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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    Saturday, October 29, 2005

    Vegas, Baby, Vegas

    I just got booted from an SNG on like the 4th hand. I have QQ in the big blind, I re-raise when the button raises. Flop comes 8-7-3 with two diamonds. I bet, get raised, and I go all-in. This is the new Mean Gene, no more fear. If he has aces or kings, then I'm beat.

    He turns over A-2. Only one diamond. In other words, he has ace-high, with no kicker, and he's calling my all-in raise. He needs to go runner-runner for a wheel or a flush. Of course two diamonds pop up and I'm out. "Sorry", the guy types. Yep, that pretty much describes the state of your game.

    But did I rave? Did I rant? No. Why am I so cool, calm, and collected?

    I hear there's some shindig planned for next month. Vegas. Bunch of bloggers, playin' a little poker, drinkin' everything not behind the walls of Hoover Dam.

    I am IN.

    Have to finalize what day we're going out, and I say "we" because my brother will probably be accompaning me. But probably tomorrow we'll get those details resolved and set our itinerary. Ryan is more a Stud Hi-Lo player--yeah, one of those. But with his borderline alcoholism he'll fit right in.

    Oh, yeah, baby. Vegas.

    UPDATE: OK, now I'm pissed. I play another SNG, guy to my left goes all-in the first two hands after the flop. Next hand I'm dealt AJ suited, he raises, me and 2 others call. Flop comes jack-high. He bets, everyone folds, The New Mean Gene goes all-in. He calls, and turns over pocket queens. Shit. I get queens and get sucked out by a maniac, and then a maniac wakes up with queens.

    OK, deep breaths. Focus on Vegas. Focus on the oxygenated air. Think about the cocktail waitresses...ahh...that's better. Much better.

    No more poker for me tonight. I know when the planets are misaligned. Tho I did do well in my family poker game today. Maybe more on that tomorrow.

    Friday, October 28, 2005


    It doesn't take much analysis of my SNG game to understand why I don't do as well as I think I should. I'm chicken. I take my seat and suddenly I sprout a beak and feathers and starting going pwock-pwock-pwooooock! Against the maniacs who usually populate my usual low buy-in games you have to play tight. Short of sticking a Glock against their temple most of these folks will not lay down a hand, and even then you have to thumb back the hammer to show you're serious. Playing this way often gets me in the money, but it rarely gives me enough chips to win or even have a good chance to win. It also makes me feel like the unfortunate guys in those "Enzyte" commercials they show 100 goddam times a day on late-night TV.

    The past 2 nights I played hands that made me shy away from looking at myself in the mirror. In both hands I made decisions that I think can be justified but left me feeling hangdog. The first happened in a Party SNG, on the very first hand. I'm in the small blind and pick up pocket queens. Yum. The second guy to act raises it to T350--you know, the standard 23.33X the big blind raise. Before I decide how I'm gonna play it the guy two doors down goes all-in.

    So, do I call and go to war with my ladies? Against a guy who opens with nearly half his stack and another who shoves everything he has? Under normal circumstances this would be an easy yet easy-to-brag-about laydown. Afterwards you breezily tell how you made an incisive read and laid down two queens, hopefully earning the oohs and the ahhs. But this is Party Poker, where the inmates run the asylum. I might have these guys totally crushed. Based on their crazy raises, I probably do have the first guy crushed at least. I could triple up right here. I could boss the table the rest of the way and smash my way to victory.

    I fold. The original raiser calls and turns over pocket sixes, the all-in dude flips over KQ. And I very slowly rest my head on my desk. It doesn't matter that the turn came a king and I would've been knocked out. Nor does it matter that calling might've proved a donkified play had the all-in guy turned over aces. I didn't gamble. I didn't risk. I didn't dare all.

    I end up out in 8th place when my top two pair runs into a set. So I mosey over to Full Tilt to try my luck there. And indeed I do have some luck, winning a few hands and building up a nice little stack. Trouble is, the guy to my immediate left knocks out four players in about six hands and dominates the table. And he's the raising kind. We're one from the money and the other two guys are either folding or going all-in, and with Goliath to my left I have to wait for a hand and play meek.

    The shorties fold to me and I have the king-ten of spades. I raise, the big stack calls. The flop comes K-Q-10, and the cards that pair me up are both clubs. I bet out, hoping to take it down right there. Of course he sets me all-in. Terrific. Those 2 pair looked so very lovely, and now I can't keep from thinking that this jerk has KQ. Or AJ. Maybe he has a straight draw. A flush draw. A straight AND flush draw. I start pecking at the floor for loose kernals of corn. I hear a chirp indicating I have 15 seconds to decide. If I'm wrong I'm out. I'd still have a big lead over the other 2 guys if I fold. I fold.

    He turns over pocket nines, and my fluttering eyes roll back in my head. Three overcards come out, I bet after raising pre-flop, and he goes all-in. I really could've hurt him had I won. "I could've made a straight with a jack" he explains. Yeah, can't argue with him there, he's perfectly correct.

    I end up second to him after I survive a truly horrible play when I hold pocket nines. Never has second place seemed like such a hollow victory. But the key to hollow victories is that they ARE victories. No...the key to hollow victories is that they're CALLED hollow victories because they feel like defeats. Not as bad as a real defeat, not as bad as bluffing off all your chips with AK five hands into a 3-table multi (which I did a few days ago), but not nearly as good as playing well, playing aggressive, and winning. I know that calling these two hands might not have gotten me first place, nor necessarily would calling have even been the RIGHT decision. But the reason I folded was because in my mind I conjured images of my own destruction, instead of reasoning things out and acting rationally. No matter the stakes, logic and reason should guide your play (unless you're really, really drunk). Fearing what's hiding under the bed should not.

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    A Request for Information

    I'm writing my next column about software and whatnot players can use to improve and customize their game (i.e. PokerTracker) and rather than do any research myself I'd like to ask my dear readers what programs, hacks, and upgrades they use. I know there are bloggers out there who have designed custom tables and cards and avatars and goodies like that, as well as programs that provide heads-up displays full of valuable info, but looking all that up and collating it would take perhaps a whole hour of hard work. I'd rather you do it for me. If you do have any neato tricks you'd like to share and maybe get some traffic or credit leave a comment and I promise not to pretend I came up with it.

    As I wrote in my previous post, if you want me to add your blog to my blogroll just leave a comment. I haven't updated it yet, but maybe this afternoon. It will be done, I assure you.

    According to's Steve Rosenbloom Harrah's expects next years Main Event to be over 8,000 players fighting over 14 days for a $10 million first prize. Uh, what if you can't get two weeks off to play poker? I would think a lot of internet qualifiers are folks with regular jobs where the boss doesn't allow unscheduled absences of a fortnight. A day or two, sure. But a full week? Maybe more? Women had a tough enough time getting paid maternity leave, should we be petitioning Congress for unexpected-WSOP-run leave?

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005


    I've done some tweaking to the blog, which as you can see is now graciously sponsored by the good people whose advertisements appear on the right. I appreciate the fact that they consider me an asset worth exploiting for their own venal purposes. Is there a greater compliment one can recieve?

    I'm going to echo a post written by C.J. of the Up for Poker crew--if I don't have you linked on my blogroll, and you'd like to be linked on my blogroll, leave a comment and I'll do the deed. If you've already emailed me and I didn't add the link it's not because I don't like you or your blog--it's that I'm lazy and stupid. Chances are if I like your blog I'm reading it thru Bloglines and just never bothered to tell you. That's my bad, and I want to make good. An exception is for Dragonystic, who actually has me listed FIRST on his blogroll without me ever doing the courteous thing and listing him on mine. My thinking has always been that folks are getting their link-fix from the big Pimp Daddies of the pokerblogosphere (i.e. Iggy and Pauly) and that it was no big deal if I didn't update mine. But not linking to people who link to me (or to people who I read every day) just isn't neighborly. So, help me be a good neighbor, as good a neighbor as Kyle MacLachlan was to Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet. Well, bad example.

    Otis makes the good point that before we form a circle around Steve Dannemann for the ritualistic stoning after his foolish cell phone call during last night's WSOP broadcast we briefly walk in his shoes. He might've forgotten he was miked, and not known the camera was trained on him. What he did was still pretty stupid, but how many of us have done things that would've looked stupid if they were caught on film? This teaches us a valuable lesson--always assume that you're being watched, that every day, and all the day, powerful forces are observing you, tracking you, analyzing you, waiting for that moment when you slip up and make the mistake that seals your fate. Keep that fact in mind and you'll just sail through life.

