Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Another Photo from Anna

Still trying to learn how to post photos, so here's another one. I used
Selecon Acclaim Fresnels as front light, ETC Source 4s with color scrollers
(2 Apollo Smartmove, 2 Wybron Forerunner) for side and back light, and the
Selecon 90-degree for gobo.

Jeremy Cartee as Levin Posted by Hello

Quick Catch-Up

Getting ready for Merlefest this weekend in the metropolis of North Wilkesboro, NC. If you've never been, and like bluegrass and Americana music, What the hell is wrong with you? Folks like Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Doc Watson, Alison Kraus and other amazing musicians will be there. And me. Probably wet & cold, but still with a helluva good time. My sister and I go about every year and it's a grat break from everything in the real world. Just play in the mountains with good music and lots of happy people. Anna Karenina closed last weekend - good show overall. Probably some of the best lighting I've done. This is a scene lit with only the one Selecon Pacific 90-degree with a leaf gobo in it. I like it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Is it still Monday?

No, but damn, this week is rolling FOREVER! Last weekend's poker pretty good - ended up about $80 in cash games, plus my perennial 4th-place finish in a monthly tourney I play in. I've played 5 times, gotten one 3rd, out of the money once, and 3 4th-place finishes. I get my buy-in back at 4th, so I feel like I should just not post a buy-in, play for 4 hrs, and then get up and randomly leave. It would have the same results.

I'm on a little break from online poker, trying to cut down on the hours I've played. I've seen my play slipping a bit online (and when you're only OK to start with, a little slip costs $$$$), so I' m gonna cool it for most of the week and play some more next week.

Got comps tonight to see Savion Glover's Improvography show, and I'm uber-stoked about that! I'm in a place theatrically where I want to push and explore new forms, so maybe his tap show will jar something loose. I'm looking for mime/percussionist/gymnasts for my upcoming production of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, so maybe tap will work into that somewhere as well.

On a bummer note, Sam Mills, former Carolina Panther and linebackers coach, died Monday of cancer. He was a hell of a player, running back an interception for a touchdown that sparked the Panthers first-ever victory. He was also a hell of an inspiration, remaining on the sidelines motivating his boys to Super Bowl 38 after his diagnosis with cancer. They gave him maybe 3 months, he fought for almost 2 years. But he lost. And it's not fair. It's not fair that a good man is dead at age 45 to a disease that we could find a cure for if enough resources were pointed in that direction. It's not fair that my wife's best friend has to take a cocktail of drugs to keep his HIV under control while billions are spent in a useless war, and even more billions are spent on other useless pork-barrel bullshit causes when we need to look around and stop the dying. I'm a little bitter. Sue me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Just re-read this page

Damn I'm a wordy bastard.

Places to learn how to play the game

I really recommend the Forum. I've picked up a lot of useful information there over the past couple of months, not to mention being able to read most of the magazine online each month. There are the obvious bad beat stories, and the assholes, but there are also a lot of people offering up solid, honest, helpful hand history critiques and advice. I've taken some of it and continue to try to process what I've read there.

In particular - there was a thread yesterday that I read about overvaluing Ax - suited or even Ax off. I read it, thought it through and applied what I read to make the money in last nights Pokerstars $3 tourney. I know, making $9.68 for 3 hours in a tourney isn't exactly the stuff of blog legend, but not playing crap hands let me stick around a lot longer in the tourney than I had been managing, so the boost to my confidence was worth WAY more than $6.

A couple of hands of note:

1 - I catch KK in the BB, blinds are $400-800, and I am the big stack at my table with about $27k in chips. A couple of limpers, I raise to 4xBB. I get one call, which costs him about 1/3 his stack. Flop comes with no Aces, so I bet enough to push him All In. He calls, which I thought was very odd, because he's been playing a very conservative game, and I've only played premium hands and blinds up to this point, so my table image should have been granite. He goes All-in with AJ and rivers out a straight to knock off a third of my stack. I still think I made the right play, as he had to catch runner runner for the straight on the river, and his straight wasn't even the A high, it was J high. So that one goes to luck.

2 - A little bit of luck, a little bit of outplayed. Blinds are $1500-3000, and I have about $16k in chips (I've stayed playing tight, making only one really stupid call, and usually taking down any pot that I get involved in, which are incredibly few, as I was cold-decked almost all night. I played 18% of the hands I was dealt, which is low even for playing tight) when I catch 88 in Middle position. I call, as there was a short stack already calling in front of me and I didn't really want to see an all-in re-raise before the flop. BB checks and we're 3. Flop is 8 4 6 all diamonds, so I immediately think "Great! Unless one of them has the flush. Ok, I've got position, so I watch, and if they bet, release, but if the both check, put the short stack all in."

