Remember that time you four-bet pre-flop with aces, flopped your set, and got your opponent to get it all in? Remember when he shoved his chips in and then asked, "Do you have the ace?"
You probably thought, "What is this guy doing playing poker?"
We sometimes think the same thing about the search referrals we get here on the Up For Poker Blog.
Here are just a few recent questions that Google has thrown our way.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Q. Who is the High Stakes Poker guy who looks like Jabba the Hutt?
A. We here at Up For Poker are huge fans of both the Star Wars series and High Stakes Poker. So, when we saw this question come in, we wondered if we had missed a few episodes of HSP. After looking at the cast list from the past several seasons, we narrowed it down to two possibilities. The first is David Benyamine, for obvious reasons. The second is Doyle Brunson. Either way, that's just mean, and we'd dare whoever asked the question to call either of the above players Jabba to his face. And either way, if you're hoping to play poker and you don't know Brunson or Benyamine, you'd best stick to watching Return of the Jedi and pleasuring yourself to your Princess Leia action figure.
Q. Is an UTG limp raise always the nuts?
Yes. We polled every poker player in three countries. The results were staggering. No player in our millions of respondents has ever limp re-raised under the gun with anything other than the nuts. Every player indicated it would be irresponsible to play a hand in such a way that it led others to believe he might have aces instead when he actually held kings, queens, or 9c-7c. We suggest that if you are ever limp re-raised by a player under the gun, fold your kings immediately. You are behind and will never catch up.
Q. (From Sweden) How does WSOP poker works?
A. This is a tricky question and one not taken lightly. It assumes that WSOP poker (translated World Series of Poker poker) actually works. We are not ready to make that assumption. If we did, we might answer that the World Series of Poker poker takes a decades old tradition of poker mastery and devalues it by creating dozens of events that award dozens of bracelets and charges millions of dollars in juice to play tournaments with dubious structures. Of course, we wouldn't ever actually say that. We're just saying, if we made an assumption, we might think about saying something like that. In the meantime, if you're reading from Sweden, we like your women. How much for them?
Q. Suppose that you have played F five times but you don't yet know your wins and losses. Would you play the gamble a sixth time?
A. You just blew our mind, sir. We love you as a reader. We'd love for you to stay. However, we think you'd be better suited reading the "Handbook of the economics of finance" by George M. Constantinides, Milton Harris, René M. Stulz.
But to answer your question, we've played F several times. We've got a lot of experience in the world of F. We may not yet know our wins and losses, but you give us a sixth shot at F and we'll take it every day of the week. Twice on Sunday, in fact.
Would we gamble a sixth time? Silly question.
Q. Are cops allowed to bust poker games?
A. That all depends on where you live. If you live where we do, cops are allowed to bust poker games, take all the money, take all the cards, take all the chips, rummage through your house, make eyes at your girlfriend, and use your bathroom without flushing. You probably won't ever be officially prosecuted, but you'll sort of wish you had been. A real prosecution makes it feel less like a shakedown.
Q. Why is poker bad?
A. Poker is not inherently bad. It's naughty sometimes. Sometimes it's downright dirty, nasty, naughty little poker. It's not bad, though. Look at it this way: if poker was good all the time, you'd sit around wondering if you should've taken your shot at the game with the tattoos, nipple rings, and questionable grasp on hygiene.
Trust us on this one.<-- Hide More
I remember the long nights my father spent at the office, his tired face, and his hours of undone work that we helped him do in the middle of our living room floor. I remember the business trips, the budgets, and the work ethic. Most of all, I remember what he said when I questioned why he worked so hard.
"Making money takes hard work, son. No one can become a millionaire overnight."
Dad was wrong.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Vina del Mar, Chile is not the kind of place an American can get by with just a smile and the word cerveza. The resort communities in Central America have a ready staff of English speakers ready to help fleece American tourists of every dollar they have. Admittedly, the Hotel Del Mar in Vina is a resort just the same, but it's not a resort for Americans. It's where the elite of South America--the Brazilians, the Argentineans, the Colombians--come to relax and play. There's not much call for speaking English. To get by in Vina, I depended on my limited Spanish, the few people I found who spoke enough English to understand me, and, most importantly, a group of friends who are fluent.
Vina is a wondrous place. The Hotel Del Mar, despite being a 5-star resort, refuses to look over its nose at typical Americans like me. As I wrote to my wife upon my arrival, "It's a lot like the place in Monte Carlo without all the pretentious French bullshit."
As a stupid American, I neglected to bring a power adapter for the plugs in Chile. I walked down to the front desk to find a place I could buy one. They told me to go back up to my room. I barely had time to get back to room and close the door before a sweet young Chilean lady was standing there with a free adapter. Later in the week, a restaurant waiter went out of of his way to carry my leftover food back to my room for me. When my key card didn't work, he stood sentry by my sandwich while I went to the front desk and got a new key. It's the little things, you know?
It's the type of thing that can lull a guy--a stupid American with a less-than-stellar grasp on the exchange rate--into a sense of complacency. Add a couple of the local Cristal beers, and it becomes more a sense of "Well, when's the next time I'm going to be in Chile?"
That's how I ended up in the biggest cash game the casino had running.
I'd been trying out a new character in 2009. After several years of playing the tight-aggressive too-serious guy at the table, I'd grown bored and--let's be honest-- unprofitable. Around the underground games, at the friendly home games, and even on the road, I was seen as the guy who took himself too seriously, who took the game too seriously, and who was afraid to play anything but the nuts. It had grown old. I'd experimented with who I'd eventually start calling "Chile Otis" long before I got to Chile, but he was really born that night in Vina del Mar.
I was playing in a no-limit game. The poker room was packed. Only one table was unoccupied and the rest were teeming with crazy, drunk South Americans. We were playing in Chilean pesos, and I hadn't been on the ground long enough to fully understand how much I was playing for. It didn't matter. Based on the people in the game, I knew I wasn't going to get hurt too badly.
That's when a friend appeared over my shoulder.
"We're thinking about getting a bigger game going. You wanna play?" he asked.
Old Otis would've said, "Nah, it's late" and turned back to the table. Old Otis would've asked who was playing, what the stakes were, and whether the buy-in was capped. Chile Otis didn't care about any of these things. Chile Otis is a yes-man. Chile Otis was up and digging in his pockets before the dealer of the new game had even slid into the box.
I started pulling out American hundreds and counting out how much I had. I'd only bought a few hundred bucks worth of pesos when I arrived at the airport.
"No, no," someone said. "You're going to have to go get pesos."
An Aussie friend of mine who had also decided to join the game was in the same situation. He led me to an ATM where I blindly punched numbers until the machine spit out a bunch of bills. I thought I had a decent idea of how much I'd withdrawn, but I didn't take a lot of time to do the math. The game was about to go off and I wanted my seat.
I slid into the four-seat and realized the game was full. I looked around and recognized many of the faces. I slipped into character and slipped half of my pesos to the dealer.
If you've not yet met Chile Otis, you should know he is irresponsible. He raises light more than he should. He three-bets even lighter. He calls re-raises with impunity. He is the very definition of loose-aggressive. In short, he is a donkey. He is the player you are hoping to find at your cash game table at all times. His only redeeming quality is that he is generally a nice guy. For the people who know Old Otis, Chile Otis is frightening. It's as if someone tinkered with my frontal lobe and turned me into something frighteningly stupid and correspondingly dangerous. That is, I could be re-raising you on the river with the nuts or I could be three-barreling with air. Suffice to say, it's always a good idea to call me.
I was setting up the character when I looked two seats to my left.
I could only think, "What is Alex Brenes doing at this table?"
It took all of two orbits to establish myself as the "crazy one." I couldn't raise enough. I couldn't stop betting. I couldn't stop making loose calls. Before I knew it, the entire table was looking at me. Old Otis would've been exceptionally uncomfortable. Chile Otis was eating it up.