    Last night we also saw video of a bearded, bearlike Howard Lederer when he made the final table of the World Series a decade ago. Annie Duke, in her autobiography (which I read and wrote a soon-to-appear review of) says that the kids at the private school where her father taught called Lederer "Chowie". I can imagine Howard reading that and thinking, "Thanks, Sis! Thanks for dredging up that particular childhood trauma." Duke, of course, made the mistake of writing her biography FIRST--although her book paints Howard as a caring brother and invaluable mentor, that "Chowie" crack might be returned a hundredfold if and when Lederer writes his book. Especially since Duke knocked him out of like 4 World Series events (including the Tournament of Champions Duke won). Another valuable lesson--don't give anyone the last word, in any situation, ever. Because that's all the sheep will remember. You need to talk and talk and talk and talk and talk until the other guy gives up out of exhaustion or disgust. Either reason is good enough.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    A Sense of Decorum

    I just got knocked out of a SNG on rather a frustrating hand. I was down to about T580 thanks to a cold deck and one hand I had to fold on the river, when I picked up pocket kings in the big blind. Before it got to me it'd been raised to T125 and two other players called. I go all-in, and all three of these bozos call. Awesome.

    The flop comes Q-Q-Q, and I get that oogie feeling. One guy bets, one guy raises, and they all end up calling. The turn is a five, and another guy short-stacked goes all-in. The other two call. The river is a king, giving me the best possible boat. I only have to worry about a queen. The one guy goes all-in, the other calls, and the one guy turns up QJ. He raised T125 with QJ and then called an all-in re-raise with QJ.

    I handled it well. I had to--Party no longer allows you to chat if you're just an observer. No more counseling players on how goddam much they suck. I was only trying to help.

    Ahh, I know better. But it's hard not to flip out at times. Though I wonder if being on TV would change how I react to a tough hand. I'm pretty sure I know the answer to that question--I'd be much, much better behaved. I wouldn't jump up and down after I won a big hand, I wouldn't belittle another player who sucked out on me. I would be calm, cool, and collected. I would FORCE myself to be calm, cool, and collected. Because I do not not want millions of people to see me acting as I just did when that jackass called me with QJ.

    And because I don't want to end up like the poor guy they just showed on the World Series (Adam...Aaron...I can't remember his last name and anyway I don't want the vultures Googling his name to end up here). He calls with the 2nd nut flush, and gives away $162K in chips to a guy with the nut flush. And then he starts crying. Well, not crying, but there's defintely some choking up and, yes, a few tears. And ESPN, to its discredit, keeps the camera close up on his face for what seems an eternity. If you're thinking about calling, and you know that you're going to burst into tears on national TV if you lose the hand, your cards should go in the muck. I don't know how you factor that into your pot odds and game theory calculatons, I guess that's on the individual.

    Steve Dannemann became a strong contender in the Guy Who Makes A Complete Ass of Himself race with his cell phone call after he bluffed Howard Lederer. Bluffing Howard Lederer--good. Calling your friends immediately afterwards and bragging about it and how Lederer looks like a beaten dog (or something like that, I didn't tape the show)--that's very, very bad. It was just one hand, and Dannemann ended up giving those chips right back to Lederer. Dannemann will of course get plenty of chances to redeem (or condemn) himself as the tournament progresses.

    The current front-runner in the GWMACAH contest is that Beckham-loving Barry guy from Britain--yeah, he's obviously the guy Otis and Pauly reported had some B.O. issues. He did pose a good question--can you be penalized for stinking like a bucket of dead trout? If you're allowed to talk non-stop, if you're allowed to dress with a total disregard for color, fit, or style, why can't you stink? Really really bad? Maybe there needs to be some sort of democratic system put into place for each table, where after a vote they can demand action be taken against a player who crosses the line from mere irritability to toxicity. Perhaps smell should be dealt with more strictly than poor fashion sense--I'm not going to catch diptheria from a guy just because he's wearing a rust-colored leisure suit.

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Happy United Nations Day!

    Yes, for those silly gooses who forgot, October 24th is United Nations Day. Here at work we voted 13-0 to order pizza to celebrate, but when it got down to choosing toppings discussions broke down. Pepperoni passed but not by the required two-thirds majority (due to a fracturous sausage contingent). Negotiations continued for the rest of the morning and in the end a compromise was reached (one pepperoni, one sausage and mushroom) but the resolution was defeated when the person who was going to pick it up exercised her veto and ate a Lean Cuisine instead. Alas. Much the same thing happened in Darfur.

    If you read the final leaderboard of the Poker Stars Online Blogger Championship (whew) you'll see that perhaps United Nations Day kicked off a day early. The winner and lucky-goddam-bastard easy_wind hails from Massachusetts, but six of the top ten hail from across the pond, four from the UK, one from Spain, one from Norway. We Yanks didn't hold up our end too well, what? Kudos to Otis and Ryan and the rest of the Poker Stars gang for putting on such a fabulous tournament. Let's do this again. And again. And again.

    Thinking back to my own play, I now fully realize what "dead money" means. Because "dead money, c'est moi". You can't win a tournament if you're not willing to die, and I wasn't willing. I wanted to play a nice long time, and so I didn't push the edge of the envelope and never got my stack above $6K. I would've needed a load of luck and, and while I didn't get unlucky in a single hand (the only showdown I lost was my last one) I needed a leprauchan to shower me with four-leaf clovers to have a chance. I didn't get that 6K stack until we were down around 350 players and I was at a table with three very deep stacks who liked to gamble. Every pot was raised to the point where I'd be pot-committed if I called and the chip boss would be pot-committed if I went all-in. And if you only have one bullet in your gun, you'd better have really good aim. I ended up 50% on my late-game all-ins, and that wasn't good enough.

    Still, a great time. And a good day, as my Steelers made orangey-stripey paste out of the Bengals. After the game Carson Palmer said the Bengals are still the better team. Watch the game film, Carson. Ask your defensive linemen if they agree with your assessment. Silly goose.

    Sunday, October 23, 2005


    I didn't win the PokerStars Online Poker Blogger Tournament.

    I guaranteed that I would. But I didn't.

    Oh God.

    O.J. really DID kill Nicole. He did. He's not out there searching for the "real" killers. He's not. He did it. Oh, God.

    I had fun. I enjoy playing big multi tournaments. Played a lot of pots early on, my table was very loose, very passive. Until a guy with the handle Zimmer4141 went all in after the flop with an overpair against a guy holding AQ. Guy hit an ace on the turn and Zim went nuts, filling the chat box with a diatribe about how Poker Stars is fixed, that's why he never plays there, he wins everywhere else, etc etc.

    No skin off my nose, until he started going all-in every hand. I picked up pocket nines, raised, and Zim raised like T1800. Into a T100 pot. What to do...maybe have him crushed and double up, or get crippled ten minutes in? I folded.

    I never really got it goin'. Flopped the nut flush, got a few chips, hit trip outta the big blind and got a few more. But I didn't double up. And then I got moved to a table with three huge stacks who raised every pot. I had to wait for a hand, and when I got one (aces) I got to raise 3 limpers and got one caller. A ragged flop, I go all in, he calls with Presto. I haven't played a pot in 2 orbits, I raise big and push after a flop with 3 overcards...I am not getting the proper respect.

    Lots of players I thought were pretty solid got knocked out as I sat there waiting for a hand. I made it as deep as I did mostly by playing supertight (played 15 out of 136 pots out of the blinds) and pushing when I had a hand. It worked pretty well, and when I doubled up with A-10 against 4-6 (I know) to get to about T6000. But I gave up a baby ace when I tried to steal the blinds and got put all in, and an orbit later I pushed with KQ suited against the blinds. Got called with pocket sevens, and didn't get so much as a breath of hope. Out. Despair. The usual.

    I'm watching Professional Poker Player Chris Halverson (yeah, he hasn't been playing, right) bob and weave his way to the final 36. Just shows you what can be accomplished when you go pro.

    Saturday, October 22, 2005

    Marsha Waggoner Made An Enemy Tonight

    Marsha, of course, knocked Isabelle Mercier out of the WPT Ladies Night event that was shown tonight. But let's go back in time a bit, shall we?

    My niece and nephew are staying over this weekend, and as we headed out to see the Wallace and Gromit movie (quicky review--outstanding, hilarious, must-see) Hailey got the mail. In the mail was a letter I'd been expecting, with a South Carolina return address and OTIS listed as the sender. "Who's Otis?" Hailey asks.

    "Is that like Milo and Otis?" Bryce says.

    "Uh, no, not Milo and Otis," I say. "More like Pauly and Otis."

    "Is that a better story than Milo and Otis?" Bryce asks.

    "Uh...a different kind of story," I say.

    "What's it about?"

    "'ll tell you later. Like when you're thirty."

    Inside the envelope was an important historical document--an Isabelle Mercier biography sheet from PokerStars AUTOGRAPHED by the lady herself. "I know where this is going," I said as I held it in trembling hands. I have my business school diploma framed and hanging in my office--say buh-bye!

    But the possibility that this piece of paper may be hanging in the Smithsonian was increased exponentially by the fact that it was also signed by Otis and Pauly. Odd, I would've thought Pauly of all people would know how to spell the F-word...I guess he was either drunk or swooning. Or both.

