Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Just recently I was playing a 18'er for $10. We got down to 4-handed, and I had more chips than all my other competitors combined. And somehow I let the whole thing slip through my fingers. Yes, one hand I had AA cracked by Q10, but that happens. I feel that maybe I'm not being as much of a bully as I should, but I don't really want to keep jamming with nothing just to drain their blinds away. Am I taking my foot off their throats early?
During the main body of the game my flops played is about 17-18%, which goes up to about 22% shorthanded, and then of course around 85% when HU.
I wish I kept the hand history for analysis; it's my fault I didn't. Nevertheless, can anyone help? I'm starting to get disgusted with myself.
Until next time, please remember that I value your advice highly. Except you, Lightning. Oh, see, that was just mean, and I'm officially sorry.
Monday, December 27, 2010
August 19, 1962
Barber sat once again in the back seat of a Cadillac Limousine, smoking a cigarette and letting the sounds of the highway wash over him. It was a steamy Sunday evening; from time to time raindrops would descend upon the car as it rumbled through the night on its way from The Arsenal to Pittsburgh.
The air conditioner took most of the unpleasantness out of the journey. Besides his trip here five days previously, it was the only time he’d ever experienced air conditioning in an automobile. Though surrounded in physical comforts, his mind was troubled. He stared out the window, unable to read the briefing in his lap; some had the gift of being able to read in cars, but he did not. Thirty seconds of trying and he’d be green around the edges.
As he stared out his window, watching the countryside streak past, he unconsciously stroked his short moustache with the side of his index finger and mulled over the new situation in which he found himself, seemingly in the blink of an eye.
Just a few years ago, it seemed, he graduated from the Point, a dewy-eyed second Lieutenant with big dreams and a full head of hair. Now only a few years later, both had for the most part vanished. His hair was indeed thinning and receding at an alarming pace, and his idealism had waned almost from the moment he graduated and accepted his first assignment, the creation of a low-level intelligence report concerning Cuba’s force readiness that had been almost completely ignored, with disastrous consequence.
As the short years ensued he had somehow developed a reputation as the guy who could make things happen, quickly and quietly. The Base CO finds out that one of his officers has a drinking problem? Barber, take care of this. Make sure he gets the message that this is unacceptable behavior. One of the sergeants is taking it to an officer’s wife? Barber, make him realize his mistake in no uncertain terms. A visiting General has a taste for young-looking Filipino girls? Barber, go take a ride. See what you can come up with. Each task further cemented this reputation, yet chipped away at his sense of idealism.
He wasn’t entirely unhappy about his reputation; it did tend to get him noticed. He got his 1st Lieutenant’s bars in only two years, after all. This career path was not without its perks—yet many were the times when he wished he could have made his bones another way.
Still, he was a soldier, and he held on stubbornly to the values that he cherished and to which he thought himself a staunch adherent: duty, honor, valor. To him these were more than empty words, though if you asked him directly he’d probably say that they were just different ways of saying, “do your job.” Idealism was a luxury that a soldier did not possess.
Even for all of that, this assignment, he thought, was going to test his ability to hold to his basic humanity. He had been given much more information once he had been cleared to take over for Captain Cobble, and he was thinking twice now about his rash enthusiasm for a position of prominence in a project of this magnitude.
For one thing, he had found out that his entire experience with Cobble and Professor Clark was but a small part of a far more vast operation – Project Morpheus. Morpheus was already almost twenty years in the brewing and there was no logical end in sight. He was not told the ultimate goal of Morpheus but he was told that he would be made aware of the other tentacles of the project and of its future direction on need-to-know. What he did hear for the moment was disquieting enough.
Professor Clark was sanctioned, not because he disobeyed orders or was insubordinate—concepts that his soldier’s brain could easily wrap itself around. The unpleasant truth was that they sanctioned Clark because they were done with him. They needed him to complete a vital, yet small, part in their research and once completed, they had no need for him at all. He was, even Barber now reluctantly admitted to himself, too much of a security liability to be allowed to live.
How many other researchers met a similar end? Good men with wives and families, who didn’t sign up for the military life—or if they did, had no idea what was coming for them? Jesus Christ. Morpheus may have left a trail of innocent bodies longer than anyone knew.
Then there was Captain Cobble, his old boss. He had shown compassion for Clark and allowed him to hear the sound of his wife’s voice one last time. As Colonel Waterman had alluded to some days ago, he had discovered that among the other phases of Morpheus of which Cobble had played a part, this same breach of security had been suffered.
Two mistakes, if mistakes they were, and Cobble had been sanctioned.
His mind flew past the car, over the miles of highway hundreds of miles east, to his wife and children in officer’s quarters at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He pictured them sitting in the living room, reading or listening to the radio, or most likely, since it was Sunday night, watching television. If he, Barber, were to be sanctioned, how could they carry on? To whom could they turn? He smiled faintly as the cruel truth came to him: Fate would care for them well indeed. Cobble’s widow was handed a tri-corner American Flag with a Legion of Merit draped over it, a generous death benefit and her husband’s pay until she re-married or turned 65. She would also go to her grave believing that Andrew Cobble was a man of duty and honor whose job brought him in harm’s path, and who, though he met his end untimely, met it through no fault of his own.
No, he had no reason to fear their physical or financial well being. His own life should be, he reasoned, his primary concern. His ability to stay alive would depend on his instincts, his ability to carry out orders, his judgment and ability to think clearly in a crisis. In fact, though he carried no weapon more dangerous than a pen most times, he could draw many parallels to a combat mission.
He smiled, more grimly this time, and pressed the lever to lower his window a bit further. He took a last drag off his cigarette and flicked it into the night, then reversed the lever to roll the window back up. Things could be far worse. All he had to do was keep his head down, do his job well and carry out his orders faithfully, and he might just get out of this one all right.
Waterman had been, he reflected, wrong about one thing: he wouldn’t be making Captain in six months’ time. Three days after they had first met, Waterman called him in to his office.
“Reporting as ordered, Colonel,” said Barber.
“At ease, son.”
Barber widened his stance slightly, snapped his hands from his side and brought them behind his back in a single, graceful effort, practiced thousands of times in every soldier’s life.
Waterman stood up and moved around the desk. “You are owed congratulations on two matters.” He half-sat, half-leaned on the front of his desk and looked at Barber. Waterman was three inches taller than Barber and this allowed him to meet his gaze completely levelly.
