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

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My Articles

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

My Columns

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

My Greatest Hits

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

Fellow Poker Bloggers

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

Poker Sites

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


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    Wednesday, May 25, 2005

    CNN Learns Poker is Popular

    Looks like CNN is running a series of articles about poker. I've only read about the first 4 grafs of the first piece and it looks like yet another "oh, dear, these college kids are turning into degenerate gamblers" piece. Here's a quote:

    "You don't understand," says Tom, an Indiana junior who asked that his real name not be used. "Right before you flop a hand, before you win, when you know you've got the nuts [an unbeatable hand], that's the greatest rush in the world."

    Uh, "right before you flop a hand...when you know you've got the nuts"? Beyond the fact that I don't often hear folks say "flop a hand" in that way, how often in Hold-Em do you have the nuts before the flop? Answer: zero. The author also describes a hand called "2-7 offsuited", which I think would be better said as "2-7 offsuit" or "2-7 unsuited" or, naturally, "The Hammer", but of course no one at CNN reads blogs.

    Let me read further and I'll write more.

    UPDATE: Looks like one of the Duke guys Otis met at the EPT is mentioned.

    UPDATE: Down at Duke a pair of queens is called "Siegfried and Roy" and not "The Hilton Sisters. Pauly will be outraged.

    Wait, am I an idiot? No, I mean now specifically. This article shows an issue date of 4/28. Did I just sleep through all this and not see it? It's listed on the CNN home page, I don't recall anyone else linking to it. Or me reading it. I may be losing it.

    There are a number of related articles, can't believe I would've missed them all. I may be making much ado about nothing.

    UPDATE: Screw these update thingys. There is an article that posted just yesterday, and it in the author is describing a player who is Party affiliate.

    The author's take on affiliates: "Can you say pyramid scheme?".

    There's some brilliant reporting. The writer already said in the piece that in online poker you can only lose money you already have (meaning you've deposited it already) and so the money that's wagered is actually already in the bank, as it were. So when the affiliate gets a cut of the rake it's just money the poker site is actually collecting. There's no "pyramid", there's no big fish taking in money from a bunch of little fish with no intention of paying it out. The affiliate gets a taste, where's the pyramid?

    The guy they sent to write these articles says thate before he started he didn't know a big blind from a duck blind. Um, why have a guy who doesn't know what he's talking about write a bunch of articles on the subject? Poker is popular enough they should've been able to find someone who at least had an inkling about the game.

    At the end of the one article the writer goes all-in against some alleged hotshot. The hotshot calls by also saying "all-in". I don't know why that bothered me so much. He should've said "call" or "fold". When you're heads up and the other guys goes all-in, you don't say "all-in" as your reply. You say "call". Or, "fold". It rings false, yes? Or am I overreacting again?

    Monday, May 23, 2005

    Segue Away

    I mentioned yesterday that I played some beach volleyball Saturday night at our local hangout where they have 2 sand courts. There's an outside bar as well, and several tables tented over along with a pool table. Plenty of room to hang out, chill, ponder the mysteries of the universe while sipping some post-game suds. Almost Nirvana.

    Speaking of which, Saturday night there was a band playing there. They did that a few times last year, not always successfully, but this night the place was packed, even with an absurd $3 cover to get in. We paid, found we had 8 people who wanted to ball, and started playing even as there was rocking and rolling going on just behind us.

    The first of what may be many asides: The combo playing within was a Led Zeppelin cover band. Now, I like Led Zep well enough. Rock and roll titans. And the band Saturday night was pretty good, from what I heard of them. The thing is, Led Zeppelin hit its stride about 35 years ago. I find it somewhat remarkable that, nearly two generations later, there are still people out there devoted enough to Led Zep to base their whole act around them. And the place was packed, mostly with young twentysomethings, so it isn't like these guys don't know what the audience likes.

    My point is this: back in 1975, were there Andrews Sisters cover bands going to bars singing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy"? The time gaps are about the same. Were there stoned-out-of-their-minds slackers hanging out at Bicentennial celebrations swaying back and forth as three perky women belted out the "Beer Barrel Polka"?

    Talk of people stoned outta their minds leads me to aside number two: After we finished playing we sat at some of the tables right by the courts and had a few beers, but it got friggin' cold and was soon unbearable. We went back into the bar itself, which is open-air but has a roof and is warmed by two big propane-tower thingys that kick out lots of warmth. There were five of us in a circle chatting about this and that, when out of the corner of my eye I spot this tall guy wearing a T-shirt with the band's name on it walking toward us. Well, "walking" is perhaps a bit generous. "Teetering" and/or "tottering" would be more appropriate. He shuffled forward, obviously intent on joining our little group for some reason, but in a world moving at 45 RPM he was definitely an LP set for 33. It took him about fifteen minutes to cover the fifteen feet to reach us, but when he arrived he'd certainly got our attention.

    "Does...anyone...want...some...moonshine," he asked.

    Not something you often hear in a bar, one of the patrons offering you a drink. Couple that with the fact that he'd directed his comment most directly at two young women we were chatting with and it was even more bizarre. The two ladies politiely declined, and my friend Rick asked if it was stuff he brewed himself.

