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

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My Articles

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

My Columns

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

My Greatest Hits

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

Fellow Poker Bloggers

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

Poker Sites

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


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    Friday, March 31, 2006

    Outside The Wheelhouse

    If you take a close look at the pokerblogging community you'll find an astonishing array of talents. Coming up with April Fool's Jokes, alas, is apparently not one of them. It isn't even April Fool's Day yet and we've had a handful of aborted attempts. Then again, maybe I should keep my mouth shut until midnight tomorrow. Especially after the little prank played today on BG. Which was not nice and very bad indeed. I did not laugh. At all. Out loud, anyway.

    What I won't keep my mouth shut about the latest WSOP satellite Iggy has arranged. Here are the details:

    Blogger WSOP Satellite Tourney
    PokerStars - Private Tab
    April 3rd
    9PM EST
    $30 +3
    No Limit
    Password: socoshot

    And from DoubleAs we learn that PokerSavvy is holding a $1,000 freeroll for we bloggers. Free money, that's some positive EV. Except that DoubleAs is playing in it. So we're back to EV=zilch.

    I know that the weather in California is nice pretty much year 'round, but there's something to be said about living through a long, LONG winter and then having a beautiful day like today. It's 75 degrees out. A cooling breeze coming off the river. There are maintenence guys cleaning the water steps near my building, which is a big series of, uh, steps, made of limestone similar to the ones that make up PNC Park's facade. Pretty soon they'll get it going and I can eat my lunch while listening to the soothing sound of water cascading down the steps. Ahh.

    The World Keeps On Spinning

    I go a week without posting and life seemingly goes on without missing a step. I'm actually a bit insulted. I keep hitting refresh on CNN--nothing. Not a peep.

    Been writing a ton, perhaps too much, I'm sort of all over the place right now. In the next few days I'll be sharing a monster post about the elasticity of memory (with Tootsie Pops heavily involved), as well a steaming pile high as the Himalayas about my views about writing as a way of life. And yes, there will be dick jokes.

    Before I go to bed, let me once again take a moment to hopefully bring some light into your life. As you move through life you occasionally stumble across wonders and delights that bring such joy you can't imagine how you once lived without them. If you haven't had the chance to enjoy the following, at least dip a toe and see what you think:

    • Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper. I know, it sounds absurd. It is in fact divine. The mere existence of this soft drink makes me proud to be an American again. A worldwide Marxist revolution would not have come up with Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper.
    • Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Again, I know it sounds absurd. It is in fact sublime. Sublimely stupid and goofy. Oh, how often Frylock and Master Shake and Meatwad soothed my raging soul with their idiotic adventures? Number one in the hood, G.
    • Richard Thompson. The day I moved into my house I had to run to the store to pick up some stuff, and on the way back I heard a song I absolutely loved. I sat in my driveway for 10 minutes and the goddam station didn't say the name of the song or the artist, but for some reason I got it stuck in my head that it was Richard Thompson. Who I'd heard precious little of in my life. Chalk it up to the power of the subconscious. I set myself a quest last weekend, to identify that song. Which, five years later, I'd pretty much forgotten. I found it last Saturday. The song was "I Can't Wake Up to Save My Life". I've woken up, at last, to Richard Thompson.

    Time for bed. I may even post something tomorrow. Edges of seats await anxious backsides.

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    Neat, Clean, Shaved and Sober

    If you read any of the blogs to your left you know that several lucky, lucky, lucky bastards are going to be doing something poker-related at the Playboy Mansion. I don't even recall if there's a tournament or whatever, my mind blocked out everything but the "Playboy Mansion" part of it. BG, JoeSpeaker, Pauly, CJ, Bobby Bracelet, Spaceman, Chad, and Al are going. And I'm so envious I'm not even going to link to them. The bastards, screw 'em.

    Anyway, I was bemused that just about all of them immediately went out looking for new threads to wear on that magical, magical night. Because that's the first thing I thought of--what the hell would I WEAR? A Polo oxford and Dockers ain't cutting it at the goddam PLAYBOY MANSION. And as I mentally inventoried my wardrobe I realized I'm sorely lacking in sharp duds. I do have a Calvin Klein shirt with French cuffs that I adore, and I have one pair of jeans that fit me in a way that doesn't make me look slovenly. But beyond that...I haven't gone shopping in too, too long.

    Is this a sign that men have indeed become metrosexualized into prettified wusses? New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a book called Are Men Necessary?, and while I haven't read the book and don't intend to...actually, I can't say much more about it than to point out that the book exists. Conversely, a Harvard professor named Harvey Mansfield has just published a book titled Manliness, which is about manliness. Sorry, I don't have more than that for you, I haven't read it and don't intend to. But that doesn't mean I can't use it to support the argument I'm making here.

