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

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Cards Speak
Tao of Poker
Up for Poker
Boy Genius
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Poker Grub
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Poker Works
Bill Rini
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Love and Casino War
Double As
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Paul Phillips
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Human Head
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    Monday, August 30, 2004

    The Signs of Four

    A long weekend has come and gone, with much poker filling up the hours. After work Friday I went up to my friend Rico's lake house for a last summer fling of boating, drinking, and cards. Got up there around 7:30, ate more than my fill of fajitas and Heather's addictive Spanish rice (I think she puts crystal meth in it or something, I can't stop eating it), and we retired to the card room for some serious drinking. And poker, some poker too.

    Let's not beat around the bush--I was on fire all night. We played 7 handed the first game, even my friend Matt played instead of wussing it up and just dealing all night. I'd lent Matt my Cloutier and McEvoy book a few weeks ago, so I had to be wary in case he'd absorbed the whole thing and was suddenly a shark in sheep's clothing, if you'll pardon my mixing my metaphor.

    About five hands in I was dealt pocket aces under the gun. How to play them...I just called, expecting there would be a raise along the way, and I would come over the top. Sure enough, Debbie, sitting on my right, raised it to about $100. Neil and Matt both called. Time to bring out the orange Creamsicle chips. I whacked them back $600, figuring that would be that. Uh, no. One by one they all called, making my aces less than the lock I'd like them to be.

    I liked the first card that came on the flop--the ace of clubs. But the next two cards were the deuce and trey of clubs. Ugh. I had to act first, and I went all-in, figuring that even if someone had two clubs I at least had a miracle draw to a full house. Deb folded her pocket 10s, Neil folded...but Matt called, giving me the willies.

    He turned over KQ, but only the queen was a club. So, he needed a club, I needed to hold my breath and pray for red cards to come up. The turn card was a spade, which I noticed right away because the spade filled the entire middle of the card. Yes, the case ace popped up and gave me quads and the hand. The club on the river merely taunted Matt, whose chips were soon assimilated into my own stack. This was the first time the number four would enter into my whirlwind life.

    I soon knocked out Neil, I believe when my straight beat his top two pair. I had the lion's share of chips and managed to hang on to my stack as we got down to me, Debbie and Scott. I didn't like the set-up--Scott was to my right, Deb to my left--and they're married to each other. Not good.

    Wish to hell I could remember all the hands we played, but I was on my 9th beer or so and I didn't take notes. I do recall one hand vividly, because I nearly puked before it ended. In the big blind I was dealt 7-4, and after Scott raised and Debbie called I decided to toss in a few chips and see if I could get lucky. I didn't--the flop came something like Q-8-2. We call checked, and a jack came on the turn. This time I bet about half the pot, hoping to steal. I have a better chance of stealing a pot from the FBI than Debbie. She called, Scott folded. Another jack came on the river. I had 2 choices--bet, or concede the pot. If I gave up Debbie would probably take over the chip lead. What is it that Stu Unger said, that anyone can fire one shell at a pot, but only the truly great players have the courage to fire two?

    I may not be a great player, but I couldn't concede this hand like a meek little mouse. This time I bet the pot. And Debbie started the staredown. I twisted the bill of my baseball cap so she couldn't get a good look at me and I stared down at the felt. "You don't have the jack," she said, her voice dripping with contempt. I waited for her to count out chips and shove them in the pot, but she didn't. She thought about it, thought about it, thought about it...I was close to tears. And then she tossed her cards in the muck and I cancelled my "brown alert".

    I now felt comfortable enough to mix it up with Debbie a bit, winning a pot at the river with nothing but ace high when I felt pretty sure she was on a straight draw. I forget how I knocked Debbie out, or maybe Scott did, I forget. Lots of cold beer was sent to its proper conclusion during this game, and heads up with Scott got a bit testy in places. I remember limping with queen-high one hand and knowing he was going all-in. So why the hell limp? I stole a pot from him right back and then I believe won the game when I had A-9 suited and he had A-3.

    A good start to the night, which was quickly followed up by another win. I think this time I knocked out Frank with a straight when again I was up against top two pair. I kept getting good cards, kept getting good flops. Poker is really an easy game when you're getting cards. I don't think I had as scary a hand in that second game as that one encounter with Debbie, but once again I found myself heads up with Scott. This time the chip stacks were closer to even, but if I recall I won a pretty decent sized pot when I had QJ and flopped a jack as top pair and got Scott to put in a few of those yummy-looking Creamsicles. I stole a blind with Q-10 when he had Q-8, but the very next hand I limped with K-J, he went all-in, and I called him down. He turned over K-3, and when I flopped a jack the issue was no longer in doubt.

    It was about midnight now, everyone was fairly well let's play Omaha. Trying to explain Omaha to my friend Ted was a bit difficult, but we got him up to speed and got the cards in the air. Ted was only up for that night, he had a wedding the next day and just wanted to come up and see everyone and drink. So we started playing "drinking" poker, a new variation I don't think you'll see in next year's WSOP. The big blind got to give out 2 drinks, the little blind one, and if you folded you had to drink. The suds, they were a-flowing. Rick has an old jukebox in the card room with all sorts of old 45s, and Debbie always plugs it in and requests the same half-dozen songs. It's an eclectic mix--Springsteen's "Hungry Heart", the Pittsburgh Steeler polka, the "Unicorn" song (you might not know this one if you never went dancing at the 'Gaff at Penn State), and a few other songs from the seventies. Somehow, Rick's folks got a copy of Olivia Newton-John singing songs from "Evita". My friends, until you've seen my beefy, powerlifting, 270-pound friend Ted singing along to "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" with tears in his eyes, you don't know what the word "cringe" means.

    Maybe Ted has excrement where his taste in music should be (he drove me up to the lake once and we listened to the "Titanic" soundtrack on the way up--and he was singing along to the instrumental parts, making me wonder how many times I would bounce along the pavement after I jumped out the window at 70 mph), but he did pick up Omaha rather quickly. I found myself heads up against him, with the majority of the chips piled up in front of him. I went all-in when I hit a measly 8 on a ragged board, but Ted turned over a queen and, come the river, I needed an eight or an ace to stay alive. Lo and behold, another 8 appeared and I was back in business. Ted called me a variety of names I've heard thousands of times before, and riled as he was I quickly capitalized with a few tasty wins. I believe I polished him off when I made an awkward straight and Ted called with, once again, top two pair. He called me another nasty name but that was cool. What wasn't cool was that we hadn't been playing for money--we'd forgotten to set stakes. "This was a $50 buy-in, right?" I asked, but for some reason no one went along with it.

    Closing in on 2AM we decided to play Howard Lederer's favorite game, Razz. This was not a good idea, even though I won like the first four hands. After about an hour we'd just traded chips back and forth, and with dawn nearly upon us we didn't think this was the way we wanted to spend the last few hours of darkness. We switched to our old dorm-room game, "Declare". You get three cards, and you have to announce if you're in or out. If your in, you can take one card if you like, but if you lose the hand you have to match the pot. Won a decent amount of money in college playing this game, though there were some Ramen noodle days after a rough night.

    Again we weren't playing for money, and if we had I woulda won about $64,000. I had K-Q-7, tossed the seven, and picked up a jack for the straight. Had KJ8, tossed the eight, picked up another king. Had 10-6-3, the last two cards hearts, and drew the ace of hearts. Just sick, totally sick, and the moreso because this was all just for fun. I went to bed a bit concerned that I'd used up a lot of my luck just goofing around, but I did have two huge cashes under my belt, and I slept the sleep of the winner.

    Woke up around 10AM feeling only moderately awful. Some Advil along with bacon and eggs and I was raring to go. Not to go out on the lake--to go back to Pittsburgh. Yes, Rick and I were driving back to the 'Burgh to play in our beach volleyball league's tournament. I think we finished dead last (well, last among the teams who actually finished the year out) but we'd won our last match (and our first ever in 2 years) and Rico insisted we go back to defend our honor. I thought this was kinda nuts, but what the hell, life's a rich pageant, and what else was I gonna do, sit on the dock and drink beer?

    We drove back through intermittent rain. In Pittsburgh the rain had been more than intermittent--it'd been a deluge. We got JD's Pub and walked up to the cabana to see how the action was going. It was going good, but it was going soggy--there had been so much rain that the courts looked like the beach does after high tide. Water pooled in the middle of the court, and the sand was getting cement-like. Our game, originally scheduled for 2PM, then pushed back to 3PM, was looking more like 4PM because of the delays. The sun decided now to blare down as it hadn't all summer, and sitting in the bleachers made me feel like an egg tossed down on a griddle.

    The courts are set in a sort of plateau, with steep, woody hills rising on two sides. Perfect for trapping in humidity. I actually skipped the beer and hydrated myself properly. Our whole team assembled and we warmed up on the secondary court. Our opponents were the same team we'd gotten crushed by last Monday, and I didn't like our chances, especially when they started hammering their warm-up spikes into what can only be called a bog down by the fence. I slipped in some mud and got my shorts all dirty, along with my feet and ankles. It was goddam hot and goddam humid and now I was goddam filthy. It did not bode well for the game.

    Let's see, it took us an hour and 45 minutes to drive back to Pittsburgh, we waited two hours for our game, and we were on the court...30 minutes? Less? They played good and we played our worst match in over a month. We flat-out stunk. True, the other team was superior in every facet of the game, and some facets I probably don't even know about, but we did not do ourselves proud. We lost 15-1, 15-3--a total of, you guessed it, four points.

