I've been doing a little pre-Vegas personal psyche-up and stumbled across some of my old pictures. Then I stumble across pictures taken by Pauly, Al, Flipchip, Linda, and others. And then I just started getting silly.
So, here's what I've been doing with my day.
Disclaimer: Please don't be offended if you are not featured here. I realized early on that there was no way I was going to find a picture of everybody because:
a) Some of you people (ahem, Change100) are unreasonably afraid of cameras
b) Some of you are wanted in several states and/or provinces.
*Bloglines readers, click it on through.
And a few others I'm sure I stole from.
It was one of those nights where everything was on my side. My reads were on, the draws were coming in, and variance was giving me a neck massage. It was one of those nights where I felt smart, even if I was getting lucky. I was posting a decent win and thankful for it.
In fact, I was ready to call it a night and go home a modest winner.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The game was about to break and most of the money on the table sat in two stacks. Gucci Rick had about $900 in front of him. I had exactly $1,003.
And the rock.
You've likely played with the rock before. If not, it's an action-generating forced under-the-gun straddle by the holder of the rock--usually the amount of a straddle bound together by a rubber band. In this game, the rock was a metal ace of spades. It is thrown in the first pot of the night and then makes its way from player to player throughout the evening. In a short-handed game, the rock effectively moves the stakes up and makes the pots worth dragging.
Gucci Rick and I were having decent nights and more often than not, one of us had the rock. With the action tightening up at the end of the game, a tacit competition to hold the rock was underway.
As the first cards came out, someone called a misdeal. I wasn't paying a great deal of attention and looked at my single-card holding...a three of diamonds. I flashed it in a "good, I didn't want this card anyway" move. Everyone looked at me like I was an idiot. There was no misdeal, despite what I had heard. I'd be keeping the exposed three of diamonds, which was going to make it exceedingly difficult to defend the rock.
Pride gets in my way sometimes. There was no earthy reason to play my hand, especially after I saw an offsuit five as its buddy. Yet, as I'd been running well all night, I thought I'd take a shot at Gucci Rick. He's been winning big for the past five weeks and is getting a little saucy. Sure enough, he comes in for a raise and I decide I'm going to play against him.
Now, let's take a break from the chronological order of things for a second and consider a simple rule in poker: Pride is no reason to play 53-off. As far as I know, that hand doesn't even have a nickname. So, why?
Well, one good reason would be the 532 flop. That would be a great reason. Gucci Rick's range in this hand is wide open, though, and it is equally as likely he would hold A4 as it is he would hold AA. I'd either be way ahead or rather behind. It's a tough place to play and one I would have a hard time betting correctly. It is made a helluva lot easier, however, with another five comes on the turn.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Mamacita.
The big question now becomes how to extract the most out of the hand. Being stone-cold nutty, I can pretty much do whatever I want. I can effectively walk out of the room with $2,000 if I find a way to get Rick in. However, I'm not entirely sure how to play the hand. Slowplay? Play it fast and see if he'll raise me? Playing against The Gooch is not easy. He's become a very good player and I know that if I show too much strength, he might be able to lay down.
What's more, when I see that board, all I think about is how nice it would be to have an extra $2,000 in Vegas next week to toss around like a silly person. I'm rolled well-enough to enjoy the trip, but a couple extra little dimes might offer me a little more freedom to experiment.
Look at that board: 5325. And I'm holding the stone cold nuts. And The Gooch has been playing like actually has a hand. What would you do? Seriously...stop and comment right now and tell me how you would've played the hand knowing what you know about the hand. I'll wait until you come back.
Now, what would you do if you knew the river? What if I told you what Gucci Rick was holding? What if the river was a queen?
And Gucci Rick was holding pocket fucking queens.
Well, in fact, that is exactly what the river was and exactly what Rick was holding.
You ever felt your stomach go to war with your spine? It's a real treat. I'd say I felt like I'd just been hit by a car, but it's wasn't like that.
It was more like I'd almost been hit by a car.
See, I honestly thought it was the end of the night. I had $1,003 in my stack. With a $3 tip to the dealer, I'd be able to cash out for an even grand and save the bank any messy change-making. If I called and tried to showdown with The Gooch, especially with him knowing one of my cards, it could get messy for no good reason.
And so I mucked pre-flop.
As it happened, Rick played the hand to the turn with somebody else. I asked to rabbit hunt and we saw the queen. That's when Rick revealed his hand and I reeled across the room with a certain relief that I still feel 48 hours later.
As I told G-Rob about the hand the next day, he made a pretty good observation. Not playing the hand made me walk away feeling like a genius. Had I played the hand, my spirit would've been broken. A donkey with a broken spirit is a sad thing to witness.
For once, results-oriented thinking doesn't feel so bad.<-- Hide More
The outside walls are warped metal and the parking lot is pot-holed gravel. To park, one has to pull in on the right side of the building, drive around the dark backside of the bar, and then around to diagonal spaces the left side. If it wouldn't seem so perfectly trite, the dark parking area would be the ideal place for a drunken fight with a switchblade and a pool cue.
It was raining hard when I pulled into the lot last night and turned off the ignition. If I'd had a collar, I would've pulled it up against the elements. Instead, I trudged through the gray mud and to the door. Like always, every eye in the place turned toward me and held for that extra second that makes me nervous. Everyone looked away and I made my way to the end of the bar and ordered a beer.More in this Poker Blog! -->
People need a place.
