Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Monday, March 31, 2008

C'mon, you love my booty!

Time to donate some of your ill-gotten gains to my 24 Hours of Booty cancer fundraising ride!

Donating money is a lot easier on your part than riding all those miles will be on my part! If you don't want to support cancer research because you like the cancer and want to see it thrive (and you probably hate puppies and kittens, too!) then donate because you want to cause me physical pain!

For every $50 that is donated, I will ride one lap (3 miles). So far you and the rest of my friends have donated $450, which equals 27 miles. I can do that with my eyes closed (although I won't, because there are other people around and I can't ride in a straight line with my eyes closed), so you need to step up and do better if you wanna see me suffer!

disclaimer - I probably won't make more than 100 miles, so anything more than $1500 donated is just gravy. I need to be able to recover from the ride eventually :). So click here and donate moneys to make me suffer!

I'm down with the sickness

Sickness of some of the beats I've laid on people in the last two weeks, that is. Saturday night was the most recent edition of the Falstaff home game, and we welcomed Dr. Steve into the fray for his first visit with us. I did my best to welcome him in my typical fashion - by playing trash and catching, but it wasn't until the night was well into the waning that I was able to crush his soul with a 2-outer.

I did lay a trash-hand special on Jim, calling his preflop raise with 4-2 off suit and flopping trip deuces. He got away from the river raise when I filled up, even though he'd made his nut flush. I was pretty impressed with Jim for that, because he's very seldom one to lay down a nut flush. I thought I played it like a flush draw, but with holding the As-9s, he wasn't gonna believe I was on the same flush draw he was, so he made a good read and saved himself $72 on the river. I got it out of him about 20 minutes later when I went all in over the top of him again and he made the call. I had top and bottom pair, and Jim had misread his hand. He thought he had top two instead of top pair, middle kicker. My hand held up and Jim reloaded.

Then I had finally gotten to even after dropping $200 into the game early, so I called Dr. Steve down on every street with 77 on a board of 4-4-8-x until I caught my 7 on the river to bust him. Hope I played badly enough to get him to come back.

It was a night of huge hands, though, with Nate making Quad Aces, Quad Tens, I made Quad 5s and Suzy picked up 3-4 full houses in the 2 hours she played. But the pot of the night came late in the evening once we'd gotten into No Limit Omaha Hi-Lo. I know, ridiculously large pot in O8s never happen, but this was stupid even for our game.

We all limped in, me with J-J-A-2 with the AJ of spades, and the flop came down 5-6-x with one spade. So I flopped a nut low draw and a backdoor nut flush draw. So I toss out a couple bucks, and find a bunch of callers. Turn brings a 4 and my nut low is made, so I plan to toss in a couple more bucks, but it gets silly before it even gets to me, and I call the $30 that Nate bet and Jim and BG both called. Phil went all in over the top for another $12, and all I could think was "fuck I'm glad his raise isn't enough to reopen the betting." Nate called, Jim called and I think Brian got out of the way at that point, muttering about his earlier bad calls. I called, thinking I'm quartered, but with 4 people I can break even at quartered. River brings a Jack, and I think there's a sliver of a chance my set might take the high.

You know, the same kind of sliver that Ron Paul supporters still have. About that much. Just saying.

Nate fires $80 into a dry side pot, Jim insta-calls, and I groan and make the crying call with a set and the nut low. Jim turns over 7-8 for the nut straight for the high, and I table my nut low. I wait for Nate to table his A-2, but he also turns over 7-8 for the nut high. Waitaminit!?!? My low is good and the HIGH is getting quartered? Sweeeet! The low half of the side pot is $120, so I'm friggin' thrilled.

Phil responds with a muttered "sonufafucknbitch" and table 7-8 for the nut high as well, and I'm good for half the main as well for about another $90. So I raked in a $200+ pot with just the nut low, and the high hand got sixthed for their part of the pot. I'll take it.

Other than dishing out the vicious two-outer on Dr. Steve (and rivering a flush on him for his first buy-in, but he gave me odds to make that the correct call, so that doesn't count as a bad beat) and flopping trips against Jim with 4-2, I didn't dish out too many bad beats, and even took a rough one from T when she rivered a 4-outer to fill up against my bigger two pair in a big pot. Good thing for me she still hasn't learned to bet enough or I could have gotten hurt. Our game is so loose, if you've got the 2nd or 3rd nuts you've gotta bet it hard, because most of the time you're gonna get paid off. Most of us have a real hard time folding, which is good for patient players. Wish I was one. Note - I'm sure there were plenty of questionable or even downright poor plays on my part, but those were the only real bad beats I can recall. Feel free to remind me of them in comments, but also remember that if it takes two hands to count your outs, then it wasn't really a bad beat. And you owe me a dollar.

So I've had some decent success over the past couple of weeks, which doesn't speak well for my chances going down to Bad Blood's this weekend to celebrate his senility. I am not taking my whole roll with me, because I refuse to go broke in G-Vegas. Again.


I don't care. He'll always be the man.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hey Cindy, nice slipper!

His dad could shoot a little, too.

Davidson 73
Wisconsin 56

Does anybody else really, really wanna see them beat Kansas and take on UNC in the Final Four?

'Cause I sure do.

Gloria Allred speaks out on Hazardous Nipples

"The last time that I checked, a nipple was not a dangerous weapon."

Gloria Allred has never been to this site. NSFW.

I mean, really. I find it interesting that the things that make it through airport security vary not just from airport to airport, but from day to day. I've gone through the metal detector at Charlotte-Douglas with countless variations on the following metal scattered about my person -

Wedding band - Titanium
Wedding band - Gold (when I lost weight and the Ti one was too big)
Superman Ring - Sterling
Superman Ring - Stainless
Earring - Various metal
Belt Buckle - Stainless
Belt Buckle - Brass
Crucifix Necklace - Sterling
Penile Implant - Just checking to see if you're still reading

And I've only ever been stopped once for a belt buckle. The same belt buckle that made it through CLT, McCarran, and Orlando within the previous 30 days of getting stopped. But this chica's story makes me very glad I decided against that Prince Albert (NSFW, or anything else).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

There but for the grace...

