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

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My Articles

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

My Columns

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

My Greatest Hits

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

Fellow Poker Bloggers

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

Poker Sites

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


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    Friday, September 29, 2006

    So, While I Was Gone...

    What the hell? I'm outta the country for a week and look what happens?

    The Senate and House decide to give the President unlimited power to arrest whomever he wants and do whatever he wants to them for as long as he wants. Charges? We don't need no stinkin' charges? Torture? We don't torture. We use "coercive interrogation tactics". It's all in the marketing!

    And now I read that the Senate just passed the Port Security bill (nice to see that, five years after 9/11, we're getting around to worrying about whether al Qaeda might sneak a nuke or something on a ship) and tacked onto it is a bill making Internet gambling...bad or something. I don't even know exactly what it prohibits. I guess I'd better find out.

    I have to say, I've been somewhat bemused as I read blogs and sites calling for people to call their Senators to complain. I mean, let's be honest here--most members of the United States Senate can't be trusted to sit the right way on a toilet seat. Whaddya gonna do, REASON with them? With Rick Santorum? The idea of me calling up Rick Santorum's office and trying to convince him to oppose this legislation based on logic and facts and the Constitution...why don't I just grab a lump of lead and transmute it into gold?

    This is the sort of creature you're dealing with, folks. You look at the quality of people at the top echelons of government, and the idea of rolling the dice and taking our chances with a hereditary monarchy or some kind of entrenched oligarchy look pretty tempting.

    So, am I gonna have trouble getting back into the country when I fly back on Sunday? Am I going to prison for keeping a poker blog? If I find out my flight has been diverted to Guantanamo, should I feel nervous? I mean, waterboarding sounds like something fun you can do in Aruba, but I haven't seen any places around here advertising it.

    So tomorrow strike a blow against our craven elected officials and engage in some non-violent protest. Read the Ultimatebetblog for some final table live-blogging. A guy named Devon Miller has over half the chips in play, and he knocked a guy out with the Hammer. Sooted. Pushed all-in from the small blind, big blind (who had a decent stack) knows Miller's been on a crazy hot streak, sucking out, getting cards. He thinks forever and a day and calls with A-4. Miller shows the Hammer, laughter ensues. He flops a deuce. Other guy makes a wheel on the turn. Miller makes a flush on the river. Totally sick. Fun to watch.

    Last day tomorrow. I'll write lots about my adventures down here when I get back. Just felt like throwing up a little post after reading about the latest travesty from back home. Read the blog tomorrow. Who knows if you'll ever get to read a poker blog again.

    Thursday, September 28, 2006

    Hanging With The High and Mighty

    I'm writing this in the lobby of DoubleAs's hotel, waiting for him to come back from autographing a copy of his book for a fan Mrs. DBAS ran into as she tried to explain the broken vase in their room...long story, he'll tell it, never mind.

    "That was really surreal," he said as he returned to the table. Just another star-stuck fan wanting autographs and a chance to glad-hand. Dammit, I really wish I'd brought my copy to his table and gone all gooey and asked, "Can I have your autograph PLEAAASSSE!!!" Layne Flack would've been SO impressed.

    Flack is out. So is Phil Hellmuth. DoubleAs is in with around $35K. After a fabulous dinner (filet, a feisty cabernet sauvignon, and great company) we wandered back to see what was happenin' at the tournament. Found out the internet connection had been down for 4 hours and we couldn't have posted anyway.

    But I found DoubleAs and asked checked his status. 17K, getting on the low side. But. A bit earlier Scott had AQ, the other guy had KK. Flop came queen-high. But Scott had already made the laydown. "I can dodge bullets," he said. "Where's Hellmuth?"

    So now we're hanging in the lobby, sipping Balashi's, laughing at the goofy pictures and the goofy people. This is the part of poker blogging I like. Dammit, check out the action at the ultimatebetblog, and pimp it and link to it and all that bloggy stuff.

    Balashi, by the way, is a fine beverage. That comes in squat little 8oz cans. If I ever hear that Al is coming to Aruba, I'm buying lots and lots of Alcoa stock. Because a lot of cans are going to that big recycling bin in the sky.

    OK, now I have to get to work and post something for the UB blog. 150 players left. DoubleAs is 100 from the money. But the boy can dodge bullets. Those of you who have a piece...keep close tabs on your horsie.

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    Up and Running

    Got access to the UB blog, just posted my So I'm gonna catch up on the other stuff I wrote yesterday that never got posted, do some lizardblogging (you'll see) and work my tailfeathers off, as Mom would say.

    Got the Mother of All Head Colds last night, but I'm feeling better. Feeling better now that I've actually got something posted. Back to work!

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    The View From My Window

    Just a few pics:

    Think I'm gonna go for a quick dip before I get to work this afternoon.

    UPDATE: Still don't have access to the Ultimatebet blog yet, hopefully soon. I've been hanging here, writing up stuff to post when I have access. Got to meet John Vorhaus, who as advertised seems a great guy. Met up with Linda, the legend, who's dealing here this week (and will be staying on a bit afterwards). Quite a few of the pros are here--Antonio Esfandiari, Annie Duke, Russ Hamilton. Saw Jack McClelland walk by my seat a few times. And as I went to the rest room (my head cold refuses to let go) I saw Phil Hellmuth coming down the stairs.

    I took some pics of the Wyndham poker room, though it took the folks working there a few minutes to decide they'd let me snap away. I guess the usual aversion to the press, in whatever capacity.

    UPDATE: Still clattering away, still don't have access to the site to post it there. I think everyone's busy registering players, and after speaking to my boss I haven't seen the tech guy to get me access.

    I heard my first bad beat story! She had 6-4, he had Q-10, flop comes Q-6-4, push-call, and the guy hits a ten on the river. I feel confident that'll be the only bad beat story I hear all week.

    Except for the one I just heard.

    And the one after that.


    Oh, and I think poker players like betting sports. That's my deep thought of the day. Hopefully be posting on the UB blog soon.

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    Getting in Touch with My Inner Degenerate; or, I Need Your Help More Than Ever

    The blog for the Aruba tournament will be at Though I got scooped by doubleas. I was coming through the casino at the Wyndham and thought I recognized the aformentioned maestro from the pic in his book (which I brought with me and will ask to be autographed just as he's about to play his first hand at the tournament. Table image out the ass!!). I almost doubled back to say, "Hey, are you Scott?" when I decided to pass. First of all, I wanted to meet the person I'll be working for on time. Secondly, while my pickup lines are, to be honest, laughable, I don't know how effective my homoerotic pickup lines might be. And since I was wrong about that person's ID, well, I'm glad I didn't want to risk embarasment.

    Though I'm going to embarass myself right now. I went back to my room, put my press pass and other goodies in a safe place, and went out looking for drink. I went to the bar in the casino and ordered a Heineken. There was a video poker machine, and what says "I'm a degenerate poker blogger" more than playing video poker and drinking? Nothing, that's what.