    Disgusted, disgraced, I hosed off and we set our sights on heading back to the lake. Ted stayed behind to go to a wedding, and our volleyballing Dr. Mark accompanied us for the ride back. We drove up analyzing our play, which could be summed up with one phrase, "We need to get a lot better". For myself, I need to drop about 50 pounds and increase my vertical leap about six inches. We had a good year, it was fun, we actually won a few games and even a match, but that was a crummy way to end the year. Leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    Which was quickly remedied back at the lake with lots of beer and a vat of chili Neil brought up. Neil must get his crystal meth from the same dealer as Heather because I couldn't stop eating it. Maybe I need to stop this sort of eating so I can lose those 50 pounds. Maybe, but then was not the time. I got some chili in me, then Kris grilled steaks and we had scalloped potatoes and sweet corn. I had a taste of a frolicy Shirazz Kris brought up, making me wish I'd brought up a bottle myself.

    Not that wine would've help during the next game we played. We decided against poker, alas, because Kris wanted to join in the fun and she knows less about Hold-Em than, apparently, Matt does. So we decided on the old lake standby--a friendly game of Asshole. If you don't know the rules of said game, well, basically you try to take tricks as you would in many other card games, but you also try to cheat and trashtalk and basically act like a complete asshole to those who might otherwise be called your closest friends. Great fun.

    We had a fantastic game, by which I mean that there was an imminent threat of physical violence by the end. You know you've had a truly great game of Asshole when you could, with clear conscience, throw someone you've known for 20 years out of a twelfth-story window. Had the lake house had twelve stories it would've looked like a Wall Street brokerage house during the Crash of 1929. Neil and Scott, antagonists all night, took a midnight "stroll" down to the dock, and as Mark and I watched a little TV I kept an ear open for a tell-tale SPLASH and then the silence. Neil would return and we'd ask, "Where's Scott?"

    And he'd answer, "Scott who?", and that would pretty much answer THAT question. But they both came back a bit later, the hatchet buried and a general spirit of bonhomie filling the room, meaning that, once again, a lake weekend would pass without the fun of dredging for Scott's body.

    Alas, the next day it rained nearly all the morn, and we decided to call it a weekend a bit early. The volleyball finals would be played that night, with free food and beer for those who played in the league, so that's where Rick and I headed as we drove home. My fourth circuit of the turnpike between Pittsburgh and Somerset, that number four again.

    At JD's I probably drank more than four beers. Had a good time, watching the best teams slug it out for the title. These teams were so good it was like watching Moonmen or something who landed in their spaceship to show we pathetic humans how to REALLY play our Earth games.

    I toddled home, tired and sedated by beer and food, to play in the Monty Memorial. I should've known I was gonna get whacked out early. But then I won a huge pot when I was dealt pocket 7s and, you guessed it, flopped quads. I checked and called to the river, where I again checked, knowing dankhank or doubleas would bet. They both did, and I came over the top all-in and dankhank called with his pocket aces.

    Alas, this time quads did not portend eventual victory. I had over $2400, which I quickly pissed away with moronic play, eventually losing my little all when I bluffed at a pot with bottom pair against dankhank and his top pair. That was that for me, though not for Iggy, who channelled good catvibes from Monty to win his own tournament. My own cats provided enough comfort to get me through the night.

    So no more poker at the lake for awhile. Haven't been playing online much lately, and that's probably going to remain the status quo. But I'll find lots of poker-related issues to write about, never you fear, and maybe even the occasional non-poker post. Just let my Muse take me wherever she will...but hopefully someplace with a bar.

    Sunday, August 29, 2004

    Draining The Reservoir of Luck

    I got busted out of the Monty Memorial 60th out of 77. Being exhausted and moderately drunk didn't help matters. No, I wasn't drunk, just had a few at our volleyball picnic. I played appalling poker. I won one hand, a big one--I had pocket 7s and flopped quads. I managed to get dankhank to go all in with his pocket aces and increased my chip stack to over $2400. I then proceeded to piss it all away with limps that got re-raised and absurd bets. I had A5, flopped an ace, bet, and when I was re-raised had to fold. I managed to lose about $1000 without getting past the flop before I made what can only be called a totally stupid play. I had 6-5 in the big blind, the flop came J-8-5, and I check-raised dankhank all in. Sure enough, he had AJ and knocked me out, gettin revenge for my quads cracking his aces.

    I played like garbage, and I'm mad at myself. But I have the excuse that I played some poker with my buddies at the lake this weekend and won just about every game we played. I had absurd luck, though I played a few good hands as well. Of course a writeup is on the way, but I have to lick my wounds from tonight first. It was a long goddam weekend, and this just made it a bit longer, a bit darker.

    Thursday, August 26, 2004

    Whaddya Mean He Was JOKING?

    I received a comment today from someone who told me that David Sklansky's whole "women crave sex with men good at math" post was just a joke. I didn't keep reading the 2+2 thread it appeared on, and apparently after a few hundred people commented on the shaky state of his sanity Sklansky wrote that it was a joke and thought it was obvious to everyone that he was joking.

    Did anyone else think he was joking? Is David Sklansky a standup comedian now? More to the point, you mean to tell me I spent like 3 nights writing up a screed that is now pretty much pointless? I was making jokes about a joke? This is not a good thing. Writing that ridiculously long post was what convinced me that I needed to step away from the tables and do more writing. Was I deluding myself? Is this, and everything else in my life, based merely on a series of lies, misunderstanding, and outright deceptions?

    Probably. Anyway, this is my final word on this particular subject: Shit.

    My beach volleyball team won its first match in 2 years last night. Nothing like playing VB and drinking until 11PM or so. This is a poker blog, so I will make a quick poker reference to justify myself--the girl playing on the other team (co-ed league) bore rather a resemblence to Mimi Rodgers, one of the top poker playing celebrities out there.

    Volleyball, when played well, is a thrilling combination of power, grace, and guile. Volleyball, when played poorly, is a friggin' horror show. After we finished up these 8 people got on one of the courts, and a motley crew they were. There were all in their forties or beyond, some wearing oversized sweats (in sand?), one guy wearing dark swim trunks and white wristbands, which to my mind made him look like one of the first cuts from a Chippendales tryout.

    They were bloody awful. Slapping at the ball, smacking it over the net on the first hit over and over again, and pointlessly diving for balls fifteen feet out of reach. I was enjoying a beer with my friend Rick, and after watching for a few minutes he turned to me and said, "Uh, is it me, or..."

    "Yes, they suck," I said.

    I've never seen them up at the place where we play before, and they were still going at it when I left at 11PM. The hell were they doing there close to midnight on a Wednesday? 'Tis a mystery I have no interest in pursuing.

    No online poker tonight or tomorrow, as I'm going up to the lake again for another poker binge. We'll have a nice group, six or seven players. I can't drink too much Friday night, as Rick and I are driving back Saturday afternoon to play in our league playoffs before returning that evening. It's just a whirlwind life I lead.

    Of course a mammoth post will follow this weekend. I think I'm gonna take notes during the game this time, I'm always forgetting what the hell happened. It might be the beer, it might. And then of course I'll be present for the Monty Memorial, hopefully with the poker gods firmly in my corner. It's gonna be epic.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2004

    Really Quick Random Thoughts

    Perhaps my favorite literary criticism one-liner (baby, I got a million of 'em!) come from Truman Capote who, when asked his opinon of a book he apparently didn't like, said, "That's not writing, it's typing". Maybe you have to be a writer (or wannabe writer) to appreciate it. Anyway, I felt like typing, so here comes a tiny post.

    Watched the WSOP coverage last night, the high point being Greg Raymer refusing to shake the hand of Mike "The Mouth" Matusow after the Mouth unleased a profanity-laced verbal assault. After he was done spewing Matusow extended his hand and said, "Hey, just fooling with you," and Raymer kept his hand at his side and shook his head. Kudos to Raymer, like the guy already. A guy wants to be an asshole like Matusow, that's up to him, but the other player doesn't have to act the straight man. You have to have some fortitude to leave it a one-man show and not get involved yourself.

    I read the report about the recent WPT event in Paris, and the infamous Tony G again made the final table. I don't want to reveal too much for those of you who don't want to know who wins, but G (G?, yeah guess that's what I'll call him) would go on these tirades trying to drive one of his opponents crazy. Like, rants that went on for like 5 minutes straight. No one told him to shut the hell up and play, which I find remarkable. Apparently at one point they only played 14 hands in an hour, which is appallingly slow. The other player didn't respond a single time, didn't bat an eye, showed no emotion. Can't wait to see it.

    I'd like to think that, under the same circumstances, I could display the coolness of a cucumber. Like when Phil Hellmuth gets a bit crispy after a tough hand, he'll say things like, "What's your name? Where're your from?". Trying to get you to talk, get you to think of him as the person in control, in charge. You're answering HIS questions, responding to HIS stimuli. Screw him. He wants to know about you, send him your resume, after the tournament. I'd hope I could pretend he isn't even there, just totally ignore him.

    Last night's episode thankfully ended ESPN's fawning coverage of the "Crew". Congrats to Messeurs Fischman, Jungblut, Boyd et al, but enough was enough. Though I had to say that, ever since I wrote a post about them, I've been getting lots of hits by people searching under "Dutch Boyd + Crew" and similar threads. I'm up to 120 visitors a day, meaning this blog probably has a bigger circulation than any poetry journal in the United States. Our culture, she is doomed, yes?

    OK, a lunchtime minipost. Write more later, including about the anti-poker ESPN story that ran after last night's show.

    Monday, August 23, 2004

    Some Random Thoughts

    If you read the previous post you know that the Monty Memorial Tournament never came off thanks to a customer service glitch at Pacific Poker. Reading Iggy today I learned that Pacific is giving every registered player $25 and will put an additional $500 into the prize pool. About as good an apology and make-up as one could hope for, so hopefully we'll all get to yell and scream at each other very soon.