People need a place of absolution, therapy, and acceptance. Regular or irregular, if the place doesn't exist on some level, people live entirely in their heads. It's that soft place between the ears where depression and anxiety breed. Even if it's a gym, a church, or a bar, it's better than nothing. Without the place, it's a short, slick road to unhappiness.
It's probably clear by now, I don't spend a lot of time in gyms and churches. I seek absolution and therapy in dark hideaway bars where Versace can be mistaken for an import beer and the women are not the least bit in danger of getting too much attention. It's a place where the corner seat at the bar is almost always open and happy hour is actually cheap. This place has had different names and been in different cities over the years. It's been Culley's Pub, Johnny's Beanery, the Corner Pocket, The Bait Shack, Zorba's, Shaum's, and most recently, Leeg's.
We found Leeg's by accident. It was the second closest dive bar to my house and the first one that was open on a night we needed a bar. If you look at me, my life, and my circle of friends, there is no good reason why I would end up as a patron there. However, once inside, I realized it was, in spirit, all of the above places. It was unpretentious, haphazard, and populated by the right kind of people. It's not necessarily home, but when I need to run somewhere for a quick beer, it's where I go.
I looked around and smiled to myself. Someone had scrawled a PBR special on the mirror behind the bar. A 50-something woman was playing a bowling video game. Two guys in trucker hats--and not as a fashion statement--shot pool. A small dry-erase board had been tacked to the wall on which the owner had written, "Saturday, Dec. 1, Christmas Party!, $25, Open Bar." I considered the Sunday morning regret and shook my head. That would be one ugly way to celebrate a birthday weekend.
Blood walked in from the rain with a rueful smile and took a seat on the bar's corner. I pointed to the dry erase board. He squinted at it and seemed to shudder a bit. We had a drink, talked poker, people, and family. As it usually does, the conversation drifted to next week's trip.
"So," he said, leaning back in his chair, "what are you plans for Vegas?"
The blogwash is thick with plans right now. Finely-tuned agendas, loose agendas, and agendas without agendas are all over the place. I have a loose plan in my head, but it's largely alterable. My answer to Blood was pretty simple. "Play poker during the day. Have fun at night."
My August jaunt to Vegas saw me execute the same plan and it was the best trip I'd had to Vegas since the first WPBT gather in 2004. I play cards until early evening and then hang out with the folks I came to see in the first place. If that means playing cards with those folks, cool. If it means hanging out at a bar, Pai Gow table, or sports book, cool. If it means raging solo for a while then re-joining everybody, cool.
I tried to figure out why my last trip went so well. Vegas, after all, is always Vegas. Apart from the skyline, little ever changes. How one trip can be better than another can seem a mystery. Of course, it's not much of one.
See, Vegas is a place for me in that it is a place where I can can be absolved of my sins, given therapy for the life stressors, and be accepted for the semi-degenerate I really am. People, after all, need a place. However, for me, Vegas is not so much my place as the place where I find my people.
The great thing about this trip is that it usually coincides with me reallly needing it. The better thing about it is the situation as it stands now. I not only need it, I actually want it. For the first time in a while, I'm actually excited about going to Las Vegas. Now, the only thing that can let me down is me. And I'm not going to let that happen.
The tab for our drinks came to a whopping $11. It was my turn to pick up the check. I left a few bucks on the bar, grabbed my jacket, and walked for the door. As Blood and I made our way out, the bartendress called out, "See you, guys."
I lifted my hand in a short wave.
Something that is becoming increasingly clear to me...if you really open your eyes, it's pretty easy to spot your sense of place. It's only up to you to make sure you do something about it.<-- Hide More
I've never been much of a pool player. I can hold a cue stick and sink a few balls, but apart from one very unfortunate incident in the back of an Atlanta club in which I let hubris and drink get the best of me, I don't play for money.
Unless I'm rolling with one particular friend who, in the days before poker, made a few bucks hustling on a different kind of felt. In his day, he was a pretty damned good pool player and his demeanor makes him perfect for getting a game. Not surprisingly, he now spends more time playing cards than he does playing nine-ball.
I would never have asserted that poker killed the pool hustler's game. Fortunately, someone with more chops than me has done it.More in this Poker Blog! -->
In his New York Times Op-Ed, L. Jon Wertheim, senior writer at Sports Illustrated, writes that the advent of online poker and popularity of the game overall has played a roll in killing off the role of pool hustler in our underground gambling community.
Of course, Wertheim (as he pimps his new book on the subject), offers more than a few other reasons for the death of the hustler. Everything from gas prices, to the internet pool forums, to a scam artist are to blame for an ages-old gambling icon biting the dust. As I read through it, I occasionally substituted the word "poker" for "pool" and was bemused at how how many correlations I found. I don't have to point them out. If you read here, you already know what I mean.
Regardless, it makes for an interesting read, if you're into that kind of thing.
Oh, and if makes anny difference, if you happen to see me in Vegas next week, don't bother asking if I want to play pool. It won't turn out well for anybody.<-- Hide More
Sox was the type of guy who would stand up after winning a hand--one in which he had called off his entire stack with pocket jacks and won--and scream, "Don't you know who I am?"
