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

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My Articles

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

My Columns

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

My Greatest Hits

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

Fellow Poker Bloggers

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

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    Monday, July 31, 2006

    Pokah Is Nice...I Love Play Pokah

    A quick trip to the lake is always welcome, doubly so when I don't have anything to do anyway besides pack and throwing away junk accumulated over five years of home ownership. I defy anyone who gets divorced and sells their house not to become a Buddhist, or at least pick up some Buddhist tendencies. I feel this overwhelming need to divest myself of material possessions. And it turns out that desire IS the cause of suffering. Well, one of the causes, anyway. I may need to do some more research.

    Arrived around 2:30PM, but the rest of the gang wasn't due to arrive till ten or so and with the weather fairly blah we didn't go out for a quick run. We watched some of the World Series of Darts, which I enjoyed watching more than I should. I remembered that FSN occasionally televised darts a few years ago (along with cricket, which I also started to dig) and it helped pass the time a bit watching well-upholstered gentlemen do their thing. After a bit we went down to the game room and threw a few darts ourselves, with me winning each and every game, thank you very much. But then Rick turned around and beat me three straight in cricket (the dart game, not the flatbat game played at Eton).

    We ate a meal, I took a snooze. I had to husband my strength for what was coming. The first night at the lake is always a long one, playing cards nearly till dawn and the consumption (cue Jeff Spicoli voice) of many cases. This would prove to be one of those nights. The Baltimore crew arrived about ten, bags and food were put in their places, scores of aluminum cans were introduced to an ice-water bath, and it was time to sit down and get some cards in the air. Time for a little poker!

    The first game started only so-so, my chip stack stayed stagnant while Rick and Rick (I will identify my friend Rick, our host, as Rick1, and Rick from Baltimore as Rick2. Hoepefully this'll make things easier, for me in particular) built up massive towers of green and black. I have to admit, I don't remember much about how I got heads up with Rick2. He was playing an aggressive game, big bets and raises, but still able to make a laydown if challenged. I would need a hand here and there to prevail.

    What happened was almost comical. Literally four or five times, we held nearly identical hands--and I had a better kicker by a single pip. I got all my money in on a jack-high board with J-9--he had J-8. I had top pair with Q-5--he had Q-4. The very next hand I held the tournament in the palm of my hand when we hit an eight, but my five kicker crushed his four. But we ended up chopping that one when the turn and river came paint. I got lucky, and I won the game. It was a nice way to start off the weekend, especially since I'd now be freerolling the rest of the way.

    But I won the first game the last trip to the lake, and got my junk pummelled the rest of the way. I needed to repeat to show it wasn't a fluke. But I lost a big hand early on, and with the blinds moving up found myself shortstacked. I moved in with J-9, only to have both Debbie AND Tara call me. Now, when I'm focused and playing my A-game, I can somewhat neutralize Debbie's infernal intuition. And with Tara in the home stretch of her first pregnancy her statistics-busting flush karma isn't operating at full power. But how could I hope to beat BOTH of them holding a measly J-9?

    The flop didn't help me. But Tara bet out, which naturally led Debbie to think that she'd made her flush (or would get there at the end), so Debbie folded. Tara only had ace-high, giving me outs...and a beautiful nine spiked on the turn. I tripled up, the most enjoyable threesome I've had in...well, ever. God, that's depressing. Read more about Buddhism, more, more, more.

    Fueled by this big pot (and fifteen Yuenglings) I ended up winning this second tournament as well. Although, as God is my witness, I don't remember what happened. I didn't beat Rick2 again, I didn't beat Rick1...could I have been heads-up with Debbie? And I don't remember how I won? How very disappointing. I really need to bring a notebook with me to the card room, I can't keep track of all these hands when I'm building a pyramid of cans.

    We segued from poker to a spirited game of asshole, where I quickly seized the Presidency thanks to two hands in a row where I was dealt three deuces. Card games are easy. At this point someone mentioned that it was closing in on 4AM--maybe it was time for bed? It was, but even though I'd consumed mass quantities of suds and it was late and I haven't been getting more than 5 hours of sleep at night, I still wasn't sleepy. Or that drunk. I was even sharp enough to chug a big glass of water and swallow a couple of Advil. Just in case. A pre-emptive strike, if you will.

    Five hours later I was up, breakfasting well on eggs, sausage, and english muffins. The gang headed out on the boat to wakeboard, while I fired up the JetSki to follow behind and smash through the wake. It was overcast but warm, and I had my usual blast. But then the fuel light started flashing, and it was time to head down to the marina to give my thirsty steed a good, long drink.

    I had some trouble getting down there, because the engine kept missing and coughing because the tank was approaching empty. I finally made it, but as I approached the dock I noticed there was no one standing by the pumps. No big deal, as I had the credit card and could do a swipe-and-gas. But after I tied up and ran the card through I kept getting a message that said "PUMP DISABLED". I went to the marina offices themselves, and no one was home. Stomping around and what-the-fucking, I went back to the JetSki and only then saw the laminated sheet taped to the pump. It said, in effect, that the owners of the marina had had a request to expand rejected by the township board of directorrs, and that the marina had also lost their license to store trailers for boat owners. And so the owner, because his employees had to start getting ready to remove all those trailers, decided to give his staff the weekend off. Boaters who were inconvienienced were advised to call and/or email the township directors. Phone numbers and email addresses were provided.

    Now, I'm all for sticking it to the Man. But in this case, I was getting stuck as well. I wasn't sure if I had enough gas to get back to the house. On top of that, if we couldn't get gas, this might be a bummer of a trip indeed. I fired up the engine, switched to the reserve tank, and put-put-putted my way home. I made it and waited for the boat to cruise by, and after Rick missed a 180 I went out there to break the bad news. Of course no one believed me, at first, but when I said I was parking the JetSki they believed. In the old days we used to bring gas up to the lake with us, because it was considerably cheaper than using the marina, but the last 5 years or so we've ditched the cans. Fortunately they were still in the shed, and the girls later went out on a gas run. The JetSki, sadly, stayed in the stable.

    Lunch was burgers and dogs. Very good. Dinner was grilled pork chops, rice, corn, broccoli. We eat pretty good up there. Too good, actually. Too much. I brought a bottle of meritage I got from the Finger Lakes a few weeks ago and Beth and Debbie and I polished it off. Good stuff.

    Back to the tables. I picked up a few chips, and had a great chance to pick up a bunch of chips to make another deep run. Holding A-3 I flopped two pair on an A-3-4 board. I checked, knowing that someone would bet, and indeed Rick1 did exactly that. I went all-in, he called and turned over 4-5 for a pair and gutshot. Rick1 was angling for an early night and I was more than happy to give it to him. But a damnable four hit on the river, and I was out.

    If I victimized Rick2 in the first game, he turned the tables and did the same to Scott in this game. Scott had a ton of chips, but had kings cracked to a straight on the river, and then a few hands later all the money went in the middle with Scott holding AQ and Rick2 A-6. An ace on the flop meant little, the turn was a blank...but a six popped up on the river and Scott was down to three green chips.

    Our payout structure is that the runner-up gets his buy-in back and the winner takes the rest. So it looked like the we'd soon be seeing a battle of the Ricks. Scott was already all-in, Rick2 raised...and Rick1 went all-in. Rick2 called, and when the hands were flipped Rick1 had ace-high, Rick2 king-high, and Scott the Doyle Brunson. A ten on the flop, a deuce on the turn, and a ten on the river gave Scott a boat and a few more chips. He was also guaranteed his cash back, as Rick2 bubbled going for the win.

    Rick1 had about a 15-1 chip lead, but it wouldn't be enough. He let me see his cards, and for about 6 hands in a row his best hand was 9-high. Scott was of course pushing nearly every hand, and on the few occasions Rick called he was a dog. And the boards never fell his way. The only time he had the better hand all-in was the last one, and Scott hit his ten to win the game. Not much to be done about it.

    In the next game I showed where the Mean in Mean Gene comes from. Early on I was dealt jacks, re-raised Rick2, who called. I didn't like the king on the flop, but when he pushed I had to call. He only had nines, and didn't improve. Then I eliminated Debbie when my AK was bigger and better than her A-9. When Ted made an odd all-in re-raise on me I noticed that he could barely keep his eyes open, and I sensed weakness. I called with A-7, forcing him to roll over K-8. "You called with A-7?" he muttered, but he was so sleepy he couldn't muster much outrage. A few moments later he was safe in bed while I played on.

    I eliminated Scott--don't remember how, doggone it--and once again Rick1 was involved in an heads-up battle for the cash. After seeing how he played the last game I figured I'd use my massive chip stack to wear him down. Instead he started going all-in nearly every hand and I doubled him up a few times looking him up. Then I looked down at AK and casually called from the big blind, setting my trap. He went all-in, I called in a microsecond...and he rolls over aces. Gotta be frigging kidding me.

