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

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    Thursday, June 29, 2006

    Please Explain Why I Don't Work for ESPN, CNN, etc...

    I know that reporters working under a deadline can say stupid things. And when you're working online or blogging these mistakes can be amplified. But Chad Ford of ESPN really outdid himself in his recap of tonight's NBA Draft. Which I missed because I was playing volleyball. And drinking beer. And staring at nubile, underdressed women. Wait, what was my point? Oh, yes. Chad Ford.

    Here's what Ford wrote about Rajon Rondo, who was drafted by Phoenix (but traded to Boston):

    I've had Rondo ranked as the top point guard in the draft and I believe he'll
    end up being better than Telfair.

    OK, fair enough. Let's see what Ford writes about Marcus Williams, drafted by the Nets with the very next Selection:

    Great pick for the Nets. I think they preferred Rajon Rondo, but they end up
    getting the best pure point guard in the draft

    ' let's see what Chad says about Sergio Rodriguez, who was traded from the Suns to the Blazers:

    He's the second best pure point guard in the draft behind Marcus

    So, in the course of 500 words, Chad Ford said:

    He believed Rajon Rondo was the best point guard in the draft

    That Marcus Williams was the best point guard int he draft

    That Sergio Gonzalez was the second best point guard in the draft, behind Marcus Williams.

    This is pathetic. I'm sure Ford has watched thousands of games, scores of workouts, and conducted hundreds of interviews. And he's so frazzled by all this data that he can't even keep straight in his own head who the best prospects are? Isn't that, like, his job? Exactly why should we listen to what Chad Ford says, when even he can't keep track of what he's saying? His analysis fails the Transitive Property of Point Guards.

    Seriously, I could make shit up just as well as anyone else. I know nothing about scouting prospective NBA players but even I could say that Brandon Roy is the early favorite for Rookie of the Year and that the Grizzlies made great moves in getting Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry. ESPN, CNN, I'm available. I work pretty cheap. And I'm capable of realizing that I've contridicted myself three times in in 15 sentences. Yeesh.

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    Getting a Result

    Took 3rd in Wil's Garthmeister Classic tonight. Which was nice, especially as I fell asleep right before and only woke up three minutes before kickoff. Almost decided against it, as the two glasses of wine I had with dinner had me nearly down for the night, but I said what the hell. I ended up getting hit in the face with the deck, doubling up early then about quadrupling up in the middle stages when I was dealt kings, nines, and then queens a few times (once knocking out poor Gracie). I had a ridiculous run there, and I added nicely to my stack when I was up againt the chip leader (TheDibGuy, I believe) and flopped a set of tens. Maybe could've made more on that, but I just raised and took down a big pot.

    I made two big boo-boos. I flopped a ten after raising with J-10, and after I led out I got raised. I just called, which was dumb. Either commit or ditch the hand. I ended up folding on the turn. Then I was dealt pocket sevens, raised, got a call by the big blind, and with two overcards I bet out. But a raise convinced me to lay down the hand. At that point we were three-handed and it pretty much crippled me. When I got knocked out I was quite disappointed. Played OK, got really lucky, finished 3rd, not a bad result at all.

    But I think I'm gonna cash out my account and take a poker hiatus while I'm looking for a job. I've played way too much the last few days, and while the little bit of money I've made will come in handy (I'm eatin' meat tomorrow!) there are other things I should be doing with my time. Like finding gainful employment, and getting the house ready to go. So I'll just have to live vicariously through the lucky bastards playing in the WSOP, and the lucky bastards covering it.

    Now THAT'S How You Play the Hammer

    Been mostly playing heads-up SNGs the last few days, and I'm batting around .800. Man, I thought I sucked at heads-up play, but little did I know how bad the vast majority of donkeys are when it's one-on-one. They lay down hands if the flop doesn't hit them, they don't lead out, they don't raise enough to build a pot or protect their hands...what else? Oh, for some reason most of the folks I've played against show me their cards just about every other hand. This is usually a bad idea, but heads-up it's crazy. Unless you're trying to build a false image and think that somehow you'll have time to take advantage of it, all you're doing is giving away how you play. In capital letters written in red ink. Silly.

    The last guy I played was about the best I'd met so far. He was capable of re-raising, he'd lead out into ragged flops, he'd slow-play. He had me about 2-1 when I was dealt the Hammer in hearts. When the flop came two hearts and queen high I led out, and he re-raised me. Tired of being bullied, I went all-in, hoping he'd cave. He didn't, and turned over QJ. OK, I need a heart. A deuce on the turn gave me a few more of which was the seven of clubs that popped on the river. "Not the way I planned to get there" I typed, and he was a good sport about it.

    I had him down to the felt, but he doubled up with KJ against my K-10, and the next hand I got him to commit while I held QQ. Thing is, he got me to commit while he held KK, and I wasn't so comfortable any more. I regained a 2-1 lead when I was dealt Q-10. The flop came Q-7-2, and after he led out I re-raised. He pushed, and I felt there was no way he had a queen. I was right--he had the Hammer. Now, I don't know about you, but I HATE getting beaten by a civilian wielding the Hammer. It's like extending the middle finger...and then sticking it in my eye. Or worse.

    But the Hammer never lets you down, that's part of it's power. It let's OTHER people down. I had a feeling I'd wriggle off the hook, and that's just what I did, when a brace of nines appeared on the turn and river. My two pair trumped his, and victory was mine.

    Got home from some running around this evening to find two cars in my driveway. OK...who the hell are you? Turns out some people house-hunting blundered across the For Sale sign in my front yard and decided to have a gander. At my back yard. Not the first time that's happened, and they were quite nice about it, as was I. I had to tell them that there's already been a bid accepted, which was a nice feeling. Home inspection is Friday, so I have to get the place shipshape by then. I've been keeping the place spotless the last 2 months, but after the bid was accepted and I knew no one else would be barging through my front door, I've let it slide a bit. Tomorrow will be a tidying day.

    Tomorrow I'm also shaving off the ghastly beard I've been growing since I got laid off. I had a goatee 8 years ago or so and liked it, but I've got grey in my muzzle and facial hair puts ten years on my youthful, boyish face. Ten hard years riding the rails with a bindle over my shoulder. I've been going grey since I was 23, but it's right on my chin that it really shows. Come the morn, the fungus comes off.

    Sunday, June 25, 2006

    Don't Be Ruud; or, Heads Up!

    Far be it from me, an ignorant American, to preach about the Beautiful Game...but I'm an American, so preach I shall:

    • You will find no bigger booster of JP DellaCammara than me (he was the announcer for the late, lamented Pittsburgh Spirit MISL team), but I for one didn't think the referee lost control of the Holland-Portugal match. The PLAYERS lost control. You have a ref handing out yellows and reds like crazy, and other than the craven yet savvy dive by Figo, most of them seemed justified. The ref had sent off 2 players and practically dealt a full table of Yellow Card Hold'Em, yet they kept on pushing it. What the hell was Deco thinking, picking the ball up and walking away with it? At the time I felt Figo deserved a straight red for his head-butt, but maybe that's a bit strong. A pathetic display by both teams, and Portugal now has 2 important players sitting out and half the team in danger of missing the semis if they get past England.
    • I'm quite looking forward to someone explaining to me why Ruud van Nistelrooy wasn't in that game. Was he hurt? Does Van Basten have a thing against him? Regardless of whatever faults he may have, Ruud is so clinical a finisher he should take to the pitch in a white lab coat with a stethoscope draped over his shoulders. Kuit never looked especially threatening, other than that one late turn that Ricardo parried. I still can't believe Ruud never debuuted.
    • Where does Van Basten get those short-sleeved, tight-fitting, button-down shirts? 500,000 pushups from now, I'll need to know.
    • Football is played on a field the size of Vatican City. Hockey is played on what amounts to a glassed-in racquetball court. Can someone explain why hockey is able to shoehorn FOUR officials onto the ice yet soccer makes do with one referee and two linesman who stand along the sidelines? It is an absolute truth, like gravity and evolution, that the officiating in soccer is horrible. Horrible. So, why not have two refs on the pitch (one in front of the action, one trailing), linesman along the touch lines to decide corner and free kicks, and linesman on each side to call offsides? That's eight officials, about the same the NFL uses for every game. Throw in instant replay for goals and maybe you wouldn't see major European and South American cities being burned to the ground every 4 years in post-match rioting. Or, at least they'd be burned to the ground for good reason, not because some ref from Cyprus missed an obvious offisdes.
    • David Beckham is perhaps the most famous footballer in the world. Perhaps the most famous person in the world. He's half of perhaps the most glamorous couple in the world (Brad and Angelina have spent too much time in Namibia to qualify). And yet the moment that will perhaps cement him as an actual sports hero, as opposed to just being a media-boosted celebrity athlete, came when he barfed all over his cleats after he scored on one of his textbook free kicks. Good looking guy. Good looking wife. Nice career. Nice goals. The fact that he puked on the grass, then sucked it up and played another 20 hat is off to the man.
    • After Beckham scored they showed Victoria jumping up and down in celebration. I think you could calculate pi to 694,000 places just by staring at her breasts. And I thought it was absolutely charming that little Brooklyn was holding a balloon and eating ice cream on a stick. Just like a human child.
    • Former England striker Gary Lineker once said this: "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win". Could England be playing the German role in this World Cup? They've been pretty bloody awful, but they keep winning. I know they can't play against Portugal the same way and expect to win...or can they? Will that game be the one Lampard actually puts a ball on net? Will the semis be the one where Gerrard blasts one of his 35-yard screamers? Will the final be the one where Peter Crouch fouls one off his noggin and ends up knighted and the Viceroy of the British Virgin Islands? It's a strange enough world.