“The first is that, as of this moment, you will assume the duties that Captain Cobble just recently was relieved of. I am your new CO, and you will of course carry my orders out to the letter. The second is, since you will now have resources and personnel at your disposal, you must be of sufficient rank to order them as you see fit without challenge or question. I’m therefore promoting you to Captain, also effective immediately.” Waterman pinned double Captain’s bars on his epaulets, saluted smartly and shook his hand. “Congratulations, Captain.”
“Thank you sir. I’m eager to begin.”
“Splendid,” replied Colonel Waterman. “Because we’re beginning right now. Come with me.”
They walked to a building some 500 yards away, though it was through a double-fenced area whose gates were 180 degrees apart, such that it was almost a mile on foot. Captain Barber was amazed at the spryness of Colonel Waterman and though he kept up pace for pace, soon his forehead and neck were covered in a fine mist of sweat.
As they got through the second gate in the nested chain-link fence, a door was opened from the inside. It had been blindingly bright outside – any sunny day was more or less uncharacteristic for Northeastern Ohio – and his eyes made the dim interior to be far darker than it was. He stepped through the threshold and as his eyes got used to the light he noticed, around a long conference table, more brass than he’d ever seen in one place in his life. At his first sight of badges of higher rank he snapped to attention.
In the brief silence Barber scanned the room subtly, not letting his eyes twitch too far left or right. He saw a Lieutenant Colonel, two Brigadier Generals, a Major General, and a man in civilian attire.
“As you were,” one of them replied. He turned and one of the one-star Generals, whom he did not recognize by sight, spoke to him. “Good morning, Captain,” he said and smiled. “I’m General Miller. I believe you know General Forge.” He gestured to another Brigadier General seated to his right.
The introductions went around the table. Besides Generals Miller and Forge, the two-star was General Anton Smith, Director of Operations for the US Pacific Command, or PACOM. He had come from Washington with his aide, Lieutenant Colonel Parker. The man in the suit was Mark Cohen, the Assistant Undersecretary of Defense, Pacific Rim.
Here he was introduced to the players in the room, and they each asked him one or two questions about his home life, his background, and other small matters of, it would seem, small consequence. For some twenty minutes they thus questioned him and, after a perfunctory thanks, was dismissed.
Captain Barber was still ruminating on this strange meeting, where nothing of any import was discussed and whose primary purpose seemed to test Barber’s ability to make small talk, when he was startled out of his recollections by his driver.
“...a few days.”
“I’m sorry, sergeant, please repeat that?”
“Yes, sir. We are taking a brief detour. We’ve been ordered to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station. We’ll be there in ten minutes. We’ll be there for at least a few days.”
“Very good,” said Captain Barber and wondered for a moment what would wait for them there, a dinky little Air Reserve base when they were less than 60 miles from Pittsburgh. No need to speculate that far ahead, thought the new Captain. You’ll find out soon enough.
* * *
Saturday, December 25, 2010
* * *
In the punishing heat of midday the following day two men walked towards a dilapidated building that housed a makeshift mess. Officers and enlisted men sat and broke bread together – the entire base, aside from a few dozen NG’s that were stationed miles away, had a crew complement of less than 80. Colonel Waterman strode next to a far younger man wearing silver 1st lieutenant’s bars. The younger man could not have been older than 26. He had pale red hair, very fine, that was already receding from his forehead, and a neat moustache that as yet bore no signs of grey. His eyes were slate grey and were flecked with red that matched his hair.
“How was the ride in from Pittsburgh?” asked the older man. “To your comfort, I expect?”
“Yes, indeed, sir,” replied the Lieutenant. “A Cadillac Limousine beats a troop transport truck any day of the week.”
“Do you know why I asked you to have lunch with me today, son?” Col. Waterman asked in his reassuring, avuncular tone.
“No, sir,” said the Lieutenant.
Waterman paused a moment to study his young charge. 1st Lieut. Stephen Barber, the late Captain Cobble’s assistant, who played a part in Professor Clark’s lab as just another lab hand, and who knew much about this phase of the operation. He had not been present when Clark was sanctioned, though he knew, being a trusted associate of Cobble’s, that it was to have happened that day.
His file was already thicker than most, even at his tender age: graduated West Point three years ago as a second Louie, got his silver bar last year. Brief stint as intelligence gatherer for that unpleasantness in Cuba. Letter of Commendation from a General of Waterman’s acquaintance. Trustworthy. Discreet. Doesn’t mind doing an unpleasant task, with his own hands if necessary. By all outward appearances he seemed the perfect man for the job.
“Captain Cobble was removed from his area of responsibility,” Waterman said finally. “It was determined that, in the execution of his orders, he permitted a security breach that could have compromised the entire program, many of the details of which I’m not yet at liberty to discuss with you.” He paused for emphasis and to take a breath. “It was not the first time that this very security breach has been discovered. It couldn’t be allowed to continue.”
Lieutenant Barber, head slightly down to shield his eyes from the blazing sun, walked alongside the Colonel and said nothing.
“General Forge speaks highly of you,” he continued. “When Digger Forge says he likes someone, I listen. He and I go way back.”
“Yes, sir,” said Barber. “The General has spoken highly of you as well, if I may speak freely.”
‘Well, Lieutenant, the bottom line is we needed to reassign Cobble, even though he was good at what he did, and I’m considering you for the assignment.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“That’s all you have to say?”
Barber hesitated almost imperceptibly. “Do I still have your permission to speak freely, Colonel?”
“What’d you do with Cobble?”
Colonel Waterman stopped walking and looked hard at Lieut. Barber. If he was going to be part of this mission, he would need to know many more things far more sensitive than this. Still, Barber and Cobble were friends – this news might make him cut and run, which besides being bad for both men’s careers, might be bad for the younger man’s health.
For another instant he stood on the razor’s edge of doubt. Finally he made his decision.
“He was sanctioned, Lieutenant. His family will be told that he was involved in a training accident. The President will call them himself. He will be buried with honor and will receive a posthumous Legion of Merit.”
“I thought he may have been,” replied Cobble after a small moment‘s reflection. “I‘m honored by your confidence, sir.”
“Won’t be the first secret I’ll expect you to keep. Lieutenant, I’ll get to the point. You‘re perfect for the assignment. You know all the players; you’re highly recommended. You also know the wages of failure.” He paused for a moment. “I’m mindful of the fact that you have a young family, Barber, so I’m going to give you an opportunity to turn me down and walk away right now. But I hope you’ll accept this assignment, because I am submitting your name for it.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll accept the post if so ordered.”
“Lieutenant, I don’t doubt that; you’re a good soldier. But I need to know: Do you want this job?”
A subordinate usually doesn’t look directly into a superior officer’s eyes; they call that eyeballing, and it’s a sign of disrespect. Once you’re out of Basic Training you won’t be made to do push-ups for it, but the person being eyeballed rarely forgets it.