    Thing is, my Heinie came in a skinny can more suited for Red Bull than beer. I quaffed it (I say "quaffed" for 'tis the mot juste) in three picoseconds and ordered another. And another. Thing is, it's like six bucks for half a beer! I switched to the local brew, whose name escapes me but is quite potable despite a strong grassy backnote. Still pricy, tho.

    Here's where my idiocy comes to the fore--after busting for my first double sawbuck I reloaded and went on a video poker tear. I hit five four-flushes in a row and won back that which I'd lost before. Here's where I need your help, as I see myself sitting on that same stool a few more times in the next nine days--what is optimal video poker strategy? Is there a website I can scan, did Sklansky write a book? Here's my dilemma, even if I think I already know the answer--let's say the board comes out and you have king-high and a pair of fours. Do you keep the king along with the fours, or do you just keep the fours and go for the quads/trips/luckyboat? I need to optimize my play, dammit!

    Anyway, after paying my bill (with a handsome tip, because it's not only a moral obligation but, hey, I like tipping nice people big) I took my video poker winnings to the slots. And here's where...well, I'm a bit ashamed of myself. I played the slots, and a waiter asked if I wanted a beer, and I said yes, a Bashhshshsiie (I will know the name by tomorrow, on my mother). He brings it...and it's FREE! Dammit, I SHOULD KNOW THAT! I'm not some greenhorn, I know that you can drink for free when you're gambling! Of course I tipped him, drank my beer...and hit for fifty bucks. Grubby would be so proud, once he got over the shame.

    I cashed out and headed for the poker room. The only game they had even in the theoretical stage was $10-$20 NL. Um, that's not my game. Let's divide by 100 and we're in the ballpark. They did have a $100 buy-in $2-2 game, which I'd feel comfortable playing. Except...I'm half in the bag. I haven't eaten since my mid-flight turkey sandwich down here (excellent, by the way) and I got up at 4:45. I need to eat. I need rest. Plus three of the $10-20 NL guys said they'd play $2-2 with us, and the one guy actually started sharpening his canines with a file. OK, I made that up. But it was in his eyes.

    One of the guys I talked to is playing in the main event here, and two fiftyish gentlemen from some Latin American country started talking to us about the tournament, and when they heard that the buy-in was $5K said, "Huh, maybe I'll play, when is it again?" These are NOT the sort of people I should be sitting down at a poker table with. Not when I have six beers in me, half of them Bashshiieess.

    So I'm gonna order a burger for my supper, relax, get some sleep. Oh, one more embarassement to relate. Last Monday we had a volleyball game and during one point a guy blasted one right at me as I patrolled the back line. The ball was heading way out, but he aimed it at my chest, and so I had to contort my body to miss the ball. To put it bluntly, to avoid the ball I had to do an impromptu hula, hips-twist-shoulders-OUT!, and I immediately knew I'd pulled something in my abdominal region. Felt the twinge, but no real pain.

    Anyway, as we're landing today people are looking out the window and oohing and ahhing. I was sitting on the aisle and couldn't see. So I leaned over, twisted my torso to get an angle...and TWINNNNGGG! I cramped from my nipple to just above my...thing. A big stripe of muscle decided NOW was the time to say, "How about a situp once in awhile, asshole!" I had a hell of a time stretching it out in my seat without looking insane. I still feel it hurting now, but to be honest, it's a good hurt. I'll be fine.

    So, anyway, I'm gonna eat and get some rest. Maybe play a SNG online. While sitting on my balcony, listening to soft waves lap the beach. Wow, it gets dark outside here when the sun goes down. Anyway, check out If you like, let me know. If you don't, let me know. Let me know what you want/don't want. I trust your judgement far more than my own. Well, almost as much as my own.

    UPDATE: The local beer is "Balashi". Learn the lingo, jackass.

    Ever See a Six-Foot Tall Chicken?

    Well, if you saw me right now you'd be able to say, "Yes, yes I have." Ahh, I'm not that scared, fifteen minutes from boarding. I'm manageably terrified. Getting to the airport was fun, a lot more traffic than I expected, including one goon who refused to let a guy merge near Robinson and ended up winning the game of chicken and making the guy slam on his brakes just by the YIELD sign.

    And of course going navigating the airport and going through security does WONDERS for the nerves. When I flew to Vegas my brother, an experienced flyer, was with me, and so acted as Virgil to my Dante as we navigated this Circle of Hell. This time I'm solo and I was so keyed up and jumpy I'm surprised I didn't get taken aside for a quick FBI chat. The agent handling the baggage asked if I had any firearms in my luggage and I actually had to think about it a sec. "Firearms? Oh God, did I forget my firearms??"

    I'd planned on having six beers for breakfast, but I decided against it. I'm a bit under the weather, actually, tho feeling better than yesterday, and I don't think getting an early load on is a good idea. So instead I had an almond croissant from Au Bon Pain and an iced coffee that was, unfortunately, bitter as a spurned lover's heart. Those are actually the words that went through my mind after I took my first sip, which should tell you all you need to know about the frazzled state of my mind.

    Boarding in ten minutes. I'm OK. Gonna be OK. I'm actually pretty beat, so maybe I'll actually be able to sleep a bit on the flight. Either to Philly or to Aruba. If I get the chance I'll update later in my travels. If not, not.

    UPDATE: OK, I'm here, in my room. The flight to Philly took less time than the drive from my apartment to the airport. We got stuck on the ground in Philly for close to an hour, but we motored on down and were only 15 minutes late. Hit the Aruban rush hour during the cab ride over, but I'm here, safe and sound. And with a room on the top floor of the tallest building on the island. You oughta see the view. You oughta feel the sun.

    Now I gotta go find the folks I'm working for and see what bidding they'd have me do.

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    Goin' South With Freddy Deeb

    I guess I'm about ready to go. Got suntan lotion, got batteries. Got comfy new running shoes. I'll spend the rest of the day packing and making sure I've got everything I need to survive down there.

    Still nervous about the flight, but if I wasn't flying to Aruba tomorrow morning I'd be driving to Philly today for the Bash. Flying is about...600 times safer. Especially when you consider driving in Philadelphia...

    Dammit, I really wanted to see everyone, drink with everyone. Next time, Next time.

    The Aruba blog will be found, I believe, at I'll post the link and everything here once it's up and operational.

    Isabelle Mercier is playing at the EPT event in London this weekend. So my nervous system won't be totally overtaxed.

    Woke up this morning in a panic that I was supposed to fly out THIS morning. Not a good way to start off the day.

    Hmm. Thought I'd have more to say. I don't. Guess I'll save up the words for when I have something worth writing about. So, I'm gonna go finish packing. You Bashers have all the good, clean fun you can stand.

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    A Brief Aside

    Watched the Steelers lay an egg in Jacksonville tonight--I kinda feel bad for Jags fans. First of all, you have to wear all that teal. That's rough. That's really rough. And then, according to the MNF crew, you define your season by how you do against the Steelers. Jags beat us last year, we won the Super Bowl. I'm sure that's almost as good.