    Exactly what argument AM I making here? Who knows, let's find out together. The idea that modern society is rendering men irrelevent, or that it's castrating us by anathemetizing our biological need to's not a nice idea. If you're a guy. I mean, I don't want to be rendered irrelevent, no matter how high the evidence pile keeps rising against me. I enjoy the odd night of conquoring. And to paraphrase Phil Hellmuth from yesterday's post, my position on castration has been well-documented.

    And so, if you're going to the PLAYBOY MANSION, is it wrong for the topic of clothes to be so in the forefront? I'm saying this as a heterosexual male who voluntarily watches What Not To Wear (though in my defense I usually only watch if they have a possibly attractive woman threatening to blossom forth). I tried to think about cool guys from history, what would they wear if they were going to a party with scores of women you've mostly seen with staples in their navels (yes, I know I'm dating myself something awful here)?

    For some reason Humphrey Bogart came to mind. I didn't know why at first, but as I thought more about it two lines popped into my head. One is an appearance Bogart makes in Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam, where Woody imagines a conversation with Bogie as he gets ready for date. Allen is putting on colognes and powders and sprays and Bogie asks what the hell he's doing. "I need them," Woody whines, and Bogie says, "Somewheres in life you got turned around; it's HER job to smell good for YOU."

    Good line. Good manly-man line. And who was a more manly-man that Bogart, in his trenchcoat and fedora, playing Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, private eyes following their own code of honor? They are the personification of how Mansfield defines "manliness", which is "confidence in risky situations". I got that off of Amazon--I didn't read the book between paragraphs.

    So we get that angle from Bogart. But another famous line also floated up from my subconscious, if that's where famous lines float up from. It's the opening line from The Big Sleep, where Bogart played Philip Marlowe:

    I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

    The "I didn't care who knew it" is one of my favorite lines of all time. But anyway, my point is that if Philip Marlowe can dress up on a business call, a humble poker blogger can dress up for the Playboy Mansion with a clear conscience. Though a powder-blue suit might be a wee bit out there. Be neat, be clean, be shaved, be...well, be neat.

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Why I Don't Gamble

    Took another half-day yesterday, sat in a jam-packed sports bar with four big-screen projection TVs, watching hoops. Gloriousness indeed. The Iowa-Northwestern St. game gets close, then closer, and then the team in purple hits a miracle three from the corner to pull the huge upset and get the whole bar screaming and yelling.

    Except for one hangdog in the Iron City shirt. Guess who had Iowa playing for the title?

    This is why I don't gamble. I suck at it. I zig when I should be zagging. Here I am picking teams that made big runs in their conference tournaments (Iowa, Syracuse, Kansas) ignoring the possibility that these teams might be physically and emotionally exhausted and ripe for the pickin'. Sigh. Well, I do have another bracket with Villanova beating Duke for the title, so I'm not totally dead yet Give it a day.

    Pitt and WVU both looked very good in winning their games, so I still have a rooting interest as well. I drank way too much, though I paced myself fairly well at the start. But it was a combo drinking day--March Madness and St. Patty's Day--and I don't have a hangover and I got home fine, so all in all I must consider yesterday a rousing success. It would've been just a wee bit better if that bald Iowa dude had make that second goddam free throw.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    And The Livin' Is Good

    Hey hey, you working stiffs. Half-days off today and tomorrow, I'm just chillin', watching the Madness, drinking Yuengling, playing a little poker. Beautiful day here in the 'Burgh and what better way to spend it than indoors watching other people exert themselves.

    I picked Wichita State, because I'm smart, and cool. Though I do have BC in the Final Four of one of my pools and they're friggin' sucking against goddam Pacific. Pacific, my ass.

    Damn, baby, I'm running over this micro table. They don't know what they're DEALIN' with here. I'm gonna go get another beer, kick my shoes off, get all comfortable-like. Just wish CBS would switch away from the blowout to the goddam BC game, which is a nailbiter. Idiots.

    No, I'm not gonna get mad. I'm gonna get mellow. Smooth it all out. Peace, y'all.

    UPDATE: Jesus Christ. CBS FINALLY shows the incredible BC-Pacific game after every damn second of the Wichita St. blowout, and after Craig Smith makes 2 pressure free throws to send it to a second OT...CBS cuts without comment to the Winthrop-Tennessee game.

    CBS sucks.

    UPDATE UPDATE: Could CBS suck more? Of course they could! Instead of us getting to watch the end of the Winthrop-Tennessee game (I picked Winthrop, by the way) we get yanked back to see the Marquette-Alabama game, with Bama up by ten. Not only that, CBS broke to commercial right in the middle of the action in the Winthrop game, then sent us back to the Marquette game without comment. Incredible. What, Pitt is a Big East school so we get stuck watching every Big East game no matter what.

    CBS. It sucks. It sucks large.

    UPDATE BLAHBLAHBLAH: Incredible. It's fucking incredible. Twice Dick Engberg says, "And let's go to Greg Gumbel in New York!", and we think we're going to see the end of the Winthrop game...and nothing happens. We see the Marquette huddle during a time out. Dead air. Then, in the middle of the action, CBS suddenly cuts to the middle of a commercial. We see the commercial, and then there's a pause, and we pick up the game right in the middle again.

