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

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My Articles

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

My Columns

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

My Greatest Hits

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

Fellow Poker Bloggers

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

Poker Sites

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Poker Pages


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    Thursday, July 29, 2004

    It's all about the hair, baby

    I need a haircut. For most people that's no big deal--you go to the barber/stylist, he/she does his/her magic and you're done. For me that's not so simple. I have a long history of horrible haircut experiences, the last of which has made me consider the possible connection between, of all things, hair and poker. Let me explain.

    The day before I started my new job I decided to get shorn. Now, my old and trusted barber, Tony, is located in a part of the city where I used to live. It's about 30 minutes out of my way to go to his little shop. No big deal, but I should be able to find a barber in my area who can do a decent job. Right?

    So far I've had no luck. I should say, mine is hair not easy to cut. I have razor-straight hair, with about 7 different cowlicks. My hair also grows in several different directions, meaning that the slightest miscalculation can lead to a cascading series of tonsorial disasters. Folks, I have had me some BAD haircuts in my time. And I'm very leery of trying out someone new.

    I tried both barbers at the bottom of the hill I live on, and found one totally unacceptable (he used a razor to cut out my rather large ears, making me look like the lead in the play, "Hey, Look at the Big Dork!") and the other was barely adequate, OK in case of emergency. I went to a hair salon in the shopping center near my house and barely escaped with my life. The woman spent nearly 40 minutes scowling and snipping and scowling some more, obviously flummoxed about what to do next. I think I said 10 times "That's fine, that's just how I want it" in a desperate attempt to get out of her chair. I went to Tony's the next day and had him hack off the damage done.

    See, I go to Tony's, I'm in the chair 10 minutes. We chat about sports, he knows what I want done, and I'm on my way. My hair doesn't look spectacular, but it's pretty doggone good. He's just too far away now. So while I was doing some shopping the day before I went back to work I decided to snoop around the area and choose a place to get snipped.

    What percentage of the American workforce is involved with cutting hair? 30%? 50%? It seems like nearly every storefront that isn't a pizza place has a barber pole. I perused the area, and decided to go to Supercuts, which is a chain that may have shops in your area. I've had moderate success with SC before. There was one near where I used to work, heartily endorsed by a co-worker who had a thing for a borderline jailbait girl who worked there. I went there and, alas, did not get to enjoy this hottie's (haircutting) servies, but I got a non-disasterous haircut. So, what the hell, let's try another one.

    What should have immediately alerted me to the danger was that the oldest employee in the place was perhaps 21 years old. Every girl standing behind a chair and the girl at the counter were just that--girls. I'm a big booster of capitalism, but I think even Adam Smith would argue that a business that relies on a gaggle of girls barely out of their teens chatting and gossiping all day is not a good thing.

    I was introduced to Nicole, who was pretty and wearing a pink A-line skirt. She looked 14. I looked longingly at the exits before putting myself into her hands. The diamond nose ring she wore did little to mature her in my eyes. I explained in general terms what I wanted, and she asked me what size clippers I preferred. Tony asks me this all the time too, and I forget every time. "Uh, 2 1/2?" I said.

    Nicole frowned. "We only have 2 and 3 1/2..." she said, and before I could say that maybe I was mistake she went around and asked every other girl if they had a 2 1/2 attachment. This did little to inspire confidence in her skills, but I calmed myself that maybe she was just doing her absolute best to provide good customer service.

    She returned, I advised her that the other attachment would be fine, and she went to work. Now, other times when my hair has been cut the cutter glides the sheares through my kitten-soft locks and they fall away as goose down to the earth below. Nicole seemed intent on driving the plastic attachment through my skull. I had to brace my neck every time she made another pass through my amber waves. "Now I know what sheep go thru," I baaed to myself.

    While she sheared we chatted, and it turned out that Nicole lives just a half-mile away from me. We agreed that it's a nice place to live, agreed that the weather outside was was all very agreeable. Thing is, I was rapidly approaching panic mode. Nicole put away her buzzsaw and went at me with her scissors, wetting down my hair with a spray bottle. She proceeded to part my hair down the middle instead of on the side. I haven't worn my hair parted in the middle since 1988, and even then my hair didn't like it much. No stylist has used this technique before, and I wondered if she'd either forgotten already what I used to look like or was taking it upon herself to improve my appearance.

    This wouldn't be unprecedented--I might still be parting my hair in the middle and looking ludicrous if a woman at Penn State hadn't, without my consent or prior knowledge, cut my hair one afternoon and put my part back on the side, where it belonged and so sorely wante to be. I owe that sainted woman so very much, though at the time I think I just tipped her a few bucks. She remains a very, very special person in my life.

    Back to the action. I rather nervously advised Nicole that, um, I do part my hair on the side. She smiled and said she knew, she just needed to part it that way to scissor it. I smiled back and started pestering the Virgin Mary with prayer.