    Instead of playing poker last night I watched the Fox Poker Superstars show, where Howard Lederer won after being extremely shortstacked. Gus Hansen must've had to go to the bathroom or something, he and Howard were all-in against each other like 5 hands in a row, with Lederer winning them all. I have no idea what the format of this event is, they play six rounds...and the winning of the first round gets more chips than the other players...I think that's how it works...or maybe it doesn't...

    The buy-in was $400K. Ouch, babe. Then again, that's probably the small blind in the games Chip Reese plays in.

    Johnny Chan wore a shirt that should be brought up before the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague. I can't describe it, because this blog doesn't carry an NC-17 rating.

    Watched a bit of the Olympics...which I find I don't care about too much. I used to watch the Games religiously when I was a kid, but I guess they've become so commercialized and overhyped I can't enjoy them at all. I did watch Pittsburgher Lauryn Williams win the silver in the 100m dash, which was exciting. The cameras they have that follow the athletes down the track show how extraordinary these folks are. It isn't just that they're running fast--every muscle of their bodies seems to be straining at the maximum.

    The controversy surrounding Paul Hamm's gold medal illustrates just why so much of the Olympics sucks. Once again we have incompetent judges who can't even be bothered to figure out how they're supposed to do their jobs. The South Korean gymnast got royally screwed and should be awarded the gold medal, end of story. Just because his coaches didn't dispute it on time, that's all bureaucratic horseshit. It isn't like the judges gave him a controversially low score--they made their mistake before he even started his routine. Not his fault at all, and he shouldn't have to suffer for it.

    Can you imagine the uproar if the roles were reversed, if Hamm had been the one who got shafted? Al Trautwig would be screaming for nooses to be tossed over the uneven bars for a lynching, every US newspaper would have headlines shrieking for justice. The South Korean will, I believe, be quietly awarded a gold medal somewhere down the line, putting an asterix firmly beside his and Hamm's name. Sorry, Paul, no matter what you do now, you'll never have sole title to that medal. Gonna have to deal with it with as much grace as possible.

    I saw about seven seconds of the badminton coverage, about 4 hours of the beach volleyball. Wish the ratios had been reversed. Now, I play beach volleyball in a league, and I like looking at women in extremely tiny bikinis as much as any other heterosexual male, but 2-man (or woman) beach volleyball is deathly dull. Bump, set...dink. Bump, set...kill. Bump, set...partial block. Bump, set...dink. If they didn't have rally scoring in beach volleyball the games would last longer than the opening ceremonies.

    OK, that's enough for now. I may update this later as I think of new things to complain about.

    Sunday, August 22, 2004

    Why Don't We Start Our Own Site?

    The Monty Memorial Tournament did not go off as planned, thanks to a clusterfuck at Pacific Poker. After telling Iggy that all systems were go this very morning, they suddenly turned around and said that we couldn't play due to "technical difficulties". What those difficulties may have been we know not. Somewhere in Kitty Heaven there's a cat sharpening his claws, ready to scratch the karmic shit out of those folks.

    The quality of customer service at most poker sites ranges from "ehh" to appalling. PokerStars seems to have a pretty good reputation, but everyone has their Party/Empire horror stories, getting the same formulaic emails as reply to the same question asked over and over again. And then you have tonight, when Pacific didn't have the wherewithal to accomodate 75 customers, many of whom were new to their site, and many of whom write about poker and are no doubt going to slag them for this infamy. If they can't be bothered to give decent service to us, what about your run-of-the-mill low-limit player?

    There's been a lot of stuff written lately about Dutch Boyd, and how he's trying to start up yet another online poker room. The difference between Rakefree (or Zerorake, or whatever it's called) and the other sites is that they don't charge a rake during each hand (but then you probably figured that out from the name, didn't you?). Boyd's idea is to charge players a monthly fee, instead of chipping out a bit of every pot.

    I may get around to dissecting the business plan Boyd has posted on the site, but let that pass for now. What do online poker players look for in an online room? I think they want:

    1. Vast numbers of fish playing at all hours.
    2. A large number of tables, meaning you can play any game you want at any time.
    3. A feeling of security, that they won't log on one day to find the site has shut down and the owners are held in a Venezuelan jail.
    4. A reasonable rake structure.
    5. An easy-to-use interface and graphics pleasing to the eye.
    6. Occasional treats and gifts tossed their way (deposit bonuses, VIP points, etc).
    7. Customer service good enough to promptly and accurately answer their questions.

    I'm sure I'm missing a few items here, but oh well. But what can an online poker room do to make themselves as attractive as possible to players? They can't get thousands of people to play there on their own hook--the players either show up or they don't. To get them to show up, they can make their site more attractive than others, by improving the other attributes. They can upgrade their servers so they can offer lots and lots of tables, but without lots of players you don't need too many tables.

    The sense of security is somewhat difficult to instill, since poker sites can't advertise and it's hard enough for even "legitimate" businesses to build goodwill. The rake is how the site earns its money, so while you can charge less of a cut than brick-and-mortar casinos, you don't have that much room to maneuver without killing your bottom line. Same thing with the deposit bonuses and givebacks--you can only go so far with them before they start killing your profitability.

    The easiest, and cheapest, way that a poker site could differentiate itself is by offering tremendous service. Good customer service would keep current players happy, and would hopefully attract more through word-of-mouth. The better reputation the site gets, the more players will migrate to it, players both good and awful.

    Good service gives players confidence that this is a well-run business, one that'll be around for awhile. Good service means it's less likely that players will up and move to another site that offers them a $25 deposit bonus, since they won't want to leave what is, to them, a comfortable place to play.

    I haven't played at PokerStars for a long time, but I've heard their customer service is the best around. So why aren't they the most popular site? Why are there 50,000 people playing at Party, not Stars? That I don't know, but maybe I'm asking the wrong question. Maybe PokerStars has fewer players than Party, but is making a bigger profit. Party does offer lots of bonuses and jackpots and tournaments with serious overlays, so maybe the reason Party is hanging onto so many players is because they're giving their profits away. Not the way to run a successful business, not for the long haul.

    How many of the 75 players who got screwed tonight are computer geniuses, IT gurus, or just your run-of-the-mill geeks? 70? 71? I'm not any of the above, but I do have a lot of experience dealing with customers and making them happy (or at least not plotting to firebomb our headquarters). Couldn't we band together, program a site, get it up and running, and take over the online poker world? Screw the Crew, let's beat Dutch Boyd to the punch and start our own casino. We'd have 75 players right off the bat, at least. Lots of good poker, an acceptable rake, and a quick answer to your questions. All we need is a few million in seed money. Greg Raymer, are you reading this?

    The Worst Hand I've Ever Played

    Preparing one last time for tomorrow's Monty Memorial, I decided to play another massive two buck SNG at Pacific. I'm only getting used to the graphics and interface, as I expect the quality of play tomorrow night (actually, it's just plain old tonight, now) to be above the submoronic level you find in your typical low-limit tournaments.

    Not that I'll be adding much to the overall quality tonight. I made a few nice moves early on to gather some chips, had a few nice hands that got my stack up a bit. Then I folded 3-6 suited, which is usually a snarmt move, except when that hand would have developed into a straight flush, as it did this time. Also folded A-2 when I would have made a full house. Ah well, no use in thinking that way.

    I made the final table, whoopee. I couldn't make a hand, and pretty soon I was under $800, which is bad news. Then things got a bit weird. The chip leader and the guys in 2nd & 3rd place all went all-in, with the chip leader winning the hand. So suddenly you had one big dog and a bunch of chihuahuas running around. Just get to the final five, moron, and make back your $2 investment.

    So of course I bust out on the bubble. That's no big deal, it just how I did it that infuriates. Under the gun I was dealt A-8, and I should have moved everything in and taken my chances. Instead, while I was thinking, the stupid site autofolded my hand WAY before it should have. No one else bet, and the big blind gobbled up the tiny pot. Infuriating. So I had to pay the big blind, leaving me with just about $450 I was dealt 2-4, but suited, mind you.

    I got nothing on the flop, and like a genius I went all-in. Which only meant putting $450 into a pot with about $500 in there. Perhaps I didn't have much choice, but I could hardly have been in a worse position with a random hand in the little blind. I pushed in my chips and was hardly surprised when I got a caller. I was a bit surprised when he turned over KK, but it didn't really matter, since I assumed he could beat 4-high.

    Oy vey. Playing with people of somewhat limited skill, and getting skinned, makes me wonder if I've made any progress at all the last 10 months. Perhaps tomorrow (tonight) will be a better litmus test. At any rate, I don't think I can be considered a favorite any longer. Not even in my own mind.

    Otis complimented me by comparing me to Dan Harrington, who won the WSOP title in 1995, came in 3rd in 2003 and 4th this year. Like Harrington, I've placed consistently in the big tournaments I've entered. I play a fairly tight game, much like "Action" Dan. And, uh, we're both Irish. Beyond that the similarities end. And beyond the Irish part, I don't think the other similarities hold water.

    But we'll see what happens tomorrow. Tonight. I think I need to get some sleep, lots to do tomorrow before I take my seat.

    Boy, hope I win...

    Friday, August 20, 2004

    Just a Tiny Taste

    My computer's back up and running, Pacific Poker actually sent me my password, and last night I put some money in so I can play in Sunday night's Monty Memorial Tournament. There are about 75 players signed up, making the prize pool, uh, let me get my calculator...1500 bucks. I had a reader ask if he could play in it, but, alas, the window to enter it has closed. Fear not, my gentle readers, there will doubtless be other tournaments you can join so we bloggers can skin you down to your shorts.