So I've been paying a little attention to the sub-prime mortgage crash, because I missed getting caught up in all this mess by months, not years. Here's a story that is probably familiar to a lot of people, but just in case there's anybody who reads here that might get some perspective on the damage you can do to your personal finances by your own idiocy, I'll go for full disclosure. I've come through the other side of all this mess now, and I'm in stable enough financial shape that we're no longer living paycheck-to-paycheck. And I have a plan that will get us in better shape over the next three years to weather any of the storms life can throw at us. So I hope this full disclosure can help someone who's having trouble see that it can get better, with hard work.

For the record, this is not full disclosure that I'm terribly interested in discussing live, face-to-face in a large group. My financial situation for the past several years is pretty embarrassing to me, and I'm only willing to throw it out here for public consumption because I hope that maybe someone can avoid my mistakes. I'm happy to discuss it one-on-one or in small groups, and certainly via email, but probably not so much around a full poker table.

I've spent all my adult life mismanaging my money. I've gotten foreclosure notices, wage garnishment notices, repo notices, had utilities shut off - the whole nine yards. It's only been in the past couple of years that I've made enough money to actually pay for the lifestyle that I've led, and only since the beginning of this year that I've paid more attention to my finances and started actually eliminating debt.

I had some credit cards in college, which is bad. If we don't trust an 18-year-old to have a beer or gamble in a casino, what in the world says they're responsible enough to have $9,000 in credit cards? Well, I wasn't. So I maxed out all my credit cards buying shit. Not necessities because I wasn't making enough to live, just shit. New stereos, CDs, booze, all the shit that college kids spend their money on. And as soon as graduation got close and I figured I'd be making some money (not because I had a job lined up, but because I was working freelance theatre gigs on the weekend and getting paid already, so why in the world would that ever end?) I bought myself a brand new car.

So the second I got my diploma I had $13K in car debt, $9K in credit card debt, and $24K in student loan debt. And didn't even think I was broke. I got the job at Barbizon pretty shortly out of college, and Suzy was working too, so we made all our payments. And eventually we paid down some credit cards, and got some more, and so on and so on. But that whole student loan thing never really started happening. Remember that, we'll revisit it later. Eventually we refinanced the condo we were in to get some equity money and pay off those credit cards and the car. So we were good! We didn't have any real debt, just the house and the student loan. And why worry about the student loan, we'd never paid anything on it yet, so it's no big deal.

So 10 years ago we started looking for a new vehicle. Actually we were looking for a good used vehicle, but Suzy got a wild hair one day and went and bought a new truck for me. It was a great gesture and I was thrilled to have it. Except we couldn't really afford a $450 payment. So things got tight again. And then we got some credit cards to help us through the lean times. Then we decided that we needed more space, so we bought a bigger place.

I certainly adhered to the buy as much house as you can absolutely afford rule of thumb, because we bought a house with a payment that we really couldn't handle.But that seemed to be what everyone was doing. And of course because I had never made a student loan payment, and had chargeoffs from some of those college credit cards, and had been late a couple of times on the truck payment, our credit rating was for shit.

So I bought a house with an 11.49% interest rate.

I quickly realized that the payment was nearly half my take home pay for a month, and things started to get really ugly. But we struggled through it, making payment after payment, missing payments all over the place, and then we started our theatre company.

Yeah - here's a roadmap to financial success. When you're in over your head in house and car debt, start a non-profit business with no background in non-profit administration and see how often you have to pay the theatre's light bill instead of your own.

And that's exactly where we were. We had a house payment that was a stretch on a good day. We had a car payment that was an equal stretch in a great month. We had utilities that had a real desire to be paid at some point, and we still had student loans that we'd never touched. Then the tax bill came. And I couldn't pay it. So I didn't file my income taxes.

From 2001 - 2006.

So now I have a municipal government coming after me for property taxes that I can't pay, so that gets bought by my mortgage company and rolled into my mortgage, making an already untenable mortgage situation even worse. I have the state of SC coming after me for now $30K in student loans, because those are secured loans and they don't ever have to take a reduction in interest. AND the federal government has stopped getting their tax returns.

Oh yeah, and I'm having trouble sleeping because any time I hear a truck drive down my street at night I'm pretty sure it's the repo man coming to get my truck. And about once every three months either the water or the lights would be turned off at my house because the juggling act of getting the minimum payments to my utilities would be too much and a ball would end up on the floor.

It wasn't pretty. And while all this was going on I was working my regular job, picking up all the freelance design work I could, and trying to run a theatre company that typically had an annual deficit of $1,000 - $1,500. That I made up out of pocket because it had to come from somewhere. Finally, something had to give. And it started to give in the form of the theatre, which shut down a few years ago. We lost our lease on the facility we were in, and I just didn't have the motivation to try to rebuild somewhere else, and I had gotten tired enough of paying for the theatre's bills to pull the plug.

One burden down.

Then we started a debt consolidation program to pay off our credit cards, of which suzy and I had four, plus our Rooms To Go furniture which we bought on one of those "Buy Now, Pay in 2 Years" plans. Which is great, if you have the money in savings and can pay it before it becomes due (begging the question of why you didn't just pay cash for it in the first place, but that's beside the point). But it sucks if you don't, because the interest is calculated from the date of purchase, and if you're 15 minutes late paying the balance off, then you're hit with the whole mess.

What they don't tell you in debt consolidation is that while they may be able to negotiate with some creditors for a reduced interest rate and other buffers, you could also make those negotiations yourself by picking up the phone. And while you're in debt consolidation you can't refinance your home or car loans, because lenders see you're in debt consolidation and don't want to extend you any more or better credit. So while the debt consolidation allowed me to get some of the credit cards paid off, it also cost me thousands of dollars in interest on my mortgage because I couldn't refi earlier.

And my interest rate was still 11.49%.

But once the theatre shut down, things started to look up a little. We weren't spending money there, so we could keep up with all the bills. And I started to pick up paid writing work, which also helped us keep ahead a little.

