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

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    Tuesday, January 31, 2006

    I Know How to Hate

    Kenny G is from Seattle.

    I said before I couldn't think of a reason to hate Seattle. I stand corrected.

    Here it comes...yes...I feel it rising...the rage...all those hours stuck in elevators and waiting rooms listening to that goddam noodling saxophone...and he's made millions...tens of millions of dollars...travesty...catastrophe...bad noise...fear and loathing...both a symptom and an enabler of our society's collapse...

    Seattle could've nipped Kenny G in the bud.

    They failed us.

    They could've done the right thing and saved us all the horror, the horror.

    Instead they abdicated their responsibility to protect Western Civilization.

    From Kenny G.

    Their Seahawks deserve the most righteous and comprehensive whupping of the ass.

    I hate Seattle.

    I hate the Seahawks.

    And it feels SO GOOD.

    Monday, January 30, 2006

    Stirring the Pot

    It's bad enough that we're still six days away from the Super Bowl, meaning six more days of anxiety waiting for kickoff. I thought about going to the pep rally down at Heinz Field on Friday, but I decided against walking down. I wish I had--there were 30,000 people there, and it would've been fun to add my voice to the throaty mob cheering our Steelers on.

    But there's something missing in the emotional stew, as it were--I don't hate the Seahawks. So far in the playoffs cranking up the bloodlust has been a piece of cake. Of course we hate the Bungles, a traditional rival, especially after Chad Johnson said that the torch had been passed in the division after they beat us at home. Of course we hate the Colts--they embarassed us on national television. And of course we hate the Broncos, who upset us in 1998 to go to the Super Bowl. There were scores to settle, and settle them the Steelers did.

    But whither Seattle? OK, they beat us a few years ago, but that was a long, long time ago. And if I recall correctly we lost in Seattle in the game that followed Art Rooney's death, a game in which Cliff Stoudt threw six or seven interceptions in a shutout. But I always kinda liked the Seahawks. Liked Curt Warner, the former Penn State star. Liked Jim Zorn, who scrambled around like a crazy person and had the added novelty of being left-handed. Liked the sticky-fingered receiever Steve Largent, until he committed the unpardonable sin of becoming a Republican member of the House of Representatives. Oh, Steve, how could you?

    And Seattle the city seems a perfectly acceptable place. A bit on the wet side, perhaps, but it's not like we in Pittsburgh can criticize anyone's weather, unless they're above the Arctic Circle. Some good rock and roll bands came out of Seattle. They make some nice coffee up there. And I've ridden on several Boeing planes and miraculously arrived safely every time.

    That said, in the next few days I will be looking for faults in Seattle's otherwise acceptable resume. I feel confident that a few hours research combined with hyperbole and spin and flat-out lying will allow me to build an air-tight case that proves Seattle is nothing but a breeding ground for bags of human garbage with funny-looking birds on their hats. Stay tuned.

    Oh, Seattle's football stadium? Very nice.

    Saturday, January 28, 2006

    Cruel and Unusual Punishment

    I don't watch much network TV, there aren't many shows I can even imagine myself watching. One of those shows is 24. I was a big fan of La Femme Nikita, and the producers of that show went on to do 24. But I never watched it, I don't know if I was busy the nights it was on or if I was just lazy. Here I am a guy who bitches about TV shows that wrap up nice and neat in a one-hour format and when a show with a more complex structure comes along I ignore it. Nice.

    So a friend of mine has the first 3 seasons on DVD and I ask to borrow them. I just watched the first 3 episodes. You mean to tell me that you people would watch the show...and then have to wait a week for the next one? You people must be sick. I can barely keep myself from fumbling the DVD controller as I go to the next episode.

    I guess I've watched some shows that made me crazy like that. The Sopranos don't always end on a cliffhanger, but 10PM on Sunday nights was always a depressing time, knowing we were the maximum time away from the next show. The absolute worst example of this came at the end of the first season of Twin Peaks, which was about the best thing I've ever seen on network TV, drama-wise. ABC kept running promos saying that we were gonna find out who murdered Laura Palmer. 20/20 even did a piece about how this season-long mystery would be solved. And I'm watching the show--by myself, I think my friends were all away or out or something, maybe it was summer, I don't know--and it's getting pretty damn close to 11PM and we don't seem to be any closer to a solution. And Agent Cooper walks into his room at the Great Northern, gets a phone call, there's a knock at the door, he opens it, and all we see is a silenced pistol. Fade to black, and there's the sound of three shots.

    I was stunned. Although I knew we weren't going to find out who the murderer was, and while I thought the knock on the door was a bit sinister, I didn't expect to be left standing in our living room with my jaw on the floor. What made this especially hard to bear was that there was no guarantee Twin Peaks would be renewed (and it wasn't after the second season, leaving us in the middle of another cliffhanger) and that even if it WAS renewed it wouldn't be back on for five months. I ended up walking around campus for an hour working off the nervous energy, and resisting the urge to run up to total strangers and ask if they'd seen the show.

    Good lord, I just remembered something! Right after the show ended I got a phone call. I thought maybe it was one of my friends calling to say something along the lines of "HOLY SHIT, DID YOU SEE THAT!!??". But instead it was this girl I kinda-sorta-but-no-really dated my freshman year who pretty much destroyed my life for a bit. She would call me from time to time, when she wanted me to listen to her troubles. I hated those calls, but now I was so glad to have someone to talk to that I blathered away for like 15 minutes explaining the plot and what had just happened. I think it was the first time SHE was the one trying to cut the conversation short. It was after talking to her that I went on my long walk. I totally forgot about that till now. Funny how memory works.

    Well, why am I wasting my time writing this when I could be watching 24? Here's the cool thing--I can watch four seasons right in a row, without having to wait a goddam week in between each show. And John's taping season five, which I've missed so far. I may be up very late tonight. But if Jack Bauer can do it, so can Mean Gene.

    Crap. Now I probably have to get hold of the DVDs of The Shield now.

    And The Wire.

    And Deadwood.

    Any others?

    UPDATE: Thanks for the suggestions in the comments. I did see the first season of Carnivale and some of the second, and liked it a lot. It does have some of that Twin Peaks vibe about it. See, this is what I really need in my life...more reason to sit in front of a glowing screen for hours at a time.

    Friday, January 27, 2006

    Nothing To Say

    No football this weekend...I imagine myself frantically channel-surfing this weekend looking for an overlooked playoff game. My heart could use the rest after the last three weeks, believe me. There's a pep rally down at Heinz Field at 5PM, but I think I'll pass. I need to store up my pep (and vim) for the Sunday next.

    I will try to avoid talking about the Steelers the rest of this post. Let's see, let's talk poker, this is ostensibly a poker blog. Um...not much to say. Oh, here's an insightful observation--if you get dealt pocket aces four times in 20 hands, you'll probably do well. Although my results weren't totally to the good. I'm dealt rockets, raise, everyone folds. This with the blinds T25-50. OK. I get them again like five hands later. Raise...everyone folds. "Thanks guys!" I type in chat as I show them down.

    Three-handed I'm dealt aces again in the big blind and the short-stack goes all-in. "A-HA!" I say aloud as I instacall. He has AK. "A-HA!" I shout. The flop comes K-K-4. "A-HA!" I shout as I toss a noose over the chandelier. Lost about 1/2 my stack on that one. But I fought back, took the lead, and had aces again in the big blind when BOTH my opponents went all-in. I call, and they turn over Q-9 and K-6. I understand the first guy pushing, he was short, but calling with K-6? Tsk. The flop gives the first guy a queen, the turn gives the other guy a flush draw, but the river is a blank and I win. As I've said before, poker is a very easy game to play when you get great cards and they hold up. I don't see what all the fuss is about.