We knew who he was. He was the guy who got off the phone and started muttering about how stupid women were, presumably because his girlfriend wanted him to come home. He wore baggy workout shorts, a baggy hoodie, a flat-billed White Sox cap, and a beard that was manicured to look messy. He was the guy who would berate a female player for beating him and then offer to step outside with her husband to settle the score. He was the guy who would run a couple hundred bucks into more than a grand and still not be even yet. He was also the guy who would return the next night and make me quietly say, "Thank you."More in this Poker Blog! -->
That next night, he would buy in several times. In a moment I'll treasure forever, I watched his girlfriend order two drinks for them. By the time the server had returned, Sox had all his money on the table and couldn't afford to buy the cocktails. He sent his back and paid for his girlfriend's in chips. Before she could finish her drink, he was broke and vowing to come back with more money.
It took him a couple of hours, but he did return. Once, he called a huge re-raise with pocket deuces and flopped his set. He rocked and rolled for a couple more hours and his verbal abuse increased with his stack. The table devolved to a four-handed game. Two of us were only staying because Sox was there. It took us less than an hour and half. The guy left broke and quiet. We broke the game and watched Sox walk away.
Over the week since, I have thought about Sox more than a few times. I thought about how his life, his happiness, and his banter all hinged on his ability to be in action and be winning. I thought about how, without his good fortune at the table, he would be a life loser and nothing more. I thought I'd be more thankful for him than I am. Instead, I just feel sorry for the guy.
I outlined my reasons for thanksgving at Rapid Eye Reality. That pretty much says it all. Still, for a variety of reasons, I've been thinking about poker a little more in the past couple of weeks. It's not as integral a part of my life anymore, but since I've been running a little bit better recently, it's on my mind.
I am thankful for poker, but not for the reasons most people are.
Poker and the industry surrounding it pulled me out of a job that likely would finished off my soul before I got this old. It gave me an excuse to get out of the regular workaday world and dive into a realm that was so wonderfully odd that I still have a hard time understanding it. It gave me a new career that has lasted the past three years.
Poker probably saved me from myself. Prior to 2003, I was on a rather ugly self-destructive streak. Since then, while still not necessarily the smartest guy, I've becomme a better person. Had it not been for poker...well, who knows.
At the risk of getting too mushy, poker has introduced me to a circle of friends that I value more than I can express. They are people who I am just as comfortable discussing personal problems as I am discussing the value of mid-tourney aggression issues.
Though poker has changed my life in countless ways, if it went away tomorrow, I wouldn't be devastated. Sure, I would miss it, but I would survive happily. That's because, even without poker, I'm no longer working a dead-end career. I'm no longer on a road to ruination. I have poker friends with whom I'd rather see a show or go camping than play cards. Hell, who wouldn't be thankful?
So, sure, I'm happy I run into guys like Sox. I still love to play cards and am looking forward to getting into a lot of good sessions in Vegas. Poker is still an important part of my life.
But...and it feels so good to type this...poker is not my life.
That's what makes it so fun.<-- Hide More
My work friend Jarz turned me on to "Cowboy Junkies". The music is decent, the lyrics above average, something about it is pretty damn good though. I reccomend "Murder, tonight, in the trailer park".
I had knee surgery 2 weeks ago. It's still swollen. I feel like a 97 year old man. The pain pills aren't so bad.
I just won a rebuy tournament on Full Tilt. It cost $15. That includes a rebuy and the add-on. I roll it cheap like that.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Here's the damage done by the first seven picks in our big and very old fantasy football league :
1. Tomlinson (decent year, but not as dominant as before)
2. S. Jackson (meh)
3. F. Gore (meh)
4. L. Johnson (out)
5. J Addai (worthwhile)
6. Rudi Johnson (My Pick and worthless)
7. S Alexander (Otis..later traded to me. Worthless)
I got Adrian Peterson in the 4th. That WAS working out pretty well. Last week I had to depend on Maurice Morris. Who the hell is Maurice Morris? My team is 7-3-1.
I played at a friend's house a week or two ago. I lost $400. Once I ran KK into AA postflop. He got all creative like. The other time I just played like a fool.
I had worked out a trip to Vegas for the blogger gathering. I was planning to book the flight Monday, and asked the boss that morning. He said I could have that Thursday but not the Friday. That seemed kinda pointless but utterly typical.
I downloaded the "In Rainbows" album by Radiohead last week. For those who don't know, the band put it on their site and allowed the fans to decide what it was worth. Pay whatever you want or pay nothing. I've seen estimates about these fans and what they're up to. A good many just took it for free. I spend a good long while hating those "fans".
Then I downloaded the album to my laptop. For Free. I couldn't find my wallet at the time. I do, for what it's worth, feel pretty bad about it.
Actually, I can't find my wallet right now.
I kinda like my job again. I have a new co-anchor with a good sense of humor. I still don't see myself being a TV guy for the rest of my life. Anyone hiring in PeeArrr?
I have a bunch of those $75 dollar tokens on Full Tilt and now I regret acquiring them. I never play in $75 tournaments.
I miss Vegas. The next big trip for me will be CJs wedding. I'm really looking foreward to that. They have a casino. My best friends will all be there. I plan to get drunk. I plan to get historically....even legendarily drunk. I have a history in New Orleans.
I like the TV show "Weeds". I just watched the season finale. That woman is attractive.
I have to go now, to my daughter's end of season soccer banquet.
She'll get a trophy.
