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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    Wednesday, May 31, 2006

    Wish Me Luck!!

    At 3PM today my whole company goes outside to the parking lot across the street for a little ceremony. We had this morale-building program where if you did something above-and-beyond you got a little pennant to put on your desk. I'm sure your company has dome some similar. What's a bit different is that one person who won a pennant is going to win a brand-new Jaguar. And that person could very well be ME.

    Every day on our company Intraweb they've had little clues as to who the already-selected winner might be. For example, the person's work number has a 4 in the area code (both Pittsburgh and San Fran have 4's). They work east of the Mississippi. They work in Pittsburgh. They work in the new building, etc etc. The gist of it is I'm still in the running. Along with, oh, 500 other people.

    But hey, 500-1 isn't that long of odds. The car just arrived out front, it's not one of Jaguars uber-luxurious models, but it'd do. Black, four door, nice. If I win I think I'll drive straight to a dealership and sell it. And then buy myself something I've always wanted...a mink Stetson.

    I was going through the catalog of my library, looking for stuff to order, and I looked up "poker", see what's out there. When I started playing a few years back the entire library system had 25 items regarding poker. When I checked this morning, they had 98. When I checked back at lunch to actually order a few things, it was up to 99. Wowzers. They used to only have 1 copy of Super/System for the entire Pittsburgh area. They have 10 copies of Super/System 2. Progress is being made.

    Because I'm Pittsburgh's Most Decorated Poker Blogger, I get emails from various organizations with info on charity tournaments, and I also get the odd email about clubs that have cash games and tournaments where, shall we say, charity begins at home. My home, hopefully. Anyway, one of the places that contacted me said that they offer "two-card, three-card, and four-card Texas Hold-Em." Three- and four-card Texas Hold-Em? Isn't four-card Texas Hold-Em called Omaha? I think there is a three-card game called Juarez, but I think the folks running these games know that "Texas Hold-'Em" is likely to get folks hearts pumpin' while "Omaha" is likely to elicit frowns and shaking of the head. Pretty soon Seven Card Stud will be known as "Individually Boarded Multi-Street Texas Hold-Em!!!" At which time I'll take up macrame.

    Two hours till the Jag. To paraphrase Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride, "I hope I win."

    UPDATE: I didn't win.

    Now, I don't mean to bitch about what was a $35K Freeroll. But. We all had to stand out there on the 100-degree asphalt as they made the announcment. And what they did was have one of our VP's give additional clues to winnow down the field. The winner works on this floor, the winner has this number in their Social Security number, etc, etc, etc. It finally, FINALLY got down to three people (it was BRUTALLY HOT out there) and they opened the envelope and announced who won. I have two problems with this. One, the two people who didn't win got their hopes up, had to stand up there in front of the whole company...and got nothing. Seems more than a bit cruel to raise someone's hopes and then dash them like that during what should be a happy-happy morale-building exercise. Two, there are 2 people on my team who took half-days today, and my boss is off. What if someone who was off won the car? They go through all this rigamarole to narrow it down to just a handful of people, they open the envelope, announce the name...and it's no one who's standing by the car. Easily could've happened as the name was drawn weeks ago. How embarrassing would THAT have been? No one thought of this?

    I'm not ticked off because I didn't win. I'm ticked off because I'm hot. Because I felt for the people who came so close. And I'm ticked because I didn't win. Forget what I said earlier.

    Tuesday, May 30, 2006

    I Get Some Satisfaction

    After my whining to start off yesterday I did go outside and lay in my hammock. For about five minutes, as it was about 135 degrees and the sun bore down as if God was holding a magnifying glass above me. I stopped over my parents' house, made myself a nice little lunch, and not wanting to expose myself to the Gobi outside my window I played a little air-conditioned poker.

    Took second in an SNG, an improvement on my third-place finish from earlier in the day. Again AQ was my downfall, as my opponent held jacks this time instead of kings and I didn't improve. I had him outchipped by T100 and I wasn't quite able to battle back. But a cash is a cash, and after I braved the outdoors and did some re-mulching, I decided on a 2-table SNG to pass the time while I furiously rehydrated.

    Which I won, thank you very much. Early on I found my stack whittled from T1500 to T1000, but I just waited for a hand at my rather-tight table and doubled through with queens vs. tens. The chips moved back and forth, with me picking up my fair share, but one player put on a suckout display to rival the Luckbox himself. She (I call her she because her name ended in "ette") was quite shortstacked, but within ten hands her K-10 defeated K-J, her pocket sixes outflopped pocket tens, and she went runner-runner to make a straight and crack aces with A-10. It was something to behold, especially as I'd wisely stayed out of her way.

    I finally made a move when I flopped a set of 8's and check-raised the chip-leader all-in. He made a boo-boo, making a 2K continuation bet into a pot holding only T1200, and that pot-stuck him but good. He called drawing dead, and a few hands later he was out. Tsk.

    I lost a chunk of my stack calling a shorty with A-5 and losing to pocket sevens, but I quickly won them back with some strong betting and blind steals. Ah, is there anything nicer than having a player on your right who will surrender her small blind time after time? And a player on your left more than willing to concede his big blind? That's the situation I found myself in, though to be fair an orangutan could've taken the chip lead with all the blinds I was handed.

    The suckout queen was eliminated in appropriate fashion--she held aces, the other guy held K-6, and the flop came K-K-6. That left me heads-up for the win with nearly equal stacks, but I bullied him out of five pots in a row to take a big lead, and applied the coup de grace when I called with A-7 against his A-6. Victory, she was mine.

    Fascinating how into the game I was. How much fun I had. The stakes were hardly worth mentioning, but I was very focused on winning. The butterflies were in flight when I bluffed at a 2K pot hoping I wasn't leaning into a check-raise. Hard to imagine how it must feel when there are thousands, millions on the line. While I played I was watching this past week's WPT event, and poor JC Tran getting beat by a 1-outer (it might not have been a 1-outer, I have to re-watch) to get booted from the Commerce Classic event. Just a brutal beat, and Alan Goehring went on to win. Just as in the previous WPT event, when Michael Mizrachi hit a two-outer to beat Erick Lindgren. And one night I threw in a tape and watched Danny Nguyen somehow win by hitting runner-runner sevens. Among other jaw-dropping suckouts (hitting quad jacks to beat Men the Master's queens, for example). As Jesse May said, it isn't the skill in poker you need to come to grips with--it's the luck. If you can't handle the luck, you might go crazy.

    I noticed something about my own online play. When I play ring games, I tend not to do very well. When I play SNGs, my bankroll goes up. Perhaps, just perhaps, I should stick to SNGs until I get my ring game in better shape. Or, just stick to SNGs and keep on winning. It's a thought.

    Monday, May 29, 2006

    A Post in Which I Rant a Bit

    I just got knocked out on the first hand of a SNG. After one limper I raise with KJ, the limper calls. Flop comes queen high, I make my continuation bet, he calls. The turn gives me an open-ended straight flush draw. I make a big bet, he calls. The river is a brick, I don't feel like playing a shortstack and I go all-in. He calls. What does he have? AJ. He called off all his chips with ace-high, with no flush draw and only a gutshot straight draw.

    Now, I'm not ranting here about a bad beat, because obviously it wasn't a bad beat. My point is, where exactly is the fun of meekly calling with no hand street after street? He didn't raise or re-raise preflop. He called big bets after the flop, turn and river with absolutely nothing. Of course there's no logic behind his play--my point is where is the FUN? You're playing a $5 SNG, obviously you're not warming up for the World Series of Poker. You're playing for some enjoyment. Is hitting the CALL button fives times worth five bucks? I can't see that it is.