A little.

But I never fixed the root of the problem, which was our spending. We had no control of our spending, and thus no method for getting really ahead on things. In my next post I'll share my revelation, and tell you what I've done in the past 3 months to turn our financial programming around.

If you really, really wanted to call it poker

I suppose you could, but it would be a stretch only allowed by the fact that the game was played with chips representing fictional dollars, cards, and by the end of seven cards, the best five-card hand won. In any other sense what I played last night was not poker.

On the up side, I did very well at bingo last night. I may have played as poorly as I have in my life in a winning session, catching ridiculous cards and issuing bad beats to my friends at such a furious pace that it stopped being funny after a while. It's hard going on a rush 5-handed in a home game, because it probably means that someone you like is getting kicked in the balls by the deck. Over and over again.

But I'm not complaining, I booked a win on nothing but pure luck, so I'll take it. I started off on a horrible slide, playing way too loose and bleeding away, as no one seemed interested in playing big pots early. If I'm gonna play 5-handed, I'm probably gonna play exceptionally loose preflop, and tighten up (i.e. look at my cards) only after the flop, and usually only after some aggressive action is taken. It's not like I have any fold equity preflop anyway, since half my opponents assume I have the hammer every hand, whether I've raised preflop or not. So I limped in a bunch, and called some stupid preflop raises, and then issued some sick beats.

I think the worst was probably what I did to BG. I called his preflop raise with 4-2 off suit, thinking that if I called, everyone else would call. Yeah, I forgot that Nate and Jim weren't with us, so that was a bit of a misread. The flop came down crappy cards, with a 4. At this point I called his overbet of the pot because I had a pair. And because 8 out of 10 hands he'd c-bet the flop if he raised preflop, and 6 out of those 8 I'd folded, so I figured he could be firing with almost any holding, and there was about a 20% chance my pair of 4s was actually ahead.

No, I didn't take time to think about the fact that there was probably only a 10% chance that my pair of 4s would hold up if in fact they were ahead. I'm not really very bright.

The turn brought another 4, and I called one more time, because this time I was pretty sure I was not only good, but was going to stay there. The river was inconsequential, and I think he checked and I bet. Or he bet and I raised. Either way, he called and I showed my stupid hand, and took a bunch of chips. I don't have any idea what he had, but given the level of disgust he evidenced, it must have been decent. I actually issued a worse beat later, but he admitted that even against a donkey like me he should have realized he wasn't good there. I called a preflop raise with 4-5 off suit, because that's how I was rolling. Flop came down A-2-x and I raised BG with my gutty. Yeah, not a long-term +EV move, but if you're gonna play crap, you may as well play it strong. I picked up my 3 on the turn, and fired again. On the river BG led out, I said "raise" and before I counted out my whole raise (which was going to be 3x his bet, which would have left him pretty committed) he said "All-in." I called, he turned over A-2 for flopped two pair. I tabled my wheel, and he reloaded, saying "He did everything but tell me he had a set or a straight." Which was what I was thinking, but I didn't really want to rub salt in the wound right then.

Today is a different day, so I'll rub salt on the interwebs for the whole world to see. It's not like I did anything particularly well, I played like crap. This time I just got rewarded for it. Last weekend I actually played pretty well and got rewarded for it. We've got another game coming up Saturday night, so I wonder what the mix will be? It's not like I intended to play like the world's biggest donkey, it just kinda ended up that way. Glad I decided to put off "create a tight table image" until my 2009 Resolutions.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Did I mention...

That Davidson would NOT lose a home game? And with the RBC Center pretty close to home, and with the UNC fans rooting the kids from just north of Charlotte, they proved me right. I hope the Curry kid stays in school, because I think anyone who can afford it should get a college education, and Dell's boy doesn't need the money like some kids who need to jump to the NBA as soon as possible to escape poverty at home. But I wouldn't blame him if he parlayed this NCAA tournament performance into a big payday.

Dell Curry was a class act as a Charlotte Hornet, doing a lot of charity work around the community during his playing days, and I think it's a cool tribute to his dad that Stephen Curry wears #30. I think his jumper is an even better tribute. Wisconsin will have trouble with this team, who has momentum on their side and possession of the longest winning streak in the country. But even if the Wildcats fall to Wisconsin, or to Kansas in the next round, they've had a great run and should be proud.

But I'd really like to see Stephen Curry match up against Tyler Hansbrough in the Final Four. Wouldn't you?

Sunday, March 23, 2008


You just have to play well enough to stay out of your own way. Last night all I kept trying to remember was "don't force it, as loose as this game is you don't have to get creative, just stay calm and you'll get paid off." And for most of the night I managed to do just that, netting myself a 5x buyin profit by the end of the evening, by far my best performance ever in our home game (I've made 5x my buyin before, but since I took the cap off the buyin, that particular variable has increased, so while the multiplier my not have been my largest ever, the cash certainly was).

It started with the tournament, where I actually went on a rush and put myself in position early to crush the whole event, before giving away most of my stack when tryig to force action. It was a night of huge hands, as T flopped quads on the second hand of the night. Someday we'll convince her that it's okay to bet out and have everyone fold, rather than checking the river with quads and not getting anymore money in the pot anyway.

I had pretty good table position, with a couple of looser players to my left, and one tighty in Dan. When Dan raised preflop and I looked down at pocket sevens, I decided to take a look at a flop. His raise wasn't really significant as the blinds were still very low in relation to our stacks, so I could peel off a call and dump if I missd without doing myself any real harm. The flop came down K-J-7, pure gold for me since there was a bunch of hands with a King in them that I figured were in Dan's range. He led out at the pot, I raised him 3x his bet, he re-raised me then insta-called when I went all in over the top. I actually was concerned at the insta-call because Jacks and Kings were also certainly in his range, but he was packing K-J, missed his four outs and graciously agreed to deal for us while waiting for the cash game.

Jim the Knife was I think my next victim when we got it all in with his Queens in trouble against my Kings. Not only was he drawing to two outs, I hit both of my outs by the turn, making the second set of quads in the first hour of the tournament! Not really much he could do there, nobody in their right mind is gonna lay down Queens preflop to someone as loose as me.