    Anyway, played VB last night (man, I'm playin' pretty good) and went to the bar afterwards to drink and eat what's fried. Came home and played some half-soused poker while watching the two High Stakes Poker shows I taped tonight. In the middle of the second episode there was a commercial for a CD you can buy of Julio Iglesias singing "Romantic Classics". OK, this is the sort of stuff you can expect to see advertised on stations like Game Show Network. And I'm certainly not opposed to Mr. Iglesias making a living.

    Anyway, the first song Julio is crooning (if that's the word) is "I Wanna Know What Love Is" by Foreigner. Wow, right off the bat we get the Foreigner. Is there a Spanish word for "wanna"? I don't know. But seeing Mr. Iglesias in an immaculate tuxedo emoting Lou Gramm's words into a is an experience to be savored. I

    The next song nearly had my jaw hitting the table, Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talking At Me". Again, the image of the tanned, sophisticated Iglesias singing a song immortalized in Midnight Cowboy...I can only say "jeepers". Especially when you see Iglesias's impassioned facial expressions as he sings.

    Next comes the roll call of the timeless romantic classis Julio put on this collectible CD, though it only runs to three songs. "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart". "Careless Whisper". And, I kid you not, Willie Nelson's "Always on My Mind". Seeing Iglesias nearly doubled over with longing as he sings Willie's words...I was transfixed. It was like staring at the Gorgon.

    My heart's not made of stone. Sad songs about those unlucky in love affect me deeply. But it's a bit harder for me to connect to the emotional turmoil in these gooey love songs when they're sung by a ridiculously handsome, famous, and successful guy. Who didn't write the songs in the first place. Frankly, I'd be far more moved listening to some tone-deaf slob sing "What a Fool Believes" in a sports bar during karaoke night.

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Doing My Homework

    To prepare for my Total Coverage of the 2006 Ultimatebet Aruba Poker Classic, yesterday I read the entirety of John Vorhaus's blog about the 2004 event. After waking at eight and having a nice breakfast, I pulled my tapes of the last 3 Aruba Classics and I'm watching the 2003 event right now. This is the one where Juha Helppi beat Phil Gordon like a rented mule. Mostly I'm watching to see what the place looks like (nice) and to pick up some tips about the island. For example, did you know that there have only been 16 documented shark attacks near Aruba since 1554? That means I can leave the shark repellent at home.

    I also did some surfing last night looking for tips about how to combat my fear of flying. I was looking for a technique better than the one I used when I flew to Vegas (when I drank myself giddy at breakfast). I'm gonna try some deep breathing exercises. Along with a beer or two, of course. I'm not uncivilized.

    I've been seriously remiss in not lauding the work Amy Calistri and Tim Lavalli did concerning the extra 2.3 million in chips that ended up at the final table of the World Series main event. If there was a Pulitzer for poker reporting, this three part series would certainly be on the shortlist. And while I'm sure there will be NO problems with the chip counts at the Aruba Classic, if I notice that the chip tallies are way out of whack, I assure you that I...will call in Amy and Tim to figure out what happened. 'Cause chances are I'll be too confused to suss it out.

    So I'm still watching the 2003 Aruba event, and I'm wondering, why the hell is Juha Hellpi wearing a long-sleeved purple shirt and black slacks in Aruba? Isn't it hot there? Very very hot? Especially for a Finn?

    When they did the money presentation they had a heavyset guy wearing a mask and snorkel come out of the surf flanked by a bevy of bikinied beauties. Was that Robert Williamson?

    OK, it's too nice out, think I'm gonna go for a bike ride, work on my deep breathing techniques.

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    Working on my Swing

    With my trip to Aruba on the horizon I thought getting a taste of hot poker action would be a good idea. Get in the rhyhtm of the live game, observe the players, become attuned to the pulsating energy of a packed casino. One problem--I'm in Pittsburgh, and with the ETA of our planned slots casino around 2021, finding action would be difficult. But not impossible.

    I drove the five minutes from my flat to the sports bar down the road, where I knew they had free poker tournaments on Wednesday nights. Now, I know what you're thinking. A banquet hall in a bar does not equal Commerce Casino. And you're right, I have no response to that. But as I wanted to see cards in the air and hear the clatter of chips, this was the best I could do at the moment. I showed up spot on 6:30, when the early game was due to begin, and found a gaggle of people standing outside the room smoking and sipping beers. Got myself a Yuengling, scribbled my name on the sign-up sheet, and a few minutes later took my place at table 3, seat 3.

    Well, there were only three tables that night. Small crowd, only 17 people. The last time I came they had six tables going, and from the talk things slowed down over the summer. Everyone playing seemed to know each other--except for me. The mysterious stranger who comes out of nowhere and starts riffling chips and check-raising. Which I what I did on the first hand I played when I flopped two pair. I play for keeps, people. That's the message I wanted to get across.

    I had fun. Nice people, friendly game, good cards. I won a big pot with AK vs. AQ, and even won two big pots with bluffs on the river. I played with no fear, with style and elan and...some other ludicrously inappropriate word. I made the final table and continued my soul-destroying run by doubling up with KK against tens and knocking out the table captain when my AJ crushed his A-8.

    When I've played in these things I don't tell people that I'm a blogger, that I've written about poker, and that night I didn't tell anyone about my upcoming assignment to work the Aruba Classic. Trying to explain what a blogger would be difficult at best, and trying to get them to care harder still. So I keep my identity secret, kinda like Bruce Wayne. Kinda.

    Two hands near the end were amusing. I dealt myself AQ and called the all-in of the shortstack. He had the Hammer. Uh-oh, it would suck if I lost to the Ham...oh, great, I just dealt a 7 on the flop. Lost that hand, and the next time I was on the button I dealt myself the Hammer. Raised big, and the guy who'd just beat me thought it over and went all-in. Stuck but good I called, and he turned over J-10. And once again I flipped a 7 on the flop. Knew the Hammer wouldn't let me down. Overall, I mean.

    Heads-up lasted one hand. I pushed with A-3, the chip leader called with Q-J, and he flopped a queen. So, I asked, what did I win for my 2nd-place finish. Well, 24% of the prize pool. What was the prize pool? Points. You get points basked on how you do and you can redeem these points for...I don't know what. Last time I was there you could win coupons and stuff for the restaurant, but this time I won points. The folks there that night play 3 or 4 nights a week at different bars who use the same company, which I'm not able to do. So, I played high-quality poker for 2 hours, and ended up with...nothing. But I had three inexpensive beers, had a good time, and felt like I'd done some homework for my trip next week. Mission Accomplished.

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Say Hello to the Lucky Dog; or, The Bitter With the Sweet

    A couple of years ago I spent a quiet night in my den playing some poker and following the rapidly-updated posting on a certain blog. The blog in question was John Vorhaus's coverage of the 2004 Ultimatebet Aruba Classic. For you WPT fans this was the tournament where Eric Brenes beat Layne Flack for the title, and Mike Matusow gave us his "Vindication baby!" shout-out. For a poker junkie like me it was a delight following along with the see-sawing chip counts and heartbreaking bustouts.