In this case, Col. Waterman showed neither surprise nor displeasure when Barber looked him directly in the face and said, “Yes sir. I want this job.”
“Splendid,” said the older man. “It ought to take three days for approval, five at the outside. In the meantime, you’ll need to avail yourself of whatever comforts the Ravenna Arsenal can provide.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Barber. “Thank you, sir.”
“You know what’s at stake here, don’t you, son?” He looked searchingly at the younger man. “Play your cards right and you’ll be wearing Captain’s bars in six months. Play them wrong and you’ll get your very own posthumous Legion of Merit.”
“I serve at the pleasure of the US Army,” Barber said, echoing a common soldier’s creed.
“Good. Now let’s have some lunch.” They continued walking towards the mess. Lieutenant Barber walked a pace behind Waterman, his eyes fixed sidelong on him.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Trip report thus far: Blood, urine, the worst omelet ever, and a lost brand-new coat (mit keys in pocket). Ho ho god damned ho.
Until next time, please remember that this is all Jesus' fault.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank
An old man said to me, "Won't see another one,"
And then he sang a song: The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away and dreamed about you.
Got on the lucky one - came in 18 to 1
I've got a feeling this year's for me and you
So Happy Christmas. I love you baby
I can see a better time when all our dreams come true.
-The Pogues, "Fairytale for New York"
One thing I've always appreciated about Christmas is that, even as an outsider to the proceedings, I notice that the world takes a chill pill for a day or so, and that the normal small cruelties to which we subject each other get suspended for a moment, for a day, for a minute. I really like that, I do. Despite me being more or less a miserable bastard I'm just a sucker for the concept that for a short period of time humankind - or at least all of Christendom - suspends its usual rules of indifference and unfeeling and finds love in their hearts, whatever the motivation.
So: Merry Christmas everyone. I for one am going to try to countermand the forces that have conspired to keep me friendless and foundering. I hope that you all find whatever it is you're looking for, and hope it's not lost irretrievably.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
* * *
August 14, 1962
If you were to look at a map of Greater Cleveland, Ohio, you’d maybe notice a large grey patch about halfway between Cleveland and Youngstown, right on Route 14, with no information whatsoever—no roads, no topography, nothing but an empty spot, about the size of a thumb.
That bare spot on the map is the Ravenna Arsenal, 21,000-plus acres of government property that, during World War II, was an ordnance factory and depot. In many ways it was the perfect spot for a government installation—a sprawling, private facility with several outbuildings, no coastline, no significant population centers for 25 miles around, and plenty of flat ground. Although now almost twenty years after the war the government stationed neither personnel or equipment there any longer, in a rare moment of wisdom the Government kept the Arsenal in its possession, and kept it private.
Peppered about the compound were several outbuildings, mostly squat one-story buildings, quickly but sturdily built. Some were long, such as would accommodate sprawling assembly lines, and others looked more or less like smallish cape cod style houses.
In one of these smaller outbuildings now, Capt. Andrew Cobble – aka Dennis Mason, laboratory assistant, government agent, murderer – stood, at ease, in uniform before an oak desk with the Stars and Stripes crossed on the wall behind. The room smelled of sweet, dry wood. It was stifling and hot, despite a metal fan oscillating in a corner. The late afternoon sun shone in the west-facing window and shot streaks of sun down through the window and onto the floor, highlighting innumerable specks of dust playing in its spotlight. The room was otherwise empty, except for a small desk and chair in which from time to time a stenographer sat.
She was not there this day.
At the desk sat an older man, a bird Colonel, listening intently to Cobble’s report. Colonel Francis X. Waterman was a lifer; a career soldier who very early on in his service to the country was recruited to perform certain patriotic yet completely unheralded duties.
He found nothing whatsoever distasteful about his job; he saw his job as a natural extension of the United States military. Soldiers on foot carried weapons with which, in hot blood or cold, men were killed. They had a mission; others stood in the way of that mission; it was that simple. His job was, though non-combat yet not quite administrative, like all other military jobs: to assist, in whatever way his direct superiors ordered him to do, in the continuing military and geopolitical might of the United States of America.
“Everything according to plan,” Cobble said, his tone indicating the conclusion of his report. “Clark has been sanctioned, his data is safe and is currently being copied and archived, the lab assistants are back at our facility in Pittsburgh, and you could eat off the floor at the lab now.”
“Excellent. Well done again, Cobble.”
“Thank you, Colonel. If you have some time, I’ve done some preliminary research on who ought to carry on.”
“Not just yet, lad,” said the Colonel. “I need to clear up a couple of things in the report.” He patted the manila folder on his desk. “I understand he made a phone call right around the time he was sanctioned.”
“Yes, sir,” said Cobble evenly.
“Have any idea as to whom that call was made?”
“No, sir,” said the younger man, maintaining eye contact. “I must have been preparing the coffee.”
“Mmm.” Colonel Waterman muttered, then took off his glasses and placed the left earpiece in his mouth. “Here’s the thing, though, son,” he continued thoughtfully. “We placed a call, using that phone, after your crew left. We used it to determine to what extent the phone company’s clocks are off from ours. Know what it told us?”
“No, sir,” said Captain Cobble.
“It told us,” continued Waterman, “that that phone call was initiated precisely four minutes and thirteen seconds before you gave the signal. Four minutes and a quarter, Cobble. That’s not a lot of time. It almost makes one think that you allowed him to call his wife a last time.” He placed his spectacles down on the manila folder in which sat Cobble’s report. “That didn’t happen in this case, did it, son?”
“No, sir, it did not,” replied the Captain, face betraying no sign whatsoever of his racing heartbeat.
Colonel Waterman looked at him for a long moment and held his gaze. He picked up his glasses and fitted them over the bridge of his nose and his ears. Finally he spoke.
“OK,” he said finally, his face relaxing. “Good. I guess that’s settled then. Now, you have candidates for the next phase of the operation?”
“Yes, Colonel. Since this is largely a mechanical phase, I thought it best to consider our assets in Technical and Engineering facilities. I’ve narrowed it down to six potential candidates.”
“Splendid. Listen, I need to visit the head. You may sit, if you wish.”
“Thank you, sir,” replied the Captain.
Colonel Waterman got up from behind his desk, muttering something on the way out about how age shrinks the bladder. He opened the door and walked into his outer office. He nodded almost imperceptibly at two lieutenants who were seated in two canvasback chairs set up in a rough waiting room layout. Wordlessly they walked in, holding standard-issue Colt .45cal ACP’s with Maxim Silencers, as Waterman stepped outside and lit a cigarette. He listened for, and heard, the muffled sound of the shots, sighed heavily and walked straight ahead to the latrines in the last light of day, his shadow pacing long directly in front of him.