    There's 21 seconds to go in the Winthrop game, and CBS isn't cutting to it. What the hell is Les Moonves email address?

    Oh, now we figured it out. We're watching the HD feed, and they aren't switching games on that channel. In-credible. They did it for the earlier games, but not this one. Brilliant.

    Go Winthrop!

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    March Madness Madness

    Pitt was ranked #16 in the country before they won three games in the Big East tournament, losing the final to Syracuse. Their RPI stands at #7. So can someone explain how they're a #5 seed? They played in the best, deepest conference in the country. OK, their non-conference schedule stunk, but with their ranking and RPI a #4 seed seemed to be the worst they could do. I don't get it.

    But this is the NCAA, where logic and reason and sense are deliberately ignored by the suits. As always, there are bubble teams crying foul because they got booted in favor of teams far less deserving of a bid. Cinci, Missouri State, Michigan, and Florida State fans are no doubt ticked because the Flyboys of Air Force got a bid while they play in the NIT. There's no way to make every bubble team happy, but one thing I think the NCAA should do is change the format of the play-in game. Right now two small-conference teams (Hampton and Monmouth) have to play on Tuesday to see who gets slaughtered by Villanova. I think this is a total rip-off--you win your tournament, your fans storm the floor...and you might still not get into the Big Dance. That's ridiculous. Those teams ALREADY played their way in. If you're going to have a game like that, open it up to teams who still NEED to play their way in. Save a #13 seed and let Cincinnati play Air Force (or Missouri State) to get into the tournament. You give two bubble teams a chance to prove themselves and allow the Davids their tussle with Goliath. Save one spot for a big-conference school and another for a mid-or-below team and let's get it on. Who cares who wins the Monmouth-Hampton game? Even their fans have to look at it as a huge letdown. They wanted UConn or Duke. Wheras Cinci would be looking to prove that the selection committee doesn't know what the hell it's talking about. does occur to me that you'd be exchanging a game with 2 teams already in the tournament for one where only one team is already in. The logistics can be worked out. I don't like the play-in game as it stands now. It's un-American.

    The worst part of watching the NCAA Tournament are the billiyuns and billiyuns of promos CBS will run for its horrible shows. It looks like this year we're going to be bombarded with sports for Julia Louis-Dreyfus' bomb-in-waiting "The New Adventures of Old Christine". When you can't come up with a decent TITLE for a show what are the odds of it being any good? About the same as Southern beating Duke.

    Its an unusual year, there are probably 15 teams with a realistic shot of winning the whole thing, and no dominant team you could see lording over anyone it faces. I thought about making UConn my shoo-in champ, but after watching them lose to Syracuse and mail it in too many times I'm not sure about them winning six games without a brain cramp. Duke? After watching them get steamrolled by Carolina I'm wary. Villanova? Four guard offense means you'd better hit from the perimeter, though I admit I think they can go all the way. I know nothing about Memphis. I think BC could win it all. So could Texas, even with the loss to Kansas. What about those Jayhawks and the other team in diapers, Carolina? How 'bout Iowa? Ohio State? Illinois? I think UCLA is a very, very good team. Hell, Pitt and WVU can beat anyone at any time. It's a wide-open tournament. I think I'm gonna do the 1/2 day thing Thursday and Friday and drink much beer and watch much basketball. Happy happy, joy joy.

    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    Brevity is the Soul of the Bad Beat Story

    I raise with KK. He calls with AK.

    The flop comes A-A-K.

    It got expensive.

    That is all.

    Friday, March 10, 2006


    The featured "Blog of Note" at Blogger right now is the PokerStarsBlog blog. Did I use the word "blog" enough in that sentence? Screw you.

    Otis, that bastard, is in Monte Carlo doing his thing during the EPT Championships. Isabelle Mercier made it to the second day, only to have aces cracked TWICE and finally go out against a villain who ended with quad nines. That's the only way she loses, by the cruelest twists of Fate. I ran to the top of a very tall hill and shook my fist at the heavens, screaming, "You bastard!!!" That should help change her luck going forward.

    Odd that I won that MONSTER hand yesterday and yet I'm pretty blase about it. I guess because I had the nuts and didn't have to make any difficult decisions or get tricky. Another reason is that I was pretty beat and lightly buzzed and it was past my religiously-sanctioned bedtime. Friday's are always a bit fuzzy for me, after playing and drinking all night I'm pretty much whupped. As I am right now. But tonight I'm just gonna go home, get myself in flannels, and play some poker. Nirvana.

    My cousin Noreen is in Vietnam, and seems to be enjoying her trip immensely. Especially the food, which she told me is fantastic. Proof that Vietnam is making progress--she flew from Danang to Hue, and the Vietnam Airlines plane she took was an Airbus. Her guide said, "Russian aircraft are too dangerous". As you know, I don't much like flying--you try to get me on a Soviet-era plane made by Tupolev or Illyshin and you'd better have a taser and LOTS of duct tape. Because, brother, I am gonna make a SCENE.