That's exactly what happened - they both checked, I put the short stack all in, BB folds, short Stack calls, and turns up the NUT FLUSH. He played me. Well. I'd still make the same play, as I think it was the right thing to do - I made him make a decision, so if he's hold 2 pair, a smaller set or just one diamond, he folds. He just happened to trap me with his flush, and I didn't catch the boat, so I was crippled. Still played better cards than I have for days, so I feel better.

Going to see Actor's Theatre of Charlotte's production of Tick Tick Boom tonight. For the unwashed, that's the play that was written (mostly) by the guy that wrote Rent and was released after his death and Rent hit huge. Dunno much else about it, except it's about his life as a theatre geek/food service industry employee in NYC. Actor's Theatre is currently the top company in town, and their last show, A Lesson Before Dying, was amazing, so I expect a good show. I don't know anyone in the cast, except the director, who I've worked with a couple of times, so it should be interesting.

Reviews for our production of Anna Karenina come out tomorrow, and Glennio and I are on pins & needles. I worked my ever-loving balls off on the lights for that show, so my ego really wants a good review, and a mention for the lights. And Suzy got two more costuming gigs today - she's doing a one-off photo shoot for CPCC (Central Piedmont Community College), and she's doing their musical which will open their new theatre next season. Can't say what it is yet, but I just email the director and expressed my interest as well. It's a show we've both done before, and wouldn't mind going back to. Plus, there's $$ involved. On that note, my buddy Stephen said he's mailing me a check today for a $100 finder's fee for giving him the CeCe Winans design gig I dropped on him last week, so I'll see who's got the best bonus and try to bonus whore that $100 into some extra cash.

Peace, love and Lucinda Williams (on my ipod right now)

Monday, April 11, 2005


Yesterday was not the best day for my poker self-image. I blew threw most of $50 in a day, which while isn't much in the grand scheme of things and I'm still up for the month of April, is a real pisser when you're playing the $5.50 sngs at Poskerstars. I guess I'm only really pissy because it's my own stupid lack of discipline that booted me in the arse again.

I'm sitting in a good position in the nightly $3 NLHE tourney on Stars, I've got something like $3500 in chips and we haven't gotten to the first break yet, so I'm feeling pretty good. I figure if I just sit out the rest of the time until the break, I'll be fine, then I can come back in once most of the maniacs are gone and the blinds are high enough to care about. But NOOOOOO. In my typical "I have a big stack, so I can play more straight draws and middle pairs" mindset, I piss through all the stack in an amazingly short time and find myself needing to focus on the Limit Stud $1 tourney I was in at the same time. Now I was also sitting pretty there, which is amazing since I barely understand the rules to Stud, much less the strategy, but hey, it was a buck. But of course, I stop following the policies that got me a pile of chips the first time (only play 4th street if I have a big pair, split or buried, or if I have 3 to a flush and one is paint to start) and bow out of that one ungracefully as well. I'm going to take a night or two off, watch season 2 of 21 Jump Street on DVD, and re-arrange my CDs. I need a break from pokah for a day or two.

The Celebrity Theatre Poker Tourney (a monthly event) is next Sunday, so I want to make sure I get a nap before the tourney starts at 6. We usually have 14-18 folks for a $20 buy-in tourney, and the play gets pretty solid once we're down to 6-8 folks, and we all have a good time every month. My plan this month is to not call Mad Jim unless I have the absolute nuts (he will chase any flush, any time), and pay close attention to Hallie's play and see if I can pick up some kind of read on her. Jim has put me out or crippled me in the last 2 tourneys, and Hallie has won both of them. For the record, I'm in pretty good shape at these tourneys, with 2 4ths, 1 3rd and one out of the money finish, so I'm ahead $20 for the series. But it would be nice to take one down.

Lilo, Twitch and Phil came over for a late-night game saturday night, and then Lilo and Phil and I chatted strategy for a while after. Twitch got pissy when his wench came by, so he dumped a pile of chips on Lilo in a bad All-in bluff abd then left. We didn't wanna do much 3-handed so once I emptied Phil's stack again, we just shot the shit for a while. We're gonna try to do some practice work this weekend before the big tourney. Maybe I can set up a small tourney Saturday and we can practice.

Buy the 21 Jump Street DVDs, for the fashion traumas alone!