    The blinds were big, and after surrendering the chip lead I managed to steal a pot and take it back. And then I was dealt pocket deuces. I was prepared to take a stand with any pair, and after the usual limp and all-in I called and turned over my ducks. It didn't really matter what cards he held, so long as they weren't paired. If I had to flip a coin to decide this thing, I'd rather be on the slightly-longer end of the stick. He turned over A-10 and the race was on.

    Rick2 burned one and snapped out three cards. He turned them over...and there was a ten in the door. Oogh. He spread them out...and there was a beautiful deuce nestled in the middle. "Quack quack quack!" I quacked, and victory was again mine.

    Rick1 went to bed, and me, Scott, Neil and Rick2 decided to play a little Omaha. It beat playing four-handed asshole, and it was a quick little game. I had some cards here and there, but Neil won the big pots early and won the big pots late. We ended heads-up and I was dealt K-Q-J-10. They looked so nice together that I risked all my chips with them. Unfortunately Neil had an ace, flopped the nut flush draw, and made it on the turn. There wasn't even any drama.

    What to do when you've been drinking all night? Drink some more! We went down to the dock, hoping to look up at the sky's celestial majesty. But it was overcast, so we just drank some more. It ended as an early night--only stayed up till 3AM.

    Sunday was a nice, easy day--except for the 30 minutes I spent on the tubes getting beaten to a pulp. Every time I come home from the lake I have these greenish bruises under my armpits from getting bounced up and down the waves like a goddam basketball.

    Nice weekend, and we'll be going up again in a few weeks. Actually, I have the closing on my house that Friday afternoon, so I'll be a late arrival. As more stuff comes off the walls, gets packed into boxes, and goes out in the trash, this place feels less like my home and more like a place where I happen to sleep and eat. Tomorrow I'm planning to sign the lease on my apartment and start taking stuff over. The people buying my house say they'd like to buy some of our furniture, including the incredibly heavy sleeper-sofa in the den. My friends will be thrilled to learn they won't have to move that. Busy days ahead. Busy, surreal days.

    Wonder how Bill Simmons is doing in the WSOP today. Seems like lots of other people are curious too, as I had a big spike of traffic from people looking for Simmons' results and finding the post I wrote about him. Maybe Pauly can find out for us.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006

    And I'm Never Goin' Back...To My Old...School...

    A little Steely Dan to kick things off. So far I've had a nice little day--got my first good night's sleep in three weeks, trimmed the hedges, launched another strike against the yellow jacket nest and made the rubble bounce, spend some time in the hammock, and in a bit I'm going to grill some chicken that's been soaking in a tasty Asian marinade for a day and a night. Afterwards I'll go to J.D.'s to watch volleyball and drink beer. Even took second in a SNG today, though I was unlucky not to win. When you have the nuts two hands in a row, you can't force the other guy to have a hand. Alas.

    Got some bad news from a friend of mine a bit ago, which put me in a somber mood. And then I got an email with my high school's name in the address. Turns out an enterprising former classmate is organizing our 20th high school reunion, and as my email address is on our alumni website from the last reunion, today I received the heads up.

    My 20th high school reunion. Wow. I took a few minutes to clean the vomit off the hardwood floors and then I sat down with a cold compress on my forehead. Twenty years. Where did the time go, I think that's the expected reaction. Well, the time went away, a second, a day at a time. And then I felt nauseated again.

    I felt even worse as I read through the questions the organizer wanted us to answer in our reply. I think you'll quickly understand why:

    Name: Well, that one's easy enough

    Occupation: Um...between engagements? Very freelance writer? Professional poker player? Hey, what the hell?

    Home address: It changes in a week and I don't know it yet. 231 Something Lane.

    Email address: Well, they have this already

    Home phone: Also changing. Guess I can give them my cell.

    Spouses name: Hey, thanks for reminding me that I'm divorced and alone and DEAD INSIDE!

    Children names & ages: Nope, no kids, probably never will have kids now, will probably die miserable and all alone, thanks again for cheering me up!

    Other: What, you want more? How about I've gained five pounds since I got laid off instead of getting svelte as I planned?

    Ahh, I'm not quite the gutted wreck I describe above. I'll be moving into my bachelor pad soon, the closing on the house is around the corner, I'll find a job, I'll get over this inertia and start exercising like I was. All will be well.

    Doesn't mean I'm definitely going to my high school reunion. I had a great time at my 5-year reunion. Too good a time, actually, as I got plastered. Got plastered even worse at my 10-year (it was actually our 11th year) gathering. By now you understand that I drink, sometimes to excess.

    This one...I'm not so sure. Before reunions past I'd talk to or hear from people who said they weren't going, for various reasons. There were people they didn't want to see. Or there wasn't anyone they DID want to see. Or they didn't feel comfortable seeing old friends with their lives not quite as developed as they hoped. I always pooh-poohed these concerns. Come on out. Have some fun. Have a beer, hang out, see who's even more effed up than you!

    But this reunion...I dunno. The guys I hang out with today, we all went to high school together. I still keep in touch with a gang of girls we were all friends with. Certainly there are people I don't keep in touch with that I'd like to see, but I don't look forward to the questions. "So, are you married? Any kids? Where are you working now?" Feh.

    Then again, I have a WHOLE YEAR to get my shit together. In a year I could have a fabulous new job. I could be dating a 24-year-old librarian/aerobics instructor. I could have one--no, two!--books about to be published. What wonders I could accomplish in 365 days! No, I will not even contemplate the "or". I may concede that the 24-year-old part might not come to pass, but I'll stop my backtracking right there. I will give myself the benefit of the doubt. I'll reply to the email, get on the list...and a year from now we'll see who's afraid of a little 'ol class reunion!

    I do wish the nausea would let up, though.

    Monday, July 24, 2006

    When the Bough Breaks; or, This Ain't No Motherfucking Plane!

    After some early-morning running-around and an early exit from a SNG (I'll spare you the ghastly bad beat story) I decided to lay out in the hammock for a bit. It's a beautiful day, and how many more chances will I get to enjoy lying in my back yard? In 18 days, it won't be my back yard.

    So I'm lying out there in shorts and sunglasses, re-reading Kitchen Confidential for the 50th time. I mentioned the other day I saw a groundhog prowling around the backyard, but no sign of him today. I lay out there, soaking up the sun, watching the omnipresent hawks soar overhead...when I heard rustling from the other side of the fence.

    Rustling. No big deal--there are bunnies and squirrels around, they don't bother me. And there's a neighborhood cat who stops by every so often. No biggie. Even the groundhog wouldn't faze me. I'm bigger than he is.

    The rustling got louder, and I turned to see what it was. I was lying just ten feet away, and the noise was loud enough to get my attention. I saw that a tree branch was leaning way over, almost to the ground. I looked up the branch, to see what it was that was making it bend, but there wasn't anything there.

    And then the branch fell to the ground. And in that split-second I figured out what was making the branch bend.

    The branch bent itself.

    Because it wasn't a branch.

    It was a snake.

    It was the Biggest Goddam Snake I've Ever Seen That Wasn't On Goddam Animal Planet. It wasn't as thick around as my thumb--it was as thick around as my wrist. I heard it slither a bit through the underbrush, at which point I exited, stage left. I'm no Jeff Corwin--I don't get a woodie fucking with the slimier of God's creatures. I figured it was a good time to go back inside. I need to complete my unemployment filing online. Later I have to trim the hedges and destroy the yellow jacket hive in my front yard. I'll be outside plenty later on. When the snake's gone.

    I'm sorry, I have to get this off my chest--I'm playing in a SNG, about the fifth hand in I'm dealt QJ and with four limpers I decide to call. The blinds call too and the flop comes J-J-6. Good flop. The small blind checks, and the big blind goes all-in--he bets T1200 into a pot holding T120. Well, I gotta call, so I do. I can't imagine he has AJ or KJ, nor pocket sixes. I gotta be good here. And, in truth, I am--he turns over pocket fives. For the life of me, I cannot see the logic in this. You're risking all your chips in the hopes that none of the other five people at the table have a jack. If one of them does, you're down to a two-outer for your entire stack. If no one does, all you pick up is T120. It's about the worst play imaginable.

    Of course he rivered the five and I was down to T200. I doubled up with AK, doubled up again with AK, and after that hand won the blinds with AQ and aces. The very next hand I'm dealt pocket nines and I raise the fourth hand in a row. The big blind calls and the flop comes jack-high. I should've just gone all-in, as my pot-sized bet left me committed anyway. He re-raises me all-in and I call. I figure him for jacks, or AJ at least. No, he has A-9. He had to know I'd call. What could he possibly beat? I couldn't believe it. Nor could I believe it when he went runner-runner to make a higher flush than me and put me out. I love poker. Nearly as much as I love snakes.