Despite it all, it was not lost on me that I was playing in a game in which I was blissfully unaware of the stakes. That I didn't know exactly how much I could be winning or losing was actually helping me play the LAG, a Brenes at the table or not.
After a bit, the dealer stopped pushing me chips and started pushing me what you see below.
The numbers were irrelevant. The fact that I was about to be riffling plaques was not.
After a bit, players started playing back at me and it got a bit tough. I was up so much, though, I was content continuing in the role.
When I came in for a raise with 2d-5d, I expected nothing out of the ordinary to happen. When Brenes re-raised me a fair amount, I didn't think twice about calling. When the flop came K-K-2, I felt like I'd struck gold. Don't ask why, because outside the fog of that room, it doesn't make sense. I just knew I had to bet into him. I did, and he raised all-in. I had him covered, but his stack wasn't insignificant.
I won't try to make this sound like more than it was. I won't try to say I spent five minutes analyzing the hand and pinpointing his range. I won't try to make myself sound like a good player, because I think we all know how quickly such an assertion could be defeated. Simply put, I felt like I was good.
"I call," I said and flipped over my little 2-5. Brenes smiled widely and said something in Spanish. He turned over A-Q off. No pair. He missed his outs and stood up. He turned to me, offered his fist for a bump, and walked out of the room.
I've always thought the Johnny Chan scene in Rounders represented less than the movie suggested. Mike McD bluffing the Orient Express in one hand was more indicative of ridiculous hubris than it was stellar poker play. As Brenes walked out of the room with a wave, I felt like I'd experienced something similar. The moment meant nothing.
And still, I smiled.
The last hand of the night is one I'm not proud of. I came in for a raise with pocket deuces. A frustrated player who had just about enough of Chile Otis' shit pushed all-in. Then my friend in the nine seat called all-in for less. I justified it several different ways in my head and then did what was expected. I called. My deuces were up against the re-raiser's pocket eight's and my friend's pocket sevens.
Deuce on the river.
The game broke, I carried my plaques to the cage, and went to bed.
When I got up the next morning, everybody I knew was ready to talk about the night.
"You!" they said. "I heard about you last night. Pocket deuces! Suck-out artist!"
It went on for the better part of four hours. I knew I had a giant wad of pesos in my pocket, but I had no idea how much it was worth. Out of an abundance of caution, I checked my bank account to see how many dollars I had pulled out the night before.
Five minutes later, I was on the line to my wife explaining that there would be a larger than usual withdrawal from our checking account (I never pull out house money to play). Good thing I did, because the bank called her later to ask what in the hell I was doing making that kind of run on the ATM in a foreign country.
I ran into a corner of the room and started counting my pesos. There were too many to count with any accuracy. Later, I went to my room and laid them all out on my bed. The final count...1.2 million.
I was a millionaire--in Chilean pesos.
Later that night, I actually did the math and realized that being a millionaire in Chile is the equivalent of being able to afford to eat in America. It took a bit of the luster off the giant wad in my pocket. In all, I had cashed out for around $2,000 American. The biggest game in the room in Chile was somewhere between 1/3 and 2/5.
That is, I'd just played the same game I'd play in a Vegas casino, but I'd done it in pesos.
I sort of miss Chile Otis. He's a fun cat, but he gets me in way too much trouble. I still let him poke his head out from time to time, but he has no place in my life. Then again, if you were to look in my pocket right now, you would find something wrapped around my American dollars.
It's a 1,000 peso note.
That, friends, is how a Chilean millionaire rolls.<-- Hide More
You wouldn't know it by reading here, but I am enjoying poker right now more than I have at any point in the past three years. I look forward to it. I play at every chance I give myself. I read poker blogs every day. I think about strategy and record every session in a nifty little iPhone app. My hourly rate is fantastic. In fact, I can look at my phone and see I have played 59 hours and 46 minutes since January 1.
Why so little?
I haven't played a hand of online poker since 2008.
More in this Poker Blog! -->
It seems odd, doesn't it? I'm a guy who has made his living largely off the online poker industry for more than four years. I should be shouting from the rooftops and telling everyone how great online poker is. And you know what? Online poker is great. It's a fantastic way to spend time and an even better way to make money if you're any good. I admire the people who have the time, talent, and determination it now takes to put in the required volume. I even respect the people who can play every once in a while and enjoy it.
Well, I started paying some attention to my playing habits last year. I realized that, while I was working a lot, I also had a couple hours everyday in which I was doing nothing. Guess what I did with those hours? Right on. I played online poker.
Now, this would all be well and good, except for the fact that's what I did with every unused moment. If I wasn't playing with my family or working for the man, I was playing online poker. It wasn't time to play tournaments, but it was time to put in some hours playing Razz. In short, I was killing time and paying rake for it. I also wasn't winning anymore. After four winning years, I couldn't put anything together. I was unfocused and generally not enjoying myself anymore. I had become a losing player and it was embarrassing.
Worst of all, I wasn't accomplishing anything. That was the biggest crime of all. I was losing 15-30 hours per week in an act of gambling masturbation that I wasn't even really enjoying anymore. I wasn't writing. I wasn't getting healthy. I wasn't working on a bunch of undone projects. I wasn't doing anything because I thought, "I don't have time."
And so I quit.
Not permanently, mind you. I love the game and online poker enough that I don't want to give it up forever. Thing is, when I play, I want to play for a reason. I want it to be fun or profitable or a lifestyle or something. I just want it to mean something. I want it to be worth something. Even if it's only recreational, I need it to be worthwhile.
So, my rule was this: until I finish two undone writing projects, I won't play one hand of online poker.
It's pretty amazing what the extra 15-30 hours a week can feel like. I have actually put a lot of work into both projects and accomplished a lot of other stuff I didn't even know I wanted to get done.
Even better, I'm playing live and loving it. I play a weekly game on Monday nights, an occasional home game when out-of-town bloggers come in, and when I'm on the road in South and Central America.
Yes, it's hard not to play online. I miss playing on Sundays and late nights after the wife is asleep. I've been sorely tempted a few times. So far, I've stayed true to my word.
What is going to happen? Who knows. For now, it's working and so am I. That's all I care about for now.
The poker room of the Fiesta Casino in the Ramada Herradura just outside of San Jose, Costa Rica is a six or seven table area that is just big enough to fit the players, a couple of aimless cocktail waitresses, and Humberto Brenes.
When the men get massages, they do it with their shirts off and buxom, camel-toed therapists kneading away elbow-deep at their fat-backs. Out of simplicity and in the face of a 540-1 colones to dollar exchange rate, the poker games are played with dollar-value chips. Against all better judgment, the first seat I took in the room was at a 5/10 half No-Limit Hold'em and half Pot-Limit Omaha game.More in this Poker Blog! -->
There is no excuse for a person with $2,000 in his pocket to sit down in this game. The game was populated with locals, two of which were Scandinavian transplants with a fluent grasp on the Spanish language and an apparent intimate knowledge of everyone in the room. There is no excuse for a guy who spends more time playing Razz than Hold'em or Omaha to sit in a game in which most pots were $300 pre-flop and any play after the flop would result in his stack being in the middle. I discovered, however, there was one excuse.
It was the only game in the room.
"Let's just take it easy," a local named Alex said in English. "In eight hours we'll be playing 25/50 with $25,000 in front of us."
It seemed like hubris, but the way the game was going, the guy could've been right. Three or four of the players at the table were fairly good. Everyone else was dreadful and bordering on clueless. I, admittedly, was underfunded. It only took me two hours of seeing no hand past the flop to realize this. I catch on as quick as most husbands my age.
I turned to an American pro you know, but whose name I've forgotten how to spell and said, "Take this seat. I'm wasting it." He took the seat and didn't say, "Yeah, you are."
I took my chips to the cage where the cashier paid me in $50 bills. It wasn't dinner time yet.