    When she was done I felt an all-too-familiar combination of relief and horror. Relief that it wasn't TOO bad--I wouldn't be going to work wearing a baseball cap or, God help me, bald--but it was still pretty sketchy. Another potential replacement for Tony crossed off the list.

    Why, you are doubtless asking yourself and any passersby, do I bother telling you about my goddam haircut? Because, dear reader, in the 3 weeks following said haircut I went on an unprecedented tear at the tables. I made more money in those three weeks than I made in the previous three months. I don't think I've had two losing sessions in a row in that time. I don't think I've had two losing sessions period. I am on fire.

    So, is there a connection between my rather haphazard haircut and my recent poker success? More to the point, is there a connection between those who might be called hair-challenged and poker success. After watching some poker on TV recently I think I might be on to something. Or just on something.

    I watched Thomas "Thunder" Keller both during his WSOP victory and when he played at the Plaza. I can't say that I found his bleached blond locks and "I've been inside winning poker tournaments all summer" pallor a good match. He was involved in one hand with recent WSOP bracelet holder Annie Duke, who was as usual perched upon her chair, leaning over her cards. Her hair fell over her eyes, and then formed a screen obscuring her entire face. An interesting way of hiding your eyes and expression, but it gave Duke what my wife would call a "Cousin It" motif. Not flattering no matter the circumstances.

    Paul Phillips also appeared in the Plaza tournament. When we first saw Paul he was well-coiffed and debonair, but in his second WPT event he'd shaved his head, inducing Vince Van Patten to dub Phillips "Mini-Gus", a reference of course to the smooth-scalped Gus Hansen. One can only hope that Phillips is in the middle of litigation against Van Patten for such an insulting nickname. But when we saw Paul at the Plaza his hair was dyed the same violent fucsia as his T-shirt. Is Paul Phillips trying to become the Dennis Rodman of poker? He's appeared on the WSOP coverage in a hat, a good sign I think. I just don't want to hear that Phillips married Carmen Electra and got his scrotum (or worse) pierced.

    Paul Magril, aka "X-22", the math and backgammon whiz who played in last year's Reno WPT event (quack quack!) looked like his hair had been cut by a weed-whacker wielded by someone with depth-perception issues. Phil Laak, aka "The Unabomber" (he's called that because he wears a hooded sweatshirt at the table and resembles the FBI composite sketch of said Unabomber and not, and I want to stress this, NOT because he kills people by mailing them letter bombs) lowered his hood long during his WPT triumph to show off spiky hair that looked as if it had been dyed not with Clairol #106 but with some kind of solvent used in the tanning of animal hides.

    Daniel Negreanu also apparently bleaches his hair, which, combined with his darker blond goatee, multiple ear piercings, and often manic table demeanor, makes him look like the Eurotrash henchman of some James Bond villian. What I would give to watch Negreanu, in white dinner jacket, play baccarat heads up with Pierce Brosnan (or, now that Brosnan has hung up his Walthier PPK, with Clive Owen, my own choice to be the new Bond). It'd probably be the first time 007 would have to hitchhike home from a casino.

    So I do have some evidence to back up my ludicrous claim. But there's also no denying that hair has a powerful place in male mythology. Samson was the epitome of raw physical strength--until that bitch Delilah chopped off the hair that was the source of his power. The Spartans, perhaps the most feared warriors in history, elaborately dressed their long hair before going into battle. Take the battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans and assorted allies held off hundreds of thousands of Persians for nearly 4 days, in the process killing tens of thousands of King Xerxes' best troops. After four days of horrific struggle, during which the narrow pass known as the "Hot Gates" were turned into a glimpse of Hell, the Persians finally found a way round the pass and surrounded the remaining Spartans. Exhausted, certainly suffering from a myriad of wounds and injuries, and knowing full well that they had no hope of victory or of surviving this day, the Spartans still took the time to perform their typical pre-battle rituals. The Persians no doubt looked on with awe as these fearsome killing machines spent a few of their last moments doing their hair with all the fuss of a girl about to go to her junior prom.

    So, do I get a haircut and risk ending my hot streak, or is looking sleek as an otter worth the risk? I think my play tonight has answered the question for me. Last night I won about $40, with the cards hitting me in the face, and I started to think that maybe some 1980's heavy-metal poodle hair might be a good look to try out. But tonight I've taken it in the chin, dropping aboout $30 thanks to two tough hands where I made top two pair on the river, only to find that the river filled the other guy's straight. The $30 I lost actually equalled the bonus I got from Empire, so maybe my usual bad luck working off my bonuses cancelled out the hair luck. Then again, I just lost another $15 when this moron playing 2-4 offsuit killed me. I think that made up my mind. Gonna be visting Tony tomorrow.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2004

