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
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Isabelle Mercier
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    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Sixth-Graders Suck; or, Even Cowboys Get The Blues

    OK, here is the long-awaited post from my trip to the lake a bit ago. You'll soon understand why it took me so long to write. I'm not a masochist, I don't go looking for pain. And reliving the was hard.

    Ted and I arrived on Thursday afternoon, and while I took the JetSki out for a quick sun run, I had my mind focused on one thing, and one thing only--eating Frank's fajitas and Heather's Spanish rice. The boating, the drinking, the hanging out with far-flung friends? Screw that. Screw them. Fajita. Rice.

    Frank grilled a mess of chicken and a mess of steak and carved 'em up into slender, tender planks. There were grilled peppers. Frank made a big batch of salsa made from veggies from his garden for an appetizer. And of course there were two big bowls of Spanish rice, which I'm convinced has a special ingredient known as "crack". I would donate plasma for a bowl. Can't get enough of it.

    Though, eventually, I did get enough of it. I ate until I was almost full..but just almost. I knew there would be time for a midnight snack...after we played some poker.

    To the tables! I did very well last time out, winning three of four tournaments and guaranteeing that my unemployed soul would be eating meat at least TWICE the following week. I had visions of expired hot dogs and remaindered bologna dancing in my head as I riffled my chips and hunkered down for the first game of the night. You can't win 'em all if you don't win the first, as my Uncle Bob has said, and I went and won the first game of the night. I didn't get great cards, but I certainly hit the flops. I ended heads-up against Frank, and repaid his fajitamajik by flopping top two pair on board of A-10-5, all diamonds. I bet, he went all-in, and I called fearing the flush draw. Turns out he had J-10, no diamonds, and that was that. Victory was mine!

    Game two saw me playing at a very, very high level, even despite the ten beers I'd had at this point. Everyone assumes I play very tight, which is somewhat true, but I mix it up a bit more than everyone thinks. Especially when I'm on my way to getting nicely sloshed. It didn't hurt that I kept hitting flops, and that the suckouts were hitting other people. On one hand Ted had A-10 against Neil's pocket sevens. A meaningless board right up to the river, when Ted spiked a ten. "Fuck you, you all suck donkey balls" Neil said with his customery eloquence. With the bad luck fairy spitting in everyone else's beer I went on to win this one as well, I think this one was against Rick. He was doing his Hoyt Corkins "all-in" power plays and I woke up with AK. Oh, how like a cobra I waited for him to push in his chips, how I coiled and tensed for the strike.

    The next game the luck continued. Early on Frank raised big and I looked down at pocket eights. I thought about mucking it, but when you're running good...I paid to see the flop, and liked the eight sitting in the nougaty center of it. I checked, Frank bet, I pushed, and he didn't look happy as he called. His pocket aces didn't improve, and again I ended heads-up, this time against Neil. Here I made a mistake. I flopped a flush draw holding J-2, and after he made a nice bet I pushed him all-in. My mistake was thinking I had a bigger chip lead than I did. He made the call with top pair, so I needed a diamond or a jack to win the game. I got neither, and ended up badly short-stacked. Had I known he had that many chips I probably would've just called and folded. Alas.

    But alas for not much longer, as I went on to win my third game of the night. I wish I could remember more of this Iveyesque performance, but I can't. I was drunk. I was full of fajita. It wasn't very late for us, barely past midnight, but the details of this last game are lost to me. I slept the sleep of the lucky, and while there weren't visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, there WAS a singing chorus line of Oscar Meyer wieners in my dreams that night. Yes, there would be animal protein in my future!

    Of course, I might not have dreamed my happy little dreams of processed snouts and hooves had I known that Hurricane Karina was just a day from making lakefall.

    A brief aside--all this talk about animal protein reminds me that after our fajitafeast we filled two gallon-plus sized freezer bags with sliced chicken and steak. Even though I was stuffed to the gills the midnight snack I saw in my future made me smile. So a few hours later, well into our second game, I was horrified to see Ted return to the table with what could only be called a MOUND of chicken in a bowl. I should explain--Ted is a powerliftin' man. Weighs about 395 pounds (OK, that's perhaps a slight exaggeration. He says he's 280, but, Ted, come now). And he eats himself a lotta protein. He showed up at one of our volleyball games with a Ziploc bag filled with pinkish-grey strips, and when we asked what he was eating, he shrugged and said, "Meat". He brings a bathtub full of whey protein up every trip and on one morning made himself something like 18 eggs for breakfast. I thought he was getting ready to audition for the remake of "Cool Hand Luke."

    Anyway, Ted is inhaling three big handfulls of cold chicken...the chicken I planned on eating come midnight. "What the hell!" I said. He wasn't even ENJOYING it. He was just shoveling it in, coal for the furnace. "There's a ton left," he said, and while he was right--it took us three days to finish it all--I didn't know that! That's like five pounds of chicken! My chicken! I think I was on chicken-tilt for the next half-hour. Plus there's the fact that Ted never seems to wear a shirt up there, which actually serves to limit my appetite. So my digestive system was all out of whack.

    The next day I spent outdoors, crashing around the lake on the JetSki and soaking up the sun. It's been chilly up there this summer, not enough sun, but that afternoon was pretty much perfect. Scott and Tara came up around 10PM, so the day wasn't a COMPLETE success, though when we sat down at the tables I did enjoy seeing Scott suffer the first of what would be many bad beats. I recall his AQ losing to A-4 when a four hit on the river, and I especially remember me being pot-committed and having to make a crying call with K-3 when he held queens. How brave and handsome was that lone cowboy who appeared on the river? Tough hand, Scott. Well-played. Heh heh.

    But hubris is a bitch. She waits till you're smiling before she kicks you in the nuts. And just past midnight, Gary and Karina showed up.

    Now you might be thinking, what is an adorable 11-year-old girl doing up at 1AM playing poker with a bunch of drunken slobs? You might especially be thinking this if you're some sort of social worker involved with child welfare. If so, contact me and I'll give you Gary's address. Because after what happened later I want SOMEONE to go to jail.