    He started talking, but I admit my mind wandered. At what point in the game do you you start bringing moonshine along when you're going to a bar?? Had he had many bad experiences where he went to an establishment but their roster of intoxicating agents wasn't up to par? I mean, I know that Al has, on occasion, emptied an establishment of all the SoCo on the premises, but has he gotten to the point where he's bringing his own bottles when he goes out? No, because I think that Al, and most of us who enjoy the odd tipple, are optimists when it comes to the availability of booze. When I hit a bar I don't go through the door worrying that they're gonna run out of beer. I have Faith.

    Back to the staggering drunk. Rick couldn't resist questioning this guy, and he soon produced a Mason jar filled with an ominously clear liquid. He unscrewed the lid, and I swear I saw vapor rising. I caught a whiff of it, and thought it smelled like some kind of solvent used to degrease industrial turbines. The guy took a small but still wince-inducing swig. We were standing about 10 feet from the propane heater, and the guy was smoking a cigarette, and I took a step back expecting the guy to start spontaneously combusting. But no flames appeared, and he soon staggered off to talk to a bunch of girls sitting at the bar.

    Another quick aside: As I was driving to the bar I was listening to Elvis Costello, and there's a line in the song "In The Darkest Place" that goes, "You may laugh...but pretty girls look right through me". As I returned from the restrooms back to my friends and beer I passed a trio of young fetching ladies. They walked past me without even acknowleging the fact that I was an obstacle in their way. At least cower in fear a little, please. I have been given much sage advice on this subject by my friend Jeff, I must make a careful study of it, incorporate it into my personal ethos. And start doing more push-ups.

    All in all I had a good time. Played a bit, drank a bit. Why is it that drinking outside with sand between your toes is such a pleasure? As is drinking after an hour's exercise. Not such a difficult question, is it?

    Sunday, May 22, 2005

    Heads-Up Poker Snoozefest, and the Poker Superstars Stackshove

    After an active and fun-filled Saturday filled with kayaking (nearly ended up swimming and/or drowning in the Allegheny River) and beach volleyball (nearly died of hypothermia sitting outside drinking afterwards) I spent Sunday relaxing, doing a little laundry and some other domestic stuff. While I did I watched the Heads-Up Poker Championship on NBC and a tiny bit of the Poker Superstars later in the afternoon. I should've taken a nap instead.

    On Friday I was at a friend's wedding and my buddy Scott asked me for some advice on what to do when you get heads-up with someone. I gave him some vague advice about being the aggressor, but frankly I'm not an authority on heads-up play, as I'm usually crying on the rail long before that. But I thought watching four of the best players in the world play this way would give me some insight about how to play mano e mano.

    Nope. NBC seemed far more interested in detailing the vagaries of Phil Hellmuth's personality than on the poker, and understandably so as the action was pretty blah. Lots of raising with garbage, limping with big hands, Chris Ferguson sucking out twice on the river to prod Hellmuth into predictably Philly antics. The first time he collapsed to the floor, which would actually have been understandable and even funny for just about anyone but Hellmuth, who seems to go floorward after every tough beat. The second time he just sat there trying to look stoic but coming across, as ever, as pouting.

    The most pathetic moment of the broadcast, and maybe the most pathetic thing I've seen on TV all year (I should say I don't watch the Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears shows) came when they showed a tape of Phil's appearance on McEnroe. Phil has been called the John McEnroe of poker, and I've never understood why people think that's a compliment. Anyway, they showed Phil demonstrating one of his tantrums, playfully jumping out of his chair and reciting a typical stream of lamentations, and McEnroe, sitting behind his desk, chimes in and speaks the Most Predictable Line In The History Of Verbal Communication. He opens his mouth and he actually says this:

    "You cannot be serious!"

    If I'm the head of MSNBC (or CNBC, or NBC, or whomever had control of this mess) I get on the horn immediately and cancel the show and tell security to escort Johnny Mac off the premises. Hackwork like that must be punished promptly. And since McEnroe had ratings the same as John Blutarsky's GPA (0.0) it never should have come to that. Probably more people saw McEnroe's talk show during it's brief appearance on a Saturday afternoon than it did during its actual run. Talk shows. When The Decline and Fall of the American Empire is written there's gonna be a volume dedicated just to talk shows.

    Anyway. If there was one thing I liked about NBC's coverage, it was how they showed how deliberate Chris Ferguson is when acting, how consistent he is when deciding what to do, and how that keeps his opponents from getting a read on him. Good stuff. But these poker shows have to stop giving Phil Hellmuth attention for his outburst and antics. It's like what the networks do now when some idiot gets drunk and runs on the field. They don't show it. They cut away and mention briefly why there's a delay and that's all the attention the idiot gets. They need to do this with Phil. Stop running the bits where he smirks and talks about how he's really trying to behave himself, stop showing the table chat where he belittles the opponent who just outplayed him, stop following him through the casino recording his histrionics when he loses. I know asking TV people to ignore a showboater is hopelessly naive, but I guess I'm just an idealist. I never stop hoping.

    Though I have stopped watching the Poker Superstars II, which has about as much in common with poker as Cheez Whiz has with cheese. A reasonable facsimile, but nothing more. If you've never seen PS2, let me sum up every show so far:

    Fold and/or all-in
    Fold and/or call

    The blinds are so high and the stacks are so short that tactics and strategy mean nothing. If you have a hand, and there's a raise ahead of you, you're playing for all your chips. Because you don't have enough room to maneuver. In a few of the shows there were players pot-committed like five minutes in because they lost the first hand they played and that pretty much crippled them. Dull, dull poker, and a dull, dull show. Maybe it'll get better once they get down to the final 16. I shan't hold my breath.