    I watched the latest game at the bar where I play volleyball. The cabana was hosting a party so I went into the bar proper. Inside a few people were having lunch--sitting at the bar was no one except two young women. The first had black hair pooling around creamy white shoulders exposed by the spaghetti straps of her emerald-green top. The other had thick, curly blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, a canary-yellow halter top and a denim miniskirt that Victoria Beckham would say was a bit too revealing. I take a seat at the bar, order a Yuengling, and try to concentrate on the game and not them.

    And then the blonde asks the barkeep/proprietor, "Can you turn up the sound on the World Cup game?" It's true--pretty girls respond to guys who ignore them. I know this is a fundamental fact of life, but damned biology gets in the way sometimes.

    He put it on the big screen in the back, giving me an excuse to turn around and watch them and the game at the same time. And we chatted pleasantly about the England game and how the US team tanked and other football-releated topics. Maybe soccer will never take over America the way it has the rest of the world, but let no one doubt that Americans aren't interested in the World Cup. We like spectacle. We like things that are Big. If two luscious 22-year-old hotties can hold up their end of a converstaion about the quality of officiating in soccer, the game is doing well enough over here.

    Probably be watching the games there tomorrow, too. To earn beer money I played 3 heads-up SNGs this morning--and won all three. Thanks in part to my savvy gamesmanship, in part to my feral aggressiveness, and in part to my blinkered overestimation of my game. Actually, I controlled all three games from soup to nuts. I took the initiative. I seized the initiative, I bought the initiative dinner before taking it to a show, and then I met the initiative's parents before we went away for a weekend to Niagra Falls. I played well. Aside from two tough beats I was the puppetmaster and my foes moved only when I fiddled with their strings. Felt good, my confidence was a bit shaken after yesterday. As you can see, it's back now. Thanks to my results and, possibly, from the 4 beers I had this afternoon. Possibly.

    Saturday, June 24, 2006

    Some Good News, Some Bad. Mostly Good.

    Got a bid on the house today. Not quite what we wanted, but in the ballpark. They don't want to close until September, which is sort of later than I wanted, but in a way it's a good thing. It gives me a bit more time to find a new job. I'm pretty sure I'm still going to move into the apartment I lined up, I got a ridiculous deal on it and I actually don't have to pay rent the first two months after I move in. And then I get a discount on the first month I do pay. It ends up that I won't owe a full month's rent till December. I'll find a job by then. Yeah. Of course I will.

    The reason I got such a good deal is that the complex is a bit underpopulated. It's a bit in-between, the location isn't great, tho it is for me. Of course, that could change depending on where my next job is. But the apartments themselves are quite nice, it isn't like there's open gang warfare going on. Or bears.

    In fact, I'll be within walking distance of 2 all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets, a steak house that features an all-you-can-eat salad bar, every fast-food place imaginable, a Boston Market, three or four pizza joints, a wing-and-six-pack shack, a Quiznos, a hot dog joint, a beer distributor, a wine and spirits shop...put in a slots parlor and a strip club and I'd ask Grubby if he wants to move in.

    My wife (ex-wife, dammit) is on vacation, so I've been over her place the last few days feeding the cats. I'll admit that it makes me feel good that they not only remember be, they come over demanding to be petted. Makes me feel wanted.

    Reading about my company's downsizing in the paper the other day, the CEO said that the layoffs were part of a "transformation plan" designed to cut $110 million in costs over the next two years. The MBA in me looks at that statement and nods while tapping the chin. Fuel costs are killing us. Well, then. Sacrifices must be made. The sad clown in me looks at that statement and asks, "Why can't I be part of the transformation?"

    Driving to my wife's (ex-wife, dammit) place the last few days I've had to pass my old building. It hurts. I might be going to the Pirate game Thursday. I'll probably park right outside my building. I'm not looking forward to it. Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't love my job. The actual work, I mean. It wasn't what I'd like to do for the rest of my life. But just about eveything else was great. Losing a job you really love must be hell. 'Cause this sucks right now.

    What also sucks is my poker play today. I went on a wicked tear the last 2 days, increasing my bankroll by about 140%. Which sounds more impressive than it is. I purposely didn't mention it here, knowing I would jinx myself. Well, even thinking about it brought the jinx because I've given away about 75% of my gains today. A combination of cold cards, one really bad call, and some bad luck. And, what's worse, some good luck wasted. Down to three in a six-handed SNG, I managed to hang on by hitting a two-outer on the river, a three-outer on the river, and having the board come a straight when I was drawing to three outs. And I still didn't cash. And then I had to abandon a tournament when my realtor came with the paperwork for the sale of the house. I'm still up, oh, 60% from where I started, but I lost a lot today. Oh well. I'm still way up, just stuck in a variance trough. Focus on the positives.

    No volleyball tonight, no beer. Decided on a quiet night at home. Doing some writing, both for fun and as part of my latest hobby. I found some loony right-wing site that purports to be a beacon of common sense in today's blogospheric morass and I've been getting my jollies tearing them to shreds. Immature, I know, and a waste of my time. There's no challenge in it, it's like hitting a punching bag. Boy, that'd be a blast right about now, rumbling with a heavy bag. I have frustrations.

    The goal that decided the Argentina-Mexico game was a corker. England-Ecuador tomorrow, looking forward to that. Kinda wish now I hadn't cancelled my cable. Gonna be a long, silent summer. Then again, I've lost 10 pounds in the last two months, only...a few tons to go. No TV may lead to a sleeker Mean Gene. That and getting my ass away from the computer. And on that note...

    UPDATE: Kept my ass in front of the computer to win my last SNG of the night, allowing me a night of peaceful slumber. My cause was furthered when an all-in semi-bluff came through. It was heavy on the semi--had a gutshot draw and overbet the pot. He called with just 2 overs, rather frisky--but then I rivered a seven make my straight. So instead of the day being a catastrophe, it was just a minor disaster. Things are looking up!

    And on that note, I'm getting my ass away from the computer. For real this time. I'm sleepy.

    Friday, June 23, 2006

    A Little Bit of Luck is Luck Nonetheless

    After spending two days wallowing in self-pity--and enjoying it immensely--it's time that I snap out of it, pull myself up by my bootstraps, see the forest for the trees, the silver lining, etc. Last night I played some volleyball, had a few beers, and when I got home around midnight I decided to play a little bit of poker. I took second in an SNG (not a $300 one, either) thanks in part to a piece of insight I gleaned a few hands into the game. If you're sitting to the right of a player who goes all-in 90% of the time, and you're dealt aces, and it's folded around to you in the small blind, just limp in. The rest will take care of itself. I don't see the logic of going all-in with the blinds 15-30 and you holding 8-3, but I'm not him. The aces held up.

