Posted in September 2006

Gonna Break My Heart

This, in 1000 words, is what it means to be a fan of Houston sports teams. Play like crap most of the season, then come from seemingly nowhere and have a real shot at winning the division, only to then choke at the last minute or totally blow it in the actual playoffs. Earlier this week, I knew it was possible they’d win the division, but also knew it wasn’t very probable. And then they go and win nine games in a row, building up that little thing called Hope, which will probably come crashing down. Kinda like how a certain football team I know will go out and score a touchdown on their first drive of the game, and then apparently fall asleep for the remaining quarters. Here’s hoping the Astros can keep it up, and that the Cardinals get lost on the way to the ballpark. [And what the hell?? 1/2 a game behind??? Math is dumb.]

Speaking of football, the UT campus today was abuzz with excitement over the game tomorrow. We’re playing the mighty Bearkats of Sam Houston State…wait, what? You’ve never heard of them? You have no idea what the fuck a Bearkat is? Where have you been???

I understand why small schools want to play big ones – they get money and exposure they would never get. And I understand why big schools want to play them. But I can’t help but laugh at how this town really thinks they kick ass when we take down the University of North Texas (known for its music department), or Rice (known for its smartypants). And SHSU?? My parents went to SHSU. And despite what my mother (the school administrator) and father (the former TDC exec) will tell you, people only go to SHSU to be a teacher or work for the prisons. I spent a great deal of time in Hunstville when I was growing up; for a long time I thought I wanted to follow in my parent’s footsteps and go to school there. Never knew they had a football team. Don’t know where they put it. But we’ll see them tomorrow, and I can’t help but laugh at the newspaper insert devoted to game analysis.

Yes, I’m a cynic. Can you blame me? I’m a Houston Texans fan people. I spend my Sundays on my couch alternating between yelling at the beautiful HD big screen, crying, or just falling asleep out of disgust. Unless it’s an away game, in which case I meet up with my fellow masochists and do all that at a local pub.

See, really, God owes me the Astros. Me and everyone else in Houston.

My real heartbreaker though is the morning I spent in the vet’s office, trying to determine what is wrong with my beloved Vegas. He’s not well, and we have no idea what the cause is, other than he ate something he shouldn’t have. He and my roommate’s dog spend a lot of time rooting around in the backyard (we joke about the truffles that must be there), so it’s highly possible he ate some foreign something. I’m not ruling out lizards or toads. He is by no means the agressive type, so I don’t really see him attacking something for the purpose of eating it, but he’s a dog. He’s been loaded up with fluids and drugs and so far there hasn’t been much improvement. If he’s not better by the morning, he’s going to have to go to the hospital, which neither one of us is looking forward to, but for somewhat different reasons. I have informed him that he is not allowed to leave me, and he usually listens pretty well, so we’ve got that going for us.

Poker has been played recently, believe it or not. As reading game theory on the treadmill proved to be a bit difficult, I resumed my previously inspired by Daddy practice of propping the laptop up on the treadmill and hitting the limit tables. My win rate at the Full Tilt 1/2 limit games is awesome terrible, just terrible. I should really stop.

And on the question of the blogs and the dying, I have some thoughts. First off, what the hell are all you people doing listening to F-Train in the first place? He’s a lawyer from New York. That shit will get you killed in Texas. Second off, I liked BG’s thoughts, but then again, I always do, because BG pretty much rulez. Third, I offer you my three simple rules for happy blogging: 1) Read whatever you want. 2) Write whatever you want. 3) Don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about #1 or #2. So there you go. Go forth and be happy. Personally, this site no longer pleases me, because it’s kinda ugly. (Don’t lie. It has no feelings, it’s OK.) It will change soon, just as soon as Chris and I have free time, and everyone’s favorite geek returns from abroad, where I have worked out a highly complex chocolate chip cookie for WordPress migration exchange.