It's hard being in a poker country and not being able to find a game I'm properly-funded to play. Sure, I could've sat there and played nut-only poker, but that is just about as boring as not playing at all. For the two hours I sat, I felt like a guy in the G-Vegas underground named Whitey. He plays in all the games, folds 99% of his hands, and only plays the nuts on the river. Someone once asked, "Whitey, do you enjoy playing poker?" He answered with one word.
"No," he said, and then probably folded.
I took a walk, went back to my room, and then realized I was hungry. Room service seemed like a cop-out, so I went out in search of food. There are three restaurants in this hotel. Nearly every one was empty. I went to the sushi place last. It was barren and didn't have a visible bar.
"Buenos noches, senor!" said the guy at the door.
"Just looking around," I said. Not that it mattered.
I finally wandered back to the Fiesta bar and ordered an Imperial. The Texas game was on and they were losing. Two elderly Americans sat at the other end of the bar drinking Jim Beam on the rocks. Another American, one who had announced in the elevator earlier in the day that he had gas, showed up for a second. As he walked away from the bar, he told the bartender to give me another Imperial.
"For earlier in the elevator," he said, and then walked away.
As the bartender sat my second beer on the bar, I wandered over to the poker room and saw another game getting set up.
"Dos-Cinco," the dealer said.
I laid $500 in front of the two-seat and went to retrieve my beer.
This all looks like a set-up for a story in which I won several thousand dollars, got jumped on my way back to my room, and have a black eye to show for it. That's actually what I was thinking about as I ran my $500 up to $900 in about 30 minutes. I hit a gutty, played two pair to perfection on a flushed board, and called down a bluff with third pair. The players weren't very good and I saw myself winning a ton of money and then getting killed for it.
That's not what happened, nor what this story is about.
In fact, I sat for about five hours in total. I realized half the people at the table were playing with a percent of each other. I also realized that, even if they were soft-playing each other, most of them were bad enough that it didn't matter. If I hadn't missed fourteen outs in one hand and had my kings cracked all-in against a flush draw, I probably would've hit my $2,000 goal for the night. Instead, I finished with a one dollar profit. I saved the chip to remind me of the time I won one dollar.
In fact, this story is about what happened a couple hours into my session. In a scene that smacked of Vito Corleone walking down the street and picking up some oranges, Humberto Brenes walked into the room with two sons in tow. The room got quiet for just one moment, and then half of the people stood up to kiss his ring. Or something like that.
It was hard to say how many of the people in the room respected Brenes or all he has meant to poker in this country. He is, by far, the best known Tico in the poker world and his emergence into the small poker room made it clear that everyone knew that. It was something between Norm walking into Cheers and Doyle Brunson walking into the low-limit section at Bellagio. Everyone knew him, everyone wanted him to know they knew him, and everybody played their part. Still I couldn't figure out if he was Don Corleone or Doyle to the Costa Rican poker players. I don't suppose it matters. The effect is largely the same.
In an odd coincidence, Brenes took the very seat I had abandoned earlier. He alternated between playing pots and stepping to an adjacent table to watch his sons play. I could only think, for better or worse, I am not Humberto Brenes, Godfather of Costa Rican poker.
Sometime after midnight (although I thought it was just after 11pm), I went to the cage to cash out my initial buy-in (she gave me $100 bills this time). As I stood in line, I saw a cross between bingo, the lottery, and roulette. That is to say, it was a typical roulette felt, but instead of a wheel, there was a giant spherical bird cage full of numbered balls. After spinning the thing for five minutes, the dealer let one ball fall out (black ten) and paid it off. I couldn't decide it it was more, less, or just as random as a ball on a wheel.
And again, I'm not sure it mattered.
That was all less than 24 hours ago. In about an hour, I'll venture back into the fray. If all I've been told is true about the level of play here, I should make money in the short time I have to play. And if not, for a final time, I'm not sure it matters.<-- Hide More
Luckbox has been doing most of the heavy lifting in this fifth birthday of Up For Poker. I'm wrapped up in other activities right now, but couldn't let the time pass without a brief submission. Some of these are repeats, some are original, but all of them will stick in my memory as long as I'm playing.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Five most memorable hands against a poker blogger
5. vs. The Rooster, December 2007
It might have been my emergence from focus that ended up losing me the tournament. Still, a sense of understanding about what was happening around me was welcome. What had once been half a dozen people standing around and watching poker was suddenly a crowd of familiar faces. For the past several hours, I'd rather forgotten everything except trying to win. Now, I took half a second to relish the moment. I knew it wouldn't last long. Though the heads-up battle has been described as epic, I don't remember it as such. It seemed to be over as soon as it started.
I made a quick decision that I wasn't going to give The Rooster the opportunity to dictate the terms of the heads-up match. With the blinds as high as they were, there was very little opportunity for post-flop poker. My decisions were made before the match even began. It would be up to The Rooster to decide when he was calling and when he was folding.
If there was a surreal moment for me, it was the split second between the time I looked at my final hand and the time The Rooser announced, "Call!"
I peaked at K9o and said nothing. I simply put my hands around my chips and started to move them. They had barely moved an inch when The Rooster nearly jumped from his seat and said, "Call!"
Without going into it what was actually happening in my head at that second, that fraction of time defined who I was, who I am, who I hope to be forever.
Oh, and I was surpised to see I was ahead, too. The Rooster's snap-call didn't mean I was beat. It meant he was tired of my aggression. In this case, it also meant I was better than 60/40 to win. By the river, we had seen no kings, nines, queens, or eights. I had to dodge six cards when that final piece of plastic hung in the air.
It was what it was.
4. vs. ScottMc , December 2007
"There are softer spots in this room," I mumbled.
Over the course of the next couple of hours, I sat at the toughest cash table I'd face all weekend. I don't recall everyone in the game, but over the course of my time there, I saw Zeem, Chad, ScottMc, WeakPlayer, Miami Don and Blinders.
I stacked off to Chad once in a kicker battle, re-bought and told myself that if I couldn't start playing better, I was on my way out the door for a few hours by myself. That's when it happened--the most embarassing move I would make all weekend.
I had AK and came in for a raise. ScottMc popped me back and I pulled my "Oh, realllllllly?" maneuver. I don't think I've ever played with Scott before, so I kept his range exceptionally wide. I made the call out of position.
Why exactly I decided to check dark, I don't know. I only know I did. And I know I saw the flop come down AQx. Scott made another bet, and because I had checked dark, I had no way of knowing what the bet meant. It could mean as much as AA, as middling as AQ, or as little as some underpair. Hell, it could even be AK.
Now, I made what was the only smart move in the entire hand. I figured out where I was with a check-raise. Thing is, my chips hadn't hit the table before Scott cupped his hands around his mouth and said, "Allllllllllll innnnnnnnnnnn" in a deep voice.
That's pretty much where I went over the edge. After 22 hours of the worst beats ever, I was stuck bad and wrapped up in a hand with a player who is now wearing a sign that says, "You are beat, Otis!" around his neck. There is now no hand he can hold that I can conceivably beat. At best, he's holding AK and I know that's not the case. I might be lucky enough that he has AQ, but it's far more likely he has a set.
So, of course, I call.
Scott is a nice damned guy, which goes beyond and sometimes against his great abilities at the poker table. He wasted no time showing me his QQ for the flopped middle set. Knowing I need runners to win, I start planning a graceful exit and wondering where the solo rage will take me. I was at once a nihilist.
I'm still not sure the next ten seconds happened.
The groan and cheer rose up from the table as the board came runners to give me aces full. Having not yet revealed my hand, I fanned my AK to the table and buried my face in my other hand. The chips landed in front of me. Now, I could no longer hate my luck.
I could only hate myself.
Scott took it much better than he should've. For my penance, he only required I post this list:
1) That was the worst suck-out ever
2) Scott is a better player than Otis
3) I am a donkey
Or something like that. My notes don't make a lot of sense.
The only thing I remember with any clarity is Miami Don looking up from his vodka and remarking wryly, "Otis, I think your luck just changed."