    I played another SNG and 2 other guys from Pittsburgh were at the table. We chatted about things when one of them did something I thought was beneath the dignity of a Pittsburgher. There are 3 of us in the pot and the flop comes 4-5-6 of diamonds. I don't have a diamond, so I yawn and guide my cursor to the spot where the FOLD button will appear. The player to my left goes all in. My fellow Pittsburgher thinks...thinks...thinks...and then just calls. I fold and the cards flip up. The all-in person has a lone diamond, the king, and the 'Burgh Boy has the three and seven of diamonds. Yup, flopped the straight flush. It took him a long time to call, and I think slow-rolling is a one-way ticket to Poker Purgatory, but when the hand was done he typed, "thought I might lure you in mean". Ah, I was the audience for that little move. Too bad I was at the fridge getting a bowl of grapes.

    Because today was Friday I had the fish sandwich in our cafeteria, partly for old time's sake, partly because I was hungry. It was excellent, of course, but I was disappointed that the server only gave me a pint of macaroni and cheese instead of the usual half-gallon. She's one of their newer workers, and for some reason she insists on doling out portions that are only slightly unreasonable. Because there was still a lot of M&C pooling in my container. I'm pretty much stuffed, and dinner will probably be a bowl of cereal.

    My company makes a justifiably big deal out of offering healthy foods to our customers, and at our big company meeting Tuesday morning a number of executives got up to hammer that point home. What was offered at the catered breakfast we enjoyed beforehand? Sausage, egg and cheese quesadillas. They were excellent. I had six.

    Speaking of things that Al enjoys, I was watching an old tape filled with "Duckman" episodes last night and at the end the screen flickers and suddenly there's a soccer game on my TV. Chelsea vs Aston Villa playing for the FA Cup a few years back. Maybe more than a few--Gianluca Vialli was on the touchline, Ken Bates in the owner's box, and running around the pitch were Dennis Wise and Gianfranco Zola. These of course were the days before the Blues were purchased by a Russian petrokleptocrat. As I once told a well-known professional poker player about his Ferrari fandom, rooting for Chelsea is like rooting for the IRS during an audit.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    Mean Gene Sees the Future...But Not the Good Stuff

    Mario Lemieux retired today, this time for good. The greatest talent in hockey history gave us an treasure trove of great memories, 2 Stanley Cups, and, hell, he saved the team from extinction. He's the greatest athlete in Pittsburgh sports history, bar none. And this is a guy who had serious back and hip problems, then Hodgkins disease, retired for four years...and came back as the best player in the league. This time it was heart problems that finally ended his time on the ice.

    On ESPN Darren Pang and Barry Melrose said Gretzky was the better player, and I agree with that only by including the qualifier Melrose used, that you have to include longevity into the equasion. Lemieux played 500 games fewer than Gretzky--that's six full seasons. All because of injury and life-threatening illness. He also had to play in a far different NHL than the Great One. If you ever see old NHL games on ESPN Classic it's like watching an afternoon all-skate compared to the WWF on Ice that Mario had to deal with for the bulk of his career. Mario also didn't have the same supporting cast as Gretzky, who played on perhaps the greatest team in NHL history. Still, Super Mario is one of the titans. I just hope the Penguins aren't playing in Las Vegas or Kansas City this time next year.

    But that isn't what I used my Nostradamus-like forcasting skills to predict. No, yesterday I emailed some of my more insane friends to ask them what I thought was a pressing question--as the home team in Super Bowl XL, would the Steelers wear their traditional black jerseys or stay with their Road Warrior whites? Everyone I spoke to thought I was crazy--of COURSE they'd wear their home blacks. They are the Black and Gold, are they not? I tended to agree, though I didn't like the idea of breaking any kind of karmic continuum by switching colors. Plus, by wearing our black jersey's we'd force the Seahawks to wear their ludicrous away outfits, which make them look like the Pacific Northwest's version of the Montreal Alouettes.

    But I had a feeling. I knew Cowher had his press conference today and I knew that someone would ask him the question, and I had a feeling that the Steelers would go against tradition and wear their white jerseys. And, sure enough, after enough refreshes of the Post-Gazette website I saw that my intuition had been spot on.

    I kid you not when I say that tomorrow this will be the hot topic of conversation. Passions will be aroused. People are gonna be pissed and pleased. Personally, I'm totally down with this. As you know from my previous posts I've got some issues regarding superstitions. If it ain't broke, don't change it. By "it", I mean "anything". Maybe Big Ben sees his receivers better when they're in white. I don't think the Steelers are going to abandon their dark home jerseys a la the Cowboys and Redskins, but for this game, I approve.

    Though, if they lose, I will blame it all on this one decision.

    But they won't lose.

    Not in their white jerseys.

    Wow. Wowie wow wow

    A little astonishment now and then adds spice to life. In our jaded, ironic, snarky world it's almost embarassing to admit that one was astonished by something one saw or heard or did. I try my best to put on a front as a world-weary poseur, but there's still too much of the romantic in me to pull it off.

    Not that any of this is earth-shattering stuff, but still. After watching the magnificent Steeler victory on Sunday I decided to play a little poker at Full Tilt and see if my luck had changed. It hadn't, and I am now slowly coming to see that luck might not be involved, but skill. While it's true I'm not getting cards, my poor play is adding fuel to the fire. But you don't care about my problems. Oh, just admit it, once and for all.

    So after logging off and looking at my chef's knife, and then my wrist, knife, wrist, I scrolled through the tables to see if any pros were playing. I'm not a fanboy, but it is kinda neat to see that, oh, Erik Seidel is playing at a cheapy PLO table. So I'm scrolling and I see in red type that some bigshot is playing at the $.50/$1 NL table. That's about the speed I run at, so I logged on to see who among the high and mighty was sitting with the unwashed masses.

    Turns out it was the highest and the mightiest. Yes, Phil Ivey was playing at a $.50/$1 table.

    The waiting list was 208. As you might expect, the chat was what you might expect acolytes might say to an especially revered Tibetan monk. Phil usually responded with a polite but brief "Peace" and "S'up?". He had $200 when I started watching.

    When I left, he had over $17K.

    I joke, I joke! Actually, when I left he had about $230, as I only watched a half-dozen hands. One player had a great line. He and Ivey were in a pot together, the flop comes queen-high, Ivey bets out and the other guy raises him like six times the pot. Ivey folds, and the guy turns over pocket kings. He starts getting razzed by everyone for such a scaredy-cat play, and he answers something like, "Hey, I'm sitting next to the best player in the world here". A good answer, I thought. It was all kinda neat.

    What was more than neat came yesterday, as my company unveiled the new building we're moving into on February 9th. It's on what's called the North Shore, right between Heinz Field and PNC Park. About a 20 minute walk along the river from where I work now, and I know that because I often walk down there on my lunch breaks. From the outside the building looks quite nice, lots of exposed brick, lots of glass, some curves. It's a big honking building, too, a monster, as we're consoldiating about 4 buildings into one.

    So yesterday we have a chance to go down and take a tour, see our desks, etc. There was a little ceremony first, we had the mayor and our county executive and the CEO there to say a few words, and then the 800 or so of us waiting in the cold counted down and they lit up all the floors and the sign with our name on it. Nice. And then there were fireworks, because in Pittsburgh everything is celebrated with fireworks.

    Fourth of July? Fireworks.

    Ball game? Fireworks.

    Arts Festival? Fireworks.

    New Pope? Fireworks.

    Commemorating the explosion at the fireworks factory? Fireworks.

    The ground floor is going to be retail eventually (hopefully a bar or two. Or three) and there they laid out a nice little spread for us, sandwiches and chicken tenders and cake. All very good, though the hot chocolate was woefully underpowered. They had bruschetta and this tomato salad to spoon on top and it was fantastic. And I don't even like tomatoes. Anyway, I nibbled a bit and then I headed for the entrance to look around my new office.

    Wow. Wowie wowie wow wow.