I’m planning a trip next month to celebrate my 30th birthday, and while Vegas seems like the natural and obvious choice, I’m seriously considering elsewhere. I’ve also considered Vegas for Thanksgiving, as I’ve never seen Vegas in the fall. And then, of course, there is the traditional WPBT winter trip to Vegas.

*ahem*
Was someone going to get on planning that?
*cough*

I guess this is what happens when you (apparently) do a good job planning the event, and also make the mistake of letting it slip that you enjoy doing such things, huh? [My mental illness has long been established.] I am, of course, happy to do so and will, unless someone wants to take the reins right now. Otherwise, we’re getting close to go time and I need to start e-mailing and calling. While I would prefer January, it’s a bad time what with the PokerStars Carribean tourney and then Tunica, which I know several of you are planning on attending.

SO. Here’s hoping for a great weekend, full of beautiful weather, winning teams and healthy dogs. Unless of course you’re a Cardinals, Braves, or Dolphins fan; in which case I hope your weekend kinda sucks.

Online Poker is Rigged – Phil Ivey Edition

Phil Ivey has your bad beat story, like the rest of your poker game, completely crushed.

Don’t Lie

You’re thinking it too –

Do you Want to Play Questions?

(A rare cross-posting from Chrishanel.com)

Um, apologies to those subscribed to my RSS feed who were bombarded with every single one of the 98 images I uploaded yesterday to Flickr. I forgot I was auto inserting them into my feed. However, nobody’s complained, so maybe Feedburner was smart enough to know I was being a moron and thwarted my ignorance. Only you, the readers, can be sure of that. Maybe I should subscribe to my own feed.

Good news on the Orlando/apartment front – We found one we like, and it’s only two blocks away from where I lived the first time I was in Orlando as a resident, so I know it’s a good neighborhood and all will be well. I was not crazy about being that far away from DAVE School, but the reasons for that were the fact that the commute was a windy two-lane road with traffic problems. Apparently the Florida DOT prepared for this and turned the entire route into a four-lane wunderkid that deposited us at the apartment a lot quicker than usual. Problem solved.

On a seperate front, many of you that know me remember that I used to spend a large portion of my time acting in plays and hanging around the community theater. That died when all my time started going into filmmaking, and I never really got back. I got the chance to study improv, and got to make a few appearances in a couple groups, but appearing in a run of shows or doing some real theater had escaped my grasp for awhile.

This changed last week when my friend Nathan called me up, explaining his situation. A few months ago he had posted a bulliten announcing auditions for the show Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, which he was directing. I sent a smartaleck remark asking him to delay auditions a month until I could be in Florida, and didn’t think much more about it.

That was until this week, when we were out purchasing homestuffs, and a phone call from Nathan arrived, saying that he was having to play Guildenstern and was trying to act and direct at the same time. As this was insane, he needed help, and was asking if I would step in, with only 2.5 weeks to memorize the script. For those of you unfamiliar with R&G, the play is an absurdist retelling of Hamlet from the point of view of two of the minor characters, written by Tom Stoppard (the guy behind Shakespeare in Love). It involves a lot of comedy, very quick dialogue, and A LOT OF LINES TO MEMORIZE.
Due to the fact that it’s on my list of favorite plays ever written, and getting to play one of the leads is a huge opportunity, I said yes, and quickly ran to the local B&N to start getting the play in my head.

So, if you are in the Orlando area, or would care to somehow make yourself be in the Orlando area, come see the show! It’s running on the weekends between Sept. 22nd and Oct. 22nd along with performances of Hamlet, performed by the exact same cast! So yes, this will also be my first time performing straight Shakespeare. Ticket information and directions are available at the Theater’s website. It’s a small company, but it promises to be a lot of fun.

If you’ve seen the movie, I’m Tim Roth.