I think BG was next to fall, and honestly I don't remember if I took him out or someone else, but I think it was me. I don't remember any of the circumstances of his demise, just that he was amazingly card dead all through the tournament, and by the time he picked up something to work with, he didn't have enough chips to fight back from the brink.

Special K was next to fall, setting up the cash game and becoming my only suckout of the tournament. I raised preflop with J-10 sooted, because I was the big stack and I could, and he went all in for not even enough for a legal raise more with K-10. I called, and a Jack in the window ended his tournament. See above paragraph re:BG & card dead for a description of K's tourney as well.

I think Big Nick took out Nate in circumstances I don't remember, then T went out on the bubble. I don't remember her exit either, because I was busy kicking myself under the table for my first big mistake of the night. We limped in 4 ways to see an all-diamond flop, 10-high. I was holding J-10, with no diamonds, and called Dave's flop bet. The turn was an offsuit blank, and I went all in over the top of him. He called with his flopped baby flush and I was crippled.

I should have known better on so many levels. I should have known that Dave is not laying down a small flush to me, because he thinks I'm always bluffing, regardless of the fact that I had not bluffed all night up to that point. I also never should have committed significant chips to the pot with top pair, mediocre kicker on a flushy board. I shouldn't have committed anything to the pot with top pair, mediocre kicker on the turn after getting called on the flop. I made my one stab at the pot and was too stupid to let it go. That was the hand that cost me the tournament, I'm pretty sure. With 4 people left, I had at least 40% of the chips in play, and didn't have to play any hands. But I tried to amp up my aggression on the bubble with a calling station left in the game, and it cost me my win.

Anyway, after T busted we were in the money, and I chipped up a bit until I picked up Kings for the third time in the tournament. Dave min-raised preflop in my small blind, and I thought for a moment before smooth-calling. It was not the correct play, and I knew it was not the correct play because I knew as I called that I was not going to get away from my hand if an Ace hit the board, but I wanted to double up and finish this thing off quickly so I could get into the cash game.

Well, I managed half of that, anyway. I was right, an Ace hit the board, I went over the top of Dave's bet, he called with A-10, proving once again that I have no fold equity with that player, and I was busto. In hindsight, he was the big stack and wasn't going to lay down A-10 preflop anyway, so even if I shoved it was going to be betting my stack that an Ace didn't hit, without the added possibility of getting a bunch of Nick's chips if an Ace didn't come but he hit a smaller piece of the flop. But while I was busto, I was busto with profit, breaking at least a year-long streak of not cashing in BG's tourneys.

So I took my profits and added a couple bucks to them and sat in on the cash game. I don't remember too many individual hands, except that I was playing extremely loose preflop and fairly tight post-flop. If I was within two seats of the button (which was most hands since we were playing 8-handed) I didn't even look at my cards preflop before limping in. It was bullshit, but it worked most of the time. It curbed my natural aggression on the flop and allowed me to pick up some pots by accidentally trapping people on the turn because I never looked at my hand until someone fired at the pot. As the hour got later, the chances to do that bullshit grew fewer, as most hands got raised preflop.

The tournament had ended and Big Nick had overcome a massive chip deficit to win the thing, so he joined our cash game table. We were pretty happy with this, as while Nick is one of the better tournament players in our little coffee klatch, he's a little weaker in the cash game side of things. So he had splashed around in a few pots and was down to about 40 units in front of him when I looked down at the Hammer. I had not dropped the Hammer all night, because I only play the Hammer in tournaments with a bunch of bloggers, and not in my home game. But there had been a sick number of Hammer flops coming down, so I figured I'd hit one. I reraised Big Nick, and he made the call. Flop missed me completely, but I fired out about $10 into about a $13 pot. Nick called, and I picked up a deuce on the turn. I fired another $15, and he looked like he really wanted to fold before finally calling. River was a blank and he checked to me. I bet out about $11, enough to put him all in, and he called. My typical response when called on the river with the Hammer is "Shit." So I tabled my Hammer, and he looked back at his cards before finally mucking. Most powerful hand in poker.

I picked up AK a couple of times through the cash game, and invariably it was against Jim. In the first hand he raised preflop to $2.50 (it's technically a .25/.50 game) and I popped him to $6. He called and we saw a flop with a lot of pretty diamonds on it. Except I had no diamonds. There were only the two, so I fired $10. Jim called, then checked the non-diamond turn. I put him on the flush draw, which is a pretty good guess 8 hands out of 10 with Jim, and fired $15. He made the call, and the river brought the third diamond. By this point I had unimproved AK, but he checked to me again. I fired $20 and he thought for a moment before laying it down. I have no idea what he had, and thought better of showing my bluff. I did lie about it and tell him I had an overpair to the board, but I doubt he believed me anyway. I tend to tell the truth about my hand if I'm in the hand and decide to chat, but lie about it afterwards if I'm not called. I wonder why that is?

Anyway it wasn't very long after that when I picked up AK again when Jim raised preflop to $2.50, so I made it $6 again. We were heads-up to the flop, and I whiffed again. Flop came down J-Q-7 with two spades, and of course I didn't have any spades. Jim checked, I fired, and this time he mucked his A-7 face up. I showed the AK this time, because I felt like it, but then decided to only show if called for the rest of the evening, because I really do think I give away too much information this way. Most of the folks in my home game don't pay any attention to the information I'm giving, but it's a bad habit nonetheless.

Special K was on my immediate right, his favorite seat because he gets his straddle for 1/2 price once per orbit, and my favorite seat for him because I get out of a lot of flops that way, because typically if he's interested in his hand, he's raising to $3.50 preflop. So I can get out of a lot spots that I don't like just by having him on my right elbow. He had a bad habit last night of picking up big hands when someone else had a monster, so he was getting re-raised a bunch. I did it when I picked up Aces against him. Three of us saw the flop, which didn't include an Ace, but didn't improve anyone else's hand enough to allow them to call me, either. So I was stacked pretty well going into our Omaha round, because I'd been making change for folks as they rebought, and I had developed a decent little stack of black chips in front of me. Black chips are $20 in our game, not $100. I wish.