We all deserve a trophy.<-- Hide More
Do you remember the first time you stood up on the footrest of your Pai Gow chair and yelled across to the roulette players, "Who is winning over there? Because we are winning over here!" Do you remember the first time you took an inordinate interest in your dealer's country of origin and how to pronounce his/her name? Do you remember your first Greyhound? What about the first time you won a monster by betting the dragon bonus?
Or, let me ask you this, dear reader:
Do you remember the first time you got steak and eggs?More in this Poker Blog! -->
Drizz and I have had many a conversation about the World Series of Pai Gow Poker. Pauly and I thought about doing it during the middle of the other World Series (no, not that one--the other one). We never managed to make it happen. In fact, we never really came up with the mechanics of it.
So, as a mental exercise (albeit, a mental exercise akin to doing bicep curls with a stein of beer), I started thinking about how the WSOPGP might work.
1) Each player buys in for $210
2) $10 from each buy-in goes to the worst hand fund. At end of designated time period, the player who drew the worst seven card hand gets the pot.
3) $50 from each buy-in goes to champion's fund.
4) $150 from each buy-in goes in play.
3) Players may bet any amount they like out of $150 stack for a period of one hour.
4) If a player goes bust, he/she may not rebuy
5) During play, chips may be used for bets, bonus bets, bribes, and tokes. No money, however, may be taken off the table once it is in play. If you choose, you may use pocket cash or chips not in play for tokes.
6) In a one table scenario, at the end of a one-hour period, the player who has the most chips collects everything left on the table plus all the money in the champion's fund. In a two-table scenario, the top two chip stacks split the money 70-30.
I'm not entirely sure I'm up for the kind of organization this would require. However, you never know. I'm just throwing it out there to see what kind of interest there would be.
All else fails, we'll scrap the idea again and just play Pai Gow like we normally would, which is to say, completely foolishly and bent on regret.
If you're not familiair with my particular style in the Pai Gow pit, I'll refer you to How to Play Pai Gow Poker. It is a must-read if you have any hope of holding your own at a Pai Gow table. It also serves as a good warning should you decide to slide into a seat at my table.
If none of that tickles your fancy, consider the night I took Wil Wheaton to the Gold Coast for what was supposed to be a night of $5 Pai Gow and turned into...well this:
The $5 tables were full. We begged for four empty seats together, but the pit boss wasn't having it. Suddenly, The Mark was spreading six grand in hundreds across an empty table. I dropped a roll of $4,000 on top of it. Thirty seconds later, a new boss was there.
Five more Pai Gow Memories
1. New York, New York -- Rolling with the 'Lou crew late night. Joey Two-Hands has taken his three sheets and fashioned them into a super kite. Molly, the dealer, has been putting up with his antics for her entire down. Two-Hands is flirting and popping tiny breath-mints like they were trucker speed. What's more, he's betting for the dealer...with breath mints. At one point, Two-Hands lays one of his best lines on Molly. She responds, deadpan, "What did you just slur to me?"
2. Gold Coast -- Up until late 2006, the Gold Coast's chips were decorated with famous cowboys and rodeo clowns. Pauly was on a work-bender and got a rare night off. Using his rare night off to get in rare form, he created "Clown or Cowboy." The two-chipped chip-based shell game went something like Pauly recorded it here:
I'd yell out, "Yo, Otis... Clown or Cowboy?"
I'd turn over the chips and mix it up. He'd point to one and yell... "Cowboy!"
I'd flip it over and it would be the clown.
3. Barbary Coast -- I learned to play Pai Gow Poker at Barbary Coast before it became Bill's. It was where I learned everything I know--except for how to go the distance. I woke up in my Bally's hotel room one morning to discover my brother had never returned home from the night before. It was going on 11am and he had not come home for the night. I worried the youngster had fallen victim to one of Vegas' many pitfalls. Ultimately, he walked in the door. His body was sagging under the weight of 100 strands of Mardi Gras beads (a one-time token of appreciation from the BC staff). He draped the beads over my head, paused for a moment, and then with a voice I've never heard him use before or since, he screamed, "Pai Gow!"
4. Luxor -- It was Marty's bachelor party and after three nights of revelry, he was waning. I, however, was having a fantastic Pai Gow night. It was nearing 2am when I held out my hand and handed him four pills. He took them before asking, "What was that?" I only answered mysteriously, "They will make you feel better." In fact, it was only Advil and No-Doz I'd picked up for him on my run to the bathroom. He didn't know that, though. And that made it all the more fun. Oh, and I won a lot of money that night.
5. Gold Coast, Redux Redux -- It was proving to be the best and worst Pai Gow night of my life. I put down the single biggest bet I've ever wagered in a game. The dealer dealt the cards and I...pushed on the hand. My friends looked at me and quietly suggested it was time to pull back the bet and call it a night. I didn't say a word. I left the bet in the circle and waited. The cards came out and I squeezed them so no one else could see. I set my hand and leaned back in my chair. My friends wanted to know how we were looking. I didn't say a word. The dealer set her hand and I didn't say a word. One by one, the dealer flipped up the players' hands. I looked across the table at one friend and gave the slightest of winks.
Winner winner...steak and eggs dinner.<-- Hide More
There are people who suggest the former Soviet Republic of Armenia is where Adam and Eve first looked at each other's nodules. I don't know this to be true, but I have no reason to say otherwise. As far as I know, original sin popped up a few nights ago at some backwater McDonalds, so the last thing I am going to do is deny Armenians their place in biblical history. A Garden of Eden theme park could be in the offing if the former Communists really put their minds to it.