    Then I played a little micro NL. I was dealt aces in the SB and raised to chase out a few of the limpers. The flop came queen-high, my opponent held Q-J and figured that was good enough to risk all his chips. A bit later I was dealt aces again. This game is quite easy when you hold aces, have you noticed that? Anyway, after a ten-high flop I bet and the other guy goes all-in. I figured him for a set, but he didn't have much behind and I had to call. I spiked an ace on the turn and his set of tens were only second-best. Felt kinda bad for the guy.

    Woke up, didn't feel like going out to watch the rather lame World Cup lineup this AM, so I played another SNG, a Turbo this time so I wouldn't waste the morning. I assumed, of course, that I would make the money. And I did, no thanks to my own play. Down to five there were two big stacks and three itty-bitty ones, and I was one of the itty-bittys. The shortest of us went all-in, the big stack called, and the other guy with chips called too. By the turn the board showed two jacks and two hearts, and for some reason the guy in 2nd-chip position pushed. The chip leader had enough that even if he lost he'd be in first place, and after thinking about it he called and turned over a king-high flush draw. The guy in second only had pocket tens, meaning he was dead to a jack if the chip leader had one. Not the play I'd make, and when a king spiked on the river...I was in the money. With T850.

    A few hands later I knocked out the other shortie when my AK beat his A8. So we're heads up, and I'm about a 10-1 dog in chips. And with the blinds standing at 75-150 and my opponent calling everything in sight, some cards would be in order. And I got them--pocket fours against J-6. Until a jack popped on the flop. I typed "gg" and was halfway to the fridge when a demure four appeared at the river, and suddenly I was in business.

    The next hand my A-10 doubled up on K-8, and then I bluffed at a pot with flush and straight draws that got up up to about T3000, and then I won a nice hand when I pushed with pocket sixes at a threatening board and got him to lay down. The hand that turned the tables came when I had pocket fives, flopped a set, and he made top pair. That gave me a 2-1 chip lead, which I extended to almost the 10-1 gap I'd faced at the start. All I needed was a trap hand...and I got one in AQ. I limped, knowing he'd push. He pushed, and turned over K-8.

    Unfortunatly, the flop came K-8-4 and suddenly my lead wasn't quite so comfy. No matter, a losing the blinds a few hands in a row all the money went in with me holding pocket nines and him with A-2. A two on the flop wasn't good news, nor the five on the turn that gave him a gutshot wheel draw. Which duly hit, yet another four on the river.

    Sigh. Crippled now I pushed with 9-7, only to be called by J-9. And then I flopped a seven, giving me hope that another comeback was in the offing...but he hit a jack on the river and that was that. Pretty disappointed. I got stupid lucky making the money in the first place, let alone second-place, and if I don't hit my two-outer thirty hands earlier this would've been a much shorter story. Still disappointed.

    Well, what to do with the rest of my day? I have a few errands to run, so I'll run 'em. In addition to looking for a job I'd like to get some serious writing done while I'm idle, and hopefully lose some weight, too. That wouldn't hurt. So that means I can't sit at this desk playing poker all day and writing this crap. Time to mosey.

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    There's Got To Be A Morning After

    Thanks to everyone who wished me well after yesterday's bad news. I guess I'm still a bit in a state of shock. Still not quite ready to move on. I think the reason the axe dropped yesterday was because our company announced its quarterly earnings yesterday and they needed something to appease the analysts. Cost-cutting always makes Wall Street smile. Wish I was Wall Street. Everyone would do what I asked.

    I did not get ripped last night, instead going to my volleyball game in an upright position and playing fairly well. Went home, fiddled with Monster a bit, and incredibly found a job with my previous employer's biggest competitor that is almost exactly what I used to do. Down to the same computer systems. What the hell, I'll send 'em a resume. Even if it isn't what I want to do for the rest of my life, it's the next few months that have my attention.

    Last night a big storm rolled in around 2AM. The thunder woke me up and in my stupor I thought I was late for work. Nope. Then today I drove to my brother's place to watch the US lay an ostrich egg against Ghana. Though the penalty call was merely the latest travesty from the boys with the cards, we didn't deserve to win. Especially the set-pieces at the end, they were pathetic. Oh, my point was that I had to drive past my old building, and as it zoomed past at 55MPH I couldn't help gazing at my old office. Sigh.

    I made about twenty bucks playing poker today. Wait...could this finally be the right time for me to turn pro? I've been thinking about it--I mean, I do pretty well in the $5 SNGs. I think my game would translate well at the $30-$60 tables. Hell yeah!

    Sigh, again. Boy I hate writing resumes. And cover letters. And here's the most depressing part--there are jobs out there I'd enjoy, and be really good at. I have no hope of getting those jobs, because I don't have experience. The jobs I DO have the requisite experience for I want no part of. A Catch-22, yes?

    And if you're in the mood for some irony, there's the delightful epiphany I had last night before I fell asleep. All my life I've taken the safe, secure route. I worked jobs I hated because it was a paycheck, and I didn't want the uncertainty of not having a steady income. I did quit a job once, but I knew I'd find something fairly quick and, besides, I was horribly depressed and my job was the reason. I could've packed up and moved to a part of the country where the economy was booming instead of stagnating. I stayed in Pittsburgh. I went to grad school and got an MBA because I thought it would help me get a better job, but all it did was convince me that I didn't want a job where an MBA was a requirement.

    I didn't take any risks because I didn't want to end up with nothing 15 years down the line. I carefully gathered up the crumbs and put them in a safe place and figured that was the smart move. And now it's fifteen years later and...I'm right back where I started when I graduated from college. With a pointless resume and two months of severance.

    The moral of this story, kids, is that sometimes not taking risks is the riskiest move of all.

    I'm gonna take my entire bankroll and play the highest SNG I can find and see what happens.

    Just kidding.

    Darn it.

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    The Best of Times, the Worst of Times...all in 30 minutes

    No, what you're about to read isn't a bad beat story. Goodness, what I would give to tell a banal tale about how my king-high straight was trumped by a guy who made his straight flush. Which happened last night, actually. Hey, a guy makes a straight flush to beat me, I tip my cap.

    I went to work today like it was any other day. Because it was any other day. It was a Wednesday, obviously. We had our bi-weekly meeting at 9:30 and it was my turn to put together the agenda and sorta lead the meeting. No big deal. We sat in our gorgeous conference room, which looks out over the Point, and talked about the issues confronting us. There's one situation that's been a bone of contention for a few months, and again we spent way too much time talking about it. Got back to our seats and me and a co-worker laughed about how I shouldn't have included it on the agenda. Typical Wednesday.

    Sat at my desk and my cell phone buzzed. It was the realtor who is selling my house. She took someone to see it last night--they liked it. They're going to bid on it and I'll know tomorrow what they're offering. I thanked her, looked forward to her call, and thrust my arms in the air. I haven't mentioned this before, but I got divorced in January. I've kinda-sorta hinted at this before, but don't feel offended that I haven't confided in you before--I was separated for 18 months before I told my own brother. I was embarassed, you see. My ex-wife and I are still good friends, in fact I have to go to her apartment in a bit to feed and litter our cats, who she's kept since she moved out in December. I guess I'll write more about this another day. Once the house sells and I move into my bachelor pad I'll take Ernie back.

    And it looked like that was finally going to happen. After two months on the market I started to think that the place would never sell, and I'd never get to move on with my life. And yet, someone wanted to buy my house. I was almost giddy. Sell the house, move into my apartment...I'd have the world dicked.

    I got to enjoy this fizzy sensation (the clinical definition is "happiness") for all of a half-hour. I was at my desk trying to decipher the handwriting on a check one of our vendors sent in. I had $8K to apply somewhere but I couldn't figure out if that squiggle was an 8 or a 3. I furrowed my brow and bit the lower lip and finally sussed it out. Oh, the hidden joys of bureaucracy!!

    My phone rang. Odd, my phone almost never, ever rings. It's one of the aspects of my job I like best. All my life I've had jobs where I was on the phone all day, and I've hated them all. I looked at the name in the caller ID window...and it was my boss's boss's boss's boss. Now, that was unusual. Very unusual. I chat with her in the hallway, she's very pleasant, but this was the first time she'd ever called me. I sit 50 feet away.