    I lost a hand yesterday to a guy who hit a royal flush on the turn. I had AQ and top two pair, and fortunately the ten of diamonds was the one card that kept me from putting another dime in the pot, as it put every scary flush and straight draw out there. He showed his royal and I sneered, "It takes a royal flush to beat me, pardner".

    Mostly played some little NL, and as often happens in no-limit one hand decided if I'd be a winner or loser. I had AK, he had A-9. Flop came ace-high, I bet, he called. Turn was an action card, the king of spades, which gave him a flush draw. All the money went in, and he hit the queen of spades to take my stack. Worst part was that I was playing two tables and my computer hiccuped and I couldn't get back to that table as the river was dealt. All I could see was that a black queen arrives. I didn't know which suit. But I knew it was a spade.

    I did fight my way back to cut my losses by two-thirds, but as often happens in no-limit one hand might've broken my again if I hadn't made a brilliant laydown of 7-3 in the small blind. There was a raise, a call, and I let my 7-3 go. Flop came A-7-7. Oogh, I thought. I got oogier when a three popped up on the river. I was sighing as all the money went in the pot, only to see that the original raiser had aces. Whoops! I can only assume the other player had the case seven. I might've been in third place that hand.

    I played the Hammer to perfection to make up for much of my losses. The female (for her name was female) to my right bullied me a few times and I raised her limp with the Hammer. The flop came with a seven, I bet, she called. We checked the turn, but a deuce on the river got me betting again. She called, and I showed my two-pair to the LOL's of the other players. Two hands later I was dealt KK I raised, she re-raised, I put her all-in and she called with 9-10. My cowboys ruled the ranch and I got a bit of my money back.

    Sigh, I pride myself on not tilting. Much. So why am I still watching the SNG I got knocked out of to see when that jackass gets busted? Because I'm tilting. I think I'll go make some breakfast and see if that improves my mood.

    UPDATE: That dude was the chip leader and lost most of his stack re-raising all-in with top pair, medium kicker and lost to a set. He went out next hand. I will now go cut myself with a big knife.

    UPDATE UPDATE: Hey, played another SNG, made it past the first hand. Again I'm dealt KJ on the button, raise, get one caller. I make a continuation bet, he calls. Check thru the turn, a jack on the river, and he leads out for T150. I think about raising, but instead I just call. He has AJ. Oy. At least this time I didn't go bust.

    UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: No foolin', I've played like 15 hands this fine morning and I've had KJ ten times. I'm folding it if I'm in the big blind. I'm folding it if the flop comes K-K-J. I fully understand KJ is not a good hand. It's stalking me. Can you get a restraining order on a poker hand?

    UPDATE ETC: Unfreakin' real. I hit POST, and I'm dealt KJ. Of course I call. The flop comes K-J-7. I don't mess around, I raise after one guy makes a little bet and I take down the pot. Is Rod Serling in the house?

    UPDATE ETC ETC: Here's how my day's going. After trapping the chip leader with a flopped set and taking the chip lead, we're down to four and I'm dealt A-10. I hit an ace on the turn, I'm pretty sure the shortstack has a king, not an ace, and he makes a meek bet on the river that I have to call because I'm getting 7-1 on my money.

    And my cursor twitches and I hit the fold button instead of call.

    UN-BELIEVEABLE. Hank, Mr. Rini, could you move the FOLD and CALL buttons a bit further apart so doofuses like me who get the shakes don't muck cards they mean to play. I then get dominated two hands in a row to the shortstack and now I'm the shortstack and on the bubble. Believe me, it's hard to type where you're curled up in the fetal position.

    And now some schmuck asked if the "G" in "Mean_G" stands for "gay", and another guy is giving him a lecture on sensitivity. Why am I not out lying in my hammock getting some sun?

    The lecturer said earlier that he knows how I play because he has "notes" on me. I've played maybe 500 hands in the last month--and he has "notes" on me. Glad to see that three years into the poker boom no one has picked up a freakin' clue.

    And in the end I go out third, in what is easily the most unsatisfying SNG cash of my life. I get in the money by making a nice call when, on a board of 9-7-3 and me holding Q-7, I get check-raised. I think it over, doubt that he would've checked a nine, that he's trying to push me, and I call. He has J-7, and after he's out he says "That's FTP for you". Not sure why my brilliant call is the responsibilty of Full Tilt, but there you are.

    For awhile I thought the two players I was up against were soft-playing, because the chip leader folded his small blind like 4 times in a row. When he would re-raise me practically every hand. Every time I limped from the small blind he'd raise, so I waited for a big hand to trap him. This is the guy who has "notes" on me--no doubt he put a note in that I would fold to a re-raise after limping. Well, I pick up AQ, limp, he re-raises, and I go all-in. He thinks, thinks, thinks--he's totally pot-stuck--thinks...and calls. Turning over KK. Bad enough I get cold-decked, but the bastard slow-rolls me. The ace in the door is negated by the king of hearts next door. Poker, she is a cruel game.

    I'm gonna go lie in the sun now. It'll help dry my tears.

    Thursday, May 25, 2006

    Go Warm Up My Seat

    Last year I guaranteed I would win. I did not. This year...I GUARANTEE I'M GONNA WIN!

    Poker Tournament

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

    This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

    Registration code: 7330476

    Last time I finished in 204th place. Unacceptable. Unacceptable. Failure is not an option. Well, of course it is an option, the most likely option. But I'm not going to think about that. Instead I'll focus on what I'll say to ESPN during the little bio piece they shoot for the most compelling players. That's confidence, people.

    A few housekeeping notes. I'm able to walk again, thank the Buddha. While you won't see me square dancing anytime soon, I can now put my left foot in front of the other and propel myself forward at a decent clip. I might even risk walking back to my car today and enjoy the fresh air. I'm a walker, and I've missed it.

    By the way, I was a square-dancing fool back in the fourth grade. Seriously, I was a diva. If square dancing was an Olympic event Bettie Sue (her real name) and I would've been medal contenders in Seoul. We would've been the Torvill and Dean of the do-si-do. It wasn't meant to be.

    And I'm not changing my URL. After seeing spammers snatch up Bobby Bracelet's and Daddy's addresses when they went dark, forget it. Unless I can wrap my URL in C4 and blow it to Kingdom Come in a final act of desperation, forget it. If I feel the need I'll just start another blog. And I don't feel the need. So, again, forget it.

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Beware the Limper

    I watched most of Game 7 of the Spurs-Mavs series, but when Ginobili hit that three with 32 seconds to go I figured that was that and surrendered to dreamland. So I missed Nowitzki heroics and OT. I did wake up at 2AM with my foot throbbing with pain--yes, I'm not quite done with my plantar fasciitits. Thought I was, felt much better Friday, but Saturday I got stupid and walked around at the Venture Outdoors shindig and overdid it. Bigtime. By the time I crawled (almost literally) to my car I knew I'd made a BIG mistake. The last few days I've been limping around like Verbal Kint.

    I felt even worse when I read this about the efforts of Tim Duncan:

    If you've never had plantar fasciitis before, it's hard to understand just how much pain Tim was in this season. The pain never goes away, it affects you every time you plant, walk, run, or jump. It's a searing, sometimes-crippling pain that affects just about everything you do. Tim was hurt during these playoffs, never forget that. Plantar issues don't go away unless you hit the shelf for a few months, and somehow he rose above. Way above.