    I also couldn't help but be a little envious of John's gig. Well, a lot envious. After all, the Aruba Classic is held in, well, Aruba, which is a nice place if you enjoy Caribbean paradises. So you follow the tournament, write till your fingers are worn to the nubs, while surrounded by some of Mother Nature's best work. As close to Heaven on Earth as one's likely to get. John's blog both seemed a justification for my own endless scribblings and as a goal to aspire to. Hey, maybe I could do that someday.

    And of course quite a few other bloggers have given we poker fans fantastic coverage of events all over the globe. Pauly and Otis got the ball rolling and now, whenever poker players gather for a big game, there are sure to be a handful of astute bloggers ready to provide the best coverage you'll find anywhere.

    And now, boys and girls, it's my turn to take up the keyboard.

    Yes, come September 23rd I shall be providing coverage of the Ultimatebet Aruba Poker Classic. And yes, it's in ARUBA. I've pinched myself so many times I'm about to draw blood.

    So, yes, I'm excited. And if you're reading this, and you're gonna be there for the tournament and you'd like to be famous, drop me a line. Or stop by when you see a dashing gentleman hunched over a laptop typing like mad. That'll be me.

    Sadly, this means that I won't be able to attend the Bash at the Boathouse. I was really looking forward to seeing everyone and drinking a few thousand beers in that legendary Mecca of Booze. For me to miss it would take a seismic event, and, alas, working in Aruba qualifies. I think there'll be a few Dial-A-Shots on my agenda that day.

    Is Aruba nice this time of year? Do I need to bring a jacket? Better go do some research.

    UPDATE: Watching the WSOP coverage tonight. I'm quite reassured to see that security in casinos is so good. Because that's the only explanation for why Eric Molina still has all his teeth. Appalling behavior, especially from a guy who weighs a buck-twenty. Telling Ken Jacobs what a terrible call he made, what a terrible play, and then he sticks his hand out to be shook. Jacobs would've been well within his rights to tell Molina to get stuffed. Or just crush him like a beer can. The hissy fit between Molina and Jamie Gold was pretty icky as well. I guess there's no such thing as bad press, maybe that explains the behavior.

    And then the Friedman-Lisandro contretemps was even better. Why was Lisandro out of line for threatening to remove Friedman's head and/or teeth? Someone accuses you of stealing at a poker table, that's a pretty serious charge. And if they guy keeps repeating it over and over and over again, eventually the accusee is going to take some form of action against the accuser. Like removing teeth.

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Five Years After 9/11

    I worked the early shift on September 11, 2001, arriving at my desk a little before 7AM. My friend Scott was there already, listening to something New Wavy on his CD player. I've mentioned several times that I don't like heights, but having worked on the 38th floor of the US Steel Building for over a year I didn't get spooked looking out the windows at the city spread out below me. I don't remember if I looked out the windows that day--probably I did. It was a beautiful day, practically no one else was on the floor. I probably looked out the window.

    I really disliked the job I had at the time, but mornings weren't too bad, not too many calls, and Scott and I talked across the lane separating our cubes. There were two extremely pretty girls who worked in the department next to us, and when the drop-dead gorgeous one walked past he spun around and made a point of saying good morning to her. I vividly remember him looked back at me, closing his eyes, and making an "ooooh" face.

    The office filled up, I started getting more calls. Closing in on 9AM, Scott turned to me, his hand pressing the earpiece of his headset, and he said, "My brother said a plane just hit the World Trade Center." I said something along the lines of "Holy Shit". His brother worked in New York City, and in fact had been able to see the first tower burning. But he didn't know what sort of plane had hit it, and I figured, as lots of people did, that it had been a small commuter plane or something along those lines that somehow blundered into the building.

    I checked It wouldn't load. And then I noticed something else strange. We weren't getting any calls. Nine in the morning was usually our busiest time of the day, but the phones were silent. I stood up in my cube, and there were several other people prairiedogging, talking about the news that was slowly spreading through the office.

    I tried CNN again, and this time the front page loaded. But instead of a graphic-filled page of pictures and headlines, it was blank, except for one picture--a blurry image of a streaking jet about to slam into one of the Twin Towers. It wasn't a commuter plane. It was a passenger plane, a jet. There was a plain headline above it, I don't recall exactly what it said, but it stated the obvious, that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

    The word "terrorism" still didn't enter my mind. I thought it might've been some dreadful accident. My wife was home that day, and I tried calling her, but I couldn't get through. We weren't getting any calls either. It was strange, everyone standing in their cubes, not sure what was going on, the phones eerily silent.

    I tried Jody again, and this time I got through. I woke her up, told her what was going on in New York and asked for info. She switched on the TV, and I remember how shocked she sounded. The towers were both burning. I think this was the first that I heard that BOTH buildings had been hit. I was one of the few people who could get a call out, and I relayed the news as Jody told me what she saw on TV.

    I hung up, and walked a few rows over to make sure someone else knew what was going on. My mother worked on the same floor as me (she worked with the two gorgeous girls) and told her what I knew. People were milling around now, not interested in work anymore. Of course we knew now that this hadn't been an accident. Mom and I talked a few seconds, and then I went back to my desk. Her boss told her to go down to the cafeteria and see what was happening on TV.

    Small bits of information started filtering in, and that's when I started to get nervous--really nervous. There was a report that a plane had crashed along the Mall in Washington DC. Then we heard that a plane had struck the Sears Tower in Chicago. Then that a plane had hit the Pentagon. It turned out that only the last of those was true--the Sears Tower had actually ordered a total evacuation. But standing in the tallest building in Pittsburgh, with the World Trade Center hit and the Sears Tower also possibly struck, it didn't take too much imagination to conjure up a terrorist plot to hit the tallest buildings in the United States.

    We weren't getting calls. I tried calling Jody a few more times, and eventually I got through again. When she told me that one of the towers had collapsed, I told her she was wrong, there was NO WAY a building that size could just collapse. In a voice almost impossibly calm, she told me that the one tower had collapsed, nothing was left. There was only one tower standing there. The other one was gone.

    I relayed the news to everyone around me. Most people reacted the way I did--they didn't believe it. I tried to get my mind around what she'd told me. A building that size...I tried to calculate how many people might've died. It seemed possible that tens of thousands might've lost their lives. At the time I thought the building might've toppled over and flattened other buildings, and getting all my information second hand I couldn't comprehend what was happening.

    What happened next pushed the day's events into the surreal. We'd heard reports of other suspicious aircraft across the country (someone said that a plane was ominously orbiting Reagan Airport) and a guy I knew heard that there was a suspicious aircraft in Somerset County. Somerset County? That's where the lake house I write about all the time is. That's an hour or so drive away. An airliner could travel that distance in ten minutes.