    "Hi, Gene, could you come to my office, please?" she asked. She has a very calm voice. I instantly started sweating all over. I could not think of a reason why she'd be calling me that wasn't Bad. But how Bad could it be? Had I done anything wrong lately? Well, sure, but nothing catastrophic.

    I walked to her office...and saw our department's HR person sitting there. There was only one possible explaination. To show you how frantic I was, I actually thought it had something to do with my blog. They'd found it and decided I was unclean. I couldn't believe it what was about to happen. I walked into the office, closed the door behind don't see the condemed man lock himself into the gas chamber, do you?

    She told me that today was a very sad day, that my company was re-structuring and seven percent of our work force was being laid off. And if you'll allow me the conceit, I was part of the 7% Solution. Have to read that Sherlock Holmes story now. Guess I'll have time for it.

    I lost my job. I sat there, not believing what I was hearing. And when I say that, I'm not kidding. I did not believe what I was hearing. I thought it more likely that I'd had a stroke and was in some fugue state. This was a dream. A nightmare. This can't be happening. This can't be happening AGAIN. I just wrote a post about how I lost my job two years ago. This can't be happening AGAIN.

    And not now. Not now. I'd just received the best piece of news I'd had in six months. I'd been HAPPY. I'd actually been excited about the future. For all of thirty minutes. And just that fast, my life was turned upside-down again.

    When I lost my last job, my wife (ex-wife, dammit) said that it was perhaps the best thing that could have happened. And, as I wrote previously, it was. Even under the most optimistic circumstances (and I've had 4 beers) I can't say that now. This is pretty much a disaster. While my job wasn't perfect, and didn't really use my skills, and I wasn't especially good at it...I didn't HATE it. I've hated, HATED, every other job I've ever had. This job was OK. And I loved the people I worked with. They were fantastic. I loved the building I worked in. I had the best view in Pittsburgh, and one of the best views in the world. I sat in that morning meeting looking out at the Point and the Incline and boats gliding up and down the Allegeny, and I ate it up.

    I LOVED walked around the North Shore at lunch. I LOVED walking along the river as I walked to work, looking up at one of the great skylines of the world. I loved that I could cross the Ft. Duquesne Bridge and stroll around the Point. It made me feel connected to my city in a way I'd never been before. I loved it. I loved it. It didn't put an extra penny in my pocket but it made my job a joy.

    And now it's over. I can't believe it. I don't get to walk that walk anymore. I get paid through the end of August, benefits too. And I get paid for the 10 days vacation I accrued. I also get to use a career counseling service the company retained. Looks like I'll be watching a lot of World Cup the next few days.

    I wasn't escorted from the building. That was nice. They let me go back to my desk and gather up my belongings. Everyone was at lunch. Two of my bosses came over to say they were sorry I was let go. They'd only found out a few minutes before I did. And the woman who actually broke the bad news looked stricken when she saw the look on my face. I didn't get to say goodbye to my immediate supervisor, who was about the best boss I ever had. Nor did I get to say goodbye to two guys I talked with the most and hung out with. They're both on vacation. Guess I am too, now.

    I wasn't let go becase of my performance, I was told, though that isn't exactly the truth. There were people hired after me who I think were retained, but, frankly, they were probably better than me at the job. That only makes sense. But the fact that they valued my work means something.

    I gathered up my stuff, and left a few sticky notes on piles of paper so my boss could figure out what was done and what wasn't. I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to leave that fantastic building. I didn't want to leave my job. I didn't get to say goodbye to the people I'd just been speaking too ten minutes previous.

    I hoisted my bag on my shoulder, grabbed my lunch out of the fridge, and headed for the stairs. No more good coffee in the morning...I'll miss that. I took one last look out the window at the Point, and then I left.

    I'm still in shock. I'm also half-drunk. On my way to being full-drunk. I have a volleyball game tonight, and I emailed my team to say that I might be a bit late because I have to take care of the cats and then stop at my folks. I also mentioned that we had a bidder for the house. So when I get to the bar tonight everyone's gonna be saying, "Hey, great news, tell me more!" And I'll have to say that, unfortunately, that was only story #2 for the day.

    I have no idea what I'm gonna do now. Well, have another beer, obviously. I need to look for work, again. The last year was nice, it was the first time I wasn't depressed because of my job. Like I said, once the house sold the world would be my oyster. After the last three years, I've pretty much had all ambition and hope and dreams beaten out of me. Give me a job that doesn't tempt me to suicide, a quiet place to live, and in me you'll find the happiest of men. I wanted, desired, dreamed, lusted for nothing more. And for 30 minutes it was right there in front of me. And then my phone rang.

    Funny, I keep thinking I'm gonna wake up. It was all just a dream. Funny too is that I think I handled everything pretty well, though my hands were trembling right after I was told I was let go. But what really got to me was seeing the geese as I walked back to my car. All the geese who live along the river and I've walked past every day for the last 4 months. Won't see them any more. Won't have a free parking spot downtown to bring my bike down for a ride. Won't walk this path anymore. And that got me swallowing lumps the size of kiwi fruit.

    Don't know what I'm gonna do. I know I keep saying that, but it's the God's honest truth. Maybe it's time I say goodbye to Pittsburgh and look to make my fortune somewhere else. God knows I haven't had much luck here. I stayed because my friends and family are here and I like living here. Thing is, will I be able to live here? I have an apartment lined up, but if the house sells and I have to move next month, do I take the apartment? Or do I just sell everything I own and move in with my folks until I find a job? Or do I wave goodbye and move West or South and see if I can find a job that, maybe, uses the skills I have. I've never had a job like that. Can barely conceive of it.

    I'm not an idiot. Things could be a lot worse. I could be humping a rifle in Iraq right now. I could be an Iraqi. In nearly every way imaginable I'm a ridiculosly lucky bastard. I have my health (note to self--make doctor and dentist appointments before August 25th). And I understand that this is how business works. The company was having problems, in large part because of soaring fuel prices. You gotta cut costs somewhere. That's capitalism, and if the system works as capital is freed up it can be applied in more efficient, profitable ways. But was it too much to ask that I surrender my home AND keep my job? Or, if not, could I have maybe a day or two to enjoy myself?

    Tomorrow I'll watch the USA soccer game. Here's something funny--a few times in the last week I've watched the afternoon games with an attractive woman in my building who's a soccer fan. I had a good seat in the cafeteria and she asked if she could join me. No ring, lovely smile, wears those narrow librarianesque glasses that I find devastating. I actually dared to think that maybe there was the possibility that maybe I might think about possibly asking her out for a drink. I will almost certainly never see her again. Had I not been laid off, it's almost certain I would've chatted with her on the shuttle after work.

    Still can't believe what happened. I'm still in shock. As I wrote a bit over 2 years ago, if you're in Pittsburgh and you need an MBA with a writing degree who knows how to play AQ in late position in a raised pot, let me know. I'm gonna have another beer. I see many beers in my immediate future.

    Tuesday, June 20, 2006


    A police helicopter landed in the parking lot outside my building. Less than 50 yards away. There are guys in black T-shirts and fatigues standing in a rectangle around it. Helo takes off, flies away...comes back and lands. Some guys get off, some guys get on. It looked like one of the guys getting on had a rifle slung over his shoulder. I'm about to leave for home. Think I can get a lift? Think I'll get shot? It's pretty cool, actually. Rather noisy.

    Joe Cole's goal was fantastic. For all England's trouble finding someone to play on the left, he's been stellar. England played well during the first half, which is all I saw of the game. Sounds like the rest was pretty awful, which has been the English motif. I don't know if I've said this before, but I'll say it now--a nation that trots out Peter Crouch under any circumstances has no business being considered a serious contender. I know he scored the winner last game. The guy is 6'7" and every time he goes up for the ball he has to push off the defender. He's hopeless with the ball--what, he's gonna run at the defender and beat him off the dribble? He reminds me of Bernie Kosar lurching around out there.

    If Owen is done for the tournament--and his knee twisted ickily--what is England to do? What CAN they do? Erikson selected two guys with broken feet, Crouch, and Walcott. Walcott hasn't played...hardly at all. In his LIFE. He's only 17, for Chrissakes, and didn't get on the pitch for Arsenal. Maybe the talent is there, but if Erikson doesn't have the confidence to start him ahead of CROUCH, what's the point of having him on the team. I didn't watch much footie this year so I can't speak to the form of Jermaine Defoe or Darren Bent, or any number of Albion strikers, but is this really the best England could come up with? Jesus.