    Wuss = me. Although "searing" is a good way to describe the pain. I woke up in the wee hours in some serious discomfort, but now I'm at least able to hobble. I brought in this microwavable heating-pad thingy and wrapped it around my foot, and it felt so damn good I was lowing like a calf. I can't imagine running on my bad wheel, let alone jumping.

    After work Friday I went to a gathering of Pittsburgh bloggers, which is something I've been meaning to do for a long time. Got to meet some good people who share the blogging bug, talked about Vegas with Mike and Cindy, got to talk to other was good to see in person a few of those other disburbed souls blogging in the Burgh.

    I'm in the middle of one of my funks, where I start 10 longish pieces and finish none of them. I'm gonna blame my foot. Not that I type with my toes. Jesus, does that sound painful right around now. Hopefully it'll feel better in the morning and I can get some stuff done.

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    The Answers

    Tripjax asked bloggers to answer a few questions, and since I don't wanna be left out I'll give it my best shot.

    1. What is the biggest mistake people make at a NL table?

    I'm gonna answer from my own experience at low-limit NL games. People don't know how much to bet. They either don't bet enough to make chasing the most impossible draw a profitable play, or they toss in a 37BB preflop raise with their A-4 suited. You're either winning the tiny blinds or you're up against a monster. Where's the logic?

    2. What is the biggest mistake people make at a Limit table?

    They play fancy. They play slow. They set traps in the hopes of snaring their prey into a big pot. When all along they should've been betting and raising and building the pot THAT way. And then allowing the noodles who play 8-4 offsuit to stumble into a freak two pair.

    3. Why do you play poker?

    For the intellectual challenge. For the drama. My previous jobs had very little of both, and poker gave me kick in the brain I didn't get anywhere else. And I'm not adverse to winning a little bit of money.

    4. If you weren't playing poker, what would you be doing?

    I actually haven't played much lately, which is why there have been these 3,000-word essays about lunch on this blog. I'd probably be a bit thinner too.

    5. What is your favorite poker book and why?

    I can't pick just one. The Biggest Game in Town, Big Deal, The Professor, the Banker, the Suicide King. I really liked Nolan Dalla's biography of Stu Unger. Really liked Barry Greenstein's book. I know none of these are strategy guides, but I'm hoping that as the poker boom continues we'll see more and more of these narrative explorations of the game and the culture. Maybe I'll write one myself.

    6. Who is your favorite poker player and why?

    Her name is Isabelle Mercier. Why is she my favorite? You have to ask why? Oh, you sad, sad people, how I pity your ignorance of that which is beautiful and wondrous in this world.

    7. Which poker player do you dislike the most and why?

    Hellmuth would be an easy answer, perhaps too easy. But he made a donation For Peyton and that raises him in my esteem. Can't say I much like Sheikhan, in part because he allows other people to call him "Sheiky", and in part because, for all the noise he makes, he isn't very interesting. You see Hellmuth go into hysterics and maybe it's awful to watch, but at least it's fun watching him suffer so. Sheikhan...he's boring.

    8. Do your coworkers know about your blog?

    Not exactly. A few at my old job did, and here they know that I do some freelance writing about poker, but no one here reads my blog. That I know of. I don't advertise the fact.

    9. What is the most you have won in a cash game or MTT (both live and online)?

    I won the Grublog Classic, the first WPBT event, and I'll be bragging about that forever since I'll never get a sniff of such glory again. I won $256, a book by Bill "Bulldog" Sykes, and one of my most prized possesions, a set of poker chips. A World Series bracelet might mean more to me than those chips. Maybe.

    10. What is the most you have lost in a cash game or in one day total (both live and online)?

    I lost all of a hundred bucks in one day, when my bankroll was, oh, $175. That was the day I truly internalized what bankroll management was all about.

    11. Who was your first poker blog read?

    I started my blog, wrote a few posts about poker, and one day I wondered if anyone else out there was writing about poker. And that's how I ran into Iggy. Here's how long ago that was--he found my blog because I left comments on his site. And yes, when I signed up at Party Poker, I used Bonus Code Iggy.

    12. What satisfies you more, your aces holding up for a big pot or a bluff working for a big pot?

    The fact that I have to even think about this shows that I should bluff more. Or perhaps not, as bluffing at my limits is rarely the smart move. That said, money stolen is twice as sweet as money earned.

    13. Why do you blog?

    You're talking to a guy who has 20 spiral notebooks filled with ramblings from high school, college and beyond. I went to college in pre-email days and I would crank out these 15-page handwritten letters to friends scattered across the country. I've written millions of words that will never see the light of day (if I have anything to say about it). I eat, I breathe, I write. If I couldn't write I'd go nuts. It's cheaper than therapy. And the fact that you good people actually take the time to read it is much appreciated.

    14. Do you read blogs from an RSS reader like bloglines or do you visit each blog?

    I read like 70 blogs, so without Bloglines my browser would be fried. RSS is a godsend for bloggers and readers alike. Though for some reason I always go to Iggy's and Pauly's sites to read it in the raw. Nostalgia, perhaps. I should visit more blogs to leave comments, I need to do that more.

    15. Would you rather play poker for a living than do what you currently do for a living?

    In my not-so-distant past I had jobs where I would've accepted the sweet embrace of death rather than drive in on Monday morning. But I like the place I work now, good company, great people. And the life of a poker pro is not for me. I lack the temprement. And the discipline. The talent, too.

    16. Do you wear a tin foil hat on occasion?

    I'm pretty good at not seeing conspiracies when my aces get cracked by J-4 offsuit. But since the Bush Administration seems to believe every American is potentially part of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell, I may buy some stock in Alcoa and Reynolds Wrap. Don't wanna be accused of mindcrime!

    17. If you had to pin it down to one specific trait, what does a great poker player have (or do) that separates them from an average player?

    Great players have the courage of their convictions. If they think you're bluffing, they'll make the call. If they think you hit your gutshot draw, they'll lay down top set. And the great ones make those difficult decisions better than the merely good. Aggressive players are everywhere. Discipline and experience can teach you to make big laydowns. But what I admire are the players who succeed in those horribly ambigous situations. They think it over, make a decision, and act upon it.

    18. Is Drizz the coolest person on the planet for naming his baby Vegas?

    I think Drizz would agree that he's the fourth-coolest person in his HOUSEHOLD. Tho if they'd named her "Vegas Baby, Vegas"...that would've been pretty cool.

    19. What is your primary poker goal and are you close to accomplishing it?

    I'd like to write a really, really good novel where poker plays a big part. Not some banal "young hotshot faces down the grizzled pro at the final table!" piece of crap. Something people who play poker and those who don't could appreciate and enjoy. How close am I to accomplishing it? Got a lot of ideas. Got a lot of stuff written. Got nothing near completion. Just a matter of doing the work.

    20. What is your primary online site and why?

    When I play I split time between PokerStars and Full Tilt. Did you know Isabelle Mercier is sponsored by PokerStars!!!

    21. What site do you dislike and why?

    Don't like Pacific Poker. Don't like the graphics (too brown, reminds me of my college apartment) and that annoying "HONNNNNKKKK!" when you're 3 picoseconds late to act. And even though I know Yahoo Poker doesn't really count, I really dislike Yahoo Poker. When I die I'll know I'm in Hell if I fired up my heavenly laptop and find I can only access Yahoo Poker.

    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    I Cracked the Top Twenty!

    Reading Bill's blog this A.M. I learn that there's a site called Top Gambling Blogs that lists the top, uh, gambling blogs. So of course I race over there to see if I'm listed because if I'm not I'm just gonna DIE!

    And I am! Whee! I'm number 19. Something else to put on my resume!