    But right now I'm watching ESPN's coverage of the 2005 U.S. Poker Championship, and I really enjoyed this tournament. They showed lots of hands, rotated different players through the TV table, lots of good action, lots of good play.

    John Aglialoro, who won the thing, said a few bizarre things during the brief bio piece they showed. He's the CEO of Cybex, who makes exercise equipment, and he said something like "CEO's are the creators in the world, they're the ones who get things done". Spoken like a CEO. Certainly Ken Lay and Bernie Ebbers got a few things done in their time. Well, I don't know enough to hack on Aglialoro, who for all I know actually invented the machinery his company sells. And as he comes across as a decent guy in the show.

    But he also was talking about Presidents who played poker (he was showing a picture he had taken with Bush) and he mentioned seeing Harry Truman's house in Key West where they had his poker table preserved for posterity. And he says that George Washington was also a good card player. Now, was poker around in the late 1700s? Maybe Aglialoro was talking about whist or something. I didn't think poker was on the scene at the time.

    And right now I'm too tired to research it. More poker content later this week, maybe even tomorrow. I've been walking at lunch instead of blogging, which partly explains my lack of posts. The good news is I've lost like 5 more pounds and I'm starting to look sleek. The bad, for a change, there's no bad news to balance it out.

    Oh, my weekly Dumb Question. If someone looks at your blog using Bloglines or another news reader, does that not show up in your Site Meter records? My hits are declining as the number of Bloglines subscribers goes up. I'd just like to know if my audience is abandoning me en masse.

    Thursday, May 19, 2005

    Really Random Thoughts

    I might have some actual poker content for my next post, but perhaps not. I felt like posting something so its something you'll get.

    Anyone who stood in line for days waiting to see Revenge of the Sith after the doubleplusbad stinkers The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones should have their voting rights revoked. Because they have something wrong in their skulls and their judgment is not to be trusted. The previous two Star Wars spectaculars were among the worst movies I've ever seen (only Mission Impossible 2 compares) and while the reviews for this one are better many are qualified with, "It's better than the last two!", which hardly makes me want to invest two hours sitting through it. I get angry when I see horrible movies, especially horrible big-budget movies who waste resources that might've been directed toward smaller and more worthy projects. I was so outraged after seeing Mission Impossible 2 that I wanted to file a class-action lawsuit against Tom Cruise. And I only rented it. Really should've gone to law school, instead of blogging I would've spent my time filing hundreds of frivolous lawsuits. I think I would've really enjoyed that.

    Speaking of movies and blockbusters and whatnot, Pittsburgh native Frank Gorshin died yesterday. Gorshin played "The Riddler" on the old Batman TV show with Adam West, and was THE best superhero arch-villian of all time, be it movie or TV. According to my calculations Gorshin was 38.9 times better as the Riddler than Jim Carrey. This is SCIENCE, people.

    Actually, the last few "Batman" movies were as bad as the last two "Star Wars" movies. Seriously, Joel Schumacher should've been placed in a chicken-wire pen for Batman Forever, which was called, I believe by New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane, "the most ominously titled movie in cinema history."

    I just called Frank Gorshin the greatest archvillan of all time. But wait...what about Julie Newmar? I may have spoken too soon. Because on my list of "Greatest Achievements of The Human Species" the decision to "Put Julie Newmar in a Black Catsuit" falls right between "Cultivating Wheat" and "Developing the Internal Combustion Engine". I think I must rank the late, great Frank Gorshin number...1A.

    I'm pretty good at avoiding horrible movies. Though I sat through What Dreams May Come with my wife, which was really, really horrible. Bad beyond belief. There were people leaving in the middle of it, but no matter how many longing looks I gave the exits my wife wouldn't budge. Nor would she walk out of Jerry Maguire, which I nearly DID walk out of, after the first 5 minutes. Hideous film.

    I actually don't see many movies, I guess I think life is too short to waste two hours absorbing Michael Bay's view of military history. Plus I'm an elitist snob. Which you'd never guess from the endless sniping and bitching I engage in. Actually, I don't know if you can be classified as an "elitist snob" if you went to Penn State and drink lots of beer. Maybe "asshole" is better. No no, for a Pittsburgher it must be "jagov" (or "jagoff", depending on how you were raised). Ah, the mot juste.

    Ah well, another brief post that rambles nowhere. I really need to get my blogging ducks in a row because while yinz are partying in Vegas (thanks for the reminder, G-Rob! I hope the title of your post when you get back is "The Sorrow of Set over Set") I'm gonna be cranking it out trying to steal market share. Unless I get distracted by something shiny, or something.

    Monday, May 16, 2005

    A Brief Stroll Down Nausea Lane

    My computer grows ever more senile, to the point where it takes me an average of 20 minutes to get online from the time I sit down at my desk. The damn thing froze every time I tried to shut down, so I'd have to hit the power switch when I was done, and then go through the whole "scanning for errors" deal every time I wanted to use it. That takes a good five minutes. And then Windows has to load and after that I'd have to go into my system tray and shut down a dozen or so programs and/or spyware that I can't get rid of. Thence to actually log on, only to have my system lock up at least half the time before I so much as checked my email. Digital age my ass.

    Well, I've read a few folks who use Firefox as their browser, not IE or Netscape, and since IE has given me so many headaches I need a CAT scan I decided to give it a try. And I like it. Like the tabs function. Like how easy it is to sort bookmarks, compared to IE's Jurassic method. And--here's the really good part--my computer actually now goes into standby mode. I can turn my laptop off, hit the power switch, and it comes to life raring to go. And this past weekend it only crashed once instead of 7 or 8 times. This will literally save me three or four hours of me raging against my machine.