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Another day in Paradise

No, I have not switched all my accounts over to Paradise Poker, but I do like the soft tables at Pacific. I'm sticking with low buy-in SNGs, low-limits and $25 NL tables at Party until I can build a decent bankroll. Up to $125 from $50 this week, so that's going pretty well.

I actually won another $5 Omaha Hi-Lo SNG the other night, and what I'm realizing is that at the low limits, nobody else really knows how to play that game, either! Not complaining, mind you, just surprised that a game that is apparently so much more complex than Hold 'Em can play so soft. Of course, online it's just chips, not money, right?

So I have come to believe something I read on another site or forum - Omaha Hi Lo is a game of "The Nuts." You either have the nuts, or get the hell outta the hand. If the board is 8 5 K 9 2, and you're holding A 3 X X, you're getting at worst a quarter of this pot, so run it up there. I also realized that if a pot gets quartered, you only make money if there's as much money in there as possible from as many people as possible, so early betting is pretty important. As people fall off from their draws not materializing, your odds of actually losing money in a quartered pot get higher, so pay attention to what's going on around the rest of the table!

Shifting gears - tonight we open Anna Karenina, our first show in the new space (called SPAC, for Southend Performing Arts Center). Two and a half hours, roughly 200 lighting cues. Not that many, unless you consider it's an 80-seat theatre with something like 20 lights in the air! Having a set of4 scrollers has added tons of color to the show, and the Selecon 90-degree just makes beautiful light, so I'm pretty pleased with the show, or at least I will be once I finish the two pages of cueing and focus notes I've got to fix by 8PM tonight. The show is good, it has really come together the last couple of nights. Last night the leads got horrifically lost in one scene and wandered around the script for a few minutes before finally getting back on some semblance of track, but it was all okay in the end. If I can figure out how to post pictures, I'll upload a couple later on.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A little Omaha Experiment

So last night I was trolling for fishies at Party's $25 NL table (caught a couple, but ended up with a hook in my mouth once or twice, too. Remember - Don't get cute in No Fold 'Em Hold'Em - just play the cards, cause most of the time your opposition isn't good enough to get out of the way if you try anything cute). After a little of that, I decided to enter a $5 Omaha HiLo SNG. I had played one or two O8 Multi-Table tourneys on Stars (even made the money in one, a whopping $3!), so I thought I'd give this a shot.

An hour later, I'm the last man standing not really understanding how that happened. After looking at the hand history today, it looks like I did the following things right -

1) I only played hands with a pocket pair, BIG flush cards, an Ace and a low card (2-5), or at least 3 parts of the wheel (A,2,3,4,5). This gave me not a ton of chances at high pots early, but a lot of nut low pots, without a ton of them getting quartered. It's harder for me to figure out the nut high hand in O8 as yet than it is the nut low, so unless I had a full house, I didn't mess around a lot trying to win the high pot. But I can usually figure out if my low hand is strong, so I went for that a lot.

2) I played really aggressively in the hands that I played. I called a little, raised a lot, and led out a lot. This was a Limit O8 Sit n' Go, so that led to me playing against fewer other players each hand, which I thought was really helpful.

3) I cut loose a lot of hands that couldn't play both ways. If there were 3 unpaired high cards (like 10, J, K) I frequently released them if they were unsuited. I have in the past played a lot more of these hands, but I thought to myself "If you're in a hi/lo game, why would you play a hand that has no possibility to scoop the pot both ways?" Obviously position played a part in that, too, since I went for a few more Hi pots in late position, but for the most part I tried to grab hands that would play both ways. We'll give it another shot maybe tonight, but I've got tech rehearsal, and that could run long.

One the other front - I'm in tech rehearsals for our Production of Anna Karenina, a Helen Edmundson adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel. Glennio is directing, I'm designing the lights, Lilo is Stage Manager, Twitch is acting, and Suzy is costuming. So I get to be with all my friends as we get grumpy, pissy and generally frantic as the show opens Thursday, and I've only written cues through 3/4 of Act I at this point. I've never run this behind on a show in my life, but I'm really confident that I'll get it all done. This is our first show in the new facility (we moved our theatre into SPAC in January), and it's taken a lot more time than I expected.