So we switched to mixed games at midnight, and I spent an orbit getting killed in Stud Hi, then an orbit treading water and raking one huge pot in $2/4 O8, before making the comment that our game played smaller when we played NL O8. BG took that as a challenge, so when it was time for last orbit, he called an orbit of Pot Limit O8.

For the record, I said our game plays smaller at No Limit O8. Pot Limit makes it too easy to just say "pot" rather than thinking about a bet amount, and before you really have a clue what you're doing you've fired out a $50 bet.

Special K was doing his impersonation of a nut peddler, which is pretty good since he is a nut peddler, and he made a serious comeback in the O8 rounds. I repaid BG's favor from last week by quartering him in a hand where we chopped the nut low with the wheel and my straight went to the 6 for the high. That pot ended up pretty sickly large, just in sheer mass of chips. I think that was in the limit rounds, though. I picked up at least 2 $100 pots in that last orbit, and the first one was a case of figuring my outs and essentially being forced to make the right call. I had 10-J-5-4 single suited, and limped. Because everyone was limping, because we were 5-handed, it was late, and that's how our game plays PLO8.

Flop comes down Q-9-3, and I check. BG bets pot, which is $2.50. Jim calls, Special K calls, and I call. Turn brings a 2, and I now have two open-ended straight draws, the board shows no flushes yet, although I think a diamond draw was out there, and I have a mediocre low draw. I don't remember the precise action, but somehow the math worked out that after I checked, BG bet, Jim called, and it was $20 to me. There was right at $80 in the pot, and a whole bunch of cards that gave me the nuts left in the deck. So I called. The river brought a 9 that didn't make a flush, so after Special K checked I thought for a minute to confirm that I had the nuts, and bet pot. No callers, and I raked my first $100+ pot of the night.

My next one came on the last hand of the night, as Jim and I got it all in on the flop after some decent action. Four of us saw the flop, and I flopped middle set with Queens with a redraw to the diamond flush and a low draw on a board of Q-A-2. I bet pot, Jim repotted, and I reraised him all in. He called and he was drawing to a gutty for a wheel and the nut low with 3-4-x-x, and the turn gave me Quad Queens. The 2 on the river killed his low, and left him busto as I raked in my final +$100 pot of the evening.

I didn't do anything spectacular all night except stay out of my own way. I get into trouble when I try to get cute. Like I said to Special K in the middle of one hand when I hit top pair, top kicker with AK, I had been playing a pretty straightforward ABC game all night. If I had a good draw or good cards, I probably fired. If I missed, I folded. I didn't have to try to make too much happen, because you don't have to make too much happen when you're actually getting the cards and the calls. So a good night, making up for what I gave away last week by playing like an idiot.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Emotional Brackets and non-upsets

So I admit it, having Winthrop getting to the Sweet 16 was a little enthusiastic, but the image of my alma mater scoring another upset in the first round and then taking out Notre Dame in round 2 for two years running was just too sweet to pass up. I ignored the fact that this year's Winthrop Eagles were nothing close to last year's Winthrop Eagles, and needed every bit of help they could grab in the Big South tournament to make the Dance, much less pull off a win. So that piece of bracket is shot to shit.

Not NEARLY as blown up as the piece that had Clemson playing Duke for the National Championship, however. I wasn't counting on two teams falling to the #5 curse, wherein every year at least one #5 seed loses to a #12 seed. I picked Drake correctly to fall victim to Western Kentucky, and figured I was safe, especially with the run the Tigers put on in the ACC tournament, falling just a Hansbrough-hair shy of knocking UNC off for the ACC title. But no, the #5 curse claimed the Tigers, and I'm pretty close to toast in the NCAA bracket pool. Oh well, I was playing with NFL pool money, anyway.

But the semi-emotional, semi-logical pick that I made that stood well for me was Davidson beating Gonzaga in the RBC center in Raleigh in the first round. Let me clarify - if your entire student body can drive to the game, fit comfortably in the arena without filling the lower level, and make it home after the game before curfew, you have a slight home court advantage. There was no way that Davidson lost this game at home. Because it was a home game, even 3 hours away from campus. With the love the NCAA tourney fans have for an underdog (a role Gonzaga has to appreciate, since they were wearing the glass slipper not too many years ago) and the fact that it's a home game, there was no freakin' way that Davidson, behind their lights-out homegrown superstar Stephen Curry (for NBA fans, his dad's Dell Curry, who was one of the early stars for the Charlotte Hornets and never left town when he left the game) was not going to claim their first NCAA win in my lifetime.

And they did. And that, children, is why we love this ridiculous game and this ridiculous, overpriced, overhyped tournament where the coaches make millions while the players play for free. Because a couple times a year, concentrated into a couple weeks in March, Cinderella gets to go to the dance and stick a big spike heel in Prince Charming's nutsack.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

So I've been known to lie...

But I read once that an actor is nothing but a liar with a good memory.

Judging by the 1 email per minute rate of response I'm getting from my mass email about the potential for a blogger gathering this summer, I think it's safe to say that you folks were just waiting for me to sack up and put on my kitten-herding uniform again.

So here's the deal - there will be a blogger gathering in Las Vegas the weekend of June 6-10. Rooms are up to you, because I'm not guaranteeing 75 nights on my credit card, but the IP will likely hook you up with a cheap rate.

There will almost certainly be a tournament that Saturday. It will very likely be later in the day than previous events, due to a competing event at our host site. Yeah, something about a Deep Stack Extravaganza tying up a bunch of tables.

Yep, that means I think we're gonna be back at the Venetian. That's pending confirmation, but it looks good so far. Other bits of festivities will be drawn up as time moves forward.

See you fuckers in 3 months.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


So I was poking around on usairways website and realized that I've passed the 25,000 mile mark for frequent flier miles. That means that if I time things perfectly, I can get a free ticket.