    Good Choice, Geno

    Wow. This post is going to sound silly to those of you who play for big stakes, but I just won the single biggest pot of my life.

    I've been trying to bust out my meager bankroll on Stars so I can take a hiatus from poker and do stuff that I need to do. Like write a lot more. Anyway, I'm so hugely talented that I keep taking my buck or two and increasing it twentyfold. I just can't go broke. I'm too good.

    So today I get an email from Party, Mean Gene, come back and play with us. And here's fifty bucks to play with. Play a measly 500 hands and it's yours.

    So I sit down to play at a $25NL table. I like me some no-limit poker. Anyway, first hand I have pocket threes. Flop a set, make a full house on the river. Not a bad start, but that's not the hand I'm talking about.

    I played volleyball tonight, played well, and then I went to the bar for a few beers to ease the aching in my knees. For Lent this year I gave up staying up past midnight during the week, for years I've been a night owl who hits the hay at 1AM and gets up at six. Which may explain the typical state of exhaustion I'm in. But tonight I got home after midnight. And I had to throw laundry in the dryer. And I went to bed early both days last weekend. So, how 'bout I check the email? And maybe play a few hands of poker.

    First hand I'm dealt the QJ of spades and I check. The flop comes 9-10-4. There's a bet, everyone calls. The turn is a seven. Close, but not quite. It's checked around. And the river is a glorious eight, giving me the immortal nuts. What's more, there's four to a straight right there on the board, but I have the two top cards of the nut straight.

    There's a bet, and a raise. I raise. The original better raises. Another raise. I go all-in. Call, call. They both have a jack. I have a jack and a queen. I triple up and win a $75 pot. Again, not a big deal to those of you playing big-dog poker, but as my bankroll couldn't buy a Big Mac two days ago, not a bad little win.

    I folded the next hand and logged off. The two players I cracked logged off too. I fear I ruined their night. It's funny, I wasn't really gonna play. Maybe a hand or two. And usually when I do that, I donk off a few bucks and soon give up. Instead I win my biggest pot ever. I feel odd, though. Here I am breaking my Lenten promise, and the Poker Gods reward me with a sick hand. Is there warring in Heaven? Or am I just gonna be really, really tired tomorrow?

    Poker. It's an odd game.

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    Quick WPT Notes

    Very good opening episode of the WPT. Chris Bell, keep that man away from the sharp objects. Ted Forrest? Spooky. I don't even like having the guy looking at me through the TV set, it's like he's reading my thoughts through the screen. Gavin Smith? Big shirt. Very big shirt.

    Courtney Friel? Uh, she didn't do so good in this debut episode. After Chris Bell lost his third tough hand in a row and went from chip leader to 3rd place she asked him an inane question "What was it like out there?" with a big smile on her extremely pretty face. Bell looked like he might puke down her cleavage, which made her blinding radiance quite out of place. Nice dress, though. She does know how to fill out a frock.

    They need to send Friel and Mike Sexton to interview school. Asking each and every person "howdya feel right now??" no matter the circumstances quickly lapses into parody. I think I'd actually enjoy watching Courtney, lighting up the whole world with her smile, asking a player who just lost a million dollar prize on a 1-outer, "How do you feel right now?"

    "I think I wanna die!" sobs the poor bastard.

    Courtney gives us that half turn so that we go from her fantastic profile to a breathtaking three-quarters shot and then back to her profile. "So what was it like out there?"

    "I think I WANNA DIE!"

    "Back to you, Mike and Vince!"

    I was going to tape the Monty Python shows at nine and the WPT at midnight, but my PBS station preempted for some Irish dude selling DVDs. Then I turn it on and the have Roy Orbison's Black and White Night show, which I would've taped had I know it was friggin' on. Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen and two other guys I can't place. I think I saw Tom Waits too. Yup, there he is. Jackson Browne? Bonnie Raitt. k.d. lang? Bet that was a hard ticket to score. I can just imagine the show ends, Courtney Friel runs up on stage and asks Roy, "So what was it like out there?"

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    Hear Hear

    I'm probably scooping Iggy here as he assembles his latest uber-post, but Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban (he also owns an NBA team in Arkansas or thereabouts) has a good post about the hysteria and hypocrisy that surrounds gambling in this country. It's almost time for March Madness, when millions pony up a few bucks and fill out brackets for their office pool. College basketball is a great game, but the reason fans become infected with the Madness is because they have a few bucks riding on the game. They cheer like crazy for schools they never heard of a week earlier (go Coppin State!) because they love bracket-busting upsets and want their particular underdogs to push them to the top of the standings. Without that little bit of action to spice things up, the tournament's just another bunch of games. Good games, to be sure, entertaining games. But not worth taking off work to sit in a sports bar for 12 blissful hours.