Yet another reason why IRC > Yahoo IM

If you got an IM appearing to be from me, sending you a link to look at pictures, please ignore it. If it’s too late, I recommend you change your Yahoo password. It doesn’t appear that the link is doing anything more than sending your user info and password to a Hotmail address for further IM spamming, but you might also want to run a virus and spyware check just to be on the safe side. Details on the phishing scam here.

The Answer

Is the answer to fly to PA on the 22nd? :)
Posted by: JoeSpeaker at September 13, 2006 11:49 AM

Sorry Mr. Speaker, it was not. I did strongly consider making the trip out, but work schedules + side projects + school + lame Southwest flight schedules = no Bash para mi. It’s all good though, as we Austin types have plans to gamboool it up that weekend locally. I’ll miss you guys tons, but I have to pass this time. But look for me to make a rare LA appearance next month!

So what was Scott’s answer to the trying out the new watch dilemma? For weeks (months?) now he’s been trying to get me to join him at a local card room. I’ve declined, as for the most part, I’m trying to be a good girl and play within my bankroll – a novel concept that I’ve never been one to adhere to. $100 crazy rebuy tournaments are not within that bankroll, and techincally neither are $1/$2 no-limit games. My bankroll has always been small; I started with just a couple hundred dollars. It’s grown nicely in recent months, but my robbing it for plane tickets and silly little things like rent depleted it fast. I have enough cash hidden under the mattress to easily cushion a $200 loss or two, but that’s not the point and defeats the purpose. So I always decline the game invites, rolling my eyes as my cell phone fills up with text messages calling me a “candy ass”.

Last Thursday though, I couldn’t get out of going to the game. I’m pretty sure all of you would kill for a boss that not only permits you to take off a few hours in the middle of the day to go play cards, but actually orders you to do so, and threatens termination if you disobey said order. The Kid arrived in the office earlier than normal, mere minutes before Scott and I were about to depart, and suddenly the three of us were headed out for an offsite meeting.

While legal interpretations are subject to change, the general populace reads the Texas law on poker games to say that if the house isn’t profiting from the game in any way, it’s not illegal. But it doesn’t take a legal genius to determine that many many people across the state do run games where the “house” is turning quite a profit. If the video camera over the front door didn’t clue you in that we had just entered such a place, the poker tables crammed in every available corner certainly would have.

While we waited for more players to arrive, Scott showed us around the club, pointing out the variety of free food, snacks, and drinks, and leading us to the lounge, where players can relax with a smoke and watch a bit of TV. A regular in this game, Scott gave us the run-down of the players we could expect to meet. After listening to his donkey tales, I said “Why does this sound like the kind of game where you can loose a buyin brutally and fast?”

Soon we got to meet the regulars Scott had warned us about, and witness the action for ourselves. Techincally, he warned us about all of them, and not a one of those warnings included the words “solid”, “good”, or “tough”. In the very first hand we played, the dealer ended up heads-up on the flop with the club owner, who bet out at an all baby flop. The dealer pondered for a while, announced he had an over-pair, and raised. The owner pushed all-in, causing the dealer to again announce he had an overpair, while I thought “That’s nice, but he has a set.” The all-in was called, the set was shown, and boom went $200.

It was by no means a tough game – not really tight, but not too crazy loose either. A raise was usually called by only two players, and a continuation bet would take it down, unless the Asian boy with the iPod was humming or singing, because then he had a hand. None of the players seemed real interested in playing the game correctly, save for the Jessie Camp look-alike in the one seat. From the moment he sat down, I had him pegged as a rocker-wannabe who was just here to blow off money. When he opened his mouth though, it all changed. With the voice of Huckleberry Hound, he spewed off odds and strategy, tales of games he’d played in elsewhere, and mostly wrong poker news. He did most of the talking at the table, and I spent most of it wondering how that voice came with that outfit. Scott completely disagrees with me, but I sense that Huck’s got a real desire to learn the game. In one hand, the table folded to him on the button, and he put in a modest raise. The small blind folded, and I in the big blind reraised with pocket jacks. It wasn’t a big raise – just a blind more than minimum. Huck considered the raise for a moment, then slowly mucked his hand, saying the raise was too high, he couldn’t call that. I didn’t say anything, first surprised that he would fold to such a puny raise; more surprised by the reason he gave for it. As the dealer shuffled for the next hand, I could hear Huck counting under his breath, and he then announced that it was a terrible fold on his part; he was getting a good price to call. I think he’s trying, but I also think his ego and general knowitallness stands a good chance of getting in the way.