Monday, December 20, 2010
* * *
August 13, 1962
John Clark stood by a lab table, as usual deep in thought and oblivious to the low murmur of activity that was all around him.
He was ancient, by outward appearance. His true age of 62 lay heavily upon him; a stranger passing him on the street might have thought him in his late seventies. His face was carved with wrinkles borne by long years of care and disappointment. His body was slight and stooped, the result of a lifetime of bending slightly over lab tables similar to the one he hovered over this day.
Today might have been, to the casual observer, little different from the long tale of his life. He wrestled with figures, ran experiments, theorized and thought. He was the first one to have come in that morning, and was likely to be the last one to leave, save perhaps one—an assistant of his, Dennis Mason, who was by far his most promising protégé in years.
Clark was at this moment, however, pondering a set of data he received that for the first time showed promise in his overall designs. His eyes were fixed on a clipboard in his right hand, and with his left he held a yellow pencil to his mouth. He had a habit of biting off the eraser to all his pencils and leaving neat rows of teeth marks on the upper two inches of his pencil.
The data he was pondering had to do with the project that had consumed the last eighteen years of his life—an analysis of brainwave activities of subjects in deep REM sleep. Today’s triumph was that he was able, for the first time, to concretely isolate the behavior of a sleeping brain from that of its waking counterpart, to determine beyond doubt the fingerprint of the dreaming man versus the random firings of a vast, complex system that never completely shut off even during sleep, coma, or severe trauma.
This set of data proved that he was on the right path. He was able to isolate several areas of the brain that displayed low, discernable patterns of activity during waking hours yet seemed to explode in chaotic, meandering trails on his paper when a subject was in deep sleep and dreaming.
His ultimate goal, still a long ways afield, was twofold: To isolate which signals came not only from a dreaming subject but from the dream itself; and to record this activity in a way that could be stored and reproduced at a distance, to allow for remote analysis of these brainwaves. It certainly seemed to him that the first part of his goal had been approached, if not yet reached.
It was a rare moment of triumph for him, and though neither face nor body language betrayed it, his pulse raced and his heart thudded in his chest. A scientist whose life’s work has been validated knows few thrills more deep than this, and he allowed himself a rare daydream of all his work ending in stunning, complete success. He saw himself making a speech to his peers accepting a Nobel Prize, speaking at colleges and universities whose students and faculty hung on his every word, picking and choosing his next experiments and receiving for his assistance only the finest young minds and skillful hands.
So it was that, deep in his trance of thought and speculation, daring for the first time to actually believe that a long step had been made on his road, he noticed neither that the activity around him had ceased nor that the sun had long since set, capping the end of a beautiful summer day that he marked little and cared about not at all.
A hand on his shoulder startled him from his reverie and he looked up to see his assistant, Dennis Mason, holding out a cup of coffee to him in an ancient ceramic mug. His lab coat was, as usual, disheveled but clean, and his glasses hung so far toward the tip of his nose that it was a wonder they stayed on.
“Thanks,” Clark said, and took a loud slurping sip. The coffee was more bitter than usual, and after a few seconds he noticed that his lips were numb. He looked up with a start.
“I’m sorry, John,” Dennis said to him. “But it’s time.”
“You?” said John. Dennis nodded, sadly it seemed to him. “Son of a bitch,” he said softly, almost to himself. “I had no idea.”
“You have about eight minutes. Do you want to call anyone?”
“Yes, please.” Dennis walked to the other side of the room and brought a telephone with a long cord to him. Clark dialed the phone and waited a moment.
He could feel the poison already starting to work. His heart rate had been elevated already, lost as he was in dreams of triumph and glory. Knowing what was coming only made his heart thud faster, betraying what little time he had left.
“Hello, honey, it’s me. Listen, I wanted to tell you something.” He paused. It occurred to him that he didn’t know what exactly to say. He knew enough to know that if he were stupid enough to blurt out what had happened to him that the phone would have been ripped from him and his life ended right there. He couldn’t even make a maudlin proclamation of love without arousing suspicion.
Finally, after having to sit down from the effect of the poison coursing through his veins, he continued.
“So, I’ll be home in about two hours,” he finished, and his inability to say anything more profound left him feeling impotent and small. “OK? So I’ll see you soon.” He paused. “I love you, Jeanine.” He closed his eyes. “Bye.” He hung the phone up and looked at Dennis.
“Will you be taking over?” he asked, a little faintly.
“No, it’s not my role to conduct. Only to oversee, and to transfer the work when any one man gets too close. You did well, John, and if it’s any consolation, you have the gratitude of the government for your service.”
Now the poison had been working for some time. His vision tunneled in and his breath came in low pants.
“Jeanine?” he asked with an obvious effort.
“Well taken care of. We’ll pay off the house and continue your stipend until she dies.”
John nodded almost imperceptibly. After another minute, he leaned against the back of the chair. “Son of a bitch,” he repeated in that same faraway tone, and died.
Dennis strode to the window and with the blinds gave a signal long arranged. Less than two minutes later four men in protective equipment came in and started cleaning up. In four hours any evidence that the room had ever been occupied was removed utterly.
* * *
Friday, December 17, 2010
- That commercial, where everyone is sitting around in a body cast except for the lazy teenager? The sentence the lady says is "Djinn are for slaying monsters." Knowing that does not make it any less of a dumbass commercial.
- Video games and corn sugar have contributed to an entire generation of fat people. Whatever happened to the old days, when people - like me - got fat on Beefaroni and Cocoa Puffs?
- There is nothing worse than being in love with someone who does not love you - except maybe for someone who used to love you but who now would rather play hopscotch on broken glass than look at you.
- I love Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but not as much as I love Dr. Who. Now they're combining the two, to be aired on Christmas Day. I swear to God I'm going to lose my shit.
- Poker players tend to forget just how much complexity is involved with being a competent player. To remember, just explain to someone who doesn't know how to play, just how many factors are involved in answering the question "which hands should I play?"
- The Sims? I don't get it.
- For my non-American friends, here's a primer on American politics: Republicans are angry, spiteful douchebags with terrible ideas. Democrats are incompetent, weak-willed douchebags with no ideas whatsoever. Common denominator: Douchebaggery.
- Tron was the stupidest fucking move EVER the first time it came out. Whoever thought it was a good idea to remake it should be beaten to within an inch of his life.
- A few cars I've owned have had heated seats. I don't like them; there's always that lunatic moment when I don't remember about the heated seats and think I've pissed myself.