    Taking Thursday off to watch the USA, USA, USA game. Need a result. Now I need to go home. Sounds like the helicopter is gone, means I gotta walk. Damn.

    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    24 Minutes of Fun

    That's how long I lasted in the PokerStars Blogger tournament, placing 1993th. I had AQ, he had AJ. He flopped the nut straight.

    Gonna go outstide, get some sun, and read in the hammock. Shouldn't be ticked about losing in a freeroll, but I was in the mood to play. Ah well.

    UPDATE: Jesus, it's hot out there. Um, did a bit of scoping around, see who was still alive. Um...most tables have quite a few players "sitting out". Mine had four at the start. I just did a look-see and StudioGlyphic is playing heads-up with a guy while 7 players sit out. Um...that's not good.

    There's a player named brandybabe from Pittsburgh, she's doing very well. She's playing heads-up at a full table. Everyone else is sitting out. Rather changes one's strategy.

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Hope It's A Long Day Tomorrow

    Jesus, there are 2239 folks signed up for the PokerStars Blogger tournament tomorrow. To put that in'd need someone smarter than me. Sorry, I'm pretty beat. Long, fun night last night, and it's hot out and I'm tired.

    After getting home last night I figured I'd play a little poker until I felt ready for bed. Won a little pot early on, and found myself with KK in front of me. I raise, another guy raises, I re-raise, and all the money ends up in the middle. He turns over aces and they hold up. Ah well.

    Two hands later I'm dealt KK again. The dude who had the aces last time raises, and I shove, pretending that I'm steaming and after revenge. He calls...and turns over queens. My kings hold up. He took it with good humor, saying, "The Lord taketh, and the Lord taketh away." I admire that sort of aplomb.

    I was roused out of bed at 9AM by my friend Mark calling to say he'd be around to watch the Czech-Ghama match before the US played. I drank a big glass of water, popped a couple Advils (I'm seriously out of drinking shape), and decided to play a breakfast SNG. The very first hand I flop the nut straight and end up all-in against a guy with top two pair. He gets no help and I double up. I had a ridiculous run of cards--aces, kings twice, queens, and I think I hit an ace with AQ three times in a row. If I hadn't won the thing I would've been depressed, and I did win the thing, after a long and well-played heads-up duel. I thought it was well-played, anyway. Especially my play.

    As always, the second I start thinking that I'm playing well the Poker Gods drop an ice cube down my back. Played another SNG, and down to four I'm dealt those kings again. I raise a limper who just calls. The flop comes queen-high, I'm pretty much committed, so I push. He calls and I expect him to turns over queens. Instead he shows jacks. He calls a big raise with jacks, an overcard appears, and he calls an all-in for 7/8 of his stack.

    Of course I'm foreshadowing the jack that popped on the river. Another player says, "that's sick", and I agreed, and the guy who hit his 2-outer says, "shut up xxxhole.". Guy puts all his money in with two outs, gets lucky...and gets uppity about it. Bad form. He went on to win the thing, thanks to that hand. No justice in this world.

    I tried to soothe my savage heart with some micro NL, but the deck was cold and I lost a bit. Came home, made some supper, sat down to play a bit before bed. First hand I'm dealt queens, I win a little pot. I win a little pot with a straight. Win a little pot with kings. Lots of nice little pots. And then I win a big pot when a guy re-raises me all-in while I hold TPTK and the nut flush draw. He turns over pocket sixes and after I scoop it up he signs off by saying "bs". Doesn't anyone have fun playing poker anymore. Tsk.

    What are the chances that I'll win tomorrow's there a number lower than "nil"? Zilch, perhaps. Yes, I'd post the odds of me winning tomorrow as zilch. I don't know if I'd even want to play in the Main Event, to be honest. I mean, I wouldn't mind, but it might be hard to me to get 17 days off in row in case I sell my soul and make the money. I think even the Devil wouldn't exchange my soul for a final table spot, let alone the bracelet. Someday I'd like to play in a World Series event, just so I could say that I did it. Maybe someday I will. But I'd like to be a good enough player that my chances of doing well are better than zilch. Not every 2000-person tournament is a fun-filled freeroll.

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Were You Taller Than Mr. Jeeters?

    That's one question I forgot to ask Iggy after he mentioned in his latest uberpost that he'd visited Kennywood Park. When you go on rides there you have to be taller than various wooden cutouts of various park mascots, and Mr. Jeeters is the one that always stymies the kids who think they're all done with growing up.

    Because I'm lazy I'm gonna repost most of the email I sent, at Iggy's request. I'm assuming you've read his post; if not, I'll just do a point-counterpoint thing.

    My wife's family had a family reunion this past weekend in Pittsburgh. Because of all the kids, we ended up spending an afternoon at an amusement park called Kennywood. A more appropriate name would have been CrackerWood. I'm not sure where all these one-toothed troglodytes came from. West Virginia? Can ya tell me, MeneGene?

    Of course I can:

    Haven't been to Kennywood in a few years, have to go back for a stroll and a few runs on the Thunderbolt. So far as the quality of humanity walking around there...they do have lots of ethnic days there, maybe it was "Appalachia Day". Pittsburgh is home to many sleek, witty, cosmopolitan people (pointing at myself) and then you have women who walk around wearing bright red T-shirts with 'HULKAMANIA!" written in blazing yellow letters across the front. Like the woman who came to see my house a few weeks ago. Sheesh.

    I'm also reminded here of something I read from change100 the other day, where she mentioned that a friend of hers from my fair city is a "Pittsburgh fashionista". I'd never heard those two words paired together. I was mystified. But then I walked to the Point last week to saunter through the Arts Festival and found myself walking behind three gorgeous, elegant women. What I know about women's clothing wouldn't fill a thimble, but even I could appreciate the clean, smooth lines of a skirt that breaks just above the knee, a chemise that reveals tan shoulders yet doesn't devolve into a tank top, and fabrics of such creamy richness that it must be hard to hold back the tears when undressing.

    And one of the women was eating a corn dog on a stick. This is Pittsburgh, after all.

    And what the hell is going on in Pittsburgh with making beer nearly impossible to freaking purchase? Are the Shakers still in control over there? The damn amusement park didn't even sell any, much less any store I could find. Only "authorized beer distributors" can sell beer? For a supposed blue-collar town, I was extremely disappointed.

    In reply:

    I did an unscientific survey to see if folks I work with think beer should be sold at Kennywood. I asked 7 people, and they all said..."You CAN'T sell beer at Kennywood!" No outrage. Just a universal truth, and to question it is madness. And most of the people I asked like to drink, too. Heck, I can't even get my mind around the concept of Kennywood. What's next, unicorn rides in Kiddieland?

    Beer in does not compute. It's like not having beer in a strip club.

    The beer situation in Pittsburgh is practically Soviet. Only beer distributors can sell beer...and they AREN'T ALLOWED TO COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER. They can't advertise specials other than signs attached to the building. One company actually got in serious trouble a few years back by flaunting the law and discounting beer to increase volume. Yes, they had a sale on beer, advertised the fact, and got in big trouble.

    Here's how bad it is--last year they passed a law allowing certain distributors to OPEN ON SUNDAY. Before, if you showed up for a Steeler game and all you had were 3 Rolling Rocks left, you were SOL. This news was treated like the resurrection of Christ. Seriously, if it was a really hot day on a Sunday, you might as well be living in Saudi Arabia.

    Pittsburghers who spend time living in civilization (where you can, like, buy beer in a supermarket) come back and tell the tale in hushed, reverent tones, as if they'd just returned from the summit of Everest.

    "I needed Q-tips...and I walked into the grocery store...and there was a whole aisle of nothing but beer."

    "Beer," says the chorus.

    "It was 8 at night. It was dark out. And I bought a case of beer. Along with my Q-tips. And a box of Frosted Flakes."

    "Beer. Flakes."

    "That's bull," says a doubter. There's always one. "You didn't buy beer in a grocery store."

