Sunday, February 28, 2016

Not Having to Be Faster than the Bear

Two guys were hiking in the forest, when they stumble upon a mama grizzly protecting a couple of cubs. She looks at them wild-eyed and starts posturing for a chase.
One of the guys frantically reaches into his pack and starts putting on his sneakers.
"What the hell are you doing?" says the other. "You're never in a million years going to outrun that bear."
"Don't have to outrun the bear," he says. "Just have to outrun you."


I went back to Twin River yesterday with Yosie, because last time I was there I made a few hundy and was feeling my oats pretty, um, oatily. We had breakfast at a local greasy spoon (not the coffee milk place), and got there early enough so we could sit together without a wait.
 
Last time there were really no table captains, no bullies (besides the one I destroyed, and subsequently wrote about), pretty much no really strong players at all swimming in the shallow waters. So this time I got there and decided I would ratchet up the aggression just a little bit, maybe try to take control.

Because I have stumbled upon (or rather, finally come to) the realization that informs the little parable above and provides the title of this particular missive: I don't have to be the world's best poker player. I just have to be better than the schmucks I'm playing against.

And lordy lordy, were there a bunch of schmucks at our table. Way more often than not, the big blind would be called all around. There were often six or seven people to a flop, with a pot of perhaps $16! I've never seen the like.

Now I have for a long time lived by a simple rule for pre-flop action: Don't just call an unraised blind. If a hand is worth one blind, it's worth three, and if it isn't worth three, it isn't worth one. A fairly simple rule, and one that has saved me my share of misery and dollars over the years.

But, as the old saying goes, the only absolute rule in poker is that there are no absolute rules.  I quickly made the decision that if these jabronies are going to let me see cheap flops, and let me outplay the shit out of them post-flop, well, then, by god and sonny jesus, that's what I was going to do.

I would have been up nearer to $1000, but I lost perhaps $300 when I went all in with AA when my opponent had 77, and caught his two-outer, but after everything was said and done, including guesting at a home tournament that Josie frequents (and winning it), I was up the better part of $550 for the day, which is still a hap hap happy day for me. Happier still I can feel when my game starts getting passive and I start missing opportunities to take pots, and can correct my behavior and get back on track.

Things are looking up for The Kid, my friends. Having a poker room eleven minutes or so from my house is doing wonders for my game.

Expect more posts of a pokery nature in the coming weeks. The Crafty Southpaw is back!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Trip report: Twin River Casino, Lincoln, RI, 2-20-16

What's that you say? Twin River's poker room has been open for months, and you're only now getting around to going there?

Well, no. Strictly speaking, no. In fact, not-so-very-strictly speaking, no. I have been there three times now. But the first two times were pretty uneventful and I had my hands full with getting my poker legs underneath me and trying the truly awful chipotle sauce at Johnny Rocket's. Both times I walked out within $10 of my buy-in, once up, once down. Josie was good enough to accompany me the first time, and Josie and FDD Spuds were both there for the second time.

For what it's worth, Josie professes a dislike of the place, based on (she says) the fact that she lost money the first time, and that she got no reception on her phone. I for one am more inclined to believe the latter than the former,  but no matter, no matter. I'm sure there'll be return visits in the future.

The room suffers somewhat from its infancy; the growing pains it is experiencing are far from over, and some of them aren't trivial. Knowledge of the rules of poker and of the house is disquietingly inconsistent and though I have not witnessed it cost anyone any big money, I believe it is a matter of time.

To give only three examples that happened at my table today: Firstly, the dude in seat 3 string-raised. As clear-cut a case of a string raise as it got. When seat 5 and I (seat 6) pointed it out, the dealer got a little shitty and asked us to please refrain from identifying string raises, that it was the responsibility of the dealer to do so. That was met with incredulity among the table, the universal sentiment being that in fact the players should (indeed must) call a string raise when they see it. The player in question withdrew his second stack so it didn't get heated, but later, when the brush was by, this was informally confirmed.