As long as I'm being generous, I also hesitate to call whe whole of the Republic a bunch of cheats. I haven't met many of them, and I guess it wouldn't be the most diplomatic thing to do. However, if the nation's leaders want to enjoy a long-lasting relationship in the United Nations and WTO, they might want to keep tabs on some of the poker players they are producing. Again, I've not met many of them, but the four I met last weeks were card cheats like none I've ever seen before.
What's worse, they were really bad at it.More in this Poker Blog! -->
At first, only two of them sat at the table. One was a brash drunk who pounded bloody marys with a speed that only depended on how fast the waitress could bring them. He bought drinks for his table and the one adjacent. His friend was the winner, Mr. Any Two, Mr. Laugh it Up. At first, they only soft-played each other. While distasteful, it was not a crying offense yet. While I would never soft-play a friend at a table--and was not with the one sitting immediately to my right--the Armenians weren't hurting me yet. What's more, they had most of the money on the table. There are ways to exploit this kind of thing.
Eventually it started to become more obvious the Armenians were there for more than a good time.
"You catch the hand signal?" my friend whispered.
Admittedly, I had not, but news of the gambit moving beyond Ye Olde Soft Play turned me into Mr. Radar. I would soon learn that radar wasn't necessary. One half-blind half-open eye could've spotted the tired old games. By and by, four Armenians sat at the table.
Even when faced with the wisdom of Canada Bill Jones and knowing I was sitting at the only game in town, I gradually grew more exhausted with how blatant the cheating was than actually combatting the techniques. After three of them ran a textbook whipsaw on the table, it finally became too much. Time to put an end to it and get back to playing poker.
It all would've worked out, had the floor cooperated and looked into the matter. Instead, we called for racks and headed for the door. It's one thing to play in a crooked game. It's another thing to give a bunch of Armenians the pleasure of thinking they are smart.
"Good work, boys," I said. "Keep it up." They pretended to be offended by my suggestion. I didn't pretend to care.
What I didn't say was, "Next time you won't be playing against me. You'll be playing against somebody who settles these things with a baseball bat."
Upon my arrival home, I discovered that my bounty for the December 8 WPBT tournament had arrived. I am more than excited. So excited, in fact, that I'm not going to keep it secret like I had planned.
You knock me out of this year's Holiday Classic, and I'll hand you this.
That's right, folks. It's get-back-to-your-roots time.
If you miss the connection, please refer to the first-ever WPBT gathering in December 2004 and this post: Bordering on the Adriatic.
There is very little that hasn't changed since that time. We all play much bigger now. We're all a bit older. Blogs have come and gone.
One thing doesn't change, though.
That's the reason my plane ticket is already booked.<-- Hide More
It was the first time I had ever been in the bar. And it was probably the most nervous I had ever been about what I had in my pocket. It's not every day I walk into a bar carrying a thousand dollars.
The place fancied itself a sports bar. I'm not sure that a couple TV's scattered around the single room make it a "sports" bar, but people don't seem too discriminating around here. The room was sufficiently dark for a place running a poker game. The legality fell somewhere in a pretty narrow gray area. I got the impression that the bar only hosted the game and that the dealers pocketed the rake.More in this Poker Blog! -->
By the time I got there, 10 names were already on the list. Since it was my first time, I didn't know how long I'd have to wait. At about 7pm, they slid a poker table out from a back room and set it up. Player's names were called and chips were sold.
I stood by the bar, nervously sipping a Bud Light. It was a half hour later when they slid another table out from the back. This time I got a seat. It was a $1/$2 NL game with no max buy in. Everyone else was buying in for around $200. I bought in for $500. I spent the next three hours robbing college kids of daddy's money while wondering if I would be robbed or arrested before the night was over.
I left with my $700 profit and, despite deciding it was one of the softest games I'd ever seen, I vowed to never return.
Mere weeks later, the local police department began breaking up bar room games. The poker boom was going bust. Or so some would say...
That's the only time I've ever had to nervously watch the door during a poker session in Louisiana. The reason is simple. I have a half dozen legal poker rooms with games and tournaments I love to play within an hour or so drive.
There's the Coushatta Casino (my personal favorite), the Paragon Casino, Cypress Bayou Casino, Harrah's New Orleans, Isle of Capri Casino and Boomtown Casino and that doesn't even include the two poker rooms in Shreveport or the next poker room currently in discussion for Baton Rouge.
With the homegrown Louisiana players and additional flood of players from the Houston area seeking legal poker, the game is thriving in Louisiana. I can get a $2/$5 NL game at any time of day or night. On some days, they're even spreading the $5/$10 NLHE/PLO8. And you never have to worry about a gun to your head or a SWAT team invasion. I'd much rather save my fear for what monster my opponent may be holding.
On a completely unrelated note, for those who got this far, I wanted to let everyone know that I'm a long shot for Vegas. A long shot at best. As most of you know, I'm engaged, and the wedding is now just a few months away (Januray to be exact). So barring some kind of miracle (or a hell of a wedding gift!), the trip just isn't practical right now. Either way, I'm sure everyone who goes will have a blast, I'm just sorry I'll miss it.<-- Hide More
CNN's Sanjay Gupta reports this morning that poker chips contain a harmful amount of lead. I copied this from this morning's Kansas City Star.