    Let me give credit where credit is to--that first night I held my own against Karina. With me winning so much the table had adopted a tactic called "ABG"--anyone but Gene. So I had to contend with players who didn't want to give me chips, while at the same time putting me to the test as often as possible. I of course made the correct adjustments to my game and continued crushing. I even played the Hammer brilliantly, once making a full-house that, unfortunately, Rick somehow escaped.

    The second time came against Karina. With several people in an unraised pot I decided not to get frisky with the Hammer in the big blind. The flop came 7-5-2 and I checked, though cocking my wrist for the check-raise. Karina threw out a little bet, and when it came around to me I threw out a little raise.

    Here's where the BLATANT CHEATING took place. Karina showed her cards to her dad and asked for advice! I mean, you don't see Todd Brunson running over to Doyle saying, "Daddy daddy, what should I do??". But that's what Karina did! Now, let's be fair here, asking Gary for advice didn't exactly set my knees to trembling. He said, "Do you think you have the best hand here?", and Karina looked at me, looked at my stack, and said, "I want his chips!" Then, with Daddy's help, she raised me.

    "You want my chips, little girl?" I sneered as I pushed in my stack. "Then come and get them!" I know that's not too cool, trying to intimidate a curly-haired little girl not even in junior-high school. But you weren't THERE! You didn't see the mocking look in her eye, the CONTEMPT she had for my skills!

    After a quick father-daughter conference, she called, and turned over her pocket eights. I turned over my cards and said, "Where I come from we call this hand the Hammer!" In your FACE little girl, in your FACE!! Of course, I now had to sweat the board pairing and counterfeiting my deuces, but this time, THIS time, the Poker Gods let me slide. I won the hand, and sent Karina to the rail. I think I took third that game, but I don't remember who won. Tara, maybe? That seems most likely.

    The next day we boated, we lounged, we ate. God, did we eat up there. Fajitas, chili, pasta, burgers and dogs and cookies and beer, beer, beer. I did something smart I'll keep doing from now on--once I woke up I took a long walk. It's quiet up there, little blacktop road, trees forming a canopy over your head, very nice. A couple of dogs came up to get a pat on the head, a few fellow-travelers bid me good morning. Very nice.

    And then back to the house, where the knives were already out and waiting to be jammed into my back.

    If I had good luck the first two days at the table, this night I could get no traction. I bubbled once, twice. Scott, SCOTT, won a game. It just wasn't happening for me.

    And then, finally, I was dealt a hand. Two kings.

    I raised. It was folded around to Karina, who picked up a black $100 chip and announced she was gonna raise. But she only raised me a green $25 chip. Now, while this is TOTALLY ILLEGAL and WRONG and therefore the rest of the hand SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISQUALIFIED, we let it slide. After all, she's just an 11-year-old girl, right? She's just a kid, she just doesn't know better yet.

    So I raised her back, this time by two black $100 chips. She shows me this pixieish smile and sees my two licorice chips and raises me...again by a single greeny. Inside my head I hear Dr. Evil bellow "OK, THIS IS RI-GOD-DAM-DICULOUS" and I say, "Let's cut to the chase" and push in my entire stack.

    This had the desired effect, as Karina's face scrunched up and she said, with real consternation, "Oh poopy-poopy-poopy!!" That is a direct quote. I don't know if Jennifer Harman, playing in her father's home game as a little girl, ever said "Oh poopy-poopy-poopy" when raised all-in, but I have to confess that I didn't feel too good about myself at that moment. She really looked upset. Have I really fallen so far that I'm willing to crush the hopes of a little girl?

    I wasn't able to answer the question until Karina pushed in her chips. I flipped over my kings, and she turned over...the three and four of diamonds. "You called with THAT!" I said. What the hell! She had plenty of chips left! She could've folded! I wanted to grab Gary by the lapels and shake him and scream "WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN TEACHING THIS GIRL!!" but, sadly, Gary's T-shirt didn't have lapels.

    Kings vs. 3-4 suited. I think we all know the kings are the favorite. So how come my intestines already felt squirrely. I wanted to see a totally innocuous flop. Instead there was a four in the door. Mouth now dry, I had to sit there and watch and Rick burned and turned a goddam four. "Are you friggin' KIDDING ME!" I silently shrieked to the Poker Gods. The river did not bring a cowboy, and I went from being chip master to nearly broke. There was, of course, bedlam in the room, everyone whooping and hollering, and Karina smiling from ear to ear and giggling like the little girl she is. I smiled and rapped the table and silently prayed that the night of her Junior Prom she gets a zit the size of a golf ball in the middle of her forehead.

    I wasn't dead yet, for, on the very next hand, I was dealt kings AGAIN. The money went all-in, and Karina called. Of course she did. But this time she had a hand--queens. And the kings held up. The VERY NEXT HAND I was dealt aces, and I more than doubled up again. I was a threat. I was back in action. But a few hands later I was dealt pocket eights, I made a move, and I think I got called down by AK. I think it was Debbie who put me out that time.

    But no matter, because it was Karina who went on to win the whole thing. An 11-year-old girl beat the lot of us. Fan-flippin-tastic. She won $30, but since Daddy had bought her in to every game so far she had to chop it up with him. He gave her ten bucks, just some walking-around money.

    Three-four. Sooted. Called off all her chips with three-four and survived. As I tried to fall asleep that night I feared for the future of our nation. What lessons are we teaching our children? That it's OK to call off all your chips when you KNOW you're a big dog? Shouldn't she be learning this stuff in school? How could Gary sleep, knowing that he'd inexplicably left this massive gap in her upbringing? I tossed and turned a long while before I finally drifted off.

    That was out last big lake trip of the summer. We'll probably go up again after Labor Day, but the Baltimore crew won't be able to make it. Nor will Gary and Karina be coming all the way from Philly/Jersey. It'll be a nice, quiet weekend with more boating and less drinking. Probably little or no poker. And while I'll miss playing, I think I'm probably going to sleep soundly every night.

