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
Barstool Sports
Card Player
Internet Texas Hold-Em
Poker Pages


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    Friday, July 29, 2005

    Hitch Up The Spurs, Climb Back in the Saddle

    Got a spot of good news the other day. The company I've worked for the last year decided that keeping me around full-time wouldn't adversely affect the stock price, so I'm no longer a temp. Well, I'll be officially hired once I pass the drug test, which unfortunately I should do with flying colors.

    I like the company, really like the people, like the job pretty well, like the fact that we're moving into a brand-new building on the North Shore at the end of the year. It's not my dream job (Pauly and Otis already took it) but whoop-de-do. I quit a job about 2 1/2 years ago because I hated it so much that jumping out my 38th floor window at times seemed less a horror than sitting in my cube. I was laid off last June from another job, which turned out to be a ridiculous blessing in disguise, as that job turned into a waking nightmare as well. I came to my current company making more money as a temp, with a commute cut in half, and a fantastic cafeteria. Which I just purchased a fish sandwich from, and said sandwich was delish.

    It's a load off my mind, and it's a load that's been there for, oh, 2 1/2 years. Actually, a lot longer than that. So I'm happy. Lots to learn, lots of training to go thru, but that's A-OK with me. Got a nice bump in pay, the benefits are very good...and I actually get PAID TIME OFF. Yowza.

    When I got laid off last June I pretty much stopped playing poker. I cashed out for a little vacation we took, and I told myself I shouldn't waste time playing when I should be looking for a job. I pretty much stuck to my guns, with a few toe-dips along the way. I'd wager that I've played fewer hands of poker in the last year than most bloggers play in a weekend.

    That's about to change. Not immediately--I'm not going to jump into the online fray right away. But in a few months, when I'm more settled in my job and summer has turned to fall, that's when I think I'll start up again. I'm doing things a bit different this time. I'm not depositing fifty bucks and hope I can nuture it against the threat of bad beats. I'm not going to play unless I'm properly capitalized, and I'm not going to play if I'm worried about the money. I want a totally separate bankroll, I want it large enough that I can play my usual low-limit game without fear, and I want to gradually improve both my game and my bankroll so I can move up in limits.

    When I quit last year I was a middling SNG player and a break-even limit player. To some extent I know why I was so awful at ring games, and I believe some of those flaws can be easily corrected. Some flaws I'm too obtuse to figure out, which is why a long course of study is in line before I start playing again. To that end I bought Ed Miller's Small-Stakes Hold-Em last night to start rebuilding my game. Which was constucted of Soviet-era cement to begin with.

    The numbers don't lie--I wasn't a very good poker player. And that was my goal from the start--to become a very good poker player. Not the World Champion, not a professional card shark. Just very good. So, time to get back to work on that.

    I'll be playing some poker this weekend, as I'm off to the lake again for more beer and boating and late-night Hold-Em. Got a few games lined up here in the 'Burgh as well. It's gonna feel good to get back in the saddle again. Can't wait to write up that first bad-beat screed. Yeahhhhh. Not that I'll actually post it...

    Thursday, July 28, 2005

    Another Column, Another Mild Diss

    It was Oscar Wilde who said, "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about". So I was pleased to see that in a recent article about Barstool Sports I was on the receiving end of what I think was an extremely light snark. The article seems to focus on the fact that Barstool Sports is not soon to be showered with Pulitzers, and the reporter then says,
    One issue even included a 1,400-word piece on why it’s foolish to wear sunglasses during a poker match.
    Guess who wrote that? I thought that column was pretty good, actually. I've always felt the primary responsibility of a writer is to not bore the reader. If I'm gonna write 1,400 words about sunglasses and poker it because I have 1,400 words worth to say about it. I tend to go on a bit, but I know your time is valuable and I don't want to waste it. Like I am now.

    David Portnoy is the publisher of Barstool Sports, and he has some classic quotes in the piece. To wit:

    “I hate writing. I always have.”
    “If people want to threaten us with lawsuits, I really don’t care. As long as it’s interesting and I think it’s funny, it goes in the paper.”
    “If someone put `Barstool Sports sucks’ right in the middle of their article, chances are it would get published.”
    (About ESPN Sports Guy Bill Simmons) “I think he’s a fraud and a total sham. But I still think he’s the best writer I’ve ever read. If I saw him walking down the street and he said he’d write for us, I’d hire him in a second.”
    That's awesome.

    Hopefully my elegant prose will help bring more attention to Barstool's writing and shift the focus away from its cover girls. Hmmpf, almost said that with a straight face. The one this month is again pretty cute, if you like tall, tan blondes.

    Oh, my column. Hope you read it.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2005

    This Post Has Nothing To Do With Party Poker

    Let's talk fish, let's talk about the river, and for a change I don't mean the bastards who hit their gutshot straight draws and make you question God's existence. The 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic will be held in Pittsburgh starting on Friday and ending on Sunday, and like me you're probably thinking, " Pittsburgh?"

    I thought these events were usually held on lakes the approximate size of France, where good 'ol boys zipped along the waters in boats with the same sensor package as an Aegis-class cruiser and the thrust-to-weight ratio of an F-15. You really can't go booming along the rivers the same way, since, you know, there are bridges every 50 or so feet, and enormous barges toting coal, and railroad ties and tires and abandoned Chevrolets and God knows what else floating around in there. The Three Rivers are infinitely cleaner than they were back in our boom town days, but I think there's still a warning out that you shouldn't eat more than one fish per week pulled from our waters.

    Not that winning the Bassmasters involves your skill with flour and lemon. No, the idea is to catch a messa fish. Thing is, I never knew our rivers were reknowned for large-mouth bass. I've never fished the rivers, but I know lots of people who have, and they've caught bass, but when Pittsburgh was awarded the 2005 Classic the first thing I thought was, "Is there gonna be enough to go around?"