Second, it is a stated rule in this room that cards speak. We had an unidentified flush come up and the dealer kept his trap shut about it. When a player who wasn't in the hand spotted the flush, the dealer immediately said "I was hoping one of you would say something, we're not supposed to." More howls of protest from the table. The dealer started defending his position then almost immediately backtracked - actually lying about having said that dealers weren't supposed to call hands that players themselves didn't spot.

Thirdly, in a three-way hand, the river was checked down all around. The last guy to act, instead of saying the word "check," tabled his cards face-up announcing what he had, an act all of us have performed a thousand times. The dealer says "You can't do that. You have to say 'check.'

FLOOR!

The brush comes over and sure enough, he looks at the dealer like he had baby shit in his hair and informs him that yes, the last bettor on the river can turn up his cards without word or gesture if the play has been checked to him.

These are simple things, remedial things. I'm sure time will heal them, but until that happens a visitor to the Twin River poker room should prepare himself for minor disappointments like these.

Anyway, to my play...

For most of the day, I had about $500 in front of me. One can start with $300, and within the first half-hour I was down $200, most of the damage wrought by my flush losing to quads. I re-upped another deuce and quickly got back to even, but didn't really move off $500 for several hours.

Then I lost a ton of money when my AK lost to KK, and things were looking a little grim for The Kid. I was stuck around $300 and was faced with the conundrum we dread: do I get up from the table, lick my wounds, and live to fight another day, or do I use the $200 I have left to recoup some of my losses and my dignity?

I decided that surrender was for the weak and for the French, and I am neither of those things. Luckily, right about then the table got a new player to seat 7, the seat at my left elbow. I'm going to call him Tony "Bro" Gellmuth, because he deftly combined the annoying bravado of Tony G with the condescending poker knowledge of Phil Hellmuth - and he called everyone "Bro." When he sat down he claimed to have been up for 20 straight hours and I believed him. And whatever he was taking to stay awake was fucking working. He could have played lead violin at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, been a world-renowned brain surgeon, and designed the most graceful and beautiful buildings in skylines all around the world, and still his greatest gift would be flapping his goddamn gums. Talk talk talk talk talk, that's all he did. He talked about his hand. He talked about his strategy for playing his hand. He talked about why other people were such poor players. He talked about why he was such a good one. He never, ever stopped, except to get up and have a smoke.

During one of these times I parodied his little act to a player I was in a hand with. During the hand I asked "What you got, bro? What you got, bro?" - which was the subject of much mirth from the table. We spent the next two full hands talking about what an obnoxious asshole this guy was, how he was disrupting the flow of the game, and trying his best to bully everyone else into submission.

So I decide that when he sits back down, I should start in with the needle, and I wouldn't be shouted down by my tablemates.

Sure enough, his first hand back from his most recent smoke break, he keeps up his running commentary about a hand he's in with someone, telling him as the hand is in progress, "if you have a pair you win," to which I replied "If I had a set of earplugs, I'd win," which broke up the table and turned him red for a little while.

From that point on it became his mission to tell the table that I was a bad poker player, and to try to prove it to the world. The first hand that this strategy really cost him was when, holding JQh, I flopped the nut straight. He was betting like a maniac, and I knew I had him since I had the nuts, so I just check-called the flop and the turn, let him do all the damage himself.

When the river came, I bet out $60, I think. He said - he actually said - "I raise. NO! I mean I call!" as if it were a genuine mistake. I looked at the dealer and said something like "tell the naughty boy what he has to do," and the dealer rightly said he needed to make at least a minimum raise. He puts in the extra chips with just token resistance, and flips over his cards out-of-turn to reveal the low straight.  I show my winner and drag a giant pot, and now I'm within sniffing distance of even.

More importantly, Tony "Bro" Gellmuth loses his fucking mind.

"You had the nuts and you just check-called your way through that hand?" he asked incredulously. "What kind of strategy is that?"

Now, I know that questions of that nature are best left unanswered. Perhaps it was the Imp of the Perverse that made me answer it. Maybe I just knew that it would tilt him like an old pinball machine.