    But then I look it over...and, um, there are some curious descriptions of these top gambling blogs. And some curious spellings of words common in the gambling world. To wit:

    Blog #4 is the Proker Prof's Poker Blog. "Proker"? Typo, gotta be.

    Adding weight to this theory is blog #7, the Parky Poker Blog. Parky? This reminds me of a Get Smart episode, Maxwell Smart comes up against an Oriental criminal mastermind obviously modeled after Dr. No. The bad guy holds up his hands, which are actually pincers, and says in a sinister and heavily accented voice, " CRAWWWWW!"

    The oblivous Smart says, "You're evil plan will never work, Craw!"

    And of course the bad guy's name is actually the CLAW, but he can't quite pronounce it thus, and he gets pissed and shouts at Smart "It's not the Craw! It's...the...CRAWWWW!!"

    And Don Adams scrunches up his eyes, looks confused, goes back to looking oblivious and says, "Well, Craw, the place is totally surrounded".

    And the joke goes on and on like that. Ah, nothing like a bit of racist stereotyping to start off the day.

    The Triplets of Greenville are listed at #8, followed at #9 by Otis's gig at the PokerStars Poker Blog, which the pollster, with an almost Zenlike clarity, says "Looks like the blog for Poker Stars." Indeed.

    Did you know Mr. Rini was a professional poker player? You do now. And if something is posted on the Internet it MUST be true. Tell you what, if Bill and Halverson (#22) don't get invites to next years National Championship of Heads-Up Poker, we're going class-action on NBC's ass.

    Speaking of lawsuits, somehow This Is Not A Poker Blog is listed eleventh, even as the pollster concedes this oddity by stating "yet it still hits the top 25 gambling blogs!" I sense a Texas-sized conspiracy here.

    Why do people read The Poker Chronicles? Because that's where you'll find "Poker stories and plotting". Yup, you gotta love the plotting. Gotta have plotting. The twists, the turns! How can he possibly escape that nerve gas strike on the Bellagio? Who knew Matt Maroon was the pokerblogger equivalent of Jack Bauer?

    Grubby is described as a "Las Vegas radio/courier guy". which doesn't quite seem enough to sum up the Grubbian oeuvre. "Courier Guy" would actually be a cool name for a Tier-6 superhero. Courier Guy! I like it.

    The site of DoubleAs is described as "personal blog of a poker fan". Yeah, I'd probably be a poker "fan" too if I made winning WPT seats about as common an occurance as picking up the dry cleaning.

    Maudie is listed one spot ahead of me. According to the description, she is "apparently an avid player". Apparently she is. Because she took a big pot off me in Vegas when she flopped a set of sixes when I held top pair with AQ. A trap that wasn't too goddam apparent to me at the time.

    A British blog that is listed as Gamling Tips, Betting and Gaming News Blog is described as having a "very accurate title", without explaining what "Gamling" is. Some odd Cockney expression this devoted Anglophile has overlooked?

    My own listing comes under my online AKA of "Mene" Gene. How am I described? "Pittsburgh’s most decorated blogger". On my site I modestly describe myself merely as Pittsburgh's most decorated poker blogger, but, again, if it's on the Internet it must be true. Tomorrow night I'm going to a get-together for Pittsburgh bloggers (it's at a bar, natch) and I'm quite looking forward to telling them that they're in the presence of the 800-pound gorilla. The alpha male. The Most Decorated.

    If you have a poker blog, and you didn't make this list, don't fret. Reading it over, and seeing who DIDN'T make it, almost made me feel silly. But only almost--as Oscar Wilde once said, "The only thing worse than being talked NOT being talked about." Stroke my ego, and I purr. I take it any way I can get it.

    It's incredible how many fantastic writers there are clattering away about the pursuit of calculated risk. And, of course, about other subjects, pretty much every subject under the sun. I'm actually quite proud of the fact that I allegedly have the nineteenth-ranked gambling blog and I, like, don't GAMBLE. So now I'm shooting to make a few more lists on subjects I know nothing about. For example, a list of blogs discussing ways to resolve the tensions between Islam and Christianity. And, certainly, a list of sites that discuss how to enjoy mutually-satisfying yet committment-free casual sex. I think I can crack the Top Five on that one.

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    You Gotta Laugh, 'Cause It Hurts Too Much to Cry

    I have a problem with my foot. Plantar fascitis, or something like that. I don't know and I don't care to learn how to spell it. I dinged my Achilles a few weeks ago, tweaked it again, and then one day at work it really started to hurt. Got worse, got worse, until Saturday I couldn't walk on it. My doctor friend advised me to get some arch supports, as my own arches are "awful-looking". Great.

    So I've been wearing my running shoes everywhere, hobbling as best I can, and today I could actually WALK instead of lurching. I couldn't walk fast, I couldn't walk far, and God knows I couldn't walk up and down stairs without grabbing onto something and easing my way down. Especially down. Christ that hurts.

    So after my Gunners went down I took a peek outside, saw the sun, and decided this might be my best, last chance to mow my lawn before I get triple-canopy foliage in the backyard. And then my phone rings. I'd wager that Al has made Dial-A-Shots that found the recipient in the middle of recreational drug use, in the middle of committing a felony, in the middle of coitus. This may have been the first time he called and the dork on the other line was about to commence yardwork. I utterly suck.

    So I mow. Things are going well. Everything was hunky-dory until I stepped into the chuck-hole in my front yard. Now, be fair, this is just a plain 'ol hole. We do have a woodchuck living up on our hill, and the first chance I get I'm emptying a clip as his flat-tailed ass. Because I stepped in this hole with my bad foot and I certainly can't blame myself for it. The pain was way, way up there, but fortunately the mower drowned out my squeals.

    I hurt, but I'm still able to walk. I mow the front, I mow the back. I almost mow the back. Because, yes, I crank my foot again. I wouldn't say this time that I stepped in a hole, exactly. More a shallow depression. The pain was the same. Now, you step in a hole one time, you get pissed. You yell and scream and thunder at the uncaring gods above. You do it a second time...I just squeezed my eyes shut and laughed. Even with two good feet I can't walk, so what's really the big deal if one is messed up? It'll cut my tripping and stumbling in half.

    For dinner I went Mediterranean. A salad, with grilled chicken, olives, feta, chick peas. Actually, that's more Adriatic. Anyway, I played a SNG that took forever and a day. We lost 2 players in 5 hands and the rest of us stuck around for an hour. The play was fairly tight and no one could go bust.

    I tried, though. With the action folded around I raised with A-6 in the small blind. The big blind re-raised and with the blinds big I figured now was the time to take a stand. He turns over QJ. "No jack no queen..." I say...I really gotta stop doing that. A queen on the flop and boy does my foot hurt. The six on the turn mocks me with it's promise of hope...and then another six pops up on the river.

    Unreal. The power of the re-suck. I play magnificently from there, get heads up, get about a 3-1 chip lead. He limps, I raise with K-9, he goes all-in, I call. He has 9-6. Aha, domination! "No six, no six..." I chant, and just as I realize I'm jinxing myself a six is turned. My foe types "gg" and I have to tell him the pot is his. A few hands later I have KQ, he has AJ. I flop a queen. The turn is a king. "Aw, come on..." I moan, and, yes, as if in answer to my prayers a ten hits on the river. So very, very sick.

    So I'm jinxed. I must be. And the very next hand I push with K-3, he calls with K-4. And I flop a three. I'm chosen. Some shortstack mastery later I retake the chip lead. I don't waste second chances. Well, third chances. Be fair, it's probably closer to fourth.