    Who is the favorite to win Sunday night? Let's not beat around the bush--it's me. There have been 3 blogger tournaments and I've finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. But what about Otis (sorry, my link thing isn't working, I'll update that later), who won the last two? Normally he'd be the odds-on favorite, but he just had a baby (well, his wife did, you didn't see him on the cover of the Enquirer, did you?) and I would gather that he's a bit distracted right now. So the smart money is certainly riding on my own broad shoulders.

    I haven't played online in 11 days, good Gene, but after I made my deposit last night I decided to play a quick SNG just to get used to the interface. I played in a MASSIVE $2.20-buyin tourney with 19 other souls. On the first hand four people went all-in, and pocket nines ended up winning it. Oh, how I've missed online poker.

    I ended up in 3rd place, pocketing EIGHT DOLLARS for my troubles. I won only one hand of note, going all-in with pocket 8s and coming through even though an ace and a king appeared on the board. Top 5 places paid out, and when we got down to 7 a rather weird situation developed. I had about $900 in chips, one guy had about $300, and another had about $400. The guy with $400 got disconnected and never came back, so as the blinds came around his tiny stack just melted away. Thing is, after I knocked out the guy with $300, I knew that so long as I didn't do anything stupid the short guy would be blinded out in a round and I'd make my two bucks back.

    I know what you're thinking--Geno, if you're worried about two bucks, maybe you should be crocheting or something. But then you miss the point of my playing. I want to get used to playing my usual tight-aggressive get-in-the-money game, and the stakes to me were irrelevent. We could have been playing for $50K and I would've played the same way. With maybe a bit more weeping and praying to God, but, again, that's beside the point.

    In the end I didn't get a playable hand until I was heads-up in the blinds with Mr. AWOL and I was dealt K-7. My cowboy ended up as the highest card between us and I was in the money. I then turned almost feral with aggression, shoving me chips into the middle and stealing blinds at will. When we were 3 handed I went all-in with A-3 and was called by KQ. He flopped trip kings and made a queen on the turn, which I thought was excessive.

    The screen popped up and said, "$25 has been deposited into your account!". Wait, $25? Wasn't I playing a two-buck game? Then another window popped up and said eight more bucks was going in. Well, wasn't that just NICE? Pacific gave me a $25 deposit bonus. Mighty friendly of them.

    I might play another SNG tonight, just one. Really. Just one. I just want to get used to the betting and raising buttons. Really. I can quit anytime I want to. Actually, to be honest, I haven't been jonesing for an online fix too much. I played enough last week (see previous post) that I haven't missed it too much. Plus I've done a lot of writing the last week, so much so that I fear I may have a developing case of carpal tunnel. My hands hurt pretty much all the time now, and when I type for a few hours straight it feels like I have a headache in my hands. Thank God for Advil.

    So I'm pretty much ready to go for the Monty Memorial. I will get my space ready for the game--vacuum and clean my den, clear away all distracting clutter, have cool beverages nearby. I'm sure one of my 3 cats will be around to offer their solidarity with their fallen compatriot. I'm not sure what I'll be watching--the tourament I won I was watching "The Young Ones", so I may give that a shot again. "Yes, we have GOT A VIDEO!!!!".

    See y'all Sunday. Bring your A-game, or don't come at all.

    Monday, August 16, 2004

    Much More Lake Action, or, Why Alcohol Poisoning and Poker Don't Mix

    I picked a good time to take a poker break, as my modem fritzed and I couldn't get online. If you're reading this you can deduce that I got a new card and am back in business. But I've been sans Internet for the last week and wouldn't be able to play poker even if I wanted to.

    Which, of course, I do. I didn't stop playing because I'm sick of the game. I just felt stale and needed to recharge the batteries, do some other stuff and feel like I'm not sitting in front of a computer 19 hours a day. Of course, I'm sitting in front of a computer right now, writing this. In a nutshell, I gotta get off of my butt more.

    I got off to a good start this past Tuesday, going up to my friend Rick's house on Indian lLake for an annual golf outing sponsored by his dad and uncle. Went up Monday night, had a few beverages, then come the morn played 18 holes without the benefit of a single beer. Usually someone comes out on the course with a cooler full of iced cans, but not this time, and by the end of the round I was positively parched. There was a keg set up in the lodge's big dining room, and I got a cup and poured myself a cold one.

    And another.

    And another.




    About this time I noticed that there was a sort of partition set up that separated the last fifth or so of the room. It was right where the beer and snacks were, and as I was pretty much rooted to that spot I wondered what was going on behind it. Even with a six-pack in me I can't see through walls, but I utilized another of my senses and listened. I heard voices, laughter, the occasional curse…and another sound, one that immediately seized my attention.

    It was the clicky sound of plastic chips clattering as they splashed across a table. A desire not quite as powerful as lust but pretty damn close gave me the courage to walk around the wall and see what was going on back there.

    What was going on was a poker game, of course, nine or ten guys from the same golf outing as me sitting around a big circular table, chips and cards arrayed before them. Since each player had 2 cards in front of him and the dealer spread out three cards and flipped them over I deduced they were playing Texas Hold-Em, but I didn't know what kind of stakes were involved. Each player had a big stack of plastic in front of him, but Rick learned that they were playing no-limit with a $20 buy-in. Just my speed.

    The game in progress ended, and my friend Frank and I shouldered our way into the game. Ten players, each of us got 44 plastic chips, with the blinds starting at $1-$2. Not a lot of room to maneuver, but I was confident I would prevail, in large part thanks to the roughly 120 ounces of beer polluting my judgement.

    Not that my judgment was all that bad. I was only in one hand out of the first 10, when I raised with AK and had what seemed like three dozen callers. I bailed after the unsatisfying flop and waiting a bit longer. I won a nice pot when I had 4-6 in the big blind and flopped a set of sixes, but the other three guys in the pot didn't catch a thing and weren't in a mind to bluff, so I pretty much stayed level.

    Dinner was served after we lost two or three players, and what a spread it was. Pork and beef ribs, barbecued chicken, sweet corn, cole slaw…I ate nearly as much as I drank. By the time I got back to the tables I can't say my brain was firing on all cylinders. I was tired, I was drunk, I was stuffed to the gills.

    Thing is, the other players at the table were almost certainly more tired, more drunk, and more stuffed than me. The only exception was Frank, but he had to race back to Pittsburgh for a 7:30 meeting and had to force things a bit. He went all-in and was knocked out, I think, when he was outkicked with an ace. I don't think I played a single hand past the flop until we were down to four players. The top two spots paid, so I had to get my chips in the middle and double up to give me a shot.

    An older gentleman was the chip leader, and it's hard to say if he was bullying us with big raises and ominous calls or if he was just playing every hand 'cause he was blitzed like the rest of us. I won a small pot to get me back to about $30 in chips, and when I was dealt K-8 right before the big blind and decided this was as good a time as any to take a stand. I pushed in, and the older gent called. We turned over our cards and he showed K-7. Sweet. The king on the flop meant nothing, and but for some reason I had this premonition that he was going to get his 7. It must have been the beer that fritzed my radar, because no 7 came and I was in the clear.

    Another player got knocked out by our chip leader, putting me one out of the money. Unfortunately I only had about 15% of the available chips, so I was hardly in good shape. When I was dealt 7-8 a hand later I called and hoped for a good flop.

    The flop came 7-6-5. With top pair and an open-ended straight draw I moved in. The older gentleman called, and turned over J-8. I had him in bad shape…but I was in bad shape myself. I was pretty much totally zonked, and I somehow missed the dealer turning over the next two cards. When I looked down and saw that a nine had come on the turn and a ten on the river I knew instinctively that something bad had happened. The nine gave both of us the straight, the ten gave him the higher straight. Instead of doubling up, or at worst chopping the pot, I was out one from the money.

    Ah, well. I had a good time, got a poker fix, ate a lot of good food. Passed out on the car ride home, and went to work the next day feeling like I'd aged 30 years in one night. I think when you hit 35 the effects of drinking and general carousing start to increase geometrically. A day of partying that might have elicited a mild groan from the 25-year-old Geno now puts me in the mood for a hospital stay. I doubt I'm the only one who feels this way, and for those of you lucky enough to be young, just you wait. It's gonna sneak up on you.

    By Friday I was feeling pretty much normal, and so it was time to go back to the lake! A full weekend of wakeboarding, tubing, golf, and, of course, poker. I got up to the house around 8PM and the first thing everyone wanted to know was if I brought my chips. A silly question, of course, as my aluminum briefcase accompanies me everywhere. There were six of us gathered around the poker table--me, Scott, his wife Debbie, Neil, his wife Tara, and Gary. With Rick acting as dealer, we were well set up for some serious poker. $10 buy-in, no-limit. Let's get it on!

    First hand I'm dealt KK. Well, that's nice. I raise it but no one shows me any respect and I'm in with three others. Junk on the flop and I bet, finally chasing Debbie. A king on the river and this time I toss in a Creamsicle-orange $500 chip, and this time I chase everyone out. One pot played, one pot won. I'm on fire.

    Actually, I stayed on fire the whole first game. Scott busted out early, and as we played Tara asked a few times for the ranking of the hands. I couldn't tell if she was spoofing us, because she won one of these tournaments last time we were all up the lake, but when she went looking for a piece of paper to write them down with I figured she was either honestly curious or a brilliant actress.