    During this happy online time I watched a bit of the final WSOP satellite, and congrats to Joe, who will be wearing his WPBT Hoop T-shirt at the table. That's the shirt I'm thinking of getting (yes, I haven't shopped at Maudie's yet) and it seems to bring good fortune. Yes, I think that's the one for me.

    Let's see, what else. Oh, yes, my friends Matt and Kris celebrated their...seventh wedding anniversary yesterday? Congratulations. Though I must say that what I remember most about that day was eating the second most disgusting meal of my life. Oh, not at the reception, the grub there was fine. No, I mean what we groomsmen ate (or tried to eat) beforehand.

    Picture five guys in tuxedos trying to look suave and debonair. We were about an hour away from leaving for the church and we were hanging around the house Matt had just bought, and drinking, but just a little. It slowly dawned on us that we were all hungry, and that we wouldn't be eating for another 4 hours at least. What to do?

    Matt had only been living in the house a short while, and as he and his bride would be in Hawaii for 2 weeks he hadn't stocked the larder. The pickins were slim, unless you like drinking salad dressing out of the bottle or really savor good tap water. Ordering pizza was out, as we'd probably have to leave before delivery. Again, what to do?

    I think it was Scott who burrowed into the freezer, and came up with a box. A box of something. A box of something covered with frost that, when you shook it, made some noise. Food! A quick glance revealed that it was frozen fish patties. I forget the brand, and even if I knew it I probably wouldn't reveal it for fear of ending up in litigation, but I believe the box was yellow. Anyway, fish is food. Fish is good food. We put those patties on a sheet and stuck them in the oven, despite Matt's reservations. The fish was pretty old, he warned and had been inexplicably moved from apartment to house, meaning it might not be at the peak of freshness. Or the trough of contamination. We pressed on.

    If I recall, I did not take the first bite. That was Scott. He took a bite, made a Scott face, and expectorated into a napkin. "That's SO bad," he said. Everyone tried except me, and everyone thought it was hideous. Matt came up with a brillant idea--put barbacue sauce on it. That's Matt's solution to any culinary challenge, bring on the BBQ, and nine times out of ten his move is sound. Not this time. I selected an isoceles triangle of fish, sauced it, and took a bite.

    Without a doubt, the most vile, disgusting thing I have ever had in my mouth. The fish was not so much fish as a vaguely aquatic jelly; the breading tasted as though the filets had been dipped into the dust that once filled Tutankhamen's sarcophgus. The sauce tasted fine--that wasn't the problem. The problem was that the sauce, combined with the gelantinous goo and the ultra-dry breading, turned what was in my mouth into what I can only describe as a "clot".

    Swallowing was not an option, and I spat the horrid mess into a paper towel. "I need to shave my tongue," I groaned. We threw the rest of the mess in the trash (no biohazard container was handy) and went back to listening to our tummies grumble.

    Somehow we made it to the reception, I making an attempt to ease my hunger by getting three helpings of Communion (just kidding). I do recall that when we got to the reception we groomsmen hit the cookie table, and we hit that cookie table hard.

    You may be asking what my most disgusting meal might have been, but that's a story I'm going to save for another day. My digestive system can only take so much nostalgia at one time.

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    Chat No More With Phil Hellmuth!

    Wrote up a post and then forgot why I started one in the first place. ESPN had chats yesterday with Phil Gordon and Howard Lederer (both of whom talked of this and that and lightly pimped Full Tilt) and Mike Matusow (who talked of this and that but said he'd rather not talk about his recent incarceration) and in between came Phil Hellmuth. They even gave him 45 minutes instead of the half=hour they gave the other three, just so he'd be able to talk that much more with his legions of fans.

    So the chat begins, and in Phil's defense many of the questions are the usual pedestrian crap (what is your least favorite hand? what no-limit hold-em player do you fear most?). Who cares about that junk? I'd ask something like, "Will you be doing any more topless shots for ESPN this year?" or "After ESPN inexplicably broadcast you brushing your teeth in 2003, how have your most recent dental exams turned out?".

    Anyway, Phil answered the first few questions, then said that he was in the middle of getting dressed to go to the Mirage because he had a $2500 bet with Antonio Esfandiari about when the PPT event would start. Phil thought it'd start at 2PM, Antonio at noon. So we're treated to Phil telling us that he's getting dressed, that he's walking toward the Mirage. And from then on, it's basically all Phil just name-dropping and other nonsense. He tells us he's signing autographs and getting pictures taken. Oh, James Woods wants to say he wants to start at noon. Andy Roddick is calling for him. Michael Jordan wants to play poker with him. He got mobbed by poker groupies.

    The few questions that got through were mostly reactions to what Phil was saying (Is Andy Roddick going to your fantasy camp? Has there ever been a more professional name dropper than you?) and then he had to sit down and play. Now, I'm sure Phil is a busy guy, but if he can't carve out 45 minutes to chat with his fans/detractors, then don't schedule it. And people who don't especially like Phil and his antics (like myself) shouldn't sit there like idiots and read this goddam nonsense.