June 5-9 counts. As of today. Subject to change without notice as they probably keep all of two of those tickets available.

So anybody wanna get together and drink for a weekend in Vegas? Like I said before, I won't organize another big tournament, but I could be persuaded to organize some serious drinking.

You know how to contact me if you wanna go.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

March Album of the Month - Lost Boy by Bleu Edmondson

As promised, here's the first in hopefully a series of album reviews from what I'm listening to lately.

Bleu Edmondson's Lost Boy is the best album I've heard so far this year, and has all the earmarks of being one of my lasting favorites for some time to come. I'd never heard of this guy before I heard his song "Finger on the Trigger" on XM-12 (which, by the way, if you don't have XM radio yet, it's worth the subscription price just to get Rogue Calls from 12-2 every workday). I immediately put the song name down on my list of stuff to download, and after giving it a couple of listens decided to pick up the whole album.

Edmundson is a writer. A real one. His songs evoke the desolate imagery of someone who's had his heart ripped out, stomped on, had mescal poured all over it, then set on fire in the desert and finally buried in a shallow grave somewhere a thousand miles from anywhere happy. But there's still a feeling of redemption in the album, like somebody who's been through the fire and come out tempered.

If you take a little of Robert Earl Keen's dust-blown Texas rhythms, mix in some of Bruce Springsteen's rock n' roll hooks, and then throw in the vibe of a good Otis story about heartache and soul-searching, you get Lost Boy.

My favorite song on the album is by far "Resurrection," because you just can't go wrong with lyrics like this -

Cheap perfume and cheaper whiskey
She winked at me when she said last call
And when the parking lot was empty
We made love in a bathroom stall
With "Jesus Is Love" written on the wall

That paints a picture as well as Darrell Scott or David Childers, but Edmondson has better rock n' roll jam than either of those boys, who also number among my favorite songwriters.

"Finger on the Trigger" is a ripping rocker of a story about a guy sitting in a parking lot just one step shy of blowing his brains out.

Cause I lost my job, my bills are getting bigger...
Crying baby, I'm bout to lose my mind
Hundred dollar habit, ain't got a penny...
Woman ran off with a friend of mine...
Can't keep a job... too fucked up...
DHS is bout to take my kids
Trying to get well, keep getting sicker...
Sitting in the parking lot, finger on the trigger.

The song takes you there, sitting on the cheap split vinyl of that poor bastard's 1978 Chevy Impala in a Huddle House parking lot in the middle of Buttfuck, Texas looking out over the flat expanse of dirt with nothing coming to you but another sunrise that promises another big pile of nothing. Edmundson's songs take you inside the heart and head of his protagonist, and let's you feel something with his songs, from the despair of "Finger on the Trigger" or "Another Morning After the Night Before" to the hope of "Resurrection."

"Another Morning After" is another track I really like, as it evokes to me the same feelings as Jason Boland's song "Proud Souls" (check him out, too). It's got a feeling like a modern-day "Sunday Morning Coming Down," and really just sounds like a hangover. I get a little bit of cottonmouth just listening to it.

It's not all horizon-gazing drinking songs, that's just where my tastes gravitate to. "American Saint" and "You call it Trouble" are old-fashioned rock songs, with catchy beats and good choruses. But for me, nothing beats the dirty grit of a bathroom fuck story or a good gut-wrenching get drunk and think about life song like "Another Morning After."

So that's what's in heavy rotation on my iPod for the month of March. Definitely one of the best albums I've picked up in the past couple of years, right up there with Reckless Kelly was Here and Cross Canadian Ragweed's Back to Tulsa: Live and Loud at Cain's Ballroom. Yeah, you should buy those, too.

I hate that crap

I just had to send an email to my niece telling her I won't be coming to Boston for her college graduation, so I'm sure she'll be disappointed. Next I'll be sending an email to a certain BALCO-labs-fueled poker blogger telling him I won't be joining him in Vegas to celebrate the advent of his oldness.

This fiscal responsibility thing sucks ass.

But these are the correct decisions long-term. My tax bill for 2007 is a little more than I expected, and the flight to Boston for 3 (me, Suzy and my sister) plus hotel is a little more than I can swing without piling up more shit on my credit cards right now. Ditto Vegas. And I've worked for the past couple months at trying to eliminate debt, so I can't allow myself to accumulate more debt for fun stuff right now.

Accumulating more debt for a heating system, new windows, a new stove and a new back door are all more or less necessities, especially considering that I think the $20K I'm looking at putting into new windows and a central heating and A/C system in the Casa de Falstaff will repay itself in cash within ten years. Yes, my heating situation in the winter is so bad that I think if I install windows and an A/C system I can likely see close to $2K a year in savings.

So the Falstaff party tour is on hold due to an impending sense of fiscal responsibility. Jebus, I sound like a Republican. Not one of the Rove/Bush Republicans, but a real one. I am becoming more fiscally conservative, because I've decided that I like money. A lot. And I like it more when I have more of it. So that's what I'm concentrating on right now, saving more money and taking care of things on the home front. Not to mention the craziness that is my business travel.

And by the way, I think Nashville may be the coolest town I've ever spent not nearly enough time in. I'm looking forward to my next trip up there, and it doesn't hurt that I've got a couple of great friends like Mr. & Mrs. Spaceman to hang with.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Summer Gathering?

So I've gotten several emails asking me for details about the summer blogger gathering, and the truth is, I don't have any. I had pretty much decided to retire from the blogger organizing gig after this past December, and I'm not even sure I'm going to make it to Vegas this summer. If I go out for the WSOP at all, which is pretty questionable at this point, it will be early in June, before my rehearsals for 12th Night get too absolutely ridiculous.

Also, the Venetian is unlikely to serve as a host for us in June, since they will be having their Deep Stack Extravaganza during the WSOP, and there aren't many other venues that are acceptable to us any more.

So I guess what I'm asking is - who wants to organize the summer blogger gathering? 'Cause I can't even promise attendance right now, much less organization. I will certainly try to attend, because I miss all you guys and gals, but work has kept me on the road a lot lately, and once I get a chance to decompress a little I want to spend some time hanging with the wife and riding my bike.