    She couldn't find a sheet of paper, so she came back with one of those little paper boats you use to put French fries in. Rick's folks had a bunch of them on the kitchen table for the golf outing. Neil wrote the hand rankings down, and Tara returned to the fray.

    To my almost immediate discomfort. I put her all-in with I think KQ, and she turned over AJ, promptly doubling up. OK, no biggie, I still had lots of chips. I quickly added to my stack in a hand with her husband Neil. I got to see a free flop in the big blind with K-3, and made two pair on the flop. I checked and called, slow-playing a bit, but when another diamond came on the turn I put in a big bet to make the chasers pay. Neil called, and about the best card possible showed on the river--the three of diamonds. If Neil was chasing a flush, he got it just in time for me to make a full house. I bet $50, a little less than half the pot, daring a raise. Neil thought it over, thought it over, and decided to raise me $5. A spite raise, just to make me toss in one more chip. Oh, I tossed in another chip all right, this one a black $100 chip. He called, and I had myself a nice little pot.

    Neil shortly went out, leaving me to battle Debbie and Gary and Tara. Dealing with Gary was no problem--as you'll see, Gary either needs to see an exorcist, or go out and see the new Exorcist movie. He raised Tara and she called, and when the flop came 9-7-2 he figured the pocket aces he held were good. He went all-in, Tara called, and turned over pocket deuces. Deuces are also called "ducks", and I chirped, "Quack quack!" as Gary said a word that at least rhymes with "duck".

    With just Debbie and Tara to deal with you might think I had this one in the bag. You think wrong. Debbie is a master at the staredown, and I have a problem keeping from laughing when she does it. And of course Tara had her lucky fry boat. I went all-in against Tara again, I forget with what hand, and she doubled up again. She went all-in again...and beat me again. She beat me with the best hand and the worst hand. When I was dealt pocket 8s in the little blind I put her all-in once again. She looked at her cards and Scott, who was giving her "advice", said, "I'd probably fold that."

    Tara said, "I call," and turned over K-9. A classic race situation, she had two overcards, I had the pair, making me a slight fav...oh, no, I wasn't a favorite, not after that friggin' nine on the flop. Once again she'd doubled at at my expense.

    Debbie went out shortly after, and I kept thinking, "I cannot lose to a woman who has the hand rankings written down in a paper french fry boat. I just can't. I've read six or seven poker books. I've played tens of thousands of hands, I'm such a wacko I write about poker for free...I can't lose this game!"

    I managed to bully Tara out of a few blinds with big bets, until I once again had a big chip lead. And when I was dealt A-9 and went all-in, she called me with Q-7. I could almost taste the queen that had to be looming at the top of the deck. I flopped a nine, which wouldn't help me if a lady appeared for the lady. But, thank Christ, the fifth time was the charm. I had survived the wrath of Tara at last, and won the first game of the night.

    I should mention that during this game I drank about 4 Yuenglings. During the second game I drank about the same amount, and I found that this amount of beer lowered my inhibitions just enough to make me an aggressive, chip-moving monster at the table. I raised, re-raised, bluffed, bullied, moved all-in at the drop of a hat. Gary got knocked out again, I think he flopped a set and Scott went runner-runner for his straight, but then Scott got taken out, and Neil, and then Tara, leaving it up to me and Debbie to slug it out. Deb had a big chip lead, probably 3-1, but the blinds were pretty high and I started stealing those blinds by pushing in my chips. The hand that pretty much wrapped it up for me was when I held 4-5 and managed to see a cheap flop, which came 3-6-Q. I checked and Debbie, giving me the staredown, slowly tapped her fingers on the felt. The next card was a 7, giving me the straight, and Debbie pushed in all her chips. I gladly called, and she was drawing dead. Shortly thereafter, victory was mine!

    We played again. By now the clock was closing in on 2AM, and my beer consumption closing in on half a case. But I didn't feel drunk, just goosed and happy and enjoying myself. You'd think I would've learned from that previous Tuesday to watch how much I drank, but nooooooo. The ladies had demurely retired for the evening, so it was just me, Scott, Neil, and Gary. Our dealer Rick had also gone to bed, so the deal was the first person out had to act as dealer.

    I hate to deal. First of all I'm terrible at it--I can't shuffle worth a damn and can't get the cards to glide across the felt. Plus I've been having problems with my hands lately, from all the typing I do at work and home and from tennis and volleyball and other activities. I need to get one of those squeezy things and keep it at my desk to limber up my hands. And as I didn't have one at the table, I didn't want to deal if I could avoid it.

    Which I didn't do. When a drunk guy looks at a woman who is, shall we say, not easy on the eyes, and thinks she an absolute honeybabe, we say he is wearing beer goggles. When you've had a few and decide that it's time to tell that hulking bouncer what you think of him, his mother, and his whole ethnic group, we say you're flexing your beer muscles. Both maladies are liable to get you in a peck of trouble, either hospitalized or arrested or worse. Well, that night I learned that if you're sitting at a poker table and you've done well and you've also consumed upwards of a gallon of suds, you're liable to develop beer balls. I started shoving my chips in willy-nilly, thinking that I was bullying these losers with my massive stack and establishing a pecking order that would last our natural lives.

    'Twas not to be. I got knocked out pronto when...actually, I don't remember. It's all a bright, noisy blur. I had to deal until the game was done, and now of course was the time when the three jackasses still in the game decided to turtle and wait for the nuts. They played for what seemed hours, weeks, ice ages, with no one going out. When Gary (of course) finally got shafted on the river, I said something along the lines of, "Goan bed", and passed the deck along. I thought I wasn't THAT drunk, so I took my book with me up to where I was sleeping and collapsed on the bed. I was sleeping in the loft that overhangs the main living room, and I figured I wouldn't bother anyone if I kept the light on a bit. I couldn't get my eyes to focus on the words, and it took me about 7 seconds to realize I wasn't going to make it. Out went the lights, both literally and figuatively.

    Sleeping in the loft has a few major drawbacks. One, if anyone wakes up early and turns on the TV, you hear it. Second, and much more irritating, is that there's a clock on the wall that, for some reason, only chimes between the hours of like six and nine AM. On the quarter-hour. When you have a delicate head, and your body craves a few hours of blissful sleep, it's a bit jarring to hear that clock go BONG BONG BONG BONG...BONG BONG BONG BONG!!!!! Especially when it erupts every fifteen minutes. I keep meaning to rip it off the wall and toss it in the lake, but I haven't been able to get a few minutes alone to do the deed.

    The clock was bad enough. Even worse was the phone ringing at 8AM. I didn't even know there was a phone in the loft, but as it started ringing by my right ear I soon figured it out. I snatched it up and said something along the lines of, "Woooooizzit?".

    A disturbingly chipper voice said, "Hey, this is Tom Ridge, is Scott or Debbie there?".

    I was hungover, maybe even still drunk, but even in that state I was alarmed. Why would the head of Homeland Security be calling Scott and Debbie. Could they be secret agents? No, I don't think espionage is something Scott would be into, since there isn't much golf involved. I managed to communicate something along the lines of what the fuck did he want, and I took his number and told him I'd have them call him back. It turns out he's a contractor doing work on their house, and his last name was not Ridge but something that sounded like Ridge. Cancel the red alert.

    Awake now, I was happy to see that everyone else was suffering as much, if not more, than myself. I took two Advil and a big glass of water and got some food in me. Half an hour later I was feeling human again, always a nice change of pace. It was cool up there, bordering on cold, and I spent much of the day reading while hardier souls went out wakeboarding. Like a fool I agreed to go tubing later in the day, three tubes out the back of Rick's speedboat, swinging side to side, leaping over waves, skipping across the surface like a pudgy stone. The water was cold, the wind colder, and by the time we docked again I felt like I'd been massaged with a bat.

    So of course I agreed to go golf a quick 9 holes. I played my usual horrible game, and we got home around 8:30, just in time for a huge dinner, salad and spaghetti and hot sausage and garlic bread. Watched a bit of the Steeler preseason game...and then it was back to the tables for more action and more beer.

    Looking back now, I can understand why I played so poorly. During the 24 hours in question, I'd consumed about 20 beers, two or three bagels, a couple cheeseburgers, and enough pasta to sate both of Tony Soprano's families. I'd had four hours sleep, been out tubing for an hour and getting the snot smacked out of me, and then played a nerve-fraying round of golf. You don't see many pros using that regimen to prepare for the World Series.

    To succeed at poker, espeically no-limit, you must be aggressive. I'd been aggressive the night before and it'd paid off handsomely. But on this night, I simply lacked the energy, both physical and mental, to take the initiative. If I was dealt big cards I could attack, but beyond that I was a passive observer. And the results showed that, as I didn't win a single game all night.

    For much of the night Scott tormented Gary, winning hand after hand and building a big stack, which he then properly used against us. A few times I re-raised him back, once saying, "the only way to deal with a bully is to hit him back", but I lacked the strength to keep it up. Scott did zonk me on one hand where I made a strong play. I was dealt pocket sevens and raised it up, and Scott called. The flop came 6-8-9, giving me a straight draw with my pair. I bet, Scott went all-in, and I called, fearing he already had the straight. Instead it was a bluff, he had A-J, and he was in trouble. The turn came another eight, and the river, a nine, meaning my sevens were now worthless and his ace kicker giving him the pot.

    At this point Lady Luck once again took aim at Gary. In the small blind I was dealt aces, and of course I would be taking a stand right here. Neil bet, and Gary raised $1000. Well, I only had about $1350, so I went all-in. Gary turned over pocket eights, about the first time he'd had a pair since his aces were cracked, and when I turned over my bullets he emitted a series of words I can't repeat here.