    So we come home from the movie, we eat dinner, Bryce and I are downstairs watching Penn State vaporize Illinois, and once the game got out of hand (with 5:38 left in the first quarter) I flipped on the Travel Channel to catch the beginning of the WPT broadcast. Hailey joined us after she heard me and Bryce loudly contesting a game of War (and I kicked his ASS!) and I showed them both the autographed picture and pointed to the TV screen. "She's the person who autographed this."

    They were impressed. "Is she famous?" Bryce asked. I said not famous enough. They showed the ladies lined up before they took their seats and Hailey said of Isabelle, "Wow, she must do a lot of sit-ups."

    "Uh-huh," I mumbled. Anyone who saw the show, well, they know what Hailey was talking about.

    "I can do a thousand sit-ups," Bryce boasted, and we made a prop bet on the spot--I bet he couldn't do ten. A bowl of ice cream was in the balance, and Bryce blasted out ten crunches like he was friggin' Terrell Owens. I think I got suckered, but I paid up.

    The kids wanted to know how to play poker, and I think I explained in fifteen seconds not only the rules but all the vagaries and nuances of the game. They showed Isabelle's little interview segment and Hailey wasn't quite taken with how Isabelle wore her hair up in the earlier action. Odd, Hailey's fashion sense is usually impeccable, but in this case I had to emphatically disagree with her, to the point where she was nearly in tears. Or maybe I was nearly in tears. There was crying, I know that.

    And then Isabelle went all-in with queens, Marsha Waggoner called with pocket sevens, and flopped a seven to put Isabelle in bad, bad shape. No tears from me or Hailey this time, though my lower lip definitely trembled. There was still over an hour to go, and no more Isabelle? And to think, there are still people believe in justice. Of course, I knew that Isabelle went out in fifth place, but that didn't cushion the blow.

    Although they have had Isabelle on giving commentary as the show has gone on. Steve Lipscomb is no fool. I thank the gods for his probity and wisdom.

    It's about time to put the kids to bed, but a few quick comments about the show. Like the new glasses-free Mike Sexton. Like Courtney Friel (I'm speaking strictly about her hosting skills and not about her obvious aesthetic appeal), though she's a bit too polished at times. She asks a question and then in mid-answer turns to face the camera and gives us that 50,000 megawatt smile. A worthy replacement for Shana.

    I see Michael Mizrachi wearing his hat that says, "The Grinder" or "The Grinder is a Machine" and I just want to start laughing. It's a great nickname, but I keep imagining a situation where he's away from the poker table and engaged in a conversation a group of people and someone who doesn't know him well asks, "So, what to you do for a living?"

    And one of Mizrachi's friend's says, "He grinds", as if that's the stupidest question in the world. I know I'm not quite conveying the humor of what's appearing in my mind. What does a Grinder do, he grinds...never mind.

    OK, kids gotta go to bed. As soon as they clean up the poker chips they dumped and mixed all over the floor. That'll take about an hour. I finally got Bryce to understand that just because the chip is stamped $500 doesn't mean it's worth five hundred dollars. I think he was thinking about pricing Porsche Boxsters.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    In This Post I Guarantee That I Will Win the PokerStars Online Poker Blogger Tournament

    Poker Championship

    I have registered to play in the
    Online Poker Blogger Championship!

    This event is powered by PokerStars.

    Registration code: 9737399

    I want to go on record here: I am going to win the tournament on Sunday--I guarantee it. I know there are going to be upwards of 9,000 people playing in it. I know that I am in the bottom quartile (sextile? nonotile?) so far as poker skill, talent, and experience goes. So what? I guarantee that I'll win.

    Why do I think I'm going to win? Because I think I am. If the last ten or so years have taught us anything it's that the facts and objective truth are mere inconvieniences when confronted with total denial and a willingness to wholeheartedly believe in an artifical "reality". Hey, O.J. didn't kill Nicole and Ron. Enron and WorldCom are paragons of capitalistic innovation. Iraq's WMD must be neutralized before there's a mushroom cloud over Miami. Ashlee Simpson is a talented singer. I am going to win the tournament on Sunday. Like so many, I believe.

    So why put myself on the line like this? Because my guaranteeing victory is totally without risk. It's a freeroll. Let me put it to you this way--Joe Namath guaranteed that the Jets would beat the Colts in Super Bowl III. Had the Colts performed as expected and slaughtered the AFL champs, no one would remember Namath's boast except as an amusing little footnote. But the Jets won, and Namath became a sports legend for all time. The Jets had to play the game anyway--what's the harm in upping the ante and have a shot at immortality?

    Let's look at another example. A few weeks ago Julian Peterson of the San Francisco 49ers guaranteed his team would beat the Dallas Cowboys. Peterson didn't get quite as much ink as Joe Willie--the Niners sucked large last year, and despite winning their opener will likely suck just as large this year. But Peterson understood--he could make his boast, get some air time, and, hey, the Cowboys ain't that great this year either. The Niners raced out to a big lead, which Peterson and his defensive cohorts couldn't hold. Dallas won. Did the national media jump on Peterson's throat for being wrong? Of course not. Nor have other players who made such claims been called to account for their hubris. They're losers--who cares.

    Then again, unless the stage is sufficiently large, most folks don't care if you ARE right after guaranteeing a win. An early regular-season game between one team in the Reggie Bush sweepstakes and another who would be 5-11 if they played in the AFC isn't likely to get anyone's blood pumping. But there is a game on this week's schedule that WOULD garner a little bit of excitement. No, I don't mean my Steelers against the Bengals in the latter teams' biggest game since the Super Bowl they blew (congrats to Bungles fans, by the way--it usually takes you guys 2 or 3 seasons to win five games). No, the game in question is the undefeated Indianapolis Colts against the winless Houston Texans.

    Now here's a game where a guarantee would be worth making. Let's say the squeaky-clean Peyton Manning got up during the week and said, "I guarantee we'll beat the Texans". Pretty much everyone would think the same thing--"No kidding, asshole". That would actually be big news--Peyton Manning acting like an asshole? Let's cut to Steve Young and Michael Irvin tut-tutting about it. The Texans would be riled up, the Houston crowd out for revenge, and the Colts would probably win by a score of 41-3. Other than the Texans' coaches and their dependents, who cares?

    But say David Carr was the one who walked up to the podium and announced, "I guarantee we'll beat the Colts on Sunday" the reaction would be different. Everyone would think he's an idiot. And it's much worse in this country to be thought an idiot than an asshole. Hell, "asshole" is a target lots of people spend their lives shooting for. Make enough bad noise and you'll end up on magazine covers and get your own talk show.

    But there's a lot more room for improvement when everyone thinks you're an idiot. Carr would have a ready excuse for making such a moronic boast--he's been sacked 197 times this season and no doubt his gray matter has been scrambled like so many farm-fresh eggs. Add the fact that such a statement would piss off the overrated but still top-ranked Colts defense, and that the Texans' cats-cradle of an offensive line would be hopeless against a Dwight Freeney so infuriated he plans to turn Reliant Stadium into Carr's personal Calvary. Idiot indeed.

    But what of it? Everyone expects the Colts to run roughshod over the Texans, and if it happens it happens. No one will remember the guarantee or care. But what if Carr pulls it off? What if the Texans pull the huge upset, despite Carr being pounded into a red and blue crepe? He'd be a hero. He'd be untouchable in Houston. Instead of ditching him for Matt Leinart, the Texans might trade down and invest in some offensive line talent, increasing the odds that Carr will be able to eat food more substantial than pudding come his 40th birthday.

    No one will care if I don't win on Sunday. But when I DO win, my guarantee will make the victory ten times as sweet. I'll be like Babe Ruth--I called my shot. I'll be able to lord it over everyone until the day I die. Even longer, if it get my boast inscribed on my tombstone. In neon letters. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to block off some vacation time for the cruise. And on the way home I have to remember to pick up some suntan lotion. Because I AM GOING TO WIN ON SUNDAY. I GARE-UNN-TEEE.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    What Makes a Good Blog? Or a Blog Good?

    Not only is PokerStars hosting this massive tournament for us on Sunday, and not only are they throwing in $25K worth of goodies, now they're sponsoring writing contests. The question posed is a deceptively simple one, but I look forward to reading all the answers. "What Makes a Good Blog?"

    That's a subject worthy of a book (I know I have a book by Rebecca Blood on my bookshelves about this very subject). But rather than write 3,000 words about it, I'm going to break out of character and try to keep this short and sweet.

    Anyone can become a publisher these days. It's cheap (like, free) and easy (in two minutes you can be blogging away). Keeping a blog going, however, takes countless hours of hard and usually thankless work. "Why am I doing this?" is a question we've all asked in our dark hours. Is anybody reading this? Does anybody care? These are difficult questions to answer when you're in the middle of a monster post about a subject you care about passionately.