I did get a pair of Apollo SmartMove Color Scrollers and demo'd a pair of Wybron Forerunners for the show. They are AMAZING! We've got a 14' ceiling, which is 4' more than we had in the old space, and these 4 scrollers are adding an incredible amount of flexibility to the show. 4 instruments with 16 colors in each is just a beautiful thing! I also have a Selecon 90-degree leko for the show, which lets me cover the whole stage in one leaf breakup pattern with one instrument. I love big light sources, and the Selecon allows me such opportunity for big light, it's great. The show is coming along well, I'm sure it will be ready in time, but this is tech week, which always means not enough sleep. And my da job is really cutting into my poker playing. If it weren't for that pesky crap of paying the bills and eating (which I am inordinately fond of), I'd so be outta here and playing cards for a living. Maybe someday. Maybe Richard Brodie will adopt me! I'm already housebroken, and I'm done with college, so it should be fairly cheap. HMMMMM...

Monday, April 04, 2005

Long weekend - but aren't they all?

So it's Monday morning and I've dragged out the funeral coat again. Bummer. My uncle Grady died Saturday morning after a long brutal fight with pancreatic cancer. It amazes me that we can put people in space and depose despots all over the world, but still haven't found a cure for cancer. This disease blinded my uncle in one eye, took his vitality, put him in a hospital room for months and finally killed him. I am of course saddened by his passing, but I am also glad that his sufferering is over. That's the kind of thing people usually say when folks die to make themselves feel better, but at least this time it's true. He went through a hell of a time, and I'm glad that he doesn't have to fight this fight any more. I miss him, but my memories of Grady are great - his fishing trips, his cookouts, good times, ever-present smile and a kind heart. God bless.

Now - to poker. Had a few folks over for cards this weekend - a pretty good game all told. Started around 6, played 'til midnight, had a blast. Memorable moments - my pocket 5s held up against Jewart's AJ and Candy's AQ, Esposito's Quad Aces beat out Candy's Full Boat (Aces full of 10s), Twitch caught and A on the river to beat Jewart's set of 10s. All in all a great time had by all, and I got to have the most fun, profiting about $60 in a $10 buy-in NLHE game.

Sunday night stuck another $50 in Party Poker and promptly ignored all the advice I was telling myself in a $10 SNG. Called with bad Aces, overvalued AJ, overplayed top pair, all the bad habits I'd been trying to break. Out in 6th position because I'm a dumbass. Decided to try a little limit Omaha Hi/Lo. Not a game to play over your limits in, or at least not for me, cause I SUCKED. Another $20 gone like a freight train (or a Montgomery Gentry song).

Took a break, read for a little while, and decided to try the real fishpond, the $25 NL tables. Played s couple of shorthanded tables, then found a soft-looking full table. Not a bad call. Three full boats later I'm up to about $95, then overvalued my pocket Qs against a guy who had just sat down and a real fish who'd been overplaying crap hands like K2 o/s all night. So as soon as I bet with my Hilton Sisters, I get a raise and a re-raise. If I'd been paying attention I'd a figured something was up. I wasn't. $50 later, new guy's pocket Ks made a set to triple him up, fishy's AA held up against my Qs and I'm still ahead, but not much. Shortly after that, the fish left and it was time to look for a new pond. And escape the ignominy of my sucker play. Found another little table and finished the night up about $15 overall (including my SNG loss and covering my O8 losses as well) so not a bad comeback. I needed it for my confidence level, since I'd had a bad week online.

Every since I won the tourney on Stars, I've been bouncing around levels, trying to find where my success lies. I think I'm going to stick with the $5 & $10 SNGs, the low buy-in MTTs at Stars, and the Party $25NL tables (when I'm feeling patient enough to handle the swings). That's my plan for the week, let's see how it goes. You'll find out almost as soon as I do.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Uneducable - or Trying to Remember what I keep learning

So i posted on the CardPlayer forum a list of Things I've Learned - I should have called it more correctly Things I Keep Learning and Re-Learning. A few things about poker, online play and the MASSIVE errors that I make while trying to master this game.

First - I guess there should be some background. My name is John, I'm a 30-something year old theatrical lighting designer and director living in Charlotte, NC. I've been playing poker (mostly NL Hold 'Em) since November, like every other bandwagon-jumping fish in the country who has found the game not only interesting but almost inescapable since Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP in 2003. With the advent of shows like Celebrity Poker Showdown, it became apparent that you don't really have to have much of a clue about the game to have fun, so I bought some chips and tried to learn to play. I've brought a few friends along for the ride, so you'll hear all about them as we go along. I of course, live in a state where poker is considered gambling and gambling is of course, a SIN! So we never, ever play for real money. Not even online, because that would be immoral and wrong. So all the tales that I recount here will be of games for play money. Really, I mean it.

So I started this blog because I read a lot of poker blogs, and enjoyed playing in the WPBT tourney on PokerStars this week, so we'll see what develops.

Find me on PokerStars and Party Poker playing as JHartness (usually poorly).