    So I won't read Phil's next chat--unless events prove this blog has massive influence over the poker universe. Because I am asking that all those who like poker boycott Phil's next chat session. Don't send in questions. Let him wait in silence. If he wants to talk, let him shout into the Void. Let us learn the answer to the age-old question: If Phil Hellmuth is alone in the woods talking about himself, does he make a sound?

    OK, enough about me being cranky. No, here's more crankiness. I read, oh, 50 poker blogs a day, just let 'em ding my Bloglines page and I make a quick meal of each one. And, let me tell ya, before too long I'm gonna be GOOD and SICK of reading entries that end "...only 21 more days till Vegas!!!".

    Because I'm not going. And it's KILLIN' me. It's like everyone around me is getting more and more excited about Christmas coming and I'm the only Zoroasterist in the class. I don't mind living vicariously through yinz, but let me tell you, vicarious anticipation is a pain in the ass.

    I promise you this--the next blogger conclave, I do think I'll be able to attend, and I'm putting a clock on this blog counting it down by tenths of a second. Just to be a jerk.

    One good thing coming up soon is the start of our beach volleyball league. I think the place where we play opens this Friday night, and I'll probably stop by, have a beer, reaquaint myself with jumping in sand. My quads are trembling already. I'm pretty beat up from playing indoors 2 nights a week for the last 6 months, so I took a week off and I feel about 10 years younger. I really, REALLY need to lose 25 more pounds before the start of the next indoor season, so I can get through the day without gobbling Advil like Tic-Tacs.

    And drinking beer. God, I can't believe I actually used to exercise without drinking afterwards. Beer eases the aches, the pains, the psychic trauma of losing week after week. The biggest difference between playing indoor and beach, besides the playing surface, is that in our beach league we drink before, during, and after the games, while indoors we only drink afterwards. Which perhaps explains why I like playing in the sand three times as much.

    Just a tidbit that I found shocking--Entertainment Weekly is reporting that it's "unlikely" Chappelle's Show will be back for it's third season. Dave Chappelle apparently checked himself into a mental health facility in South Africa back in April and has been there ever since. Uh huh. That doesn't sound good. I think Comedy Central can't feel too good about that $50 million contract they gave Dave after last season. Nor do I feel good about one of the few brilliant shows on TV fading away after just two seasons. Looks like I'm gonna have to start reading books again.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    Copyrights and Wrongs

    Rather than bloviate about the recent brouhaha involving websites grabbing content from various poker blogs, just read Otis's post on the subject (and the comments) and then hit The Fat Guy for more good stuff.

    In a nutshell, a site (and there have been several other instances) took content and posted it on their pages without asking permission. And then, when the writers specifically said they wanted their stuff removed, were told that because the content was syndicated it was free for anyone to use, attributed or not.

    No no no. Not so. Everything I write in this blog, and everything anyone blogs, is protected by copyright. To paraphrase what I wrote in a comment:

    Mean Gene = The New York Times = CNN = NPR

    when it comes to copyright protection. You can't steal stuff I wrote, or use it without my permission, even though this is just a blog, and even though I'm not as famous as Andrew Sullivan. It's a sad fact that I don't have people banging down my virtual door begging for my bon mots, but I did have one site steal something I wrote and I told them to desist. It felt good--it made me feel like a Big Man.

    The fact that this issue even came up shows how far blogs have come even in the 18 months since I started my own. Blogs are THE thing right now. All the networks and big-city newspapers are reporting on blogs or starting blogs or arguing about them. Blogs are hot. As hot as poker, even. Think about it--how many bloggers are going to the World Series thanks to WPBT satellites? Sounds like four at least. Two years ago, were there even four poker bloggers?

    The latest big thing in blogs is The Huffington Post, a site that features the writing of something like 300 people, most of them celebrities of some flavor. The power behind it is Arianna Huffington, who is...actually, I don't know exactly what she is. Go read her bio, basically she digs politics.

    I dunno if it's gonna work--first of all, the typeface and color scheme remind me a lot of The Onion, and I don't think that was intentional. Seriously, they had a picture of John Bolton on a sidebar with a tagline leading you to the story, and it looked JUST like the Onion. The picture showed Bolton in the middle of taking off his glasses, and I half-expected the tagline to read "MUSTACHE ORDERS MAN TO REMOVE SPECTACLES".

    Blogs let people write in their own distinctive voice, but on the Huffington Post you get serious policy pieces by Michael McCurry followed closely by goofy stuff from Robert Evans. You only see the first paragraph of each post and then you get that much-loathed link if you want to "read the whole post", and so your eye is naturally drawn down to the next scribe in line. Hard to hold your reader's attention, which is a problem you don't find with the one-person blog.

    I think there's gonna be some good stuff there (if Harry Shearer writes it, I read it) but how well these big-ego types are going to deal with being one voice among many clamoring for attention is rather up in the air. Also remaining to be seen is how many celebs who wrote for the first issue will decide that, while this blogging thing was a quaint little diversion, it's time to get back to the schmoozing and the yes-people. Maybe, just maybe, the more famous among us won't let us down.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005

    Should the WPBT Pay the Way for Jackpot Jay?

    Jay Lovinger is looking for a backer for the WSOP Main Event, and would this not be a golden opportunity for the poker blogging community to foist itself upon a mainstream audience? Lovinger has said he'd wear clothing with his sponsor's logo, so he could be draped in the finest ensembles available to the discriminating player. ESPN is of course shameless in its self-promotion, so you know Jackpot Jay is going to get at least a little face time, maybe even a healthy stint at a feature table. It may be hard for one guy wearing a WPBT shirt to stand out amongst the hoards in PokerStars regalia, but who knows how things may shake out?