    Apologies, Pleas, Random Musings

    I have a bad habit of starting things and not finishing them. Part of my personality, I know, and something I've been working on. So from now on I'm not promising any monster posts that I don't think I can pull off. Like the David Sklansky screed I promised. Let me explain a wee bit: Sklansky is the author of many seminal (no pun intended, as you'll see) poker books, and he recently wrote something about women being attracted to men who are good at math...what the hell, let me just post what he wrote:

    That thread where I am a little nasty to Lee Jones. More than 10,000 people have now read it. So its hard not to believe that a little nastiness is the best way to get people to sit up and take notice; and is worth doing if the cause is as important as getting people to study math more (by pointing out that Lee's original book was flawed because of his probable lack of math studiousness.) As I said, I will stop at almost nothing to get my point across. And that point is now read by more viewers than any other thread on this forum. Uh, I just double checked that. Not quite true yet. Which brings me to my other point. How many of you were aware that Marilyn Monroe sought out and had sex with Albert Einstein? And that it was not because of the way he dressed or or played the violin. Also how many of you were aware that there is a correlation between math and testosterone levels. Or that social evolutionary theory postualtes that most young women get PHYSICALLY aroused in the presence of intelligent men. I'm not talking money hungry here. It is rather a physical manifestation due to the awareness that the fellow in question will be a good provider for children. Those women who did not have this physical reaction were likely to have died off as their dumb mates couldn't protect their offspring. Thus the majority of those left, inherited an almost insatiable desire to make love to men who demonstrated knowledge in fields like logic or probability.


    This is something that I felt I couldn't just let stand. I mean, this is some funny, funny stuff. So I started writing, and writing, and writing...and found myself with about a 2000-word post and wasn't even half done yet. And around midnight last night I paused and thought, uh, what the hell am I doing? Why am I writing a huge essay on evolutionary theory and modern female sexuality and the very nature of Eros itself...when this is a goddam poker blog? And especially since I don't exactly consider myself an expert on things like evolution and female sexuality? I mean, I know a little, maybe even a lot. Probably just enough to be dangerous to myself and others.

    But is this something I should be spending hours working on? I haven't played poker in 2 nights writing this thing. And the trail is getting colder by the day--for all I know, someone else has already written something both funnier and more incisive than I did.

    I think it was Samuel Johnson who said, "No one but a fool wrote for any reason other than money". Or something along those lines. Well, call me a fool, I don't mind. I think the vast majority of we bloggers are happy fools, clattering away at the keyboards because it gives us pleasure. Sure does to me. But at the same time, I feel the need to focus more of my attention on writing things that may actually contribute to the Geno exchequer. And that's why I need to be a little more selective in what I write about. Spending 20 hours researching and writing an essay that'll only be read by a few hundred people before I post something whiny about a bad beat seems to be rather a waste.

    Not to say that I won't still be writing here a lot, nor that I won't exercise my fingers and write some scathing 9,000-word treatise on, I don't know, Shana Hiatt's lingerie collection. I just need to pick my spots a little more carefully. Do other sorts of writing that I want to do (like that poker novel I'm almost done outlining). Maybe even play a little poker now and then.


    A few weeks ago I wrote about playing poker again up at my friend's house on Indian Lake. I did one of the players there a serious disservice. Not only did our friend Neil win the first tournament of the weekend (I got knocked out early and went into the other room to sulk and pout, and missed his triumph), but he also put we other men to shame by bringing his own keg to the party. No, not a half or quarter or anything grandstandy like that. He got one of those little kegs of German beer you see in your better beer distrbutors. Wheras I merely cracked the tabs on an endless column of Miller Lites, Neil tapped and retapped (and retapped) his own supply of kegged suds. I felt somewhat...inadequate after that.


    A question for all you computer geniuses and IT guys and hackers out there. I need to get a new laptop in the next few months. Well, I need one right now, but I probably won't be looking to make a kill until later in the year. It's been six years since I got my current 233 mHz machine, and I'm a bit behind the times. I want to get a computer that can do everything a computer's supposed to do, but I don't need an uberputer that can run the New York Stock Exchange while it also pilots the Space Shuttle. I just want to play poker, surf the Net, watch DVDs, write on, crunch a few numbers on occasion, and maybe play the occasional game. I'm not making my own movies, I'm not computing pi to the 9 quadrillionth place. How much horsepower do I need, and who do you recommend?


    I've been on a hot streak the last month, rarely posting 2 bad nights in a row and having a week were I nearly doubled my bankroll. The secrets to my success? Well, good cards helped. But I think playing less has helped focus my attention, so that I'm not just playing ABC poker whilst watching TV. I was playing so much that playing bored me somewhat--by playing less, the game is more fun again.

    I've also been placing regularly in Party's multi-table SNGs, which are some plenty tasty games. Not as clinically insane as Party's big tourneys, but still full of giggles and hoots.