    My fears may not be unfounded. Takahiro Omori, the defending champ, said he only caught 3 keepers in 5 days of practice. The article says Omori could be bluffing, which is as close to a poker reference as I'm going to get.

    I work right along the Allegheny, and I'm sure on Friday we'll see some boats flitting hither and yon. They're also predicting a lot of boats will be following the competitors around to watch the, uh, action, which makes me wonder if the fish will be able to find a quiet spot to swim. There are also concerns about crowd control, after a few reports of folks harassing the anglers. I heard one story about someone telling a fisherman he was pissed because "you guys are stealing our fish," which could only be made more hilarious by translating it into the Pittsburghese it was almost certainly spoken in, "Yinz is stilling our fish n'at".

    I'm still trying to learn if you can bet on this. I'll keep you posted.

    I hope the Classic is a huge success, I hope it brings much honor and lucre onto our city. I hope it isn't a debacle that gives everyone the impression that even the FISH are leaving Pittsburgh in droves.

    Monday, July 25, 2005

    Jaw, Meet Floor

    So once again I hear the beat of the humdrum and I'm at my desk about to start another working week. I arrived early and checked my email, and found a very nice one from Michael Craig, who's book The Professor, The Banker, and The Suicide King should be in your greedy little hands by now. I also had an email from Al, which was ominous. If he's going to be in Pittsburgh I'm gonna have to go into the Liver Protection Program...

    No. He sends me a screen print. Of Isabelle Mercier's new site. Which I couldn't see last night on my antiquated computer because it's rather flash and stylish. But which I can see now. You can tell from my choppy sentences I'm still in a minor state of shock.

    The page Al sent me is from the Press Releases portion of the site, under Online Reviews. And there's a link for Mean Gene, Poker Blogger.

    You can understand why my eyebrows rose until they were tickling the nape of my neck, yes? I'm flattered, and a bit relieved that when I described her as displaying a "Gallic sneer of arrogance" she took it as the compliment it was.

    I'm tempted to send her an email in my 8th-grade French, as that at least would explain what would certainly be a lack of suavity and calm-cool-and-collectedness. Je pense que vous êtes vraiment gentil might be better than I could manage in English.

    Hmm, I guess I should reciprocate and put her link on my page. Yeah, think I'll do that. Seems like there are lots of pictures on her site, so you know what I'll be doing for the next few hours. Sighing, lots and lots of sighing.

    Sunday, July 24, 2005

    Random Nonsense

    As you can see I've been tweaking away at the layout the last few days, nothing earth-shattering but I hope providing a more aesthetically pleasing read. Just changing the font for the column makes a big difference. I still haven't found a picture I want to use at the top, I'm not sure what direction I'm going to go with that. As if you care.

    Last night the WPT showed the Ladies Night tournament won by Isabelle Mercier, and here's the obvious answer to the obvious question--yeah, I watched it. Actually, I taped it, as I actually had something else to do at the time. But to be on the safe side I put the tape in an airtight bag filled with argon gas. Don't want anything to happen to it.

    I actually had a hit last night that came from, which sent me into a tizzy (did she link to me? did she...write about me?) but when I tried the site I just get a blank black screen. Might not be operational yet. Or it doesn't like Firefox. I'll be checking back every 17 minutes or so.

    I'm watching Reno 911 right now, and they're trying to interrogate a guy who only speaks Japanese, and they're using an interpreter who isn't quite getting the point across...friggin' hilarious.

    Saw Revenge of the Sith last night. It was...good. In that it wasn't as horrible as the previous two. It was pretty ludicrous, too. Natalie Portman goes through the fastest pregnancy in the history of the human species. She tells Anakin she's pregnant, then we see her in a gown and it looks like she's showing, then what seems like two days later she's chasing Anakin down on this lava planet wearing a miniskirt and knee-high boots and not a hint of tummy bulge. And the next day she gives birth. Uh huh.

    Poor Natalie. Her role consisted of two scenes beseeching Anakin "Don't shut me out!", she has a little scene in the Senate, she does the miniskirt-at-Mauna Kea thing. She does a lot of sitting on couches. She tells Obi-Wan "I know there's good in him!" after he's, like, committed genocide. For the second time. She may be royalty, she may be beautiful, but there's no denying the fact that poor Padme is dumb as a friggin' post.

    What's the fucking deal with the big iguana Obi-Wan was riding? I mean, there isn't one Kawasaki dealership in the Republic? That had "action figure sellout" written in big red letters all over it. And the ending was ridiculous, I can't believe Obi-Wan made the same mistake every James Bond villain makes. I really can't believe that's the best ending Lucas could come up with. Then again, after the previous two movies, the fact that Jar-Jar Binks didn't have a speaking role is a big step forward. I wonder what Lucas will do next. If anything. If I had $3 billion or whatever I wouldn't be wasting my time dreaming up cute and/or mildly disturbing aliens. I'd be...raising a mercenary army to expand my sphere of influence. Or something constructive like that.

    Friday, July 22, 2005

    Welcome to Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby!

    I get home and call my buddy Mark to find out what time our game is tonight, and he says "Did you hear the news?"

    "What news?"

    "The huge sports news."

    "What huge sports news? I got SportsCenter on right now and the goddam lead story is if Terrell Owens is reporting to camp."

    And Mark then told me that the NHL Draft Lottery had just taken place, and that my Pittsburgh Penguins had their ball plucked from the drum and therefore had won the right to draft the most ballyhooed player since Mario Lemieux.

    Throw in Marc-Andre Fleury, whom the Pens grabbed #1 two years ago, and Evgeni Malkin, who we took #2 last year, and other young players like Ryan Malone and Brooks Orpik and Ryan Whitney, and suddenly there's reason to be extra excited about the NHL rising from the dead. And, oh yeah, there's that Lemieux guy, who says he wants to play a few more years.