    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    Some WSOP Comments

    I haven't seen the first episodes of the 2006 Main Event yet (probably will tonight), but I'm watching tonight's episodes and have a few observations:

    I can't explain why I was so saddened to hear that Cecilia and Carlos Mortensen split up. I mean, I actually said, "Ohhh..." aloud. I was happy to see her knock out Lennox Lewis, who seems a smashing bloke. Literally as well as figuratively.

    Robert Williamson III's line about Phil Ivey, "He's got this...owl thing going on" moves to the top of the list of the Funniest Poker Lines of the year.

    Kudos to Joe Sebok for not committing suicide before putting on the Wonder Woman costume. I mean, Robin and Spiderman, OK. And the bear, no biggie. But if I saw the Wonder Woman threads lying on the bed, waiting for me to put them on, and there was a sharp knife in the drawer...

    Joe Hachem caught some cards, did he not? The quads deuces at the end was pretty sick. And people say televised poker isn't fixed.

    Would you rather spend the day sitting next to Mike Matusow or Allyn Jaffrey Shulman? I don't know if she's always that chatty, or if the cameras spurred her on, but I found myself gazing at the MUTE button often during the episode. I find it outrageous that saying "fuck" gets you a ten-minute penalty, but she was allowed to make that ghastly "bzzzzzzz" noise without repercussions.

    There is a right way and a wrong way to play the Hammer. The way the cowboy dude played it is about as wrong as it gets, without actually calling all-in preflop.

    Nice little piece on Negreanu and the boy who was burned in the accident. Interesting the way Negreanu runs the table, gets people taking to him, giving away info, yet everyone is laughing and having a good time. As opposed to someone like Hellmuth, who whines and pops off about play he doesn't agree with.

    "Maybe they're selling chips in the Harrah's gift shop!" says Norman Chad. In lieu of the 2.2 million extra chips that ended up sitting at the Final Table, maybe that's a line that should've ended on the cutting room floor.

    If someone sucks out on you on the river, as Shirley Williams did, and that person starts crying, as Shirley Williams did, that person should get...what? A thirty-minute penalty? An hour?

    Richard Brodie. All the money. All the women. All the cars.

    "I run with the" Norman Chad gives us a good line!

    I don't know how I feel about ESPN broadcasting the Main Event first. Actually, I think I feel it's not a good idea. I fear that the other events will all seem like anticlimax. Why that should worry me at all is a very good question, one I don't have an answer to. I mean, I'm going to watch the other events. What do I care if other people find the other events anticlimatic? Screw 'em.

    My friends have no doubt been waiting for me to finish my post about our lake trip a few weeks ago, the one where I got MY KINGS CRACKED BY A PRETEEN. I'll finish it tomorrow. As you might imagine, it's been difficult to relive that hand. I've got beer chilling in the fridge, I'll just get drunk first thing tomorrow morning and crank it out.

    Monday, August 28, 2006

    Quick Hit

    Got the DSL hooked up, got the wireless going, got the TV on...I'm in electronic media heaven. Normal blogging will now resume, provided I think of something to write about.

    A few thoughts to share:

    We now know that John Karr didn't kill JonBenet Ramsey, thanks to DNA tests. My question is, why the hell did they fly the guy all the way from Thailand to do the test? If he was already in custody, just do the cheek swab in Bangkok, send the sample to the lab in the US, and proceed from there. Of course, if you like media circuses, this was handled to a T.

    I think if you want to commit a murder and get away with it, Boulder would seem a pretty good location. I don't think the next spinoff of Law and Order is gonna be set in Boulder.

    I'm watching what might be Andre Agassi's swan song at the US Open. Arthur Ashe Stadium is filled with raucous New Yorkers rooting for Agassi. After Agassi won the second set, they played the "Hey!" song during the changeover. It got me to thinking about Andrei Pavel, the dude trying to end Agassi's career. He's out there on the court, all by himself, and every single person in the joint wants him to lose. Tonight they had a record crowd, so there's about 24,000 people packed into a very tight space who are sending you all the negative waves they can muster. True, they aren't booing you during points, nor are they pelting you with fruit or coins or 9-volt batteries. Still, you don't have any teammates to back you up. You're out there on your own. It wouldn't be intimidating, exactly. Demoralizing, maybe.

    Steffi Graf is looking pretty damn good, I must say.

    The whole Jamie Gold situation promises to be great theater (or at least great farce) before all is said and done. But it struck me that the last three WSOP champions--Gold, Hachem, Raymer--are all involved in some sort of poker-related litigation. I don't know what this means. I don't know if this means anything. Just seems kinda odd.

    After I moved full-time into the apartment I didn't have cable (until today), so I turned to my massive collection of taped poker shows to provide some pleasing background noise. I think I watched High Stakes Poker about three times through. Fantastic show, very glad to hear that a third season is already in the works. Though if my neighbors can hear my TV through the walls (not likely) they probably think my ad nauseum replays are pretty friggin' odd. Of course, I'm already a bit concerned that living alone and not having much contact so far at all with my neighbors will slowly morph me into a profoundly weird person.

    I just won a $10 SNG, thank you very much. I should've been in the kitchen making myself a late-night snack, but after getting all my money in with pocket nines and finding myself up against KK and AK, I rivered a nine to triple up. Haven't had a suckout like that since...the SNG I won the other night watching the Steeler game at Matt's house. All-in with A-4 against A-8, turned a four. All-in with nines (again) against J-10, he flopped a jack, I turned a nine. Yes, I've missed playing poker.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    Bittersweet Day

    There are moments in life when events move beyond your control, when you're no longer able to affect the outcome. You just have to sit there and get through it and move along. I'm not talking necessarily about huge, life-altering events. Things can happen that might seem perfectly innocuous to other people but mean a great deal to you. A few moments of impotence (not that kind) can alter your perspective on life.

    I don't like heights, and so I was afraid to ride roller coasters when I was little. One day my dad told me we were going to go on the Racers at Kennywood, and I didn't want to go. I was terrified. And so my dad motivated me the way fathers have goaded sons from time immemorial--he humiliated and embarassed me until I was too mortified NOT to ride the damn thing. And it worked. I rode the Racers...and loved it. We went on three times in a row.