    UPDATE: I said I had to trim the bushes and destroy a yellow jacket nest. I did them in the wrong order. To be fair, I didn't know there was a nest in the one railroad tie that helps form the wall along my driveway. Two stings later, I know. Got nailed twice on the ankle, and it hurt like a bastard. Felt the first sting, that hurt, but the second one was really a bitch, and the damned wasp was still attached to my ankle, struggling to pump the poison in as it's wings fluttered and it's guts poured out all over the place. Awesome. So now I have ice on my ankle and murder on my mind. I have a full can of Raid at my side, Wasp/Hornet formula. Gonna get medieval on their asses...if there was advanced chemical warfare back then.

    Saturday, July 22, 2006

    Wish I Had A Camera

    I was in the kitchen deciding if I should eat lunch or mow the law (lunch won) and I looked out the window and there's this groundhog in my back yard. He's a fat little bastard, and he's munching on these weedy plants that grow along the fence. One of the plants was like three feet tall (I'm slacking on the weeding) and he reached up with his little front paws, grabbed it, and fell on his back so he could chomp away at his leisure.

    He's more than welcome to any greenery in the back yard, as I didn't plant a garden this year. I don't much like yardwork, in fact I hate it, but I am gonna miss seeing the critters around here. Rabbits, squirrels, groundhogs, the usual assortment of birds, including a fair number of cardinals and jays this year. Not to mention the hawks that soar on thermals above my house every warm day. Seriously, every sunny day, when I go outside, there's at least one bird of prey orbiting above my house. They just float up there, letting the rising air take them up, up, up, and when they move out of position they tuck their wings in, glide forward, and then ride the thermals again. Something to see.

    Groundhog found another big, tasty plant where I used to have the garden. Just a weed (I think it's a weed) but he ripped off some big leaves and ate 'em up. He's wandering around the back yard now...hope he doesn't try to burrow under the wooden fence. 'Cause the folks next door have a Rottweiler mix named "Tyson". He's mostly bark, but who's to say he doesn't have a taste for groundhog?

    Friday, July 21, 2006

    Well, We Had a Good Run

    Are we in the End Days of online poker? Every day brings more bad news. As Iggy posted yesterday, Sen. Bill Frist hopes there will be a vote before the Senate recesses August 4th on the Internet gambling bill that passed the House. Will the Senate really go ahead and pass it? Well, have you SEEN some of the creatures who inhabit the Senate these days? I wouldn't trust most of them to sit the right way on a toilet seat. And with Iraq descending into civil war, with Israel and Hezbollah heavily engaged and the krayzees thinking that, oh boy, maybe that means the Rapture is nigh, our government is busy deciding if the right to play poker online is another freedom we need to be protected from.

    And we DO need to be protected, if this CNN article is correct. Which, of course, it isn't. It's an hysterical, one-sided rant against online poker--you know, typical big-media jouralism. The reporter doesn't quote a single person who isn't a staunch opponent of online poker and fills the piece with unsubstantiated claims and anecdotal evidence from anonymous players. The sort of hack job we've come to expect. Seriously, I wish I'd decided to go into journalism as a career, it looks easy. You don't have to think too hard, don't have to ask tough questions, don't have to be fair and/or accurate. BG wrote a pointed and lengthy letter to CNN about it, a noble gesture that will almost certainly fall on deaf ears. Still, the gauntlet must be taken up.

    During my first journalism class we were given a list of facts about an event and then we had to write a brief blurb about it. You know, practicing the whole who-what-where-when-why-how thing. So I write my piece, turn it in, and the next day it comes back with a huge red F across the top. Why did I get an F? Becuase I had misspelled the very Polish last name of one of the people in the story. I transposed a "c" and a "z". An automatic F. The teacher wrote at the bottom that the article wouldn've gotten me an A if I hadn't misspelled the name. But I did. And that got me my own Scarlet Letter. It taught me a lesson, that you have to check EVERYTHING. All the facts, the dates, the quotes...and the names. These days, ehhh. Who cares about facts and accuracy and all that crap?

    ScurvyDog had an excellent post titled Are All Poker Bloggers Going to Jail? Are we poker bloggers aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise? Those of us who advertise for online poker sites...are we the moral equivalent of hustlers selling crack outside the Greyhound station? Again, if you have the courage, I invite you to look at the people who inhabit the United States Senate. If they could get their poll numbers to rise by a tenth of a smidge by selling you and me out, you think most wouldn't do it? You are either more optimistic or more naive than me. Not that I think there will be agents from Homeland Security swooping down on my blogroll if the bill passes...but these days how confident should anyone be that their constitutional rights will be protected?

    Even if the world goes topsy-turvy and sanity prevails for a change, there's other news that possibly spells trouble. Researchers at CMU reported that they've developed a new and improved Hold-Em computer program. It sounds like it's designed to play against one opponent heads-up, so perhaps it's value as a poker bot is limited, but still. I don't like rooting against advances in technology, especially those developed in my hometown, but can't these guys work on something that would better benefit society? Like a program that tracks and brutally kills people who release spyware. That's worth a Nobel.

    And if this hasn't depressed you enough, go check out the roundup Bill Rini put together of the day's poker news. Seems like these days if you play poker it helps to have a lawyer on retainer. Or at least read F-Train's blog.

    Thursday, July 20, 2006

    Auction Time!

    Round two of the auctions to raise money For Peyton are under way at eBay. Hmm, what goodies does Bobby Bracelet have lined up this time?

    Two tickets to the Full Tilt Poker Gala Event at the WSOP! There are two tickets available, each one is allowed to bring a guest. This is up already and will end in 5 days because the event is July 26th. It's at Pure nightclub in Caesar's. Check it out, make a bid, meet and marry a celebrity.

    LATE ADDITION! One lucky sob and a guest have a chance to attend Howard and Suzie Lederer's (and Steve Zolotow's) 4th Annual WSOB and Karaoke Championship. Thursday July 27th, from 6pm - ??? at a restaurant off the strip. Many of the top pros will be there, and you never know, possibly a celebrity or two. I can't think of much that would be more entertaining than seeing somebody like Phil Hellmuth belting out Endless love. Gavin Smith, poker professional and all around great guy, has the tickets and we will get the winning bidder in touch with him to ensure the tickets are in your hand in time.(Note: this does not mean to imply that Phil Hellmuth will be there.)(Also: WSOB apparently stands for World Series of Beer. NICE!)

    Steve Zolotow has donated a night out at one of his favorite hangouts, a place called Nice Guy Eddie's in New York. Dinner for two, drinks, and whatever sort of poker conversation you'd like to have. Ask questions, listen to stories, get some tips and pointers, or just shoot the breeze. He's a great guy that truly enjoys conversations on a variety of topics.

    Robert Mizrachi has offered a 2 Hour Lesson. This will be by phone unless by some chance you can work out a time and place that works for him. With tourneys and travel, chances are you'll have to settle for a phone lesson, but you never know. Doesn't hurt to ask.

    Annie Duke sent two signed copies of her book along with 3 DVD's. They were split up into two packages. The first is the hardcover edition with the advanced secrets DVD, while the other is the paperback version with two DVD's, one for beginners and one for women.

    Mike Krzyzewski signed a Duke hat. Bobby Bracelet tells me it has taken every ounce of his will not to stomp it into oblivion before setting it on fire. If you're a fan, it's a great Nike fitted hat. If you aren't, buy it for charity and do exactly as Bobby would do in hopes it will work like voodoo on Duke's chances next season.

    There is another Card Player package like last time, only this time we have the ability to also add a one year subscription to Card Player Magazine.

    There is another Phil Hellmuth DVD package similar to last time, though it will also be joined by a one year subscription to Card Player Magazine.

    Go To For Peyton and keep in eye on these items. Should be up today. PLEASE DO THE BRACELET A FAVOR AND POST ABOUT THIS ON YOUR SITE. Again, if you'd like to help out, but don't have the means to bid on something, please pass this information along and/or post it on your blog.

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    Drinky Drinky

    Ever look at yourself in the mirror...and see a stranger staring back? I just experienced that very sensation. I was about to get in the shower, caught my reflection, took a long look...and I said "Where the hell did these sideburns come from?". Seriously, my entire life I haven't had sideburns. And now I look like I'm preparing for an audition for 90210 Redux. It's been a gradual, subtle expansion, but now they're threatening my earlobes. How the hell did this happen? And how the hell didn't I notice it?

