Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thank you, Noodles and Ass-Chin

Hey, guess what: The Crafty Southpaw won the Mookie last night!

Click for zoomy zoom

Really, it was more or less ABC poker until it came down to 3-handed. NYRambler had 21,800, I had 8,500, and Lightning had 2,300. Around five hands in, lightning pushes with J7s on the button. I'm holding A9o. I think about it for a while, then call. The ace on the turn assured my victory.

So now it's heads up between NYR, who has just over 20 large, against me who has a spooge over 11K.

The whole heads-up dealio was four hands. The two big ones were both over 10,000 pots.

On the first one I was holding A5o, and the flop generously gave me two pair. Regarding NYRamber, I kind of figured him out so I was confident about how to bet for maximum value. By the time I three-bet the turn all in,and he folded, he had over 5,000 chips in the middle. That was yummy.

The yummiest hand though was the last one - isn't it always? - when I found AJh out of position. NYR as dealer raised to 900 (std raise). I re-raised to 2400, NYR shoved and I called like a shot. My AJ was great against his - wait for it - K3o. Not only did my ace hold up but it improved on turn and riv with an A J for two pair to win it.

So that was it, a pretty standard end-game. So: who are Noodles and Ass-chin, and why do they deserve the thanks? Because...they cancelled on our home game and there weren't enough to continue, so I stayed home and Mookie'd up for the first time in a while.

So now I have a win and a place. I think that makes the Mook profitable for me. I dunno, I'll have to think about that.

Until Next Time.

PS Speaking of home games, make sure if you haven't already to read part one of a short story I'm writing. The first three installments are already written, so hopefully this will push me to finish it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fiction: Quid Pro Quo, Volume I

Quid Pro Quo n. An equal exchange or substitution. From Latin, “This for that.”

          *       *       *       * 

The first time I played poker with the Devil, he kicked my ass.

It was raining like a son of a bitch one early April night. Spring still has a whole bunch of mean left to it that time of year, and this night was about as mean as April gets. It was about 42 degrees out and the rain was coming down so hard the drops made angry little explosions as they hit the ground. It was just me, Johnny and Pete that night.

“What is the world coming to,” Johnny muttered into his beer. “Poker night is sacred. Sacred! Can’t even get four people together for three hours a week. Jesus H. Christ.” He opened the door and spit out into the rain. “Goddammit, we need a fourth,” he said, closing the door.

Just then an enormous clap of thunder shook the house and a bolt of lightning struck so close we could smell the ozone. The thunder roared, then died slowly away, and as it did I became aware that there was a knocking at the door. I got up and opened it, expecting Mark or Davy and wondering why of all nights they started knocking tonight.

Instead of Mark or Dave, at my door stood tall man in a rain slicker and a three-cornered hat. He had a winning smile.

“Understand you need a fourth,” said the dapper stranger.

“And you are…?” I asked in mock politeness.

“Call me Bill, if you like.”

“I will, if that’s your name.”

“Not exactly,” said he. “My card.”

He gave me a business card. On it read three words: Prince of Darkness.

“Can’t really use my real name; Bill will do fine.”

“Why can’t I use your real name?” I asked.

“Well, if you found it out, and were able to pronounce it correctly, you would have absolute power over me for 666 years.” He looked deep into me and that winning smile receded ever so slightly from his eyes. “If, however, you guessed it wrong, or even mispronounce it just a little tiny bit, well, let’s just say it wouldn’t end well for you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, a smile curling about the side of my mouth. “What, as they say, is in a name?”

“Well, in my case, you make one tiny mistake in my name, and your soul becomes mine forever, and you will become my special plaything, receiving an eternity of my most vicious torment for your impudence.”

For a moment I got a microsecond glimpse of unfathomable power and diabolical majesty. With horrible clarity I envisioned the world of endless hopelessness that he conveyed. The breath was sucked out of my lungs.

And then, just as quickly, the moment passed, and he resumed the same avuncular expression and confident smile that he wore when I first opened the door.

“Plus, it’s kind of long. Call me Bill. May I come in?”

“Come on in!” yelled Johnny. He hadn’t made it back from the door and had been standing right behind me. “Be ye Satan or no, if ye have $50 yer a fourth.”