    A new owner coming in, maybe a new arena, a salary cap, new rules designed to open the game up...could hockey be ready to make a major comeback? Well, today's news will certainly generate a lot of buzz here in Pittsburgh, where hockey is still much-beloved.

    And now, to play in the sand and to drink the beer.

    Techies Rally Round

    I don't know why I torment myself with my hunt-and-peck-and-peek attempts at HTML programming when there are folks out there who know what they're doing who could save me the trouble. Here's what I want to do with the header of my blog--I want to replace the plain white background with a picture. Of what, I don't know. Maybe a nice shot of Pittsburgh. How the hell do I code that? I know, I have to be careful that I don't end up with a picture that's stretched out like taffy, but I'm going nuts trying to figure out how to replace that blasted MEAN GENE with a nice picture and a small little reference to the guy who runs the thing.

    So, computer geeks to the rescue! I just need to know how to use a graphic/picture as the title of this blog. The rest I think I can handle on my own. Then again, I thought I could handle this seemingly simple task and yet it's beyond me. I suck.

    Don't Panic

    First of all, my review of The Professor, The Banker, and The Suicide King has posted over at Pokermagazine, and I hope you check it out and then check the book out. Someday I want to walk up to Ted Forrest, put ten grand in cash on the table, and say, "Ted, I bet you ten dimes you won't eat this bug..." and pull out the wriggliest, furriest kiloped in the Pennsylvania forests. That'd be cool...

    Second, you may have noticed some cosmetic and structural changes to the blog. I may be doing some tweaking the next day or so, I felt the copy was a bit too narrow, and the typeface was bugging me. Is this print too small? I like it, but this is a blog, not an optometrist's exam. I want to get a bit more color in this, a bit more eye candy, more pictures, more oomph, as it were. I need to find a graphic or a picture to fill in the banner. That stark MEAN GENE at the top bugs the living hell out of me. Yes, I'm Mean Gene, no need to scream like that.

    I also got rid of the Google ads. Tho I liked the color they brought, they kept advertising products that said you could cheat at poker and hack into online sites and garbage like that, and I want nothing to do with crap like that. Should've done that a long time ago. Even I can turn my nose up at the twelve cents a day I was earning from them. You can't cash out until you have $100 in your account, and by my calculations I would've reached the century mark in mid-January of 2007. That's money I'll leave on the table, and I won't lose any sleep.

    So let me know what you think, if you hate it let me know, I might even listen to you. More tweaking to come, sorry.

    Thursday, July 21, 2005

    Some Great Poker Reading

    The World Series of Poker is over, and while ESPN's coverage has just started perhaps you're sorely in need of some quality poker stimulation. Pauly can't liveblog from Bellagio, so there's no way to find out if he took a piss next to Tobey Maguire. What to do?

    The answer is simple: get thee to the nearest bookstore and buy a copy of Michael Craig's book The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King. A few weeks ago I mentioned that I'd been sneak-reading it at Borders, but I've now completed it (actually twice) and it's a must-read for the poker enthusiast.

    I've written a full review and I'll be posting the link to it when it appears, but for now just let me say that its just a fantastic book. It's both the story of Andy Beal, a billionaire with a remarkable intellect and a formidable will, and of some of the world's best poker players, including Jennifer Harman, Ted Forrest, Barry Greenstein, Todd Brunson, and Howard Lederer. No doubt you've heard about the ultra-high stakes games Beal played against the "Corporation", but here's the real story of what happened.

    And that's what makes the book so compelling--Craig did a lot of reporting to get that story, which has been the subject of some controversy on both sides. With the practice of journalism these days considered about as noble as, oh, necrophilia, it's a pleasure to read a book that combines meticulous reporting with brilliant storytelling. Hopefully we'll keep seeing more and more quality non-fiction about poker instead of strategy guides. Since most of us are beyond help anyway.

    Like I said, I'll post the link to my review when it posts. Until then, just trust me, and seek this book out.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    Some Prop Bets

    How much do you want to bet that Pauly, Iggy, Otis and the Poker Prof will be featured in an article appearing in the august Annenberg Online Journalism Review?

    You Lose.

    An excellent piece about the poker blogging community and these four heavy hitters in particular, with even a mention of Bill Rini to boot. And some actually insightful and interesting comments from these guys, must've been interviewed when they were sober, lucky for us.

    I may write more about that piece later, but on to another prop bet. In his last column Jay Lovinger offers even-money that none of the top 10 players in the world will appear at the final table of the Main Event before the London Olympics conclude in 2012. When I first read that I thought, "Hmm, I like them odds". Then I read it again and realized he said the "top ten players in the world", not "a list of any ten players of your choosing".

    Because I think it's rather unlikely that some of the top players in the world--including Barry Greenstein, Ted Forrest, Daniel Negreanu, among many others--will win the Main Event for the simple reason that they're too busy during the World Series to make a serious run. They're either playing in every single event or in the big side games or they're busy with business and interviews and bothered by fans...too many distractions. Too many demands on their time, both profitable and non, to really focus on winning the Main Event. If I could make up a list I might still include Phil Ivey, who can roll out of bed and win a bracelet, but I might also throw in players like Joe Cassidy and John D'Agostino, young guys with the stamina to survive seven grueling days as well as the game to make it to the final 9.

    Well, that's about all the gambling I'm up for right now. Unless I go for the egg salad sandwich in the vending machine.

    Monday, July 18, 2005

    Eat, Drink, Sweat

    After following Pauly's every word as the WSOP wound its way thru June and July it was disturbing to disconnect from the Web for even a few days. I watched ESPN and CNN's crawl for news as we got ready to leave our hotel, but didn't learn until Sunday morning who won. My friends didn't want to know who won, preferring to leave the surprise until November, when the champion will be crowned on TV, and so they did the fingers in the ears and the "LA LA LA!" chant as I saw Joseph Hachem posing with the bracelet and 800 pounds of cash. The secret didn't keep--we saw the ad Harrahs posted in USA Today.