    The wine festival was quite nice, and not as brutally hot as I feared. Saturday was jam-packed, but we didn't get there until noon so it was only a five-hour wine-sipping sprint. Lots of wine, lots of pretty girls about, it was all very civilized.

    I'm a red wine man myself, I don't much like white wine, don't like sweet or semi-sweet wine, and dessert wine isn't on my radar. But when Kris told me that I HAD to try this one dessert wine I was up for it. I've learned to trust Kris's judgement without reservation, and you would too if you ever tried her black-eyed pea salsa. So I sauntered up to the Standing Stone winery booth and tried their Vidal Ice dessert wine.

    Holy moley, was it good. I mean, I rolled my eyes and did a little dance and bit my lip to keep from moaning. It was almost syrupy, but it wasn't cloying at all. Powerfully sweet, but it left the mouth fresh and ready for more. I couldn't drink a bottle of it at one sitting, but a tiny glass with a few mouthfuls after dinner would be exquisite. Best thing I drank all weekend.

    Saturday night we swam in the hotel pool and lounged in the hotel jazcuzzi, and we didn't get to dinner till 9PM or so. I had a few beers at the Market Street Brewing Company in Corning, that's where we usually enjoy at least one meal when we visit. By the time we finished eating everyone was pretty much dead on their feet. I know I was.

    Rick was the unfortunate soul pair with me for the weekend, and my snoring eventually sent him to the couch to grab some shuteye. On Saturday Rick had struck up a conversation with a girl at the festival and they tried to arrange a meeting afterwards, but we got home too late and it never came to pass. around 6:30 I woke up, saw that Rick wasn't in his bed, and I figured that my snoring had chased him. I felt guilty for all of five minutes, when I heard the rhythmic "squeaky-squeaky" of groaning bedsprings that can only mean one thing. I was a bit disoriented, and I couldn't quite place where the sound was coming from. I couldn't tell if it was from the living room of the suite or the room above. The ceilings were about 10 feet high and the sound played tricks on me. Was it possible that Rick snuck out in the wee hours to meet his girl and they'd adjourned to the living room to, you know? I started hearing moaning and groaning and my blood ran cold. I mean, you gotta be friggin' kidding me, right? I don't need to hear this!

    The encounter was noisy, enthusiastic, and mercifully brief. And, thank the stars above, the culprits were the people above, not Rick. He didn't hear a thing.

    We arrived at the festival on Sunday spot-on 10AM. After a day of drinking in the hot sun and a few beers afterwards what better was to spend a blisteringly hot day than by more drinking! I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get in the swing, but a few swigs of red and I was off and running. Sunday was nowhere near as crowded as Saturday, and Sunday is our day to buy. Our gang made the first kill early on and never stopped. I was a good boy, I made it home with only five bottles of my own. I still have over a case left from previous trips, as Jody and I usually came home with around four cases between us on previous trips.

    Now, four cases of wine is a lot of wine. Way too many. But when you're drinking all day and on vacation you tend to splurge a bit. Well, turns out we're rank amateurs. One of our favorite wineries up there is McGregor Vineyards. They make some kick-ass reds, including one called Black Russian Red that I bought two years and have been waiting for a big enough occasion to open. I'd planned on uncorking it after my house sold, but now that I lost my job I may wait until I get another one. We'll see.

    This year the Black Russian wasn't quite as good as I remembered it from years past. Still pretty damn good. And I picked up a bottle of their Pinot Noir, which was great. Thought not quite as fantastic as their Pinot Reserve, which had me oohing and ahhing. Anyway, Brett is there trying everything twice, it's time to buy, and I'm wondering what he's gonna get.

    Remember the scene from Meaning of Life, when the French waiter played by John Cleese recites the day's menu, and Mr. Creasote grunts, "I'll 'ave the lot!". Well, that's what Brett did, ordering one of everything McGregor had to offer. That was impressive. And the guy who rang us up remembered Brett from last year when he tried to wheel and deal to get some extra discounts and swag. We all made out pretty well there.

    Then back to Standing Stone to buy some of that fantastic dessert wine. Most of our group hadn't tried it yet, but it was a big hit with everyone. We ended up getting a case of the ice wine and another case and change of other stuff. The staff kind of kidded with us that we drank about two bottles of the ice wine as we figured out what we were going to buy. Brett had about half a bottle himself. Brett and Al would get along swimmingly. Likes to eat, likes to drink, likes to have fun, owns enough guns to gain automatic entry to NATO.

    Usually at the end of the day Matt and I would sprint back and forth among those wineries we like best drinking their best reds. By that point we'd have figured out which of those behind the counters gave the best "pour" and present ourselves to them. But after we got separated a bit I found that half the gang had already picked up their wine and were ready to leave. I had to leave with them because otherwise I'd be hunkered down in the bed of an SUV, and I didn't know if New York's seatbelt laws would allow that. I didn't even think of the wine we had to haul away. So I left a bit earlier than expected, but I was about ready to go.

    When you leave the track you first have to pass through a gauntlet of police. They ask a few simple questions to gauge your sobriety, and if you do well they send you on your way. If you don't, they give you a breathalyzer right there. You can actually take a test inside the festival itself, though most of the people who take a test are just trying to show off to everyone how smashed they are.

    Anyway, the cop didn't think that Sherry's statement that she hadn't had any wine in two hours guaranteed her sobriety, so he made her blow into the tube. And she came back at .05. We all thought that was a passing grade, but no. That's a DUI in New York. Now, the cops there are cool, the don't ticket you, they just make you pull over and wait a bit before letting you leave. Or someone else can drive, and in our case Dee passed the test and they switched seats. Tell you what, I was drinking all day, I'd had half a glass just ten minutes earlier, and I felt totally fine. Not even buzzed. I would've driven, and I probably would've been pulled over. Something to think about.

    I did take a ride in a pace car through the Watkins Glen track, and that was fun, though I wish the driver had applied a bit more pressure to the accelerator and gotten us up to around 80 or so.

    Before we went to dinner Sunday night we divvied up the wine. I could tell from all the boxes that we'd put up a serious number, even with me hardly contributing as I nornally would. Dee and Brett ended up with a grand total of...wait for it...78 bottles. Six and half cases of wine. Made me feel like a piker for thinking my previous record of 49 was something extraordinary. In total we brought 203 bottles of wine back to Pennsylvania. That's a lotta vino.

    Friday, July 14, 2006


    This is my 500th post (pauses for applause, pauses some more, drinking it all in...). As this epic milestone approached I tried to think up something doubleplusgood to give to you, my dear readers. And I have some longish posts warming up in the bullpen, but I don't have them done yet and frankly I want to move past this meaningless milestone. 500 posts. Whoopie.

    Like many people who do this blogging thing, I've often asked myself this pressing question, "WHY THE HELL DO I SPEND SO MUCH TIME WRITING THIS CRAP?" Seriously, 500 posts? And I'm long-winded--how many words is that? A quarter-million? More? Jesus, that's like 5 novels I could've had in the can. The time I've wasted! And when you figure that about 350 of my previous posts dealt with how some donkey called my 4BB raise with J-9 offsuit and flopped the straight to crack my aces...oh, oh, oh the humanity.

    Of course I'm one doggone lucky blogger. Every day a few hundred people read what I write, which is cool. Far cooler are the people I've met over the last 500 posts, all of whom are, uh, far cooler than me. Hell, people I know are covering the World Series again this year, and, hell, a dozen or so are PLAYING in it. Our strange little community has come so far, sniff...

    But a few nights ago I again found myself thinking, "Why the hell DO I spend so much time writing this crap?" I had a bad night, couldn't sleep. Got out of bed around 4AM, poured myself a glass of cabernet sauvignon (gotta get back in wine mode for this weekend) and hoped alcohol would dull the racing thoughts in my mind. It took its damn time about it, but eventually I got woozy and went back to bed.

    In the meantime I read a few late-updating blogs, checked the news. Checked my own blog, and saw that I'd gotten a few hits from the Blogger Buzz blog. Turns out they'd been following the WPBT hijinks out in Vegas and they posted a little something about F-Train's big win. And then they mentioned some other poker blogs people should check out and they listed mine. I actually laughed out loud-in part because it's always nice to get a little attention, but also in part because it seemed a bit silly to put MY name out there. Hell, I wasn't even IN Vegas. And I'm not exactly your source for red-hot poker action.

    As the wine fuzzed my brain I wondered if I'll write 500 more posts on this here blog. And then I wondered if that would be a good thing or a bad thing. Lately the passing of time has weighed heavily on my mind. I think that's why I couldn't sleep the other night, my life has been in a state of flux and I don't have any clue what my future holds. It caught up to me that night and my mind wouldn't stop asking questions that have no answers. At least no answers that I'm privy to.