    But I still remember sitting there, my hands like talons gripping the safety bar, wanting to jump up and run for the exits. And then the guy running the ride released the brake, and with a hiss the train slowly eased out of the station. And as we moved forward I realized that nothing, NOTHING, could save me now. I was going to ride this coaster no matter what I did. I was petrified, right up to the point where we reached the bottom of the first hill and I realized what I'd been missing.

    Another time I felt this sensation oddly came when Three Rivers Stadium was imploded. My friend Rick lived on the North Shore (close to where I used to work) and we slept on his floor and woke before dawn to get a good spot on the Clemente Bridge. The bus I took to work passed Three Rivers and every day I'd seen the home of the Steelers and Pirates reduced to a grey, concrete shell. Well, reduced to an even greyer, concreatier shell. And this was the day the city would say goodbye forever.

    It was bitterly cold that day. Thousands of people spread out around the stadium waiting for the detonations that would bring it down. As zero hour approached I felt an increasing feeling of dread. What if something went wrong? What if that great bowl of concrete leaned the wrong way and crashed into the nearly-completed Heinz Field, which was only about 15 yards away? What if the charges went KABLOOIE and hunks of concrete rained down upon us?

    There was the sound of a siren, and then without additional preamble the first charge went off. The flash from the explosives was almost subliminal, and then the sharp reports of the detonations reached us. Once that first explosion tore into the concrete there was no going back, and I felt a wriggling sensation in my belly, as though I'd just jumped off the bridge and was in free-fall. But the implosion went perfectly. A few seconds later the stadium was a rapidly-expanding cloud of dust. And we went back to Rick's place to get warm and watch the coverage on TV.

    I don't know why these two specific events came to my mind today as I stood in my house for the last time. Closing was today, and I finished cleaning this morning and by noontime I was ready to say goodbye to my home for the last time. I tried, and failed, not to wax nostalgic, but of course that was impossible. It was the little things that hit me the hardest--how the floor squeaks just as I start walking down the stairs, how the blinds in the one bathroom require a little jerk of the wrist before they'll slide into position. My house. My home. Not mine anymore.

    Of course I've been waiting for the house to sell for months...well, years, to be honest. For a good long while I thought this day would never come. And, of course, in some ways I always hoped this day WOULDN'T come. This was my home. This was the fruit of my labor. My piece of land, my castle. It's not easy to surrender your castle.

    Then again, after busting my hump that last few weeks cleaning it out and moving crap and doing last-second repairs, I'm not entirely saddened that I'm an apartment-dweller now. A few days before closing my agent informed me that the appraiser wanted us to scrape and paint the exterior of the windows. Well, that's just great. The guy who bought the house came over and we spent a long, hot day painting. Let me tell you, it's hard to get motivated when you're renovating someone ELSE'S house. For free. Especially when it's hot out.

    I wanted a little time before I left to remember the good times we had there. And we did have lots of good times. Lots of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Lots of sleepovers with our niece and nephew. Watched the Steelers win a lot of games in the den. Played a lot of poker in the den. Won the Grublog Classic there. The house has a screened-in porch, and in the summer we'd eat dinner out there almost every night.

    I was about to leave, and I couldn't believe that this would be the last time I'd be standing in my kitchen. I wasn't emotional, per se--I simply couldn't BELIEVE it. The idea that tomorrow I wouldn't be walking down the hallway from the bedroom and scrambling myself an egg seemed ludicrous.

    I went from room to room, one last look. I went to the master bathroom, looked around, left...and then asked myself, "Did I clean out the drawers in the vanity?" Whoops! Turns out I hadn't! That snapped me back to reality damn quick. I'd left all my spare contact lenses in there, the Q-Tips were in there, and, heh-heh, my wedding ring was in there. Whoops indeed.

    Part of the back yard is flat and fenced-in, but it slopes sharply upwards before levelling off at the top. It's thoroughly overgrown and in late summer it's nearly triple-canopy thick. I hiked to the top of the property and looked out over the neighborhood and beyond. It's a hell of a view, you can see rolling hills and trees and houses for miles. When we first bought the house I walked up there and felt blissfully satisfied. This was MINE. My house, my yard, my view.

    When I went up there today I was raked across the knee by a jagger bush, and then I startled three deer who took off through the brush (and who nearly gave me a coronary). The vegetation was so thick I could barely see anything. It wasn't the sentimental or cathartic experience I was looking for.

    But how much catharsis do I really need? Maybe I won't be living in that house anymore, but all the people I shared those good times with are still part of my life. My ex-wife and I are still friends, we went to dinner after the closing and had a good time. I saw my niece and nephew over the weekend and I plan on seeing more of them. If the ordeal of the last few years has taught me anything it's that I am ridiculously blessed when it comes to my family and friends. Without them I literally could not have gotten through this.

    But I did. I have. The new couple already has plans for the place. They want to paint the walls of the living and dining room alternatly blue and green, a scheme that had me and Jody exchanging knowing glances just like old times. Tomorrow I'll deposit the proceeds check and pay off a few bills. Instead of shuttling back and forth between house and apartment I'll stay here in my new home and try to make sense of the piles of clothes and stacks of boxes littering the place. I may go for a walk through North Park, or maybe I'll take a dip in the pool. Or maybe I'll do some more writing on my brand-spanking new laptop, which I purchased yesterday and love like a bosom child. Now all I have to do is, like, get a job. And figure out what the hell I'm gonna do with the rest of my life. I think I'll table that question until the morning.

    Tuesday, August 22, 2006

    Metaphysics With Mean Gene

    It is very difficult to successfully throw away a garbage can.

    That is all.

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    One Last Time!

    It seems like every August I think about buying a laptop. I ask you good people for advice, you generously give it, and then I don't pull the trigger. Well, this is the year! In the next day or so I'm going to make the kill and get myself a brand-new laptop.

    So, again, I ask you computer experts for your advice. I want a nice, basic laptop. I don't need anything with massive processing power or capable of extreme multimedia magic. I'm gonna surf the net, write, play a little poker. I'd like to be able to watch and burn both CDs and DVDs.