3. vs. Absinthe, December 2006
I was angry. So angry.
There is a particular table at the MGM where I cannot win. Don't call it superstition, because if you do, I will soak your toothbrush in a jar of hot peppers. I can't win there. Ever.
I'd just called off several hundred dollars when people at the other end of the Strip in Caesars knew I was beat. It was so obvious that it was actually embarrassing to continuing breathing. Making it worse, the off-duty dealer to whom I'd stacked off berated me for losing. I wanted to crawl in a hole, stuff the rest of my cash in an uncomfortable place, and light it on fire. Due penance, I thought.
I'd had pocket kings. Not that it matters, but it mattered.
Absinthe sat on my right, quiet as always, and ostensibly targeting everybody at the table but me. We're friends. We've shared time. We've eaten at fancy restaurants. He wouldn't fuck with me.
I found pocket kings on the button a few hands later. I figured I'd get no action, because, hell, everybody knew I wasn't rebuying. I had to set my ass on fire in a few minutes.
Absinthe came in for a raise to around $20. I don't recall the size of my re-raise, but I think it was around $100. Absinthe did this thing he does. I can't explain it, and if I could, I wouldn't write about it, because we're friends. We don't fuck with each other. But he did this thing.
He quietly slid out a raise. I don't recall the exact amount, and it doesn't matter, because it was a giant, flashing sign that said, "Hey, bitch, I have aces. Get the hell out and get on with the ass-fire."
I gritted my teeth, I wondered whether I was going to use a lighter or a match, and mucked my hand.
A few minutes later, he raised his eyebrows.
"Kings," I said.
He shook his head. "What a cooler," he said.
"Aces," I nodded.
"Same hand," he said.
For a moment, I felt okay. It wasn't a lot of money and, you know, no flop, no drop.
Half an hour later as we headed to a fancy dinner, I brought up the cooler.
"I had ace-ten," he said and kept walking.
2. vs. Bill Rini, and I honestly don't remember the date
Okay, we were drunk. Let's get that out of the way. I'm pretty sure it was summer, I'm vaguely certain Spaceman and Pokerati Dan were there, and I know we are at the Excalibur. The size of the pot makes me believe Bill and I both had around $800 in front of us. Everything else is pretty much a blur.
I know I had pocket aces. I'm pretty sure one was black. Let's call it the ace of spades. It doesn't matter.
I raised and Bill re-raised me. I complained in a way guys with pocket aces do. Folded back to me and I decide to give the guy a break.
"All-in," I said. Because, in poker, that's how you give a guy a break.
Bill looked peeved, but only for a second. "I call," he said. Because, with AK, he didn't want a break. He wanted my $800. When he saw my aces, he was visibly agitated. I said something to the effect of, "I was trying to give you a break."
He said something to the effect of, "Fuck your mother." That's not an exact quote, but it's close I think.
Bill didn't win. He left.
To this day, I actually feel bad about that hand.
1. vs. Iggy , December 2004
I was still steaming from having my Hiltons cracked, and raised pre-flop with pocket sixes. Of course, Iggy called. The flop came down 589. Again, Iggy and I went to war.
Now, I know I'm not necessarily favored to win this hand. In fact, I should assume that Iggy is ahead. Maybe a set. More likely, A9 or A8. If he is ahead, I know that I only have six outs to catch up. Still, having played low-limit with him before, I know Iggy can sometimes be aggressive when he's way behind. I could only hope he was on a draw.
I think I maintained my poker face when the turn brought a seven, giving me the straight. I check-raised Iggy, who cold called and gave me a look.
The turn was a blank, as I recall. This time I bet into him and the sonofabitch raised me. I re-raised, and he capped.
But as he put in his final bet, he turned to the dealer and said, "You know, in a lot of cardrooms, when play gets to be heads up there's no limit on the number of raises."
It was at this moment that my heart sank and I picked up on Iggy's biggest tell: When he has the nuts, he'll turn to the dealer and ask for the game to be no-limit.
The dealer said we could do whatever we wanted, but I already knew what was about to happen. I put in my final crying call and watched Iggy turn up Vince Van Patton's favorite hand, JTo.
Iggy began raking the pot and eyed me from behind his locks, "Drawing at the dummy end of the straight," he said with a playful scoff.
In one moment I felt both chastened and so happy to be alive that I didn't mind losing another big pot to Iggy.<-- Hide More
Was it really only two and half years ago? It seems like an eternity since I splashed around in a pool of my own hubris. It was as comfortable as the good Vegas beds and as dangerous as putting your money on Big Brown. Poker felt like such a sure thing. Everything made sense. The hours spent were profitable. The handle on the game was like the baseball bat owned since childhood. I remember thinking, "Damn, I could do nothing but this if I really wanted to." Blind arrogance is such a fun place to live. Every decision seems perfect, whether inside the game or out.
I don't live there anymore, for better or worse. Over the past 30 months, I've been forced to confront that I was never as good as I thought. And, even if I was, it doesn't matter. It took me too long to realize that the game changed and I didn't change with it. Like the guy who is still trying to figure out why he can't sell his warehouse full of cassette tapes, I'm forced to sit here and figure out if I can re-tool myself to catch up with two years of online poker's evolution.
Why do I think of it today? Well, a lot of reasons, I guess. But what really forced me to admit it out loud was a guy I made fun of in 2006. His screen name was one of my favorites ever: w00t4d0nks.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Back then, I was still a regular at Party's $10/$20 NL game. I'd done pretty well for myself there for quite a while and, in an act of pure cockiness, called out w00t4d0nks in public. Here in the South we call that "showing your ass." In the post Shortbuy City, I rambled on for an age about one particular guy who bought into my regular game for 25% of the max buy-in. I made assumptions on top of assumptions about the guy's MO and essentially called him a gambling dumbass. I based a lot of what I wrote on fairly limited data and a lot of arrogance. I wrote, in part:
I guess it just surprises me that with all the good poker information out there, some people are still treating poker like a gamble instead of an ATM. What's more, I'm starting to see more and more of these guys in the middle no-limit area. It's both fascinating and disturbing to watch. It's like watching Sammy Farha flip a coin for $25K. Watching gamblers can be fun. Playing poker against them can be more fun.
I'll be honest. The passing years, the end of Party, and my gradual decline into poker loathing had made me completely forget about w00t4d0nks. Over the years, I've noticed a lot more people at all levels of the game playing short-stacks. There are now scads of web sites and training grounds for the short-stack strategy. There are legions of players out there who do nothing but multi-table with short-stacks all day long. They are winning players against... well, against people like me who failed to adjust.
So, imagine my surprise when I ran into w00t4d0nks again--not at the tables, not at a bar, but in a comment on this very poker blog. When I saw the name in the comments, I immediately remembered the guy (who for some reason is etched into my brain in one particular seat at the Party Poker tables).
Here is w00t4d0nks note in its entirety:
Hey Otis. I just got a big chuckle out of one of your old blog entries and thought I'd write you a thanks. At the time of w00ts appearance on the Party 10/20 tables I was pretty well known under a different screen name as one of the big winning super regulars. I developed the short stack strategy after listening to people complain about the guys doing it(who were terrible poker players btw). I figured I'd give it a shot since I always experiment with out of the box strats.
The strategy was ridiculously successful and actually made me more $/hour than full buyin. It was at least $500/hour and I think was at about $1k/hour on nights and weekends towards the end but then party closed(i've still got the PTDB somewhere I think). There were so many regular ABC multi tablers in those days that it was incredibly simple. What noone realized was that I was using Pokertracker with a HUD and customized my push ranges to each player. I was picking up $100 with no showdown like it raining benjamins.
Anyways, I always joke with my friends about being the godfather of shortstacking and not getting credit for it so I thought this blog was a riot =)
After seeing the comment, I read it twice and tried to decide how I felt. After a few minutes, I knew exactly. It was if I just read, "Hey, Otis. Remember that hot girl you were dating in college? Yeah, really hot, huh? Well, here's the thing. The whole time you were dating, I was pouring it to her behind your back. We ended up getting married. She still talks about how you couldn't get her off."