"A damn good one, with a maniac like you on my left," I answer to the laughs and hoots of the rest of the table - who, remember, hated this guy's guts. "You were betting right into me, and I was letting you. Nicely done, by the way - thanks."

"Oh, you're going to discuss poker strategy with ME? A guy who check-calls the nuts wants to discuss strategy with me?"

"No, I really don't," I said, letting a little anger flash in my eyes. "I could live my entire life quite happily never discussing poker with you, ever."

A few more laughs from the table, and he finally shuts up, if shaking his head and mumbling to himself counts as shutting up.

A few hands later, Mrs. Crafty texts me - she's sick with a cold I gave her, bless her - and asks me when I'm coming home. I couldn't answer her right away because play had already started back up but I knew the sands of time were running out on my afternoon.

I make a decision that the hand that breaks me even will be my last - and I was within perhaps $60 of this goal.

I look down at the hand I was in and see A2h in cutoff +1 or so. I make a raise to $7 and Tony "Bro" Gellmuth calls me.

Flop comes a deuce and two hearts - and I decide this is my Alamo. Here will I make my stand, to succeed or fail, and may the Almighty favor my undertaking*. I throw $20 in the pot, which has the net effect of isolating me with T "B" G.

Turn comes a blank. I c-bet $30 or $40 and he calls without thinking too hard.

The river comes my wonderful, beautiful heart. I have the nut flush and there are no pairs on the board. This hand is won.

Check.

"$75," he says, and throws three green chips in the middle.

"Raise to $200," I say, and start cutting chips.

"Call," he says, before I get the chance, and flips over J3h for a smaller flush.

"I have the nuts," I say, and flip over my cards, and he yells "GOD DAMMIT!" and puts his head down in his arms on the table - that is, until the dealer tells him to give me another $125. And now I'm up around $200 and I decide that before I leave I will administer the needle one final time, which should give you an idea of to what extent this fucking doofus deserved it.

"Well boys," I say, "Reckon I'll head home - my wife needs dinner." I look at Tony "Bro" Gellmuth one last time. "I was hungry, but after eating your soul I just can't have another bite."

He scowls, and I walk away from the table feeling like I just won a million dollars.

Anyway, that's my trip report. Hope you enjoyed it. Go see a doctor if you haven't recently.

---
*"Annuit coeptis," a phrase you'll find on the back of the dollar bill, translates to "He [god] favors our undertaking."

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Some Disquieting News

The Twin River Casino, an asta-gad big-boy casino and entertainment center situated not seven miles from my house, is opening up a 16-table poker room.

May god have mercy on my wicked soul.

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Which We Put the Band Back Together

This is my first post in an unsettlingly long period of time, for which I suppose an apology is due. The fact of the matter is that working takes up more of my time, and my energy, than I would wish, and after a long day and a long commute I find myself wanting to do nothing but sleep. Plus - let's be honest here - under the best of circumstances I lead a somewhat dull existence, and adding work to the mix just means that there's just nothing to write about. So the blog goes dormant, and I lurk from time to time on the blogs of my comrades, until something happens.

Well ladies and gentlemen, that something has happened: I have played poker for the first time in perhaps two years. Forthwith, then,


TRIP REPORT: FOXWOODS, 5-24-2015

I emailed Very Josie and asked her if she had any inkling to hit the tables over the holiday weekend. Enthusiastic agreement; arrangements made; we met at the Dunk's near the poker room; phase one is officially carried off without a hitch. And she took the bus down so I was off the hook for that (thank dog - it's Punch Buggy season).

I must say, as is the hallmark of friends who have not seen each other in a while, it was like no time had passed since our last contact. It was lots of laughs and people-watching to our great amusement. We even invented a game: Spot the Whore. When a scantily-clad trollop would walk by, I would affect my "Ugly American Tourist Abroad" voice and say to Josie, "Look honey - a whore!" It was an endless source of mirth. But it would only get funnier.

Because behind a woman who was wearing a dress so short that I knew the color of her pubic hair, was another woman who was dressed perhaps a bit suggestively but who was not (misogynistic comment ahead) good looking enough to pass the whore test. But Josie elbows me and says, "See her? The one in the white top?"