    And these questions illustrate what can be so frustrating about writing (and especially about blogging). Most of us write because we like to. We write about subjects that interest us. But that isn't enough. We write in order to be read. These words we're putting on the page, either paper or digital--these are our thoughts, our ideas, sometimes our hopes and dreams. And we're writing them down to share them. If no one else reads them, then the act of writing them is so much wasted effort.

    Blogs give people who otherwise couldn't find an audience a way to introduce their writing (and pictures and podcasts and, by next year, probably high-def holograms) to the world. There are no barriers to entry, and all you have to do to find an audience is write stuff that people want to read.

    Which is easier said than done, of course. If I have any advice to bloggers or those-who-would-be-bloggers, it's this--you should write about what you want, and not give a damn what anyone else thinks. But--and here's the tricky part--you still have to think about your readers. Not that you should become a hack and write what you THINK will lure readers to your site, but the people fool enough to read your nonsense should always get the very BEST nonsense you can muster. Some days your best might not be very good, but when you sit down at the keyboard you should keep in mind those people who are going to invest their time and read it. The quickest way to condemn your blog to the depths is to fill the screen with self-indulgent nonsense that no other human being could possibly find interesting. Share something worth sharing.

    I think that's why we poker bloggers have developed into such a thriving community. Everyone has SOMETHING interesting to say. And about so many different facets of the game. There are bloggers who are world-class players; there are bloggers who candidly admit they're total fish. Some play in the World Series and the World Poker Tour, some play in freebie bar tournaments. Some have considerable writing experience, some probably never even thought about writing until they read other blogs and decided to sign up.

    One thing we poker bloggers have done very well is find a niche and then work within those parameters to give something unique to the community. Everyone talks from time to time about the same subjects--the gutsy calls, the brutal bad beats--but just about every blog adds something to the conversation that you couldn't find anywhere else. Not than anyone feels pressure not to go off the reservation, as it were--in fact, some of the best posts I've read had nothing to do with poker. I don't think there are many folks out there who feel uncomfortable writing outside their normal boundries. And they shouldn't be.

    Well, this was supposed to be short and sweet, and it's not. I don't even know if it's on topic. I think that's MY niche--I bloviate for thousands of words like a goddam filibuster (and I use words like "bloviate" merely because I like typing them...yeahhh..."b-l-o-v-i-a-t-e"...feels so GOOD). I'll admit, there have been times the past 21 months when I've seriously thought about shutting this blog down. But I know I never will (and, no, I don't mean that as a threat). I like to write. I like to read. Blogs give us access to a wider and richer vein of thoughts, opinions, and ideas than has ever been possible in history. We should all do our part and pitch in some of our own.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    Cringe-Worthy TV

    I'm not one for watching metaphorical train-wrecks, but tonight's WSOP coverage had some great horrible stuff. Let's start with the usual Hellmuth nonsense. At first it wasn't Phil stirring the pot. It's fine to ask him what kind of doctor his wife is, and fine to laugh when he says that she's a psychiatrist. It got a bit much when the other players started asking if she prescribed his Prozac and stuff like that. Something got said that had Phil's upper lip curling with peevishness, and for a change I agreed with him. I'm still taping the second episode so I can't go back yet to see what it was.

    But of course he lost it eventually. First he tells a guy(I believe his name was Joe Pittman, I'll correct if I'm wrong) who just suffered a bad beat that it wasn't a bad beat (which it wasn't, as Phil correctly pointed out, as Pittman started out behind, went ahead, and lost to a runner-runner full house. Tough hand, but no bad beat). Still, Pittman probably didn't want to hear that from Phil or anyone at that moment. The next hand the obviously steaming Pittman raises with KJ, Phil calls with AK, Joe shoves in his stack and Phil calls in a shot. The fact that you know what's gotta be coming puts an exquisite edge to the tension. Pittman rivers a jack, and Hellmuth goes conpletely bonkerino. "This guy can't even spell poker," was his best line, while "this guy" is sitting right next to him. Pittman should've said "P-O-K-E-R". Phil goes on and on and on about what a terrible play it was, how Pittman is a donkey, how he'd never make a play like that, he's a nine-time bracelet winner...thing is Pittman looked pretty pissed and insulted, and also looked like he could fold Phil into thirds and put him on a shelf. But he just sat there and let Phil wander off to put him down to everyone in earshot. Pittman said "What a crybaby," which perhaps he shouldn't have after they way he reacted to his earlier beat, but I'd like to see someone react to one of Hellmuth's rants with some creativity and aplomb.

    It was a pretty ugly outburst. No, not ugly--it's pathetic. If it happened once, you could sympathize. Twice, sure, some people handle frustration with a bit less aplomb. But watching Phil melt down over and over no longer makes me feel the warm caress of schadenfreude. It's pitiful. He actually went off again after Paul Magriel knocked him out, but that may have been residual fury from the hand before. He's a great talent in a field where great talent is often at the mercy of dumb luck. You could see the skill in the way he played tonight--laying down AK to the guy who made aces full was a nice play, which of course he took elaborate credit for. And then there's the way he ran the table, getting players to talk to him, to answer his questions, to show him their cards after a hand. It showed how a table captain can dictate play. But his outbursts have now so totally eclipsed his accomplishments that he's like ESPN's trained monkey. "Let's wait to see if Phil embarrasses himself again!". And he comes through time after time.

    I'd think the best way to deal with Hellmuth (or any bullying player) is to just ignore them. Don't talk, don't respond, just go about your business as you see fit. Perhaps in such a hypercompetitive setting it's difficult to dial it back and be passive. Perhaps more poker players should study jujitsu.

    The guy with the big hair and wearing the Beckham jersey, who kept screaming at the top of his lungs and got a penalty for language...I think he's the guy who irritated his fellow players in a different, ah, sensory manner. I think. I have to go back and read Pauly's archives to confirm.

    Good lord, some of the people they showed were dressed as though auditioning for a zombie movie. Ghastly.

    Adam Schoenfeld should start a blog. Or maybe I should check to see if he does have one.

    Andthen in the second episode we had Mike Matusow carpet-bombing the Rio with F-bombs. His tablemates rose to his defense when he was accused of throwing cards at the dealer, and you could see that Mike was really exorcised about it. But then he let go with a sotto voce expletive and we were off. The floorman hit Matusow with a 10-minute penalty, and Mike went a wee bit loco, and let go with another, and another, and another, and when he finally corralled his tongue he had a 40-minute recess. It does seem a bit ludicrous that you can't say "fuck" at the poker table, everyone's over 21, but rules are rules, right...

    Man, I fucking HATE the expression "rules are rules". The last defense of mindless authority. Fuck it. Fucking fuck it all. Good fucking night.

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Awesome Weekend

    Those of you with functional bullshit detectors see the sarcasm in the title above. Horrible sports weekend for yours truly. First the usual Ann Arbor shaftjob. Then we learn Derrick Williams is out for the year with a fractured wing. The winless Penguins continue to March as though they'd been hit with a hammer above their collective beak. We then move to the Steeler fiasco, with Tommy Maddox lumbering around Heinz Field as though he was auditioning for a new Troy McClure flick to be titled, "The Quarterback Was Frankenstein!"

    My limited poker play was just as painful. Second-best hands continue to haunt me. Though not as bad as the guy at my table who flopped the nut flush and had the cards come runner-runner to give another guy the straight flush, the betting capped to the bitter end. That hurt. As did the hand that knocked me out of a SNG I played, when I flopped top pair holding AQ and got trapped by a dude who flopped a set. Trapped me but good.

    There was poker on TV, I watched it instead of seeing the Houston Texans smooth the way for Dom Capers' inevitable sacking. The Full Tilt Poker thingy was on yet again, and as I've never watched it, I watched it. Nothing much to comment on, except for Phil Gordon's galloping heart rate. They were all hooked up to monitors and on one hand, where Gordon held pocket jacks, his pulse rate was around 165. WOW. Gordon even said during a brief interview that he knows his heart goes like a hummingbird's, but that seems like a really high number. Could this be due to his height, which is considerable? I dunno, because I'm not a goddam doctor. Maybe I'll ask my friend the goddam doctor at our game tonight. Gotta give Phil credit--you couldn't tell from his face that he had a jackhammer pounding away inside his thorax.

    I think I got my dad a heart monitor for Christmas a few years back, maybe I'll see if I can borrow it and wear it for the Poker Stars Blogger Tournament on Sunday. My heart rate will probably be the only thing worth reporting from my end. I'm not playing at a very high level right now. No sir.

    Saturday, October 15, 2005

    Hard to Beat the Refs Too

    Penn State "lost" to Michigan today, after the refs screwed the Lions yet again. In 2002 the refs called Tony Johnson out of bounds as PSU drove for the winning field goal even though Johnson had BOTH feet in. Today, Michigan scored a phantom touchdown with 1 second on the clock. Why do I saw "phantom"? Because, with 28 seconds left, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr complained to the refs that a time out wasn't called in time, and the refs gifted him with 2 extra seconds. No replay review, no checking upstairs with the official timekeeper. Hey, here's two extra seconds. If Michigan doesn't get those two extra seconds, Penn State wins. We TiVo'ed the game, went back and watched the play in question. You hear the whistles blow at 28 seconds. So, hey, why not tack two more on, just for the hell of it.