    In the past people have recommended Toshiba as a reliable brand, and that's where I've been looking, though I haven't quite found what I'm looking for there. I know lots of people with Dells, and they're quite happy, but then you hear about people having nightmare experiences with Dell. And then there's the whole battery recall going on as we speak.

    People have also cautioned against getting a computer with a Celeron chip. I've mostly been looking at computers with the Pentium M, but some of them only have the Celeron M. Is this something I should be worried about? And what is this "Core Duo" chip I keep seeing?

    As before, any advice will be appreciated. And, in this instance, put into practice.

    OK, here's some actual poker content. Just played a SNG. The guy to my right wins a pot early, and then he sits out. For the rest of the game. The guy to HIS right also sat out for much of the early action. We get down to five, there are three guys with 3K, Mr. AWOL, and me with about T850. I'm pretty much screwed, as the other guys keep stealing the missing guy's blind and I'm card dead. I need a hand or some luck when suddenly two of the present players get into a raising war. All the money goes in preflop. Oh baby! They turn over KQ and AJ. Eee-yuck! All-in with those hands? Go get 'em! The flop comes A-K-10, so now they're rooting to hit the other guy's kicker. A queen comes on the turn, a blank on the river, and suddenly we're 4-handed.

    A quick check of the stats and I find to my delight that I have about 1BB more than the guy who isn't there. And he's on my right, so he pays the blinds first. I turtle like Markus Naslund (only die-hard Penguin fans will get that) and happily fold my way into 3rd place. The chip leader even graciously folded once on the button, giving me a little extra cushion. "You're good people" I say when the missing guy finally went bust. I don't think I've ever been prouder of my play.

    Friday, August 18, 2006

    The Sports Guy Still Ain't The Poker Guy

    Apologies for my delayed lake report, featuring me GETTING CRIPPLED WHEN MY KINGS WERE BUSTED BY A (deleted) SIXTH-GRADER. But Bill Simmons finally posted a report of his World Series adventures and I must take up my pen like a sword. Well, my keyboard like a sword. "The keyboard is mightier than the sword." It's not as punchy, is it?

    When Simmons wrote that he would be playing in the WSOP and talked a bit about his poker past, I posted a little something to show that, much as I enjoy reading his work, his poker knowledge had some canyonesque gaps. But that's OK, nobody's perfect. Not even me. How can I be perfect, after getting beat by a girl not even in junior-high? Not that I'm still seething or anything.

    Unfortunately, Bill doesn't give us much in his column. It is, alas, a bad beat story with a little atmosphere as introduction. After reading Pauly and Otis and the other boys and girls reporting from the World Series it was a bit quaint reading Simmons describe the barely-teen models and kitschy crap you can buy there.

    I've also read about a million bad beat stories in my day (and I've written, let's see...two million) and Simmons isn't able to make his own rise above the depressingly ordinary. He does make a few odd statements before getting to his tale of woe. He says, "At the final table, no famous pros were left sitting." Uh, I'd say Allen Cunningham is a pro, and a famous one at that. After all he did win the WSOP Player of the Year award last year, and won a bracelet this year as well. True, he doesn't spend 90% of his time looking for cameras to toot his own horn in front of, but he's certainly one of the best and most respected tournament pros on the planet.

    Another statement Simmons makes is rather odd:

    "See, everyone thinks they know how to play now. Before Mike McD broke onto the scene, Hold'em was an underground game, the forbidden door most gamblers were afraid to open."

    Does Bill realize that poker was played all over the world prior to Rounders coming out? His almost fetishistic devotion to that movie makes me wonder if he's aware that it wasn't a documentary. The World Series was decided by Hold'em for a quarter-century before Rounders was produced. People played it every day. Maybe not for the stakes that Brunson and Cloutier and Preston played during their road gambler days, but there was certainly nothing "forbidden" about it.

    Let's get to the hand where Simmons got bounced from the tournament, a sad tale where, according to Bill, he "played a hand perfectly and somehow lost a $20,000 pot."

    We're two hours in, so I guess the blinds were, what? Would they have been 50-100? Or still 25-50? Let's say 50-100, since Simmons doesn't tell us. He does say that, "Even two weeks later, I remember every nuance -- what everyone was wearing, all their faces, how my chips were stacked, everything." But his description of the hand makes me wonder about that.

    A loose, aggressive, trash-talking player who got under Bill's skin (and who he nicknamed "Jeff George") raised to $550. That's a big raise. Bill calls, along with two other players.

    Bill's cards? K-10. Sooted.

    Now, Bill doesn't say if he called before the other two players called, or after. But even so, is K-10 really a hand you want to call a big raise with? Even with three other players in the pot? What are you hoping to flop? A king? A ten? What happens if you bet and get raised? Simmons said he was waiting to pick off the aggressive player. Is K-10 the hand you want to take to war with you?

    The flop hits Simmons as good as he could hope for--K-10-6. Here the description gets a bit fuzzy. With four players calling $550 preflop that means the pot has at least $2200 in it, yes? Simmons describes the action this way:

    "The flop? K-10-6. First guy called. Jeff came barreling in for another $1,200. Third guy folded."

    The first guy called? Called what? Did he mean the first player checked? I guess so, because Simmons says the aggressive player bet $1,200, which made the pot $3,400. Here is how Bill analyzed the situation:

    And I knew four things: First, I had the best hand (nobody had trips, I could tell from the body language). Second, I needed to steal that $3,400 in the middle. Third, having played one big hand in two hours, everyone would know I meant business with an all-in wager. And fourth, with 20 grand in chips, Jeff George might be dumb enough to call me. Which he was. And you know what this nitwit had?

    Nobody had trips, I could tell from the body language. I can imagine a conversation in the White House around 2002, Bush saying "Saddam has WMD's, I can tell from the body language." I think it's reasonable for Simmons to think he has the best hand at the moment, but not so reasonable to think his tell-spotting skills are sharp enough to conclude there isn't a set lurking out there.