    I also had the pleasure of winning a nice pot with the Hammer for the first time in a long time. On the button I had the HeartHammer, and with six limpers decided to toss in a few coppers and see the flop. Which came A-J-9 hearts. The betting was checked around to me and I bet the pot, content to win it right there if I could. Three folks called me. Rag on the turn and we all checked, rag on the river and, when the betting was again check around to me, I tossed in three bucks and got 2 callers. They both had 2 pair, and I raked in a very nice pot with my flush.

    One guy typed, "2-7?".

    I typed, "Hamma time".

    OK, that's enough for now. I do promise a longer, more incisive, and more interesting post very soon. And this is a promise I'll deliver on, unlike that Sklansky mess. Ahh, I'll probably post what I've written someday, once I verify that I can't be sued for any of it.

    Friday, July 23, 2004

    The Gangs of Las Vegas

    I have like a mega-uber post in the works, but can't I just break it up and do a bunch of little ones? I mean, I have to write about the wine festival I went to, a David Sklansky meltdown, the importance bad hair holds in poker, and I'm even considering re-entering the race for President. I have a lot on my plate. Plus my computer is in dire straits, locking up on me nearly every other keystroke. So let's post a tidbit, here.

    Watched the WSOP events on Tuesday, 2 Hold-Em events. Thomas Keller won the $5K event (isn't he the chef at the French Laundry, arguably the best restaurant in the US? I mean, this Keller is a 1570 SAT guy, pianist, Stanford grad, WSOP champ...could be). A guy named Scott Fischman won the other Hold-Em event, while his buddies, including the infamous Dutch Boyd, rooted him on.

    Let's talk about Fischman, Boyd et al. About eight of these gentlemen have formed a group which they call "The Crew", and their intention, as Fischman told us, is to "take over poker". Uh huh. Now, silly braggodacio is common amongst the young, and apparently these Crewmen are no exception. They've had some success, they're young, the sky's the limit.

    The funniest moment from last year's WSOP coverage was watching Phil Hellmuth brush his teeth and stand around with no shirt on. It's gonna take a pretty hysterical scene to top the shot of these skinny white boys walking down a suburban street talking about taking over the poker world. I mean, this is seriously funny stuff. Though I did like the Team Finland hockey jersey the one guy was wearing. Very sharp.

    But then I started to think that maybe this wasn't so funny after all. Because there are other poker gangs out there who might not take this crew's challenge sitting down. If you've been watching the WSOP coverage you've seen many players wearing shirts and jerseys bearing the "Full Tilt Poker" name and logo. Some of the top players in the world--Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, John Juanda, Phil Gordon, Clonie Gowan, Andy Bloch...the list goes on and on--are heavily involved in the site and have formed a sort of cabal of their own. These are some heavy, heavy hitters, man. Are they going to just let these upstarts move in and take over?

    But let's not forget that poker syndicates are hardly an American monopoly. Ignore the threat of the British Hendon Mob and you do so at your own peril. Barry and Ross Boatman, Ram Vaswani, and Joe "The Elegance" Beevers are not the sort of blokes likely to take a back seat to anybody. And since "The Elegance" is about the best nickname in poker right now, they have may have a edge.

    But let's not forget about the triad controlled by that other well-sobriqueted shark, Men "The Master" Nguyen. Men the Master is the mentor of such top quality players as Minh Nguyen, Hon Le, and I think David "The Dragon" Phan is a cousin. You think Men the Master is going to be afraid of someone like Scott Fischman? Especially after four or five Coronas?

    So what's to come of this looming gang war? Are pieces of Dutch Boyd going to start turning up in Dumpsters all over northern New Jersey? Good luck to the cops if that happens--you'll need an auditorium for all the suspects with plausible motives. After watching Chris Ferguson throw playing cards through bananas, pickles, and carrots, are we going to watch him slice off Men the Master's thumb with a well-flicked ace?

    Please, poker players everywhere, stop this madness before it begins! There's plenty to go around. You gotta eat, and let eat. Everyone gets to wet their beak a little. Can't everyone just...get along?

    Wednesday, July 14, 2004

    Iggy's back, but Andy's gone

    I'm only two weeks behind the times in writing about the very sudden and premature death of Andy Glazer, poker writer extraordinaire. Andy's passing last week from a blood clot saddened the entire poker world, and I think the pokerblogging community has an especial reason to miss him because, let's face it, Andy was the guy we all wanted to be. I mean, play tournaments and write about poker...that's what many of we bloggers do, except that we don't get to travel the world (at best I travel from room to room in my house carrying my laptop) or play in the biggest events. He was living our dream, and doing a pretty doggone good job of it at that.