Yeah, a little more than humbling.
Looking at it much later, I can still say short-stacking is not the most exciting version of poker, nor one that sounds like much fun to play. That admitted, poker is not really about having fun, is it? It's not about mainlining adrenaline and getting your rocks off on the stress. It's about making money. There are some people out there like w00t4d0nks who apparently made it work for them. Woot, if you're still reading, let us know how you're doing now. It might be instructive.
In the meantime, I'm wallowing in a different pool now. A dip in Olympic-sized Self Loathing isn't nearly as much fun, but it's a lot more real than blind ignorance. Time, I've found, is as much a magnifying glass as it is a mirror. Looking back, indeed, I can see a reflection of a very big donkey.
C'est moi.<-- Hide More
G-Rob and I missed the driveway into the pub and busted a U-turn in the middle of a busy highway. Our tires crunched on rock as we slid into the small gravel parking lot. The entire bar could've fit in the downstairs floor of my house. It was barely big enough to hold G-Rob's hair, let alone his ego and my enormous sense of self-loathing.
It was a Friday night around 7pm. Nobody reasonable goes to places like this, least of all suburban fathers with mortgages and firm grasps on their drinking problem. No, these places are for professional drunks who don't quaff martinis before sundown and certainly don't have many people who give a damn or dram where they are.
We two suburban fathers, however, find ourselves in these dives more often than we do the trendy or chain bars in town. We look for out of-the-way Quonset huts and cinder block buildings where the floor really does smell like beer and the people only look up from their drinks to make sure you aren't the police.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I picked the place Friday because Mapquest said it was the closest possible drinking establishment to a poker game G-Rob and I were hitting. Trendy names and dueling pianos be damned, this place simply called itself the name of its city and "Pub."
I knew I would love it before we even sat down. My belief was confirmed when the bleach-blonde 40-something behind the bar gave G-Rob and me a look that said, "Oh, give me a fucking break."
"IDs," she sighed.
See, it's not that people in places like this don't like you. It's that they don't like the idea of you. You are something new, something they can't immediately trust, something they have to work to know. That kind of activity is not what dive bars are about. The places where I feel most welcome are the places where I can walk into an established routine, even if it is not my own.
I stuck my hand in my pocket and pulled out my drivers license. "I have gray in my beard," I said as I handed it in the direction of the woman's ample bosom.
She looked me straight in the eye. "I don't care," she said.
The two beers we ordered were cold and appeared immediately in front of us. The bar was comfortable and everybody except G-Rob and I knew each other.
I caught G-Rob's eye and nodded toward the back of the room where seven or eight guys were sitting around the table. Someone was dealing from a red deck. No chips were in sight, but it was obvious the game was serious. No matter they were drinking some concoction made out of Crown Royal and Rumplemintz, they were into what they're doing.
"Playing cards back there," I said aloud, half to point out the obvious and half to see if the bartender would eavesdrop and fill me in on what they were doing.
G-Rob did a half-turn on his barstool and took a look.
"Somebody just passed some money across the table," he said.
We had a poker game to go to. It was a safe place where there was no chance of robbery or arrest. There was no chance of cheating and no chance of getting knifed in the gravel parking lot. Still, we were intrigued.
G-Rob noted someone had just mentioned trip queens getting beat by trip aces.
"Are they playing on paper?" I wondered aloud.
It seemed like such a game would be difficult to pull off, especially for a group of guys hopped up on peppermint schnapps.
"It's Guts," said the guy sitting on the other side of me. I came to think of him as our new best friend.
This is how you survive in a dive bar. This is how you survive in a gambling hole. You find one guy who is willing to let you in and show you the ropes. If you decide you can trust him, you're good as long as you want to be.
"Four card Guts," he said, "With a discard. $20 a hand. You can drop if you want to, but if you're in, you're in."
He went on to tell us that winning and losing $500 is not impossible in the game. He further told us the game runs nearly every night and well into the dark hours.
This is the beauty of gambling holes. You will not find people playing cards at the Applebees bar. Liberty Taproom may have a great selection of beer, but the chances of rolling dice for "however much cash is in this envelope" are slim to none. This little pub, though, was all about gambling--cops, preachers, and wives be damned.
If we'd stayed a week, we could've played four card Guts with the drunk and sunburned. We could've played a game in which a winning raffle ticket earns you a roll of the dice and a successful roll of the dice earns you a draw from a deck and a successful joker-pull from the deck can earn you...
"I won $7,000 one night," our new friend said. "They had to walk me out to my car." And I believed him, because there is no real reason to make up something that ridiculous.
We didn't have a week. We had but an hour, time to roll the dice for the envelope money, time to laugh at the guy at the end of the bar who said, "Do you know the odds of actually--oh, nevermind."
We knew the odds and we didn't care. The dice could've been weighted for all we cared. There could've been only deuces and threes on them. We still filled the cup, slammed the dice on the bar, and sighed happily when we lost. It was action, in a public place, where nearly everything that was happening was in some way illegal.
It was perfect.
We walked back out into the sunlight on the way to our surburban poker game where the table stakes were much higher, but the romance was the same as an entree from Ruby Tuesday.
No, we don't haunt or hunt in the underground games much anymore, but the glimmer in both of our eyes as we finished our beers was enough to say without saying, "Damn, we would if we could."<-- Hide More
Generally, people end up in hell because the in-road has so many fun attractions along the way.
The hell-heat of the Nevada desert is the only thing that contradicts the axiom. There is nothing luring people to Las Vegas except the destination itself. I think people who routinely go to Vegas know in advance the part of their soul they will give up. It's a cross-sectioned portion, like something out of a Science and Industry museum. Everybody knows it's there, but until you see it sliced and exposed, the importance is only academic.
The last time I went to the World Series of Poker, I met the Devil. As I wrote after the fact, "The Devil knew my name. The Devil knew my patterns. The Devil knew where I was. The Devil knew Otis. And now Otis had seen the Devil."
Aside from true, irrational fear, cold is the only thing I remember feeling at the end of the 2008 World Series. I shivered and shook my way through the final day of the main event. I thought I was dying and, ever so briefly, just wished I would so the Devil could take me wherever he wanted.
I survived, but I don't know how.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I don't really make many decisions in a vacuum anymore. Once I left my parents' oversight back in 1992, I had about five years during which I got to experiment with the luxury of selfish, wanton, and irresponsible decision-making. I survived that, too, and looking back, I'm not sure how. Since then, my life has been largely governed by bosses and my love for my family. When work doesn't control my life, I do my best to follow a path that will let my wife know I love her and give my son the attention he more than deserves. The boss-control I would give up if I was able. The family, never or for any amount of anything I want.
Still, in those fanciful hours when nobody is awake but me, I think about what the Devil would want for me, where he would drag me, and how much of my soul I would lose in the process. If work didn't matter and I could keep my family, I would selfishly be packing my bags right now and burying myself at the tables in Vegas. I don't even know why. The sensible part of me knows there is little chance for success and a huge chance that if I emerged alive, it would only be as a shell of myself. It doesn't even sound like fun, and yet I think about it--because I'm sick or already more void of soul than I thought.
Beginning a few years ago, I started getting calls that would land me in Vegas for three consecutive summers. At the end of every one, I wanted nothing more than to be home. At the end of last year, I remember thinking that I'd be just fine if I never covered another Series. So, no one is more surprised than me at how conflicted I feel this week.
I've found myself surprisingly bemused as I read the run-up pieces written by all my friends and colleagues who are packing their bags right now. The veterans are, as expected, already too jaded to expect anything but the hell they are about to experience. The newcomers are rowdy and ready to jump in. I don't look forward to seeing any of the hollow eyes.