    A total fucking joke. On the play before Michigan reciever Justin Avant stepped out of bounds after catching the ball--no replay review. Total fucking joke. Hard to win a game when the refs arbitrarily decides to give your opponent extra time, extra room on the sidelines. I won't even mention three separate occasions when the refs spotted the ball a whole yard in Michigan's direction. On the one the ref marks the spot, walks toward the middle of the field on a diagonal, and ends up a foot past the first-down marker. Penn State had to play a hell of a game just to hang in against officiating like that.

    Not that I'm into conspiracies, but when you're a Penn Stater, and see how our team has been fucked over the years (undefeated team in 1994 getting screwed, exhibit A) you get a bit touchy. Total. Fucking. Jopke.

    UPDATE: The fumble by Henne was just that--a fumble. The ball was loose as soon as Zemeitis hit him, and the scoop completed by the time he hit the ground. I forgot to mention the fumble by Hart, recovered by Penn State, which was missed by the ref standing right on top of it.

    I know that bad calls happen and whatnot, but when you lose a game on the last play of the game, with one second to go, and the refs gave the other team two free seconds for no reason, well, I'm gonna get pissed.

    My mood hasn't been improved by the two brutal beats I just took on the river, both to lose massive multiway pots. Guy calls 3 bets with 6-2 (but sooted) and makes his flush on the river (I flopped a set of deuces out of the big blind), and then my aces get cracked by a guy who makes two pair with K-6 with the turn of the final card. Win those two pots and I would've about doubled my bankroll on two hands. Ah, poker.

    I just chopped pots on two consecutive hands, when me and another player held the exact same hand. A bit odd. And Party now has "beginners" tables, where, obviously, only beginners can play. I don't qualify. Talk about some crazy action, sheesh, I watched three pots in a row get capped three- or four-way, and I saw hands like K-3 and Q-8 turned over at the showdown. Hey, you kids aren't beginners, come on, sit down and play!

    Sigh, it's really not my night/weekend. Just lost a pot to a guy who limped with AK and didn't re-raise me when I bumped it with AQ, an ace on the turn, and I paid him off. I've lost with aces, AQ twice, a flopped set of deuces...yup, I feel like a poker player again.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    Time To Get Terrified?

    Playin' a little poker, and so far Lady Luck hasn't quite kicked me in the stones. My stats are about par--played 35 hands, won 1. Saw maybe 2 flops outside the big blind. I'm down, but how could I not be?

    On consecutive hands a guy hit a royal flush on the river then flopped quads. And got paid off both hands, betting capped on the river. Too bad I'm not playing on the Bad Beat Jackpot tables, there may have been some big hands when he hit the Royal.

    But let's leave the poker a moment in order to keep life in its proper perspective--anyone else following the bird flu stuff in the news? Um, maybe it's time to build that Dream Bunker in the woods? I know, they say comforting things like "for the love of God, DON'T PANIC!", but then I heard Mike Leavitt (I think he's the head of the Department of Health and Human Services) on NPR saying things like avian flu could kill half a billion people, that it could turn huge cities into ghost towns, and that it could cause the end of civilization. And we don't have enough Tamiflu and/or other anti-influenza drugs to treat more than a tiny percentage of the population. And that an outbreak would be virtually impossible to contain.

    They also said that it's unlikely such a lethal strain will sweep across the world anytime soon. But, and it's a big, big but, what if it does? Post-Katrina, I have zilcho confidence that the government will handle the crisis with any manner of skill or competence. For the moment we'll keep "Brown Alert" on standby.

    We now return to our previously scheduled post--I just folded the Hammer two hands out of three. Sorry, I don't yet have enough breathing space to play it with the required manic aggression. The flops would've missed me anyway. Ah, there's a tidy pot won. Checked when I hit top pair on the flop, no one else bet, and that put them off when I bet out on the turn. My tens beat out the dude with pocket eights. That's a misread, bitch!

    The Fat Lady Holds Her Tongue

    The other day I threatened you people with a 5000-word monster post. I had a few things to write about, and some weird coincidences to tie them all together. Then I got sleepy and deep-sixed the idea. But what nearly moved me to write was getting knocked out of the tournament at the bar the other night. It was no big deal, a bad beat, they happen. But I really didn't have fun while I was playing. Part of this I chalked up to being exhausted, but I started to seriously think about giving up poker. Oh, I don't mean never playing again, with friends and family and whatnot. But no longer playing and/or thinking about it "seriously".

    Not that I've played much (if any) "serious" poker in the last year. But as I left the bar and walked to my car I thought about it. All the strategy guides I have, all those books I've read, the stuff I've written...maybe it's time to move on to another hobby/obsession. I spend a lot of time thinking about poker because I write about it so much, maybe I should remove one part of the equasion and see what happens.

    To be sure, I write about other stuff here as well, because I don't think you want to hear about the heads-up matches I have with my cats (Bert is by far the best feline Hold-Em player I've ever seen, ferociously aggressive). I drove home and decided not to decide anything. I was, after all, really beat.

    Get up the next morning, go to work, check the email at lunch, and found a message from Party Poker that they'd stuck a few bucks in my account to lure me back into the fold. I only have to play 9,700 raked hands or so before I cash out, but I appreciated the sentiment. I felt a slight fillip of anticipation when I read the email, like when you're sitting in a restaurant and you see your waiter, burdened down with plates, heading straight for your table.

    Got home, threw some laundry on so I wouldn't have to play volleyball in chinos, and downloaded Party's latest update. Of course the news is that you can now play blackjack there and also make side bets on what color the flop will come. Somehow I feel this is a bad move on their part, though at the moment I'm not able to properly explain why. Perhaps later.

    Went to volleyball, went to the bar, came home feeling pretty awful. On the way home I came so close to hitting a deer I could see Bambi's tongue sticking out through his mouth. Why do so many of God's creatures want to run out in front of my car. Anyway, I thought I'd check to see if the download worked, and if it'd actually run on my computer. It did, and it does. OK, maybe I'll go see if the table graphics have changed. It seems to me that they have, slightly, since I played there last. Oh, there's an empty seat? Maybe I'll sit down for a few hands before bedtime. What the hell.

    I sit, fold 10-4 two hands in a row. It's nice, hearing that "thfft-thfft-thfft" sound again as the cards are dealt and the clink of chips. I'm dealt a queen, and then another queen. It's folded around to me and I raise. One caller. Flop comes ten-high, I bet, the guy folds. I win the pot. The CONGRATULATIONS! sign pops up and I hear fireworks explode in my ear.


    A few hands later I'm dealt queens again. I re-raise a guy, he calls, flop comes king-high, but I bet out. He folds. HE FOLDS. I win another pot. Yowza.

    I'm dealt pocket sevens, and raise. I'm heads-up with a guy who has 5 times as much money as anyone else at the table, though there are two players ripping him for his terrible play. I'm disappointed to see fools who still tap the walls of the aquarium--don't they read my column? The flop is ragged, but with two overcards. He checks, I bet, he calls. Another overcard on the turn, and there are now 3 hearts out there. He checks, I bet, he calls. Last card is another heart. He checks, and I check, figuring he's going to call no matter what. He has K-4, no heart, no pair. I win another pot.

    And that's when I bailed, a quick hit and run job. With my wafer-thin bankroll I needed a nice start like this. Hey, when I started playing about 2 years ago I started out with not much more money than this, and I built it into the vast Mean Gene multimedia empire. It felt good to play poker again. It felt good to win a pot. It felt good to fold, for God's sake. I had fun. As Chau Giang said last year during the WSOP (while, it seemed, rubbing his nipples), "Poker is nice...I love play poker".

    Oh, by the way, I do realize that this post GUARANTEES that the next time I play I'm going to be metaphorically tied spread-eagle while Lady Luck kicks me in the junk. I'm down with that. Mean Gene can take it. Well, so long as it stays metaphorical.

    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    Actual Poker Content!

    What the hell, another quicky post. As I was trying not to nod off last night I flipped on the Poker Superstars II. Um, how long has this tournament been going on? And when is it going to end? DOES it end? I mean, I can easily imagine Johnny Chan and Kathy Liebert and Ted Forrest playing push-and-pray Hold-Em for eternity in the poker Purgatory that is this show. It just goes on and on and on and on and on, with no end in sight.