    There was an article in Slate a few months back written by a woman who abandoned her blog. She did so because it was keeping her from her other writing, the work that was really important to her. I'm sure I'm not the only person out there who hasn't looked at that dread "DELETE THIS BLOG" button and seen in it's stark, blue rectangularness a chance to make some grand, futile gesture, one that doesn't involve crashing a wedding ceremony or cutting yourself.

    But seriously, what would be the point of deleting a blog? There's probably some way to reconstitute it, or you can spend ten seconds and start a new one. Heck, even the woman who wrote in Slate about abandoning her blog left herself an out, writing, "I suspect I'll come back to blogging eventually. It will be something I quit on occasion, like whiskey and melted cheese, when the negative effects outweigh the benefits."

    (A brief aside--What negatives to whiskey and melted cheese have?)

    The best way to send a blog to oblivion would be to stop writing. And I don't think I can do that. Don't want to do that. I like writing. Like arguing. Like pontificating. Like making myself feel all smart and tough. Like patting myself on the back. And as I'm a quiet and shy guy in person, this is where I get to mouth off. Where I get to say what I goddam please. Where I'm Mean Gene.

    Am I going to write 500 more posts? Dunno. But I'm pretty sure post 501 will be about me drinking lots of red wine in blistering heat, with the occasional chilled Reisling as a restorative (thanks, DP).

    And so, have a good weekend. Looking forward to reading lots of good stuff when I get back.

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    I Thought Vegas Was Hot

    This weekend I'll be up in Watkins Glen again for the Finger Lakes Wine Festival. Two days of drinking New York State's finest reds, a dram at a time. The past few years I've come home with way too much wine, so this year I'm limiting myself to a case at most. Maybe a case and a half. If there's something I can't live without.

    So that'll be fun. I think. The reason I'm not sure is the weather. This morning I did a check on Yahoo and found the temperature up there was going to be 91 on Saturday...and NINETY-FIVE DEGREES on Sunday. That's hot. And then you figure in that the wineries have their booths set up in the pit area of the Watkins Glen race track...and that there are thousands of people crowded cheek-to-jowl's going to be ghastly. There's a good reason why there isn't a Vegas casino with a Black Hole of Calcutta theme. Last year it was brutally hot. This year is going to be worse.

    Though there is some hope. I checked the weather a few minutes ago and they've dropped the forcast to 89 for Saturday and a mere 90 for Sunday. With temps skyrocketing to 96 on Monday. There's a reason why you don't read about Bertie Wooster enjoying an after-dinner snifter of port while lounging in the Gobi desert. I remember last year, I was pouring sweat after five minutes inside, and the first thing I tried was a port. Mistake. Again, there's a reason why people don't bring kegs of port to a picnic in August. It's not refreshing in punishing heat. And this weekend I'll have to absorb some punishment.

    Got a taste of it this afternoon when I had to change my left rear tire. It was only 85 or so with Thailand-caliber humidity. That was fun. Especially when one of the bolts sheared off as I removed the lugnuts. So I gotta run it over tomorrow, let them see if they can salvage my previous tire, and let them do their thing with the bolt. Awesome.

    I was determined to lose my last few pennies at poker last night, so I entered a 5-table SNG figuring that if my luck continued I'd be in bed at a decent hour. I made it to the final table thanks to doubling up late with the Ladies, and as three players took turns holding a massive chip lead I just tread water and made the money. With the blinds ludicrously high I had to push when the big blind hit me. And I was dealt...aces. It was folded around to the small blind and I was afraid he fold too, but no, he raised me all-in. I instacalled, and he turned over...kings. Incredible.

    Of course he flopped a king and knocked me out. Sigh. I'll try again to bust myself tonight. But perhaps I'm underestimating my survival skills.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go drink a gallon of PediaLight. Gotta start hydrating NOW.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    The Lake Provides No Relief

    Mired in the worst losing streak of my poker career, I thought a trip to the lake last weekend might shake me out of the doldrums. The trip didn't get off to a good start--while picking up Ted I saw that my rear left tire was half-flat. I didn't hear air hissing out, and it didn't seem to be getting worse, but a 90-minute drive might not have been the best way to test it out. We'd just finished loading the car, so we had to transfer everything to Ted's car then take mine back to my house. Then I had to listen to Ted's choice of music on the way up. Let's put it this way--the BEST choice among his CDs was Duran Duran's Greatest Hits.

    By 10PM or so the usual suspects had arrived, I had three or four Yuenglings in me, and it was time for poker. Last year at the lake was a nightmare for me, pokerwise--I don't think I won a single game. I know I didn't the last 2 times we went up. And with me in a downward spiral I needed to get off to a good start.

    And a good start I got. I played lots of pots, played the Hammer to tilt-inducing perfection, and ended heads-up against Debbie. My nemesis. As Napoleon had Wellington, as Rommel had Montgomery, I have Debbie.

    I had her about 3-1, but what does that mean when Debbie is involved? I did get her to lay a few hands down with well-timed bluffs, giving me confidence. Though that confidence was shaken when all the money went in with me holding K-5 and Debbie K-2. With a deuce showing on the flop. But I had a know how it is, you just KNOW your card is going to show. Of course, 90% of the time when you have that feeling it ends up being totally wrong, but still. I had a feeling a five would hit on the river. And, shades of Dutch Boyd! A five on the river, and I reigned supreme! It felt good to hand a three-outer on someone for a change. Especially when it's Debbie.

    Alas, I was to be punished for my hubris.

    The next game began with me picking up hands. Won with pocket eights, won with Queens, won with the Hammer. And then I was dealt pocket aces. There was action ahead of me, so I kicked it up there content to take the pot right there. But Neil called. The flop came King high, Neil made a healthy bet, and I decided to end this nonsense right now. "All-in," I said, and Neil went into the tank. He thought long and hard, long and hard enough to convince me that he had a king he wasn't too happy with. Which made me very happy. I didn't care what he did, and he ended up calling with K-10. I rolled over my aces and started designing blueprints for the chip castle I would build with this pot.

    Until a goddam ten hit on the turn. I mean, come on! "Pair the board?" I asked the Poker Gods, and they answered, "Yea!". Trouble is, they put another king out there, and I was first man out.

    "Nice hand," I sneered and went to the kitchen for a cookie. Neil won that game, with MY chips. Bastard.

    Riddle me this--we played poker until 3AM, an early night for us. I drank, oh, 20 beers. Yet not only did I not puke my brains out, I wasn't even that drunk. I even read for 30 minutes before turning out the lights. Yet if I have 3 beers after playing volleyball I get this goofy smile on my face and start waxing poetic. I can't blame it solely on dehydration, because I get goofy even when I'm only WATCHING volleyball. Could the emotional, mental, and physical requirements of poker in some way accelerate the body's ability to synthezize alcohol? Probably...not.

    The next morning I woke without a hangover, but that didn't mean I didn't enjoy my favorite hangover cure--zipping along the lake in the JetSki and plowing through the waves to kick up freezing curtains of spray. It never fails to exhilarate and clear the mind. Let me say this--I have newfound sympathy for Ben Roethlisberger. There is a particular thrill about going at a high rate of speed with the wind blowing through your hair. It wouldn't be the same with a helmet on. It also wouldn't be the same if I fell off the JetSki as opposed to a motorcycle. Water doesn't do the same damage as steel or concrete. So while I think riding a motorcycle without a helmet is crazy, I understand it's appeal.

    Set a personal speed record--got it up to 53MPH. That's a pretty good clip, even on glass-smooth water. It wasn't really a good weekend for the JetSki, as the sun stayed hidden most of the time and the whipping wind-chill dropped my core body temperature down toward 90 degrees. Still a blast.

    More poker Saturday night, and Debbie took her revenge. Down to three against her and her husband Scott (yeah, no collusion there) I had my lucky hand, pocket tens. I raised, Debbie called. The flop came nine-high, she bet, and I pushed all-in. She had me easily covered, and so she called...with jack-high. She called me with jack-high! The turn was a bad card for me, as it gave her a flush draw. And the river sucked--it was a jack. And I was out.

    I got knocked out the next time by Tara...darn it, I don't recall the exact details. Oh, now I do. She'd survived an all-in against me when I held A-10 and she held jacks. Then I was dealt the jacks, and she she called with K-J. You know what came on the flop, and I was out again.