    And then came the hand that still has me a bit dazed. I have J-9 and my raise is called. The flop comes Q-J-9, with two clubs. He bets out, I raise, he pushes, I call. He turns over Q-10. OK, he's got oodles of outs. Forgetting how many times I've jinxed myself already I murmer, "Keep 'em small, keep 'em small..." The turn is the deuce of clubs. "Very nice," I whisper. And the river is the three of clubs, and I sit back in my chair and raise my arms in triumph. I type, "gg".

    And I see the chips pushed his way. Because I was so a-fearing his straight draw that I didn't see that the queen in his hand was that of clubs. And he runner-runnered a flush. Now, it wasn't the fact that he hit runner-runner to beat me that staggered me. It's that I thought I'd won. I thought it was over. I relaxed. And then instead I found out I was crippled.

    Almost literally. Because when I slid my chair back under my table I stopped my momentum with my foot. My bad foot. And, my stars, did it hurt. I could practically hear my foot department shouting, "HEY JACKASS, YOU WANNA GIVE IT A REST?". I busted out the next hand.

    Sigh. My foot doesn't hurt too bad right now. Of course, I haven't tried walking on it yet. Sigh. Gotta start watching where I'm going. Gotta start watching the cards a little more closely. Or pick one or the other and focus my attention on that aspect of my life.

    Arsenal vs. Barcelona; or, At Least I Have Pants On

    I'm home, I'm fed, I'm ready to live-blog the Champions League Final between Arsenal and Barcelona. I think I'll also play in some cheapy multi-table SNG so I have something to write about in case the game is especially dire. Which I don't think it'll be.

    Just had some fun. Realtor calls last night, wants to show my house between 12:30 and 1. Fine says I. I hobble to my car after getting out of work (having foot problems), I go to the library, go to the grocery store for soy sauce and butter (different receipes) and hit my driveway at 1:30. I'm good, right? I get out of my work things, make some lunch, sit down for a pre-game episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force...and I hear the lockbox rattle and suddenly my home is invaded. They were running late. I changed into sweats, so I looked...let's say I looked comfortable. I switched off the TV so they didn't have to hear a giant milkshake calling a big ball of meat "Dorkface". The prospective buyer was a woman about my age and her mother. When she left, she didn't look impressed. Not a bad-looking woman. She didn't look impressed with me, either.

    Having strangers come into what was once your castle, your lair, your sancturary, and open your closets and frown at your cabinets and walk out looking at a list of's depressing. Awhile back I wrote a post titled Five Things To Do Before I Die. Well, one thing I'm NOT gonna do again before I die is buy a house. Unless I start making a lot more money. And it's brand new. And I plan on turning it into my burial pyre.

    Are you ready for some SOCCER!!!!

    2:38: OK, I like the promos with the heavenly choir bellowing "The ChaaaaamPIONSSSSSSSS!". It gives weight to the event. But I've heard it 6 times already and the teams aren't even on the pitch yet.

    Correction. I've heard it seven times.

    Fifty years of the Champions League. Does that make this Champions League L? I believe it does.

    It's gonna be awhile before kickoff. I think a little poker, and maybe a midday beer.

    2:44: Never understood the walking-out-with-kids-from-the-other-squad deal. It's a nice act of sportsmanship, especially in a sport where you have hooligans and riots and fans who openly embrace racism and fascism. But would you want your kid holding hands with, say, Barry Bonds? Terrell Owens? No thanks.

    Ooh, kickoff! Barca in their traditional strip, Arsenal in bright gold. Steelers wear gold. They won the Super Bowl. An omen.

    2:49: So CLOSE! Henry with an incredible first touch, spins in on goal but he got in too close and struck Valedez with his shot from the outside of his foot. And then Henry fired a laser that had to be parried away.

    3:03: Lehmann looks stout on the line.

    And just as I say that, disaster.

    Eto'o is put through clean, Lehmann rushes out, clips Eto'o on the foot, and Lehmann gets the red card. So now Barca only has to play against 10 men, Almunia comes on, Pires comes off. Lehmann saved a goal, for now, but now the Gunners are playing for penalties.

    In poker news, I have 99, the flop comes 10-10-6 with two hearts, a shortstack pushes and I call. He has K-6, he needs a king or a six...there's the king! But it's a heart, giving me outs...and I spike a nine on the river. Love the resuck.

    3:21: Almunia solid so far. The action is mostly on Arsenal's side, as you'd expect. They're saying Lehmann is the first player ever sent off in UCF history. Can that be right? NO player ever committed a professional foul, no frustrated hard man came in with a late clattering tackle on a preening superstar striker? That's pathetic.

    Eboue nearly earned a penalty with a ghastly dive. And then.


    Campbell with a header on a cross from Henry! Went up there and got it and no one marked him.

    Ashley Cole with a scything tackle, and when the Barca player expected a hand up and a pat on the back Cole gave him a "WTF?" look. Get your own ass up off the ground. Game on, boys, game on.

    3:33: Eto' o slips through, and rattles one off the woodwork! In injury time yet. Would've been a tough one at the end of the half. Oh, Almunia made the save on Eto'o's shot. Increidble reflex save.

    Boy, "Eto'o's" looks awfully funny.

    I got bounced in the tournament. Getting a bit short I raise with AK, one caller, flop comes Q-Q-4. I push, he has...AQ. Of course he does.

    And we go to the break! 45 minutes to glory. Time to break out the oranges. Maybe I'll have that beer now.

    3:57: Dial-a-shot with Al achieved. Beer tastes good when you should be at work. Long way to go yet. Henry gets booked, though he got all ball. Refs so far...more than shaky.

    4:06: A-10 beats QQ and I'm in good shape in my next little SNG. Almunia is playing fantastic. Arsenal is under siege, and that probably won't change.

    I don't know if the ref has made one correct call so far. Incredible.

    Henry, good Lord. Made two defenders looks absurd. Magic.

    4:25: Shit. I guess it was inevitable, but Eto'o scored. Lovely thru ball by Larsson, Almunia got beat on the short side. Henry wasted a chance earlier.

    4:29: Double shit.

    They go 995 minutes without a goal, and they give up 2 in 2 minutes. Alumia let it go right thru the five-hole. Terrible goal. What a way to lose it.

    To add to the misery, I finish 2nd in my SNG, twice going all in with the best of it, and twice getting outflopped. Groan.

    4:43: And that's it. I guess you'd have to say Barca was the better team, but having to play with 10 men for 80 minutes makes it hard to judge. 14 minutes away from the title, and then the wheels fell off. But eventually you're gonna give up a goal under that kind of pressure, for that long. The officiating was flat-out horrible, but it usually is in soccer. Eboue's dive was egregious, and it nearly got Arsenal the Cup. If there was really good officating, I mean if every call was correct, if every dive was called, every cheap shot punished as it should...the game wouldn't be the same, would it?

    Sad if that's Henry's last game at Arsenal. Especially with him bitching at Wenger for much of the 2nd half, and then not burying that lone chance that might've clinched it. Tough game for Pires, play 10 minutes and you're off, and it's nothing to do with you.

    OK, I'm done. Some sun out there, maybe I'll get to cut the grass. Oh joy.

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    Now That's What I Call Penis Envy

    Though I don't have all the facts, Bobby Bracelet has been forced to pull down his blog by nefarious forces. I think each of us has posted something on our blogs that we might not want certain people with jurisdiction over our lives to read, and BB has had some rather juicy episodes, has he not? When he wasn't winning poker tournaments he was cavorting with Playboy bunnies, while having his junk confirmed as huge not once, not twice, but thrice!