    This round has a bizarre setup. Four players play two elimination matches, and the top two point-getters advance. Thing is, the person who gets knocked out first in the initial game not only has to win the next one, he/she has to win in a specific order to advance. Now, I didn't watch the whole show last night, but I saw that Huck Seed got knocked out first. If it played out that Seed has to knock out Mike Sexton first, then David Sklansky, and then Johnny Chan to move on to the next round, then Sexton, who was sitting on Seed's immediate right, can raise all-in every single time if Chan and Sklansky fold. Every time Seed is in the big blind he has to hope there's a raise ahead of Sexton, otherwise he HAS to give up the hand. And Chan and Sklansky know that as well as Sexton. So you have a bizarre dynamic at work here, where not only are these world-class folks desperately short of chips to play with, the players who are low on points are prevented from playing against certain opponents. This is poker?

    I've only seen one episode of the Full Tilt Poker shows on Fox, where they have the FTP folks discussing different aspects of the game. They're definitely worth watching, but they're on at 4:30 on Sundays, when I'm usually watching football, and tracking them down during the week can be a bit tricky. A few observations:

    I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing Howard Lederer would give up playing poker and just be a commentator. Because he's really, really good. Actually, he's so good I'd like to see him do the NFL, the NBA...isn't ABC looking for an anchor to replace the late Peter Jennings?

    Isn't Phil Hellmuth affiliated with Ultimatebet? Just thought it odd that he's doing stuff for Full Tilt. Likewise Daniel Negreanu. A point for discussion--now that Full Tilt has this stable of famous pros, and Poker Stars has Raymer and Moneymaker (and Isabelle, Isabelle, Isabelle), does this point out a major weakness in Party Poker's marketing plan? I mean, if you're watching the WSOP, and you see a guy at the table wearing a Party Poker hat, what's the first thing you think? That's right--HEE HAW!! HEE HAW!! Maybe this guy is the best online tournament player in the Free World, but his reputation is tarred by playing at a site know to be the biggest acquarium in the world. Especially with Party cutting ties with its skins, will more online players gravitate to Full Tilt and Stars because they want the cache that goes with playing at a "pro" site? Could this be the tipping point that swells the player lists at those two sites to the point that they become as fishy--but more "respected"--than Party? Just a thought.

    What I'm about to say, I say with all seriousness--I never, EVER, want to see Chris Ferguson slicing stuff with playing cards. OK, last year during the WSOP I thought it was cool when Jesus hacked up bananas with cards. Then it was carrots. Then pickles. Then he was trying to throw them past a hockey goalie. Um, you know, I get the point. We can move on now.

    But no. We've already seen Scotty Nguyen beat Jesus in a banana-striking contest during the WSOP, and then watching the Full Tilt show they had yet another thing showing Ferguson taking on carrots and pickels with cards. They even had super-slo-mo photography to show, like, the carrots and pickles getting sliced. At one point Ferguson said something like, "When slicing vegetables you have to use a different technique than when you're slicing fruit", and at that point I put my head in my hands. Please, please, no more. Have Chris show us some swing-dancing moves. Have him blast out some game theory equasions. But leave the produce alone from now on. Please.

    Pauly and Otis were at a PokerStars media bash last night (read their blogs for the reports, which will make you green with envy and/or nausea) and there was a Q&A with the Poker Stars players, including the person who won the 2005 World Series. Now, I'm not going to mention this person's name, because I know there are people who read my blog who DO NOT want to know who won before they see it on TV. Which leads me to a question I would've asked (or liked to have seen asked): The champ is famous now, but nowhere near as famous as he/she is GOING to be when the shows finally air. Is it a bit odd to know that there's this even bigger wave of fame and attention coming your way, after you've had a pretty nice taste of it already? I'd be interested to know how Raymer and Moneymaker felt about it as well--the Cult of Celebrity usually initiates you in one big orgy of adulation, and you don't always see it coming.

    OK, back to work. I think there are about 1200 folks signed up for Poker Stars' Blogger Tournament. Wow, does my blogroll need updated.

    Oh, You Again

    Remember a few days ago I wrote about an elderly gentleman who flagged me down on my way to work asking for a ride to town? I nearly killed him this morning. I was cruising down River Road, following an 18-wheeler at a safe distance, and suddenly there he was, in the same blue overalls, staggering into traffic. The truck hid him from view until I was nearly on top of him, and if I hadn't swerved I think my passenger rear-view mirror would've clipped him. To be fair, the car behind me came even closer to clobbering him, as that driver barely budget to avoid a collision. I parked and saw that the guy was still walking toward town. At least he wasn't running this time. It's strange--I've seen him twice, yet no one else I work with has ever seen him. Could he just be a figment of my imagination? One sure way to find out would be to aim my front bumper at his midsection and see if he dents my hood. Hey, I'm willing to incur a small car-repair bill to confirm the state of my mental health.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Little Post Better Than Big Post

    I was about to write something absurdly long but I thought better of it and decided to cut to various chases:

    I took the day off yesterday, but instead of catching up on sleep I woke at 6:30AM, took out the garbage and cleaned the garage, did some cooking, some cleaning, then drove to a new huge mall/shopping complex that opened about 15 miles away. I mostly wanted to go to Borders--I find I need the psychological recharging visiting a bookstore gives me more often these days. But I wandered the mall for a half-hour or so, not really looking for anything in particular. Good thing--I don't think there was a single store in the whole place that catered to guys over 23. What I did find was a Steelers clothing store, a Pirates clothing store, a store that sold Pittsburgh sports memorabilia (including jerseys and shirts), a sporting goods store that sold jerseys...fine if you're Phil Ivey, but I was looking for a place that sells the sort of sharp threads a guy with my style and joie de vivre requires. No luck.

    To Borders. I should say that I was pretty much exhausted--Monday night we played five games of volleyball, then went to the bar to watch our Steelers play the Chargers. It was a rough game on the nerves, the officiating was awful, and there was a vocal crowd in the house. I did my part, especially after I drank about eight 99-cent drafts. Everyone took off around the the start of the fourth quarter, so I saw Roethlisberger get submarined while sitting in my living room. I immediately called Dr. Mark, who said a blown ACL was his immediate and uninformed diagnosis. Jeff Reed booted the game winning FG a few minutes left, but it wasn't hard to imagine that the Steelers' season had been deep-sixed.

    By the time I got to Borders we knew that Ben was going to be OK, that the inside of his knee did not resemble a freshly-baked spaghetti squash. But I was still totally whooped. I looked through the poker section (there's a new book by Penn Gillette about how to be a poker cheat that looks interesting), but ended up grabbing a volleyball book to flip through as I took a break in one of their comfy leather chairs. But the book didn't interest me much, and though a nap really sounded good I didn't think the Borders staff would appreciate me sprawled in a chair snoring like a chainsaw.

    I wandered the fiction aisle, checking to see if Bernard Cornwell has a new Richard Sharpe novel out. I turned to see what was stacked on the opposite shelves, and found myself staring down the Self-Help/Psychology texts. Neither subject appeals to me--God knows I need Help, but there's no way it's coming from my own Self. I turned to leave, and found that I was staring at the Erotica section. Someday I'll figure out what the difference is between "erotica" and "porn". One answer--that "erotica" is "porn" that women like too--seems a bit trite. Like I said, someday I figure out what the differnence is. Yesterday wasn't the day. Not today, either.

    On the bottom shelf were a row of paperbacks, all the same typeface, with different colored covers. There were about 20 different editions of Penthouse Letters. Oh the humanity.

    A book caught my eye, and I pulled it off the shelf. It was The Game, which I wrote about yesterday. The book is leather-bound and the pages are gilt-edged, so that it looks like a Bible--I don't know if I'd feel stranger reading a Bible or a book about picking up women in bars. Not that I have anything against the Bible, per se--it just seems that the people who most strenuously bring the Bible into discussion are people I'd like to avoid.

    I sat down in a comfy chair and blitzed through about 75 pages of it in an hour. An interesting read, some of it laugh-out-loud funny, some of it so pathetic it made me cringe. I'll probably end up reading the whole thing and post a review, but let me say one thing right up front--some of the techniques described in the book may work in L.A., but there is no goddam way they'd fly in Pittsburgh.

    Tuesday night they have poker at the bar I was at for the Monday night game, and as all the womenfolk in our group were having their monthly Girls' Night dinner I thought it might be a good time to play some cards. Matt joined me, and as he isn't a poker player we ate dinner and drank too much beer (exactly what I needed in my exhausted state) and watched the Main Event coverage on the TV. Poor Jennifer Harman. Poor, poor Jen.

    While we were eating and drinking and watching a nice-looking blonde in a black dress walks in and takes a seat at the bar. Early twenties, had a figure that might well be described as "lush". I'd been telling Matt about the book I was reading and we were both laughing about it, and I mentioned that one rule is that you never approach a girl who's sitting or standing by herself.

    "Why not?" Matt asked.

    "I don't remember." To be a serial seducer is not my fate.