    I was snakebit and stayed snakebit. Couldn't put two hands together. Haven't been able to in the last 2 weeks. I haven't been playing much, but when I have, I've gotten killed. Really wished I'd skipped the Full Tilt bonus and just cashed out. I would've had a little spending money for the wine festival I'm going to this weekend. I just got bounced in a SNG to a guy who won five consecutive all-ins...each calling with the worst hand or the bad end of a coin flip. I pushed with pocket nines, he called off 1/3 of his stack with Q-10. He made Broadway by the turn. And that was the best call he made.

    Sigh, sigh, sigh. I thought I was playing good for awhile and then the wheels fell off. I planned on giving my game more attention when I moved into my apartment and the house was sold, but I kinds need to find a job first. Sigh, life won't let me devote my time to my poker. And the way I'm running, life might be doing me a favor.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    The Government We Deserve

    The House of Representatives sucks.

    In yet another example of how We the People need to have our hand held, that we can't be trusted to make decisions about our lives, how we lead them, and how we spend our money, the House of Representatives passed the Goodlatte-Leach bill by a score of 317-93. Amazing that a time when our nation is at war in Iraq, when Afghanistan is far from secure, when Iran and North Korea thumb their nose at us and pursue nuclear weapons, when record budget deficits pile up year after year and median income stays flat, that our elected officials have time to pursue such pressing issues as:

    • An amendment banning gay marriage
    • An amendment banning flag burning
    • A law banning online gambling.

    Well, some gambling. Horse racing is still OK. So are state lotteries. Why betting on the ponies and buying scratch-off tickets are fine while poker is bad is something no one in Congress seems anxious to answer. I think it has to do with "money", specifically money that comes into their districts (and their campaign coffers) from one source and not from others.

    My own representative, the always obediant Melissa Hart, voted Yea. I haven't been able to determine what Hart's opinion is on the slots casinos that are about to spring up all over Pennsylvania (well, at the glacial rate the process is moving it's not fair to say they'll be "springing") but I'd wager that she's against those too. Wait, am I still allowed to say "wager"?

    I've no problem with people opposing slots casinos. Or any other casinos. There are reasonable arguments against building casinos, and I can appreciate them. But online gambling doesn't have the same impact on those who don't participate that a brick-and-mortar casino does. And those who want to gamble online should be allowed to pursue that avenue of happiness.

    I have tremendous sympathy for people with gambling problems. I don't pretend that there aren't consequences. But the idea that there are vast hordes of zombies out there transfering their life savings to PartyPoker is just hysteria. Some people have gambling problems. Some people have drinking problems. Some people have trouble with sex, with love, with adrenaline, with fast food. I'd like everyone to be happy and not have these issues. But banning an activity that most people enjoy with no deleterious effects because a small percentage can't handle it isn't the way to go. Though it's hypocritical in the extreme to argue that this bill is concerned wtih potential gambling addicts, as it only bans certain kinds of gambling while leaving loopholes big enough to drive an Brinks truck through. Someone with a problem will still be able to gamble if this bill passes.

    It's your basic election-year manuevering, and hopefully the wise and sage counsel of the Senate will kill this law in it's infancy. Oh, right. The Senate. Where Bill Frist and Rick Santorum and other noble souls serve. It's quite possible that we're all fucked. Well, we've known that for the last six years or so. How is it, I ask, that our nation, America, this land filled with brilliant, hard-working, compassionate people, elected this President, these Representatives, and these Senators. I shouldn't tar them all with the same brush, there are those in Washington who serve our nation well. That being's quite possible that we're all fucked.

    November isn't too far away. Vote, boys and girls. You might not have much to choose between, but VOTE.

    Your Good Deed For the Day

    If you read this blog, and you like poker, then I strongly recommened you check out the goodies that are up for auction at eBay as part of the fundraiser for little Peyton Novoa. If you scroll down a bit you'll see a big red banner ad that leads you to the ForPeyton website where you can learn more. You can either make a donation direct or you can bid on merchandise that a number of top poker pros have donated. Want an autographed Phil Ivey Full Tilt basketball jersey? A T-shirt autographed by Phil Hellmuth? A Full Tilt hockey sweater autographed by WPT Player of the Year Gavin Smith? Or, if you want to break my heart, you can bid up the Card Player cover autographed by Isabelle Mercier. I don't know if my 401(k) will be liquidated in time for me to make a ludicrous last-second bid, but maybe the paperwork will come through in time...

    Seriously, check it out, you might find something that will dazzle the folks at your neighborhood poker game. You can also make a direct charitable donation if you're not into poker swag. And what better cause can there be than helping out a little girl?

    Darn it, that magnificent bastard Al has the high bid on Isabelle's picture. I have a feeling lots of bidders are lying in the weeds, waiting for the eBay fish to think they've got the object of their desire already in the bag before springing a last-second, soul-crushing bid. Never play eBay chicken with a bunch of degenerate poker players fresh off a long weekend in Vegas.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Burning Down the House!

    Our closing is set for August 11th. It was originally September 25th. That means I'm probably going to be moving around August 1st. Wow, that's coming up fast.

    Of course, if there isn't a house to sell that point will be moot. This morning I woke up, read a bit, put the clean dishes away, and made myself a little omelet with the two eggs left in the fridge. I don't have a toaster, so I turned the broiler on, stuck in two slices of bread, and went to work on the omelet. Added some cheese, flipped the omelet, flipped the toasting bread, and five minutes later I was eating breakfast.

    I was about 95% sure I turned the broiler off. Well, that one-outer hit on the river--I hadn't turned the broiler off. Normally no big deal. However, because I went away for four days, and because the people who bought my house were coming for a tour with their parents, I did some last-second tidying before I left. Including stashing my grilling tools inside the oven. Tools that have wooden handles. Wooden handles covered in rubber.

    I ate and started going through my Bloglines folders. From time to time I heard the oven pinging. I thought it was cooling down. No, no, it was heating up. And then I smelled something. Something burning. Something synthetic and acrid. I leapt up, ran to the kitchen, and saw the knob on the stove turned to BROIL. Uh oh. I pulled open the door and inside my grill tools were done to about medium-well. There was smoke--not a lot, but enough to fill the kitchen with a blue haze--and I dumped them in the sink and hit them with cold water, which spattered and hissed against the blazing-hot metal.

    I opened every window in the house to let the stink and smoke dissipate. Nice way to start off the week. Glad I didn't decide to eat out on the porch, or take a siesta in the hammock. Or this might've been a much more entertaining post.

    Zidane won the Golden Ball as the World Cup's outstanding player. Surprised he got it over Cannavaro...did he win the award despite the head butt, or because of it? Did he simply do what fans all over the world would like to see done to teams who put such a premium on playacting and wussiness?

    Incidentally, if you'd like to see why the Italians won the World Cup, watch this video.

    Max Pescatori had a nice day yesterday, yes? Italy wins the World Cup, Max wins a bracelet at the WSOP. And I bet he didn't dive once.

    Back Home

    That's where most folks who were out in Vegas are headed right now. Me, I'm back from the lake, sore from having my junked kicked a half-dozen times at the poker tables. And sore from tubing, especially after one particularly nasty spill.

    Hope yinz had fun out there in Sin City. My Bloglines folder had about 800 items in it, and I just don't have the strength to go through it right now. I'm sure I'll be reading about lots of bad behavior that I missed out on.

    Isabelle Mercier finished fifth in the $5K event. A valiant effort that should, nay, must be praised to the heavens! And Hellmuth finished second. If the glass isn't half-full, it's perhaps only a quarter empty. Does that make sense? I don't think so. I'm beat.

    One last thing--what the fuck was Zinedine Zidane thinking when he went Rowdy Roddy Piper during the biggest sporting event in the world? Zidane is one of the few soccer players I actually admire, because he isn't the sort of guy who dives and pouts and all that crap. And of course he's a fabulous player. But what he did...short of grabbing a coconut and busting it upside Jimmy Snuka's head, what he did today was about the worst thing imaginable. He got himself thrown out when his team needed him for the penalties. And while I can kinda-sorta respect him for, well, the viciousness of the assault, the timing couldn't have been worse. If France had been ahead, or even behind, then maybe the Italian dude said something unforgivable and you put him on the ground. But with the game hanging in the balance...incomprehensible.

    Sad that he nearly won the game for France with a snapping header that unfortunately went straight at Buffon. And then it was his head that got him thrown out of the game.

    Right before it happened Zidane looked like he got fouled going up for a header and, after the ref yet again let play go on after he'd been whacked, Zindane lay there in what I thought was an obvious attempt to make a point to the ref and get himself a few moments rest. Yet Dave O'Brien and Marcello Balboa made his return to the pitch seem like the second coming of Willis Reed. All this garbage about how he was adding to his legend, remaning on the field...come on! The trainer turned his freeze ray on Zidane's shoulder (it looked like Zidane was more troubled by some spray that got in his eyes than his "injury") and there he was running around like nothing happened. But to the announcers it was like he was Ronnie Lott coming back into the game after having his finger amputated.