National business briefs: Warning issued on lead in poker chips
Lead in poker chips
Arizona health regulators issued a warning Thursday, saying Paulson brand poker chips could contain high levels of lead.
The warning about the chips â€” used in many casinos and sold at retail to gamblers â€” came a day after a Phoenix TV station broadcast a story about the potential contamination. The station had 200 of the chips tested by a private lab and said all of them exceeded the EPA limit for surface lead.
Paulsonâ€™s CEO issued a statement saying the company objected to any implication that the chips, when used as intended, posed a health hazard. He also said the chips had been reformulated to contain far less lead.
It was a quote handed down through several generations, so it's possible that the deputy said, "If you play poker, you deserve to get rubbed." That would make sense. We leather-assed grinders get many a knot in our collective back. A ten-hour session is the perfect excuse for a rub-down. If we play poker, we deserve to get a massage.
However, by the time the quote reached me through the poker community's version of the Telephone Game, it sounded like, "If you play poker, you deserve to get robbed."
That's not nearly as nice a sentiment.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The most recent robbery turned shooting--this time in the Big Apple--drew, not surprisingly, national news attention. Though the same thing had happened in Florida a few weeks before, the NYC Underground scene piqued the interest of big time media. Around these parts, robberies and the enforcement of street law don't make the news. Maybe they don't need to. After all, though the second half of this year has seen the most violent poker scene in G-Vegas history, it's not the big city and few people outside the tight-knit poker community care. However, when somebody like Frank DeSena dies, everyone pays attention. And they should, because no matter whether it happens in a big city high rise or a backwoods trailer, events like these are a reflection of the community we love and the problems it faces.
In the eyes of the law, we who have or currently play in underground poker games are no better than people who deal drugs, engage in prostitution, or run illegal liquor houses. We are lawbreakers. We are scofflaws. We are a thorn in their gunbelts.
The Greenville County Deputy who allegedly said, "If you play poker, you deserve to get robbed" is right, or, at least close to it.
A couple of years ago, I hosted the Bradoween Invitational tournament. It was a no-juice event in which I charged nothing for food or drink. Everyone in the event, all 43 of them (the max I could fit in my house) was a friend. It was a social gathering played more for bragging rights than cash.
I still put a lookout on the front steps.
Why? Well, despite its social atmosphere and lack of juice, it was illegal. Had the local constabulary decided it was a day to make an example of somebody, deputies could've raided my house and cited us all for illegal gambling.
I, of course, would've been furious. However, looking at it through a bigger frame, I would not have had much reason to be. It would've been no different than a minor being cited for possession of alcohol or someone being picked up for simple possession. They may not be laws we agree with, but they are laws.
Local law enforcement does not--or should not, anyway--have the luxury of subjectivism. Their's is not the role of interpreting the law. At the risk of losing their jobs, they have to enforce the law or else. If they know of something illegal taking place and chose to turn a blind eye, they will have to answer for their subjective approach to law enforcment.
To wit: The underground scene in G-Vegas flourished for the past two years. Hardly a month passed without a new game popping up somewhere in the Upstate. We could play any night of the week for as high of stakes as we chose and we rarely worried about getting raided.
One night, though, as it drew close to midnight, I sat in the three seat at the Gaelic Game. Two guys walked in and got on the list. I couldn't take my eyes off one of the guys. His face was so familiar, and everything in my mind was screaming, "Cop!" Finally, it hit me. He was a key witness in one of the biggest murder trials I ever covered. He had been in law enforcement. Last I heard, he had left the force and left town. Now, he was back.
I told the host of the game and was later told everything was okay. Still, I didn't feel right. When G-Rob got there, I told him what I thought. He investigated and confirmed that my read was right, though the former law enforcment officer claimed to no longer carry a badge.
That was the worst it ever got until the hijackers got involved and popped the Black Stallion. Word spread quickly through the community that guns had been involved. Now, it was no longer a matter of whether illegal poker games were being played in town. It was a matter of whether somebody was going to get killed. Sure enough, the Greenville County Sheriff's Office came down hard and put the word out that anybody else running a game was going to be taken down, as well.
I don't blame the Sheriff's Office at all. As it happens, I have a number of friends and associates for whom I have a lot of respect who work inside that office. What's more, I know the Sheriff and have just as much respect for him. It was an odd place for me to be. On one hand, I was a regular at the local poker games for more than two years. On the other hand, I was a former cop beat news reporter who had respect for the hard work the deputies put in. It actually caused me problems when I first started getting into the scene. People knew who I was, who I worked for, and what kind of stories I regularly covered.
One night in a nearby city, I was an unknown in a game and attending without my regular running buddies. People kept looking at me sideways until one of them said, "I got it. You're XXX. You work for XXX." My stomach knotted up. "You here on some kind of investigation?"
I talked my way out of it, but it wasn't without a little sweating. Soon, most of those people would become my friends and it became more of a joke than anything else.
Now, there is no joking. The poker scene here is in serious trouble. To be honest, if I wanted to find a game right now, it would take several calls and likely finding someone to vouch for me. Even then, I'm not even sure if I could get a game.
And you know what? I don't want one anymore. I am one of a few people I know who have definitively sworn off underground poker. That's a real bitch to say, but it's the truth. I have played in the back of strip clubs, basement bars, country clubs, old houses, new houses, and warehouses. I have stories from every one. It wasn't just a part of me. It was me for a couple of years. Giving it up is like saying goodbye to a girl you love, not to mention saying goodbye to some of the best sex of your life.