    So we're watching the poker and admiring Sam Farha's orange shirt when this guy walks over to the blonde. Young guy, about her age, he's wearing a red T-shirt and has the baseball cap on backwards and something glittery in his ear. My attention flits from the TV to the guy, as I try to determine if his approach is working. After reading a fifth of that book I feel qualified to offer criticism. She laughs at something he says, and then an older couple walks up and the kid walks toward the exit with them. Ah, bad news, not good to go out scoping with Mommy and Daddy. Hell, even I know that.

    And then the guy turns around and I see the lettering on his T-shirt. It looks like a homemade shirt, something where you go to a store in the mall and they iron them on or something. Anyway, here's what's printed on his shirt--"SPITTERS ARE QUITTERS".

    Now, there's only one scenario I can imagine that his shirt was describing. I cannot imagine how anyone could go out in public with that printed across his chest. More than that--I can't imagine how anyone would let their KID go out broadcasting that message. "If my child ever went out wearing that shirt," I told Matt, "he'd soon be a dark brown stain on the carpet. You'd need a squeegy and a roll of paper towels to sop him up with." Am I being an old fuddy-duddy, or do I just prefer a more sophisticated style of flirtation?

    Nine-thirty approached, time for the late tournament. They have poker Tuesday and Wednesday night, but Tuesday's don't get as many people. We only filled three tables, which was OK by me. I was totally fried by now, and as the first hand was dealt I really wasn't much in the mood to play. A good thing--I was dealt junk for the first six hands or so and did what you do with junk--I threw it away. The second episode of the Main Event was ending, and the guys at my table were talking about it and about poker in general. I thought about doing some name-dropping, "I know some guys who were covering the World Series...oh, there he is right now, up on the screen", but I didn't. I sat there and listened to the table talk, knowing that I've read and thought and written more about poker than everyone in the room times three. Which depressed me to no end, because all I was doing was folding hand after hand. I know, that's a big part of poker, and if you're sitting down with a table of maniacs who will call your all-in with fourth pair, tight is right. But one thing I've noticed about live poker, in the little I've played, s that passivity is much more frustrating. I guess I expect more of myself as a poker player than mere patience. Again, I was very tired.

    I saw a flop with KQ, folded when it missed me, and was soon high-carded to another table. I sat down next to a guy who'd knocked out four players. My first hand there he raised all-in under the gun. He had more chips than the rest of us combined, and in the big blind I found the ace and king of diamonds. It was folded around to me and of course I called. If I was gonna play I wanted some chips. He flipped over AJ and I figured I had him right where I wanted him. The flop came with an ace and two spades. He had the jack of spades. You know what's coming. That it was the Ace of spades that killed me on the river seemed a bit much. He was a bit rude about his suckout, ignoring me when I said "Nice hand", which of course it wasn't, and then he said something like "That's another one". I just walked out the door and into the charmless night.

    Sorry, this was supposed to be a little post. Though if I'd written what I've been thinking of writing you'd have been here a lot longer. And I don't have the energy right now for the 5,000 word braindump I was sketching out in my head. I'm pretty much whupped right now, in a number of ways. Here's hoping a good night's sleep kicks over the circuit breaker.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    Keep it Random

    Nothing much to talk about today, so let's see if I can cobble together a post. Lots of folks writing about PartyPoker's decision to decouple itself from its skins (Empire, Multi, etc). Is this no big deal or does it represent a sea change in the online poker world. Personally, I have no goddam idea. But after reading Bill's post I began metaphorically storing up bottled water and putting up preserves. And that was even before I read about Otis's personal nightmare scenario. It'll be interesting to see how things shake out.

    I may go to the bar this week to play in the tournament there tomorrow or Wednesday. Just for a lark, get some chips in front of me and some live targets, have a few beers, have a little fun. I'll be smart this time--since you get more chips if you eat and drink there, I'll arrive starving and dehydrated. Wouldn't that be a great title for a book about dating, "Arrive Starving and Dehydrated".

    I read on CNN the other day about a book called The Game, which was written by a guy from Rolling Stone and its about foolproof techniques for guys to pick up any girl they want. What struck me about the article was how the AP writer described the guy who wrote the book (his name's Neil Strauss, sorry). The AP'er said that Strauss, who has a shaved head and goatee, resembles "an emaciated Howie Mandel". Isn't this grounds for slander, libel, defamation? If someone described me in print as "a right-handed and even fatter Phil Mickelson" there would be blood-spray on the walls.

    The book is 464 pages long. Women, really, be honest--do guys actually have to process 464 pages of information just to get you to go out with us? Isn't it enough for us to be kind, considerating, caring...heh...snicker...sorry, I couldn't keep a straight face there. For some of us the book could be 46,444 words long and it wouldn't get us to first base. I'm not referring to myself, of course, goodness no.

    Here's a line from an Amazon reviewer of the book: " say that this book is about picking up chicks is just like saying that Moby Dick is about a whale". Ladies and gentlemen, we have a candidate for 2005 Gross Overstatement of the Year.

    November is just a few weeks away, which to the writing sort among us means that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost here. Last year I thought about giving it a try, but I didn't have the time. This year I don't have the time either, but instead of just giving it a miss I thought that sharing the burden might be a good idea. So my friend Jeff and I might collaborate and share the writing duties. I write a bit, leave it off in the middle of a chapter (or a paragraph, or a sentence) and he picks it up. Like Barney Gumble and Linda Ronstadt, we've been looking for a project to work on together, so this might be it. It's gonna be the literary equivalent of the Traveling's not good...that's very, very bad...let's try again. It's gonna be the literary equivalent of Blind Faith. Much better analogy. More sex and drugs, fewer rocking chairs.

    Actually...if I could pick five authors to write a collaborative novel...I'd pick:

    James Ellroy
    P.G. Wodehouse
    Lester Bangs
    Elmore Leonard
    Michael Chabon

    Never mind that two of them are dead. "Bertie Wooster, I'd like you to meet Dudley Smith". Christ, you could write a novel just riffing off that line. The mere idea of Dudley Smith inhabiting the same universe as Bertie Wooster, that he'd be walking around the grounds of Totleigh gives me the all-over creeps.

    Sunday, October 09, 2005

    Roar, Lions, Roar

    So Joe Paterno should've retired, right? He's ruining his legacy by staying on, he's embarrassed himself these last few years fielding teams that couldn't contend in the Big Ten. Hang it up, Joe, they said.

    I join with every PSU alum across the country by extending a big middle finger to the doubters and the sayers of nay. Last night's win over Ohio State was one of the biggest, and the best, in Paterno's career. It was old-time football--run the ball, don't make mistakes, capitalize on turnovers. Nothing too flashy--Derrick Williams' touchdown sprint perhaps the lone exception--and the defense brought back memories of 1986. A.J. Hawk is a fantastic player, but after last night you can put Paul Posluszny at the top of your Butkus Award list. The play where he tracked down Troy Smith after playing zone coverage underneath had us all shaking our heads in disbelief.

    Been a long time since we Lion faithful had a game like this to savor. So I'm gonna savor it. Not just a big win, a big win against a team that I despise. Double-down on the deliciousness.

    Friday, October 07, 2005

    This Afternoon is Gonna Suck

    Two hours of volleyball last night on a hard, hard floor. Hyperextended a knee. Three beers, two wings, a slice of pizza. Five hours of sleep. And after staggering through the morning I just had a fish sandwich along with mac and cheese for lunch. I tried to resist--I was weak. Now I have to someone slog through four hours here at my desk with the head bobs and my eyelids heavy as ingots.

    A quick shoutout to my buddy Oy, as it's his birthday today. He's getting a great present, too--knee surgery. Ah, getting old is wonderful. I've known him since the first grade, if you can believe that. Can't get rid of the bastard. On me like white on rice.

    That's a line from the book "Carlito's Way", and I know there was just a straight-to-DVD movie called "Carlito's Way: Rise to Power", which should not be confused with the film "Carlito's Way" starring Al Pacino and Sean Penn. That movie, made in the early nineties, is actually based on "After Hours", which is the second book Edwin Torres wrote about Carlito Brigante. If you like gangster/mobster/crime stuff, check it out. Get the audio book--Torres reads it himself, and he's fantastic. Haven't heard if the new flick is any good (Sean Combs is in it, and it was never released in theaters, raising a couple of red flags). The De Palma "Carlito's Way" was pretty good, especially Penn.

    I've listened to the audio book so many times I should just steal the damn thing and pay the fine. Get me started with the first chapter and I could probably recite the whole thing line-by-line.

    "I always knew I was bad, but I didn't know I was slick. At this time I totally re-did my image. A white Lincoln, a pad on the East Side. And none of that zoot-suit shit. Conservative-cut clothes, tiny watch, tiny cufflinks..."

    It's funnier to hear Torres read it. Oy and I play that line back and forth all the time when we have to go someplace nice. "Tiny watch, tiny cufflinks".

    Back to work. Four bloody hours.