    I read all of Andy's WSOP reports this year and I was actually going to write a parody of his coverage. A good-humored one, to be sure--I was going to gently rip on how on nearly every other hand he had to say, "Now, I don't know exactly what happened here because I didn't get a chance to see everyone's hole cards, but I think...". In a previous post I praised Andy for trying to cover an event that is a logistical nightmare for a reporter, running from table to table, craning your neck trying to see cards from a horrible angle, while ESPN cameras shove you aside so they can get their closeups. When he wasn't sure of his info he told us so, and made sure he got it afterwards and posted it.
    But he was far more than a mere recorder of hand histories. He wrote intelligent and insightful columns, and wasn't afraid to criticize when someone deserved it, which must been trying at times since he was a serious player as well. In his last post he wrote about covering a tournament in Ireland that was apparently a disaster, and he promised that he would go into detail in his next column exactly what went wrong. Sadly, we'll never hear what happened in Andy's own words. Poker is booming right now, but with Andy Glazer's passing we've lost one of the game's finest chronicalers just when we rabid fans needed him most.  
    We can, however, welcome back the prodigal son to the blogging fold. Iggy is back and destroying workplace productivity like never before. And now that I'm actually working again, I can attest that he is a definite drain on the economy. Check out his latest posts for more and better tributes to Andy Glazer, including one written by Phil Hellmuth that I wouldn't dare criticize one iota.
    If you need any other reason to visit Iggy's site, let me inform you that he posted a picture of Maria Shrapnova eating a banana. 'Nuff said.
    No posting for a bit, going to Watkins Glen, NY with a gaggle of friends for the Finger Lakes Wine Festival. Drinking vino for 2 days and buying a few cases. Actually transferred a few hundred out of my poker account for the trip, to give me and my wife some mad money in case there's a Pinot Noir I just HAVE to have. A hopefully drunken and entertaining report will follow.

    Monday, July 12, 2004

    More Lake Action, or How I (Deleted) Misplayed Pocket Nines Again

    One of the reasons I keep this blog, besides the groupies, is to write about my own play and, hopefully, learn from my mistakes. In a recent post I wrote about how I lost a ton of chips in a tournament by misplaying my pocket nines. Well, went away with friends this past weekend and played a little poker and lost a ton of chips by misplaying pocket nines. Am I not paying attention to my own writing? And if I'm not, is anyone else? The signs are not good.

    Let me explain. We went to my friend Rico's lake house in Somerset, PA and started the drinking. The house has a room with a poker table and it didn't take long for us to break out the chips and get the cards in the air. We played for massive stakes, five bucks, with everyone getting $2K in chips. The play is friendly, you don't see a lot of big raising preflop, lots of limping. Friendly game. And that's why my pocket aces and pocket kings got busted, because I didn't raise enough to lose the chasers. Tho, after about 17 beers, I don't think I could've shook anyone even if I'd thrown up in the pot.

    First tourney I got knocked out early. Second tourney...was that the one I won? Shit, I don't even remember. I built up a big stack, hammered my outgunned opponents, and ended up beating Scott when I pulled a king on the river to beat his pocket...sevens? I remember I had two overcards when I called. If we'd had Mike Sexton chained to the wall he would've described it as a "classic race situation". But we didn't.

    Up till 4AM that night, collapsed on the couch and slept a dark, dreamless sleep. My wife went out wakeboarding early that morn and sprained her ankle bad, laying her up for the rest of the weekend (and beyond). I went out on the boat myself, did a little tubing, road the jetski, pitched a few horseshoes, and then I went up to watch Mark make dinner. This is the same Mark who accompanied me on our NFL Draft Odyssey, which ended up a minor debacle. For dinner Mark was making Beer Can Chicken, which, if you're not in the know, involves a half-emptied beer can shoved inside a chicken's, uh, cavity, and then roasted on the grill. There are actually special cast-iron holders that have a space to stick the can in to ensure the bird stays upright. America is a wonderful goddam country, isn't it?

    Anyway, Mark wasn't merely making Beer Can Chicken. He was making six BCCs, giving we 13 people dibs on about half a bird. Mark loaded the grill with poultry and figured it would take a couple of hours before paydirt.

    There are few things on earth that smell better than roasting chicken. That golden skin, the dripping fat. It didn't take long for those chickens to start exuding that magical odor. "Just a little bit more," Mark said, impaling a bird with a thermometer.

    There were still people out on the boat, so our friend Kris went to work making a variety of potatoes. "Just a few more minutes," Mark said. "Hope they get back soon."

    They got back. "Just a bit longer," Mark said, raising the lid of the grill to baste the birds. Now, I like chicken. Roasting chicken. Like it a lot. And being swathed in a miasma of chickeny vapors was getting to me. Mark went in to let Kris know the chickens were taking their goddam time cooking and she might want to delay the taters, and he told me to baste. I drizzled juice all over that golden skin and fought the very powerful urge to drink the sizzling hot liquid.

    Mark checked the birds. "Man, this is taking longer than I expected." No shit! I'm getting close to scraping the carmelized goo off the foil and spreading it on toast.

    At last, the first bird was ready for carving. A few of us gathered around the cutting board and filched scraps of flesh that fell from the bones. When the bird was properly dissected (Mark's a doctor, and his knifework is far better than mine, but I think if I need thoracic surgery I'll give Mark a miss) we ravenous few went at the carcass with forks and fingers.