    Seriously, what I would give to see Chris Chelios and Darius Kasperitis and Troy Polamalu play some soccer. They'd give you a reason to writhe around on the ground, believe you me.

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    I Know What I Want For Christmas!

    The good news is that Isabelle Mercier made the final table of the $5K No-Limit event! The bad news is that ESPN didn't plan on covering it. Are you kidding me? They force-feed Hold-Em to us with a funnel and plunger, and then they don't plan to televise the biggest buy-in event short of the Big One? And the HORSE event, I know. But still, some of the decisions made by Harrah's and ESPN boggle the mind. Go read what Pauly has to say.

    The other bad news is that Phil Hellmuth is also at the final table, and he has chips. Oh Poker Gods, please, no. Don't let him get his tenth bracelet. It'll set poker back five years. It'll give me indigestion. Please, please, let it get down to him and Isabelle, with Phil holding a 4-1 chip lead, and let her annihilate him. Let her break his spirit and let there be eight cameras filming it for posterity. Oh please, after all the nasty stuff you've done to me lately, withdraw my balance from the Karmic Bank and transfer it to her account. God, how goopy and romantic can I get...

    Seriously, I was up until 3AM following Otis and PokerWire, and I feel more than a bit pathetic right now. Once it hit 1AM I guess I felt committed. The sad thing is, if Isabelle DOES win the bracelet then my chances of serenading her and winning her heart fall so low they have to be measured in degrees Kelvin. But it's her happiness that counts, right?

    Thing is, I won't get to watch-read what happens. I'm going away to the lake this evening and I won't be back until Sunday at the earliest. So I'll be on pincushions the whole weekend. Well, I'll deal with that by drinking a lot, eating a lot, bombing around the lake on the JetSki and drinking a lot more. And destroying Debbie with my fearsome poker chops. Last year I didn't have any luck playing at the lake. This year, I dominate.

    Wish I was going to Vegas to see the best and the brightest. Had a blast in December, and I'm sure everyone going will have a blast this time. Drink lots of water, get some sleep when there's a lull in the insanity (this goes double for East-Coasters) and just enjoy yourself.

    When I finally crawled into bed last night (this morning) I lay there for about five minutes before I heard that "tap...tap...tap" on my windows that I talked about yesterday. It was 3AM. Monsters be damned. I was tired.

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    Check Under the Bed

    I've been living alone for a little over seven months now, and I'm quite pleased that I haven't lost my mind yet. Oh, it's not that I get lonely--I like being by myself, I need lots of quiet, quality "me" time, and I get out fairly often and mix with the unwashed masses outside my door. Nor do I have trouble taking care of myself--I cook, I clean, I do my own ironing, I even fold my own sheets. And because the house has been up for sale I can't leave half-chewed chicken bones strewed over the hardwood floors. It's puts some people off.

    No, the problem is that when you live alone you're totally at the mercy of the Monsters. The Monsters who live under the bed. In the closet. Behind closed doors. I know what you're thinking--there are no Monsters. And, hey, I know that too. Monsters...they aren't real. But when it's 2:30 in the morning and you suddenly hear a loud "CLUMMFF!" in the kitchen, well, what else could it be? But a Monster?

    My house in nestled in the gentle arms of suburbia. Deer, squirrels and bunny rabbits frolic in my back yard. The potential for crime is pretty low, though it happens--a few years ago someone broke into my car (can I say they broke in when the door was unlocked?) and stole my digital recorder. Probably one of the jackass kids who live around here. But I'm not too worried about someone tweaking on crystal meth smashing in my door to rip off my TV set.

    Unfortunately I have an active imagination, and lately it's been getting a workout. This is really the first extended time I've ever lived by myself. In college I subletted a friend's apartment and stayed at Penn State for the summer to edit the school paper. I had a month by myself during Intersession before my friend Adam came up for the rest of the summer. The first night I move in, get situated, get comfortable. I lived on the top floor of a seven story apartment building, and so far as I knew I was the only person living on the entire floor. Didn't see or hear anyone else.

    The bedroom was postioned at the corner of the buiding. About ten feet beyond the wall was the door leading to the stairwell. I'd used the elevator when I moved in, as humping seven flights didn't sound like too much fun. So I didn't know that the hinge that kept the heavy, steel door from swinging shut was broken. I found out around 2AM, when my next door neighbor came home from the bars, pushed open the door, and let it swing free.

    It was like God dropped a serving platter on His celestial kitchen floor. "BA-BOOOOOM!" It sounded like somone had driven a battering ram right through my bedroom wall. And the sound echoed through the hallway and down the stairwell, so that the vibrations extended like the last crescendo of A Day in the Life. Scared me shitless. And I stayed scared for about a month. Couldn't sleep. Especially as once a week or so someone would come up the stairs, forget to ease the door back, and wake me from an uneasy slumber in the worst way possible. That didn't involve a gun in my face, at least.

    Fast-forward to the summer I graduated. I stayed in State College for an extra week because friends were getting married in Philly and I figured I'd save myself some back-and-forth across the state. We'd already subletted our apartment, so I moved next door to my friends' place. I sorta knew the girl living in our place, she was in the same business frat as two of my friends.

    Oh, the hijinks kids will get into. We lived on the fourth floor of a six-story complex. One night there was a party on the top floor, it was loud but it didn't bother me none, and a few of the scamps upstairs came up with a funny idea around 1AM. At some point they'd acquired the torso of a mannequin, and being funny guys they put a shirt on it, wrapped it in a blanket to hide the legs, and threw it off the balcony.

    It passed right by the balcony shared by my current and old apartments. When I saw the "body" sail past it wasn't that big of a shock. I heard the hooting and laughing from above, so I had an inkling that something had just happened. What I didn't count on, or expect, was the blood-curdling SCREAM that came from next door. Poor Melinda saw the "body" hurtle past, thought someone had jumped, and did what came naturally.

    I still hear that scream some nights when I wake up in a cold sweat. She ran out onto her balcony, I did the same. She was babbling that someone jumped, and we both looked down and saw it was just a broken-up mannequin. To my dismay, she got a grip almost immediately and went inside like nothing had happened. Meanwhile I'm still haunted by that scream.

    Even though that little squeal doesn't compare to what happened a few years ago. You know how some nights are perfect for sleeping? It's cold outside, but under the covers it's just right? Your pillow cradles your head and all around you is softness and warmth? That's how it was for me one chilly October night. It was a Friday, so I could sleep in. I probably had a smile on my face as I navigated through Dreamland.

    I woke to what could only be described as a terrified shriek, high-pitched, loud, and it went on forever. I jerked out of bed, and what I saw scared the hell out of me. My wife was standing in the door, looking down the hallway. The light was on, and I could see that she was so terrified she was in tears. I leapt out of bed, not knowing what she was looking at. What could she have seen that would make her scream like that, and look that horrified?

    "What!?" I said, and stuck my head out of the bedroom door. I expected to see a knife-wielding intruder, or a maniac in a hockey mask, or at least a Monster. Nope. I didn't see anything.

    And then I saw two of my cats with their heads on swivels, looking for something. And Jody screamed again and leapt about eight feet horizontally.

    "A mouse!" she screamed. "There's a mouse!"

    A mouse. A god-dammed mouse. I nearly had a Category-5 stroke over a mouse. The cats were very interested in finding where it was--well, Izzy wasn't. The screams scared the curiousity out of him and he was hiding under the couch. As for me, I had to find the mouse before the cats ate him up. Because Jody didn't want mouse scraps all over the house.

    How to rid yourself of a mouse? My recommendation is a plastic trash bin and a tennis racquet. Took me seven seconds to bag me a mouse, take him outside, and let him free in the woods. He took off like the happiest mouse you've ever seen. I went back inside, accepted all the thank yous and I'm sorrys, advised the cats that the mouse was gone and they should stop looking for it, and went back to bed. I think I fell asleep five minutes after dawn.

    But since I've been living alone I've done pretty well. I'm used to the unique creaks and groans the house makes. But there have been a few moments in the last week or so that have me throwing open closets and checking under the bed.

    About a month ago I thought I heard someone walking out in my backyard. At midnight. Now, there are kids in the neighborhood, maybe it was done of them, but the kids next door at little, they shouldn't be out at midnight. I looked out my window and saw three deer sauntering past. Ah, deer. There are more of them about the neighborhood this year. No big deal.

    Then for the last few nights I've heard something pinging at my windows. Just a light "tap tap tap". I got up, turned on the outside lights, looked around. Nothing. But it's loud enough that it isn't the wind. I don't know what's making that sound.