    I didn't feel at all bad about whacking Gary. I actually met him during a poker game in a Penn State dorm room my freshman year. It was right around Valentine's Day, and ee were playing a game called "Declare", where you get three cards and everyone goes around saying whether they're in or not. You can draw one card if you want, and if you lose you have to bet the pot. The game was all about position--for example, if our friend Steve said he was in, you had to get out. NOW. You might have trip queens, but if Steve's in, muck those ladies. Conversely, Gary and Scott and our friend Andy would play more hands than Gus Hansen.

    That first game Gary won big, and much of his winnings came from me. As I looked forward to a long week of Ramen noodles and tap water, Gary told us that now he could afford a gift for Lori, his girlfriend. When I met Lori later that week, she said, "You're the one who bought me my present!". Yeah, that was me, and nice to meet you too.

    Well, Lori was in the living room watching the Olympics while we played cards, keeping an eye on their daughter Karina and no doubt trying to get comforable because she's pregnant again. I'm glad to think that, in some way, my misfortune that night helped bring these twin souls together. In another way, I was friggin' happy to put the screws to Gary and take his chips. I cackled inside as I stacked them, caressed their smooth faces. "Revenge", I hissed under my breath. "Sweet, sweet revenge".

    I don't know what Gary ever did to Scott, because Scott took Gary out behind the woodshed and beat him like a rented mule. How many times did Gary have the best hand, only to lose at the river? Three? Four? I think the one time Gary had a pair, flopped a set, and watched Scott go runner-runner to make his flush.

    No, actually, that happened on the freakiest hand of the night. After Scott won two games in a row, some brainiac decided that we should try a game of Omaha. If you've never played Omaha, let me say that the best time to figure it out is NOT when you're drunk, stuffed, and exhausted. The first hand I was dealt was 10-7-4-2. The next was J-7-4-2. The next hand was 10-8-4-2. Do you see a pattern here?

    I don't think I got involved in more than 2 pots the whole time I was in. I did win one nice pot when I was dealt KK and they stood up. But with so many straight and flush possibilities to keep track of, my head started to hurt. And then came the hand of the night. Debbie excused herself to get a drink or something, so this hand was just for the boys. I was dealt Ad-Js-8d-8s. Double suited, with a pair. I'm playing this one, and I tossed in a $100 chip to call. Scott raised it $100. Neil raised it $100. Gary raised it another $500. "Well, the hell with this," I said, and shoved in my whole stack, around $2800. Shoulda known better, no way was I chasing anyone out, especially Gary. In a flash, all four of us were all-in.

    The flop gave me nothing. It gave Gary top two pair. The turn gave Scott a chance at a flush, and I think a pair. "No way, no fucking way, not again," Gary muttered. Yes, Gary, it happened again, another club on the river to give Scott the runner-runner flush. I've never actually seen steam come out of a person's ears, but there were definitely heat waves radiating out from his head.

    Debbie came back to find that she was going heads-up against her husband. He had about a 4-1 chip lead, so that meant he lasted about six hands before she crushed him. He kept going all-in, she kept calling, and this time the cards went her way. Debbie was now the Lake Omaha champion.

    We played one more game of Hold-Em, which Neil won and Gary didn't. I don't even remember how I got knocked out. I figured that Scott, with that horseshoe buried up his ass, would win when it got heads up, but losing to Debbie had killed his luck and Neil dispatched him extreme predjudice.

    It was now about 3:30AM, and I was totally fried. Gary said, "Anybody want to watch "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"? Sure, we all did. We made it right to the part with the Constitutional Peasant before we all passed out.

    So, a good weekend's fun, and some good poker fun. I haven't played online in a week and haven't had time to miss it much. I'll be playing in the blogger tournament on Sunday, that's still in-bounds, and then we're going back to the lake next weeked for a final summer fling. How long I stay offline depends. I'm almost finished with a poker short story called "The Antechrist" that I may give to Pauly when its done. More writing, less poker, that's what I said I'd do. Maybe I need to include, "less drinking" and "less eating" and "more sleeping". Maybe.

    Thursday, August 12, 2004

    Techies Rally 'Round!

    Once again I need help from the computer savants among my readership. And without your help there may be no readership in the future. My ancient laptop is again causing me much grief. The last two days I couldn't get on the Internet because it said it could not detect a dial tone. I plugged in the phone and I sure as shootin' heard a dial tone. I took my PC card out to see if it was melted or something, but when I slid it back in the slot my computer no longer detects it. I restarted, I ran the troubleshooting wizard, I even threatened it--nothing. Can anyone give me any guidance beyond, "Dude, time to throw that computer AWAY".

    Some actual live poker to write about, if I ever get my computer up and running again. I will simply wait for the sage advice to come a-rollin' in.

    Sunday, August 08, 2004

    Time for a Poker Break

    I've been thinking about stepping away from the tables for awhile now, and tonight pretty much convinced me that now is indeed the time for a midsummer hiatus. No, I'm not through playing poker--I'll definitely be playing in the upcoming Blogger tournament, and I may be playing in a live game or two here and there in the next few weeks. But I'm shuttering my normal online game for at least the rest of the month.

    Why am I taking such a drastic step? A few reasons. First and foremost, I want to dedicate a lot more time to writing, especially trying to get some things published. I'd like to start making the occasional buck writing stuff, and playing $25 PL at Party may not be the most lucrative use of my time. Plus I've got a lot of things I'm working on right now, and I need to start spending my time getting these projects done and out of my head. Actually, the Sklansky thing I wrote was what really got me thinking seriously about knocking off playing for awhile. I spent three nights in a row writing, and enjoyed it, and I wondered why I didn't do more of it. I don't blame poker, of course, because I love playing cards as well. But I need to shift the balance far more toward the writing than the poker.

    I also need a break to get my game in better shape. I started playing a lot better recently. It wasn't just that I was on a hot streak, or that I was catching cards--I really felt I'd made a quantum leap. I was playing much more aggressively, I wasn't just sitting back waiting for the flop to hit me on the head and trap people. I went a couple of weeks playing a much more aggressive game and it was paying off handsomely.

    A big reason for my improved play was that I wasn't worried so much about the money anymore. I'd built up my bankroll to the point where even a month-long losing streak probably wouldn't have worried me. Freed of any concern of going broke, I started moving my chips with a lot more force. And it was working.

    But while my bankroll was in good shape, I was recently laid off, and even though I'm working again I'm still looking hard for that "real" job that has so long eluded me. So when my wife and I and a gaggle of friends went to upstate New York recently for a big wine festival, I decided to take some money out of my poker winnings to allow us to buy a few pricy bottles we might otherwise have decided were outside our budget. Uh, did I say a "few"? I meant a few...cases. We bought ourselves a ton of vino. Good stuff, too. I bought one bottle that cost more than I've ever spent on a case of beer. It was so, sooooo good. Problem is, the folks I bought it from said I shouldn't drink it until 2006--at least.

    "Do you have 10 years to let it age?" the woman behind the counter said.

    "Jeez, I hope so," I answered. Better go get a physical. Hate to keel over six weeks before I'm ready to pop the cork.

    So I ended up shifting a LOT more out of my poker account to cover this extravagance. Well worth it (I'll especially think that around 2011 or whenever I actually drink that goddam bottle) and I still had plenty of cash in my poker account to play with.

    But not so much that a really bad run couldn't bust me. So it was time to tighten up and put on my grinding hat again. But I haven't done very well at it. I just worked off two deposit bonuses, one at Party, one at Empire, and I barely broke even. I just didn't play very well, and I don't know if right now I can bring the proper focus and skill to the tables. I have too many other things I want to concentrate on, and poker is taking away from that. It's odd--I of course play poker for recreation, but I started thinking of the nights I spent writing instead of playing as time better spent. So, why not commit to that?

    I decided to play a $10 SNG tonight, and that pretty much sealed the deal for me. I was dealt AK suited in middle position and raised it up. I had 2 callers, and the flop came a 4-7-5 rainbow. The other two guys checked, so I bet the pot, around $250. The one guy called. An eight on the turn, and I said, "What the hell" and went all in. He called and turned over Q-6, giving him the straight. Why this dufus would call a big preflop raise and a $250 bet when he was drawing to an inside straight is beyond me. But I'd just lost $11 playing only 1 hand. It didn't faze me too much, and that's what told me that, yes, now is the time to take a break.

    This does NOT mean I'm done playing poker. Far from it. I need to do some more reading, recharge the batteries, and come back a far better player. I also plan on posting here as often as I always do, if not moreso, and I'll still be writing about poker. Just not about my own play which, let's be honest, isn't especially compelling. There are guys and gals writing out there who post blinds in excess of my usual weekly winnings.

    So for my dedicated readers (about 100 people, my stats tracker tells me) will notice little difference, other than the fact that I may be posting more often. Or less, if I really get my act in gear and finish a few (non-poker) articles I've been working on. More writing, more looking for a job I might actually like (and be good at), more time to exercise.

    OK, now that I've written this, I have to stick with it. If I find myself logging on to Party tomorrow for a quick 50 hands I can bring this post up and steel myself. For now, I'm beat, and I'm going to bed. Yes, definitely going to be. Not gonna check to see if there's a multi about to start. No, bed.

    Wednesday, August 04, 2004

    When are the nuts not the nuts?

    When you're watching the feature called "The Nuts" during ESPN's World Series of Poker coverage. At first I was enthused about these 60-second interludes that showed something quirky or weird about poker. A chance to see something different, something that might make you pause and say, "Hmm". No such luck.