    The Wanderer pulls out a slip of paper and smiles. "I brought the receipt." He points. "Q-Tips." Everyone nods.

    "Frosted Flakes." Nods.


    Heads bow, understanding the Truth of it.

    Seriously, hearing that folks in other part of the country can buy beer at the supermarket is like hearing that everyone uses jetpacks to get to work. It's another world.

    Shame on you, Pittsburgh. I wore my Carson Palmer jersey with pride, damnit.
    I'm glad Big Ben didn't wreck his motorcycle face until after I left town.

    Looks like Roethlisberger is gonna be OK. The PG is even reporting that he's expected to be good to go for the opener and maybe even the start of training camp. That's good news. What isn't quite so good is this:

    Here's something bizarre--quite a few people showed up at Mercy Hospital, where Roethlisberger was taken. OK, that happens in these circumstances. But the paper said people came with folding chairs and charcoal grills. They were tailgating OUTSIDE THE HOSPITAL? That ain't right.

    People are effed up. And as I drove down River Road this morning headed to work (passing where Big Ben lives, by the way) a guy on a Harley sped by. No helmet. He did look pretty cool. I wonder how cool Roethlisberger will look when next we see him. Not very. I remember how messed up Kevin Stevens was when he got knocked cold and hit the ice face-first in that cursed Game 7 against the Islanders. Yuck.

    Anyone else suddenly in the mood for a corn dog and a beer?

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    I'd Like a Double Helping of Hypocrisy, Please

    I was going to write a long post about the hackjob the New York Times Magazine did about online poker. It's your typical cautionary tale, about how one college kid lost his mind playing poker and therefore we degenerate-wannabees need to be protected for our own good. This kind of crap really gets me steamed because if I have any political philosophy at all anymore, it boils down to this--Leave Me The Hell Alone. Along with it's corollary, Don't Tell Me What To Do. Spare me the whole "It's For Your Own Good" bullshit. If you want to convince me that your point of view is valid, you'd better bring your rhetorical A-game. Telling me that something is wrong because it's "wrong", or that Jesus wouldn't like it, or can't I see that I'm hurting gotta do A LOT better than that. Get out my face. I'm a reasonable human being willing to listen to reason. And I'm not an insane contrarian willing to argue that, say, puppycrushing is an acceptable way to spend a summer afternoon. But so long is you aren't hurting anyone but yourself, I err on the side of letting the individual decide what's best for him and/or her.

    However, my first reaction when seeing the BREAKING NEWS headline about Ben Roethlisberger's accident was to say, "Why the hell didn't the Steelers make him wear a helmet?" You see the hypocrisy, yes? The word "make" is one that I reflexively dislike. It's also not the exact word I was looking for. A better choice would be "Order". "Command". "Force". None of which mesh neatly with the fiercely independent credo I discussed above. The difference between me and, say, everyone in the House of Representatives is that I immediately felt embarassed at what I said. I didn't think about amending the Constitution so I wouldn't have to feel uncomfortable about that which irritates me.

    If Roethlisberger doesn't want to wear a helmet, he shouldn't have to. And while I'm sure most of the people who said that he SHOULD wear one did so with the best of intentions...he shouldn't have to if he doesn't want to. He's a big boy. His decision to go without a helmet may seem stupid to most people (it certainly does to me) but he's the one riding the bike. He nearly paid for his decision with his life today, and hopefully he'll come through this without any long-term repercussions other than the memories. I hope he gets that lucky. I hope we all have the wisdom to carefully consider our choices before making them. And hopefully I'll realize that sometimes I'm not quite as smart as I think I am.

    UPDATE: Not that I don't enjoy a little irony in life, as I walked back to my lot tonight you could hear tires squeal across the river on the 10th Street Bypass and SMASH! Everyone turned and it looked like a van rear-ended a car. And then, as I drove home, I nearly rear-ended a guy when an 18-wheeler got stuck trying to turn onto the 31st-Street Bridge. Nearly got rear-ended myself, as the whole line of cars drew together like an accordian.

    According to the Post-Gazette Roethlisberger got freakin' lucky. Broken jaw, broken nose, a nasty cut, but nothing life- or career-threatening. A few points I wanted to clear up. From what I've read there was nothing in Roethlisberger's contract about riding without a helmet. There's a "dangerous activities" clause, but it's hard to argue that riding without a helmet would be considered "dangerous" because it's been legal in Pennsylvania since 2003. Now, obviously, riding without a helmet is dangerous, but it'd hard to make the case that he was being reckless if he was in fact within the law.

    And now I'm gonna go engage in some reckless activity of my own, namely play volleyball and drink beer. Risks like that are more my speed.

    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    Three Points Are Three Points

    I'd wager there are a lot of people in England saying prayers for Wayne Rooney's foot this Sunday. Messeurs Owen and Crouch did not exactly sparkle against Paraguay, and as their only other option up front is a 17-year-old who has zilcho experience, England's hopes pretty rest on how well the scaffolding in Rooney's foot repairs itself. If he can't go, or if he gets hurt five minutes into his return, Sven will be hearing questions about his selections...well, that'll be the main topic of conversation at his funeral. No pressure.

    Speaking of pressure, I've been on a bit of a bad streak at the tables. The bad news is that I didn't cash in 7 consecutive SNGs. That's bad. The good news is that in every circumstance I got all my money in with the best hand. That's good. Well, it would've been better if my sets had held up to those flush draws. And that gutshot straight draw. And if my overpair didn't get outflopped. And if I hadn't lost to a 4-flush on the board when me and another dude held AK.

    By that time I figured I was cursed and would never win a hand again. But I handled it well, and after crying just a little bit and ninety minutes on the phone with my mother I felt up to another try. This time I was dealt aces on the first hand. With a raise ahead of my I made it like T600 to go, and got four callers. Jesus. The flop came jack high, and when one guy went all-in I figured I'd just have to go bust if he held JJ. What the hell, I could just hit redial and talk to Mommy again. Instead he turned over QJ (QJ?) and I held on to win. From there I defied the laws of nature and got heads-up with a guy WHO USED CAPS WHEN HE TALKED IN CHAT. WHICH HE DID AFTER EVERY HAND. WHATTA DORK. With chips about even I just called with pocket queens and kept playing slow after the flop. A ten on the turn gave me a straight draw as well, and all the money ended up in the middle. But he had 9-10 for two pair, the river didn't help me out, and I was down to T850, while he held T19150. Not good.

    But I doubled up with pocket threes, then doubled up again with kings when I again got cute and tried trapping. The flop came with two eights, all the money got in, and he had an eight. Oogh. But I rivered a king to win the pot. I doubled up again with AJ against A-10, then found myself crushed when he flopped two pair and I needed runner-runner to make a straight. I hit the runner-runner. I hacked and slashed my way to the chip lead, and ended up winning when I flopped a set and he pushed.

    So, after losing seven consecutive times when I had the best of it and busting out of the money, I win after overcoming a 19-1 deficit thanks to some ludicrous suckouts and great cards. Proving once again that poker is a game of skill, and that I am so very, very talented.

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Luck is a Four-Letter Word

    I indulged myself this weekend. With it raining outside and the house fairly clean, I played a ton of poker. More poker than I've played in a long time. SNGs, a tournament, and about 4 hours of micro NL action last night. I was up until 2AM, to show how hard-core I am. I think I booked a $5 profit. I wept at how cold the deck was. A table of maniacs and nary a hand to hold. It was very sad.

    As I played I could not help but think of what a few bloggers wrote last week about the concept of luck. F-Train and ScurvyDog are far better equipped to discuss the subject than I am, so go read their posts if you want intelligent commentary on the subject. If you're willing to settle for commentary without the intelligence, keep reading.

    There's no denying I got lucky, a lot, during my play this weekend. I also got unlucky a few times. And then there were long, long stretches were nothing much happened. I got cards, I didn't get cards. I hit flops, I missed them. I bet and they folded, I bet and they raised. I was the sucker and I was the suckee...that's gonna get me some odd Google hits next week.

    I got knocked out of the tournament yesterday when my kings blundered into aces. There's not much one can do in that situation, especially as I'd already put all my chips in the pot before I figured out something might be afoot. This morning I played a SNG, we got down to four-handed, and me and another dude were badly short-stacked. With me in the BB the other shortie raised, and even though it cost me about a third of my remaining stack I decided to call with 7-8 suited. Probably the worst play I could've made, but I have confidence in my cockroach-like ability to hang around on the bubble and scuttle into the money and I didn't want to butt heads against a monster hand without seeing the flop.