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    More Frustration, That's What I Need

    Hockey's back, yay, and my Penguins get stoned by Martin Brodeur. Crosby looked good, and other than the 57 penalties called the game flowed a lot better. First game out of 82, no need to overreact.

    I find I have no interest in the baseball playoffs whatsover. Don't care who wins. Don't like a single team still playing. Don't like the Yankees because they're the Yankees. Don't like the Red Sox because. for all the romance surrounding them, they're just the Yankees with horrible management in their past. They spend just the same as the Yanks, they have a huge payroll...I rooted for the Sox last year, and I'm glad they got the so-called Curse of the Bambino off their backs so I didn't have to see goddam Ben Affleck on TV every ten seconds bemoaning the life of the Sox fan. But it was, what? 86 years for the Red Sox. Amateurs. I root for the Pirates--it's been 13 years since we had a winning season, and 26 years since we won the title. And they ain't gonna be competitive...ever again. Bill Simmons just published a book called Now I Can Die In Peace. Bill, you only had to endure about 30 years of torture. I (hopefully) have 50 years of futility staring me in the face. If the Bucs ever finish above .500 there'll be a ticker-tape parade.

    As I said, I'm a Pirate fan, so ain't no way I'm rooting for the friggin' Braves. The Astros? Eh, who cares, and I always root for Clemens to get shelled in the playoffs. The Cardinals...don't like LaRussa, beyond that I see nothing to engage my emotions. Don't like the White Sox, because Ozzie Guillen is a fool and an asshole. It's pretty bush making the choke sign to another team's fans after you pissed away a 15-game lead in a month. And I'm not rooting for the California-Anaheim-Los Angeles Angels. Any team with that much contempt for its fans can go get stuffed. So screw baseball.

    To improve my mood I played a little SNG, get to the bubble, I'm the shortstack (after the chip leader gives a guy formerly on the ropes about a grand calling down with garbage 3 hands in a row) and I raise with AQ. Two callers. Flop comes J-4-4, it's checked around, I push. Dude calls me with pocket threes. I will now stick my head in the oven.

    I understand that there are like 700 or so bloggers signed up for the Poker Stars tournament. How many of those will actually qualifiy under the rules remains to be seen, but what do I care? Sit 'em down eight at a time, and I'll beat 'em eight at a time.

    Of course, I can't even cash in a 10-person SNG against people who probably flatline their EEG tests. Are you supposed to preheat the oven before you stick your head in it?

    Go to bed, unconsciousness will make me feel better. Maybe a glass of warm milk first, or some pills.

    How to Tell a Bad Beat Story

    Is what my latest column at Barstool Sports is about. Of course, you never have to tell bad beat stories, because bad beats only happen to ME. Actually, that's the sort of attitude I argue against. Just making a little point there.

    The young woman on the cover is rather fetching, too. The last issue's cover featured three blondes wearing white blouses and plaid miniskirts while they enjoyed cherry lollipops. After reading his post of a few days ago, I think Pauly would appreciate that.

    I haven't seen Pauly in any of the WSOP episodes aired so far, but I didn't give close attention to the Johnny Chan one yet so I'll have to go back to it. Stinkin' ESPN didn't start the first episode last night on time because of baseball so I missed about half of it, thinking it was going to be pre-empted. Boy, sure looked like Annie Duke was having a good time, didn't it? Yipes. I just read her autobiography and there are a number of pictures included. There's one taken just as she entered grad school, and she's very pretty, confident, even coy. And then there's one taken the year she finished 10th in the Main Event, when she was nigh on nine months pregnant, and I thought to myself "My life would be in terrible and imminent danger if I check-raised this woman, and if I hung a bad beat on her it would take forensic scientists three weeks with tweezers to gather enough of my DNA to make a positive ID." She wasn't in a sunny mood that day, understandably so.

    Before I really got into poker I taped the 1998 WSOP that ESPN broadcast, the one where Scotty Nguyen said, "You call, gonna be all over baby". I really have to dig out that tape and watch it again, just to compare the coverage then to now. No hole card cameras. The game wasn't the phenomenon it is today. I know ESPN showed a lot of their old WSOP footage on ESPN Classic awhile back, they really should put it all on DVD or something.

    Crap, I had some other stuff to write about and now I forget it. And now I have to get back to work. There's poker at the bar tonight, I may play, I may stay at home and read. Just finished 2 book reviews, have three more to write this weekend. If I think of it I'll post again. If not, not.

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Whipping My Game Into Shape

    Played a (very) little SNG last night, and managed to bluff off my chips and finish 8th. You'd think that I'd be a bit more careful while playing against a collection of remorseless calling stations. So would I, actually. It's a bit frustrating sitting down to play against opponents who don't have a clue...until you realize that you're one of them too.

    If I'm to have any chance of winning Poker Stars' Online Blogger Poker Championship I really need to get my game in order. have any chance of winning I have to go on a major kidnapping and terror spree. If certain bloggers suddenly go offline don't panic, and certainly don't start checking the bushes by your house or underneath your car. It's nothing, just go about your day.

    One player I've effectively neutralized is Matt Matros, by picking up a copy of his book (at the library, sorry, Matt) the other day. Once I've read and absorbed the info within the pages I'm confident I'll be able to lead him around the table as if on a leash. I'll re-read my copy of the PokerTracker guide to gain insight into Hank and Iggy's mindset. I know, the book isn't about poker, per se, but with the right sort of eyes you can gain devastating insight into their play. Really. If only Double As was done with his book, I'd already be clearing space on my desk for one of those kickin' monitors.

    Ah, is there any delusion sweeter than self-delusion? No, of course there isn't, I say that to that handsome devil I see every morning in the mirror. I have no chance to win this thing. I have no chance to make the top ten. The top 50. Well, my computer could freeze up, and if it takes me an extra-long time to get back online that might nudge me out of the bottom 100. Still, it should be a good time. I think I will play drunk.

    Just some random stuff: I got a hit today when someone Googled "crystal meth slut wife sex story inhibitions". Here's what interests me--the word "inhibitions" at the end. Exactly what sort of "inhibitions" would a "crystal meth slut wife" have? She doesn't do windows?

    A poison ivy update--it's been a month since I messed with a plant with whom I should not have messed, and I'm STILL not 100% yet. I still have broad swathes of red (though not inflamed or itchy) skin over parts of my body that are not normally red. My wrists and the insides of my forearms are finally healing over (playing volleyball has kept them nice and irritated) and my eye and face look, sadly, normal. Tho I still have occasional craving to itch until I'm in a near-orgasmic fugue state. And the vine continues to strike--I borrowed a big jug of RoundUp from my dad to nuke it but good, and on the way home the jug tipped over and leaked all over my trunk. Ever smell RoundUp? It smells bad. And it lingers like...poison ivy. My car smells like a mobile WMD lab. Febreeze? Ha. HA! So me and Mr. Ivy are gonna have a final reckoning tonight. Vengeance is a dish best served cold, but even though we're in the midst of a brutal Indian Summer, I have a big appetite.

    Saturday, October 01, 2005

    Hear the Thunder

    Bloglines has a...thingy, that tells you what are the most-linked to items of the past 24 hours. Coming in at # 2, astonishingly enough, is Poker Stars' Online Poker Blogger Tournament. 94 links. Impressive. We got more links that Bill Bennett.

    I actually played a little poker online last night, a site threw me a frickin' bone so I played a little microlimit poker while utterly exhausted. Thursday nights kill me, I play volleyball for 2 hours then drink and eat pizza and wings. I suppose there are worse ways to abuse your body. Actually, now that I think of it, a beer would be really friendly right now. Let's see what I got in the fridge.

    Had some Penn Pilsner, but I drank a gallon of that last week. Sam Adams Light is quite potable. There are few inventions in all of human history as elegant, as functional, and as magical as the pint glass.

    Anyway, played a multi with 35 players, but the damn site doesn't let you know how many people are remaining. I went out 7th after I put half my chips in on a bluff and went all-in on the river. Dude made a pair on said river and called. I actually made two nice calls early on to win some nice pots. Felt GOOOOOOOD.

    Didn't play at the bar last week, maybe this week. Hmm, there are actual cash tournaments I know, got too much doggone work to do.

    Oh, Maudie said that Boston Cream Pie is her favorite, and yesterday my dad told me the story of why we always have Boston Cream Pie at our poker games. I think I'd heard the story a long time ago but it didn't stick in there. This is when I was little, before I was allowed to ante up, all the uncles and my grandfather came over for a game and there was the usual spread of cold cuts and hot sausage and potato salad. For dessert my Mom made a lemon meringue pie, and to offer those who don't like that she made a Boston Creme Pie. So far so good. But my mom, who at times makes interesting culinary decisions, didn't have any chocolate to frost it with. So she took a page out of the Krayzee Kookbook and poured a can of Hershey's syrup all over the top. Well, it got eaten, and everyone remembered it, to the point where every time our family has a poker game there's a Boston Creme Pie on the kitchen table. Store-bought, I should say. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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