- Never doubt the power of people to disappoint you. Don't mean to sound pessimistic, but people are always smaller than you think they are. Know it and you'll be protected from the worst of it.
- The early money this year is on the Red Sox to win in all. God damn right. Yankee fans: suck my left testicle, you frontrunner scumbags.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
In these situations I like to do the doublestack because it gives me a little more time to figure out my opponent's game. There are the ones that just love to bluff - someone called it "Fancy Play Syndrome" - and there are ones who are tighter than a gnat's ass stretched across a rain-barrel. But most of them are just plain bad.
I love them.
Today was a perfect example. I did "battle" with a classic newbie, someone who thought that second pair was enough to stay in all the way. Once I figured that out the bloodletting began. I wouldn't play a flop unless I caught top pair - it extended the game but it made me more or less a sure thing. And I bled this poor new guy completely dry.
Funny thing, when he was down to, say, 800, he started going all-in preflop. Now the first time he did it I thought "ok, bugger caught AA," and folded down without a thought. But then he did it again. And again. And again. And after 7 all-ins or so I started to figure out his incredibly subtle strategy...
So I let him take me for my blind, over and over and over, until I finally got a decent hand. To me, for him, in this circumstance, that hand was K10d. Now of course, K10 suited is a flyer hand usually; it's a decent enough hand if you can get in cheaply and if you don't smell strength, but here I knew that K10 was going to be good. And sure enough it was.
I'll miss him, my little ego-stroking donkey newbie. There's nothing quite like playing cards with someone who thinks he knows what he's doing, but doesn't. It really is like taking candy from a baby - a baby who can't play poker worth shit.
Until next time, please remember that everyone is a newbie once, but some people stay donkeys for a loooooong time.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Thus emboldened I joined the Very Josie with a light heart and a fat ass, only one of which was altered by my afternoon's win.
If you've never played the Very Josie, first Wednesday of every month on FT, it differs from many tournaments in that first and foremost it's a fun time. Everyone knows each other, we are polite to newcomers, we laugh, we joke, we rank on each others' games, it's generally a REALLY good time.
That said the quality of the poker is very good and nobody gives too much ground in the name of "a friendly game." So to do well at it requires concentration and focus, two words that in this context mean the exact same thing.
Bottom line, I won the Very Josie for the first time, and have thus earned (in addition to about 46 bucks) a T-shirt that undoubtedly is too small for my gargantuan torso.
I'd like to give a shoutout to my boy Wolfie who caught the most bizarre bad luck I've ever seen. In this tournament he had the winning full house counterfeited by quads, not once but twice. The first time, I was the ultimate beneficiary; at one point we were heads-up, I was holding A10 and he was holding 1010, if memory serves. The flop came QQx, so he was holding two pair to my garbage. The turn came a third queen, so now he had Queens full of tens to my two pair. The river queen showed quads on the board, and my ace-high counterfeited his pair. Ugly. Just ugly. Look - I know that you can't win a tournament without some things falling your way, but I've never seen someone lose with a full house to quads twice in an hour. Wolfie, man, I feel your pain.
But for me, like I said, I won two tournaments outright in a single day, had a bunch of laughs that are always appreciated, and dined on Tootsie's turkey soup, which is as sublime a foodstuff as exists on this planet, despite its windy side-effects. Effects, by the way, that I am still having fun with. Today, in short, was a good day.
Until next time, please remember, if you're ever at my house and we're serving turkey soup, to sit near an open window.
Monday, November 29, 2010
I hope you come back for more. Ohhhh, you have no idea how much I hope you come back for more. Because I am armed, you sorry son of a bitch, and in Rhode Island the law is on my side. A .22 bullet most likely won't kill you, unless I'm extraordinarily lucky, but three of them in your thigh and knee will give you an ouchy from which you will find it difficult to recover before the authorities come.
Like Terry Benedict said in Ocean's Eleven, run and hide, little man, run and hide. If I find my navigator on Craigslist or eBay I'm going to be so disappointed to give the cops first crack at your cowardly ass.
If I get to meet you in person, you better have backup. Think I'm posturing? Think I'm just talking out of my ass? Try me. Please, I'm begging you, try me.
Until next time, please remember that I'll be watching. Bet your ass on that.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Yesterday, as was my wont, I was lying on my couch doing nothing when a faint beep inside said couch not only finally solved the "Case of the Missing Mobile" caper, but also told me that I had a text message.
Odd, you say? Wasting the day away in great hours-long chunks, you opine? Does the thought of so much raw sloth just make that type-A go-go-go corporate joyboy asshole of yours pucker up like it's gonna lay a big smooch on Grandma? Deal with it. I like doing nothing. A perfect day for me is one wherein I don't ever have to do anything, except for filling one side of, and emptying the other side of, my food tube.
Left to ruminate on the circle of life as I was, and the happy part that peristalsis plays in it, I reached in and grabbed the phone. It was FDD Spuds, asking me if I'd care to join him in a $2 2-table MTT. Sure, says I, and without the bother of having to close anything I was doing, jumped on and away I went.
My performance at this tournament served only to make at least three people, whom I'd never met, and against whom I had absolutely nothing, curse my name, their horrible luck, and the sacred name of Poker herself (and can we at least agree on this: Poker is every inch a woman?). My luck was just oozing out of every pore. A three-outer that fills his set but makes my straight? Check. The two-outer to fill my lower pair at 4.5/1? Check. TWICE. Miracle runner-runner flush? Check. Fellas, you name it, it happened to me. I was a luck box of astonishing size and scope.
For which my total recompense was $12, if you count my buy-in.
That's right. I traded an all-day tournament's worth of luck to beat 17 people, 13 of whom couldn't play poker to save their lives, for a $14 pot that I had to pay a deuce for. Thus spake Zarathustra: Even my good luck hurts me bad.
FDD Spuds, ever the optimist, suggested that I should look at it like I kicked 17 asses and should take a treasurebath with the money (think Dom DeLuise in History of the World Part I but Holy Buddha! Can I really, rightfully claim a victory when its clear that despite my horrible play I was saved from ignominy my Lady Poker herself?
Yeah, sure, why not.
Until next time, please remember that luck lies at the intersection of preparation and opportunity, and Capitol Records lies at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Not ALL the Germans, mind you. Just the ones that commented on my site - advertising, as near as I can figure, sexy chat. Besides the fact that speaking German sounds like gargling lye, I can't think of anything worse.
Anyway, since I'm now a target of The Spamming Hun, I have to turn on comment moderation. Since so few of you comment, I do not see this as an imposition.