"Yeah," says I.

"No front teeth," she says to me.

"And how did you find that out?" 

"She comes up to me and asks me if her bra is showing. Not only is it showing but all the hooks are undone but one! So I tell her that and hook her back up. She turns around and tells me that her boyfriend did it, and smiled. No front teeth! 0 for 4."

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have a fair amount of artificial dentition in my mouth. And there is a period of time after getting a tooth (or teeth) pulled where the gums have to heal before you set about replacing that tooth. 

But if you're going to have that done, for the love of Benji, lay low for a bit! Spend a few weeks in solitary pursuits, like building a ship in a bottle, or giving your boyfriend what must be the best fellatio he will have ever had. Something, for Chrissakes, that doesn't entail you walking your raggedy ass around Foxwoods getting hitched back together from strangers and smiling at them! 

Aaanyway...

We make it down to the poker room, sign up, and before too long we are both assigned to the same table. Josie, unlike Your Obediant Servant, has been playing a good deal of poker of late and her skills have not diminished over time - to the contrary, she has become an even better poker player than I remember. And the luck for which she has become legendary in certain circles, I'm pleased to report, has not deserted her. Case in point: She was holding JJ and she caught a flop of J-10-4. Of course that's not luck - it happens one time in (about) 8. THIS is the luck:

One of the participants in the hand was holding 44, and had filled his set, and raised the bet all-in.

Another one of those players, nestled cozily between Jo in seat 3 and me in seat 1, was none other than no-tooth not-whore (who a propos of nothing was drinking milk from a straw). She was holding 1010 and had filled her set, and also went all in.

A third poor sap was holding KQ, and either figured he had the odds to chase his straight with all the money in the middle, or was just a bad poker player, and went in too.

Josie smiled and called, and won a pot of perhaps $600, within 20 minutes of us sitting down.  Aaaand we're off!

So shortly after that, the clarion call of a WSOP qualifier tournament started being heard. The $360 entry fee was now a free-roll, so the call started becoming too loud to resist. She ambles over to tournament land with a total profit of over $700 for perhaps an hour's effort at the cash table, registers and starts playing.

Now you may ask, how was I doing during this time? Actually not that bad, for a fella who hadn't played poker in a couple of change-filled years. I knew I had to play super-tight because my judgement would be off, and you kind of need good cards to do that. I had them during the first part of the day (basking, as it were, in the reflected luck of you-know-who), but after that the cards dried up and I went on a long, slow, boring descent into loss. After a while the table pegged me as a risk-averse nit, and started taking advantage. I was just thinking about walking away when I woke up with QQ, but lost with them. I was, at the least, self-aware enough to know my game would not get that much better this session, so for a change I respected my stoploss and stopped playing. So I wandered over to the tournament section, weaving through a veritable dragnet of security guards both in uniform and in suits, speaking into their thumbs, and sweated Josie for a time.

She was playing a turbo, was our girl, and the blinds were going up and up at a dizzying pace. I must say that Josie's style of play, who some might uncharitably call "recklessly aggressive" but which I just call "unbelievably, recklessly aggressive," is particularly suited to turbo play, where you have to chip up right now or feel the bite of the headman's axe. And Jos has been doing a good amount of winning with this strategy: you combine that strategy with a Sicilian's ability to read people, and stick the knife in at just the right time, you win a lot. Make no mistake: I have nothing but big respect for her game.

Not everyone at the table felt that way.

When I got to the table, the bald dude in seat 9 was chirping at her already, calling her a luckbox and a number of other, less savory terms, looking at her and shaking his head, whispering to his friend and scowling, the whole bit. And when Josie is in someone's head like that, she starts taking advantage, and it's only a matter of time before the gods of tilt take over and, well, tilt the table towards Josie. The final hand, Josie out-sucked Baldy's suckout on the turn, and it was GG Mr. Bitter. He walked away, no joke, yelling at the top of his voice that Josie "...should play the lottery tonight. Bet the goddamn house!" as he faded away into a sea of Asians smoking and playing Pai Gow.