    Soooo good. Mark kept carving, I kept scavenging, and by the time I actually got to the table with a full plate I wan't that hungry. I think I only ate three pounds of bird.

    Back to the tables. We only had 5 people playing, and we soon were down to 3 people, thanks to me crushing Mark when he flopped trip 10s but got screwed when an ace fell on the turn and I held aces. It was down to me, Scott, and his wife Debbie. The last time we played Debbie displayed a Lederer-like stare when confronting someone heads-up. She just stares at you, her face a mask of contempt, which is a bit outside her normal cheery personality. I was careful to sit directly to her left, a move she caught onto right away. "I can't see Geno if he's sitting there!" she said, and I just nodded and thought, "Got that right. Don't need you looking into my soul".

    Scott had already won one of our tournaments, and as I know he's a heartless bastard I knew he wouldn't show any favoritism or compassion for his wife. So my plan was to try to grab up Debbie's chips and then use them to cave in her husband's (metaphorical) skull. I was also heartened by Debbie's repeated requests for refills to her wine glass. I outweigh Debbie by about, uh, 100%, and I knew that if I drank that much wine I'd soon be seeing dancing elephants singing, "Go all-in, go all-in, go allllll-in!", so I decided to be patient and let the grape distort her judgement.

    Things worked well for awhile. I won a few tidy pots, and then my seat choice worked to perfection when I put Debbie all-in holding nothing but ace-high. I folded my hands and started at the pot. And waited. And waited.

    I looked up at Scott. "She's staring at me, isn't she?" She laughed and the spell was broken. She folded, I scooped my chips, and prepared my victory dance.

    Got dealt pocket 9s. I usually do well with this hand. It's easy to get away from, if you don't win the hand preflop you can toss it away if a bunch of overcards come. I raised the pot, and Scott thought it over, thought it over, and went all in. This was an easy laydown. I doubted Scott would push in all his chips with a worse pair, and if he had two overcards it was a coin flip. I should've folded. However, it was getting late, and after a 4AM bedtime the night before I was dreading another marathon. Knock out Scott, then polish off Debbie. Divide and conquor.

    I called. Scott turned over kings and took more than half my chips. Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit.

    No matter, I play a shortstack like an angel. I went all-in the next hand and won the blinds. I went all-in a hand later, with 9-10, and was not too pleased to see Debbie push in all her chips without a second thought. Uh oh. She turned over pocket jackes. Uh-oh. I flopped an inside straight draw, but no eight appeared on the board, and she took my chips. Double shit.

    Scott ended up winning when he busted his wife's pocket aces with 3-5 offsuit. That should earn him a month sleeping on the couch, the bastard.

    A long post in in the works, about poker and beyond. But I wanted to get this lake post done first before wading in with a monster. I'll be out tomorrow night, volleyball Wednesday...and then I'll be away this weekend. So maybe no monster post until next week. Maybe I'll break it up into several smaller posts. Maybe you don't care. Sorry, just thinking aloud. And then typing it down. Wait, did I just think that, or say it? I can't be sure...maybe I need to break out the ether...

    Monday, July 05, 2004

    Back in the saddle again. Did I say saddle? I meant...harness

    I actually wrote this Monday night, but Blogger crashed and it didn't post. I post it now, and will post again soon. MG

    A quote from the classic Britcom Black Adder there. Yes, tomorrow I end the carefree life of the unemployed and go back to work. I'm about ready. There's only so much daytime TV you can watch before your brain starts to go gooey. I think I watched every WPT event from this year twice during my hiatus. That's too much Vince Van Patten exposure in too short a time.

    I of course don't know how the job will go until I actually get there and start doing it, but since I didn't like my last job the last 8 months or so, and I hated my previous two jobs, I'm naturally a bit leery. But I'm cautiously optimistic that this situation will be a bit different. Plus I'm still looking. And so, once more into the breach.

    Working will cut into my reading, my yardwork, my tanning, and, most upsetting, my poker playing. I've been going back and forth between Party's $20 multi Pot-Limit tourneys and their $25 PL ring games, and I've been doing fairly well. I placed 4th in a PL tournament yesterday, pocketing a cool $90. That's the 2nd time I got in the money in one of these tournaments, which I feel are pretty doggone soft. I did get hugely lucky, I have to say. First of all, I played a hand so horribly that I may have actually learned something. I was dealt pocket nines and raised 3x the big blind. which was only like $75. The small blind, who was pretty shortstacked, raised me back $175. Probably shoulda mucked right there, but for a change I had chips and decided to take a flop.