Don't get me wrong. It's not all horrible. I have many fond memories from covering the Series. The bunker mentality that sets in after a few weeks helps build some pretty good friendships. Much of it--like limetossing, late night trips to Binion's, and eating Keno crayons--has been chronicled across the ethersphere. I have to admit, I am a little disappointed that I am going to be missing most of it this year.
Well, yeah. This is something I've avoided writing about until now, largely because I've parachuted into the past threee World Series at the last minute. There was a part of me that believed there was still a chance that was going to happen this year. As it happens though, I'm going to miss most of the Series this year. The plan as it stands is to drop in on June 24, cover the $50,000 HORSE and Main Events, and get out.
As mentioned above, I don't make many decisions by myself anymore. I had grand plans for this year that involved a house with a pool, sleeping with my wife every night, kissing my kid every day, and covering the ever-lovin' hell out of 2008 Series. When it became clear that wasn't going to be possible, any excitement I had about the Series vanished. Several other things happened in the meantime and suffice it to say, I have extremely mixed feelings about the next two months.
After covering the Series for four weeks, the Series' press folks are naturally suspiscious of people who drop in for the big events. I can't count the number of times I've heard the long-haul media bitch about the short-time crews. I'm now going to be part of the Parachute Crew and I'll admit I'm not looking forward to the idea. Furthermore, regardless of its Big Picture importance, covering the Series for the full seven weeks provides context that the final few weeks can't offer. As a pseudo writer, I am a tad embarassed about my role this year. That said, I'm going to spend four extra weeks with my wife and kid. That's time that I've missed in previous years. It's time I'll never get back. It's time I plan to spend wisely. In short, the soul-vacuum writer is depressed, but the rest of me is happy.
I've spent too much time in Las Vegas to confuse it with Paradise. I know where Vegas is, I know what it is, and I know who runs the show. If I made all the decisions in a vacuum, I would grab my parchment Moleskine, a good pen, and few thousand bucks. I'd get on a plane and snort the brimstone. I'd do it for the same reason I'd cover war, death, or mini-apocalypse. Many of the stories that need to be told are in hell.
That's not my life, though. At least not right now. I'll admit, I'm in a pretty odd place mentally, but I know, despite it not being the best thing for my career (such as it is), missing 80% of the World Series is going to be a good thing in the longrun.
As I reached this point in the writing of this post, a good friend sent me a text, "When do you get to Vegas?"
The answer, for better or worse, is June 24.
The first year I played a World Series event, I found myself at Table 2, Seat 1. I was nervous beyond my normal "There's a good chance I'm dying" standard of anxiety. The buy-in money had come out of my own pocket, there were thousands of players in the room, and I had friends and family on the rail. Yet, despite it all, I found myself dedicating an inordinate amount of thought to one subject that had nothing to do with how to play ace-king under the gun.
Table 2 was in the farthest corner of the room. To exit the Amazon Room, a player had to wade through a deadfall of tables, chips, people, and ugly humanity. With a fresh bottle of Diet Mountain Dew in front of me and the cards going in the air, my mind wandered off to the same thought I have when I go just about anywhere.
How in the hell was I going to get to the bathroom?More in this Poker Blog! -->
I used to say, "I have the bladder of a pregnant woman." Then, my wife got pregnant and still lasted longer between trips to the head than me. The Otis family bladder is pretty legendary. It defies all marketing plans about the distance between truck stops and laughs out loud at medical studies. If you were to put my father, brother, and me in a car for a road trip to Vegas and someone offered you an over/under bet on the number of times we'd stop to use the restroom, you should take the over--no matter what the line was.
Here's a confession I think I've only made to one person in my life.
Back in the late 90s, my relationship with Mrs. Otis was only a couple of years old. I lived in Jackson, Mississippi. She lived in Columbia, Missouri. I made the drive up to my old college town about once every two weeks. I'd get off work around 6pm, grab a bag of sunflower seeds and two one-liter bottles of Diet Mountain Dew. Even if I drove like a crazy person, the drive usually took around eight hours. I could cut 20 minutes off the trip if I only stopped for gas. I don't think I have to tell you that I saved the lids off the one-liter soda bottles for a reason.
Why do I bring it up now? Well, as I might have mentioned a few weeks back, I am an occasional reader of high-stakes no-limit grinder Leatherass9's blog. He recently made a confession on his blog to which I can relate--at least to the degree that I know where he's coming from, if not related to poker and EV. Here's a quick synopsis...the guy figured out how much he was costing himself to get up and go to the bathroom. He wrote, "So it essentially cost me $100 to pee. Twice a day makes that $200 and if I play about 250 days a year (very conservative estimate) that means it costs me $50,000 a year to pee which was more than I used to make at my old job!"
While I've never been serious enough about poker to pee in a bottle (I wonder what Jim Croce would've sung about that), I have put significant thought into how urination and poker go together. See, I've never understood people who take multiple breaks during poker tournaments. I know a couple of people who will take one or two smoke breaks per level (not including the official breaks) of major poker tournament. Leaving the table for a nic-fix or to go to the bathroom requires more than a "I want it" or "I gotta go." One should take into consideration a wide variety of factors. If leaving the table, it should be done in such a way that you give up as little positional advantage as possible while not missing any of your blinds. Thus, there are only a couple of times during an orbit when you can leave the table.
During that first year at the World Series, I happened upon this way of doing things. I'm happy to share it with you now.
The Otis Strategy for Urinating During a Poker Game
That is the basic strategy. There are other factors. Here are a few more tips.
It's not foolproof, but it's as close as I've got to perfection yet.
Oh, and always wash your hands. Forget once, and your friends will never let you hear the end of it.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to see a man about a stable of horses.<-- Hide More
My return to the Up For Poker blog ring brought with it two claims that some people have doubted.
1) I nearly lost $500 after betting someone they couldn't blow up a soccer ball with only their mouth.
2) A defunct underground game run out of a fireworks warehouse now wears a sign titled "REWORK."
The full stories of both can be found in Naked Otis.
Well, to the doubters...here is proof.More in this Poker Blog! -->
That's B.J. Nemeth, famous poker writer and now infamously-bad prop bettor. When offered $500 on his $50 to blow up a deflated soccer ball with his mouth, he declined, and then did it anyway. He won some pride, though, which has to count for something. Just not my $500.
That's the building where I spent many a night with a motley group of poker players and rabid drunks. You can decide on your own to which group I belonged.
For what it's worth, I don't use poetic license very much. First, I'm no poet. Second, if I have to have a license to do something, I generally don't enjoy it.
I've never told this story in its entirety. I never will. Even if I someday abandon my 80% rule, some things about my entry into the world of the poker media will never see print. Discretion may or may not have anything to do with valor, but it certainly plays a role in the friends you make and the friends you keep.
Nonetheless, there is somebody who played a huge role in my new life who needs mentioned today. He played one of the major roles in getting me where I am--wherever that is. Sometimes I don't know whether to thank him or curse him for that, but I know I can always count on his as a friend.
In December 2004, I was getting ready to go to Vegas for the first WPBT Holiday Gathering when a comment appeared on a post in this blog. It came from someone purporting to be Lee Jones, noted author and poker room manager for the then second biggest online poker site in the world. He had a proposal for me.
I went to Vegas with this in mind and was nervous as hell. I stood with my cell phone in the lobby of the Excalibur hotel--of all places--and talked to Lee for the first time. His offer: blog the 2005 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and get paid for it. I didn't tell him I would've done it for free. Lee was candid enough to tell me I was their second choice after Wil Wheaton, who had quite unexpectedly recommended me for the job (something I've come to think of as akin to Kato Kaelin getting a job because Robert Redford wasn't available, but still). Lee was kind enough to not assume he could get me for pennies (in retrospect, he did--I wouldn't work for that kind of money again unless it was backstage as Norah Jones' finger masseur). Lee asked for an e-mail and a few other particulars.