    A few years ago Billy Packer said that the teams making the Final Four should be re-seeded, so that two Cinderellas wouldn't meet in one semi while two #1 seeds battled in the other. This was about the stupidest idea I'd ever heard. If you re-seed, you can't put together a bracket for people to fill out and wager on. At least not without the poor guy running the thing crunching numbers like ENIAC. Packer made the foolish mistake of thinking that the basketball is the most important part of March Madness, instead of betting on the brackets. Dumb.

    Anyway, it's a nice little screed. Nice to see that Cuban doesn't have some flunky proofreading his posts, its presented in its raw, original state. Admirable.

    Crap! And Other Thoughts

    So the last 2 days I got killed at the tables, relatively speaking. I lost my tiny stack when I brilliantly check-raised a guy on the turn when he was drawing to an open-ended straight. And a club wouldn't help because that would make my flush, giving him just six measly outs. He caught the eight of spades and busted me.

    Drat. Then after flopping top two with K-10 I again check-raise on the turn like a champ and get called by A-10. He hits his ace and I have to ship my stack. In an SNG me and another dude are the big chip leaders, he raises way up there and I re-raise with queens. He calls, the flop comes Jack-high and I push. He thinks...and calls. With pocket tens. Which is my favorite hand, by the way, no way I'm losing to pocket tens, not when it's a two-outer...whoops, there's the ten on the river. Pocket tens, what a floozy, she'll dance with anyone.

    So that pretty much sucked. But I can't complain too much, I played each hand well, made the other guy put in his chips with far the worst of it, and lost all three times. Oh well, that's poker. No big deal. I mean, I now know that God hates me, but, oh well.

    Saturday night I was a bit under the weather and perhaps I shouldn't have been playing. Because I started having this weird internal conversation about which suits in a four-color deck look best together. For example, I had the four of diamonds and the four of spades, and the blue-black combo looked fierce and menacing to my eyes. But when I held the nine of clubs and nine of hearts, the hand looked weak and vulnerable. When your thoughts start heading down paths like that it's probably time to have a lie down.

    I'm a bit frustrated at the lack of inspired trash-talking and insults I've found at the low-limit tables. For example--on the button I'm dealt the Hammer, and I raise, chasing out all but one caller. The flop comes 2-2-3--very nice. I check, luring the prey into my web, but he also checks. The turn is a King...come on, you have a king, dontcha? I check, he checks. The river is the friggin' case deuce. I've made quads with the Hammer and there's no one to see. Now, what should I do here? Bet the pot? Big frickin' deal, there's no money in that. He's gonna fold if I put a dime (literally) in. So I pushed with my entire stack, out of spite. And the guy thinks about it...thinks about it...thinks about it...and folds. Tease.

    As the pot comes my way I turn over my cards, just to show that I have a sense of humor. A player who wasn't even in the hand types "idiot". Oh please, that's all you could come up with? Obviously my play was pure farce, can't you appreciate it? Or, if not, can't you come up with something better than "idiot"? I replied that any time he wanted to play heads up for FIVE BUCKS I'd kick his behind. Again, farce. He went bonkers, saying that he plays for more money than I've even seen and that he'd destroy me and that the Steelers cheated to win the Super Bowl. And then he called me an idiot again. Sigh, there's no love of language in the world today.

    Further evidence of this came as I watched the Gonzaga-Loyola Marymount game last night. Gonzaga beat San Diego the night before and a player from SD said that Adam Morrison said something along the lines of "if a train ran over you and you died I wouldn't care". Now, because Morrison is tall and can shoot and has a cheesy mustache, many observers compare him to Larry Bird. Of course this is ludicrous--beating up on the WCC hardly means this guy is the Second Coming of Larry Legend. Bird was famous for giving his opponents the verbal needle, and perhaps Morrison was trying to further emulate the Celtic great. Well, so far as trash-talk goes, this is pathetic. A guy on the court tells me he wouldn't care if I died, I say something back like, "Wow, that hurts, really. Here come the tears...any second now...". Or, perhaps, "Really? That's strange, because after I finished rear-ending your mom last night down at the bus station she said that you're hoping I'll ask you to go camping on Brokeback Mountain."

    It takes so little effort to insult another person's entire belief system, so why do so few people take the time? Especially when the other person isn't armed. One of my favorite off-the-cuff insults came in the Woody Allen film Love and Death. Allen plays a Russian soldier during the Napoleonic War (it's funnier than it sounds) and his unit arrives to find the battlefield covered with Russian dead.

    The soldier next to Allen points to a corpse and says, "That man was from my village. He was the village idiot."

    And Woody says, "What'd you do, place?"

    BG will get that, anyway.

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    The Oracle That Is Mean Gene

    While telling yinz how to live a more happy, satisfying life isn't the prime directive of this blog, I like to help out when I can. So here's a wee bit of advice.