    It's gorgeous. Everything is brand new and it smells brand new, like fresh paint and furniture polish. The colors schemes are muted but still aesthetically pleasing. The word "cubicle" is often equated with "cell", but ours are quite spacious, the walls around our computers high enough to provide privacy but dropping off so with a little roll of the chair you can talk to the folks around you. The desk itself is dark wood, and all the accents are brushed aluminum. When I opened my bolsters they hissed like they were powered by hydraulics. It's the little touches like that I appreciate.

    But it's the big touches that get the jaw dropping. Like, get a load of the view! From my fourth-floor office I'll be looking out at Point State Park, the Confluence, and Mount Washington. Compare this to my view right now, which is of a blank wall. The nearest window to me looks out over a parking lot and a freight train trestle. Our building now is a converted factory, and it was converted in the mid-80s. It's nice...well, not really. It's got character, I'll give it that.

    But our new place has a fitness room looking out over the city. The bathrooms...well, if you saw the facilities we have now, compared to what we're gonna have, you'd understand my delight. The conference rooms have big, comfy leather chairs and spectacular views. Off each elevator there is a central area with well-upholstered chairs and plants.

    The only concern I have is the cafeteria. Our current one is fan-freaking-tastic, but while the same company is providing the victuals in our new home they don't have the same space or cooking facilities. Just so long as they have Sizzle Salads on Thursdays and fish sandwiches on Fridays.

    Quite a few people on my team couldn't make it to the viewing and asked what I thought of it. "Be glad you didn't go," I said, and as the concern showed on their faces I said, "Because you'd want to move RIGHT NOW." I would gladly carry my computer all the way to the new building. It's that spectacular.

    At lunch I won't be able to walk across the 16th Street Bridge and stroll through the Strip District, but I can cross the Fort Duquesne Bridge and lounge around the fountain at the Point. I can eat lunch on the lawn below our building or while sitting on the deck outside PNC Park. It's gonna be a great place to work. Especially if I get my fish sammich.

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    One More

    What a game. In the title games the Steelers have lost over the years, they've made huge mistakes that killed their chances to win. They didn't make those mistakes today. The pass that Champ Bailey missed, which Ward caught on the rebound, was a huge play. It could've been 7-0 Denver. Then Parker fumbles...but he's down by contact. Again, a huge play that in years past went against us. Reed nails a 47-yard FG and those points are like found money.

    What can you say about Roethlisberger? The pass to Cedrick Wilson for the first TD was magnificent. The pass to Ward at the end of the half was Montanaesque. He kept converting third downs and kept the clock moving. It was Steeler football--get the lead, and shorten the game. Even though we couldn't run much against the Bronco defense, Big Ben passed enough even in the 2nd half to keep the ball out of Denver's hands.

    Of course there were anxious moments, there always are. When we got inside Denver's 40 twice without points I got nervous, even though we were able to take a good 7 minutes off the clock on those drives. But Reed's second FG made it a three possesion game, which was much needed breathing room. And then Plummer throws the pick the play after that long kick return, which had my stomach ready to move into reverse.

    And then, just as in the Colts game, the defense brought the beatdown when we needed it most, sacking Plummer on 3rd and 4th downs deep in Denver territory. The bootleg call was fantastic, I could see as Big Ben turned the corner that he'd get there. And that was the game. Bedlam.

    I'm beat, I have to tell you. True, I drank about 8 beers, played ten games of ping-pong pre- and post-game, and I ate very well on burgers and chili and kielbasa. But I burned off A LOT of nervous energy, as the sports fans among you I'm sure can understand.

    One more game. That's what Cowher told Steeler owner Dan Rooney on the sideline after the Chin got hit with the Gatorade. Believe you me, the Steelers will be ultra-focused in Detroit. No resting on the laurels. One for the Thumb and all that. But this has been a special few weeks for a sports fanantic like me. For the whole city, actually. After so many tough losses, a fantastic win. And now we all want just one more. Just one.



    Told you my bad luck would come in handy.

    More Yuengling to drink. More later.

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    Up, Down, Up, Down

    Already a roller-coaster of a weekend, and the Steeler game still awaits. Firstly, congrats to Ryan, who, like, WON the first event at the L.A. Poker Classic. A tidy little six-figure cash. Bloggers have been making kills left and right lately. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that one (or all) of the G-Vegas crew panned some serious gold down in Tunica this weekend. And Facty won a big event over at Full Tilt.

    Last night I played in April's HORSE event at Full Tilt and stunk the place out, finishing in the mid-50s. Here's a tip--if you're playing a Hi-Lo game, and its obvious that you don't even have a draw at the low, raising when up against just one opponent is not an optimal play. I ended up getting rivered on two hands to give my two bottom-feeding foes the top hand as well, and I was out.

    So I decided to blast out a few hands to clear my bonus. Yes, Mean Gene was FOUR-tabling last night, and having great fun at it. It didn't hurt that the deck took of the gloves and hit me in the face over and over and OVER again. I made quads against a guy who with a full house. Beat another guy set over set, and won a monster with boat over boat. Poker is a very easy game to play when you get the cards.

    After booking a nice 30BB win I played today and posted a nice 40BB loss. The junk? Kicked. I actually think I played pretty well to lose as little as I did. I got great cards again--aces and kings twice, queens thrice, and AK at least a half-dozen times--but lost with them EVERY TIME. Every single time. Twice when I had queens I was up against aces--that gets expensive.

    When you factor in the bonuses I earned I broke about even, which I can't be too upset about. I think I played OK both sessions, but the pendulum swung hither, then yon. I am a bit concerned about my ring play, as I tend to either win big or lose big. It used to be I'd eke out a 4BB win or a 2BB loss, but now my results are all over the place. Oh well.

    With all the bloggers winning big events I feel I'm not holding my end up, so I played in a $5 tourney at Stars. Frustrating. I haven't played in many big MTTs, but, whilikers, the players are awful. I wanted to get chips or bust out, so when I had AK and flopped a king all the chips got in the middle. The other dude turned over Q-4 for middle pair and I doubled up. Uh, OK.

    Then with 4-5 I flopped a wheel. There were 2 hearts on the board and I check-raised three limpers about the size of the pot. One caller, a blank on the turn and I bet about 3/4 of the guys stack. He called, and the heart on the river sunk me. I did get lucky when I sucked out with AJ against AQ, but I went out when I flopped top pair holding K-8 and ended up all-in against a guy holding A-8. When I say I flopped top pair I meant I paired my eight, not my King. But you figured that out by now.

    So, some good luck, some bad luck. A bit more of the latter. But that's fine, as I need to save up as much luck as possible for my Steelers tomorrow. Yes, I've already purchased a fresh case of Yuengling. This may sound odd, but I found the mere sight of those yellow cans quite reassuring.

    When you've suffered through as many tough losses as I have, it's not crazy to think back and look for omens that portended the coming defeat. I went over the heartbreaking losses the Steelers have had the last 10 years and tried to identify patters in my behavior that doomed them to defeat. Unfortunately, I gave myself a headache chasing my tail as I realized that I've tweaked and modified my behavior so many times over the years that I might in fact have been jinxing the Steelers when I meant to antijinx them. Hmm...maybe it is crazy after all. Eh, who cares. A padded cell doesn't sound all that bad to me, tell you the truth.

    So tomorrow I'm getting up early (well, earlyish) and do some stuff around the house. And then I'm going for a nice hike in the park near my house. Burn off a little nervous energy. I did that before the Raven playoff game four years ago, and it worked well. And then head to Mark's to watch it all unfold.

    No live-blogging the games like last year. If we win, visit this site and you will find out how delirium (and alcohol) affects my typing skills. If we lose...

    We're not going to lose.

    Go Steelers.