    In fact, United 93 had already crashed in Shanksville, the message got garbled on its way up to us on the 38th floor. But this is when I got scared. I knew the World Trade Center had been hit, and we'd heard reports of the Sears Tower and Pentagon being hit. If this was a far-ranging plan, it was entirely possible that our building could be a target. And here we were, standing around and looking at each other, not sure what to do.

    (In truth, Flight 93 flew directly over Pittsburgh. Had al Qaeda decided to go after tall buildings to maximize the death toll, I might be dead right now. But they wanted to hit symbolic targets, and the Capitol Building and/or the White House have a bit more symbolism than a big office building. Another advantage to living in an underappreciated city like Pittsburgh).

    I wanted to get out of there. We weren't working, we were just standing around talking about what bits of news we were getting, and I started to get edgy as I realized that this was a really, really bad day to be standing around in a very tall building.

    The decision to evacuate the building came about like most decisions in a big corporation--slowly. We asked our supervisors if we should leave. That was a mistake--we should've said, "Considering the circumstances, we're leaving. Bye." Instead we waited for the go-ahead to leave. The bosses were gathered in one of the glass-walled offices, talking to the folks who operated the building. My mind started playing tricks on me. The air conditioning kicked on, there was this noisy rush of air, and I felt a wave of panic as I imagined that oncoming roar of jet engines. Around 10:45 the meeting broke up, the bigwigs started talking to the supervisors, and my boss walked over and said we could leave. I was all packed up and ready to go. But when I walked over to get my mom and leave with her, she was standing in her cube and said her boss hadn't given them the OK yet.

    "We're leaving, NOW." I said. Everyone else was heading for the stairs and the elevators and I helped her gather up her stuff and we headed for the stairs. Let me tell you, that was a long, LONG walk down. The US Steel Building is shaped like a triangle, not a square or rectangle, and each floor required us going down three flights of stairs, turning, turning, turning. The stairwell walls are concrete, so the sound of so many voice and footsteps became so loud we couldn't if there were any instructions being broadcast on the loudspeakers. And as we marched down, it was hard not to imagine that there had been probably been people trying to evacuate from the World Trade Center the same way we were.

    I always liked leaving that building, because I hated the job and leaving meant a brief bit of freedom. But leaving that day brought me another sort of relief. I wanted to get as far away as possible from the building as soon as possible. Mom called my Dad to say that we'd been evacuated and that'd I'd give her a ride home. The streets were filled with people who had been sent home. There were lots of cops around, directing traffic and I guess looking for anything suspicious. We walked to the Strip District and the lot where I parked my car. God, it was a gorgeous day.

    Cars were leaving the lot by the dozen. I turned on NPR to hear the news, and I think that's when we learned that both towers of the World Trade Center had been destroyed. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that these two massive building were gone. We drove home and I tried to imagine how many people had died. It seems a miracle now that only 3,000 died, as if that number could ever be preceeded with the word "only".

    On the 31st Street Bridge we hit the light, and I looked out the window and saw my building standing out of the Pittsburgh skyline. On that day, it wasn't hard to imagine a jetliner appearing out of that clear blue sky and slamming into it.

    The local news did a brief report, and there was a bit saying that local blood banks would be open late to take donations, and my Mom said she'd be going to donate that night. Later that night she called me and said not to bother donating myself--when she went they turned her away because there were too many volunteers. And, sadly, much of that blood went to waste, because there weren't many survivors of the attacks.

    Driving up Mt. Royal Boulevard to my parents house we heard about the plane that crashed in Someset County. You can't believe how bizarre it was to hear that the plane went down just short of Indian Lake, PA. Indian Lake is the lake my friend's house is on. New York City. Washington DC. Indian Lake. It was like something out of the Twilight Zone.

    Dropped Mom off and headed home. And there I saw the film of the planes hitting the towers, and then the towers collapsing. We sat there all day, watching the coverage, which didn't do much to make what happened seem real instead of a nightmare. A few times we went outside and looked up, and we didn't see any planes or contrails. Except for one time, we heard (but didn't see) the roar of a jet flying way overhead.

    I didn't know anyone who died on 9/11. A long time later Jody found out that a girl she'd briefly shared a suite with in college had worked on one of the top floors of one of the Towers and died. It is too horrible to contemplate what those people endured before the end. Equally horrible is how many firefighters and police died trying to save the lives of others.

    In the days and weeks that followed, our nation exhibited so much compassion and determination that even now I find myself moved by some of the memories that keep bubbling up as I watch CNN's coverage this morning. I watched 9/11 on CBS last night, which is one of the most remarkable documentaries ever made. I remembered members of Congress gathering on the steps of the Capitol and then bursting into God Bless America. We went to church that Sunday (it was packed, of course) and we sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Not a dry eye in the house. Not mine, anyway.

    Nations around the world rallied to our side. "Nous sommes tous Américains" read the headline of Le Monde. We are all Americans. The international community condemned the attack for what it was, an act of unspeakable barbarism. 9/11 looked like it would be a strategic miscalculation on the scale of Pearl Harbor. The sleeping giant had awoken, and a cruel reckoning would be had.

    It's five years later. Osama bin Laden is still out there, scrabbling around in a cave somewhere, living in the darkness and depravity he thinks is all this world has to offer. Five years later and the United States is hated throughout the Middle East, in large part because of our invasion and occupation of Iraq, which is...a strategic miscalculation that rivals any in our nation's history. Thousands of our soldiers killed, tens of thousands wounded, hundreds of billions spent...and Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Nothing. We spent all that blood and treasure going after Iraq, while the people who attacked us on 9/11 still walk the earth.

    We invaded Afghanistan, deposed the Taliban, helped set up a new government...and then we all pretty much forgot about Afghanistan. Five years later the Taliban are making inroads again, poppy cultivation is the basis of the economy, and there doesn't seem to be too much fuss made about it.

    Iraq is a catastrophe with no end in sight. Iran has learned that if you're a member of the Axis of Evil, and you have nukes (North Korea), you'll be left alone. But if you DON'T have nukes, you'll get invaded (Iraq). Any wonder why the mullahs are so keen to ramp up their nuclear program?

    We have captured a number of high-ranking al Qaeda operatives. And then taken them to secret prisons to be tortured. Or delivered them into the hands of vicious regimes to be tortured at arm's length. Or to Guantanamo Bay to be held without charge for year after year in an unconstitutional legal limbo. In order to keep us "safe" our government has decided that our calls should be open to wiretapping without warrants, even though there is already a law in place for these warrants to be quickly obtained. That the President should have the right to arrest and hold American citizens without charge or access to counsel. And our disgrace of a Congress just goes along with whatever the President says, ignoring it's responsibity to act as a check on unbridled executive power.