    If you're thinking about getting married, whether that day is tomorrow or 50 years hence, do not, DO NOT, register for fine china. There is no bigger waste of money in the world (outside of your typical governmental and corporate graft) than otherwise blissful couples burdening themselves with 100 pounds of pricy, fragile, useless china. You won't use it. You might THINK you'll use it--as the big day approaches you'll imagine you and your spouse hosting dinner parties with elegant people in gowns and tuxedos making oh-so-witty conversation. Forget it. Never happen. Don't be gulled by Martha Stewart--the only bon mots that will be exchanged over your china will be "Aw, shit!" and "I TOLD you we needed more goddam bubble wrap!" as you naively try to safely pack it all away before moving day.

    China looks great in the store, doesn't it? When I got married I was the one who picked out our pattern, and it looks fabulous. Elegant, subdued--yet confident in its own unique beauty. Now imagine it with a big sloppy glob of chicken cacciatore staining its porcelein face. I have never eaten off our china. Not once. I once bragged that when I got back from my honeymoon I was gonna make a big batch of Chili Beef (my favorite disgusting comfort food) and eat it off our china. Never have. I had Chili Beef yesterday and five seconds too late I realized I should've broken out the china. Next time, next time.

    You can't stick your china in the dishwasher--it might break! Or get chipped! Or the hot water might strip away the gold filigree or leave scraches on the pattern or...oh God, let's just seal it in a vault pumped full of argon gas!

    If you host a dinner party with eight guests, you are gonna have a shitload of dishes to do by hand. And as you scrub your significant other is gonna be watching you like a hawk to ensure you don't use too much elbow grease and ding the dishes. So that makes for a fun end to the festivities. Plus the recriminations and bickering that will ensue when one of her dimbulb sorority sisters gets a snootful of Chardonnay and drops her goblet on the hardwood floor. A goblet that MUST be replaced--you can't have less than a full set of 12, can you? How will you sleep at night?

    It isn't just that china is expensive--once you accumulate some, you must double down and buy a china cupboard or hutch or whatever the hell they're called. A big wooden monstrosity with glass windows (again, adding exponentially to the misery of relocating) will run you a tidy sum and will take up a third of your dining room. If you're thinking of hosting a poker game in your dining room make sure at least 40% of the participants have builds that could be described as "skinny" or, better yet, "emaciated", so everyone isn't sucking in their guts the entire night.

    China is a traditional wedding gift. It makes life easy on your guests--they can go to the inevitable department store where you registered, pick up a place setting, and five minutes later they're heading to TGI Fridays or someplace to eat their goddam dinner. People, your wedding day is about YOU. You and that other person who'll be stapled to your hip and hogging the spotlight and driving you up a freakin' tree before all's said and done (I've always imagined that when many marriages are consummated there's some angry, spiteful sex going on). Your wedding day is a day to be selfish. Really selfish. So go for the gusto and don't make things easy on your guests.

    Forget the china. Register for stuff you actually NEED and will actually USE. You need good everyday plates and bowls and silverware--register for THAT. You need pots and pans and bakeware. But most people register for that stuff anyway. So either get creative or, if that's too much work, put the ball in your guests' court and don't register for ANYTHING. Do that, and you'll hopefuly get the one gift all newly married couples need--cash. Lots and lots of cash.

    I hope I have been of some service. If in the next few days a brick gets thrown through my window (a brick edged in gold leaf and a bird in flight etched on each side) I'll know the people at Mikasa are well and truly pissed.

    Friday, March 03, 2006

    Ode to a Fish Sandwich

    Sigh. I just had my usual Lenten lunch, fish sandwich, fries. Got it from the cafeteria downstairs. It was good. Pretty good, actually. But it wasn't as good as the fish sandwich at our old cafeteria. Now THAT was a fish sandwich! A thick plank of fish with tender breading served on a hoagie bun. A full pint of creamy macaroni and cheese served on the side. Homemade tartar sauce waiting at the salad bar. All for five-fifty! I'd eat it and be so stuffed I'd be dozing by 2PM and unable to think about food until midnight.

    But that's all in the past now. New cafeteria. New company running it. Ahh, I'm being too hard on them. Heck, that was a pretty decent fish sandwich I just had. But it was one of those square patties you know came through some sort of industrial press (catch any cube-shaped fish lately?) and that takes away some of the romance. The fries were baked and probably came out of a freezer bag. They did have their own tartar sauce, and it was pretty good. It was all pretty good. Not fantastic. Sigh.

    I think back to the best fish sandwich I ever had (and yes, I know how pathetic it is that THESE are the memories I cling to. Go take a stroll in my shoes, see what you remember and what you repress). I was working downtown on the 38th floor of the US Steel building. From time to time I would walk to the window and wonder how big a crater I would leave if I jumped out of said window. I didn't like my job much.

    I was working a later shift and went for lunch at 3PM, and I walked down to Smithfield Street get lunch. The previous week I'd noticed a sign in a window that said "Fish sandwich special $5.50" and that seemed like a good deal. The shop in question was Wiener World, which is a sorta (sorta?) dumpy looking place that the fussy among you would not find appetizing. But it was late, the food court in my building was closed, and I was depressed enough to take a chance.