    UPDATE: Well, just completed my worst day of poker ever. I dropped about 1/6 of my bankroll bit by bit in one day. This camel's back was broken by a moron who called 3 bets preflop with 3-4 suited and, after I check-raised the flop and bet the turn, went runner-runner to make his flush. Un-fucking-believable.

    I can honestly say it was the bad beats that did me in. I didn't find myself outkicked, or up against an overpair while playing junk. I guess I can't get too upset losing that much when the cards were so brutal. And when you figure that I won a ton yesterday I'm not down all that much.

    It's all one big session. The luck evens out. You must ride out the variance wave. I will learn from this and improve.

    And rather than play till 4AM trying to get back to even, this tilty boy is going to bed.

    Go Steelers.

    UPDATE UPDATE: The omens continue to be favorable. I got knocked out on the 3rd hand of an SNG as my AQ flops top pair and runs into a set of tens. Yes, I completely suck. I have laundry going anyway, I should be attending to that.

    God, I suck.

    Go Steelers.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    Save Up the Luck

    Last night was not a good one for me at the tables. I played in Wil's tournament and played about as badly as one can play. First of all I was seated at CJ's table, so I would've been wise to just fold until he sucked out a few players and one of us got moved. Instead I did some weak limping, let others re-steal my steal attempts, and didn't move all-in with AK and let myself get pushed out of a pot with only around T600 left. I went busto when I pushed with a brace of ducks and the board reading 5-4-5. I figured I was good, I was, but I was called by A-6 and an six spiked on the river. I was out and so richly deserved to be out.

    Then I played a little shorthanded game to win back my buy-in and got skunked multiple times, mostly by this dude whose avatar was a nice little cat. He got me but good, filling an inside straight on the river, holding KK when I had AQ and flopped a queen, making a flush with 8-3 to beat my two pair. By this time I was ready to play tethercat (Far Side reference) but Lady Luck took her foot off my throat and let me get paid off when I flopped a straight. I was glad to only book a 10BB loss.

    Congrats to BadBlood, especially as lately he has been suffering from laser-guided precision munitions directly targeting his junk. Of course it wasn't easy--he had two hands in a row go against him when he had his victim dominated. But victory came at the end. Odd, this past weekend I sat down to play some poker and thought I'd switched on American Movie Classics to watch whatever Bond movie they were showing that night (I've seen Thunderball sixteen times in the last week). They had some commerical on for a collection of hits from the 70's, but it wasn't a commercial, it was an infomercial with one of the Brady guys and some random chick. It was a good 10 minutes before I realized the bad noise on the tube wasn't going away. God, people in the 70's dressed horribly. Anyway, they were showing clips from shows back then with pop stars on lipsynching their hits (no one could lip synch AT ALL back then) and there's Neil Sedaka singing "Bad Blood". I have no idea if that song is what gave BadBlood the inspiration for his name (well, actually I do have an idea) but watching Neil sing that song, decked out as he was in a black sweater with a tan and magenta stripe running diagnoally from the shoulder to the waist...I'm sorry, I just lost my train of thought. But I need a Tums.

    So, last night the breaks didn't go my way, but I didn't mind as I'd like to get them all out of the way now and store up as much good luck as possible for Sunday. Like all sports fans I have a belief that borders on the mystical that I, Mean Gene, can in some way have an outcome on the Steeler game. Whether by wearing the same clothes or standing in a particular part of the room or (this was the key to the Colts game) having an open can of Yuengling by my side.

    I'm serious, the Yuengling thing was so spot-on it was spooky. I'm drinking at a steady pace and the Steelers are winning. But then I let my can go dry without snagging a refill and the Colts score. I get another one, the Steelers drive, and then Polamalu makes his pick. Here's where things get eerie--I finished the beer as the flatlined ref peered at the replay, and he comes back with the worst decision in the history of human cognition (I exaggerate, but only just). The Colts score, I open a new beer, Joey Porter does his best to make Manning Scaloppine and the game is won. I exchange high-fives and hoots, quaff my beer...and The Bus fumbles. Colts throw the ball hither and yon, Vanderjagt lines up, the Steelers call time out...and that gives me enough time to get another beer. I did this deliberately, I said to myself, "Go open another can of Yuengling and he'll miss the kick". And, of course, the ball sails wide right. It was me.

    From this the casual reader might be shaking his head and thinking that I'm an idiot (and be amazed that I didn't spend the second half in the bathroom). But the sports fanatic is shaking his head for another reason--he's thinking, "Geno, you should've seen the beer angle by halftime and FOCUSED ALL YOUR ATTENTION on keeping an open yellow can at your side. Amateur. Posueur. Bandwagon-jumper." That last one hurts. But don't worry, come game time I will have executed a series of bizarre and complicated manuevers, assembled a wide array of talismans, and carefully examined my recent thoughts and deeds for bad mojo. And I'll have lots and lots of Yuengling at hand.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    Review Whew

    Because I'm bashful I didn't go up and introduce myself to Barry Greenstein when he spoke at the WPBT event in December. I had a more pragmatic reason as well--I wrote a review of Ace in the Hole, and after hearing Michael Craig talk about the 10,000-word email discussion he and Barry had about disputed passages in Michael's book I feared having to defend my review right there on the spot. So I just lurked in the shadows and kept my profile low.

    I guess Barry thought the review was OK, as he linked to it on his website. My review is even listed ahead of those written by illuminaries such as Calistri, McManus, Rosenbloom and Lovinger. Wait, maybe they're just in alphabetical, R is after L, and Mark Gregorich's review is first. Well, maybe that's just out of courtesy, as Gregorich is also a professional. Yes, I think that's how I'll justify it to myself.

    Monday, January 16, 2006

    A Nice Weekend

    Rather than spout off for 2,000 words about the officiating in yesterday's Steeler game, I'm gonna dial it down a bit, get a little mellow, ease it on down. Frankly, I'm pooped. I never much bought into the whole "emotional exhaustion" thing, believing that one could always generate a proper amount of bloodlust given the right motivation. Not the case. After yesterday's game I felt like I'd climbed the Matterhorn, emotionally speaking. Hope I can get properly amped for the start of our new volleyball season. I have faith.

    I don't recall what I did Friday night...oh yeah, took an unsatisfying nap around 7PM then woke and played poker. The pickup league I play in on Thursdays moved back our start time to 8:30, and we play till around 10:30, meaning we don't get to the bar for medicinal brews until 10:50 or so. I usually don't make it home before 12:30, and I don't officially hit the hay until 1. The alarm goes off at 6:15, which makes for a rather Fuzzy Friday. Coffee, lots of it, and the occasional head bob. Last week I nearly conked out on the drive home, just a few yards from my house.

    So I had my little nap and played some poker, winning two, maybe even three bucks. Saturday my brother came over to see if he could resusciate his old desktop and give my new DSL line a dance partner. I would've set the odds at about 10-1 against, as computers hate me, but after considerable disk-swapping and driver-loading and three beers apiece he pulled it off. I'm still mildly in shock. Yes, dear reader, I have been laboring all these years with dial-up (well, at home, at work we have a zippy connection) and now I click on CNN and not wait 37 seconds for the lead photo to load. Hosannahs in the highest!

    I can also play at Full Tilt without the certain knowledge that my computer is biting off more than it can chew. I never played much at FTP because the action went so slow, and the fact that it was MY fault didn't change my attitude (it never does). But I tried Full Tilt this weekend and between the computer and the DSL line I fairly purred with delight at the results. I even two-tabled, no problem. And I actually worked off FIVE DOLLARS of a FTP bonus. I was so proud I hugged myself while rocking back and forth. It didn't hurt that after going way up then falling way down I hit a few hands and booked a nice 20BB win. Oh, yes, I shall return will bells on. I'm pretty sure I can kill the Razz game there. Once I re-read the rules.

    After I quit for the night I decided to wander around and see if any pros were playing. There were--Erik Seidel playing at a low-limit PLO8 table, John D'Agostino at a $10/$20 NL table, Farzad Bonyadi at two NL tables. I spectated for a few minutes, realized this wasn't exactly a productive use of my time on earth, and went to bed.