    Hey, Maybe I Can Write For The Washington Post!

    Just in case Iggy is in a holding cell or something, there's an article
    about poker and poker magazines in today's Washington Post. It's basically a re-cap of content in various poker mags, including the once-thought deceased All In.

    The piece is written in a condescending fashion by a guy who admits he knows nothing about poker. I saw a link to it on Jim Romenesko's page, and I will be making some sort of comment to either them about it. I did have a letter published on Romenesko's site a few weeks back, maybe my name will stick in his mind...yeah...sure...

    I have a big post coming about content theft and the changing economic picture for the blogosphere both as a whole and our corner in particular, but first I want to get some Animal Crackers for breakfast. Priorities, people.

    UPDATE: Freakin' love animal crackers. Anyway, the article breaks such earthshaking news as:

    Chris Ferguson is called "Jesus", because of his long hair and beard.

    Chau Giang worked as a cook in a Chinese restaurant before winning a bracelet last year.

    Annie Duke graduated from Penn and Columbia and has 3 kids.

    Now, I guess it's a bit much for the writer to know that Giang is also one of the biggest cash game players in the world. But I think he (and the writer who's article he's regurgitating) should know that Duke has 4 kids. Unless there was a tragedy in their household that I'm not aware of...maybe I should just shut up about that. No, I'm pretty sure she has 4 kids. Yes, checked her website, everybody's fine. Whew. Their mistake not mine.

    The author also says he doesn't know what "the nuts" means in poker. I think my mom knows what that means, and she's such a savvy poker player that, if the planets aligned in some strange way and she was actually playing Hold-em, and was dealt an ace and a jack, she would immediately turn to my brother and say, "Ryan, have you talked to your friend A.J. lately, how is he doing?". Mom's got tells, tells, tells.

    Friday, May 06, 2005

    Dammit, I'm a Man!

    Coming to work I heard on NPR that today is Bob Seger's 60th birthday. OK, this isn't quite as epochal an event as the day when Natalie Portman turned 18 (ah, yes, I still remember where I was when I heard that wonderful news) but, anyway, Happy Birthday Bob. Wrote quite a few good songs that I've heard fifty or sixty thousand times. Classic Rock is ingrained deeeeeep in the Pittsburghian airwaves.

    I was pulling into the parking lot as I heard the news, and after I parked I got my new temporary parking pass and stuck in up on my dash. I got a nasty card under my windshield the other day because my old temporary pass was faded from the sun and the numbers close to unreadable. So they threatened to tow my car. Rather a stern motivational technique, especially for the rather laid-back company I work for. Compared to other places I work this place is positively mellow.

    So I used the parking pass to identify that I am allowed to park there. I then entered my building, where I used a swipe card to unlock the turnstiles and let me pass within. Reaching my desk, I logged on to my computer with a company-generated user name and password. I was early, so I entered my password to check my Yahoo mail, and then accessed two mainframe programs I use by entering two different logon ID's and two different passwords.

    Now I'm writing this, after accessing Blogger by entering a user name and password. I have to run to the bank today to make a deposit before I do some light shopping, so I may check my bank balance first, requiring me to enter my social security number, a password I generated, and a password the bank chose for me. For kicks I may check my Neteller account, requiring me to enter an account number, a password, and a "secure" password they select.

    And so, in the course of a few hours, I will have proven my identity on about a dozen occasions, using slips of paper, passcards, and a bewildering array of alphanumeric combinations. The amount of information you need to keep track up just to identify that you are who you are is just staggering. And getting worse every day. Computers can't recognize you by sight, and as online security these days seems to be about as effective as the prison guards on "Oz" were sites require users to jump through an increasingly complex series of hoops in order to ensure that they're dealing with the right person.

    These layers of security are due in large part to your hackers and cyberthieves and basic bad guys looking to hurt you in some way. Which is why, though I'm usually opposed to capital punishment, I've got no problem with putting a few heads on spikes in this matter. Because it costs ME time and money. It inconvieniences ME. You may say, aha, Mean Gene, you're a hypocrite! The death penalty is wrong when it affects someone else, but when hits home you want to run to Home Depot to buy lumber for the gallows. I disagree with your assessment. I am not a hypocrite. Its just that, in this one, narrowly defined instance, I behave in an incredibly hypocritical fashion. So don't tar me with the epithet "hypocrite" just because I do something hypocritical. It isn't fair.

    But back to my point, which is that even moreso than in the past our identities are bound up not in our names or our faces but in a constellation of random numbers assigned to us by various government agencies and monolithic corporations. I've seen this issue on both sides, as I used to work for a bank and had to verify customers' identity over the phone. They couldn't just tell you their Social Security number or PIN#, no no. WE had to be the one who chose the question for them to answer. So we'd ask when their most recent deposit was, or the amount of a certain check, and if the poor soul on the other line couldn't come up with that particular answer, they were outta luck. So I would get into arguments with people who were armed with thousands of fascinating facts about themselves but couldn't supply the one tidbit I needed to reveal their info.

    I understood the absurdity of the situation, but I also understood that I could be fired on the spot if I broke with the protocol. This was one of the main reasons why I hated the job and nearly went loco. Arguing with someone about the fundamental nature of personal identity is fine if you're an actor in a play by Camus, but sitting in a cubicle doing it for 8 hours at a stretch is a drag, man.