Until next time, please remember never to start a war on two fronts if you want to conquer Europe. I'm talking to you, Shickelgruber, you fucking asswipe.
Friday, November 19, 2010
I hated him. While with the Habs he was a great coach; he was a failure with the B's. He was an enthusiastic proponent of the neutral-zone trap, even implemented a bastardized version of it (more of a left-wing lock, but no matter) in Boston, which was boring as hell AND didn't work.
But damn, man, he was 59, and was an icon in the NHL, and I'm sorry he's gone. Anyone who likes hockey should feel the same sorrow.
Until next time, please remember Pat Burns and his family.
When I went food shopping I stuffed the $3 into a Salvation Army bucket. See? In order to get all the advice one should, one needs both (Morning) Thunder and Lightning(36).
Until next time, please remember that fresh turkeys are on sale for 49 cents a pound.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
We have a pizza joint maybe 1/2 mile from the house. It isn't, you know, good, but it's there and it sells chicken wings and soda by the 2-liter bottle. So I'm a relatively frequent visitor and the new owner and I have had maybe a half-dozen conversations in the last couple of months.
Anyway, this morning I was heading to make my post office/Dunkies/grocery store circuit around our sleepy little burgh when I discovered that my battery was completely dead. So much for my errands, but also so much for my damned lunch. When the time came I decided to get some wings from this joint and have it delivered, as it was raining, damp, and raw and I didn't feel like walking there and back with cold wings.
I call in the order and about fifteen minutes later who should be at the door but the owner himself. He greets me with obvious recognition, asks me how the Bruins were doing, etc.
But here's the thing: I didn't tip him, and I'm still wondering if I did the right thing.
Now I am a neurotic tipper. Being a Son of Abraham I am sensitive to the old rhubarb that we Jews are a cheap bunch. Yes, my mother has not actually purchased a packet of Sweet-n-Lo in 30 years. Yes, my Dad, rest his soul, believed you should tip less for breakfast as opposed to lunch, as if the morning shift was somehow manned by the independently wealthy. But I am determined to break the chain. Let no one call me cheap. Meals start at 20% and go up from there. Everybody who does something for me gets their palm crossed.
But this guy, this guy was the owner of the place. And you don't tip the owner. You just don't. Your two bucks could get speared by the longhorns on the hood of his Cadillac, for chrissake. He's different from the guy who gets paid eight bucks an hour and fills his own gas tank and for whom a trey in his hand that he doesn't have to pay taxes on actually matters. It gets him 20 miles further down the road - it means something.
And yet, still I agonize over my omission. Should I have tipped the guy anyway? Would he have been insulted? Was he insulted because I didn't tip him? I would like your opinions.
In other news, I split at the Mookie this evening. I led most of the evening. When it was down to three of us I offered a split. One of the three respectfully declined, saying she'd rather get 3rd place than split, and that's just what happened. So when she bowed out I renewed my offer to split which was accepted - except that since he was the one who got 3rd place's chips, he was the chip leader. So technically this was a place as opposed to a win, but it was $50 in my pocket and that's cool.
Until next time, please remember that if you liked this post, a gratuity is not out of place.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
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
* * * *
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.
“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.
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.
“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
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
MY NAME IS FINK
WHAT DO YOU THINK
I'LL PRESS YOUR PANTS FOR NOTHING
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
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
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:
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:
Sunday, October 10, 2010
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
Friday, October 1, 2010
I take a quick peek at the other table to see my best friend, my mortal enemy, love her or hate her you have to...um...hate 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.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
a. in the South Pacific
b. off the coast of Norway
c. now independent, but at one point part of the Soviet Union
d. wherever you are, baby. Wherever you are.
Answer: D. The Isles of Langerhans live in your pancreas.
2. "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" is:
d. not even English, for Chrissake.
Answer: C. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny is the scientific theory that an embryo going through its development (ontogeny) goes through all the physical forms (recapitulation) of the adult creature's evolutionary path (phylogeny). It was accepted science in the 19th century, but has long since been debunked.
3. A "cleek" is:
a. a golf club.
b. the name the British assigned to the Daschund while they were at war with Germany.
c. a machine used in sausage-making.
d. style of moustache.
Answer: A. It's an old golf club, more loft than a driver but less than a 1-iron. History records it was a bitch and a half to use.
4. The word "assassin" originated from:
a. a body part.
d. rock and roll.
Answer: C. The original Assassins were Arab hired killers, and they were rewarded for a job well done with the drug that inspired their name: Hasish.
5. "Pruno" is:
a. corrosive but effective.
b. illegal but common.
c. colorful but tasteless.
d. kid-friendly but prone to staining furniture.
Answer: B. Pruno is prison liquor. Get a bag, a bunch of fruit, some sugar, and a heat source. Let sit a few days. Strain, re-sugar, maybe skim off the mold, and re-heat. A few days later, Pruno. It's either drunk or sold for a buck a glass. Reports indicate it's vile, but it does get you mildly buzzed.
Monday, September 20, 2010
OK? Fair Enough? And my promise to you is that I will only use questions that I know the answers to without looking them up - although post facto I will confirm the answers so that I don't lead you down the primrose path.
Absent any further questions then, here we go:
REMEMBER: DON'T BE A DOUCHEBAG. DON'T LOOK THESE UP!!
1. The Isles of Langerhans are:
a. in the South Pacific
b. off the coast of Norway
c. now independent, but at one point part of the Soviet Union
d. wherever you are, baby. Wherever you are.
2. "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" is:
d. not even English, for Chrissake.
3. A "cleek" is:
a. a golf club.
b. the name the British assigned to the Daschund while they were at war with Germany.
c. a machine used in sausage-making.
d. style of moustache.
4. The word "assassin" originated from:
a. a body part.
d. rock and roll.
5. "Pruno" is:
a. corrosive but effective.
b. illegal but common.
c. colorful but tasteless.
d. kid-friendly but prone to staining furniture.
Answers in 48 hours. If you want to email me the answers directly please feel free: it's gpjacobs at cox dot net. Winners get a shout out full of false sincerity.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
OK, the Mookie: yes, I took a bad beat, bla bla bla. It's poker; it happens. It didn't erase what I thought was a decent showing for The Kid, and I can hang my hat on that until the next Mookie. I did well without being the overlarge beneficiary of lucky hands. One hand I remember, I would have lost around 20% of my stack unless I pulled a miracle queen for a chop, which is what happened. That's really the extent of my suckoutus disgustus.
Here's a hand that was extremely profitable without requiring a lot of poker genius on my part. Not "lucky," but the hand played itself right into my pocket. Positions are my best recollection: Jew II or Joanne might be able to recollect a bit more accurately.