    What's more, exercising our rights to free speech and a free press are now considered aiding and abetting the terrorists who hit us on 9/11 and would like to again. Pointing out the disastrous handling of the Iraq war and the lies that led up to it is encouraging the terrorists. Demanding that we come up with a plan to resolve the situation in Iraq, or that we not rush headlong into a war with Iran, is "appeasement", the crime committed by Chamberlain when he met with Hitler in Munich.

    The fact that so many Americans think we should meekly surrender so many of our rights in the name of "security" is a absolute disgrace, and when this chapter in our nation's history is written we will have much to be ashamed of. The fact that the Bush Administration chose again and again to ignore the Constitution and go with with the lazy, easy, and venal path is to be expected, given their track record. But the fact that so many Americans think that the best way to be "safe" is to hand over power to the government and hope they'll take care of us is profoundly disturbing.

    Last night ABC ran Part I of a show called Path to 9/11, which purports to tell of the actions that led up to the attacks of five years ago. If you follow the news you know that there is considerable controversy about this show, because the producers of it decided to "dramatize" the events. As if 9/11 wasn't dramatic enough. Their "dramatization" included things like making up conversations and events that didn't happen--like former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger refusing to give the CIA the go-ahead to kill bin Laden long before 9/11. One problem. This never happened. The producers at first said that their work was a documentary based on the 9/11 Commission Report. As people started seeing advance copies and finding egregious errors they frantically started backtracking, saying that the movie wasn't a documentary at all, that it was based on sources other than the Commission's report, and that it's made-up portions slam President Bush as well as former President Clinton. That's the stage we've gotten to in this country, that so long as you make up lies about one side, it's OK to lie about the other side too. "Truthiness" trumps the truth. It's difficult to conceive of the arrogance you'd have to have to make up stuff about 9/11, which is one of the most extensively examined and documented events in human history, and present it to the world as what "really happened". ABC should be ashamed of themselves. I hope most people had enough sense not to bother watching it, or to see it for the garbage it is, but I'm not optimistic.

    The strength of our nation comes from our freedom, our liberty. Our rights as citizens are what our soldiers over the centuries have died to protect. It is an abomination that we should surrender them without a fight. And doubly so when it is our freedom to live as we choose that makes these terrorists want to attack us in the first place. They fear a nation of citizens free to speak freely, think freely, worship freely. They want a nation of slaves, who live with heads bowed, who want nothing out of life except to remain invisible, who tremble at the sound of a knock at the door. This is what we're at war with. We cannot allow fear to triumph over liberty. We cannot allow cowardice to be an excuse to surrender our rights. Maybe today's anniversary to provide a reminder to us all what courage really is, and what America really stands for.

    Sunday, September 10, 2006

    Where's The Mute Button?

    Is it me, or are the NFL announcers this year worse than ever? Their skill with language is on par with a junior-high shop teacher, there isn't a cliche in the book they won't hang onto like it's a life preservers, and their "insights" about the game wouldn't dazzle my mother. They seem perfectly incapable of watching the game and conveying the facts of what just occured. I'm watching the Browns-Saints game (don't worry, I'm drinking) and Deuce McAllister obviously fumbled, the ball was out well before his knee touched, and these bozos are saying things like, "I don't think you can conclusively say his knee was down before the ball came loose." No shit! You can't say that because the reply showed the ball WAS loose!

    I do like the new graphics Fox and CBS are using, particularly CBS's. Because their graphics last year were awful. I'm hoping that, as Super Bowl champs, the Steelers will get CBS's top broadcast team this year, meaning I may go an entire year without having to hear Brent Jones's voice, since Brent Jones is the worst color analyst in the history of sports. Worse than Beasley Reese. I kid you not.

    What's the deal with so many teams wearing their white jerseys at home? The Chiefs are, so are the Buccaneers. I don't think either team regularly wears white, especially after Labor Day (really cheap joke). The Browns are wearing white, but they do that sometimes. Could it be the heat? Possibly, though it's raining in KC right now.

    Poker is absolutely kicking my ass. A break would be a good idea, I think. Look for problem spots, get the confidence back. Back. Yeah.

    Oh. Playing a last SNG. I'm almost doubled up, I'm dealt aces. Chip leader raises. I raise. Guy with $10 more than me goes all-in. Chip leader is all-in. I call.

    Aces. Kings. Queens.

    Of course you know what happens.

    The boards comes all rags.

    Aces always win.

    And besides, I'm a very good poker player.

    Standing O for Martina Navratilova

    Before I begin a late-night rant, let me ask a question: where does the mixed doubles title Martina Navratilova won tonight at the US Open rank on the all-time Are You Kidding Me list? Navratilova turns FIFTY next month. FIFTY YEARS OLD. And she's still winning Grand Slam titles. That is un-befreakingly-believable. That's awe-inspiring. Now, doubles isn't as physically taxing as singles. You don't do as much running. But unless you like having a perpetually-broken nose and a standing appointment at your dentist's, your reflexes had better be sharp. And Navratilova, at FIFTY YEARS OLD, is still a world-class doubles player.

    And I think this needs emphasized--she's playing against MEN. Young men, in their physical primes. The boys are allowed to hit at the girls, there's no taking turns. The team across the net from Martina can huddle together and say, "Every shot, hit it at Grandma". And they STILL couldn't beat her.

    Well, her and her partner Bob Black, who is one of the best doubles players in the world (he and his brother are the #1 men's doubles team). But still, I don't care if Martina is playing with a clone of John McEnroe in his prime. It is an absolutely stunning achievement, and one that really hasn't gotten much play in the sporting press. Andre Agassi deserved every bit of attention he received, especially after his magnificent match with Baghdatis, but Martina's victory should also be heralded far and wide. Especially as this was, sadly, her final match. She's hanging it up, again, after her first retirement in 1994. She won 59 Grand Slam titles, in singles, doubles, and mixed. Fifty-Nine. A-mazing.

    Know what else is amazing? You know how when you're playing poker, and you have a pair, and you flop a set...know how great that is? Or when you have an open-ended straight draw, and you hit it on the turn, and the other guy leads out betting? Isn't that awesome? Well, I wouldn't know. Good Lord, what a dreadful week it's been. True, I've only dropped about 10% of my bankroll, which isn't big to begin with, but, as I just said, Good Lord.

    My recent record in SNGs is simply appalling. The four I've won I've had to get ridiculously lucky at some point to even get in the money. If it wasn't for those four wins, eww, we'd be talking about some real carnage. Then again, I've also bubbled about ten times this week, in every hideous way imaginable. I've gone card dead, been sucked out on, and run my big hands into monsters.

    You know of whence I speak. I'm mostly writing this for catharsis. I don't think I'm playing that well, to be honest, but the cards and the breaks aren't making things easier. Need to clear the head, plug some leaks, play better.

    Much like my Nittany Lions, who didn't even bother to show up in South Bend. One of the worst performances I've ever seen from Penn State. How can a Division I football team not have a single player capable of holding the ball for the kicker? They've muffed the hold on THREE field-goal attempts in two games.