    On top of that came the "CLUMMFF!" sound I mentioned before. That scared the crap out of me. A sound like that doesn't come about spontaneously. I listened for more noise, and after hearing none went to the kitchen to investigate. I looked around, looked around, didn't see anything...and then I saw that the plastic cutting board I'd rested against the counter had slipped and fallen flat. Clummff.

    So I felt pretty stupid. Just as I feel pretty stupid when I do my laundry and see if anyone is hiding in the bathroom down there. Maybe it's just paranoia born from having troops of strangers marching through my house, but when I know someone has been there I like to make a quick reconnassaince of the place. Just to make sure no one stayed behind.

    I have nightmares where I open a door to see if anyone is hiding in there...and someone IS hiding in there. Sometimes the intruder tries to stay hidden, and I stumble away trying to escape. Sometimes the intruder leaps up an attacks me. Sometimes it's a person hiding there, sometimes it's one of the more gruesome monsters from Quake. Not sure what I'd do if I opened the door in real life and there was someone hiding. Ask them to leave? Ask them to stay for dinner? Or would we skip the chit-chat and just fight to the death?

    We had our home inpsection Friday, and I did some heavy-duty cleaning to put our best foot forward. When I came home the shower curtain in the hall bathroom was pulled all the way to the side. I pulled it back across. It makes the bathroom look better, and I like the color. I came home Sunday night and the curtain was pulled halfway open. Did I do that? I didn't remember doing that...especially since I don't use that bathroom. I pulled it all the way across again.

    I went to a friends' house for a 4th of July picnic. Ate well, drank well. Got home, turned on the TV, waddled to the bedroom to change into a T-shirt and shorts. Walked back to the kitchen, passed the hall bathroom...

    And the shower curtain was pulled all the way back.

    I can't deny that I was freaked. I've been slightly freaked for a few days anyway. But this got the corner of my lip twitching. I don't think I pulled the curtain back. No way did I pull the curtain back. I didn't do it.

    But then...who did, if not me? Why the hell would someone enter my home, pull back the shower curtain...and then leave? My realtor has a key, but, come on, that's crazy. The people who bought the house? Maybe they tried the front door, maybe I didn't lock it, maybe they wandered around and fiddled with the curtain and forgot about it and left? That's pretty friggin' implausible.

    So what could it be? The only answer that makes any sense at all, the only one that stands up to logic and cold, careful reasoning, is this--it was the Monsters. They did it. Has to be.

    Glad I'm going away for a few days. I could use a good night's sleep.

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    Suck Out the Poison

    'Cause I am snake-bit, cats and kittens. I'm on a bad streak that has shaken my faith in the cosmos. I've lost 2/3 of my fundage and I can't imagine having a winning night again. I mean, seriously, I feel like I'm being fucked with by professional fuckers.

    And I don't mean the people I've been playing with, who are, generally, ghastly players. Ask yourself, which is the worst play--overbetting the pot by nine times holding middle pair, or calling that bet on a board with top pair and a ten kicker? K-10 won the pot--and he then begins lecturing the other player on his terrible play. These are the swamps I slog through every day, people.

    Over and over I get mercilessly cold-decked. What did I do to offend you, oh Poker Gods? Really, that set-under-set I lost--that happens. Rarely , but it happens. Having the 2nd best flush a few times, yeah, that was funny, we had some laughs. And flopping the nut straight when the other guy flopped the nut flush--and then led out with an inexplicable overbet--even that I can forgive and try to forget.

    Then there are the hands I won. The quads I flopped--thanks for making me go heads-up against a guy who'd lost 95% of his stack the previous hand. And the full house I made on the turn that I thought would let me stack off the guy who flopped his king--nah. He had zilch. And the three times in a row I had the nut flush and got no action. Awesome. Here's the poker lesson for today--winning tiny pots and losing big pots is not the way to success.

    Seriously, I'm kinda paranoid these days as it is (to be discussed in a forthcoming post) but I feel persecuted by the cards. What did I do to deserve this?

    Sorry about this, I'm pretty miffed at running up my account to a healthy state and losing most of it to people who don't have an effing clue what they're doing. My confidence is all shook up. I doubt the sanity of the Universe. My own sanity (or lack thereof ) has never been much in doubt.

    Sunday, July 02, 2006

    Running Bad

    I said the other day that I was cashing out what little I had in my bankroll to do more responsible things (find a job, exercise, blah blah blah). Then I learned about Full Tilt's 50% bonus and thought, hey, can't miss an opportunity like that!

    Mistake. Rather than tell you in gruesome detail what happened, I'm just gonna say that I got unlucky a few times and leave it at that. I actually just wrote an impassioned 1,500 word sob story about three hands in particular, but you don't want to read about it and I've already had the catharsis of writing it. And of throwing up in my toilet five minutes ago. Well, most of it went in the toilet. Where's that mop...

    Wouldn't it be nice if there was a book you could read that could improve your no-limit game? A book written by someone whose advice you trusted and whose game you admire? Wouldn't that just be something?

    The WSOP is in full swing. Joe Hachem and Dutch Boyd are battling it out for the bracelet in the $2500 short-handed NL tournament. Not that I've been following it much. Not after I saw the picture of Isabelle Mercier posted on the PokerStars blog yesterday. Hey, see how much you get done after six straight hours of sighing.

    Saturday, July 01, 2006

    God Save the Queen

    Rather than write 1,000 words about how England is a rich, noble, and most fortunate nation despite it's loss today, I'll skip that and instead say this--how come they can't find five guys at a time who can hit a penalty kick?

    OK, everyone on the pitch was exhausted. And by the end of extra-time it felt like winning the game would be besides the point. If you can't decide the game by actually playing the game, why not skip the skill competition and just flip a coin? If you're going to let something like penalty kicks decide the biggest game of the year, hell, save everyone the trouble and flip a coin. No heroes, no goats. Call it in the air.

    Lampard, Hargreaves, Gerrard and Carragher all looked tentative. They took a few frightened steps up to the ball and bury a single shot. And now they're done. To paraphrase Wellington, "They came at them in the same old way, and they lost, in the same, old way."

    Thanks in large part to yet another inexplicable red card. Rooney was getting mugged by two guys, gets his shirt pulled off his shoulder, and steps on a defender. And he gets a red card for that? Or did he get carded for shoving Ronaldo? Or did he step on the prostrate defender after the shove? At first ABC's execrable announcers (can we refuse to re-admit Balboa into the US?) said that it was Rooney's initial step that earned him the card. And Balboa was saying that the ref HAD to make that call. How the hell can you throw a guy out for that? Rooney was being pulled down, the defender rolled under his legs. And that's the move Balboa said was deserving of a straight red. Wha???

    There are rumors that Real Madrid wants to buy Ronaldo. If I'm Man U, sell him now when he's the hot commodity of the moment. He's already loathed throughout the Premiership--think he'll be a bit less popular now? And it doesn't look like he and Rooney will be sharing any long soaks in the hot tub after this. Funny, Ronaldo is obviously a major talent, yet his primary skill is diving. His instinctive wussiness is perhaps his most impressive attribute. He makes a dazzling run down the sideline, and then...splash!! I know this is something constantly harped on by American fans, but it's the diving (and the histrionics that follow) that will keep soccer a third-class sport in this country. It's un-American.

    The coverage was appalling. I think I speak for everyone on the face of this planet when I say that I do not give a RAT'S ASS what a handful of fans are doing in some pub in Wimbledon. Get them off my TV scree and show the game or the action in the stands. Or show me a crowd scene in London with a hundred thousand people watching in Trafalger Square. If there were people watching the game there. I dunno if that was the case or not. But in any case, stop showing me fifty people crowded around a goddam big-screen TV. That goes for ALL sporting events. I don't want to see Red Sox fans in some Irish pub during a playoff game in Yankee Stadium. Fuck that. Stop that. Jesus.

    Dave O'Brien identified Steve McLaren as Sven-Goran Eriksson. Nice catch. For about the fifth time, Balboa said that Hargreaves was used to the heat because he "plays in Germany". Um, Marcelo? They usually play during the fall and winter in Germany. When it's quite cold. While Beckham plays in Madrid, one of the hottest cities in Europe. Isn't there a producer or someone to tell you when to shut the hell up?

    Poor Aaron Lennon. He might've been the breakout star of the World Cup if he'd actually gotten to play more than 30 minutes total. You wonder what might've been had England presented teams with Cole and Lennon streaking down the wings. I'm sure folks in Argentina are thinking the same thing about Messi right now.

    Not a very fun way to spend a bright, sunny morning. Think I'm gonna take a shower, hit the bar, and watch Zindane and Ronaldo get reacquainted. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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