    Had a good time up at Watkins Glen. Drank a lot of wine, bought a lot of wine, and sweated like a showerhead. When you drink wine, especially red wine, you don't normally consider 90-degree temperatures with 98% humidity to be the ideal ambient conditions. Which is what the enviroment was like as we sampled the Finger Lakes' best under tents in the pit area of Watkins Glen Race Track. It was hot, it was humid, and then you add a few thousand people jammed together.. Thirty minutes in I was pouring sweat, rivulets running down my face and back.

    I stopped at one booth to sample their port. When you imagine people enjoying port they're usually stiff-upper-lipped English gentry gathered around the fire while discussing the results of the most recent fox hunt. It isn't a rapidly dehydrating moron who's hoping he wore enough deoderant while also resisting the urge to smash his glass over the head of the jackass who just cut in front of him. There's a reason you don't see port sold at baseball parks. It's not a warm-weather drink. It just isn't.

    I don't like white wine much, which meant I was drinking blood-warm reds most of the first day. I wasn't driving and I wanted to get nicely drunk, but it was pretty much impossible. It was far too crowded to quickly horn in and get 7 or 8 quick samples down the gullet, and I was forced by what could only be described as "a case of the vapors" to drink lots of water. We paused to eat, and to drink more water, but while I was able to drink a lot of very good red wine (McGregor Vineyards, Black Russian Red, good stuff) I wasn't even able to get buzzed.

    After a swim that redefined "refreshing", we went to Corning for dinner at our usual spot, the Market Street Brewing Company, a very nice brewpub indeed. Here I had three or four beers, I think three, which both restored my tissues and got me so relaxed that I was sound asleep ten minutes after we got back to the hotel.

    Sunday was the day to buy wine. It was much less crowded, and while Saturday mimicked the surface of Venus it was only murderously oppressive on Sunday. I think I only lost 11 pounds on Sunday.

    First a bunch of our gang signed up to take a ride around the race track in a 2-seater Indy car. I passed, not out of fear...well, partially out of fear. Not of the speed or the curves, oh no. I was afraid that I'd get stuck in the cockpit. Turns out I needant of worried--while the fit might've been snug, I could've managed it. But $25 for a 60-second whirl seemed a bit much, tho everyone who tried it said it was well worth it. Next year, for sure.

    I also knew--feared--that we'd be spending a lot on wine. Last year we went nuts, and I was determined to keep things sane this year. Well, we didn't go barking mad, but there probably was at least one white-coated man carrying a net following us around. In our defense, we bought a case of wine (or thereabouts) for my mother-in-law, and my wife bought a few bottles for friends, so we'll probably end up with about 2 1/2 cases for ourselves. Which isn't ridiculous, except for the fact that we still have 2 cases in our den from last year. Gotta drink more wine.

    Most of the wine was my wife's responsibility, I think only 10 bottles can be considered solely my responsibility. Most of them came from Dr. Franks, which makes some really good red wines that are almost ludicrously inexpensive. I loved their meritage from last year, and as I wound my way through the tents I compared what I tasted to that wine and almost always found them wanting. McGregor Vineyards also does nice things with red wine, though most of theirs are more expensive. I didn't buy anything there this year, deciding to wait until I drink the expensive bottle I bought there last year. I got another bottle from Widmer Brickstone, which I also guzzled last year.

    And so, loaded to the gills with wine, we headed back to the hotel. What for dinner...I knew what was coming. I knew Frank and Heather would want to go to the Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet right next to our hotel. We went there last year, and I watched with a sort of morbid fascination as Heather, who weighs about half as much as me, dirtied three times as many plates as I did. My friend Matt and I sat there for a good 45 minutes, our bellies refusing to consider so much as an additional fortune cookie, as Frank and Heather made a serious dent in the restaurant's profit margin. This time there would be eight of us digging in. I was hungry. I was wicked hungry. I hadn't been to a Chinese buffet since...last year. I wasn't afraid.

    More fool I. We all did a quick reconnaissance of the buffet, and there was lots of good-looking stuff to choose from. I resisted the urge to load up on the yummy-looking macaroni and cheese and stayed with the usual offerings. A variety of chicken dishes, some lo meins, dumplings. It was all pretty good. Went back, got more. Yum.

    All was not well with the other diners. Everyone else wanted snow crab legs, and the bin was empty. And it stayed empty, even as Frank and my wife inquired about when the next batch would be available. I got up to get one last dumpling and saw Frank and my wife standing there scowling at the empty tray where the crab legs should be. My wife gave me a look I'm all-too-familiar with, and the fact that it wasn't directed at me for anything I'd done didn't mean I didn't scurry away with my tail between my legs.

    When the crab legs arrived our crew hit them hard. Here's where the madness began--I was pretty much full, and 2/3 of our table hadn't even started yet. And you can't eat crab less quickly, it just isn't possible. It's labor-intensive, lots of gripping and ripping and yanking and dunking. "Yeah, you're taking another shower tonight" I mumbled to my wife as she fractured a leg in a shower of butter and crab juice.

    I got some ice cream. Frank got a big bowl of ice cream, and then some cake, and then some fruit...I started having flashbacks to the "Frying Dutchman" episode of The Simpsons. I like to eat, but I've noticably slowed down the last few years, so far as raw tonnage consumed goes. But when Frank came back with the plate full of fruit, that's when I idly considered getting sick.

    I always feel guilty going to buffet places like that, you always eat too much, way too much, and when you're done you wish you'd just a slice of toast. And then you have the countless jokes about what exactly you're eating at Chinese restaurants. But it wasn't bad. At least I got out of there without wishing I'd packed a stomach pump.