    Which came 8-7-5 rainbow. He went all-in, about $375. Now, lets stop and think about this a sec, which I didn't do at the time. What hands could this joker have? He re-raised me preflop. He went all-in after a ragged flop. He was not-so-subtlely saying, "I have a good hand, jackass". Meaning he probably had AA, KK, or QQ. But let's say he's your typical Party loon, which he really wasn't. Maybe he'd re-raise with JJ or 10-10, still leaving me totally boned. But...maybe he felt desperate and re-raised with a medium pair. Well, if he did that he might have made trips, since pocket eights, sevens and fives would set him up.

    Basically I'm screwed unless this joker is bluffing with AK or AQ or something like that. Possible...but not worth risking so many chips. Which I promptly did. He turned over KK and waxed me. I was back to where I started, $1000 in chips, but at least I learned what I took as a valuable lesson--take a moment and THINK, dummy, before you act.

    I was getting tired, and I decided to take a stand with AJ. Everyone folded until the big blind, who called me and turned over KK. Shit. I caught a meaningless jack on the turn, and then there was this pause before the river card flipped...and when it did, I saw an ace that was my salvation. Three outs on the river...well, I had the two jacks, too, but it was a pretty tasty suckout.

    I managed to get my stack up to $4000 mostly by stealing blinds. Everyone folded to me five times in a row when I raised the pot, which was polite of everyone. But I couldn't get a hand to increase my stack. I made the final table in 6th chip position, and watched in amazement as the chip leader either lost his mind or let his cat play for him and lose all his chips on four consecutive hands. One second the guy had over $10K in front of him, the next there was an empty seat next to me. The play was pretty loose all night, and he did catch some cards to build his stack, but he could've sat on his hands and folded his way to the money.

    I did my usual "bend but don't bust" routine and finished fourth. With only $1600 left and paying a $600 big blind I felt compelled to go all-in. I hadn't caught a decent hand the last orbit, and I didn't catch one then, either. I had 2-8 offsuit. Oh, why couldn't I have been dealt the Hammer? I would've been so much happier with 2-7 offsuit. The chip leader called me--and turned over pocket aces. Yipe. I did flop a deuce, and would've made two pair on the turn had I been so lucky as to draw the worst starting hand in Hold-Em. But that was the end of me.

    I feel that I'm playing better, despite that debacle when I held 99. I've been getting a little bit better every time I play a tournament, I feel like every time I play I acquire just a tiny bit more knowledge and/or wisdom. And it's carried over to my ring play. I'd like to play in another live tournament sometime soon, but I may wait until the fall and/or winter so I don't feel like too much the slug for staying inside all day when it's beautful out.

    Oh, there was a big series of articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about gambling here. We just passed a law allowing slots parlors, so there's a new focus on gambling here, since our governments seem to think this is the solution to our many financial difficulties. I'll be linking and writing about them maybe tomorrow. But for now, time for bed. Gotta get up early, early, early tomorrow.

    Saturday, July 03, 2004

    A Post In Which I Discuss The Liquidity of American Labor Markets

    In other words, I got a job. Had the interview Wednesday, got the offer Thursday, start work on Tuesday. It's another temp job, but the work seems much more interesting that what I was doing before, a lot less stressful, and I'm making a third again as much money as I did in my last job. Plus my commute will be cut in half, if not more. Which begs the question--why the hell wasn't I looking for a new job even before I got laid off? A good question with a simple answer--inertia. The strongest force in the Universe held me in its grip, and so I just kept showing up day after day, waiting for something to happen.

    I'm still looking for that "real" job, this isn't the permanent solution, but it will allow me to pay the bills and keep my cats in clover. Still, getting laid off paid off for me. Got paid severence for the month I was off, got unemployment, got a pretty good tan, lost 10 pounds, and planted a garden. Played a little poker, too.

    Played a little poker tonight, too. It's 2:30AM and I just finished 59th out of 280 in a $10 qualifier at Party. Played for almost 2 hours. And I have zilch to show for it. Top 11 places got $215 buy-ins to one of their big tournaments--a question, can you just take the cash, or do you have to actually play in the tournament? But that's a pretty nice overlay, just finish in the top 11 and multiply your money by 20.

    And, heaven help me, the play at these things is appalling. About 50 people got knocked out when the blinds were still 10-20. What's the rush, folks? I sat and folded, folded, folded all night. I played 1 hand out of the first 30--I had AK, raised 3x the big blinds, and had 2 callers. Zilch on the flop for me, first guy checked, I checked, third guy goes all-in. Second guy calls. I fold. The guy who bet first turns over AK, the hand I folded because I flopped nothing. The other guy had top two pair, and wins.

    I waited another, oh, 30 hands before I got to play again. I play pretty tight in these tournaments early on, but its easy to play tight when J-4 gets you excited because you finally have some paint. Down to about $750 I'm dealt AA, raise, and get two callers. An ace on the flop, I let the other guy go all-in and I call him. I ended up making a full house, dunno what he had and don't care. I'm in business.