John was an Irishman, sort of. He was born in Ireland, and his parents left for the States about six weeks later. He had no accent whatsoever unless he was in his cups, at which time he would affect a broad, almost stereotypical brogue that sounded nothing like either of his parents. If this truly was Satan, he’d be treated to Johnny’s accent at its magically delicious best.

Satan looked at me. “How about it? Few quick games, low stakes, see how things go. Sound good?”

“Sure,” I said. “Have a seat.”

“Excellent, excellent.” He reached into his pocket and produced two perfect stacks of chips that were identical to the chips on the table already. Had anyone bothered to count them, they would have realized that he gave himself an extra $1 chip. He sat down and I started shuffling.

“What’s the game?” His Infernal Majesty asked.

“Dealer’s choice, ante and minimum bet is fifty cents. Table stakes apply; you can’t go digging in your pocket for more money. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Wild cards are ok if you call ‘em. Last hand is dealt at 11:00.” I handed the cards to Pete, who cut them. “OK, first Jack deals.” I started dealing the cards out one at a time face up. Johnny was on my immediate left, the Base Master of Torment was directly across from me and Pete was at my right.

The Jack, predictably enough, landed right at Bill’s elbow. He smiled his winning smile.

“Well well well, it seems that I deal.” He took the deck and flung it in the air. The cards rose up in a single column of cards and when they reached the ceiling they burst out in all directions creating a mushroom-cloud of cards that flew back and landed, in order, in Satan’s left hand.

“You know what?” I said. “I think one of us should shuffle.”

“Do you think that would make any difference whatsoever?” He asked.

“Hey, uh, Bill?” Pete piped up timidly.

“Yes, Pete?”

“You, uh, you didn’t really take my soul when I pledged it to you at that Iron Maiden concert, did you?”

“No, unfortunately. You’re not on any list of mine. You must have been on acid, yes?”

Pete nodded his head.

“Ah. Doesn’t count. That’s too bad. We could use a man like you. You’d go places. OK, the game is five card draw, nothing wild.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. I was dissatisfied with the deal—wouldn’t you be?—and I was going to get some satisfaction. “If you’re gonna play cards with us, it’s going to have to be a fair deal. Promise you’ll deal them fair.”

“Well, what’s the point, then?” Bill asked. He looked around from face to face and, after a while, slumped his shoulders. “All right, all right, a fair deal,” he said morosely and started shuffling properly, but very fast. He gave the cards to Johnny to cut and dealt them out. “Five card draw, nothing wild,” said Bill.

I picked up the Ace, King, nine, and six of clubs and the ten of diamonds. Four to a flush. Not bad. Pete started the bet at $1, which I raised to 2. Johnny called. Satan looked at his cards a while.

“Any time, dude,” said Pete after a long moment.

“I’m in,” he said, and tossed $2 in the pot. Pete immediately called. I threw in my two, and Johnny called..

Bill picked up the cards and looked at Pete.

“T’ree, please.”

Pete was a fairly new member to the table. He started playing about four years ago when he moved down here. He was a logger in Maine, in paper country, until his leg was crushed under an oak tree and couldn’t work anymore. He grew up in St. Albans, VT, and sounded more Canadian than American. He tended to come out wit’ a few dems, deez, and dose every now and again.

The Prince of Darkness dealt three cards, from the top, to Pete. He turned to me.

“One, please.”

“Ahh,” said Bill, letting the ghost of a smile infect the corner of his mouth. “Filling two pair, are we? Or filling a straight? Or a flush? You know, your luck probably isn’t what it usually is, playing with me and all.” He dealt a card expertly to me, with just enough spin so that it landed directly in front of me.

I bent the corner of the card and looked down. Four of clubs. I made my flush. Son of a bitch, maybe it really was a fair deal.

To be continued...

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Hate Porn

You heard me. Listen, if I wanted to watch someone having sex, who really doesn't WANT to have sex, with someone she likely fucking hates, I'll film myself with my wife.

Seriously - out here in real life, is it ever necessary to spit on your dick after 20 minutes of foreplay to get it to glide in and out? No. Usually, the participants of sexual congress usually somewhat LIKE EACH OTHER.

Take me, for example. Every woman I've been with, despite what can only be described as clumsy technique, has been physiologically ready to receive Little Jake after some foreplay -- or at least a promise to clean the cat box.