    So now I'm back home, cats are glad to see us, I have about 400 posts to go through in Bloglines. Here's something depressing--I didn't get a single interesting email while I was gone. Well, as they say, no news is good news. Wish I was in the mood for a glass of wine, though.

    Friday, July 15, 2005

    The Mouth That Roars; and Glad I Missed CNN Again

    Even I don't know why I want Mike Matusow to win the World Series of Poker. Maybe to read the book that will inevitably be written about how Matusow spends the next year and the $7.5 million that goes to the champion. Maybe its because I watched some instructional show that Matusow co-hosted, where he came across as a calm, rational, even insightful person. And maybe its because a Matusow victory would once again make a lie of the saying "There are no second acts in America". When last we saw Matusow at the WSOP he was rocking back and forth in tears. To see him would would, indeed, be "vindication, baby".

    I'm thankful that I haven't been reading John Walters's coverage of the World Series. I might've had to go to Atlanta to demand why the hell they sent someone who doesn't understand the subject to cover the biggest event in its history. His previous articles were appalling, but I just read something I couldn't believe. This is from his Day 1 coverage:

    During one hand Gale, the aggressive Brit, goes all in with $11,500 after the flop comes J-7-2. Another player at the table was also all in with a smaller chip amount. The bet comes to Travis Brennan, a 21-year-old amiable New Yorker.

    Brennan says, "I'm gonna fold," as he shows his cards: Ace-Jack. That is, Brennan folds while HOLDING THE NUTS. (boldface and capitalizaion mine)

    The turn and river change nothing. Gale, holding an inferior hand (10-7), takes the pot. "You're a terrible player," Gale tells Brennan, matter-of-factly.

    "I'm a terrible player?" Brennan replies, but with a smile. "I thought you had pocket jacks. No use risking it. There's seven more days in this tourney."

    "What makes you think," asks Gale with a smile, "that YOU have seven days left in this tournament?"

    I will credit that you instantly realized that, on a board of J-7-2, holding Ace-Jack is NOT the nuts. Incredibly, Walters did not realize that. Nor, and this is absolutely astonishing, he didn't even realize it after Brennan explained why he folded his hand. Brennan folded his top pair, top kicker because he feared Gale was holding the REAL nuts, pocket jacks. Un-friggin'-believable.

    Another Walters gem:

    "One player held 9-10 clubs, his opponent held K-Q, also clubs. The flop came 10C-4D-5C. Then the turn came JC. Both players had drawn a flush before the river (5 offsuit), but K-Q had the higher kicker"

    No, John, the KQ had a king-high flush, not a higher kicker. The kicker is the card that breaks the tie when two players make a similar hand. AK beats AQ on a board of A-J-7-3-2. I know I'm being pedantic, but he needs to learn this stuff.

    (As do I. As Ian points out, the ten of clubs is used both in a players hand and the flop as Walters relates it. I must've been blinded by rage or something)

    "Defending champ Raymer is looking more and more like a sure thing to make the final table. He has more than $1 million in chips and is either first or second overall right now."

    Uh, you think Raymer thought he was a sure thing at that point? And Walters calling him Greg "Everybody Loves" Raymer is ghastly, popular tho he may be.

    "...and Phil Ivey, who has four bracelets to his name."

    Which was true until June 28th, when Ivey won his 5th bracelet in the $5000 Pot Limit Omaha with Rebuys. Perhaps Walters would've known that had he been covering the whole shebang a la Pauly and Otis. Perhaps.

    "...Annie Duke (the world's best female poker player)"

    Methinks Jennifer Harman, Cyndy Violette, Kathy Liebert, and a number of other female players would quietly dispute that.

    That's enough. I have to crank out some work the next two hours and then its off to the Finger Lakes. And I'm thirsty, baby.

    Thursday, July 14, 2005

    Some Housekeeping

    First and foremost, there is a tournament in memory of Charlie Tuttle Sunday night at PokerStars. It's $20 and all proceeds go to charity. Oh, here are the specific details:

    WPBT "Charlie" Tournament
    When: THIS Sunday - July 17th - 6pm EST
    Where: PokerStars - Listed under the Private tab
    Cost: $20 - Every penny goes to charity

    Come one, come all, play a little poker, talk a little trash, drop the Hammer on as many thumbs as possible. There are rumors that some poker celebrities will be playing in it as well. This is for bloggers, for readers, for friends of bloggers and readers, and for random folk who happen to stumble in. I think Pauly set a target of 500 people, so if you know anyone who plays online give 'em a shout and tell them to clear their schedule Sunday night. A most worthy cause, and a blast to boot.

    I, alas, will not be playing, as I will be in Watkins Glen, NY at the Finger Lakes Wine Festival, drinking much red wine. Last year I came with a game plan--I was only going to taste and buy red wines, as whites don't do much for me. I ended up buying WAY too much wine, much of which is still in hibernation in my den. So this year I'm going to limit myself to buying just one case, and I'm going to try to limit myself to only three different wines. Find something I like and load up.

    And I'm gonna avoid the really pricey stuff, as I find myself double-clutching with the corkscrew every time I move against one of my expensive bottles. I find myself thinking, "Is this REALLY a big enough occasion to open my bottle of Black Russian Red? I mean, sure, the acquittal was nice and all, and such a big surprise too, but man, maybe I should give it just another year..."

    I'm also hoping I don't drive to the track (where the festival is held) this year, so Matt and I can do what we did last year as the day wore down--go to our favorite wineries and chug lots of the good stuff. I'm gonna mark down where I can find the most expensive reds and then do a zig-zag among the booths that will probably degenerate into a bob-weave. One stand in particular will look upon us as a nuisance, both because they have a wide selection of excellent reds and because the young woman working there last year (and the year before) was a serious cutie. Imagine a shorter, brown-haired Debra Messing with the body of an aerobics instructor.