    What makes this ironic are the incredibly good works he's done the last few months. If you haven't heard the story go here to read about the charity work he's done for a little girl named Peyton Novoa, which has gotten a TON of attention in the poker community. Some of the biggest names in poker have donated goodies you can bid on in a silent auction. I've flogged Phil Hellmuth with a wet noodle many a time here, but Phil donated $2,000 and gets a standing O from me. Gavin Smith, the newly-crowned WPT Player of the Year, also made a big donation and is offering a $5K prize pool for a tournament to be held later this year. In Philly, which isn't too far from Pittsburgh, people. Seats will be auctioned off starting in August. I daresay there will be more info coming about this in the future.

    But no good deed goes unpunished, and Bobby's getting the squeeze. As Sophocles once said, "That's fuckin' bullshit". I think it was Sophocles.

    I still haven't gotten around to changing my URL. Just because I want to, not because the Man is coming down on me with both feet. I'm actually taking a half-day tomorrow, because my very-civilized company gives us extra time off in the summers to use as we like, and I have a half-day to burn before month's end. I can't use it this Friday, so I'm taking it tomorrow to watch the Arsenal capture the Champions League against the Barcelona Dragons, or whatever they're called. I may live-blog the event so JoeSpeaker and Al can follow along as true footie history is made. None of this Premiership spend-a-thon or FA Cup (they still hold that?) rigamarole. The European Championship, bitches. Hey, if Wenger holds the trophy aloft its even money Sir Alex sticks a fork in his eye. Everybody wins.

    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Very Trendy

    Read a post by Andrew Sullivan today where he mentions a new feature at Google called Google Trends. Plug in a subject and Google will graph the search and news volume for that topic. So I plugged in poker and saw how the game has waxed and waned in our global consciousness. It even flags certain peaks and valleys and links to news stories that may give some context. Pretty neat feature.

    The city with the most searches for poker? Vegas, natch. Number two? Stockholm. The top five countries? Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and Iceland. Have I mentioned in this poker blog recently that I love Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and Iceland? I do love them, very much.

    Crap. I tried "Mean Gene" and got an error message that reads "Your terms do not have enough search volume to show graphs". Damn my anonymity.

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    Ups and Downs...Mostly Downs

    After clawing my way back from the brink of oblivion I...ended up going over the brink. No biggie, just lost the freebie money Party gave me. I'd like to say I lost because of bad beats, but sadly that wouldn't be true. Not exactly. Lost some tough hands. Couldn't connect with a flop to save my life. Couldn't catch my draws. Played too timid at times, too aggressive with others. I'm mostly just dicking around for fun and shouldn't be surprised when I lose.

    I busted even though I hit on two ridiculous hands. I'm dealt aces in the big blind. There's a raise, a re-raise, and I raise the pot. A fold, and the second raiser thinks long and hard. I know he has kings. He suspects aces. He calls, and the flop comes A-7-2. That ace will probably freeze him, and we check through the flop and the turn that brings another seven to fill me up. The river is a very handsome king. I push all-in, knowing that he probably has eels writhing around in his belly. Can he really lay down kings full? He almost did it--but he called. "I knew you had it" he said, disgusted. Well, obviously he didn't KNOW. He strongly suspected. It wasn't enough.

    A bit later I'm dealt queens, raise, and another guy comes over the top of me. He has to have aces or kings. Can I fold this? Well, if I think he has aces or kings, I should fold. I call. I guess I put him on AK.

    The flop comes Q-7-4. I check with Oscar-worthy meekness. He bets the pot, I check-raise, all the money ends up in the middle. The turn card is an ace--oogh. I show my ladies, he shows his cowboys. Whew. Doubled up again.

    Which I ended up losing by days end. Oh well, no biggie. Though for the fun I got out of it I should've just cashed it out.

    Played some beach volleyball last night, just for fun, saw some folks I haven't seen since last summer. They put a new roof on the place, put in a big-screen TV...I'll be spending a lot of time there this summer. My Nittany Lions lost the NCAA volleyball championship to UCLA tonight, but UCLA pretty much wins every year.

    I'll be changing the URL of this here site soon, maybe tomorrow or Monday. It's gonna be, because some sonofabitch took "meangene" and let his blog die and Blogger won't give it up. I just want to make sure first that I don't, you know, lose everything I've written before the switch. That'd be a goddam hoot. I may do some cutting and pasting and save some stuff in case the unthinkable happens. Well, it'd be unthinkable to me. The rest of the world would press on.

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Quick Question For My Readers

    For some time I've been thinking of switching my URL from "meangenepoker" to something more non-poker-centric, like "meangenenon-poker-centric". Would this cause more headaches that it would resolve? Even if its MY headache that's resolved and your headaches that are caused? I know Maudie switched her URL and the world kept spinning, and I'd like to think I could do the same thing without too much fuss.

    Does anybody really care?

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    Strolling Down Memory Lane, A Book Under My Arm

    The other day I talked about one of my favorite books, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon. I read it for the first time right after I graduated from college, at a time when the story reasonated a bit too deeply with me. I left Happy Valley not knowing what I was going to do with my life (still waiting to figure that out), I'd made the mistake of falling in love with two people at the same time (in my case two girls, unlike Art Bechstein), and here I was back in Pittsburgh, living with my parents, wondering why I'd gone to college in the first place. Still trying to figure that out too.

    Back then my library would paper-clip little slips of paper inside the back cover so people could write down little comments about what they though of it. The slip was divided into four boxes, each box big enough for one, or maybe two words. When I checked out Mysteries there were two "reviews". One said, "Good!". The other said, "Great!". The world before the internet and Amazon and blogs was a much more succinct world.

    I blasted through it in a single day, and when I was done I was rather sad, for a number of reasons. First of all, it's rather a sad book, bittersweet and touched with what Chabon calls "the ruinous work of nostalgia". I found myself thinking about my college days, all that fun and adventure, and how quickly they'd passed. And I thought about the two beautiful girls I'd left behind. Well, to be honest, they left ME behind. But you don't need to know that.

    What also made me sad was Chabon's gorgeous writing. He wrote Mysteries when he was 24; I read it when I was 22, and trying to imagine myself as a writer. And I knew I'd never be able to write as well as that. I consoled myself with the fact that I knew I had some talent, but when you're 22 and just out of college and the two girls you love have waved goodbye and you're living with your felt like piling on.

    I read Wonder Boys and A Model World and Werewolves in their Youth, the books Chabon published after Mysteries. But I still haven't read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the book that won Chabon the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I've checked it out of the library twice, but never cracked the cover. This is partly because I don't read as much as I used to, the Internet and writing takes up more of my time. But I have to admit that I feel a bit gunshy about reading what is probably another ridiculously brilliant book. My ego is filligreed with all sorts of cracks and fissures.

    My library is accepting donations for their yearly book sale. The last four years or so I've been a giver, not a buyer, and this year will be no exception. I'll probably lug four or five boxes packed to the ribs with paperbacks and business textbooks and CDs I've never listened to. Reducing my material possessions seems a path to enlightenment and serenity--and anyway, if I ever want to read any of these books again I can order it from any library in the city and have it two days later. I don't need them on my shelves anymore.

    I'm actually recycling many of these books, because I picked a lot of them up at big book sales or flea markets. Books for a quarter, a dime? A few bucks in my pocket could fill up an entire shelf. During my senior year at Penn State I stopped at the Hetzel Union Building (or, as it was so cleverly nicknamed, the "HUB") during the last day of one of these book sales. I'd picked up a dozen the day before, but as I wondered the tables piled high with parchment I saw the sign announcing the terms for this final day of the sale. They had stacks of paper grocer bags, and the price was a buck for each bag of books. Fill one to bursting, and it was only one American dollar.