But these women, these porn stars...their only true acting skill is transforming a wince of pain to a moan that at least approximates pleasure. No blame to them - they do six scenes a day with guys with, let's face it, gigantic dicks, without any real sexual interest, passion, or Heaven forbid, love. But Jesus F.X. Tap Dancing Christ! Who wants to see that?

Now I know what you're saying: There's always so-called amateur porn. Yes, the women are properly proportioned - in other words they haven't had plastic surgery that renders them buoyant - and they're undoubtedly having a good time. But the video quality is horseshit. It's like listening to a sex bootleg.

I know that my opinion is not common among men. Hell, it's a 13 billion dollar industry. Mostly because there are people in the world like my boy Frankie. Frank is an uber-successful cat in the corporate world and one of the smartest men I've ever met, but all this guy's smarts goes out the window when it comes to porn.

Ever been to a porn store? There are racks of new releases on DVD, that have 70 minutes of whatever kink you're interested in, for $59.95. There are also, in as plain sight as the new releases, the shit they released last year and the year before that. SIX HOURS of the same kind of scenes as in the new release rack - just shot last year - for NINE FUCKING DOLLARS. Six hours of porn! Even if you like porn, six goddamn hours of porn will last you 18 months!

But Frank makes a beeline for the new releases and pays sixty bucks for his porn. Yes, he's an idiot. But he's an idiot who loves new porn.

Oh, and mushrooms too. I hate mushrooms. Yes, even amateur mushrooms.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

The joke that inspired my last post's title

So there's this guy, see, and he's driving through Manhattan's garment district. Up on the corner he sees a little tailor shop, looked like it'd been there forever. In the window he sees this sign:



That sign really impresses this guy, so he decides to pull in and have him press a pair of pants that was in his back seat. He walks in and hands the pants to Fink the tailor, who looks at the pants for awhile, looks up and says, "give me two hours," and turns around and goes right into the back room.

Two hours later the guy comes back to Fink's Tailors and sure enough, the pants are right there on the counter hook, pressed to a razor sharpness.

He says, "this is really nice work."

Fink says "Thanks. That'll be $8.50"

Guy says, "What do you mean? Your sign said it was free. Remember? 'My name is Fink, what do you think, I'll press your pants for nothing.'"

Fink says, "You're reading it wrong. The sign says "My name is Fink; what, do you think I'll press your pants for nothing?"

* * *

Thank you. Good night everybody. Tip your wait staff!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

His name is Fink - what do you think

I worked with this guy - a kid, really - named, I swear to God, Evan Fink. I liked Evan; he let me mistreat him cruelly in exchange for dropping the occassional pearl of wisdom into his yet-to-be-completely-fused skull. An example: I called him, and he answered gladly to, "Shitston." He left me a voice-mail once in which he referred to himself as Shitston - I kept it until the day I left that job.

What kind of wisdom? Anything, really. He used his whiteboard for a word of the day, 60% of which I provided. This taught him many things -- that "invective" is a noun and not, as it looks to be, an adjective. That "insipient" and "incipient" are two entirely different words - but that something that's coming up soon, that is going to be incredibly stupid, is both insipient and incipient.

I taught him that there was a show called "Hogan's Heroes" that had nothing to do with wrestling, for another example.

What else? How can you quantify something like that? I was 40, he was 20. There was a lot of downhill knowledge transfer without either one of us really knowing it. He seemed to enjoy my little didactic asides, beneficial or no. And, truth be told, I enjoyed it too.

Anyway, some two years into our acquaintance, Evan ended his co-op assigment and went back to school, a period during which my father passed away, the scars about which you, my readers, are more than sick of reading.

Fast-forward this tale, then, until Evan gets a second co-op assigment with my company, relocates to his old digs in the cube right outside my office door, and again assumes the role of my chief patsy in exchange for the odd serious conversation. And, seeing as my general mise-en-scene was infused with a lot more melancholy than some months previous, there was no shortage of serious conversations to be had.

During one of them I made mention of the fact that my father, my Dad, had passed away recently.

"Dude, that's a real bummer," said the now 21-year-old Evan Fink. "I lost mine a few years back. It realllllly sucked."