    Which came 3-8-8. Well, how good a flop is that? The action then played itself--I checked, he pushed, I called. And he turned over pocket queens. Aha, he only has two outs, I'm already singing "I'm in the money...", and of course a queen pops on the turn. Oogh. A suckout always hurts more when you've sucked out first. More odd Google hits are coming my way.

    A bit queasy I did some dishes before returning to the fray. This time I actually got some chips early on, the first time that happened in all the SNGs I'd played, but then I went card-dead and had my style cramped by the massive chip-leader sitting directly to my left. He liked to re-raise us all-in and as I couldn't get a hand better than 10-4 I wasn't prepared to stand up to him. We were down to four, with one guy having sat out the entire game. I waited patiently for him to go bust, and when we got down to three I only had about T1500 left. Not good.

    Nor was it good when, while holding A-7, I pushed against the chip leader when the flop came with an ae. He called and showed A-10, and I was drawing thin indeed. A six on the turn paired one of the flop, giving me outs for a chop. "Paint, paint!" I chanted...only to see a beautiful seven on the river. No chop, all the chips were mine, giving me a little breathing space.

    I then lost to J-10 with AQ, and once again shortstacked I pushed with KJ. And found myself up against AK. He flopped an ace...but a queen also showed herself on the flop. A blank on the turn...and a beautiful ten of clubs on the river, giving me Broadway. Twice I'd been crushed, dominated, halfway to the door, and yet I'd wriggled off the hook. I went on to win thanks to some aggressive play heads-up. Had no business winning, just as I'd had no business losing in that previous tournament.

    Though, of course, that's competely not true. The guy holding queens after the flop in the first SNG is going to hit his two-outer about eight percent of the time and knock me out. Eight percent isn't a lot, but it's no miracle. It happens. It's gonna happen. It happened for me when I hit my four-outer on the river. About eight percent again. It all balances out in the end. And by "the end", I mean "The End", that distant point of light in the nonforseeable future where the sample sizes are oh-so-big. I got lucky. I got unlucky. I played as well as I could to minimize the role luck played. I need to play better.

    To illustrate this point, the SNG I just got knocked out of in 9th place. I'm dealt pocket eights, and decide to just call the rather large raise by a guy who won the first few pots. The flop comes eight-high with two diamonds. He bets, I smooth-call. There are compelling reasons to smooth-call here, just as there are reasons why I should've re-raised. The turn brings another goddam diamond. Now, I have the eight of diamonds, and what are the odds that he has two of them? He checks, I make a largish bet. He calls. Don't like that. The turn doesn't pair the board, alas, and he throws a teasing bet out. I decide to just call, and he shows the nut flush. Maybe I could've pushed him off the hand with a big re-raise after the flop. Maybe I could've saved that big bet on the turn and seen what the river brought. Maybe I could've toughened up and not pushed with KQ the very next hand only to find the BB holding AK.

    Or, maybe I could just say I got unlucky and leave it at that.


    UPDATE: Played one last post-Sopranos SNG. Midway through I managed to get all my chips in the middle with AQ vs. AK. Flopped a queen. Thought I got lucky. How wrong I was. This was easily the most boring SNG I've ever played. With the blinds up to 100/200 there were still 7 of us, and pretty much every hand was an all-in. With virtually every single one of them uncontested. I don't think there was a re-raise for...forever. Plus the chip leader, who raised pretty much every hand, always waited until the "You Have Fifteen Seconds to Act" prompt came up before making a move. I don't think I'd do very well at live poker--I move too quickly from "mild irritation" to "constructing elaborate homicidal fantasies in my mind".

    After playing ultratight and keeping my wits, I go gaga and push all in with pocket nines after a raise. He has queens, I don't get lucky this time, and I'm down to T230. Which, with the blinds at 100/200, ain't good. With an all-in raise ahead of me I fold 8-3, hoping something better will come along the next hand. What I get is 6-3. What the hell, I dig in, spit on both hands, and push in my chips. Three guys call my "raise". The flop comes 6-2-2. Ooh, that's good. A three on the turn is even better. And then a nine on the river, which helps no one, and I go all the way up to T900.

    With the antes kicking in the next hand I push with KQ and get no callers. And then my AQ defeats 8-6 and I'm back up to around T2000 and I have some hope. But I can't get a hand, I either have garbage or someone beats me in the pot and I have to hope he gets knocked out instead of me. I'm forced to push all-in with, ugh, 7-3, and get called by a better hand, natch. I get no help, and I'm out on the bubble.

    I got lucky with AQ against AK. Got lucky with 6-3 against three opponents. And all I got for it was a wasted hour and a leaky bag of frustration. Lucky, my ass.

    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    Ups, Downs

    Played 3 SNGs on this lazy day, placed 2nd, 2nd, and 1st. During the first one I lost my goddam DSL connection for like 10 minutes and thought I'd be blinded to nothing. I get back in, see that I'm holding AJ without a lot of chips left, and shove. Got heads up with A-10 and I was back in business. In the third one I was pretty much left for dead, going all in with AJ again when I hit an ace, only to be up against a guy who hit 2 pair with A-9. But the Poker Gods were in a sick mood and let me go runner-runner to hit a straight. When it was heads-up I raced out to a 4-1 lead, then gave it up and then some, before charging back to win thanks to a flopped flush. Played well in all three, but wouldn't have won the 3rd without some suckout action.

    Just played in PokerSavvy's freeroll on Titan Poker. Top fifteen cashed, so of course I finished 19th out of 167. Didn't recognize anyone, and I played fast early on to either get chips or go bust. I hit some hands, went card dead in the middle, and then I got a bit unlucky. First of all, with two tables to go the top 5 chips leaders were at my table. To put it in perspective, the top guy at the other table had T13K. Five guys at my table had over T19,000 (including two with over T30K, and two others (including me) had over T10K. Plus I was sandwiched between a guy who raised a ton and a guy who called with everything. I tightened up, and was dealt aces under the gun. I raised, figuring SOMEONE would call or raise, but no, it was folded around. Then after donking off a quarter of my stack with a questionable position raise and continuation bet, I found kings and went all-in after the guy to my left limped. The chip leader called my big bet, and then, ominously, the guy to my left went all-in. And we all know what that means. He had aces, I had kings, and I was out four from the money. Frustrating.

    But I played well pretty much across the board, I was pretty pleased. Enjoyed myself. Made a little money. Looks like it's gonna rain so, darn it, I can't mow the lawn now. It'll keep till tomorrow.

    Just a Wee Bit IRRITATED

    After 2 SNGs with the usual ups and downs and a tiny profit booked I decided to play a little $5 one before going to bed. After donking off a third of my chips I tread water until the blinds are high and I need to take a stand. Under the gun I'm dealt pocket threes and here we go. I push, everyone folds to the blinds. Calling would cost the small blind half his stack.

    He thinks.

    And thinks.

    And thinks.

    And thinks.

    He uses up his entire 60-second time bank before folding. And he wasn't timed out--it didn't show he was sitting out. He just used a full 60-seconds before deciding to fold.

    So it's now up to the big blind, who also would be calling off about half his stack. He's had some time to think this over. But he needs some more time. He thinks.

    And thinks.

    And thinks.

    And thinks.

    And thinks.

    He uses up all but 2 seconds of his time bank before folding. "WTF?" asks one of the other players. WTF indeed. It's five bucks. Can we not turn this into the Tiffany Williamson show?

    So I have some chips now, and the very next hand I pick up AK. I raise and get three callers. The flop comes ace high with two spades and I push. Fold, fold, and the chip leader is all that stands between me and a big pot that will probably allow me to glide into the money.

    But first he has to think.

    And think.

    And think.

    And think.

    And think.

    He uses up all but five seconds of his time bank. This time he calls--with ace-nine. Calls off about half his stack with a nine kicker. No spades. And of course he hits the nine on the river and knocks me out. See, the bad beats I can handle. But if you're going to make a terrible call and suck out on me, please do it in a timely fashion, please. I'd like to get to bed.