    I had a ten in my wallet. I spent a good two hours culling the best of the picked-over tomes and squirreling them away in my paper bags. I filled four of them. I handed over my sawbuck, felt richer after I was handed my change, and scurrried out of the auditorium like a thief.

    One problem. Books are heavy. Very heavy. And they have sharp corners. And I don't have superhuman upper body strength, not then, not now. The 10-minute walk back to my apartment become something of a Death March. One of the bags tore apart and spilled literature all over the lawn. I stuffed as many as I could in the book bag slung over my shoulder, redistributed the others as best I could, and waddled my way back home. I think that was the only time I ever rode the elevator to my fourth-floor apartment. When I was sober, I should add. When I got home and dumped all those books on the floor, it was like a kid emptying his sack filled with Halloween candy. I stacked them on the table like you'd stack chips after winning a huge pot. With relish.

    I love books. Loved them since I was a little kid. My dad has these enormous shelves packed and stacked with paperbacks--mostly science fiction which, unfortunately, I never really developed a taste for. I vividly remember going to the library with my first-grade class and each of us got our own library card. A rectangle of stiff, light-blue paper with a thick metal blank set in the upper right hand corner. My full name, alas (Euuuuuuugene) written in black Magic Marker. On that first visit each of us was allowed to check out one book--while everyone else picked something with more pictures than words, I selected a hardback novel in the pre-teen section, which I chose because it had a cartoon picture of a zooming hockey player on the cover. I bit off more than I could chew--even though I was a precocious reader it was too advanced for me.

    But I made many, many, MANY return visits to my library, which is the same one I go to today. A few years after I got my card later I remember walking to the library from my house, a pretty decent hike along a treacherous road and through some woods and back yards. We stopped at a five and dime first for provisions (Gobstoppers for me) and then walked over to the library. I got there all by myself. I had a library card. I could take out any book I wanted, whenever I wanted. It wasn't quite as big a deal as getting my driver's license or losing my virginity, but it was close.

    As I've sorted through my books and decided which I'll donate and which I'll never part with, I thought about the books that made the strongest impression on me. Certainly The Mysteries of Pittsburgh did. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien--that certainly did. I read the short story by that name for a literature class, and one day I was dawdling through the stacks at Pattee Library and came across the book. I picked it up off the shelf, flipped through it, and took a seat at a study carrel. It was early Februrary, it still got dark around 6PM, and I sat in that chair for three hours straight. When I finished I sat there for a good bit more, just thinking. It was about 8PM, I was hours overdue for dinner. I got up, gently slid it back onto its place on the shelf, and headed home. It was dark, and drizzling, and while I remember those details (and remember that when I got home my roommates had already had dinner and there was leftover pot roast waiting for me) I don't remember passing a single person the whole way home. I'm sure I did--State College didn't suddenly turn into a ghost town. But no one on the sidewalks registered. I had too much to think about. If you haven't read it, it's a brilliant book. It's not just about Vietnam, or war. It's also about the elasticity of truth, about the true power of storytelling. I wrote the best paper of my college career about that book--althought the B+ I received made me so angry I nearly reported my prof to the Engligh department, as her criticism led me to believe she hasn't read my paper but instead used some tired feminist rhetoric to "prove" that War is Bad. I also wrote about The Things They Carried on my GRE essay, which I got a perfect score on. Those three hours along in Pattee marked me for life.

    One thing I really missed about leaving Penn State (besides the thousands of nubile young women) was being able to walk everywhere. I love to walk, but finding a place that's both stimulating and fairly flat is hard sometimes in Pittsburgh. But now I'm in luck--every day I walk from my shuttle lot to my building on the North Shore. I walk along the Allegheny River, where there's a path that turns into a wide, concrete promenade at PNC Park. It's a nice walk, the skyline spread out before me, ducks and geese doing their avian thing, and very few people to interrupt my morning (and evening) reverie. There are a few homeless people who hang out along the river, especially right below the Clemente Bridge, where there's a big covered space that come Memorial Day will house a place where you can rent canoes and kayaks. Walking past there during some especially cold March mornings there would be up to a dozen people sleeping there in that relative shelter, huddled inside their sleeping bags. Jesus, they must've been cold. None of them have ever bothered me.

    I walk under four bridges along the way. A railroad bridge I don't know the name of, and then the Carson (9th Street), Warhol (7th Street) and Clemente (6th Street) Bridges. One day as I passed under the Warhol Bridge I saw a blanket stretched among the steel beams atop a massive stone support. Over the days more items accumulated up there--a small chair, the kind you might see paired with a first-grader's desk, and books. Whoever was living up there was using the girder as a bookshelf, stacking a number of paperbacks and some leather-bound volume pulling away from its bindings. It's too high for me to see what the titles are. Actually, it's something of a mystery to me how the person living up there (if anyone IS still living up there) gets up and down from his perch. A ladder doesn't seem practical, someone would steal it...maybe he's a rock-climber.

    Memory plays tricks on us. Sometimes it's a practical joke--we bump into a long-lost love after years apart and we can't remember her GODDAM NAME. Sometimes it dazzles you by pulling a quarter out of your ear. It happened like that for me while walking to work a few weeks ago. It was a beautiful morning, the sky brilliant blue, and I idly wished I could spend the day outside, maybe toss a line in the Allegheny and catch myself some breakfast. I passed under the bridge, saw those books and the blanket that gave the tenant his privacy...and as though hit by a thunderbolt I remembered a fantastic book I read as a kid, a book I hadn't thought about for 25 years but one that I dearly loved.

    After work (and a quick catalog search) I drove straight to the library and went upstairs to the children's section. In the days since I was a customer the kids' section was greatly expanded, and I'll admit I felt a little bit weird looking through the stacks with a bunch of six-year-olds. I remember the shelves reaching halfway to the clouds, but now I had to stoop to see just about every title.

    The book I looke for, and eventually found, was My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. The book is about a boy named Sam Gribley, who leaves his home in New York City and lives for a year in the Catskill Mountains. He makes a home out of a hollowed-out tree, raises a falcon chick to be his hunting partner, and learns how to be totally self-sufficent out in the wild.

    When I read the book as a kid, I couldn't believe that this boy just left his home and family behind and went to live in the woods. And his family were FINE with it. How fantastic would that be? What little boy hasn't dreamed about running away from home with a knapsack over his shoulder and having great adventures?

    Most of the book is about Sam learning to survive. He learns to make a fire with his flint; he traps animals and harvests plants; and he hollows out his tree. That tree-house, which was big enough for Sam to sleep in and actually had a chimney and fireplace inside, was the focus of many idle daydreams when I was a kid. Right up to the point where I realized girls weren't so icky after all.

    Re-reading the book as an adult I was struck by how certain parts suddenly sent me back to my childhood. Like, Sam learns to grind acorns into flour, and he often eats acorn pancakes and blackberry jam for breakfast. I tried that, harvesting acorns from a huge tree by my bus stop. The results, which came after Herculean labor, were absolutely disgusting. Do not try that at home, kids, at least not without a bit more research than I did.

    Sam runs away from home, goes to live in the woods...and his parents are cool with it. Today, even if they WERE cool with it, there would be a massive manhunt and Rita Cosby and Greta Van Sustren would be on every goddam night talking for two hours about that poor missing boy and his horrible parents. In fact, reports in the papers about a wild boy living in the mountains do get people out looking for him, and in the end Sam's whole family comes out to see him. He's happy to see them--as time goes on he wonders if he WANTS to be found, so he has an excuse to go home--but instead of taking him back Sam's family decides to STAY with him. I remember being very disappointed about that--having mom and dad and ten siblings around would remove all the romance of living by yourself in the woods.