Somewhere during the game, in between being dealt 9-2o for the tenth time and Scott telling me to get in the game more, it dawned on me why I don’t jump at the chance to get out to a poker game. It’s incredibly boring. I can play online for about twenty minutes before my mind starts to wander. Live, I can focus on the game, look for tells, make mental notes about who’s playing what for about an hour before I zone out, staring at the middle of the felt and spinning my card protector around my index finger. I think part of this is because I’m a wee bit ADD, but the major reason for it is that my poker game is really really boring. It’s a simple way to play, and one that makes money, but it’s hardly inspiring. I play on auto-pilot; folding bad hands unless the table has folded around to me, betting my draws when I know there’s a good chance I’ll take the pot right then, etc., etc., etc. Boring.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the game. But I’m nowhere near as obsessed with it as I once was, and oddly enough, it’s now that I really need to be. I’m a very easily bored person, and I’m notorious for crushing on people/things only to completely change my mind days, weeks, or months later. (The MGM Grand being the only crush with real staying power.) In short, I’m fickle and difficult, and prone to falling out of love with people or things the moment something better comes along. But unlike previous falling outs, I actually want poker and I to patch this one up. Sure, he’s a rotten bastard sometimes, but overall he’s pretty good, and I do like a challenge.

And that’s the key – it’s not a challenge to me to sit back and play ABC poker. There is nothing engaging, nothing creative, nothing new. I played ABC poker because that’s how I learned to play and it’s all I could play given the limits I was sitting at versus my bankroll. That’s no longer the case, but I haven’t awoken to that fact and started doing something about it.

That changes now. Well, actually it changes once I finish reading three chapters for my game theory class, get some sleep, go to work, study some more, take in a baseball game, and so on, but you get the point. The loose plan is to move some money around [most likely to Ford Motor Credit], leaving me with a bankroll that requires play in the micro limits, and then actually stick to those limits and work my way up again, focusing less on my cards and more on outplaying others, being a bit of a LAG, and learning to love my inner donkey; a bit of a remedial poker course if you will. Will I still donk off a few bucks playing $1/$2 donkey blogger Razz? Of course, because the entertainment value from seeing Drizz brick up on 6th hand after hand after hand is well worth it.

That’s the real goal, after all – to have fun with poker again. For some people fun is raking in chips on a regular basis. While I can’t deny the pleasantness of such, it’s not what gets me going about the game. I had the most fun with it when I was starting out, losing money but generally trying to figure it all out. So call this the search for the happy medium between Huckleberry Jesse, and those that would take money from him.

i hit the second deck and i spent my paycheck

It seems like all great summers have a theme – the Summer of Love, the Summer I Got My License, the Summer I Got Laid, the Summer I Spent in Cancun. It’s been years since I had a theme summer, but this past summer had several. The Summer of Vegas, the Summer I Was Sick All The Damn Time, the Summer I Grew Up. The theme that really sticks with me though, is the World Series of Jewelry.

For many years of my life, I wore a ring. The same marquise diamond mounted in 24-karat gold, and surrounded by diamond baquettes; always worn on the same finger. It came off only in times of necessity and was so fused with me that over a year after I took it off for good, I would still occasionaly reach for its ghostly presence on my hand, before remembering there was (rightly) nothing there.