    They were just getting ready to close. I gave the nice lady at the stainless steel counter my order and she said no problem and got to work. A guy with not many teeth put two, three, four big pieces of fish in a fryer and dumped it on the oil. The lady took two big handfuls of fries and put them in another fryer. Is there a more delightfully hypnotic sight than watching hot oil bubble as it cooks your lunch? It smelled great, too. The fact that this oil had probably been at a boil for six weeks straight didn't bother me a whit. I was too depressed to worry about trifles.

    As the chef lifted the baskets clear I thought they must be making two lunches, because even I couldn't eat THAT much in one sitting. The lady asked if I wanted tartar sauce, and I said Oh Yes, and she split open a big bun and slathered it with a Day-Glo yellow sauce she spooned from a metal tub. She stacked each of the four slabs of fish on the bun, pressed it down tight, and gave it a quick swipe with a knife. This she wrapped in foil, before she loaded a huge paper boat with sizzling fries and wrapped them as well.

    I handed over my cash and hugged the bag to my bosom. It was warm, so very warm. I carried it back to my office with my stomach and taste buds calling on me to run, run you fat bastard, run! For some reason I took my bundle back to my desk instead of the cafeteria--actually, I now remember that I thought it might look bad if I sat there chowing down on takeout in front of the staff. A slap in their collective faces, if you will.

    I opened that foil and, dear God, did it smell good. It smelled...fried. The fish was fresh and flaky and tender and the tartar sauce tart and creamy. The fries were salty and crisp, not soggy at all. As I chowed, people in the cubes around me started prairedogging to see where that INCREDIBLE smell was coming from. I knew I was disrupting the entire floor, but I didn't care. This moment was all about me and my sandwich. A moment I cherish to this very day.

    Wonder if WW still has their fish sandwich special. I could take a quick jaunt into town next week, though I wouldn't have time to jaunt to AND fro in the time allowed. I simply MUST find out before Peter Cottontail arrives. I did promise myself that I would NOT eat at Long John Silvers during Lent, which I did last year and it worked out well for me. No buyer's remorse, no nausea, no brushing and re-brushing my teeth like an obsessive-compulsive. Lent can be a culinary minefield if you get lazy.

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    He's the Sports Guy, not the Poker Guy

    Bill Simmons of ESPN is playing in the 2006 World Series of Poker, and he has a piece up right now about his poker past. Now, I enjoy reading Simmons' stuff immensely, even if I think he's not quite as smart as he thinks he is. Of course, I'M not as smart as I think I am, evidence of that being the fact that Simmons has millions of readers and gets paid by ESPN to do stuff like play in the WSOP while I blog in obscurity.

    But enough about the bitterness that makes me long for the icy scythe of death. Simmons' column shows that while Bill might be on firm ground ripping apart Isiah Thomas, he's in no position to pontificate about poker, except for purely comedic purposes.

    After watching Gabe Kaplan do the commentary for the 1996 US Poker Championship (can't Cheney just step in and mandate that Kaplan do the color commentary for all poker broadcasts?) Simmons writes about players trying to improve their game:

    "Unfortunately, thousands of others are doing the same thing. Fortunately, many of them suck at poker. More fortunately, they don't even realize it

    Bill, we glean from this sentence, does not include himself among those who suck at poker yet don't realize it. Ah, hubris, she's a bitch. Because in the rest of the column Simmons gives mucho evidence that he's seriously lacking in poker insight.

    Biil writes about his first time sitting down in a Vegas casino and winning $400, most of it when he hits a straight flush and infuriates the locals. Nice little story. But then he writes this:

    (Of course, I was only playing stud, which is like the D-League to hold'em's NBA.)

    Shall I page Felicia, or can I handle this on my own? How about I just copy and paste the banner on her blog:

    "Any game where there's more decisions to make is a more skillful game. If someone can master Stud, then they can master any poker game.--Chip Reese

    Stud and Hold-Em each have their own particular challenges, and to say one is minor league and the other major without taking into account the opposition, the stakes, etc, shows rather a lack of understanding about the game.

    After the explosion in poker's popularity AM (After Moneymaker) and a sudden influx of fish, Simmons writes, "You'd think this development would make it harder to play in Vegas. Actually, it's much easier." Why would it be harder if suddenly there are horrible players fighting for seats? This is a common fallacy in the poker world (i.e. those who say "I'd rather face good players because they don't play junk hands and suck out on you") that occurs often among players who, well, suck at poker.

    At this point the column really gets silly. "On my latest trip, I finally made The Leap from lower-limit to no-limit, losing my cherry at Binion's. That's like getting your first major-league at-bat in Fenway against Randy Johnson." Well, Binion's is a legendary place, and like Fenway it's been so romanticized that you can perhaps ignore the fact that newer facilities have aesthetically left it in the dust. But unless Bill was being modest and he actually sat down with Doyle and Chip and Barry, I don't it quite equals facing down the Big Unit. But that's nitpicking, and frankly, that's beneath me.