    Oh, one thing I saw Friday night (I think it was Friday, like I said I was sleepy). I was trying Full Tilt with my noble but underpowered laptop and after giving up I saw that there was a heads-up $50/$100 limit game going on. I clicked to see who was there and recognized Matt Matros' screen name, so I decided to watch a bit before I collapsed. They each had two grand to start with and the game went back and forth a bit before Matt took control and all the chips. His opponent typed something like "'re a good player" before offhandedly re-loading with about 20K.

    All well and good. What wasn't well and good was a guy railbirding in the chat. Not having played much in live casinos I've never see people trying to hustle up a stake, but I'm sure it's an uncomfortable situation to be in. But the guys trying online to get some scratch together...I feel pity for them, but I can't help feeling a fair amount of revulsion. The guy at this table said something along the lines of "If I can just get $5 I know I can kill these tables". Five bucks? That's...bizarre. Another time I was watching a high heads-up match (I'm trying to improve my own heads-up game--watching other folks play isn't helping much) and a one of the players was engaged in conversation with a dude trying to get a $20 buy-in to a tourament. "I'll split what I win 50-50," the railbird said, to which the player answered, "How do I know you'll pay?".

    "My word is good," answered the railbird, unsatisfactorily. Though I suppose that's the only answer you could expect. What's he going to do, FedEx you some collateral?

    I guess I have a problem with this because I'm a soft touch, I'd like to have a magic wand and make everyone's worries disappear. Which is another reason why I'll never be a good poker player--the killer instinct isn't there. Unless you're wearing a zebra uniform and make a horrible call against my Steelers. At which point I would gladly fly at you in a shrieking rage and reduce your physical form into a CSI case study. But that sort of motivation doesn't come up very often, and, hopefully, won't come up in the next few weeks.

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    Jesus Christ

    That's all I can say about that game. I thought the Jets game last year aged me. Ha. That last 45 minutes was defibrulating. First, you have the worst call in NFL history, as Polamalu makes the pick, he has the goddam ball, and the grossly incompetent ref overturns it even though the video evidence DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS WHAT HE SAYS MADE HIM OVERRULE THE CALL.

    Then Joey Porter road-grades Manning 2 plays in a row, we have the ball first and goal, and Bettis fumbles. And as Harper runs back we're all thinking he's gonna score. And Big Ben makes an incredible tackle to save the TD, the defense holds just enough to let the prettily earringed Mike Vanderjagt honk a FG.

    It would've been a sad thing if Bettis' last play had been that fumble. It's not. We go to Denver. One more game before Detroit. Now, we shall party, and we shall party hard.

    Friday, January 13, 2006

    Bow Down to Sargon!

    I read a lot about poker, obviously, and a common topic of discussion is how unlucky the writer is. How unlucky to lose this particular hand, against this particular moron, how the luck never evens out, etc. Writing can be cathartic when you're frustrated, goodness knows. Even I've vented about an especially galling hand, once or twice.

    I got knocked out of an SNG the other day when a dude with AJ went runner-runner to make a straight and beat my AK. He needed one of the 3 remaining kings on the river and got it, and so instead of being in 2nd chip position and looking for another nice score I was out on the rail and out of the money. I was pretty pissed.

    But for just a moment. Because a few days ago I DID win a nice SNG, and in that tournament I got very lucky twice. I was unlucky to find 10-10 on the button and run into JJ in the big blind, but I sucked out with a flush. I got trapped by a guy again holding jacks against my bottom pair, but I made two pair on the turn and a boat on the river to best him. Lucky me.

    If you asked me if, overall, I've been lucky or unlucky playing poker, I'd have to say that it's broken almost exactly even. Which is perhaps the most boring answer possible. What kind of milquetoast would say, "Ehh, I guess I get lucky and unlucky in nearly equal proportions"? Bah. It's far sexier to say that you're one of those few and fortunate souls into whose ear Lady Luck has decided to stick her tongue. Or to stand defiant on a exposed outcropping of rock as the malevolent forces of the cosmos rain down the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Me, I just shrug and say it's about 50-50.

    But is it? Am I lucky or unlucky? Let's narrow the focus exclusively to poker--I'll leave the rest of it to my eventual biographers. Wouldn't it be nice--or, wouldn't it be disturbing--if there was a "LUCK" tab in PokerTracker? Perhaps there already is a feature like this (Iggy? Hank?), but what if you could push a button and the program would go into every hand you played, calculated the odds of your winning or losing the hand, crunched those numbers into a palatable mathematical shape, and then spit out a number ranging in value from -1 to 1. The negative numbers mean bad luck, the positive good.

    What would it do to your psyche if you knew EXACTLY how lucky you were? Would it have any effect at all? The rational sort doesn't believe in luck--well, what if you have cold, objective proof to show otherwise? Would this number, in face, BE cold, objective proof, or just a tough run of cards? How big would the sample size have to be before you got spooked and either started avoiding black cats or searching your house for a stowaway leprauchaun?

    What got me thinking about this was when I used to play chess as a kid. I was at the library yesterday and as I browsed I found myself looking at some old chess books that I probably checked out 25 years ago. Just as I read a lot about poker now, I read about chess then, though I don't seem to have much talent at either game. But I love reading about the eccentric characters, the drama that accompanies games played for high stakes, the undeniable evidence that there are people who possess talent that is beyond normal comprehension.

    I played chess on my computer (starting with an Atari Chess game, believe it or not), and the game I remember most was Sargon (I think I had Sargon III). You could play at different skill settings, and it came with an interesting feature--you could press a command and the game would tell you who it thought was winning. I got in the habit of making a move and then checking to see if the program though I'd increased my advantage.

    In one game I recall I felt I had the game well in hand. My pawn structure was sound, I controlled the center of the board, and his bishops were bottled up while mine were both fianchettoed. With every move I constricted his movements while opening up new avenues for attack. I was in control.

    And then he made an odd move with his knight, moving it to the edge of the board, which is something of a no-no with your horsie. For kicks I checked to see how the computer valued that move, and I got a rude shock. Where before the computer rated my advantage at -4.0 (I think the scale was -25 to 25, something like that) it now stood at a positive 15.0. What? I looked at his move, looked at the board, and I pondered for a long time. I didn't have a clue.

    My mind, I think, created a blind spot toward the threat, and it was a two or three minutes before I figured out that I was dead. My queen was stuck behind those two bishops, and my king, thought safe after castling, was vulnerable to a knight. On the next move that knight was going to place me in check while forking my queen. And there was nothing I could do about it. The only spot I could move my queen would allow the knight to gobble it right then, and if I moved my king the knight would fork my queen and a rook, and after moving my queen taking the knight would take my rook and again fork my king and queen.

    Rather than give my 8MB opponent the satisfaction I turned off the computer. Odd, I don't think I played chess seriously much after that. What I think turned me off for good was when I went to a high school chess tournament my sophomore year or so. It was held at a rival high school (meaning we got out of class for the day) and as I walked into the library and saw the collection of nerds, geeks, dweebs, twerps, and spazzes gathered around the boards I realized these guys weren't likely to set cheerleaders' hearts a-thrumming. I decided to leave chess behind, and focus on more athletic pursuits--namely, tennis.

    Yeah, I know. Right idea, wrong execution. Story of my life.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Ooh, Look, There's a Trap! Let's Stick Our Foot In!

    Full of myself after my HUGE win yesterday I played a simple 1-table SNG after work yesterday. And when we were down to three (of COURSE I cashed, you silly goose) I was neck-and-neck with one player with the shortstack snorting felt. Both players were fairly decent, no all-in calls with K-10 and bitching about "another bad beat" because the other guy had AK, which happened earlier in the game. I really need to start cataloguing some of the strange rants I've been seeing lately. Are low-limit players actually getting DUMBER?