    I'm going to miss the final day of the World Series, meaning when I get to our hotel I have to find some way of hopping on the Internet. I don't really want to watch what ESPN shows us on SportsCenter, it won't be enough to slake my thirst for knowledge. ESPN's gotta be hugging themselves over how things are playing out. Matusow, Raymer, Ivey...

    Don't forget to congratulate Double As on his 12th place finish in event #43 at the WSOP. Making friends with Men the Master, getting sucked out on by Erik Seidel...I told my brother, the one time we were sitting at the same table at a WPBT event and Ryan raised DA on the 2nd hand, that this was not someone he wanted to be randomly fucking around with. Sound advice.

    Maybe more tomorrow. I didn't watch all of the Full Tilt Poker live event yet, maybe catch the rest tonight. One thing watching live poker is good for--you see how much the pros steal, and how important that is to building your stack. Good stuff.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2005

    More Women Than Men Play Online?

    Quick post here, looking for feedback. There's an article in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that says more women play poker and gamble online than men. A quote from the lead-in blurb states "women now outnumber the guys at Internet casinos...". I don't believe it. I don't believe that more women gamble online than men. I have no evidence to support this conclusion than my own experience, so I throw the question out there to the world and ask, what do you think?

    I ask in part because in my latest column at Barstool Sports I say that I hope a woman wins this year's Main Event because it might bring a massive influx of new female players to the game. The article in the P-G says I'm behind the curve. I don't buy it.

    For those of you who aren't much interested in my poker thoughts, the girl on the cover is yet again very easy on the eyes. If you like lissome, bikinied blonde ex-Patriot cheerleaders, you are in luck.

    Think ESPN is happy with how the Main Event is shaping up for them? Raymer chip leader after Day 3 (and still very much in the hunt), Mike Matusow 2nd in chips and no doubt behaving like a Red Bull-addled Tasmanian Devil. And looming like a big...looming thing, the preternaturally calm figure of Phil Ivey, who's only the Best Poker Player On The Planet Earth.

    Lots of folks have mentioned the fact that Jay Lovinger is about done writing his column for ESPN's Page 2, and in general the response has been a hearty good riddance. Not me. I wanted more from Jackpot Jay's column--the fact that he was stamped with the ESPN imprimateur gave him access and opportunities beyond the mere blogger--but too many of his columns reminded me of blog posts I'd read (and written) a hundred times before. His "Toxic Mailbag" columns at times seemed an exercise in self-flagellation--after one I emailed him that he should publish the 10 most noxious screeds and at the end write, "Fuck all of you, I'm gonna play and write what I want".

    But if I'm jealous that he got such a tasty gig, well, tough luck for Mean Gene. And after reading about the brutal year Lovinger had, I can't help but feel bad for the guy. He started strong...and then went into a 10-month death spiral. Everyone goes through adversity playing poker, but that monkey got on his back and would not hop off. Some of the reasons I can understand--he played a lot against professionals and got his lunch handed to him. Some of the reasons I can't--he complained over and over that he couldn't beat online games, yet I don't think he ever played at Party Poker, the online version of the Tsukiji Fish Market. Game selection, it would seem, was an issue not properly addressed.

    So I, for one, will not pillory Jackpot Jay for reaching beyond his grasp, if that's the phrase I'm looking for. The column could've been better, should've been better, and I would've given up sizable chunks of my body and one or two mid-level organs to have the assignment, but I think there was a wee bit of piling on at the end. Mean Gene does not pile on. It is beneath him. Mean Gene gets in a quick kick to the nuts and then runs away to hide.

    Monday, July 11, 2005

    Mean Gene Plays Tight, Mean Gene Plays Right

    After my massive home game a few weeks ago (my profit for the evening? $2.50) I was looking forward to a weekend at my friend Rick's lake house for some hot poker action. The house has a card room with a nice table, jukebox, and plenty of space for beer-filled coolers. We got there around 7:30 and it didn't take us long to adjorn to the card room, break out my chips, and get some cards in the air.

    My friends like playing tournaments, which causes a problem for those who get knocked out early. You have to sit around for sometimes an hour (or, you shall see, a lot longer) to get back in the game, which causes me to play even tighter than I normally would. I know in this game there are going to be some crazy hands played, and I don't want to go to war with only queen-high.

    So I sat there waiting patiently for cards, and watched as Mark was dealt KK and JJ within five hands of each other. The blinds started low and I kept myself even until they went up a bit, but then I lost a pretty big hand (I forget the circumstances) and found myself in a pot with Mark playing 10-3 from the big blind. I flopped top pair, he bet, I went all-in, and he called. And turned over goddam queens. "Nice hand," I seethed. "Slow-played queens, yeah, that's a nice move." I got no help and was out.

    Mark won that one, but as we started our second game we had three more players show up. All right, Mean Gene is at his best on the big stage. Early on I was dealt the Hammer, raised, and then bet big after an ace hit on the flop. All lay down before me, and as I flipped over my 2-7 (suited, I have to admit) I was showered with praise at my daring and brio. At least that's how I remember it. I was pretty drunk by this time.

    I managed to steal the odd hand to keep from slipping too far, when I hit a streak of luck. I had something like J-3 in the big blind, flopped a three, everyone checked on the turn, and I rivered another three. Got paid off for that one, and I'm pretty sure I hit lucky trips to win another pot. Like I said, I was pretty drunk by this time.

    I ended up playing Scott's wife Debbie heads-up. Debbie. My poker nemesis. She's played a lot more live poker that I have since we tangled last year. She knows what she's doing...I think. You'll think she's willing to call any bet at any time, and when you finally trap her she lays it down. Then she'll go all-in when you've got a middling-good hand. She'll call, call, call, then raise you out of the blue. I have no clue what she's doing. On top of that, she STARES at me, looking for some twitch or tremor that might give my hand away.