I'm sorry, what the fuck did you just say?

"Yeah, it was really sudden. His heart. Real bad for me and my sister. My mom too."

Over the next few months, our talk would from time to time wander to the raw nerve of lost dads, but you know the god-damndest thing happened: the more we talked about it the more I realized that this kid, this 20-year-old whose 20-year-old observations and experiences I mocked with regularity, was teaching me, not the other way around.

What did he teach me? How to handle a crushing, awful loss the only way there is to do: Just pick your sorry ass off the ground and keep walking. Sometimes you won't really see the way -- sometimes road-dirt gets in your eyes a little bit -- but you just keep walking, or the world is going to pass you by as sure as morning follows night.

Sometimes it is difficult to follow my own advice. But, even if sometimes I cannot do what I need to do, at least I know what to do, and that's something.

I tell you that story to tell you this one: I have a friend whose father passed on two years ago right about now, who is a regular reader of this blog. Pat would be upset if I gave any personal details, so I won't - that's not even his real name. But he would want to know, I think, that I'm thinking about his entire family right about now, and my heart goes out to all of them.

And Pat, listen bud, I know you like to handle your business yourself, and that's perfectly Kool-and-the-Gang; but remember I'm a phone call away.

Just keep walking, and everything is going to be fine.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

That Living Room wallpaper comment, explained

I always say, if you want to grab someone's attention, start talking about a woman's hair. Hell, if the conversation turns to boobs, I'll have to start paying for extra bandwidth!

In yesterday's kerfuffle about Josie's new haircut I alluded to the fact that it looked like something off my mother's living-room wall. You would be forgiven if you didn't understand that statement, but there's something you need to know: my mother's living room is papered with black hippy-dippy wallpaper that was outlandish in 1970. Feast your eyes:

What with the baby portrait on the wall, my two goofy-looking brothers and me (in the middle), the wallpaper is the most innocuous thing in this picture

It's a tactile feast, as well as one for the eyes. It's black velvet flock - naturally. Here's a close-up of the wallpaper pattern, btw. Imagine my surprise when Toots found this picture in a retro home design book:

So when I saw Josie's new do, naturally I thought of Ma's hippy-dippy wallpaper. You be the judge:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another cash at the Sportsman's Club - woo hoo!

So yesterday was the first SSC game of the year (they take summers off). After some horrific traffic (at 11 fucking 30 on a Saturday) I stopped to pick up Very Josie and managed to be there more or less on time.

I like this game a great deal: the people are all great, the play is convivial and the talent is soft as hell. As I sit here right now thinking of it, the play falls into three categories:

1. The old-timers. Longstanding members and friends of the club who have been coming to that club since 1967, who are playing because, well, where the hell else are they going to be on a Saturday? With their wives? Don't be ridiculous.

They show a fair understanding of the game but chase straights and flushes, have faith in second pairs, and can be finessed off hands with big river bets after the board fucks them out of their straight. If they hit usually their body language will betray that too. In the long history of this game I think an old-timer has won maybe twice. They smoke heavily.

2. The wannabes. These guys are usually younger types, in their 20's or so, who fancy themselves good poker players because they've seen hundreds of hours of World Poker Tour videos. They explain their moves after they've lost and seem more concerned with appearing to be a good player than with winning my money. They bluff more than they should and can be effective bullies if they get a big stack in front of them. They smoke heavily.

3. The talent. A very small group. Two of them are a brother-and-sister duo to whom I refer as "1986-called-they-want-their-haircuts-back." I've seen them both play extraordinarily well, heard tales of big cashes at nearby Foxwoods casino, and have earned my respect in all phases of the game. They smoke heavily.

There are only two others. One is Josie. The other is me. Neither one of us smoke, heavily or otherwise. And of us all, and Josie can back this up, the two of us cash more often than anyone else who has ever sat down at that table. I have two outright wins and a bunch of seconds, both back in the glory days when first place was over $1000.

(Quick funny aside: I took first place in the inaugural tournament, and won $1300. I was so pleased with my skill that I made the grave mistake of calling home and bragging to Tootsie that I'd won. She immediately said "Oh, good - so I'll order those drapes for the living room, they're more or less exactly $1300." D'Oh! Never again.)