    I'm assuming that Simmons had a bit less than his original $10K at the start of his hand (he says he lost a $20K pot, so subtract the amount the other two players bet before they folded). So the pot stands at $3,400, he has about $8,500 moving all-in the right move here? If you think you have the best hand, you want to make the chasers pay a bad price to chase, and hopefully pay you off. And if you get re-raised all-in and his body language is now telling you that he's holding pocket tens, you can fold with three or four grand left and fight another day.

    But Simmons goes all in, his opponent calls. And what did the "nitwit" have?


    As I was reading I thought maybe the guy had something like pocket eights, made a strange call with two overcards on the board, and spiked an eight on the river. But I can't see how calling here is in any way a "nitwit" move. He raised big with Ace-King, got called in three places, and flopped top pair. I know, you don't want to go broke with TPTK. But this is the World Series of Poker. You need to get chips--a LOT of chips. This is not a tournament where you want to stagger around for eight days and get knocked out 200 players from the bubble. Get chips, or go home. A strategy that might greatly appeal to an aggressive Internet qualifier. He'd still have over $10K if he lost the hand. And he probably thought there was little chance someone would call a big raise like that with a hand like K-10.

    As Bill says, after the flop he was about an 85% favorite. We don't know what suits the cards on the flop were, but assuming he didn't pick up a flush draw on the turn (Simmons doesn't say so), when that queen fell on the turn Simmons was just a bit better than a 3-1 favorite to win the hand. Three aces, three queens, four jacks. Three-to-one is a nice position to be in, but hardly prohibitive. And a queen fell on the river, and Simmons was out.

    I lost a nearly-identical hand in a live tournament I played in, so I feel his pain. Unlike Bill, I didn't immediately rent a car and "flee Vegas like it was a crime scene." Two weeks later, Bill still hasn't come to grips with what happened:

    "It's one thing to get outplayed. It's another to lose to a reckless idiot. But that's poker in the 21st century: You need to be lucky. Period. I know Mike McD disagrees, but only because he's trapped in a suddenly dated movie."

    This is childish. A "reckless idiot"? The guy raised with AK and called with top pair and top kicker! You want to see reckless idiots, play a $5 SNG at Party Poker.

    Let's not discount the importance of luck in poker. To be sure, to get deep in a tournament with nearly 9,000 players, you need to get lucky. You might need to win a few hands where you're a 3-1 dog. But that was just one unlucky hand, Bill. Preflop you were a 2.5-1 underdog and you outflopped him. Had you held on to win the hand, that "nitwit" might have been justified in calling you a fish who catches cards.

    The luck goes back and forth. We all get an equal share. And we all believe we got shortchanged. Mike McD would be very, very disappointed.

    UPDATE: I go to a new bar, big outside bar, HUGE outside bar. It's in a tony suburb, many elegant women with bare, tan shoulders and soft, straight hair. And in the middle of my second beer I realize that in my "analysis" of the hand Bill Simmons was knocked out on I made what can only be called a "boo-boo". Mr. Simmons' opponent would NOT have been helped by the three sixes left in the deck. I was talking to my buddy Rick at the bar, poker came up, I told him about this hand and he said, "The sixes wouldn't help the guy with AK". Now, I KNOW that. But, and this is important, that fact didn't occur to me when I was writing the post. So, shit. I effed up, and for that I apologize. Having a blog means never having to say you're sorry. But I'm sorry.

    Thanks to the insomniac for pointing that out in the comments. Thanks to the rest of you for not writing "ignorant jackass" in the comments.

    So I'm at the bar, I see a girl who looks so much like Isabelle Mercier that I'm nearly paralyzed (plus she wears those librarian glasses, against which I have NO defense) and all I can think about is how I fucked up this post. It is entirely possible that I will never have sexual intercourse ever again.

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    A Quicky

    I will be posting my usual lakeside report soon, mostly for the amusement of those who were there and saw me LOSE A GIGANTIC POT WHEN MY KINGS WERE CRACKED BY A GODDAM 11-YEAR-OLD. You think YOU have a bad beat story to tell? Get out my face.

    The WSOP has come and gone, and I will say nary a word about it here. Well, not about the winner, but a few comments. First of all, there's a wee bit of controversy about the fact that there were (cue Dr. Evil) over TWO MILLION extra chips on the table at the end of the Main Event. Now, how "wee" this controversy is remains to be seen. The Quiet Lion doesn't think it's too wee, and either do I. Something went seriously awry, and I'll be interested to see if Harrah's does anything about it. Or if ESPN brings it up during their coverage. I mean, any boob with a calcuator can figure out that the chips don't add up, so just ignoring it would seemingly not be an option. Then again, this is the network that gave us Bonds on Bonds, so anything is possible.

    I must shake my finger and say "tsk tsk" at Phil Gordon for his latest ESPN column. He gives a roundup of the WSOP and mentions seeing Steve Lipscomb, the CEO of the World Poker Tour, wandering around. Gordon writes:

    Ah, what must have been going through his mind as he witnessed the enthusiasm and excitement of nearly 8,800 players in a $10,000 tournament while the stock price, credibility and importance of the World Poker Tour (symbol: WPTE) slides steadily into the abyss

    Normally this would be fair enough...except that Gordon doesn't reveal that he's currently engaged in litigation against Lipscomb and the WPT. To say that the WPT's stock price is steadily sliding is a demonstrable fact, but Gordon's jibe about the WPT's "credibility and importance" slipping seems a cheap shot without him disclosing the ax he's grinding.

    Odd too was Gordon referring to Rafe Furst, Mark Vos and Allen Cunningham as "ancillary" members of Full Tilt Poker. An accurate term, perhaps, but it's an odd choice of words.

    Other than the lake I've played no poker save one SNG in the last two weeks. No time, no time. I learned on Monday that I had to paint the windows before the appraiser would approve the sale of the house, so I joyously spent five hours yesterday painting in the hot sun. The guy buying the house came over to help, which was nice. Because otherwise I might've gone a bitg goofy with my gas can and made a big smouldering mess of the place. I think yesterday broke the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia I've endured the last few weeks. I'll miss the house...but there's a lot I won't miss. Closing is next Wednesday. Thank Christ.