    Simmons says that he won a $550 pot with a "straight I caught on the draw. Or the pull. Whatever it's called. (I'm not good at poker terminology; I think it's slightly creepy.)" Odd that such a sports fan would think the slang that goes with a particular game is "creepy", but perhaps we can just chalk that up to snootiness. In the very next sentence he writes "My night made, I went into Dean Smith's Four Corners and finished up $300". So, college basketball terminology is OK (four corners = stall to run out the clock, natch) and we also see that after winning a nice pot he was willing to turtle and forgo the chance of winning even more. Did Bill lose his nerve after winning that big pot? Mais non! After all, describing his mindset as he took his seat he modestly writes, "Was I scared? Absolutely not." Bill, Bill, look in the mirror, confront your fears! I do the same thing, husbanding my chips after a win and missing out on opportunities to win even more. To thine own self be true.

    For some reason Simmons believes that no-limit is the "highest" limit that poker is played at. After winning a few hundred at the Mirage he writes, "All in all, two nights of poker at the highest level netted me almost $400." Um, while it's true that in no-limit you can all your chips at any time, it rather makes a difference how many chips you're talking about. I play no-limit, with blinds of a nickel and dime. Daniel Negreanu plays limit, with blinds of $4000-$8000. Daniel plays at a higher limit that I do. You all follow my reasoning here?

    Writing about his TWO HUGE WINS, Bill writes, "Could that have happened six years ago? Of course not. I would have gotten crushed. But now, everyone thinks he can play. And I mean, everyone." Including the author. You don't need a Ph.D in statistics to see that even a strategically-shaved orangutan could post 2 winning sessions back-to-back (and no doubt some of us believe we've seen exactly that). Two nights does not a winning poker player make.

    How does one become a winning poker player? Bill has the answer:

    "Watch a few shows, play online for a few nights, read a book … and you're ready for Vegas. Or so they all think. Well, it doesn't work that way. You need to play for a few years, struggling at various casinos as you learn how to read people and work your way up from stud."

    Again, Felicia, I'm not trying to make you mad, I didn't write that. I don't know why you need to struggle at various "casinos", as if poker is like tennis and you have to play on grass and clay and hardcourts. I'd love to hear Bill's theories picking up tells--or is that the sort of terminology he finds creepy?

    After conceding that he's likely to get "wiped out" at the WSOP, he says, "Then again, I don't know why I'm complaining. The fish have made it easier to make some money." This statement is true on its surface, but in the cash games surrounding the World Series he's likely to run into slightly stiffer competition than he's faced in the past. And while I admit I can't testify to Simmons' skill as a player, after reading this column I detect a definitely fishy smell rising from the virtual page.

    Simmons correctly states that bad beat stories are boring and stupid, but he calls them "poker stories". Again, he just can't stand the lingo! Bad beat stories, we all agree, are a plague upon humanity, but "poker" stories can be quite entertaining. could even start a blog that's nothing but poker stories...

    Not that bad beat stories are all that saps one's interest from the game: "Poker stories are as boring as the game's current crop of stars, few of whom you'd ever idolize unless you were auditioning for a guest spot on "My Name Is Earl." Both of these elements work against poker as a phenomenon."

    Let's just ignore the "working against poker as a phenomenon" line. Or, let's not ignore it--poker has grown at a level for three years now. I think we're well past the "phenomenon" stage. Hell, major media corporations are sending know-nothing writers to play in the game's biggest event just for the hell of it! But to say that today's crop of poker stars are "boring" shows either than Simmons was really under deadline pressure or he hasn't followed poker the last, oh, 50 years.

    Pick your poison--you have your trash-talking maniacs (Matusow, Laak), your revered elder statesmen (Brunson, Cloutier), your cerebral field generals (Greenstein, Lederer), your miraculous underdogs (Moneymaker, Raymer), your space aliens from the planet Zuon (Ivey), your whiny prima-donnas (Hellmuth), your brash young up-and-comers (Fischmann, Williams, Gracz, Cassidy, Esfandiari, etc etc etc), your females who can beat your brains in all the live-long day and look absolutely SMASHING while doing so (Mercier, Gowan, Ng, etc etc etc), your evil foreigners trying to take over the world through unprovoked aggression (Sweden). What exactly are you lookin' for, Bill?

    One of the things I like best about Simmons' writing is how he takes down the high and mighty (and stupid) with verbal thrust and parry. He's at his best when he's sticking pins in celebrities and superstar athletes who are full of hot air. Which is was so odd reading this column and seeing HIM as the oblivious and cocky one. I'm still looking forward to reading his stuff from the World Series, but from this column I don't think we're going to see him nearly at his best, for three simple reasons: he doesn't know what he's talking about; he seems to think that he does; and he holds just about everything and everyone associated with poker in contempt. It's not a promising combination. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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