    I have to say, reading Harrington's books has definitely helped my game. I'm not all the way through either yet, and I haven't studied them as closely as I shall, but they're very good. At least they're making sense to my poker brain. As I've been reading I've been pleased to find that I already do a lot of what he recommends, but there are a few Suez Canal-sized leaks that I now see in my game that I'm trying to dam up. I'm not going to tell you what they are, because you're probably pressed for time and don't want to read a 4,000 word essay on why I suck.

    So I'm waiting for the shortstack to go belly up so the heads-up can begin. I nearly take him out with A-Q versus pocket eights, but I don't pair and he doubles up. He makes a nice laydown (apparently) against the new chip leader to stay alive, and then came a sad, sad hand. With the blinds at T100-200 I'm dealt QQ in the small blind. That's nice. The chip leader raises to T1,600. Wha? He hasn't pulled a shenanigan like this all game. It seems an obvious steal attempt, but T1,600? There's no way I'm beat here. I quickly go all-in, hoping he'll realize I wouldn't do that with anything but an eight-legged and befanged monster.

    The shortstack flings his card away and the raiser instacalls my all-in. Uh-oh. And turns over kings. Ouch. Ouchy ouch ouch. Actually, that's exactly what I typed after I lost and my remains were carted away. This time I didn't leap up ang brain myself on the chandelier (good thing too, as I haven't dug my bike helmet out of the garage yet). Why raise so much with pocket kings? I think he was hoping that the shortstack, with T200 already in the pot and just T550 left, would be tantalized by the hefty pot and take a stand. Instead, I blundered into his trap first. Oh well.

    I might play in the PLO8 tournament Jordan and TripJax have put together on Stars tonight. Some Omaha/8 might be a nice change of pace from Hold-Em. I like playing Omaha because you get four cards instead of two, and for a tight player like myself that means I get to play at least twice as many hands.

    Wait for it...wait for it...waiting for Felicia's head to go "pop!". Ah, there we go!

    If (if?) I get knocked out early I may head to the bar and play some live poker. Have a few beers, sling a few chips, see if I can win whatever it is you can win at these things. I've never gotten too far in these things, I guess you get coupons for free food and whatnot. And as they have tasty goodies, that's good enough for me.

    I simply have to relay something that Drizz posted today. He saw this guy at a bar tourney of his own, this is just the most heinous, the most unacceptable...just read:

    List the things that spell WPT-fanboi at a live table, then multiply them by 10 and you’d get this future $25NLHE PartyPoker dominator:

    Mirrored Shades: Check
    Ball cap listing in sharpie pen the dates of his recent “cashes” at the bar: Check
    Oversized Bose headphones: Check
    Free swag from an online site (actually I like swag…): Check
    Huge card capper(s) (he had 4 of them, maybe he though Omaha was gonna get dealt?): Check
    A scarf masking his mouth (no, he was not sick): Check
    Rock-like stillness (even between hands): Check
    Two minute staredowns even while folding 93o in early position: Check

    A ball cap listing in sharpie pen the dates of his recent “cashes” at the bar??? That's perhaps the sickest thing I've read in the two years I've been writing about poker. The level of pathology at work here is staggering. I...I...I'm actually at a loss for words. Honestly, me of all people. There's nothing I can add.

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Tremble Before the Mean Gene!

    Seems like every day I read about some blogger making a big score in a tourament, but since I'm above petty emotions like envy and jealousy I haven't seethed and sulked and lain awake at night wondering when my ship would come in. Because I'm a stand-up guy.

    Oddly, I DID lay awake all last night, but not because I was consumed with dreams unfulfilled and aspirations thwarted. I couldn't sleep because I was sick. There's a cold going around the office and late Sunday I started feeling crummy. You might see some disorientation in my previous post. I went to bed freezing to death, and woke up around 3AM pouring sweat. I think I got maybe 10 minutes sleep from that point on. When my alarm went off I felt horrible, and deciding to call off wasn't much of a decsion at all.

    I crawled out of bed at 10 and tried to get my new DSL connection to work. No go, my computer and my brother's old computer are too, well, old to deal with it. Instead of throwing my computer threw the window I decided to bite my lip and play a little $10 multi at Stars.

    The result?

    (Dammit, I tried to post the screen print, but the damn thing won't upload. A screed about computers is forthcoming)

    I won the damn thing, pocketing a cool hundred bucks. Yes, that's right, a THREE-FIGURE win. I know, I know, many of you out there wouldn't wipe your nose (or other, even messier orifaces) with a Benjamin. But for me, it was a nice win.

    How did I do it? Simple--I got sick lucky. Early on I hit a runner-runner flush to crack JJ with pocket tens (my favorite hand). Then I doubled up with AK, doubled up again with aces, and by the time we got to the final table I was the chip leader, imagine that. It didn't take long to get down to six, but it took forever to eliminate that bubble boy. In the interim another guy took a pretty good lead as I went card dead and just spun my wheels. It was a fun table, everyone chatting merrily back and forth, everyone having a good time.

    I enjoyed myself less when I donked off 2/3 of my stack trying to steal and then pot-sticking myself against a guy who flopped two pair. Brilliant. I played pretty good and then one hand put me in the soup.

    But that's when the worm turned. The next hand I had pocket sixes and doubled up against the big, big chip leader. And then things got weird. At this point I'm just hoping guys get knocked out so I can win a few more bucks, and the chip leader and the guy to my left get involved in an unraised pot. The flop comes 9-6-4 and all the chips go in. The chip leader slow-played jacks, the other guy had 6-9, and doubles up. The very next hand the same two guys go all-in preflop, and the chip leader's pocket eights lose to pocket nines. The next hand I have 10-5, flop a five, and push. The no-longer chip leader calls with jacks again. "Oh please..." I beg, and the poltergeist inside the tube listens once again. I turn a ten, and make a boat on the river.

    I rarely yell or scream when I play online, but I yelled and screamed then. "YYYEAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHH!" I deaned, and leapt out of my seat. My head clanged on the chandlier above my head, which brought me right back to earth. I moved my computer upstairs and I was playing in the dining room, and I think it's the acoustics that suddenly gave me the need to vocalize. My voice is a lot louder bouncing off the walls.

    The very next hand the former chip boss, who by now was typing things like "this is bull****" and "stars is ****** rigged" goes all-in, and I call with K-5. He has K-4 and goes out. From the huge chip leader to out in four hands. Nice guy, I actually felt bad for him. Until the first hand of heads-up began.

    Oh, how I wanted to win. How long it's been since I won more than a $5 SNG. I was down about 2-1, but after dropping a few thousand I doubled up with AK vs 99. "YEAAAAAHHH!" I shouted like Roger Daltrey at the end of "Won't Get Fooled Again". I'm now chip leader and I'm dealt AJ. All the chips go in and I'm thinking he's resigned to his fate. Uh, no, he has kings, and they hold up.

    I fight back and take the lead again, and once again I'm dealt my lucky hand, pocket 10s. That's the hand I used to win the Grublog Poker Classic, the very first WPBT event. And those are the cards I took into battle this last hand. I had tens, he had deuces, and the two other ducks in the deck stayed in cover. I won.

    "YEAAAAAHHHHHH!" I jumped out of my chair and hit my head again. I think I have to move the table, yes? A nice little win for me. It felt good. I should thank Dan Harrington, whose books I've been reading. I haven't made careful study of them yet (just getting through the first one now) but for some reason it's sticking in my head. Hopefully this is the first of many recaps of tournament victories. With fewer suckouts, maybe. And fewer scalp contusions.