I would like to go out for a little while around June 7-9 and see everyone, and I'm happy to organize some loose activities (read as: this is where we'll get drunk tonight) if folks want to hang, but I'm not into setting up another private tournament. So lemme know if someone wants to take up the reins of herding the kittens and setting up a tourney, or if you guys just wanna get together and party and drink that first weekend of June.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Connections, and missing them

So the blogger most famously known as 130 lbs. of Fury is in the area, but due to family commitments (his, none of my family has been committed lately, no matter how deserving) we're not gonna be able to get together for food this time around. I try to fatten up the skinny bastard whenever he comes through, but so far, it's not taking.

And one of the main reasons I can't eat dinner with him Wednesday night, is because, social butterfly that I am, I already have plans for dinner in the next state over with my dear friends the Spacepeople. Spaceman and Mrs. Spaceman are going to be my congenial tour guides through some of Nashville's gastrointestinal delights as I prepare for my meeting the next morning. Hopefully they'll be gentle and I'll be sober by my 10 AM meeting.

Yeah, just a couple of days after I drive home from Tennessee, I'm driving even further into the state. The guy I need to meet was out of town last week when I was just a two-hour drive away, so I'm driving 7 hours to meet with him on this project. Yeah, it's that good a project, and he requested our company specifically from the manufacturer, so it's a given that I'm gonna make the drive.

Someday I'll get back to playing poker, but lately I've been playing with money, and today I got some great news. My mortgage called me and told me that the house was appraised at $40K more than we paid for it 9 years ago, and my refi is approved and will come in around $200 less per month than I'm paying now, even with switching from a 30 year note to a 15.

Yes, my interest rate was that bad.

Really, really bad.

So I might actually be able to refi for enough cash to be able to put central heating and air conditioning in this joint, and maybe, just maybe, if the stars all align properly and I hold my mouth just right, replace at least some of the windows as well. That would dramatically reduce our heating bill, as electric baseboard heaters are most kindly described as somewhat inefficient. So that possibility is on the horizon, and those home improvements would be very cool (and warm at appropriate times).

And the theatre thing is starting to kick back up. I start rehearsals tomorrow night for The Diary of Anne Frank at our local community theatre. I'm doing lights and Suzy is doing costumes, and she's way farther along than I am. But it also takes a longer time frame to costume a show than it does to design lights, so that's normal. I hang and focus Saturday, program the show Sunday morning, and we have first tech rehearsal Sunday night. I'm done with my part by opening night, which is nice, but it's a very different vibe than when I act or direct because I'm coming in at the end when all the other members of the team have had weeks of working together, and I'm in and out in a few days. But the check always clears, so I don't really have any gripes.

And before long we'll be having auditions for our summer shows. This year I'm directing Twelfth Night, and Chris is directing Richard III, both are among my favorite shows, so I'm looking forward to the summer.

And there's a new feature coming to PokerStage. I'm going to start reviewing albums I really like, and books I've recently read. Not just to boost links to my affiliate deal, but because I think there's enough people out there who like the same type of music and books that I do that there might be an audience.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

SETC wrap

I've seen a lot of old friends, been to a couple of good workshops, played the role of the gadfly in a couple of meetings, and drank somewhere in the neighborhood of two dozen black raspberry martinis, provided by the kind staff at the Chattanoogan Hotel bar. I'm friggin' exhausted and have two receptions left tonight before my last board meeting and the six-hour drive home tomorrow. I thought I was going to have a nice break in my travels and at least a month of sleeping in my own bed, but now I find that I have an overnight to Nashville next week. Spaceman, call me, let's do dinner next Wednesday.

I'll have more later when I've had a little time to process everything.

Friday, March 07, 2008

It was 14 years ago...

That Cedric, Traci and I decided to pile in the Impala and drive down to Savannah, GA with no hotel reservation, no conference registration, only the barest idea of how to put together a resume, and absolutely no clue how to network. We were the only three from our college that had any interest in going to SETC, and we were only going because Blair said it was a good thing to attend and our costumer Jen said she was going.

So off we went to SETC for the first time, and that has made all the difference. Somewhere along getting lost in Savannah a couple of times, sharing a room with Cedric and Traci and sliding my half-assed resume under a dozen doors, I fell in love with this conference. I took a couple workshops, met a few people, and Jen introduced me to Bill Rackley, who gave me one of the most valuable pieces of advice I've ever had. He said "always have breakfast in the hotel, and always meet people at breakfast. They're off guard and you can make some real connections at breakfast." He's right, and I've made a ton of friends over breakfasts and lunches (and even more at the bar) at this conference over the years.

There are tons of great SETC memories for me, some of which really should never see the light of day for the safety of all of us involved. But there was a sing-along in the hotel lobby one year where none of us could remember the words to any song, there was the year I threw a margarita party in my room, then moved it to Walt's room after we were thrown out of mine, then to Amy's room after we were thrown out of Walt's. Imagine 20 drunks parading through the hotel with liquor, cups, three ice buckets and a blender in tow. That was us.

I met Barbizon at this conference my second trip to SETC, and by the time the next one rolle around, I worked here. This is my 15th consecutive trip to this conference, and there are a lot of faces that I see here every year, and no matter where the conference is held, it feels a little like coming home. It's good to be back, hangover and all.

By the way, if in Chattanooga, I recommend staying at the Chattanoogan, and drinking the Black Raspberry Martinis until the room spins.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Weekend Update

From the end of the weekend...

Played cards last night with the usual suspects. Jim the Knife hosted since Suzy asked that we not have the game here for a couple weeks so she can finish a few projects. I managed to double up on the evening, largely through no fault of my own. I picked up some big hands that hit and made a couple of bluffs that didn't get called. I did play a little tighter than usual, but having position on BG and Special K allowed me to collect the appropriate information preflop and get away from some hands that I likely would have played had I not seen their action before making my decision.