    I also saw some disturbing signs in the play-calling today, signs that made me fear that the influence of Jay Paterno is making itself felt again. First of all, Morelli isn't Michael Robinson. He's a classic drop-back passer. What the HELL is he doing running the goddam option? When you're down by three touchdowns? That wasn't the worst call of the day, however. Heck, the worst call wasn't even Paterno's decision to kick a FG in the third quarter while down 27-0. What the hell good does THAT do?

    No, the worst call was, with the score a laughable 38-3, Penn State ran a play with Morelli split out wide and Derrick Williams under center. Williams rolled out left and got clobbered before he could get his pass off. Um, you're down by five touchdowns. Anyone wanna explain what the HELL you're doing taking your best WR and making him into the GODDAM QUARTERBACK? Exactly how are you going to fool the defense? They're in a prevent already, and they sure as hell aren't going to be concerned about Morelli catching a pass. So you're playing ten on eleven, with a guy not used to throwing the ball under center, and the defense hanging back and not really too concerned if he runs. I hope to hell someone asked Paterno about this. I'd like to know who the hell came up with that one.

    OK, tomorrow is another day. I'll be in a better mood then.

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Not a Bad Start

    Strange game. Steelers gift Miami with a TD when Ike Taylor drops the 37th sure interception of his career, and then Batch can't handle the center exchange and that's a TD for us gone. And then, just as things started to look really bleak, bang bang bang. Miller's 87-yard "touchdown", Polamalu's pick, and Porter's coup-de-grace.

    The Miller TD was one of the strangest plays I've ever seen. He was definitely out--it wasn't close. Why the hell didn't the entire Miami sideline scream their heads off when they wanted to challenge the call? Saban tossed out the flag like he was playing slo-pitch softball and just sat there like a deer in the headlights. A similar thing happened to Cowher a few years ago--he ran out on the field, threw the flag about 30 yards, and screamed his head off at the ref. Can't believe Saban was so passive. Also can't believe that there isn't a referee tasked with watching the coach to see if he wants to challenge. Very strange.

    Charlie Batch, great game. Willie Parker, very good game. Joey Porter...the man's a beast. And secure enough in his masculinty to kiss another man in public.

    Nice way to kick off the season, nice way to kick off the weekend. I'm sure everyone who did that Mansion Poker promotion is just as happy as I am that the Steelers won.

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Taking Baby Steps Toward Metrosexuality

    I'm starting to worry about myself. To wit:

    • I got a haircut today (an event always fraught with peril) and halfway through my stylist and I decided that cutting my hair short along the sides was simply the only way to salvage the situation. She did a good job, and after mussing my hair into a spiky coif asked if I'd like her to put some product in my hair. "Yes," I said, "Some product would be nice."
    • I went out for two reasons: to get a haircut, and to buy a baking dish. I need a baking dish because I want to make chicken divan tomorrow and I need a baking dish. I bought a baking dish because I want to make chicken divan. What, you want me to start waving a white flag with HELP written in big black letters?
    • I seared a nice piece of meat for my supper, and after draining the fat I deglazed the pan with some nice red wine. WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING DEGLAZING PANS?

    All I can say is, thank Christ the Steelers play tomorrow night. I need to put on the jersey and wave the Terrible Towel and drink some Yuengling and scream my head off. That should right the ship.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    World Series of Deja Vu

    It's a bit odd watching the WSOP after reading all the coverage of it this year. I see Chris Ferguson is all-in, and he's up against this guy named Ryan Kallberg, and I'm thinking, wait, I know that name. And I knew Ferguson was about to hit the rail.

    Tom McEvoy's reaction to the jackass sitting next to him bellowing about how he held the nuts was hilarious. Sartre once said, "Hell is other people," and he came up with that even though he wasn't a poker player.

    That was nice, everyone applauding when they made the money. Always enjoy seeing spontaneous expressions of greed. I mean joy.

    The whole tattoo segment was out-freakin'-standing. Adam Schoenfeld's commentary on people who get poker tattoos was pretty brutal, and I loved every word of it. I am surprised they showed Annie Duke semi-mooning the rail. Sort of disappointed it was only semi-mooning, too. What I would give for Annie Duke to appear on What Not To Wear.

    Odd seeing the pro suck out for a change, as Annie Duke did at the end of the first show. But Annie's statement, "Will a pro ever win it again? Probably not" is just as silly today as it was when she made it a few years ago. Sam Farha took 2nd in 2003, Josh Arieh finished 3rd in 2004, and a pro who I can't name until the Final Table is shown did well this year too. A break here and there and we'd be asking if an amateur is capable of winning the bracelet.

    Did they say one guy was called "Pocket Seven-Deuce"? WTF is that? I was getting a beer so I didn't catch it. Now I'm gonna drink that beer.

    Is it proper for a player who won a WSOP Main Event to ask the Poker Gods, "Come on, one time!" when he's all-in on a coin flip? The answer to that question is a respectful "No".

    There's CJ, getting the skinny on Dmitri Noble's strategy! I haven't been looking too hard for familiar faces, but hard to miss CJ there.

    Hachem is all in, where's Otis...where's CJ...probably getting their drunk on somewhere.

    "I wanna rebuy so bad you can't believe it," says Daniel Negreanu. Believe that.

    CJ's on TV again! Nobles said his name!!

    The Poker Gods giveth, the Poker Gods taketh away. I lost $10 to a shortstack who went all-in with A-10 and hit runner-runner tens to best my queens, and then I cracked aces with queens to win $15. It all balances out in the end. Except you always end up five bucks to the good. Until you bluff it away.

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    Hitting Pretty Girls in the Face

    Being laid off means holidays like Labor Day are just like any other day. It takes away some of the joy of sleeping in. Not that I sleep in most days. But I did today. Went to an all-day family get-together yesterday and ate hamburgers, chicken, hot sausage, two kinds of potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans, and a brownie. And then I went back for seconds (nyuck nyuck!).

    We were gathered at my uncle's camp up in Butler, and I got to do something that was oodles of fun. Uncle Norm needed some help lowering an old, exterior chimmney to the ground, so four of us went up on the roof to ease it earthward. Just had to climb up on the roof, loop a rope over the top, and lower away.

    No biggie. Except that, as I've mentioned scores of times on these pages, I'm scared of heights. But there's no way I was gonna wimp out and let my Uncle Kenny go up in my place. Though he decided to go up anyway. For him it was no big deal.

    Though it was for me. As I held the rope and helped lowered the goddam-heavy metal pipe one thought kept going through my mind--how the HELL am I gonna get my fat ass offa here? In the end it wasn't a big deal, I just carefully set my feet on the top rung and went down nice and easy. But I'll admit that, as I inched toward the edge, I thought that spending the rest of my natural life on the roof might not be a bad way to go.

    On the way home my brother called to give me the happy news about Ben Roethlisberger's appendix. I wonder how many crazed Steeler fans showed up at the hospital offering to donate THEIR appendicies to the stricken QB? Bad break to the Steelers, but when I told my friend Mark that Big Ben had surgery, he thought it had something to do with the accident in June. And that might have been BAD. So the eminently-capable Charlie Batch steps up to bat for a few weeks, until Roethlisberger gets sidelined again with, oh, dengue fever. That'd be just his luck.