    But really I'm not, because I'm still way below the average stack. And I can't get a hand to play. No need to bore you with the rest of my night. I went all-in four times, and won the blinds 3 of them. The last I held KQ and the overall chip leader, the last guy holding a hand, called me with Q-10, and flopped his ten. Two hours down the tubes.

    I can't help thinking this is still a good investment of my time. I won my buy-in playing Pot-Limit for ten minutes and winning one hand, so it really didn't "cost" me anything. If I win that last hand and double up I have $2500, and even though the blinds are high I'd have enough chips to maybe wait out a few of these jokers and maybe double up again.

    I'm starting to wonder about my strategy in this Wild West-type tourneys. Maybe I should try to mix things up early, take a chance on doubling up so I either have enough chips to play aggressively the rest of the way, or get busted out and not waste so much time. I did try a variation of this the other day, and I was briefly the chip leader with about 50 players left. I did get a rash of great hands and tripled up when I rivered the nut flush, but I played a bit more goofy than I usually do. Then I ended up 2 out of the money when I went all-in five times and lost every time, the last time with AK against KQ and the flop coming Q-Q-x.

    Oh well. Won't be able to play as much poker now that I'm working. Also can't stay up till 3AM writing whiny posts about losing. Ah well.

    Thursday, July 01, 2004

    Why You Shouldn't Break the Cardinal Rules of Poker

    Because the goddam cardinal rules are there for a reason--to keep you from losing money you shouldn't lose. The cardinal rule I broke recently is one I read this very day in Cloutier and McEvoy's No-Limit book. Let me paraphrase, since I don't have the book handy--they say that the stupidest thing you can do is try to bluff a bad player. A bad player doesn't know well enough to lay down a marginal hand, so by bluffing you're just giving him your money.

    So why the hell did I make that very mistake yesterday? Because I got frustrated, and I tilted, that's why. I pride myself on my even keel, but lately I find myself going nutso over some of the lousy play we all see at Party. I know the reason why--I've been playing satellites for Party's Million Dollar tournament, and by playing smart and tight I get down to the last 50-60 sports, but then I get killed by some loon who lucked into a big stack by going all-in with 2nd pair and rivering some other loon. I feel like I should be doing better in these satellites, but I haven't gotten a big enough stack to really play an aggressive game. Tonight I managed to get some chips early on, but I couldn't get things going once the blinds went up. I got knocked out when I went all-in with JJ, hoping that the 3 limpers and the big blind would run away from a $1100 re-raise. Ah, no. Two players called me--one with AQ suited, one with 99. Of course a nine came on the flop, but I had a straight draw up to the river, when my hopes and dreams died yet again. Oh well, I gotta get to bed anyway, so thems the breaks.

    But back to my horrible play the other day. I was seated to the right of a frothing, twitching maniac. I played about 50 hands against him, and I'd say he played 48 of them. I do remember him folding twice, but only twice. I'd say he raised about 75% of the time. Every time the betting was checked around to him after the flop, he bet the pot. Every time.

    The mistake this nut made was showing his cards after a few of his wins. He was raising preflop and betting the pot with hands like 8-4 and an eight on the board. He beat me once when he held 33 and I had JJ, he caught his trips on the river and took down the pot. Thing is, I'd raised preflop and then raised after a ragged flop, only to have him come over the top of me. I didn't bet the turn, and he bet into me again. I called, and then he caught his trips on the river. I don't know what logic he used to make these bets, but this time the poker gods shone down on him.

    He beat me again when my QQ lost to his KK, but that crap happens. He took about $20 from me, and probably $40 from everyone else. Now was the time for me to take a deep breath, relax, and wait for the hand that would allow me to win my money back. It was just a matter of time.

    I waited about 20 hands and got zilch. Meanwhile Laughing Boy was playing like Gus Hansen on crystal meth. Here's where I made a boo-boo. I had AK and raised his big blind the max amount. He called. The flop came Q-9-6. Normally with AK I hit the brakes if the flop misses me. This time, when he bet a buck, I came over the top of him and raised him the pot. He re-raised me. What the hell do I do now? Like a lamb, I called and prayed for a big card on the turn. This time God said, "No". He bet a buck. I re-raised him. He re-raised me the pot. I had to decide whether I should invest another $12 in this foray. I tossed my cards in the muck, disgusted with myself.

    I didn't get another hand to play back with this guy. He made almost $100 playing ludicrous poker. He did get beat a few hands in a row, but then he won a monster $50 pot when he hit his club on the river to make his flush. I wouldn't stayed at the table for like 6 hours with this guy, but I got a call from my friend Ted to go play tennis and I chose sun and exercise over existential card-related misery.

    I'll be illustrating other examples of when I, who considers himself a reasonably astute player, have played like one who has his head thrust between his buttocks. I hope there won't be many such examples, but I have a couple in my head right now. I do this both to correct and improve my own play, and because I feel the need to flagellate myself in public. Though only figuratively, these days... get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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