To her credit, Josie said nothing - didn't even crack a smile.

And the chips mounted and they mounted. I wandered off to have a bowl of noodles (not really on the standard Diabetic menu, but I was already shaking a little bit and who can resist shredded duck lo mein, I ask you), and watch the last two innings of the Red Sox game, which for twin miracles they both won and played well. When the next break was called I met up with Jos and got a debrief.

She had been playing well, but lost about half her stack in one hand right before the break, which  seemed to deflate her. They were close to the money - I think there were 32 people left at the break and they paid 18 - and she came back from the break with perhaps less confidence than she had before. She got blinded out in a half-hour and finished in 22nd place. Five hours of poker to finish four away from the money! Ugh.

Usually, when the poker is done for the day, Jo likes to play a little 21, but this time, she says to me "I want to head to the slots."

"The SLOTS?" I ask in disbelief. "You're kidding me."

"I have $25 in free slots play," she says to me, restoring for a brief time my faith in the universe. 

So OK, to the slots we go. We walk to the slots. And walk. And walk. Now walking for me isn't exactly painful, but since the stroke my left hip is not as cooperative as it was before, even when I was carrying the extra weight. So it's not listed among my favorite activities. But walk we did. You think I was gonna let a five-foot-tall chick with no cartilege in her knees outwalk me? Lead on, girly girl. I'll be right behind you, limping slightly and secretly gasping for air.

So the first place we get to has a million billion slot machines, but not the one she likes. She wants to play the "Sex and the City" slots. Why, I ask? Because it's the only one she knows how to play.

How to play? HOW TO PLAY? You press the fucking button, that's how you play! What happens next is usually a giant toilet flushes your money away. And that's the slot machine experience. But I digress.

So we walk some more. And we walk. And we walk. Until finally we find ourselves at Mohegan Sun, or perhaps Windsor, Ontario. Not sure. But we walked a looong way. But we finally sit down at a Sex and the City slot machine, she puts in her card, receives $25 credit, and starts to play.

Does anyone not know how this ends? She pressed buttons for a few minutes, sometimes she got to press a glittering bonus button where the desired outcome is, I shit you not, a pair of shoes, and after about ten minutes she cashed out a slip for 47 cents - which she gave to the lady next to her, who would press the glittering bonus button with her entire hand for luck.

Anyway, after that funfest was at an end, we hied it over to a fish joint nearby and Josie treated her Uncle Crafty to a lobster roll and a diet Pepsi, then drove back to casa molto Giuseppina.

Got a chance to see FDD Spuds, who was thinking about going but bagged in the end, and Ursa Sucrosum, who is by now a strapping lad of 17 and who was hosting a bunch of his friends in the back yard around a fire pit. There were a liberal helping of young ladies around the fire.

I've never been prouder of the lad.

But a few minutes later, he comes in and asks for the Wi-Fi password for the home network. Why, asks I. Because they don't want to use data on their phones, replies Youth.

This was too much to bear. I come striding out and address the group. Ursa Sucrosum had just enough time to apologize in advance for what was coming next.

"I bring a message from the adult contingent of the house," I boomed, grabbing their attention. I waited a beat of silence and continued. "PUT THE FUCKING PHONE DOWN! You're sitting around a fire, enjoying the  company of your friends on a beautiful holiday weekend! Put the phone down!"

Laughs all around. One little number pipes up, "But we need to Instagram..."

"No, you don't," I say. "No, you really really don't." Pause. "I have spoken. Stay in school. Don't do drugs. Or do them, I don't really give a shit."

I go back in the house and start wrapping up to leave. He comes back in and says goodbye to me, adding "all my friends think you're a funny dude."

They have no idea.

Anyway, that was my trip report. To sum up: Josie won and lost, I lost, we ate lobster rolls, no front teeth, security guard, Sex and the City, teenagers around the fire, I endear myself to the next generation.

Thanks for your attention. Go see a doctor if you haven't recently.


You're mooshing my glasses, Josie.

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's Morning in New England...