Now, the poker I play will be restricted to friendly home games, legal brick and mortar casinos, and whatever other legal means of playing I can find. You can read the above however you want. I'll summarize: I'm going to play poker where my chance of getting shot or arrested is as close to zero as possible.
A lot of people may accuse me of giving up the fight. That's not the case. There was a time when Outlaw-Lite fit me pretty well. I enjoyed it. However, now I have a kid who has shown me he needs me around. I have a wife with a face on which I now recognize actual worry. In short, it just ain't worth it. But giving up? Not so much. Most of us aren't outlaws or road gamblers who fade the white line. No, we're basically suburban dads, teachers, salesmen, firefighters, and retirees who enjoy the game. We don't make our living off poker and that's why we can't get up the gumption to fight.
See, I still believe in poker. I still believe poker shouldn't be illegal. However, I can't blame the cops for busting the games. Furthermore, I can't even blame the robbers for jacking the games. It's easy money and the chances of getting arrested are pretty slim. I hope they get what's coming to them, but I don't blame them.
The people I can blame are my state legislators. They actively refuse to consider amending South Carolina's antiquated gambling laws. They continue to allow our law (which makes it illegal to play Sorry! or Monopoly on Sunday) to exist as it sits on the books. While some amendments to the code have been introduced by more elightened lawmakers, they have been disregarded by the state legislature at large. The only way to get the law changed to is mount an impressive and expensive lobbying effort. Based on the video poker debacle a few years back (annother story for another day), I contend we are very far from the goal of making live poker legal in the Palmetto State. I'll be happy to support any effort with money and whatever other meager talents I have. However, my read right now is that such an effort is -EV.
Already, two regular rounders here (the kind who do, in fact, make most of their living off the game) have made the decision to leave the state and go somewhere where lawmakers appreciate that poker is not a community parasite. These two guys have made the right decision and, for better or worse, I applaud their decision.
As for me, I've never really been a poker player anyway. I'm a guy who plays the game with varying levels of success. I love the game and will feel a hollow spot where the underground games used to be.
But that's better than feeling a hollow spot where my internal organs used to be.<-- Hide More
We stood on our chairs that weren't actually chairs. They were long wooden benches. We held steins of wheat beer in our hands. The mugs themselves were bigger than our heads. Across the room, Joey Two-Hands was attempting to hold an identical stein out in front of him for as long as possible. It was a contest the Hofbrau House held every night. We, a group of 14, had decided not to participate, save Joey Two-Hands who had sneaked into the competition at the last minute with his own unapproved mug and a hopeless case of optimism.
"Hey, it's George Clinton," I said, nudging Marty in the ribs and pointing to the large black man and his small entourage.
I was joking.
"That's not George Clinton," Marty said. "That's Mr. T."
He was not joking.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Despite the fact G-Rob and I live ten minutes from each other, more than half of our communication occurs via instant message. A few days ago, the little organge box appeared at the bottom of my computer screen. G-Rob was lamenting how postively gloomy Up For Poker had become. What was once a fun little place for trip reports and poker talk was now a source for all things bad happening in poker.
That, in a word, sucks.
It occurred to me this morning that I never posted much of anything about my Vegas trip in August for Marty's bachelor party. Now, after two straight months of work, it's all rather a blur. Still, there are some highlights and lowlights that I think deserve a little something. Maybe this will help us get out of this funk.
His Calling, Uncalled For
I arrived a night earlier than the rest of the party. I headed to a poker room and got on the list. While waiting, I got in a conversation with the brush. He was in a debate with another employee about who sang "Flowers on the Wall."
"It's The Statler Brothers," I said.
"Are you sure? I thought it was somebody else."
I whipped out my Blackberry and proved it to him. That began a fifteen minute conversation about music, how all the old stuff is better than the new stuff, and how there isn't much for kids to really appreciate these days. Just when I thought the coversation was over, I heard something.
The dude--a forty-something white guy--was rapping. Unprovoked.
It went on for a couple of minutes, this inspirational, how all-chicks-aren't-bitches rhyming thing. When it ended, I couldn't say anything.
"I wrote that for my daughter," the guy said.
"Good work," I said.
Thursday brought the rest of the crew. We decided--after a breakfast at Fatburger--that we'd play at Caesars for the day. I figured I'd play in their afternoon tourney.
"The juice is just sick," I said to Chilly. "No one should play in this tournament."
"So, are you playing?" he asked.
It took us seven hours to reach the final table. I was playing some of my better tournament poker of the year and was quite pleased with myself. Happy about a second consecutive final table appearance at Caesars, I was in a good mood when we convened. My good mood clouded my judgment when the shortstack at the table suggested we all throw a little bit of money in the middle for the bubblers (only six players were scheduled to be paid). My judgment was further clouded when this dude collected all the save money. My judgment was further clouded when the guy announced (after one player had already busted) that we were actually about $25 short.
So, when the dude busted out, I should not have bee surprised to look down at the remaining money and see the guy had taken his full share.
If I ever needed a reminder about the cardinal rule in poker, that was it: Whe you enter a poker room, leave trust at the door.
After he was gone, we cut a deal, I ran nines into jacks, and busted in seventh place. My hourly rate was not what one would've desired.