My profits too a dive at the end of the session when I made a stupid zero-sum move in O8. I'm blaming my move on the fact that it was late, but really, it's not like I haven't played much longer sessions before and not imploded on the end. I picked up 3457 rainbow in middle position, and everyone limped in. There's no point in raising preflop at that table in o8, because at least 2/3 of the players will call. So no one did. I flopped the world, A24, but there were 2 spades. BG checked to me, and I fired $3 into a $3 pot.

This is where my friends make it hard to tell them that I have a strong hand. Several of them are making decisions to call based on the size of the bet in real dollars, not in relation to the pot. Now $3 isn't a lot of money, but it's a pot-sized bet. That means nothing in this game. I knew this, and didn't really care if anyone folded or not, because in my head, I had at worst half this pot locked up, and was in decent shape to scoop if no spade comes.

Remember, I never claimed to be a good Omaha player. I have a slight edge over more than half the field in my home game, but if you think I'm actually any good at the game, you're more deluded than the 350-lb woman wearing the "You can't touch this" T-shirt.

Of course a spade does come on the turn, and I'm not happy, but I fire $10 into the pot to find out where I am. Note that this is now significantly less than a pot-sized bet, but because $10 is more real money, many people who called a pot-sized bet on the flop folded to a less than pot-sized bet on the turn.

I know, Jim. You call it gambling. But calling small pot-sized bets with bad hands (not that I know what you had in this hand) is a major leak in some people's game, and if they can get out of the habit of thinking in real dollar amounts and focus on the relationship between the bet and the amount of money in there, then they will lose the same amount of money, but more slowly.

I got two one caller in BG, who was on my immediate right. I figured him for the flush, but thought it quite possible that he didn't have the nut flush, since I'd seen him check-call with a mediocre flush for the high a few hands before, and hoped that maybe I could push him off the hand on the river.

River was a blank, BG checked, I fired $20, and he remarked "I was trying to be nice," and raised me $40. Because I'm not a good Omaha player, I wasn't smart enough to realize that he also could have flopped a wheel and he may have been check-calling because he thought we might be chopping the low.

Which we were. So because I'm not a good Omaha player (and helped by the fact that he checked on every street, but that's just good play against me, since I'm fairly aggressive and BG's been playing against me for a couple years now), I tossed in $40, only to see $10 of it come back when he table the nut flush and the nut low, quartering me.

It was a huge brain fart on my part, because several times over the course of the night I had remarked that someone was making a play that would only be called by a hand that beat them, and then I went ahead and did the same thing myself. Nice. Good thing I never claimed to be a good Omaha player. Or frankly, a very good poker player altogether. But I don't have to be a good poker player, I just have to be better than a couple of people at the table, and last night a couple of our boys were running very bad, so I took slight advantage. Slight. But profit is profit, and my streak of live game wins continues.

I know. But I'm intentionally writing about it now, months before I go play anything at any casino-level stakes again, so when I get crushed by the poker gods, it will be in my home game and for less money. So as long as the poker gods don't read blogs, my plan is safe.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

On the road again...

Monday. Not yet, but Monday I head to Raleigh for the day, then cruise to Chattanooga on Tuesday by way of Nashville for SETC. SETC is the Southeastern Theatre Conference, one of the largest theatre gatherings in the country each year. Over 800 little actor types will audition for roles in dozens of summer-stock theatres, and dozens of college faculty are roaming the conference each day. There are also hundreds of high school kids auditioning for college scholarships and college kids auditioning for grad school. That leads to tons of high school teachers roaming around as well.

That means it's one of the most profitable shows each year for my company, as it's very cheap to exhibit at, and the return is pretty good. We typically find one or two projects each year, with a price tag of over $100K, which more than pays for the show. So it's a good business decision to be there.

And it always feels like home to me. I got my job largely because of connections I made at SETC a long time ago, and I'm not alone in our organization. There are people that I only ever see at the conference, people that have become great friends of mine over the years. It's probably my favorite show each year.

So why am I not more excited about it?

I've been asking myself that for weeks, and finally hit on a viable reason early this week. It's because I've been traveling so much lately. Now, I can't hold a candle to BG or Special K, or Pauly and Change100, or some of the real road warriors I know, but this year has had a ton of travel for me, compared to previous years.

One good barometer is my Marriott Rewards membership. I'm just a lowly Silver member, which means I stay more than 10 nights each year in a Marriott hotel. Last year my travel was at a all-time low, and it took me until December to book 10 nights in a Marriott hotel. That includes several nights booked for one of my out of town managers who was in Charlotte to meet with me.

It's March 1, and I've spent 7 nights in a Marriott, 2 in a Super 8, 1 in a Wingate, 4 in a Crown Plaza and 3 in the Imperial Palace, with 5 more hotel nights next week. I'm pretty sure that math works out to around double my total 2007 hotel nights by the end of the first week of March, 2008. So that's kinda put a damper on my typical excitement about SETC. Usually, it's my first real travel since the LDI trade show in the fall. This year, it's just another week sleeping in an unfamiliar bed. What I'm really looking forward to is the week after SETC, when my schedule can return to normal, I can get my diet back into some semblance of regularity, and it starts warming up enough down here to ride in the weekends or even after work for a little while.

My fitness has slipped quite a bit during the winter and I'm trying very hard to balance work, which has picked up enough that my entire team is remarking that it feels like a different place to work, my writing, which has also been pretty steadily busy so far this year (although the next couple of months looks pretty lean as we head into the Series), exercise, which has fallen off to an embarrassing degree, and family time, which will be non-existent until Suzy and I get done with Diary of Anne Frank the end of this month.

This is pretty much how everyone lives, but I've coasted for a while on work and now with some renewed energy I'm seeing my department really take off, which means more travel, which means more interaction with customers (which is the part of the job I'm really good at), but it also means adjustments in my schedule, which always take a while to get used to.

But here's a banner fucking headline for you. In February 2008 I experienced no significant death in my immediate family and spent no time sitting by anyone's hospital bed. That breaks a streak of amazingly bad Februarys that was 2 years deep. I just hope fate wasn't all confuddled by the Leap Year and it all goes to shite in March.