...and all throughout the region the only sound that can be heard is the ripping up of football cards and the motherfucking of the Patriots for ruining their parlay.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Well, She's Good, She's Lucky, and She's Sicilian - What Did You THINK Was Gonna Happen

Just a quick word to say that our own Very Josephine entered a WSOP satellite tourney, a $250 buy-in Ladies tournament, and finished third, for a payday of over 2500 squeeds. Then she sucked another grand or so out of the house at 21. Congratulations Jo!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Good News From Every Front

Nobody wants to hear someone else's good news. I get it. It's not compelling. If it were, the evening news would be overstuffed with rainbows and unicorn farts. But the thing is,  I got good news coming out of every pore of my body and I have to share it with someone. And I thought, I spent four solid years crying to you all when the good news was in short supply, and all you did was express quiet sympathy and tell me what I couldn't possibly see at the time - that things would get better.

And they did. And with all the blackness that I exposed to you, you deserve a little bit of the light.

So, medical stuff first. As of Friday I'm down to 223.8 pounds, precisely 10 pounds from my last weigh-in in April. As near as I can figure I weighed around 305 at my heaviest (I figure around 280-285 at the time of the stroke but I can't be sure) so that would put my total weight loss at just over 80 pounds.

This has finally started paying some real dividends. My A1c, a long-term marker of blood sugar, was at 9.0 in January. It was down to 6.6 in April, which is great for a diabetic. Friday it was 5.9, which is almost normal for a non-diabetic person and not even in the range of what diabetics usually have.

As a result my daily insulin requirement has been reduced from 25 units of Lantus (the long-acting once-a-day type) down to 20. Woo-hoo! That's a 20% reduction!

Diabetes is funny. What ends up killing you if you're diabetic is the long-term impact of high blood sugar on your body. It frays and destroys capillaries, which causes circulation problems, which in turn is what makes your feet fall off. It can cut off alternate routes to get oxygenated blood to the heart, or the brain, and make it orders of magnitude more likely that you have a heart attack or a stroke. It causes nerve pain, or perhaps numbness. It can destroy your vision - literally render you blind. It's not a good thing to have.

Which is why I'm so stoked that my A1c is so low. It's like a rolling 90-day average of your blood sugar, and 5.9 means that my diabetes is not causing any damage to my body. And that is a big part of the plan to have a healthy old age.

So that's the diabetes end.  On the blood pressure side of it, my doc took my blood pressure and it was about 90/70, which is at the very bottom of the normal scale. I had been getting light-headed upon standing recently (orthostatic hypotension, for the medical professionals among you) in fact. So the doctor discontinued one of my meds entirely and now I'm "only" taking two different pills for my bp.  I'll call that progress too.

So - less insulin, fewer meds, more weight loss. A VERY good day medically. But no! Wait! There's more!

Because while I was at the doctor's office, I received a phone call that notified me that after four years, six months, one day, one hour and about 20 minutes, my standing as unemployed American is officially over. I got a job - the one I wanted - and couldn't be happier.

These people are basically going to train me to become what they need me to be. I'll start off working the help-desk but will eventually become either of a network architect or network engineer, depending on what I'm good at and what they need more.

They interviewed me basically as a favor to a mutual friend, and apparently I did so well in the interview that they thought it would be better long-term for the company to have me on the payroll, even though my current skill set wasn't a fit for them.

They think they're getting a good man for below market value, and I suppose that's true, but I think what they're doing is taking a chance on a guy who could use a break, and I won't forget that. They're also going to pay me to learn a whole new set of skills - and the accompanying certifications - and I would be a fool to not take advantage of that.

So I will work like a man possessed for them, and show them that they made the right decision, and learn all I can on their nickel, and in a year we'll have another conversation about money, and it will either be made right or it won't - but let's not borrow trouble.

It's an unusual feeling. Everything is breaking my way. Everything! I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never does. Things just keep getting better and better. It's a good feeling to have.

And with that I will close this already-overlong post. Because, as my pal Rob would tell you, there is value in brevity.

Thanks for listening. Go see a doctor if you haven't recently.