    Last year we saw Chris "Jesus" Ferguson slice a banana by throwing a playing card. Impressive. Then this year we saw him slice a carrot. OK. Then on another episode we saw him slice a pickle. "Am I watching the goddam Food Channel?" I asked, punching the buttons on my remote control. Why do I need to see Ferguson dicing vegetables with playing cards show after show? Why would the producers think that a man chopping through a carrot, and then through a pickle, with ANY impliment would be interesting?

    Then again, why would the producers think that watching Ferguson throw cards past a hockey goaltender into the net would be interesting. That's what we saw last night, and it was beyond stupid. I would think that a hugely intelligent person like Ferguson would have said to the producers, "You know, this has gone far enough. We need to stop this right now". Perhaps the bright lights of TV blinded Jesus. One can only hope that at least next week we won't see Ferguson filling a salad bar using only a 52-card deck.

    The other feature that's been featured several times is the no-peek championship, which is almost as stupid as Ferguson's Ginsu impersonation. As a one-time little blurb, it was funny, plus it put Clonie Gowan on the screen for a wee bit. But it looks like this lunacy will also be a recurring irritation for the rest of the tourament. And there was something annoying and cliquely about the whole thing, like only the coolest kids in the class were invited to play and everyone else can watch. Or maybe I'm just being too sensitive.

    All in all I think ESPN's coverage has been pretty good. Lon McEachren isn't as good as Mike Sexton, but he's mostly a straight man for Norman Chad who, unfortunately, isn't as funny as he thinks he is. I'm not an automatic Vince Van Patten-basher, but I think Chad has the edge because he is, on occasion, willing to criticize players who either make bad plays or whose behavior falls outside the lines.

    As he did during this week's shows. I hope that Iggy watched last night, or gets the chance to see them very soon, because they would hopefully have cheered him up after the loss of his cat supreme, Monty, who passed away yesterday. I mean, last night shows had everything to make a Guinness-fueled ranter smile--a Phil Hellmuth meltdown, and his hero T.J. Cloutier sticking it royally to Dutch Boyd. Christmas in August.

    Let's talk about Phil a bit. They had a little sidebar featuring Phil and his mom, very sweet. She tells us that no one has a bigger heart than her son, and to illustrate this Phil tells us that he's given away all but one of his 9 WSOP bracelets. Uh, so to show that you're a generous sort, you tell us that you've given away an item you already have 9 of? Seems more like a garage sale than largesse.

    OK, that's a bit over the top, even for me. But even though this was obviously a puff piece, don't you think someone from ESPN (even Chad) might have asked Mrs. Hellmuth, "We hear you say that your son is a wonderful person, and we believe you, really, but don't you get a bit concerned that he's closing in on 40 and still acts like he's six? I'm talking about the pouting and whining and general brattishness".

    That question was not asked. I guess its asking a bit much to put Phil's mom on the hot seat like that. Still, when Phil was knocked out and whined to his sister something along the lines of "If there wasn't any luck at all I guess I'd win all these things", Chad repeated Hellmuth's statement with palpable disgust in his voice. Kudos to Norm for that one.

    One player at the table, Frank Sinopoli, nearly became my new poker hero. Hellmuth said something like, "You cashed five times so far?", Phil lowering himself to praise another player, and Sinopoli just stared back like, "Yeah?". Phil gave him a big smile and said, "Yeah, so have I, buddy," and leaned across the table to touch fists with Sinopoli, the way the kids do these days. Frank would have become my favorite player had he just kept his seat and stared back like, "The fuck I care what you think?". But Frank returned the gesture, I guess not lowering himself to Hellmuth's poor behavior. Ah well.

    The razz finale was fun just to see Howard Lederer going nuts. We're used to the impeturbable Howard, but last night we saw him frustrated, petulent, even whiny. Great stuff. I have to say I can't blame Howard at all for acting up a bit, as he has some hands that would get the Dalai Lama shrieking, "How could get three goddam pair again?? How??".

    I can't give you an exact recap of the hand that pretty much put Dutch Boyd in the trash bin, but Cloutier had him utterly skunked and for some reason Boyd kept throwing chips in, even as the board showed that he almost certainly couldn't win the hand. He even raised a few times, and when it was all over, well. it was all over.

    ESPN again showed Boyd and his "Crew" strutting around like the baddest Little League team on the block. They're had a great showing at the WSOP, to be sure, but this "Crew" thing is just silly. What isn't silly is the controversy that surrounds Boyd. Just search under his name to get a whole lotta people talking about the online poker room Boyd opened that quickly went under, taking with it about $400K of investors' money. Boyd blames...well, he blames a whole bunch of people, and his story seemed to change depending on who he was speaking to. The ESPN coverage has portrayed Boyd as this genius who happens to play poker, and he's become famous for it. I learned this myself when, after posting a bit about Boyd I suddenly saw a bunch of referrals to this site by people searching under "Dutch Boyd" and "The Crew".

    I don't know if those same people also read about the controversial side of Boyd, and I wonder if ESPN will touch the story with a 10-foot-pole. What am I saying, of course they won't. I think I may have to do some research and write a post about this, I have something in mind, but it's gonna end up being another fairly monstrous one.

    Brief interlude--I just watched a bit of "Celebrity Poker Showdown", and are Gail O'Grady's eyes really that green? She had one of the great topless-from-the-side scenes in TV history when she appeared on NYPD Blue, tho her Noo Yawk accent was so horrid you nearly had to leer at her with the mute button pressed. Lovely woman--but why was she wearing her drapes? Did I miss something there, why was she covered by what looked to be 72 yards of fabric?

    I think that's enough for now. Yes, that's quite enough.

    Monday, August 02, 2004

    Sex Bomb, sex bomb, David Sklansky is your sex bomb, uh huh

    After you read this response to what turned out to be a hoax, read this and this.

    If you play poker you know who David Sklansky is, but if you don't let me explain a bit. Mr. Sklansky is the author of many seminal (no pun intended, as you may suspect later on) poker texts, including The Theory of Poker, considered by many the most important poker book ever published, as well as a chapter of Doyle Brunson's classic Super/System. If you're a serious poker player, you've read Sklansky. Or at least skimmed him.

    David can be, at times, a bit prickly (again, no pun intended). I've read a few of his interviews, and he's rather sure of himself. He's also a bit of a snob, just a bit. In A. Alvarez's classic book The Biggest Game in Town Sklansky tells the author that he studied mathematics at Penn--not Penn State, mind you. Penn, the Ivy League school. As a Nittany Lion alum I took serious umbrage at this. Penn State is an excellent school that needs to make no apologies about its academics. Although they gave me a diploma...

    So I'm perhaps a bit predisposed against Mr. Sklansky. But what prompted me to write this little screed was a comment Sklansky posted on the 2+2 forums, which is his home base on the web. Sklansky and Mason Malmuth's publishing house just issued a new book by Ed Miller about low-limit Hold-Em, and there was some talk on the forums about a debate between Miller and Lee Jones, whose book Winning Low-Limit Hold-Em I read and enjoyed. Two authors with books about the same subject exchanging ideas. Nice.

    Of course things quickly turned nasty, with Sklansky posting a comment where he mentioned about 17 times that Miller is an MIT graduate, which apparently makes everything Miller says or thinks infallible. I should mention that, while Sklansky attended Penn, he never graduated from that fine university, and perhaps he's a bit sensitive about that and overcompensates with snobbery.

    But how to explain the comment I linked to above. Rather than have you go back and forth, I'll just post it here. Mucho thanks to Iggy for pointing this lunacy out in the first place:


    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.


    Is your jaw up off the floor yet? Are you done laughing? Or cringing?

    Okay, where to begin, where to begin...I mean, am I right in thinking that Mr. Sklansky, uh, has some issues here? It's good that he's trying to work them out, it's a good thing, but in such a public place?

    Let's begin at the beginning. Sklansky argues that being rude and nasty to people is A-OK if it gets people to study math more. I've always ascribed to the belief that you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar. Insulting people and belittling their intelligence doesn't seem to be the best way to get people to crack the books. It didn't work for me in Mr. Banks' Algebra II class my senior year, and I don't think it would work with too many other people.

    So David thinks getting people to study math is worth ignoring the rules of civilized social conduct. Okay. exactly did that segue into a discussion of Marilyn Monroe screwing Albert Einstein? I mean, I'm not a math whiz, I was an English major, and one thing we learned was how to link ideas together into a coherent whole, so that you don't lose the reader as you go from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph. You don't leave the reader hanging, don't leave him saying, "huh?".

    I have no idea why Sklansky brought up this interesting piece of Hollywood/theoretical physics gossip and then ran with it. Don't think I want to know. But is his reasoning sound? Should we give David Sklansky the same respect for his views about the sexual desires of women as we do about poker?

    Ha. Ha ha. Tee-hee, even.

    Let's start with this tryst between Marilyn and Albert, which I'd never heard about before. Now, Skansky (whose nickname, and this shouldn't come as a huge surprise, is Einstein) finds it significant that perhaps the most famous female sex symbol since Helen of Troy wanted to have sex with perhaps the most intelligent man since Issac Newton. Now, it may have been significant for Al, who probably enjoyed boffing blonde sex goddesses as much as the next non-Nobel-winning guy. But it's hard to argue that it was Einstein's mathematical genius that got MM all hot and bothered. Remember, Marilyn also slept with baseball icon Joltin' Joe DiMaggio; literary giant Arthur Miller; alpha-male political colossuses like Jack and Bobby Kennedy; and (allegedly) mob boss Sam Giancana.