I'm in middle position. Joanne111 and PokerMeister were SB and BB respectively. I look down at A3 and I decided to make a play for the blinds so I raised it up (I think - I mighta just called. Forgive my forgetfulness please). Both blinds stay in; I make a mental note to drop it like the conversation about Ma's yeast infection.
Flop comes 245 rainbow. I flopped the prettiest wheel in all the land. I figure at least one of them has something they think is enough to grab the hand so I check.
Well, I blinked, and took a breath, and looked up to see that they were both all in, and would I care to call?
Damn Skippy I would.
Well Joanne had pocket fours. The flop gave her a set. She must have thought she was a lock for the hand.
Jew II had 45. The flop gave him two pair. He must have thought he was a lock for the hand.
Now, I'm not privy to this information but I have to suspect after seeing my straight that both of them poo'd, just a little bit, just enough to make it a little squidgy below decks.
I wasn't out of the woods - J2 needed a 5 (no more fours left) for his boat, and Joanne needed a deuce or runner runner for another pair to make hers (a 5 would have helped her too but would make her boat a smaller one to J2's). But no, everything held up, I dragged a huge pot, crippled Joanne and knocked the Hebrew one back to Mt. Ararat. Poor guy, he was the final table bubble. I took no joy in knocking him out. Wait: that's not true! After the first break (I think) he said that now that his other game was over he was going to devote his full attention to felting me. I told him thanks for the heads up and crushed the little Red Sea Pedestrian right where he stood, the little turd.
Actually he's a good guy who was just giving me some good natured shit, but that's how the cards fell.
And I guess the other stuff will have to wait, since I just invited myself to a private tourney that starts 21 minutes from now. A plus tard, mes amis!
I'd write more but I need to sack it now. Big day tomorrow - hopefully more details in about 14 hours.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The world is going to hell in a handcart, mes amigos. At its best, it's bad, and at its worst it's friggin' unbearable.
But not today. Today I got my Bruins tickets. So fuck you all, you lords of trouble, of strife, of grimness and of quiet desperation: opening day is October 21 and I got my tickets. Who wants to go with me?
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Where Were You?
Like most adults, I guess, I was at work. I had a meeting scheduled at 8:30 and after about 20 minutes when nobody showed up I called the meeting's organizer and asked her what the deal was. She said "sorry, I'm just so caught up in this World Trade Center thing," and that is how The Day That Changed Everything first entered my consciousness.
I knew it was big when I couldn't connect to cnn.com - when their servers are overloaded you know it's a big news day. We heard the same half-truths and non-truths as rumor spread in the first 20 minutes of chaos. Our accountant ran home and brought in a TV and we congregated in a corner conference room and sat, and stood, slackjawed, at the images that unfolded before us.
Images that are seared forever in my memory: a building afire, thick, acrid, ebony-black smoke spewing out of the top third of it. And not just any building - the World Trade Center, for God's sake - gargantuan symbol of, and paean to, commerce, the almighty American Dollar, and by extension our great nation itself.
One of our salespeople was also a local firefighter (find me a fireman without a second job and...and...well it doesn't matter, they ALL have second jobs) and I remember asking him how much time a person had in smoke that thick and hot.
He thought for a moment and said, "One breath - maybe two."
We sat and watched as the attack - for by now we knew that's what it was - went on. The buildings burned; we heard stories of other planes being hijacked; a plane hit the Pentagon. The PENTAGON, for Chrissake. These guys certainly knew their symbolism!
There was confusion within the halls of power - here in Massachusetts various politicians came on to say that a local election was taking place, others said it wasn't. The President was on Air Force One - first here, then there, spiriting President Bush to various points of safety.
They pulled EVERY SINGLE AIRCRAFT out of the sky. Landed them all.
Then after an hour or so of intense heat and metal stress, we watched in abject horror as first one tower then the other succumbed to the indignities foisted upon them, and they fell. Just collapsed like an old Vegas casino. The only difference is, each collapse took place while hundreds of live human beings still occupied the towers. In those several seconds, albeit shrouded in thick poisonous smoke, we witnessed the mass murder of thousands of souls, whose greatest offense to Islam or anyone else for that matter was getting up that morning and going to work, to conduct business, or serve food, or to clean, or to guard. My boss at the time watched the first tower collapse and put his hand to his open mouth in a gesture of horror, shock and revulsion that, like so many snapshot images of that day and the days to come, I will never forget as long as I live.
Then it was over, if over you could call it. The wreckage steamed and smoked from a dozen underground fires while rescue workers frantically looked for survivors, moving cement and girders with their bare hands. Fire crews from around the region and around the country came to the site by the busload to spell tired rescue workers and to show sympathy and solidarity. Charity of every stripe poured in. Whatever the current rumor had the rescue workers needing, it poured in by the truckload: Gloves. Masks. Dog food. Oxygen. Blood. Everybody wanted to give blood. The Red Cross had to turn people away!
And we mourned. All of us. We mourned for the lives of the fallen, and their families. We mourned for the death of a lifestyle we all instinctively knew was gone forever. We mourned for police and fire crews, those who ran in while everyone was running out. The overarching emotion for most people was not anger - it was sadness. Tears were everywhere. Dan Rather crying on Letterman. Jon Stewart crying on his own show. And how could we ridicule them? We were crying right with them.
Much has happened in the shadow of the events of September 11, 2001. Some of it good, much of it not so good. I'm not going to turn this post into an invective-laden polemic against anyone or anything, except perhaps the vermin who perpetrated this horrific crime against the innocent.
But in the aftermath of that day, the nation stood together, and most of the world stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States. We lost that too, which is also something deserving of mourning.
My People - the Jews - get together every April for Passover. The whole idea of Passover is to retell the story of when the Jews were slaves to the Pharaoh, so that it never happens again and we remain a free, albeit nebbish and neurotic, people.
We can learn a lesson from Passover if we apply the same philosophy to 9/11 and retell the story every year - shed real tears for the fallen until all passes into distant memory and we spill a drop of wine for them - and never, ever forget the events of that horrible day, when everything changed.
Monday, September 6, 2010
So I'm back from the cruise, Hurricane Earl having done nothing but sneezed in our general direction and moved merrily along to Greenland. Yes - a tropical hurricane is lapping not so gently at the shores of Greenland. That's how I like my irony, friends and neighbors.
Anyway, the cruise was great and I made a shitpile of money at the poker table. They spread a $1/$2 NL cash game, using Poker Pro dealer-less tables. It's a choice, I guess; the cruise line doesn't have to pay for (and house and feed) another dealer - even though they employ dozens for their casino. It's not the worst thing in the world, I reckon. I like fucking with poker chips though.