    Sunday, January 08, 2006

    Sorry Iggy

    Steeler Nation is celebrating a playoff win tonight, but with little hoohah or gloating. Histrionics like that would be unseemly after Carson Palmer went down on the second play of the game. Big Ben looked like he was done for the year after the hit he took against San Diego, but he got lucky and Palmer didn't. Freak play, and then Kitna comes in and looks like he's going to pull a Don Strock on us, but Roethlisberger isn't the same sore-armed rookie as last year. I actually didn't see the best part of the game, I was driving to our volleyball match when the Bengals bungled their FG, when Bettis bullied his way in, and when Big Ben completed the first Irish Flea Flicker in Steeler history. That's what we called that play when we played football as kids. Snap/pitch to the guy in the backfield, toss back to the QB, throw deep. Irish Flea Flicker. And no, that's not some racist slur. I'm Irish. Kiss me to confirm.

    Indy killed us earlier in the year, but they'd better be ready to have a really bad time next Sunday. Steelers will have their chin straps pulled tight. Bring the pain.

    As I was sifting through Bloglines I came across this post by James Walcott, who quoted at length an article that appeared in a periodical called the Monthly Review, which seems to be a lefty pro-labor magazine. It's a good article, though probably not of interest to those who don't live in Pittsburgh or whose political leanings are to the right of Alan Combs, but some of what Wolcott quoted is worth re-quoting here:

    "Pittsburgh is little known or appreciated nationally despite the important role that the city played in the rise of U.S. global power. Pittsburgh’s birth occurred at the cutting edge of imperial French and British expansion into the heartland of the continent. The city’s rapid decline coincided with the recent assumption of global imperial power by the United States. In between these two eruptions of global imperial realities into southwest Pennsylvania flows a story of collective work, struggle, and skill that arguably created the most productive region on the earth between 1880 and 1950 considering both diversity and volume of production."

    I don't think Pittsburgh's decline started with the "assumption of global imperial power" by the United States, whatever the hell that means. I think the author means the invasion of Iraq, and, sadly, Pittsburgh fell off the cliff a long time before that. My dad worked for US Steel for 40 years or so, most of it at the Homestead Works, which was once a Goddam Fucknormous Steel Mill. Today the site of the mill is home to The Waterfront, perhaps the biggest retail/dining/nightlife center in the city. Lots of chain stores, lots of cookie-cutter big boxes and quesadilla distributors. They left seven huge smokestacks from the mill intact as a sort of signature piece for the development, and using them as a guide my Dad figured that the space where his office once stood is now occupied by a TGI Fridays. Jesus.

    Another snippet:

    "The glory that is Pittsburgh today derives from its stunning beauty and historic character, its people and its memories. Sitting in a natural amphitheater carved by the three rivers, its hillsides green and leafy, its rivers once again filling with fish, its neighborhoods a crazy quilt of accommodation with its convoluted geography, the town has character and complexity. Pittsburgh has always been a proud place despite the often bitter labor relations that played a significant role in its history. What has remained true is an intense loyalty to this rooted locale: its neighborhoods and hollows, its forgotten corners and “seldom seens,” its churches, teams, taverns, schools, and unions. A loyalty from the heart beats in the Pittsburgh Nation, at home and away, waving the 'terrible towel' of memory."

    Very well said. Getting around in Pittsburgh can be a challenge even for adventurous natives. I've always lived in the North Hills--I don't think I've spent five hours total in the South Hills. Christ, to get there I have to go across two bridges, cut through town, go through a tunnel...I once dated a girl in Baldwin (actually, there were two girls who lived in Baldwin...odd) and I was driving in a freezing rainstorm to pick her up to see a movie and I remember thinking "If I don't get laid in the movie theater tonight, then this relationship is over." I didn't get laid, and she dumped me that night. I gleefully sang the whole way home. Mind you, it isn't like these two points are THAT far apart, as the crow flies, but to get there you're always fording rivers or driving through mountains.

    There are signs of life here, signs that progress is being made, but my hometown is far from out of the woods. When we watch the Steeler road games we're always proud to see all the Terrible Towels waving inside the enemy camp. Of course, those are folks who had to leave Pittsburgh to make their fortune. That's a move I either lacked the ambition or daring to try myself, and in retrospect maybe I should've left. But, in retropect, every major decision I've made in my life was proven to be a mistake. Which is humbling, believe me.

    The 2nd anniversary of this blog passed last month with little fanfare, as it should have, as second anniversaries are always not worth mentioning. But I thought back to some of the first things I wrote, before I started writing about poker. I wrote that Jerome Bettis should retire and not sully his legacy. Yeah, that was pretty friggin' sharp. And I wrote about how fiercly proud and loyal we Pittsburghers are. We are, to a nearly pathological point. If you even wanna get in a fight, walk up to some guy in Black and Gold and trash talk the 'Burgh. We go from mellow to postal in a second flat. We love our hometown, because it deserves it so. And that's why the win today means tomorrow will be a bright and cheery day at work, everyone happy and smiling. With some bitching about the dumb penalties and the trick plays that didn't work. Just because we're loyal doesn't mean we don't bitch. Well, the people on the call-in shows bitch. Christ, how the bitch. Me, I'm gonna be happy and smiling. And hope Carson Palmer is 110% healthy when we play the Bengals come October.

    Saturday, January 07, 2006

    Oh, The Frustration of it All

    Just got bounced from a 45-person SNG one from the final table. Got trapped by the chip leader, who flopped top two and made his boat on the turn. I had J-3 and flopped a three. Brilliant play on my part, but I was shortstacked and, well, when that second king came I hoped I was good. I wasn't. It sucks, watching the final table and I'm not there. Huh, why am I watching it? Screw that.

    One funny hand. Early on this one guy kept showing down bluff after bluff as he built a big stack. He lost 2/3 of his chips bluffing at a flopped flush and two hands later I raise with AK and he calls. The flop comes Q-J-2, I check, knowing he'll bet, and when he does I whack him with the check raise. He goes all in. I remember all those bluffs, figure I probably have outs, and not wanting to play with no chips I call. He has pocket 7s, I turn a king, and he's out. And then he types something along the lines that I'm an idiot suckout motherfucker. "Oh be nice," I type, and get back to work.

    I cashed in a SNG last night that used up most of my luck for the week. Down to six I'm pretty much down to the felt, but I steal the blinds on 2 straight hands with AJ and AQ. The very next hand I'm dealt KK under the gun, and I raise again, hoping someone will think I'm getting too frisky and need discipline. Sure enough, the BB goes all-in and I call.

    The flop is K-J-10. Which would be a good flop for me, except that the BB has AQ. I get no help and I'm down to T242. "Unfrickin' real," I say merrily, looking around for sharp objects. I have T242. I'm in the big blind, which is T200. Great. I'm dealt K-10, not a bad hand, until the guy who just whacked me raises and turns over K-J. Great. And the flop comes A-Q-J. Now it's my turn to flop the straight, and it holds up. "Now we're even," I say, the sarcasm just dripping down the chat box.

    But I have a few chips, which I push in the pot with 4-6. I get called with Q-6. Two live cards, that's all I want in the world, and I'm dominated. But I flop a four. I double up again, and suddenly I'm off the respirator. On the button I get A-4, go all-in, get called by 8-7, and my ace plays. Suddenly I'm in 3rd place.

    I cash thanks to two sick beats. KQ loses to QJ when a jack spikes on the river, and then a guy who'd been running unlucky all game goes all-in with presto and finds himself up against pocket fours. The flop comes 5-8-Q, nice flop right? Until the turn comes a seven. "How about a six?" I asked the screen, and just like that, the six of spades pops up! "How about a quartet of nymphomaniacs frolicing in a tub of chocolate pudding?" I asked the screen. Nothing. Well, a noble attempt.