    Well, this time I triumphed, though not without some drama. I took a nice lead, and when she went all-in I happily called with A-10. Until she turned over A-J. The flop came 7-8-9, about as good as I could hope without pairing up, and when I turned a jack I did an internal dance of joy. Only a ten could save Deb and give her...oh, there's the ten. Friggin' three-outer and we chopped the pot.

    I took it as a bad omen, but I had a nice run of cards, took the lead back, we got the money in when I held pocket sixes and she had J-6. I liked those odds, and no meddling jack appeared on the board. Victory was mine, to savor and to make me feel big.

    We spent much of the next day out on the water, where I got sunburned right on the edge of my beltline, and which is causing me discomfort as I write. After eating a big lunch everyone wanted to take it easy for awhile, and what better way than by playing a little poker? The lure of the cards kept Mark around for a bit longer, as he had to go back to the 'Burgh for a birthday party. Ah, good, another pigeon to pluck, season, and roast over an open pit until golden brown.

    Yeah. I'm holding A-5, the flop comes A-5-2. At this point it was a rare good flop for me, and I checked, hoping to come over the top after Mark or Frank inevitably raised. They both checked, the bastards. Then a four hit on the turn, an ugly card, but, come on, they wouldn't have a three, would they? Nah. I checked, Mark bet, Frank called, I called. "Come on," I whined, "another five, another ace. Let me trap them good".

    A blank on the river and I checked. "I'm all in," Mark said. Frank thought about it a bit. "I'm all in too". Great. Fan-friggin-tastic. At this point its obvious I should fold. I'm beat. I? I know that Mark will bet big with anything, and as he wanted to get on the road it was possible he was holding guano. Frank might've had the same thought and guessed his AK or something was good. In retrospect, calling was stupid. But I was tired of merely playing tight. I wanted chips. I wanted to bully. I wanted to make the really gutsy call, the one where the other guys mucks his hand and said, with some fear in his voice, "How did you call me with THAT?"

    I called. And they BOTH turned over 3s. It's always a bad feeling when all the cards have been dealt and you've lost. I watched as Mark and Frank chopped the pot, as they chopped my goddam money. Made me mad.

    I ended up dealing the rest of the way, which took a good bit of time. At one point Neil was down to I think one chip, but he won his all-in, gathered enough chips to get his head above water, and after Mark was eliminated and buzzed off slowly took the chip lead from Frank. There was one big hand where Frank was leading until the turn...but I forget the details. I can't say I was drunk this time...let's say I had sunstroke. Hmm, maybe there's a reason I'm not out in Vegas covering the World Series.

    More boating, more food, more beer. We sat down for one last tournament around 11PM. Our usual game of Asshole would follow poker, so I had a trio of reasons for winning--protect my sterling repuation, win a few bucks, and keep myself from chugging beers in my exhausted state. I sipped my Yuenglings and settled down for war.

    As the game moved along I hemmoraged chips. I needed cards--I got no cards. On one hand I was dealt Q-6 in the big blind and flopped a full house. Four players in the pot. After the flop, no one bet. After the turn, no one bet. On the river I made a little bet, hoping to invite a raise. Rick alone called, and he turned over AQ. My one big hand and I got less action in high school. Zing!

    Scott and Neil were both low on chips, both ready to give up the ghost, when I found K-5 of hearts. Since there was no prize for second place (or last place) I decided to push with this mighty hand. To my surprise, no one called. Next hand I was dealt A-9, pushed again, and this time Scott called with pocket eights. An ace and a nine on the flop melted his snowmen, and I had chips and the momentum.

    The blinds went up, Scott and Neil went by the wayside. I had a slight chip lead when I was dealt AQ. The flop came Q-6-3. I bet, Debbie called. A six on the turn, check-check. A deuce on the flop, Deb checked, and I made a pot-sized bet. She called. I turned over AQ, she turned over...Q-6. SHE hit the full house, but in our boozy/sleepy state she forgot to raise. Had she really pushed I would've laid my hand down, fearing a six, but I couldn't help thinking that I'd been involved in 2 hands where AQ and Q6 were the hole cards and I had a net loss of about $100.

    Then another hand I played brilliantly. I have Q-7 in a family pot and the flop comes 8-9-10. We all toss in a few chips, and a jack comes on the turn. Sweet. What do I do? I check. There were already a lot of chips in there, as well as 2 clubs on the board, and I get fancy. Frank and Debbie check. And an unwelcome queen shows on the river. Great. I have to play the board now. Debbie checks, I check...and Frank goes all-in. Saw that comin'. Deb folds. What the hell do I do? Call and chop the pot? Or, call and go out? I was about 90% sure Frank didn't have the king, but I decided to punish myself for my donkified play and mucked. Still have to ask Frank if he had the cowboy.

    Karma was kind to me, I won a big stack from Frank when I again made trips after the flop. I don't remember who knocked Frank out, but once again it was down to me and Debbie. Our stacks were about even, I raced out to a quick lead, and then Deb started raising every hand and I couldn't catch a hand to trap her with. When I tried raising with junk like 3-5 she went all-in.

    Things were getting dire when I went all-in with J-4 after the board showed an ace. At first Debbie looked like she was going to muck...and then she paused. "I don't know, I may have to call you with this," she said. She showed her cards to Ted, who took one for the team and was dealing. I sat there feeling my stomach gurgle as Ted shrugged and said, "I don't know." I wanted to scream "One player to a hand!", but instead I kept my stone face and let Debbie try to stare me down. "I know you have the ace," she said, "so I'm folding this." And she showed me the Hammer. That woulda sucked, getting knocked out that way. But I lived to fight another day.

    Almost literally. We played till 2AM, neither of us able to make much of a dent in the other's stack. And the blinds were onerous. Finally, after a much needed bathroom break, I said we should chop the money and play one hand for ten bucks. I couldn't see straight anymore, so I was relieved when she said yes. I was dealt J-6, she had A-4. Nothing exciting happened and she took the extra ten-spot. They played Asshole for about 13 minutes and then we all collapsed.