    But while the Internet provides us with countless locks that must be accessed by numerical keys, it also give us mountains to race up and then shout from at the top of our lungs. Like the blogs so many of us keep, which I'm sure many of us do because it gives us a chance to speak in our own words, and create something unique that proves to the world that we exist. Even if all we create is a mess.

    Which is why I close with what Bob Seger created back in 1978, a song that, I think, celebrates that primal urge to stand out as an individual, and make our voice heard:

    I take my card and I stand in line
    To make a buck I work overtime
    Dear Sir letters keep coming in the mail
    I work my back till it's racked with pain
    The boss can't even recall my name
    I show up late and I'm docked
    It never fails
    I feel like just another
    Spoke in a great big wheel
    Like a tiny blade of grass
    In a great big field
    To workers I'm just another drone
    To Ma Bell I'm just another phone
    I'm just another statistic on a sheet
    To teachers I'm just another child
    To IRS I'm just another file
    I'm just another consensus on the street
    Gonna cruise out of this city
    Head down to the sea
    Gonna shout out at the ocean
    Hey it's me
    And I feel like a number
    Feel like a number
    Feel like a stranger
    A stranger in this land
    I feel like a number
    I'm not a number
    I'm not a number
    Dammit I'm a man
    I said I'm a man

    Monday, May 02, 2005

    Five Things I'd Like To Do Before I Die

    The guy who sits two cubes in front of me just got back from a week's vacation. He went fishing, had a great time, good weather, fish were biting. I overheard him talking to someone about it and at one point he said, "Before I die, I'd like to spend a few weeks up in Montana fly fishing".

    Seems a reasonable desire for an avid fisherman. And as he doesn't have one foot in the grave he might very well end up in Big Sky country someday battling trout with a featherlight setup and a hand-tied fly. But it got me to thinking--what do I want to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil two or three hundred years from now?

    There are some obvious answers--write a few books, play a little poker, see a Vermeer. But that's pretty blah stuff. I mean, I might actually DO all those things. No, I'm thinking bigger. More ambitious. Messier. So here goes:

    1: I'd like to set up a real estate business, anonymously hire 5 guys, set them up for failure, and then come in one night and deliver Alec Baldwin's "Brass Balls" speech from Glengarry Glen Ross. That'd be DELICIOUS. To be one dishing out the abuse instead of on the receiving end...

    MG: "PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN. Coffee is for closers. You call yourself a salesman, you son of a bitch?"

    "A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, ALWAYS BE CLOSING."

    "You got leads. Mean Gene paid good money to get their names to sell them. You can't close the leads you're given, you can't close shit, YOU ARE SHIT, hit the bricks pal, and beat it, 'cause you are going OUT. "

    Shellshocked salesman: "What's your name?"

    MG: Fuck you. THAT'S my name. You know why, mister? 'Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. THAT'S my name."

    "You see this watch? You see this watch? That watch costs more than your car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see pal, that's who I am, and you're nothing. Nice guy, I don't give a shit. Good father, fuck you. Go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here, CLOSE. You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can't take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?"

    This'd almost be worth going to hell over.

    2: I'd like to rob a bank. At first I thought I preferred the more direct approach, march in with a stocking over my face and a sawed-off shotgun in hand and scream "EVERYONE GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR, THIS IS A ROBBERY!". Quite the adrenaline rush. But that's just not my style, especially the pistol-whipping and hostage-taking part. No, I think the subtle, late-night break-in is more my speed. Deactivate the security cameras, crack the one safe-deposit box I'm interested in, leave not a whisker of evidence behind.

    It turns out I'm not the only one who feels this way. As my friend Jeff told me, "I often thought about how I could pull a heist so elaborate yet simple and straightforward that even the salty, world-weary Head of Interpol would shake his head and say, "Tres Belle Magnifique! C'est Bon! Blimey! Ah have nevair seen such poetry! Game, Set and Match, 'Mr. Umberto.'". That would be a good pseudonym for a master criminal, "Mr. Umberto". Forget you just read that. That's my name now.

    3: I'd like to live in a foreign city for six years under a secret identity. My name would be something like "Jim Berger" and I'd have papers showing that I'm a Canadian citizen and I'd learn the language and make friends and get some sort of worker-bee job. Slowly, very slowly, I'd burrow deeper, get a new and exciting job at a government institute, win a few promotions, earn complete and absolute trust. And then one day the director would show up and the plans/prototype/serum has been stolen and that nice Mr. Berger is nowhere to be found and I'd be on a beach in the Carribean watching a CNN report on the theft with cars marked "POLITEZI" crowded around the institute.

    "Monsieur Berger, 'e was such a quiet zhentleman," my flustered landlady would say. "Oh, Herr Berger, all the time laughing, all the time with a smile on his face for all ze co-worker-type persons," my frightened supervisor would say. And then they would show a picture of me, one that did not reflect my recent plastic surgery.

    I think that'd be totally cool. Well, so long as I was an agent for good, not evil. And so long as I could tell the difference. When I graduated from college with that oh-so-useful liberal arts degree I took the civil service test and thought about working for the government in some capacity. I looked into the CIA, mostly from curiosity, and learned enough to know that I probably wasn't cut out to be a spook. They had a 30-question personality test, and one of the questions was something like, "Would you have a problem developing a friendship with someone who you planned to betray or to coerce into betraying their country?" I thought about that and said, "Well, yeah". Next.