    My apartment still feels like a hotel room. It's a total disaster area, as I've spent most of my time dealing with the house. No clue where I'm putting shelves, tables, chairs, etc. Clothes are piled in heaps, cans and boxes are piled in...heaps. I have heap issues.

    I've been living there on and off for two weeks and I haven't met any of my neighbors yet. I did see a little old lady come out one morning to get her paper, and I saw a guy that I swear I've played volleyball with one day. He didn't recognize me, so maybe I was mistaken. I witnessed an attractive female walking in the other day, but I don't know where she lives. My next door neighbor is a woman, and the other day she taped a business card on her mailbox. It lists her name, and then the skills she offers to the public.

    They are: Massage. Energy Healing. Intuition Counseling.

    I have no flippin' idea what "Intuition Counseling". "Energy Healing" sounds...interesting. And after all this moving my back is killing me...hmm. My intuition is telling me that sometime soon I'm gonna need to borrow a cup of sugar.

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    I Love Poker, I Love Golf

    Went to a golf outing yesterday, picking up the sticks since...last year's outing. I know full well I've no chance to play well if I only get on the course once or twice a year, but is it too much to ask that I hit one decent pitching wedge over 18 holes? I'm not kidding when I say that I had 25 terrible chips yesterday. Nubs, foul balls, scuffs, you name it. I parred the last hole, which allowed me to keep some of my dignity. Oh, who am I kidding--the dignity is all gone.

    Afterwards there was a big dinner and, in the back, a poker game, just like last year. Ah, poker, now THIS is where I really shine! I paid my twenty bucks, mucked my first two hands, then looked down at pocket kings. There was a raise and re-raise ahead of me, and knowing that a big pot would give me enough chips to play my game I went all-in, wanting a call. The guy to my left thought about it, thought about it, and said, "I have to call". He turned over A-7. He HAD to call?

    My buddy Matt was dealing and he tossed out a raggy flop indeed. An eight on the turn gave the guy a gutshot straight draw, but I was still feeling pretty good. Right up to the point where Matt slapped the ace of hearts down on the river. I've known Matt since the first grade. But, after that river card fell, I started to wonder. Do I REALLY know him? Know the blackness that pollutes his bastard soul? Apparently not.

    That freed me up to drink beer and eat. I came back later to find that the guy who busted me had about 2/3 of the chips in play. On the single hand I watched he was in against the guy in 2nd place and the flop came 4-5-7 of hearts. He led out with a fairly big bet, and the other guy folded. The dude who busted me turned over the three and six of hearts. He'd flopped a STRAIGHT FLUSH, and chased the other guy out of the hand. And he's the guy who knocked me out. Ladies and Gentlemen, I love the game of poker. I love it so very, very much.

    Going away again this weekend to the lake (that's where the golf outing was, incidentally, and the weather was sublime) so I'll be playing a bit up there. Of course, yinz will all be reading about the final table at the World Series. I'm not allowed to mention on these pages who won or what happened because I've been told my several of my readers that if I let the cat out of the bag before ESPN televises it large chunks of my body will be dropped into the Mon. And I don't need that.

    Sunday, August 06, 2006

    Bloggus Interruputus

    Jesus, Ryan made it all the way to 410th place in the WSOP Main Event. Hey, I sorta made a funny there and I didn't even mean to. Those of you who have been following the action know what I mean. Tuscaloosa Johnny made it to 768th place. Wow.

    The field is down below 100, and as I'm reading about players getting knocked out, I was struck by the fact that you can survive over 8,600 players over like nine days...and not really make a whole lot. Folks in the top 80 "only" come away with around $52K. So if you bought in yourself that's "only" a $42K profit. Which is "nice", but not a "life-changing" "score". God, I love using quotation marks when they aren't needed. Makes me feel that my belabored and obvious conclusions are actually intelligent.

    There's so much good stuff to read out there that you need not waste your time here, and that's a good thing because blogging might be light for a few days. Maybe a week. I moved into my apartment today, but I don't have DSL hooked up there yet (I can't move my Verizon over there, instead I must use the complex's own service, which is 3x more expensive). I still have to clean the house, throw lots of stuff away, move other crap to the apartment, so I probably won't have much time to fiddle with the keyboard. Hold back the tears.

    I'm sitting in my mostly-empty house, I now have to drive to my apartment to sleep there for the first time. Maybe it's a good thing I step away for a few days, as life is just too surreal right now. I need some perspective. What I really need is a good night's sleep, which I haven't had in, oh, six weeks. Wish me luck.

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Once Again, The Mainstream Media Tackles Poker

    Surfing the Net today I saw an article on Slate titled "The Art of Trash-Talking in Online Poker". So I read it. Sigh.

    About online players, the writer, Jacob Lewis, says, "...half of them spend as much time calculating the pot odds as they do telling you that your mother's so ugly she makes blind kids cry."

    I dunno, do the insults fly that much online? Beyond the usual passive-aggressive "nice call" sneers and the donkeydonkey-fishfish slurs? And would anyone really write something as banal as "your mother's so ugly she makes blind kids cry"? Certainly you don't find many rapier wits playing online, but that insult doesn't pass muster.

    Nor do the examples Lewis uses to describe what live players say to each other pass the smell test:
    The comments can be pointed and direct ("You can't play with me"), jocular and teasing ("Show this man some love. I'm killing him."), or take the form of a running commentary, as if a jockey were calling the race he's in ("I'm taking this table down. You can't beat me. Look at these cards! I'll show you my hand and still win. King-10? Good hand, but nothing compared to my ace-King. I'm going to have to just go all in with these cards.").

    Uh. Huh. Even Tilt didn't have dialog this stilted.

    Lewis then says, "When playing online, you can try to keep tabs on the other players to learn their habits, but with thousands of people moving in and out of various tables, all with names such as Acebuster44, TizShowtime, and TopTitty19, it is almost impossible to fix on a weakling." Well, unless you use a program called PokerTracker.

    Explaining how players determine where that fishy smell is coming from, Lewis writes, "They use the few fleeting seconds between cards and bets to be as nasty and as immature as possible to try to draw you out." Huh? I don't think I've ever sat down at a table and had someone immediately tear into me. And does skill in chat-room repartee really correlated to poker skill?