Ironically enough for someone who made a business out of designing jewely, I’m not a big jewelry wearer. When in Vegas, I’ll take the time to fuss with earings, but at home the only time you’ll likely see me in a pair is on Texans game days. Knowing this about myself, along with my previously demonstrated ability to put a ring on day after day, I decided I wanted a ring to commerate my dream summer in Vegas at the WSOP. And I’d never ever gotten anything that came in a little blue box…

Shortly after his unfortunate bustout from the WSOP, Ryan announced he was heading where all tournament pros go after a big cash – Tiffany. Since the WSOP was over from my perspective, and I was wanting to make a trip there as well, I offered my driving services. Not yet having ridden in a car with me, Ryan accepted, and off to the Bellagio we went.

I had a fairly good idea of what I wanted, which is rare for my indecisive self, and had narrowed it down to two rings of the same design. Visually, I favored the larger one, but after trying them both on, I was back to square one. Like Goldilocks, one was too small, the other too large – Ryan described it as grandma-y, which is hardly what a woman on the cusp of her 30th birthday wants to hear when selecting an accessory. I remained at the counter, disappointed that the designs I liked so much just weren’t “me”.

But in addition to being a kick-ass poker player, Ryan’s also a great shopping buddy. While I stood at the counter internally debating, he lapped the store looking for something else he thought might appeal to me, and then returned with a fantastic, yet dangerous, suggestion: “What would look great, is if you got two of the small ones and stacked them. But don’t try it, because if you do, it’s going to look perfect, and then you’re going to have to get two of them.”

I would, of course, have completely ignored this advice, and we both knew it. So did the saleswoman, who had a second ring out and ready before he finished his warning. And as predicted, two stacked rings were absolutely perfect. A quick check of prices revealed that two small rings exactly equalled the price of the larger one I had intended on getting. Sold.

For weeks now, that ring has served as a constant tangible reminder of the amazing summer I had. It symbolizes a lot – good friends, growing, learning, and the place where I left my heart behind. A week ago, another reminder arrived.

Day 1C of the WSOP found me in the middle of the tournament floor, asking Dan and Jay Greenspan if they knew where Phil Gordon had been moved to. [Jay's reply: "I could tell you April, but then that would violate the terms of the restraining order."] I finally found him in a corner in the front quadrant of the room, but since his table wasn’t right on the rail as it had been previously, proper railbirding would have meant planting myself in the middle of the room – a move sure to get me hit in the head by an ESPN camera. (But what really stopped me was that it would have just been too obvious.)

Instead, I returned to the media room and then later made my way back to the tournament area, where I planted myself in the bleachers at the featured table. I was sitting next to a very drunk Marcel wannabe, and as we chatted about the notable bustouts and pro player updates, a gentleman sitting near us inquired about Phil Gordon. Having just passed a very upset looking Phil in the hallway, I relayed the information that he had sadly busted.

My new friend then introduced himself as Sebastiano Di Bari, the Managing Director for Sector Group US, and told me how he knew Phil – from his consultation in the design of a new watch that Sector Sport Watches was releasing soon. From the description he gave, I immediately recognized it as the watch Phil was wearing earlier in the day. In addition to having quad aces on the watch face, it has a removable bezel that is meant to be used as a card protector. Now any time the wearer found themself in an impromptu poker game, they were fully prepared. It’s a feature only a degenerate would come up with, and therefore it was no surprise when Sebastiano told me it was Phil’s idea. Sebastiano, who is a kind man as well as a very good marketer, told me he’d like to send me a watch as a gift. And true to his word, one arrived last week. It’s absolutely beautiful, though my father did remark several times that it was far too big for my dainty little wrist. (A fairly obvious ploy designed to get me to give it to him.)