Dr. Jeff and I were walking back to our hotel one night when we saw a commotion ahead of us. And why wouldn't there be? The girls were beautiful, both decked out in black cocktail dresses and out for a night on the town that any single guy would love to chaperone.
As we got closer, we noticed these girls had not properly timed their revelry. They were surrounded by security officials. What's more, the girls were completely unconcious. And they were both being transported in wheel chairs.
I considered trying to get their numbers for Drizz, but they didn't seem like they were going to wake up.
It really was Mr. T
At first I still wasn't convinced it was Mr. T. Then people started flocking and taking pictures with their cell phone cams. Then the German oompah band started playing "The A Team" theme song and Mr. T stood and started shadow boxing on his chair.
I'm not sure I have been more socially happy all year long.
I've actually already written about this, but most of you don't read my other blog. Here's a snippet.
"Who invited the frat party?"
I stopped short. "Frat party?" I looked back at the guys behind me. Sure, Marty, the bachelor, no longer had bright red punk hair. Sure, my hair has been cropped back from shoulder length to a manageable mess. But frat party? That was just insulting.
"We're the farthest thing from a frat party," was all I could really manage over the noise. I started pointing at my friends. "Doctor, D.A., Bar Owner..." When I realized I was making her case for her, I shut up and ordered four Bacon Martinis.
"What's in it?" I asked the bartender over the lead singer's scream.
The guy looked at me like I was his mother. "Bacon and vodka."
Competition for its own sake
I'd put in my best session on poker on Friday afternoon, winning five buy-ins and having a ball in the process. I dedicated Saturday night to silliness.
After a big dinner at the Luxor Steakhouse, those players among us decided we wanted to put together a low-stakes private game. With no real hope of being able to do it on short notice, I ran to the Luxor poker room and inquired. A few minutes later it was set up (although the plan had changed to a $50 SNG instead).
With a few minutes to kill, we needed something to do. I devised a quick plan. Soon was born the Marty Memorial Penny Slots Tournament. It was a timed event in which we all put $20 into a bank of penny slot machines and went nuts. Whoever had the highest balance at the end of a set amount of time would get everyone's remaining balance. It was a flawed plan, what with the likelihood that we would all go busto. And most of us did. Joey Two-Hands, however, hit bonus after bonus. In just a couple minutes, he had turned his $20 entry into $300+, not to mention what we all had on our machines, which happened to be between one cent and 13 cents per person. Dutifully, Two-Hands collected all the tickets and went to the cage.
"I'd like to cash this please," he said and handed the woman a ticket. She slid a couple of pennies across the counter.
"Now this one," he said, and handed her another. Again, a few more pennies. After three more tickets and several more pennies, he said, "Here's the last one."
That money came across in Franklins.
The Marty Memorial SNG
We packed that table and played it like the turbo SNG it was. The cocktail waitress assigned herself to us. The floorman recognized us, but we didn't recognize him.
"I saw you yesterday at the MGM," he said.
"Oh, yeah," I said. "I stacked you."
That probably wasn't the nicest thing to say.
If memory serves, Dr. Jeff and Chilly got heads up in the event. I think Dr. Jeff won. By that time, I'd run to the bathroom and was staking out our next adventure.
Throughout the trip, Dr, Jeff and I had been accused of being twins several times. Despite the four-year age difference and the fact he has red hair and I don't, people had a hard time believing we weren't twins.
When we recovened, I was told the cranky Asian dealer had asked Dr. Jeff if we were related.
"The twins thing again?" I asked.
"She asked if you were my father."
The rest of the night was rather a blur of high-stakes Pai Gow (take THAT Luxor!), late night poker, and staying up until 9am with Joey Two-Hands.
I re-booked my flight and left that night.
So, there. Maybe that will help us, as my kid says, "blow out our angries."
And if that doesn't help, check out The Vegas Year. Somehow, I've missed this blog over the past year and just found it today. Lines like, "I flopped the flush draw cause I'm popular" just make me giggle. I look forward to meeting Robert in a few weeks.
Happy November, all.<-- Hide More
The games around here used to have names like "Gaelic," "Depot," and "Spring Hotel." The next one will be the "O.K. Corral". The latest undergound game to face a gang of armed bandits is a tale of lessons unlearned... and the first appearance of Wyatt Earp.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I actually got curious about this one after EDDIE posted about his near miss on Sunday. He was ALMOST the dealer there. He slept late, after getting up early for a very rare visit to church, and missed the shots fired, cash stolen, no-pants party. (See Otis' Entries Below)
Here's the second of two comments to his post:
Did you hear about the foiled attempt by the same robbers Wednesday night in Piedmont?"
HERE'S WHAT I NOW KNOW:
The game was one I've never played, but I think I've met the guy who runs it. They, of course, knew all about the other two armed robberies here in the past two months. All poker players in these parts know by now. STILL, according to my source, they almost got in trouble.
The game had a camera that looked over the door. The thugs covered it up. When they knocked, they were asked for a name. They gave EXACTLY THE SAME NAME they gave when robbing the "Black Stallion" game. STILL, someone opened the door.
Luckily, that someone (and probably some others) realized who was out there and got the door closed again. Then, they called police. In fact, there may have been a deputy playing IN the game at the time.
WHAT IT MEANS
Now police are on the case.
I don't play underground poker.<-- Hide More