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    A La Recherche du Layoff Perdu

    It's hard for me to believe that it was two years ago I was laid off from my previous job. Doesn't seem possible that 730 days and nights have passed since the last time I made the 50-minute drive out to Coraopolis, which is, uh, 50 minutes from my house. Before I started working out there a trip to Robinson (which is this massive, sprawling shopping/retail/whatever complex) was a destination you set on the calendar weeks ahead of time. Then all of a sudden I was driving it every day. And then, even more suddenly, I wasn't.

    It is perhaps the central irony of my life that every serious decision of my life, decisions made only after careful analysis, logical deconstruction, and serene contemplation, have turned out to be disasters, while I keep blundering into good situations almost despite myself. For example, getting laid off two years ago. My job was becoming intolerable, I was horribly depressed, I go to work one day and, voila! Problem solved! Of course, another problem was created, namely, how was I going to keep my cats in cream and anchovy without a job? No matter, I just called the temp place I used before, and after a month of collecting unemployment and the sun's rays I got a job closer to home making more money. I ended up getting hired full time a year later making about 60% more than I did at my last job, with a company I admire, working with people I think are fantastic. Blundering indeed.

    I remember the day when me and about 40 of my co-workers got canned. The Friday before we'd had our Memorial Day picnic, everyone outside having a good time, eating burgers and dogs and hanging out in the sunshine playing picnic games. While I was inside getting killed because our clients were calling and couldn't get through to anyone. I left that day seething, absolutely seething. I had a manager from the company I dealt with call me three times in a half-hour looking for my boss, who was in a meeting. She was a sharpish sort, and after her second call made some cutting remarks about it being odd that I lacked the wherewithal to communicate a simple message. Butter wouldn't have melted in my mouth as I replied that I was perfectly capable of relaying a message, bitch, but he was in a meeting and I didn't know where the fuck he was. After the third call the threat became more general--maybe my company didn't want her client's business anymore, and if I couldn't get my boss (or his boss) on the phone in ten minutes that might be the result, with me of course getting a nice helping of blame because I didn't appreciate the urgency of the matter.

    I hunted all over the building for my company's brain trust, finally finding them huddled in a conference room on a different floor. I had to peek in a narrow window, verify my boss was in there, knock politely, and stick my head inside. It was obvious from everyone's expression that I wasn't welcome, and when I told my bosses who was calling and why and what the consequences might be, my boss said peevishly, "Gene, can't you see we're busy?". I can usually handle slights like that without too much trouble, but this time it tilted me so much I should've walked away on my hands. My credo for the rest of the day (and, as it turned out, my career with that company) was, "OK, I don't give a fuck."

    I wonder if my interruption is what doomed me, because in retrospect it's obvious that the meeting was about who was going to get cut. Probably not, no one in that room would've missed me that much. I remember going back to my desk and not answering the phone the last 30 minutes of my shift. I'd done my duty, I'd passed the message up the chain of command. My conscience was clear. I went downstairs to where the picnic was winding down, ate a deviled egg, snagged a brownie, and went back to my desk to see if my boss would return before I left. He didn't, and when I left at six I was dragging pretty bad. I knew that when I returned after the holiday I'd be in for a really lousy day. It pretty much ruined my whole Memorial Day weekend.

    When I did walk into the office that day I noticed something odd--quite a few desks were empty. Maybe they took an extra day off, maybe they were just running late. Didn't know, didn't think too much about it. I did have one little ray of sunshine to brighten my day. I'd been working on a problem for a customer for nearly a year. It wasn't my problem--wasn't even my company's problem. I'd gotten involved by accident and because the customer had my name and number, she MADE it my problem. After nearly a full year of chopping through another company's bureaucracy, I'd finally gotten it resolved. All I had to do was make a phone call, confirm things were copacetic, and shrug that goddam piano off my back once and for all.

    Never made that call. I got my coffee, went back to my desk, and my phone rang and I saw in the caller ID window that it was our HR person. And I knew. I knew what was about to happen. Though I didn't know if I was being laid off (recent rumors had been denied without inspiring much confidence) or fired for any number of petty reasons. I went into her office and our department head was there, he gave a little spiel about the changing market and interest rates and orders being down, and that while they really didn't want to do it, they had to let me go.

    I asked if I was being laid off or fired, just to make sure, and after I was told it was the former I was handed info about my benefits and filing for unemployment and other fun stuff. I guess I was in shock, but I was also oddly elated. I didn't have to go back upstairs. I didn't have to do this job anymore. I wouldn't be on the phone all day. It was over.

    My boss came downstairs with my bag, and he escorted me from the building. He wasn't a bad guy, or a bad boss, and he said he was sorry and shook my hand and wished me luck. And there I was, standing outside on what was a beautiful day, sunny and cool and the sky so richly blue I felt like I could reach up and dip my finger in it. I called my wife to tell her the news, and as she'd gone through similar trauma herself a year before she was full of good advice. "Take some time, go have a cup of coffee, let your mind calm down."

    That's what I did. I drove to Barnes and Noble, ordered a Java Chip frozen drink (a small, as I had to economize now) and sat down with a book. Don't remember which book. I still couldn't believe it. I wanted to laugh, to jump up and down, to whoop with delight. But the future was too uncertain and unsettled for me to do that. I called my temp place, told them what had happened, and after accepting their condolences was told they'd start looking for me that very day. In a strange coincidence a bank in that development was having a career day, and I happened to have a copy of my resume with me. I went in, smiled a lot, told them about my morning, and had an impromptu interview. I actually wasn't interested in the jobs they were hiring for, especially all the way out there, but it made me feel like I'd done something productive. I'd only been laid off for 90 minutes and I'd had a job interview and had headhunters scouring the Greater Pittsburgh area for me. Time for a nap!

    I wish I'd had the chance to say goodbye to some of the folks I worked with. Had some friends there I never saw again, people I liked working with. The last few months our department had been increasingly stressful, and I felt bad that those who remained would have to pick up the slack now that I (and others) were gone. They were gonna have a hellish time of it. In fact, I bumped into two guys I worked with a few months later and learned that my desk sat there untouched for over a month. Every file, every piece of paper that I'd shuffled and pushed with all my might, just sat there collecting dust. I lost sleep over those pieces of paper. The absurd things we worry about.

    I saw some people at an Oktoberfest celebration, a few of them were still with the company. A girl who had been hired at the same time as me was a supervisor now. When I saw her and the other people I started wondering about other folks. My friend Matt, who joined me in playing in a poker tournament held at a local country club. Every so often I look to see if there's a major motion picture coming out with him credited as director. Just a matter of time.

    A few months ago I had a Saturday without anything scheduled, and I said, what the hell? I drove out to where I used to work. I took a pit stop and stopped at Ikea to look at things Swedish, but then I continued on and visited my old building, just to see it. I hadn't driven the Parkway West in 2 years, and I couldn't believe some of the construction that was completed in that time. The weird thing is that it seemed like it'd only been a few weeks since I'd made that drive, not two years. It wasn't that the surroundings seemed familiar--they seemed immediate. Like the last two years had just been a dream, that I still drove this road every day and worked the job I imagined I'd lost.

    I drove through the office complex, parked in my old spot, took a little walk. I couldn't go inside of course, but I walked around to the rear entrance, looked in the window at the break room where I used to eat lunch. At the bottom of the hill is a rather large pond, which was teeming with bright goldfish when I left. It was still cold out and lidded with ice, but the sun cut a few windows and I could see the odd squiggle of orange under the water. Nothing had changed.

    I walked back to my car feeling pretty stupid. I wasn't sure what I was trying to accomplish. To disprove Thomas Wolfe's statement that, "You can't go home again"? Well, of course you can, if you've got a friggin' car. You just drive.

    So why was I there? Perhaps to show myself that two years might seem an impossibly long stretch of time, but the past two years slipped by so quickly my mind rebelled at the fact. These last two years--well, three years--well, five years--have been rough ones, for a number of reasons. There's light at the end of the tunnel, but it seems like no matter how fast I run toward it, it never gets any closer, and I just hang in limbo. But maybe it'll just take a little bit more time. Just a little bit. If two years can pass in what seems like two weeks, I guess I can wait a little bit longer. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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