    I made the mistake of going to see Beerfest tonight. Oh, I enjoyed the movie, which was about exactly what you'd expect of it. But as I sat there in the darkened movie theater I really, really, really, REALLY wanted a beer. I mean, a beer would've been SO friendly. Just one pale ale, one solitary lager. I left the theater dying of thirst.

    Just watched the Miami-Florida State game, which was as usual a deadly-dull contest utterly dominated by defense. I despise both teams, which makes it impossible for me to enjoy the game. I want both teams to lose. I guess I was "rooting" for Miami just so Bowden wouldn't gain a game on Paterno, but rooting for Miami violates my entire belief system.

    Watching the US Open now, which of course has featured some incredible tennis since it started. A question--not so long ago, the drop shot had absolutely no place in the men's game. You hit a drop shot, most likely the ball was gonna end up down your throat. Yet this year the drop shot has become a huge part of the game. And it's made a HUGE difference to the game, and a good difference at that. These players are so strong now, and they can generate so much power with today's racquets, that you can still hit winners standing five feet behind the baseline. Enter the drop shot. That little injection of finesse into what threatened to become a pure-power game has really invigorated the sport.

    I haven't played much tennis the last few years, haven't picked up the racquet at all this year (though I might play tomorrow). Really need to get back into it, as it's a game you can play your entire life. Watching the pros play, I just can't believe how much power they get on their groundstrokes. Serving-and-volleying these days is tantamount to suicide. If you hit a 130MPH serve, and the return comes back at you at 120MPH, you're lucky to be a foot behind the service line when you have to hit your first volley. Provided you can touch the ball, which of course isn't provided. I played a lot of doubles in high school (much better at net than along the baseline) and I'd probably be missing a few teeth if I played the game today the way I played back then. We didn't have the talent to compete with the best teams, so we just tried to overpower them with power (we were usually physically bigger than other teams) and feral aggression. Charge the net, crowd it, poach a lot, try to plonk them with the ball.

    When I was a kid I played in an informal league, boys and girls mixed together, and there was this girl all the boys were in love with. Her name was Karen, she was Irish and had the red hair and the pale skin and a two-handed backhand to make you sigh. She obliterated me when we played, and as we shook hands I despaired, knowing she could never love a boy she could dominate from the baseline.

    Flash forward seven years. I'm a senior in high school, and Karen is playing for the local Catholic high school's boys team, as they have no girl's squad. She still has that wonderful backhand, along with that red hair. She didn't remember me, and maybe that triggered something that I'd rather not believe exists inside me.

    She still had that backhand, but she didn't have much oomph behind it, and her partner wasn't much better. It was obvious from the start that they had no chance, we would just blow them off the court. It was a fairly chummy match, we'd say "good shot!" when a whistling pass blew past. My partner's girlfriend was watching us play with a number of her adorable friends, and I was a bit discombobulated, what with playing against Karen, and in front of a crowd of pretty girls...

    Before Jon served I signaled that I was going to poach--that it, I would slide right just after he served and pick off the return if he tried to hit cross-court. I wasn't poaching much, as we were comfortably ahead, but I thought we should mix it up a bit.

    Jon served out wide, and the guy sent back a lazy floater. Short of God reaching down and placing the ball at the perfect junction of time and space, I have never seen a ball more squarely within my wheelhouse. If my backhand was suspect, my overhead was not--I was consistent, and I could KILL the ball, usually sending it over the fence. So here was a chance to show off a little, a little exhibition of male aggression to impress the females of the species.

    I set my feet, turned my shoulders, brought both hands up and cranked my left arm down to start my hip rotation. The ball moved into the killing zone, and I hit the ball with such purity that my strings made a barely-audible, harmonic "THRUMMM!".

    The ball hit Karen square in the face. I mean, it hit her right between the eyes. And I BLASTED it. She didn't turn away, she didn't raise her racquet. The ball bounced off her lovely face and WENT BACK ON OUR SIDE OF THE NET.

    I said--no, squealed--"Oh SHIT!". My parter said something along the lines of "What the fuck?" This might have been an attempt to look all chivalrous in front of his girlfriend, but I think not. The guy on the other side of the net immediately rushed over to see how she was, beating me by a few steps. But Karen was stoic about the whole thing. She was fine, she said, aside from her eyes reflexively tearing up. When I apologized thirty or forty times she said it wasn't necessary. She went back to the baseline to return serve. My hands didn't stop shaking until...after we shook hands at the end of the match. We won, but I played extra-timid the rest of the way. The consensus among the girls who were watching us was that I was a total asshole. And my lack of respect for the female gender became an occasional joke the rest of the year.

    Oddly, I also hit a pretty girl named Karen in the face playing racquetball in gym class. Hit her so hard that the goggles she was wearing flew off her face. The moral of the story, I think, is that I should avoid playing racquet sports when there are pretty girls named Karen around. But then, isn't that the moral to EVERY story?

    Saturday, September 02, 2006

    Poker, Wonderful Poker

    In a reversal of my usual results, I'm running good in the micro NL games and getting killed in SNGs. So many coolers, but fortunately I'm getting them in the cash games. Stacked a guy with AA vs. KK, did it again when a guy limp re-raised me with AJ (?) when I had aces, then outflopped a guy with queens against kings and he put his money in after the flop. Conversely, in SNGs I ran kings into aces, had a guy make a runner-runner boat on me after I flopped a straight, and I just got knocked out when a guy called a big check-raise with second pair and hit on the river. Hard to complain too much, as overall I'm up, but why have a poker blog if you aren't going to whine a bit?

    With my new laptop an absolute beast I re-loaded PokerTracker and even bought PokerAceHUD so I could feel all cool and stuff. Wow. I didn't use PT in between computers, and I never used any sort of overlay before. Wowie wow wow. I will say it now, I was a fool. The HUD has already paid for itself, as I took a big pot when I didn't believe the all-in bluff of a documented moron. I'm taking a patient approach to my play, trying to learn a little something every day, get a little bit better. Long way to go.

    Sad day here in Pittsburgh. Our mayor, Bob O'Connor, died last night. He was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer two months ago, and after he showed some early improvement his condition slowly deteriorated. A popular guy, very enthusiastic, obviously loved the city. He waited a long time to be mayor, and then just eight months after he was elected he passed away. Nope, life isn't always fair.

    Our new mayor is Luke Ravenstahl, who at 26 is the youngest mayor in Pittsburgh history. I don't envy him the task he faces, but I wish him luck. He's gonna need it.

    Now I'm gonna watch some more college football. Nice cool day, nice cool breeze, got my Penn State jersey hanging on the door...I like summer, but fall is my favorite time of the year. Football, tailgating, good sleepin' weather...yeah... get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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