I didn't have a laptop with me, so I sent everything from the Excalibur's television internet service. Somehow I ended up with the job. While on the week-long freelance gig, Lee established himself as a guy I could trust. Toward the end of the week, I saw him in frequent conversation with people I'd come to know as important within the company. At the end of the week, Lee pulled me aside and asked, in essence, "How'd you like to do this all the time?" After a few more words of advice, Lee sent me on my way. Two weeks later I'd quit my job in television and was looking for my lost luggage in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Over the past three and half years, I've seen Lee in more places than I can count. Several conversations stand out--one overlooking a nightclub floor in Monte Carlo in which he summed up the poker boom and our place in it, and one just a few nights ago in Monte Carlo are a couple that stand out.
Lee told me a while back that his time with PokerStars and time with the European Poker Tour were about to come to an end. It was not completely unexpected, but it still made me sad to see him go. Lee is always good for a calming word, solicited advice, and the occasional unsolicited entertaining opinion. He's a helluva teacher, too. It's amazing to watch players seek him out at live events. He's become an icon without trying to be.
That's what makes the next step in his life so cool. Lee is headed off to be the COO of CardRunners.com and will be responsible for the daily operation of the company. I'm impressed as hell with the young men who hired Lee. At a time in my life when I was spending three or four nights a week in a bar, these guys have put together an exceptionally cool company.
So, it's not a goodbye to Lee, but a good luck. There was a time in my life where I would've written nice things about the guy because he was an important person in poker. Now I can write this stuff because he's a friend. He's moving just 45 minutes north of my house and I hope to get a chance to sit out on his porch and pick a little before my life takes me elsewhere (if you didn't know, Lee plays some mean bluegrass and puts my abilities to shame).
So, thanks, Lee. You're good people and deserve every bit of success that comes your way.<-- Hide More
At 5am, I was sitting in a place called the Blue Gin Bar drinking a 1664 beer and wishing I'd never even heard of a place called Monte Carlo. It was a place that a hundred people would've paid to be sitting and I wanted little more than to put the entire Mediterranean coast behind me. It's one in a long list of things about the poker world that don't make sense.
I was sitting between two fellow writers, both of whom I respect a great deal. After a drink, one of them said, "Did you hear about Brandi Hawbaker?"
I hadn't heard a word. I'd been living in my own little bubble for the past nine days. I barely knew my own name, let alone that Hawbaker was dead.
Suicide. It's one of those things that makes too much sense to consider. How likely is it that someone so fragile, so needy, so imperfect, so completely fucking used by a community of people would kill herself?
Right. Surprise, surprise.
Now that the SEO-palooza surrounding Hawbaker's death has reached the point that it's no longer as valuable to trade on the name, Brandi Rose news has hit the wane. I personally had just one experience with Hawbaker. I didn't know her. I can't claim to have treated her any better than anybody else in the poker world. I didn't know anything about her except to know she was the poker community's train wreck--the one who gets rolled by the old fucks, tries to fuck the young fucks, then gets what's she's been giving and gives what she's been getting. She wasn't the first person it happened to, and she won't be the last. But, as the world turns and the light guides us through the soap operas of the internet poker rags, she was a star. She was the young and the restless. She was the person who made every other person out there feel better about themselves.
I am no exception.
Church is an odd place to learn about poker, which is why I don't go except for weddings and funerals. At the last wedding that saw me sitting in a pew, the priest commented on our throwaway society. Like our constantly obsolete computers, our petrol-sucking bottles of water, and our tired old cliches, many of the people in our lives are disposable. Our celebrities--especially the ones we manufacture for the sole purpose of destroying--are merely there for our short-term entertainment, money-shot porn without all the messy clean-up.
Last year's World Series of Poker took a hole out of my soul that I'm not sure will ever get patched. It wasn't just watching Hawbaker whore herself out for buy-ins. It was watching Vinny Vinh get pushed into tournaments and disappear from tournaments--a real fear and loathing that looked more like Russian Roulette than poker. It was watching Paul "Eskimo" Clark nearly die at the table three or four times, then piss himself at the final table while his "backers" waited for their few thousand bucks. Poker has never called itself a nobleman's game, but sometimes it's nice to know we live and work in a world that isn't so overrun by disgusting people.
In a consumer society, poker players and their hangers-on are never more at home. They find something they can consume and they use every possible ounce of it, before briefly mourning its passing and moving on to the next consumable. There must be some karmic reckoning for me, for you, for everybody who is wallowing in public disingenuousness. We all suck.
Poker doesn't pick people. It's the other way around. There is nothing tying any of us to the game or the community. It belongs to no one and that's probably why it and its people wander so far from normalcy and decency. It's anarchy with just an ounce of control. It attracts people--me included--who like that edgy feeling of being right on the precipice of disaster.
Hawbaker, sick as she was, picked poker. With apologies to D.H. Lawrence, it's a jungle where wild things really do feel sorry for themselves. Redemption only comes in the destruction of others. Many people survive spiritually because they can see the dividing line between reality and the game. The people who don't are the people who die and the people who kill.
It's not the grace of God that saves us. There but for dumb luck go you and me.
If Hawbaker's death is even a glimmer of truth...if there is a God, he doesn't believe in poker.
B-roc looked at me last night from his spot in the box.
"I'm not sure Canada is right for you. Long winters, cold weather. Not sure..."
He let the sentence hang there, a perfect joke and follow-up to my latest self-deprecating comment. It had been a rough few weeks at Gucci Rick's and I hated myself as much as usual. I use self-torture as a comedic device, a poker technique, and yes, a defense mechanism. Sometimes I really do hate myself. Saying it out loud dulls the anger's edge.
Today, I started to wonder whether that Otis should play poker.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I am naturally skeptical of people who go out of their way to tell me how good they are. I figure if you are taking the time to tell me how good you are--at poker, knitting, sex--you're wasting time you could be using to show me. Maybe it's my Missouri upbringing, but I don't give a damn what people say most of the time. I'm moved by what people do. Talent, like character, is defined by action.
I watched a rather candid interview with Tiger Woods this morning. One of the first things he said that struck me revolved around if it is at all possible for Woods to look at himself as others see him.
"I'm in the moment," he said. Then, as if he'd just realized it himself, he added, "I am the moment."
What impresses me about Woods is not only his ability. It's his ability to not stand on every street corner and tell everybody how good he is. Moreover, it's his abilty to believe in himself with 100% confidence, but not let that confidence get in the way of his ability.
In the middle of a bad run--a slump, a middle finger from Mistress Variance, mound of bad beats as high as your ass--most people take one of two roads. They either kick and scream about how their ability is not yielding the appropriate results, or they fall into an introspective and self-abusing hole. I, if you've not yet caught on, fall in the latter category.
I aspire to Woods' brand of confidence. No. I don't aspire to that. It's more than that. I have to achieve it. You should, too. Success, it seems, is the ability to believe you can without letting that confidence get in the way of actually doing it.
To be sure, there are people who defy this axiom. There are people who find success without finding the perfect balance. But I wonder whether those people will ever be considered great.
I don't necessarily seek greatness, but I am in search of the confidence that greatness requires. As Wood's says, "I will be better tomorrow than I am today."
In a series of questions toward the end, Woods is asked a series of questions. Kobe or LeBron? LeBron or Michael Jordan? Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods?
Woods, without much hesistation, but also without an ounce of cockiness, picked himself. A pregnant pause hung in the air, as if to ask how anybody could be so cocky.
Woods barely smiled as he said, "You have to believe in yourself, don't you?"
I sat cross-legged in the hotel room. The carpet was new, clean, and better than what I had in my house. The balcony doors were open, letting in a wind and exposing a view you can't buy--it's only available for rent.