    None of the gentlemen listed are primarily known for their mathematical prowess. They are known for being famous and/or powerful, and as famed ladies man Henry Kissenger once said, "Power is the ultimate aphrodesiac". So it might have been Einstein's fame that got Marilyn going, or the fact that he had unlocked the secret of how the universe worked. I don't think Al got Norma Jean in the mood by explaining Special Relativity to her. I don't think that can be considered foreplay under any circumstances, not even at MIT. So the fact that Marilyn Monroe slept with Albert Einsten (if that actually happened) hardly supports Sklansky's case that women instantly get revved up by math whizzes. It's perhaps more interesting to wonder what took Marilyn so long to get around to Einstein, and whether she bothered to get naked or just hiked up her dress to hurry the act along. Wonder if she ever hooked up with Fidel Castro...

    So Marilyn Monroe slept around a bit. Our society has rather a double standard about the sexual habits of men and women. A man who sleeps with many different women is called a stud, and is looked upon with envy by his peers. A woman who sleeps with many different men is called a slut, and is an object of scorn. Especially if it's your sister everyone's talking about. The idea that women can have sex for their own pleasure is a new one, especially in evolutionary terms. Folks no longer have sex solely for the generation of offspring, unless you're really, really Catholic. We have sex for fun, for the closeness it brings between two people, and because there's nothing on TV.

    But I'll concede the point to Sklansky that there is some primordial urge within Homo sapiens that drives us to mate. We and chimpanzees share about 99% of the same DNA, and you don't see chimps talking earnestly over cups of rapidly cooling coffee before heading off to a secluded treetop. We've all had those episodes, where you see someone across the room and suddenly feel flushed, your heart racing, an sense of delicious agitation suffusing your body. For women this happens once in awhile, for men it happens 80 or 90 times a day. Or an hour, if you're at the beach.

    But what is it about that other person that profound reaction? Let's take the example Sklansky states, a woman becoming aroused by a man. It happens, really. But why? Certainly, there are women who appreciate intelligent men. But how exactly do you determine if a man is intelligent or not? Just standing there it's not always obvious if you're looking at a Ph.D or a People magazine subscriber, unless, if you follow Sklansky's apparent belief, the guy is wearing an MIT sweatshirt or something.

    How can you tell if someone is intelligent? By listening to him speak; by observing his actions; by evaluating his opinions and beliefs; and I'm sure a myriad of other methods. Methods which usually take a good bit of time. You usually can't tell instantaneously if a person is on the ball or a total chowderhead. Maybe he knows a lot about math, but can't tie his shoes. Maybe he's can make that computer sing, but can't tell you how to replace a lightbulb.

    "Intelligence", as Sklansky seems to see it, is an all-encompassing attribute. If you're smart, you're smart. But if you argue that evolution makes women desire men who are intelligent because their offspring will have a better shot at survival, what manner of intelligence would these women be looking for? Men who can perform complicated abstract thought, or those who have, for want of a better word, "street smarts"?

    Sklansky says that the offspring between women and dumb men wouldn't survive because their dumb mates couldn't protect them. Which is a fair enough point. The big advantage humans have over other species are our big brains, which allow us to think in a (hopefully) more complex way. But what protection would those brains have produced back in those Early Man days? Where to look for potential predators, how best to hunt down prey, and how best shelter and protect themselves from the elements. As evolution molded our ancestors into the humans we are today, I doubt math and statistical skills were all that important. Probably the most sophisticated calculation Caveman Ook had to make was how many swats of his club to the head of Caveman Oop would result in a substance resembling cottage cheese coming out of Oop's ears.

    And while your female Neanderthals may have benefitted by mating with those males who proved themselves in some way intelligent, they also would have been wise to mate with males who were bigger, stronger, and faster than the other. Sklansky seems to discount those physical attributes that are so obviously the driving force behind sexual attraction. There are good evolutionary reasons why a female would want to mate with a slope-headed caveman with a totally bitchin' bod. Said well-built caveman would be better able to track down and kill prey; better able to defend her and her offspring from predators and other aggressive males; and, if he was in excellent physical condition, would be far less likely to pass down hereditary diseases and weaknesses to her children.

    A woman can tell at a glance if a man has those physical characteristics. That man may be a total idiot, and mating with him may leave her with children who are too stupid to compete with other, more intelligent kids, but it's gonna take her some time to figure that out. It may be an opening line like, "If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?" followed by a hyena-like cackle that convinces her that under no circumstances should she mix her DNA with his, or it may take him "forgetting" his wallet on their first dinner date. Still, it takes more time for a man to demonstrate his mathematical or statistical aptitude (or lack thereof) than to show off his biceps and blue eyes.

    How did Sklansky come up with this stuff? Perhaps Sklansky's greatest book is his Theory of Poker, which even the cranky and non-Sklansky-booster Gary Carson called the most important book every written about the game. Sklansky spends a lot of time theorizing about poker, and it's possible that this latest philosophical foray is the result of hundreds of hours of abstract thought. Or, as Iggy suspects, Sklansky's just getting laid. Is it possible that there are poker groupies, fresh-faced young women who seek out the poker establishment and hope some of that genius rubs off on them? I don't see why not, and if Sklansky is gettin' biz-zay with all sorts of dewy-eyed and pert-breasted young stuff I can only applaud politely and say, "Well done."

    But if that's the case his evidence is merely anecdotal, and much as I hate to admit it, I have a lot of anecdotal evidence to indicate that women emphatically do NOT get all hot and bothered by men good at math, logic and probability.

    Let's begin with the simple fact that, if it were true that women become sexually aroused by men who display an aptitude for math, every math classroom in the nation would be filled to overflowing. Let's face it--men will just do just about anything to get women to notice them. Yet you see far more guys going out for football than the Math Bowl squad. You don't see guys accessorizing their Armani suits and Sean John ensembles with pocket protectors and Palm Pilots. You don't see guys spending an hour each day doing fifty reps of trigonometry.

    Do mega-babe supermodels typically end up on the arm of movie stars or Nobel shortlisted physicists? Has Stephen Hawking ever made People magazine's list of the 50 Most Beautiful People? Has anyone ever described the definition of regression analysis as "pillow talk"?. I think not.

    Let me humiliate myself (and my friends) by drawing on some examples from my own delightful experiences with the opposite sex. Over the years I've taken a variety of tests to measure intelligence, from your basic IQ tests to the SAT, GRE, and GMAT tests, and I can say with little fear of contradiction that, so far as cognitive horsepower goes, I'm in the top 5%. While my math scores aren't nearly as high as other subjects, I'm not a total loss. I've taken graduate-level statistics--heck, I've even published an essay about statistics.

    One would expect, according to Sklansky's theory, that I would have had a life verily infested with lusting women impatient for me to impregnate them. Dear reader, let me assure you that this has not been the case. Far from it. So far from it, in fact, as to depress me to the gills.

    But perhaps I'm a bad example. Though I'm good at math, and smart in a general sort of way, Sklansky is saying that it's the real braniacs that get women all hot and bothered. Fortunately, I'm friends with a few guys who match Sklansky's requirements. Unfortunately, for them especially, my friends do not bear out his claims.

    Take my friend Jim, for instance. If I'm in the top 5%, he's probably in the top 1%, if not higher. I've known Jim since kindergarten (where we were the only two kids who could already read) but you don't need my testimony to confirm he has some robust gray matter. Our high-school valedictorian and the top-ranked chemical engineer the year we graduated from Penn State (need I say that Penn State has outstanding engineering programs?), Jim took a job with a big drug company where he now runs a lab that is researching AIDS treatments. Dude is smart.

    And yet, in all the years I've known Jim, I have never seen him mobbed Beatles-style by a posse of horny, shrieking women. I don't think I'm embarassing Jim by revealing that, to the best of my knowledge, he has never been intimate with a Playboy centerfold. During the study hall we shared as high school seniors (where Jim would write up our chemistry homework and I would copy it with all the devotion of a Trappist monk), Jim and I did not have any conversations that went something like this:

    Me: Man, you look awful.

    Jim: (yawning) I was up till 1AM last night.

    Me: Again?

    Jim: It's the same thing over and over again. I go to bed, and there's a cheerleader sneaking into through my window. Last night there were three of them.

    Me: Dude, that's rough. I've gone two whole nights without a gorgeous woman begging me for sex. Got a good eight hours last night.

    Jim: (yawning again). Stop bragging.

    Let me stress again that no conversation like this ever took place. And, I daresay, no conversation like this has taken place in the long, messy history of the human species.

    There is one simple way to confirm that women don't get fired up by mathetmatical men--ask a bunch of women. But to my mind this seemed like piling on. If I have data to support my point, do I need a statistically significant sample of young women looking at me like I'm a dork after I've asked them "Do you get sexually excited when a man demonstrates an aptitude in math, logic or probability?". I have enough nightmares involving women that I don't need to go out and start looking for new ones.

    I think I've proved the point that Sklansky's fundamental premise is, alas, seriously flawed. But does that matter if 'ol Dave is getting regularly laid? Not to him it doesn't. If there IS one overriding theory that governs male attempts to attract the female, it is this: "Whatever works, baby!" Whether its reciting French poetry, zooming by on a motorcycle, flaunting the recent returns in your portfolio, or just declaiming in a loud voice about your gigantic penis, men will do just about anything to attract a female. And, if at first we don't succeed, we'll try, try again. We're adaptable. We're clever. We're desperate.

    Demonstrating that you're good at math is just one more arrow in the quiver. To be sure, this is the best time in human history to be good at math: if you're good at math that means you're more likely to make tons of money in computers, finance, or, indeed, poker, and thus attract women who want their offspring to be raised in style. But you think getting 800 on your math SAT means the Olsen twins will be calling to see if you want to do some calculus while relaxing in a sudsy bubble bath? Don't count on it. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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