    I did not know until I read this new paperback edition of the book (the picture of Sam on the cover looks so much like me at 13 that I'm thinking of filing a lawsuit) that, 30 years later, George wrote a sequel titled On the Far Side of the Mountain. I'm hesitant to read it--I'm afraid it might spoil this perfect little memory from my childhood. There's also a book titled Frightful's Mountain, which is written from the point of view of Sam's falcon. I'm not sure if I'll read that either. But I probably will. I have a niece and nephew who are about the same age I was when I read My Side of the Mountain for the first time. And while I don't know if putting ideas of running off to the mountains is a good idea, it doesn't seem to have done me much harm. I've always loved the idea of living somewhere quiet and solitary. After re-reading My Side of the Mountain, I see why that idea is so deeply rooted in my memory.

    I heartily recommend you read the books I just talked about at such self-indulgent length. Do that and I'll feel I've accomplished something. Me, I'm gonna go read the book I got out of the library yesterday--The Complete Short Stories of Raymond Chandler. Probably won't read all 1299 pages tonight. But according to the slip of paper clipped to the back cover, these are "excellent short stories". I think I'm in good hands.

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    The CIA is A-OK in My Book

    The Wall Street Journal has an article that says the 3rd-ranking official in the CIA attended poker games in a "hospitality suite" at the Watergate Hotel that is the focus of a federal criminal investigation. The investigation has to do with an unindicted co-conspirator of former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges last year.

    The CIA official is named Kyle "Dusty" Foggo and...wait..."Dusty Foggo"? That's really his name? Ouch. Anyway, the investigation is looking into allegations that Brent Wilkes, a defense contractor who allegedly had dealings with Cunningham, and another contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham, brought prostitutes to the suite for the enjoyement of Cunningham and other congressmen from the mid-nineties through last year. This is where the poker games allegedly took place, though a CIA spokesperson said there were no prostitutes at the games. The spokesperson, Jennifer Millerwise Dyck...wait..."Jennifer Millerwise Dyck"? That's really her name? Ouch.

    Anyway, she said, "Mr. Foggo maintains that government contracts for which he was responsible were properly awarded and administered. If he attended occasional card games with friends over the years, Mr. Foggo insists they were that and nothing more."

    OK, the CIA executive in charge of the pursestrings was hanging around a hotel suite paid for by a defense contractor convicted of bribing a Congressman. And there's talk that hookers were provided to gentlemen who frequented this room. But nothing of that sort happened when Mr. Foggo was there. All he did was play some friendly and wholesome poker. Nothing at all wrong with that. And that's the offical policy of the Central Intelligence Agency. We have yet another powerful ally in the fight to make poker legal nationwide. If you don't like it, just run off an join the Taliban, why don't you?

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Party Hearty

    I haven't played much at Party the last year or so, confining my limited play to the good folks at PokerStars and Full Tilt. But then they threw me some free cash and instead of writing the entire weekend I found myself playing a few hands, including the ones I whined about the other day. Sorry about that; I was weak.

    Anyway, after a good morning's work and some time bashing away at the keyboard I treated myself to a little poker. I figured I'd quickly bust out and could get back to work with a clear conscience. And I thought I was dead when I flopped 2 pair with 5-6 but couldn't chase one final caller as the board filled up with a 7 and an eight. He had to have the straight, and I called his river bet out of spite, but it turned out his bet was a stone bluff and I doubled up. Later I hit a set and doubled up again. Lucky me.

    I decided to go for the gusto and play a 2-table SNG. I would've made the final table with lots of chips had not some jackass called with A-9 against my jacks and hit his ace on the river after a ragged flop. Here's something I really hate about Party--once you're bounced from a tournament, you're locked out of chat. So my comments on the hand, like "nice call, thumbdick!" were not communicated. Perhaps that's for the best.

    I went outside and replaced two missing screens on my porch, did some cleaning, some laundry, some crying, and I sat down at a NL table to make my entry fee back. Here I ran into a character I'm becoming all-too-familiar with--the trash-talking micro-limit moron. I'm amazed at how many people playing for very low stakes regularly use language that, in some cases, would be used as mitigating circumstances in a homicide investigation. I mean, I would never say, "nice call, thumbdick" if I knew the other guy could read it. The oozing sarcasm of "nice call" would be enough to make him cringe with shame. There's no need for name-calling. Unless he hits a two-outer to knock me out on the bubble. That's when I get out the thesaurus.

    But over and over I run into people with shocking manners. For example: I'm sitting in the small blind with AQ. The button limps and I raise the pot. He calls. The flop comes 6-4-2. He bets a quarter. Folks, the man bet a QUARTER. I raise the pot, he calls. OK, that's a bit ominous, he could've paired up somehow. The turn is a nine, he checks, but I need to husband my remaining chips so I check too. The river is a very pretty queen. He checks, I bet, he calls and turns over pocket tens. Me and my lady take the pot.

    Now, I think it's fair to say he didn't play this hand very well. He didn't raise with his pocket pair. He didn't re-raise when I raised. He threw a tiny bet after the flop when he held an overpair and just called my raise. He checked the turn. And, after a queen hit on the river and I bet out, he called again. He could've won the pot with a nice bet on the flop or turn and saved himself a big bet by folding on the river. According to the Theory of Poker, he goofed bigtime.

    So how does he respond to his horrible play. "Fish" he types.

    "Me?" I respond.

    "Nice suckout, fish."

    "Thanks for the free card, I appreciate it."

    "You just got lucky."

    "You let me get lucky. Again, thank you for not betting and giving me a free card."

    I know, I know, you shouldn't teach the monkeys how to use tools. But I don't like being called a fish by someone already wrapped in newspaper and drizzled with malt vinegar. There are some decidely fishy aspects to my game, and I understand them and know how to correct them, but I'm not going to stand for someone dissing me that way. Especially when I'm having fun tilting the jerk.

    Eventually he decided the best way to respond was to question my sexuality and insinuate that he's had carnal relations with my mom. Seems a bit of a jump--from saying I hit a lucky card to besmirching the honor of my sainted mother. I shamed him into silence by saying that I doubted his own mother would approve of his language, but it got to thinking about what kind of creature would say something like that. It shows how different people behave online compared to in person. I mean, if you say something about a guy's mother, and he's standing right in front of've gotta be ready to throw down, right there, right then. And all this over a five dollar pot? Perspective, people.

    Sadly, my adversary soon logged off and I decided to take another SNG swing. Ah, I'd forgotten the joys of Party Poker sit-n-goes. We lost five players in the first nine hands. I rather enjoyed the hand that went raise, re-raise, call, call, call, re-re-raise, call, call, all-in, call, call, call. The flop came all clubs and jack high and all the money ended up in the middle. KJ carried the day. Of course it did.

    "Jeepers," I typed. The next hand I paid my T40 big blind and the guy who won the previous massive hand raised me. His entire stack. "Jeepers creepers," I typed as I folded. Fly, meet sledgehammer. But this day the Poker Gods smiled upon me, as they gifted me with pocket kings when he tried one of his all-in blind steals. His J-3 did not improve and I doubled up. Love them Poker Gods. Though I ended up finishing second when my AJ was dominated by A2 and I missed taking a 9-1 chip lead. Oh well. The thing is, I had fun. And I felt good. Superior, even. Bordering on arrogant. Which of course means that tonight, it's my junk that's for the kicking. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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