. Gotta go.


    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

    Blue Gene

    Had our first beach volleyball game tonight, and "The Underachievers" were victorious. We knew the folks on the team we played, one of whom couldn't make it, and that allowed us to take 2 out of 3 games. Since we only won one match in two years of playing in the competitive league, perhaps playing in the lower, "rec" league is more our speed. Had a good time. The four beers (four? five?) afterwards didn't hurt either. Friggin love playing in the sand and then having some suds. Friggin awesome.

    I'm tired, and moderately drunk. Nah, moderately buzzed. I may have to stay in this state to survive not attending the blogger blowout taking place the next few days. Nah, I'm pretty much over that. I knew I wasn't going all along, so there's no sense of loss involved. Well, the sense of loss ended a few weeks ago. Do you have any idea how hard it is to wash tears out of pillowcases?

    Today (well, let's see if I post this before midnight, probably not) marks the one-year anniversary of me getting laid off from my last job. Went to work (after a hellish Friday before the Memorial Day holiday) and was told my services were no longer needed. Along with a bunch of other people. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, I hated my old job, it had become a waking nightmare, and I got a job making more money without the soul-draining stress and powerlessness. Is that a word? It is now. Anyway, one of the reasons why I'm not going to Vegas is that I'm still a temp, meaning I don't get paid vacation (in the last year I've taken one day off and one sick day). And I'd feel guilty going to Vegas when I was not only losing vacation time but also losing pay.

    See, when I finally go to Vegas, I don't want to feel guilty on the plane ride there. I want to fly west feeling cool and confident and ready to tear it up. It's perfectly fine to fee guilty on the way back. Flying home to Pittsburgh I want to be thinking thoughts like:

    • I can't believe I did that
    • I can't believe I said that
    • I can't believe I drank that
    • I can't believe I paid her to...do...that
    What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. I'm the only pokerblogger in Pittsburgh (am I?) so I could return to my humdrum life without anyone being the wiser. And I'm curious to see what I'd do, under those circumstances.

    So that's why I'm not like every other blogger out there, sleeping in my traveling clothes so I can jump right in the car when my alarm goes off. Beyond the obvious fun I'm going to miss out on, I'm really disappointed that I won't get to meet a lot of interesting people whom I kinda feel like I know really well even if I've never seen them or spoken to them or know what they look like. It's rather an odd situation.

    I'm beat. Two hours of VB and four beers and the usual weight of my despair on my shoulders. I hope to hell yinz have a friggin INCREDIBLE time out there. I look forward to hearing the stories and seeing the pictures. If there's a next time, I hope to be there. As I told Iggy the other day, hopefully by then I'll have my act together enough to join in the fun. Oddly, I've felt optimistic lately, I have the feeling that I'm about to turn some sort of corner. Like something good is about to happen, something's gonna break my way. And as that's not my usual default setting, maybe my intuition is spot on this time. Time will tell.

    But rest assured, at some point over the next few days, when I find an alcoholic beverage in my hand, I will face west and raise my glass/stein/bottle/bucket and toast the mayhem going on just over the horizon. It may be, when all is said and done, that I will be very, very glad that I'm 3000 miles from the jurisdiction of Clark County law enforcement.

    But I doubt it.



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