Anyway it was more or less the same dozen people who showed up at the table, 12 of the worst poker players that I personally have ever seen. People calling big bets with 9-5 offsuit; people not respecting bluffs or bets from me or anybody else for that matter; people playing poker for the very first time in their lives. I don't know, maybe it's because they're on vacation, in the bag, and flush with spending money, but Ja-heezius Christ, there was some bad play going around.
Until I got the vibe of the table and adjusted my game accordingly I was already pretty far down - like multiple hundreds. One quick example: I held a pair of sevens and flopped the set. I bet huge, trying to protect my hand, but got called nonetheless, with a flush draw. Guess what? he caught, and there was the better part of a hundred bucks down the shitter right there.
So I decided that if that was the kind of nonsense I was up against, I wasn't going to fuck around. I decided that until I got some money in front of me I was going to play tighter than a gnat's ass stretched across a rain barrel. I'm talking top 10 hands only in early or middle position, and maybe high suited connectors, A9-A10, and middle pairs in late position and if it's cheap. So that stanched the bleeding for a while until I got my wind back and my legs back underneath me.
The first whiff of recovery came when I looked down at two black queens. 4x preflop raise, five callers. Flop all lower than Q, rainbow. Bet $25, four callers. Turn blank, I go all in with about $60, three callers. The Crafty Southpaw pulls down a hand that puts almost $400 in front of me. Woo hoo!
From that point on it was smooth sailing over calm seas, with one exception.
His name was Chi. A Chinese fella who was vying with me for Table Captain. Likeable, affable, and sitting affably on a mountain of fucking chips. He would buy a $14 pot with a $200 bet and tell you so: "I want that $14. I have nothing but you can't call me!" and cackle a high-pitched laugh that, really, made one want to stick a fork in his throat and pour rat poison in the wound.
So fast forward to Saturday: I'm up huge, have maybe $500 in front of me, and I look down from my lofty perch as SB to see AJ. Flop comes JXX, two hearts. I bet, Chi raises to $25, I raise to $50, he calls. Turn comes a third heart. He goes in the tank for a little while, adopts a thousand-yard stare, and puts me all in. I think perfunctorily for a while and fold. I figure he either has the hearts or the Ace of hearts - either way I'm not going to risk $500 with TPTK. He turns over an absolute bluff; he was actually drawing dead, but whatareyagonnado. I kept my cool until I get back to the cabin and unleash a torrent of obscenity that would have made Popeye drop his pipe. I lost a hundred bucks but even worse could have won $500 more.
So yesterday, I'm pleased to say that the pattern repeated itself: After only a half-hour or so I was up $100 and doing well. Maybe that's why as SB I called the BB with A6o - it was only a buck, and I had plenty of those.
I whiff the flop utterly, but try to take a stab at it. I bet out, I think $15 or $20. Chi, my Chinese friend, raises to $50. I re-raise to either $75 or $100; can't remember which. Everybody else folds, of course, and Chi calls.
The turn is also a blank: I don't think there was a card over 8 on the board.
Chi gets that faraway look in his eyes and moves in. He only has about $80 left in front of him. And I start thinking.
"Here's the problem," I said to him. "Last time you did this, you looked exactly like you look now. But last time, I had a hand. This time I don't, but I think my garbage beats your garbage."
He starts laughing and in his broad Chinese accent says "ohhhh, you remember last time. Good, good!"
"OK, you convinced me," I say. "I call."
He gets a look like he's been constipated for a week. The table turns over his hand.
He gots himself a whole bunch of nothing. I win with Ace high. Somewhere like $300 on this one hand.
To his credit, Chi took it really well. He laughs, he leans over to high-five me, he compliments my call. Back-pats and 'good call' from everybody. And lots of yummy money my way. A few hands later I decide to take my winnings and go home.
The last two days erased my deficit and put me way ahead - I won't say how much but it reimbursed the cost of the cruise to the tune of about 25%.
And more importantly, it reinforced a very important bit of philosophy: if you honestly think that your opponent is bluffing, then move in. If you're wrong, that's fine; well, it's not, really, but it's another problem for you to work on. But don't let a big bet on its surface cow you into folding.
In any event, it was a great week of cruising, caloric overindulgence, watching attractive 20 year olds in bikinis, and poker, but I'm home now.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Finished penultimately at last night's Very Josie. As I describe what doomed me we can also play a little "what would you do," especially with the hand that crippled me.
I had jumped out to an early lead with some decent play and some good decisions - including calling crazy Josie with second pair having sniffed her
So I was cruising nicely until hand 52. As SB I got dealt Ah7h. Josie and I both called Mojo's standard PFR of 150. Flop comes 77J rainbow. A set of 7's! Praise the lord and pass the chow mein. I check, Jo bets 150 (1/3 pot), Mojo folds, I call. Prolly shoulda maybe possibly I shoulda shoved right there but maybe I got a little greedy. I could easily put Josie on a Jack, which meant I could get all her chips with a little patience. Woulda coulda shoulda - either way, this is The Question: Assuming folding is out of the question, would you call or raise, and if raise by how much?
Well, I called, and the pot is now 750. Turn comes another Jack which gives me the low boat, 7's full of Jerks. I check, Josie bets 200, I raise to 600, she shoves.
Like I said, I could easily put Josie on a Jack. Her favorite hand is J10, for christ's sake. However, I could also put her on anything -- an 89 which would give her an up and down draw, a low pair, a medium pair, pretty much anything. I say this knowing that it sounds disparaging but it's really to her credit - she's at times recklessly aggressive and she often works it to her advantage. So she really could quite literally have nothing.
Of course she turns over the J10 - why wouldn't she. Her bigger boat takes me from over 70 BB's to under 30, which coincidentally was about how many more hands I lasted (raced Mojo with 88 to his A10 - he turns his ace, and knocked my dick in the dirt even further when he rivered a straight).
As it turns out, she spiked a two-outer on me, but that's just poker. She didn't play poorly (unless you count playing a favorite hand when you otherwise wouldn't - I've seen D Brunson on TV playing 10-2 just because), the cards didn't turn my way. Well hey, at least Josie went out before me.
But I re-call to your attention The Question: what would you do?
BTW, your obedient servant The Crafty Southpaw is yo ho ho and a bottle of rum-ing it up the US/Canadian coastline from Gotham to St. Johns, New Brunswick this long weekend. If the hurricane rips us apart and I'm food for a shark that doesn't care about his fat intake, listen: It's been grand. Grand, grand, grand.