It seemed a shame to let such an ingenious design go to waste by not trying it out, but schedule conflicts have pushed the next Austin blogger game out till later this month. Fortunately, the best boss in the world had just the answer…

Please Hold

In my assorted travels on campus today I noted several people dozing off at tables or falling asleep on the bus, the thud from their heads hitting the window awaking them briefly and keeping them from missing their stop. UT’s fall semester historically begins half-way in the week before Labor Day, giving the allusion of easing everyone back in to the school routine with a few weeks of light coursework. Only the freshman believe that to be the case, at least until they meet the cold reality in the eyes of professors who really don’t care that you’ve got other assignments due at the same time as theirs.

Yes, I’ve been busy, and as such haven’t had much time to play poker (save for an off-site meeting yesterday), but thoughts of it have found their way into my conscious, popping up only long enough to tease me into sitting down and developing them out.

Which I will do, very soon, or else I’ll continue to suffer from the too-tired-to-do-anything-yet-can’t-fall-asleep insomnia that has plagued me as of late.

Right now though, I’m off to Houston, where I get to take in the season opener for my beloved Houston Texans. As they are hosting the Eagles, CJ is driving in for the game, and I suggested a prop bet to Al, but he declined, saying he would feel bad taking it. CJ doesn’t have much faith in the Texans either, but I’m expecting my team to prove them wrong.

While I’m on the road, you need to head over to PokerNews and read the fantastic reporting that Amy Calistri and Tim Lavalli did into the WSOP chip count discrepancies. We all knew the counts were off, and all knew the reasons we were being given for it was bunk, but Amy and Tim actually took the time to break it all down and locate the cause of the problem. It’s a great piece, and definately a must-read.

When you’re done with that, I’ll meet you back here.

Review: Hunting Fish

The one-minute review:
Upon my arrival home from the WSOP, I had two books waiting for me – Hunting Fish and Phil Gordon’s Little Blue Book. I picked Jay’s first, fully aware that my poker crush had written the other. And despite being a fair amount of pokered-out, I couldn’t put it down.

The full review, originally posted at PokerBlog:

Despite our rapid acceptance of online poker and the ease with which it puts us in nearly every game/limit combination imaginable, most poker players still imagine themselves living the life of Doyle or TJ, hitting the highway in search of a game, chasing after the win that’ll make it all worthwhile. It’s a poker players dream – pack a suitcase, hit the ATM, and leave all responsibilites behind as you travel coast to coast to see if you’ve really got what it takes to play among the best.

For Jay Greenspan, the dream not only became a reality; it got sweeter when he sold the idea of a book chronicling his cross-country poker trek to a publisher. The result is a fantastic narrative about the successful search for truly terrible poker players, and the drive great players have to put themselves to the test.

Greenspan starts his trip as a man on a mission – travel from his home in Brooklyn to the $10/$20 no-limit Hold’Em game at the Commerce Casino in California. Along the way, he’d hit as many casinos and backroom cash games he could find in order to build the bankroll he’d need to take a seat at the Commerce game. Greenspan played at Foxwoods, in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, and sought out home games in South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas, changing the names of his hosts to preserve their privacy, and meeting a cast of characters undoubtably similar to the ones you find sitting across from you when venturing to the non-virtual felt.

The resulting book is more than just a diary of Greenspan’s travels and the players he encounters. We’re also given a look inside the mind of a poker player as Greenspan takes bad beats, deals with being far from home, and tries to grow his bankroll. Most poker books are full of hand histories and analysis designed to help players improve their games; they offer nothing to the poker widow wanting to get inside her husband’s head, or to the parents not quite sure why their daughter sees a prop bet in every box of crayons. The story in Hunting Fish will not only entertain those on the poker fringe, it will give them insight into the minds of those they now share with the game. Players will find benefit in seeing hands play out through another’s eyes and as a result will likely will pick up a few more tricks to add to their arsenal.

At the end of his journey, Greenspan didn’t find himself as expected, but the trip was still a success. He played some poker, made some money, put himself to the test, and came away with a truly great poker story.

Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for America’s Worst Poker Players is available now from St. Martin’s Press