    This morning I saw a show on A&E called "Poker Kings" that I'd never seen before. It's a documentary shot in 2003 BM (Before Moneymaker) that follows Garry Bush, Simon Trumper, a new pro named Carlo, Robert Varkonyi, and Phil Hellmuth for a year. Some interesting stuff, none of which features Hellmuth. He was just Phil being Phil, and his whole part could've and should've been cut. But the parts with the European pros was really good stuff. I may have more to write about it later. For now, Christ, am I in the mood for some chocolate pudding. I don't know why.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Random Thoughts...Yeah, I Have 'Em

    What a game last night. Great plays, bad plays, mistakes, miracles. Was Vince Young's performance the greatest in college football history? I'd have to say yes. Playing the way he did against what was thought of as the greatest team in history (a totally bogus claim, but still) adds his name to the Pantheon of Sports Greats. And it's not like the other team played lousy. Leinart was fantastic. LenDale White would look awfully good in Black and Gold. And Reggie Bush...Reggie Bush had something like 275 total yards and had a "bad" game. Which tells you something about how good HE is.

    Still, Bush was the big loser in this game. His bonehead lateral was a killer. Texas showed that team speed on defense can keep him under wraps. Bush showed he's a huge talent--that TD down the sideline was spectacular, and he had nearly 100 yards receiving--but when the Trojans needed the tough yards they went to White. Which may give NFL teams pause.

    Kudos to Pete Carroll for going for it on 4th and 1. He's got the best offense in the galaxy--go for it. If you convert you win the title. If you don't, your defense might still win it for you (and it took a face mask penalty and a 4th down conversion to pull it off). It was the football version of a semi-bluff, and for the first time in 3 years the Trojans didn't catch.

    I'd like someone to explain how, during the biggest game of the year, the guys in the replay booth slept through the game. How they didn't review the touchdown where Young's knee was clearly down, or the play where the Texas receiver may have fumbled the ball, is beyond me. Maybe the latter play was inconclusive--but it should've been reviewed. Not reviewing the touchdown was inexcusable. It was an obvious review, not just for the knee, but to make sure the lateral was backwards. Nope, thumbs tucked firmly up their asses they did nothing. Compare this to the Sugar Bowl (and other games I saw this year) where the refs went to the booth after every incompletion. At one point in the Sugar Bowl the refs went to replay to see where a ball should be spotted and then, after it was reviewed again, decided, oh, wait, it wasn't a catch at all. Once again I raise the cry for an army of superintelligent cybernetic officals.

    The biggest loser from last night's game, or perhaps the biggest winner, was the Houston Texans. What do you do with the #1 pick now? Last week the Texas-Niner game was called the "Bush Bowl". If Young enters the draft (and I can't see why he wouldn't, Heisman-Shmeisman) how could the Texans NOT take him? He's the most popular person in Texas since Davy Crockett. He's from Houston, for God's sake. I know, they already have David Carr, and even exercised their option on him. Well, they gotta trade him. Carr's had a tough time in Houston, he's been hit more times than a pinata, but if the Texans DON'T take Young he's going to be booed every time he touches the ball. Even if he throws a touchdown. Carr will be less popular than Jack Abramoff at a DeLay family reunion.

    If the Texans take Young then the Saints will grab Leinert, I think, as they have no QB. Would Tennessee take Bush? I would think so, they're current backs are fairly pedestrian. Or would Green Bay try to move up, offering the Saints a package involving bust-in-waiting Aaron Rodgers and a smattering of picks so they could grab Bush and lure Brett Favre back for one more title run? Ah, sweet, sweet speculation. Who needs to the games, really?

    I'd hoped my Nittany Lions would move up to #2, but after the game last night there was no way. If you'll allow me to mix my sporting metaphors, the Orange Bowl was like a NASCAR race at Bristol with 37 cautions and the race ending under the yellow when Kyle Petty hit the wall in Turn 2 for the fourth time that night. While the Rose Bowl was a seat-of-the-pants barnburned in Daytona, with the leaders swapping paint and a slipstream pass on the final turn to win by a quarterpanel. The Penn State defense is as good as it gets, but I don't think the Lions could've mustered enough offense to beat either Texas or USC. Still, a great season.

    One little weird poker hand to discuss. I'm playing an SNG and one from the button I'm dealt A-J. It's folded around to me, I raise, and the button calls. The flop comes J-10-7 with two spades. I bet, and he raises me. Bastard! He has me outchipped about three to one. I have two courses of action--the meek one (fold and save my chips in case he was trapping me) and the bold (shower him with the re-raise). Instead I call, and instantly start berating myself. "The hell you do THAT for?" I said aloud. "How does a call help? What card can help you? You don't know where you are!" Then I got nasty, "You worm, you little man" I sneered at the ghostly reflection in the monitor.

    The next card is the queen of spades. OK, I'm like so done with this hand. If I wasn't beat already I am now. I check, and he checks, no doubt saddened that my brain has uncramped. The next card is a fourth spade. I don't have a spade. I check, and move my cursor to the point on the screen where the "FOLD" button will appear.

    But it doesn't appear. The "MUCK CARDS?" button pops up. Because the other guy didn't bet. He didn't check. He folded.

    Folded. If he bets I fold. If he's got nothin' he can just check then muck. Instead he gifts me the pot. He would've had to hit the "FOLD" button, and then clicked "OK" when the popup advised that he could check for free.

    It was a nice pot I raked. I started to type, "Uh, you folded?" in the chat box. But I didn't. Nor, oddly enough, did anyone else. No one mentioned it. And the guy who capitulated raised the very next hand. I mean, maybe he folded because there ws a grease fire in the kitchen he had to attend to. And no one else cared. I ended up winning the thing, which gives you an idea of the competition. Even though, that A-J hand aside, I played BRILLIANT poker. No donkey me.

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Long Night

    Of course I watched Penn State win the Orange Bowl last night. But if Kevin Kelly misses his third chip-shot FG to win the game I go to bed. I'm willing to invest a lot of emotional capital in a sports event, but after seeing the Nittany Lions give up a punt return for a TD, fumble the snap on first-and-goal, and then miss three field goals to win the game, well, even I would've cut my losses and hit the hay.

    I went to bed feeling pretty drained, but, hey, Penn State won. And then there was the far more important good news that they'd found 12 of the coal miners in nearly W. Virginia alive, which made me feel even better. So imagine the shock when I wake up this morning, turn on the TV, and see Charlie Gibson talking about how one miner is alive and 12 are dead. I actually thought, "Wow, Charlie, is that a faux pas. You got it backwards". But he didn't correct himself. He wasn't wrong. What those people went through last night is too horrible to contemplate. No one here at work is talking about it. People snoop at CNN or the Post-Gazette for news, but no one has brought the subject up. What can you say about it? I just read about it with that thousand-yard stare and shake my head from side-to-side.

    A late night, bad news, rain and cold and gloom outside. I'm tired. Reading around it seems like quite a few people are taking a hiatus from posting, and I might do just that. Take a week or two off, recharge the batteries. Which are drained. I'm not tired of writing, I'm just tired, physically. I missed a great New Year's Eve party because I slept through it. I ate and drank too much (especically ate) and passed out/fell asleep before midnight. I vaguely remember hearing everyone counting down, and I vaguely remember people karaokeing till 5AM (not too upset I missed that part). But since I didn't have much of a hangover the next day it seems like the falling asleep part of the equasion was a bit higher than I'd like. It's one thing to drink yourself into oblivion on New Year's Eve (though it does mark you as an amateur), it's quite another to find a cozy patch of carpet and catch a few winks.

    I don't sleep enough, that's one resolution I should've made. I didn't make any this year, figuring that would give me a few less things to feel guilty about 12 months from now. Too often I'm in bed at 1AM and up at six. Throw in the fact that there's been no coffee in our office since Christmas (we're getting close to mob violence) and you'll understand why my brain feels fuzzy. I'm just plain tired.

    2006 is going to be hectic 'round my way, especially the first few months. At least I hope its hectic. So if I vanish for a week at a time don't panic. I'm only sleeping. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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