    Lewis writes, "If you play your hand poorly, you may get called a donkey or a fish, as in you went fishing for cards." I always thought the term "fish" came from the fact that fish get eaten by the sharks.

    "Check-raise someone and get 'bitch-slapped.'". Again, huh? Since when is check-raising worthy of smack-talk? Without check-raising, there's no poker.

    "While it's common enough to be handed the conciliatory 'nh' (nice hand), which requires a polite 'ty' (thank you), if you slow-play the table out of all their money, the abbreviations may turn to curse words." Once again, I say "huh"? Why would slow-playing be worthy of insults? Slow-rolling, yes, but slow-playing?

    Lewis does recognize--correctly--that nearly every online player believes the site they're playing on is fixed. But that's the high point of the article. The penultimate paragraph you simply have to read in its entirety:
    Because everyone who trash-talks online comes across as a whiny adolescent, a good response to being teased and prodded is to ask, "Does your father know you're using his account?" or "I remember my first beer, too." Poker players may hate to admit it, but online poker's popularity is reminiscent of the hordes of nerdy boys playing Dungeons & Dragons in the late '70s and early '80s. Snappy remarks—"You will submit to my poker greatness"—have the ring of a 20-sided die. And when it's followed by six or seven other people writing "lmao" (laughing my ass off), there's more than a faint resemblance to Revenge of the Nerds.

    A good response is "I remember my first beer, too"? Jesus wept. As He would to a "snappy" line like "You will submit to my poker greatness". I don't see the comparisons to D&D. Online poker is a solitary pursuit, it doesn't involve fanciful creatures, and it's often played for substantial amounts of cash. I don't recall too many professional D&D players, nor do I remember too many companies related to D&D having multi-billion-dollar valuations.

    In the closing paragraph Lewis pretty much invalidates his thesis by pointing out that you can block someone's chat with a simple right-click. He closes by writing, "...wading into the virtual world of Internet poker is like stepping into a tub of stingless jellyfish", the leading candidate for Worst Poker Simile of 2006.

    At the end of the piece I received a real shock. Who is this Jacob Lewis? He is the goddam managing editor of the goddam New Yorker. An editor at the best magazine in the world, and he writes stuff like that? "A tub of stingless jellyfish"? I really need to stop being such a perfectionist about my freelance writing.

    UPDATE: I'm in a cranky mood to begin with (I'll spare you my tales of woe) but as I watch the USA play hoops against Puerto Rico I surf over to CNN and see that a race car driver was seriously injured when his car slammed into a deer that wondered onto the track. Cristino Da Matta was unconscious when he was airlifted to a hospital for urgent surgery on a subdural hematoma.

    And what did CNN use as a headline for this horrible story about freak accident that resulted in serious, potentially life-threatening injury?

    "Oh Deer".

    Perhaps someone can explain to me why the person responsible for writing that headline shouldn't be immediately fired. I can't think of a reason off the top of my head.

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    Cancel The Order For Four Horsemen

    Anna Benson did indeed bust out of the WSOP yesterday. Ahh. True, the world may still be fucked, but at least we're back to square one, world-be-fucked-wise.

    My my, the kids at Wicked Chops Poker aren't big fans of Ms. Benson either. In the brief post about Ms. Benson's exit, she is described as a "publicity whore", as "the most despicable player in the tournament", as a "bitch", and then professional player Gregor Aktell is quoted as saying, "I've never played poker with a nastier person." I merely said that her success was a harbinger of the Apocalypse.

    Nice sunglasses, tho.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    It's Not Listed In The Bible, But...

    Oh, the troubled times we live in. Every time you turn on the news something terrible is happening in the Middle East. Iraq, Lebanon, Israel. Iran and Syria, up to no good. And the UN and the US without much hope of salvaging the situation.

    The world is full of crazy people, and some of those who like their insanity flavored with religion are saying that perhaps we're on the cusp of the Apocalypse. And that this is a GOOD thing. Now, I'm not up to speed on my Bible studies, but I did see the movie The Seventh Sign with Demi Moore and so consider myself close enough to an expert to think we're still OK, Armageddonwise.

    Until I was checking out the chip counts for the World Series...and saw that Anna Benson has over 30K going into day two.

    Ms. Benson, the former wife of one-time Pirate creampuff Kris Benson, is one of those non-talented media whores with a bottomless thirst for attention who seem to make up 85% of American culture these days. After divorcing her underachieving husband (his trade out of New York couldn't have helped her opinion of him) Ms. Benson looked over that which is hot and trendy and saw that poker was booming. So she decided to become a poker player. Just like that.

    Normally this would not be cause for concern. But she has chips in the friggin' World Series of Friggin' Poker. Not a lot of chips--30K is hardly a big stack. But she made it to day two. Strange things can happen. Strange, scary things. Strange, scary things happen every day in this world. And I'm getting scared.

    What if she goes on a tear, the deck hitting her in the face? What if ESPN decides that the world simply cannot go on without seating Ms. Benson at the TV table, to be endlessly zinged by Norman Chad's rapier (sic) wit? Good Lord, what if she makes a major run? What if she WINS? Let's ignore the question about whether Anna Benson as World Champion would destroy poker--would the bracelet around her wrist signify that we are indeed approaching the End of Days?

    I guess we'll find out. She only has 30K. I keep telling myself that. I'm almost reassured. But I'll be checking Pauly and Otis and PokerWire to keep an eye on the situation. I forget...if the Apocalypse comes, am I supposed to build an Ark?

    UPDATE: Even before I hit the "Publish Post" button I see something over at PokerNews about how Anna Benson threw some kind of party/tournament. And then I see that apparently she and Mr. Benson are apparently still together. Well, that's nice. I guess my attempts to isolate myself from gossipy nonsense like that is working.

    Hey, she even has her own personal poker site,! What a delightful name. Of course, it isn't quite operational yet, it just takes you to her personal site. Where, if you so choose, you can see Ms. Benson in various stages of undress. Hey, do I need to special-order Ark lumber, or is it something I can just pick up at Home Depot? get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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