    Had a good time. I think in the future we should play more of a ring game, so we don't have these 4-hour death marches into the wee hours. Oh, one last bit of advice--potato chips made with Olestra taste pretty good. And they're low in fat and calories. But the warning labels that warn of...various...potential gastrointestinal problems? Read them carefully, very carefully. That's all I'm gonna say about it, I'll leave you to fill in the blanks.

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    Some Pittsburgh Poker Content, and Another Candidate for Poker Quote of the Year

    I've been busy all morning hanging black crepe, as I learned last night that Isabelle Mercier has been knocked out of the WSOP Main Event. Merde.

    By the way, John Gale? WPT Champ and PokerStars nice guy John Gale? Hate you. Hate you so much.

    But as I looked through the list of players' chip stacks two names leapt out at me. One was Nick Eisel, who so far as I can tell is the only player from Pittsburgh who advanced to play on Sunday. Nick has $52,275, and I'm here to tell him to go kick some ass n'at. I won't be around to keep tabs on other Burghian players until I get back Sunday, but when I do I'll do the reasearch and post what I know.

    The other name that caught my eye was Zack Mills, of Igamsville, MD. This is a familiar name to me--the QB for Penn State the last four years was named Zack Mills. A quick Google search revealed that the former Nittany Lion hailed from Ijamsville, MD, so I feel quite confident that we're talking about the same person. I'll have to ask Pauly to confirm that this Mills is riffling his chips left-handed, that would seal the deal. He has about $41K.

    I actually have a #7 Penn State jersey, which I bought while Mills was QB, but it's now a Justin King jersey. If you don't know who Justin King is, you will come the fall.

    Not long ago I wrote a column for Barstool Sports about why you shouldn't wear sunglasses while sitting at a low-limit table. If you want further proof why shades are a bad idea, read this post from Maudie, about playing with a creature she dubbed "The Intimidator". It comes complete with a picture of the offender, and a candidate for Poker Quote of the Year: "(He was) cleverly playing J2-off all the way to the river, apparently on a pair draw."

    Really looking forward to some time at the lake, maybe have a refreshing swim, one or two beers, and playing poker until the sun comes up. Almost like Vegas, except for the lack of strippers/hookers and the plentiful bathroom facilities. Not an exact trade-off, but after 19 beers it'll seem close enough.

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    Actual Poker Content!

    The catblogging didn't go over too well, so maybe I'll switch back to poker for a bit. Actually, I don't have time to write anything right now, as I'm going away for the weekend and have to get my crap together. I'll be playing some poker, which is good, but I'll offline the next 2 days, which is bad, because I'm going to miss Pauly's gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Main Event. Frankly, if you're into poker you should be reading his blog and Otis's to get the inside scoop on what's happening at the tables, in the nightclubs, at the aren't going to get that sort of coverage at ESPN, kids.

    Just do Pauly a favor, don't leave a comment asking how "INSERT NAME HERE" is doing. I don't think he likes that.

    Monday, July 04, 2005

    Fighting the Good Fight

    I said last week that I was enjoying the WSOP journal Jim McManus was writing for the New York Times, so 'tis a pity he's decided to pack it in and head home. His second column is about the effect satellites have had on the poker landscape, and as I read it I saw a link to a "Readers Forum" where folks can post messages. So I decided to see what the readers of the world's greatest newspaper thought of poker.

    Sigh. I should've known better, there's some pretty discouraging stuff in there. You had the folks saying gambling is akin to devil worship, those who said poker is War, and then the ones who say that it's all fixed and illegal and blah blah blah. One post, I thought, needed to be addressed, so I addressed it. This is how I spent my lunch hour on Friday, which should also explain why there's been little poker content the last few days. The person I responded to said he's going to respond to me in a day or so, and if there's anything of interest to report I'll report it.

    Hope your 4th was fun, I spent the day eating ribs, drinking beer, and discussing local millage rates. Well, I just sat there and constructed elaborate sexual fantasies in my mind during those discussions, but that's what everyone talked about for about an hour. Only in America.

    Sunday, July 03, 2005

    Attempted Catblogging

    Blogger now allows you to upload images, so I'm gonna try to upload some images.

    Just add milk:

    This is Izzy, my wife's pride and joy. She brought him home two Christmas Eve's ago, despite my raising the point that we had two goddam cats already. Izzy is actually short for Isabel, which my wife named him before we learned that, yes, he was a him. No, he was not named in any way, shape or form after Isabelle Mercier, which would be, uh, really weird.

    This is Ernie, our original cat. Ernie's a Cooler--when I'd play online he liked hopping up on my desk and lying down on my arms, which always sent my game into freefall. He may look orange, but so far as luck goes he's the blackest of cats. Ernie's the one who likes knocking my lamp and alarm clock off my dresser at 4AM, and he's also the cat who gnaws at our screen door so he can get out in the yard. I'm wondering now why I don't just let him keep on running.

    Bert the Cat was originally adopted by my mother-in-law, who decided in about a day she didn't want a cat. We'd already named Ernie, so it was somewhat natural that his sibling cat would be named Bert. Unfortunately, it turns out Ernie and Bert are girls. Yes, we're 0-for-3 when it comes to catsexing. Ugh, that's gonna get me some ugly Google hits.

    Bert is the most aloof of the three cats, and he brings a serious cat-attitude when it comes to my mother-in-law. To the point where he went and bit her today, bad enough to draw blood. That was new, in the past he'd snarl and wave a menacing paw her way, but he didn't put the fangs in play. I admire his spirit...but I had to give him a swat and scolding.

    Ernie and Bert when they were just a few months old. Now instead of cute little kittens I have these big robust cats who keep pissing me off in the wee hours and puking on my books and computer (just in the last week). Oh well. At least our rat problem is relatively under control. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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