    4: In large part we experience life through our five senses, but the intensity of our sensory stimulation is often outside our control. Listening to Mozart or the Beatles is available to just about everyone, but not everyone can see the sun rise over Mt. Everest, or smell fresh croissant coming out of the oven in a Parisian boulangerie, or make love to an eye-gogglingly gorgeous member of whatever gender floats our boat. Maybe we can get close to reaching what we would consider the ultimate experience, but unless we get lucky (or have lots and lots and lots of money) we'll never soak our brains with the best electrochemical jolts this existence has to offer.

    I've never seen the sun rise over Mt. Everest, but I have seen it rise over Mt. Nittany, and that was moderately spectacular. Never been to Paris, but I've been at Panera Bread when the Asiago Rolls are finally ready. And I've seen lots of beautiful naked women, some of them even in person. So while I've not reached the summit of sights, smells, and touches, I've at least made it to the first base camp.

    I like to eat. I like to drink. If you saw me in profile, or if I landed on you from a moderate height, you'd know that's the case. I've eated lots of good things in my time. Fried turkey, lump crab cakes, oysters, pirogi, Campbell's Chili Beef Soup mixed with rice. And I've drunk me many a good beer. But it's in the realm of taste that we are most limited in our ability to reach the maximum of pleasure. I can look at a picture of the Earth from orbit and be awestruck--but I can't look at a picture of caviar (or a truffle, or a perfectly broiled steak) and get an approximation of its taste.

    So if I ever hit it big, I want to drink a really, really, REALLY expensive bottle of wine. I think wine is about the priciest foodstuff on the planet, and from B-school I learned that the market sets value on products and services according to its intrinsic worth. Or something like that.

    Every year my wife and I and some friends go to the Finger Lakes of New York for a big wine festival up there. Good time, mucho drinking. Last year I tried a wine from the McGregor Vinyards called Black Russian Red. It was so...freaking...good. It was about the best thing I'd ever tasted. Just divine. I splurged and dropped $40 on a bottle of wine I probably won't open until 2008, by which time I will undoubtedly have done something to ruin it.

    Now, maybe you're thinking $40 isn't that much to spend on a bottle of wine. And perhaps you're right. But one of my favorite wines from up there goes $10 a bottle, and the Black Russian was vastly superior to it. So...if a $40 bottle can be that good, how good could a $500 bottle of wine be? Or a bottle that costs 25 grand? Exactly how good can something TASTE? I don't know, but I sure as hell would like to find out.

    Now, I know that there are wines out there that maybe cost less but are superior in quality. Maybe I'd hire some sommellier savant and give him a few hundred grand and tell him what I'm looking for and tell him not to skimp nor disappoint me. I'm not looking for some overlooked gem of an Australian cabernet. Bring me a beast of a Bordeaux or something from 1865 and don't worry about the price, dammit.

    So I'd look high and low for the most expensive bottle of red I could find (don't care much for whites) and pop the cork and drink it. All by myself. No, not by myself. I'd invite 50 or 100 of the biggest wine snobs in the world by placing ads in Wine Spectator and and anyplace else oenophiles congregate. And I'd let them watch as I enjoyed a masterpiece in a bottle.

    "Oh, Christ, is this GOOD!" I'd hopefully moan.

    "Does it have cherry undertones?" a snob might say.

    "It's got fucking undertones out the yingyang," I'd say before taking another sip and hugging myself with delight.

    "Might I have just a tiny, teeny snip?" another snob might ask.

    And I'd turn my head and show a blissed-out grin and say, "Oh, Good Lord, no."

    5: I have no desire to become famous. Well, a little bit of fame would be nice. Not enough that I couldn't go to the mall without being mobbed by the proletariat, but enough that I could get a decent table at a restaurant at the last minute. And enough so I'd be the center of attention in any strip bar I visited. But leave me in peace at the grocery store, OK?

    With six billion people on the planet it's hard to stand out from the pack, and if I'm doomed to obscurity, well, so be it. But there's one thing I'd like to do that I can only accomplish if I'm famous, even for a day. I'd like to punch out a paparazzi.

    Is there anything that announces your arrive on the grand stage than a scuffle with some unscrupulous photog from some gossipy rag? Is there a lower form of life than the paparazzi? Well, perhaps, you've got your Mugabe-class dictators to choose from, but they're not far removed from the vilest scrapings at the bottom of the barrel.

    It's a free country, and I'm a big believer in freedom of speech and of the press, but I also value the right to privacy. Espeically my privacy. And I wouldn't be shy about resorting to hysterical violence to protect it. I wouldn't want to copy Sean Penn with the solitary right cross or the supermodel-preferred extended middle finger. No, if I had my wish, I'd put a Sonny Corleone-beats-the-shit-out-of-Carlo beatdown on the bastard.

    "MEAN GENE, MEAN GENE, OVER HERE!" he'd scream as I leave my house, flash turning night into day and the shutter sounding like the clattering of a light machine gun. And I'd leap at him like a leopard on Andro and start rearranging his facial structure like a jigsaw. In my fantasy there's definitely a point where I'm bashing him with the lid of a trash can, just like Sonny, and then kicking him into the gutter. Right before I smash his camera and toss a few bills beside him as compensation. My only hope is that there'd be another photographer there to record it all.

    OK, there's five. I've already thought of a few more off the top of my head. As I look over this list I see that they're all about me satisfying my most base and savage desires, often at the cost of others' suffering and humiliation. To which I can only answer--yeah, ain't it cool? get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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