As for yesterday, Josie got knocked out right before the pizza break when her pocket aces were cracked by a flopped two pair. I think if you were to ask her, she'd say that she misplayed her hand by not shoving pre-flop but I would disagree with that. For one thing, you never play the same hand the same way 100% of the time; you just don't. For another, the makeup of this table is such that finessing aces can be extraordinarily profitable. As far as I'm concerned, the hand wasn't particularly misplayed - it was just one of those things.

I chipped up pretty quick when two people bet into my Kings. I didn't knock anyone out from them because I wasn't paying attention and didn't notice that the fishcake to my left had maybe two big blinds more than I bet him. He called of course and I'm sure he'd have given me those last crumbs if only I'd asked for them. As mistakes go it was pretty low-impact but someone else got his damn scratcher ($5 scratch card as a knockout bonus).

It was ebb and flow until after pizza time. Maybe an hour after the break I was dealt KhJh and flopped a King and a third heart. I shoved - more of a bluff than anything else - and my opponent went into the tank. He started muttering "did you flop a god damned set?" Ohhhhh shit. I knew then that this dude had AK and that I was crushed. Sure enough, he calls and I said "you got me" before turning my KJ. Indeed he had AK. Turn comes Ah, which gives him two pair but opens up flush and straight possibilities. Now it was his turn to be psychic: "worst card I could possibly draw. You got it." A bit premature, I thought, but indeed the river came a queen and I won a hee-yuge pot. It was an ugly win but as we all know, it's just poker. Besides, he was wearing a Kobe Bryant Lakers jersey so my compassion level was pretty low!

So at that point, there were only three of us left and we decided to chop, and we each took home a quick hundy profit for our trouble. In truth that suits me fine; impatience after hours of play is a hole in my game so I was just as happy to avoid it.

Anyway, there you go. Maybe Jo can write about it from her perspective. As for me it's almost 6 AM and it's just about time for bed.

I'm looking for a cool sign-off, like Wolfie's thanks for listening, or Jo's play smart. I'm thinking of something like "remember: the Holocaust never happened." What do you think?

To soon? Yeah, probably. Well, open for suggestions.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A word of advice, if I may...'s probably not best to play poker at 5:16 AM.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A bad beat, with no malice

It's early on at the Mook, and truth be told, the Karma was poor. Every hand I decided to play was stepped on, every flop not connecting, every attempted blind theft sniffed out. Before a half-hour goes by, I find myself having lost half my god damned stack.

I take a quick peek at the other table to see my best friend, my mortal enemy, love her or hate her you have her, the Veryest Very Josie, already having exited from the tournament, her pocket aces having been cracked by pocket queens.

My outward reaction: Aww, man, what a shame.
My inward reaction: Tee hee hee!

And it was that reaction, methinks, that led to the karmic explosion of what happened less than 10 hands later.

In middle position I picked up A9o. I decide to play the hand (for me, A9 is a 50/50 thing in middle; sometimes I do, sometimes I don't) so I throw in a standard (3x) raise. Two to my left snap-calls. Uh-oh, thinks I. If I don't connect on this one I have to drop it like it had herpes.

Flop comes A9K, two clubs. As the new Nike commercial says, Boom!

Villain bets, I raise, he shoves, I call with my remaining few hundred. He turns over AcQc, and all The Crafty Southpaw has to do is dodge a Q or a club, right?

Wrong. Turn comes a King, my 9's are counterfeited, and his Q outkicks me for the win. Ohhhhhh lordy.

Does this suck because I lost? No, not at all. He had outs galore - 9 clubs and three queens (so I thought) made me 52/48 to win so I knew I had a tough road. But fuck a duck (sorry Duck), I got shitcanned with what one of my tablemates called "a phantom out." God dammit! It was like I survived a gun battle only to shoot myself in the balls reholstering my weapon. But oh well - it happens; in the end I more or less lost a coin flip and that happens half the time. And, in fact, figuring in the Kings in the Villain's outs, he really had me 60/40, so the play ended up following the odds.

So: like I said, I'm not mad, or bitter, or even nonplussed. It's just a good story. And hey: I lasted longer than Very Josie, so I got that going for me.

See you Wednesday at the VJ and the Mook. And please, stop by Josie's blog and give her a virtual pat on the shoulder; she could use it.