A few feet away from me sat more than $30,000 in cash. Most of it was wrapped in ten-grand bundles. A private dealer had been summoned to the room, a cache of one-of-a-kind chips littered the floor, and a setup of cards was being counted down. I speak of all of this in passive voice because, while I was there, I was--at least for the moment--a spectator. It was not my money. They were not my chips. I hadn't touched the cards. I was sitting in the middle of something that was simultaneously meaningless and exceedingly important. More to the point, I was caught up in a salt-washed epiphany.More in this Poker Blog! -->
When I wrote The End, there was a pretty serious part of me that believed it would be the last thing I wrote on the Up For Poker blog. After four years of finding nuances of the game and inspiration in the romantic turn of a card, I had given up. It had been a losing year--my first-- and I barely knew why. Poker had become more of an addiction than a hobby. It wasn't as if I was blowing through wads of cash and endangering my family. I was not playing above my roll or on borrowed cash. In fact, a nice-sized chunk of my bankroll sat in the bank untouched.
No, it was not your typical sweating, tweaking addiction. I only defined it as such because I was playing, but didn't know why. I wasn't playing for profit. I wasn't playing for fun. I was playing because, in short, that's what I do. I play cards. It was still better than drinking myself into barstool grandeur or experimenting with firearms, but it was not serving a purpose. I found no spiritual or financial profit in the game. Even if I kept playing--which I knew I would--I didn't see reason to write about it anymore. I write about things in which I find beauty and passion. Even if it's beautiful tragedy or hilarious passion, it's worth a word or two. There is only so much one can write about autotonomous raising and folding, and even less when the lifeless time at the table is the means to an unprofitable and unhappy end.
What's more, the G-Vegas underground games had become no man's land for me. After two violent robberies and one unfortunate bust, I made a promise to my wife that I was finished. No amount of entertainment or writing fodder was worth her worrying about whether I was spending my night looking down the barrel of a cheap .380. The games died off for a couple of months and then started their comeback. I did not come back with them. Despite pleas and protestations from my poker friends, I stayed away. Those long, hyper-caffeinated nights in smoky underground rooms were now just a thing about which I could wax nostalgic.
Indeed, I had all but given up on the idea of writing about the game that played such a large role in my life since 2003. When people asked what I do, I stopped saying "I write about poker." Instead I muttered something along the lines of, "It's sort of a long story."
A few nights before the mini-epiphany, I was half-crocked and sitting in a hotel lobby bar with a semi-motley crew of people. I gave a fellow writer 10-1 odds on his $50 that he could not blow up a deflated soccer ball using only his mouth. He pondered it for several minutes before declining the bet. Half an hour later, he inflated he ball anyway, just to see if he could do it. I thumbed the $500 in my pocket and wondered how I had dodged losing it. On any other night, with any other person, I would've lost the bet, lost the money, and lost a little more of my mind.
I was in a pretty dark place. No matter what I did, it didn't feel right. Privately, I think of it as One-Pip Syndrome. It's that time at the table and in life where you can make the decisions that feel almost certainly right and turn out to be just one pip from success. Eights versus nines, AQ vs AK, it doesn't matter. It's either a winner or a loser and when you're one pip off, you might as well be drawing dead.
The night that I ended up in the hotel room, I let go. I stood outside and let the wind smack me in the face. Whatever it was--the booze, the breeze, the bravado--everything seemed more clear. I made one decision that wasn't even officially mine yet to make. Everything inside my head settled, sediment at the bottom of a river that had been running too fast for too long. I ate dinner with my wife and friends. I laughed, indulged, and let go of whatever it was that I thought had tied me up. We walked outside after dinner and did something those afflicted with good sense don't do. No sense in describing it either, because it was certainly more important in my head than in reality. Regardless, it was 15 minutes of pure and simple abandon. No matter the consequences, I was free.
Later that night in the hotel room, I sat across from the friend who had just won the $30,000 in a poker tournament. He was happy, but no happier than I'd seen him when he was badly stuck. As the room filled in and we settled on a private HORSE SNG, we worked out the stakes. I can't remember how much it was per person, but it was $100 or less. A few of us did a last longer that was the same as the buy-in. We would do another game for similar stakes a few hours later.
I looked around and realized that it was not the money that mattered. I was sitting with a guy who had casually won more than my car was worth. I was sitting with people who had enjoyed the glamour of playing on TV. I was sitting with people who are big players in the business. The money was incidental. Not only that, almost all of it was incidental. All that mattered was I was playing with friends who appreciated the game as much as I did. I was sitting with people who took poker--for any amount of money--seriously, and at the same time, could laugh, cut up, and enjoy the time they had to play.
I admitted to myself that, for whatever reason, I am not as good a poker player as I used to be. I admitted to myself that I probably am not as good a writer as I used to be. Neither realization meant, however, that I had to quit. Even now as I struggle to figure out where my game fell apart and my words became trite, I am, in a word, okay.
Though I found it hard to believe, I was actually having fun again.
The room we called The Gaelic Game ran out of a fireworks warehouse on one of the oldest and most traveled highways in G-Vegas. It was not prophecy, but The Last Poker Game told the story of the joint pretty well. I spent many a night there, albeit few of them big winners. Still, before The Depot opened, it was my house of choice and I went there as often as I could.
At the end of the summer in 2007, the local Sheriff's office raided the Gaelic Game, effectively shutting it down, at least in that location. It was the second to last straw in the my little pig's collapsing poker house. When the game disappeared, with it went the rest of my poker year.
The other day, I was driving down the same road and, as always, stole a look at the place that had been my poker home away from home. The giant, red "FIREWORKS" sign had fallen on hard times. The letters that remained: REWORK.
I'm not much of a believer in omens, but sometimes you just have to read the writing on the warehouse.
Admittedly, I've been rather quiet the past couple of months.
There's a reason for that and it stands to change the subject of much of my writing here at Up For Poker.
Because what's happening is more of a personal nature, I've made the announcement at Rapid Eye Reality.
Suffice it to say, if there is another Eh-Vegas celebration next year, I'm probably in.
Sometime before the end off the year, I should have the final installment of my Vegas trip report ready to go. In the meantime, I offer without further comment the one table at which I'd love to see G-Rob draw a seat.
For those intererested, the painting is titled "Grand Old Gang" and is by a guy from Missouri named Andy Thomas. Hat tips to my wife for pointing it out to me and Jen Newell for writing about it on PokerWorks
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
I like the way you play.
You're smart, you know? That's why I respect your game. You're one helluva a player and I don't know why you don't win more. Tough break on that ace-jack hand. So damned cruel when a monster like that gets coolered by AK. It's okay, though, bud. You're going to get there. After all, you've got me and a host of other people telling you what's right and wrong about your game.
Oh, and hey, if you lose tonight, shake it off. It's going to get better, because I like the way you play.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I made two rules for myself about a year ago: Never take criticism from someone I've just beat and never believe an opponent who says they respect my game. The rules exist for a variety of reasons. First, if I played a hand badly, I know it. I don't need someone else to tell me. Second, if someone says they respect me (especially in the midddle of a game), the chances that they are lying or shooting an angle are about 99%. Furthermore, it doesn't matter if someone likes my game. They are still trying to take my chips.
My psyche doesn't matter, though. The above is simply the way I protect myself from manipulation and, more importantly, ego. Pride and timidity are equally dangerous at a poker table and I want none of either. It's up to you how you handle your head.
What's on my mind today, however, is how people handle their mouths, how they handle beats, and the purpose of both. Purpose is the thing.
I do not hold myself out as an expert in poker, psychology, or any combination of the two. However, I am clear on one thing: Everything you do at a poker table, from the time you walk in the door or log-in online to the time you cash out must have a purpose. Every move you make, thing you say, or motion you make should have purpose, and better yet, a purpose toward the ultimate goal of making money.
Few people, least of all I, have perfected this. It's exceptionally difficult to follow this rule. Distractions like a TV, a waitress, or a beer can steal focus and render all of your attempts at a purpose-minded game. For some people, the hardest thing to contol is their mouth, especially after playing and losing against an obviously inferior opponent.
I wonder sometimes why more people don't consider how absolutely contrary that is to poker's first goal. Among the first thing a new player learns is to stay as far away from the aquarium as you can. You want your fish to be as still as possisble. Stasis, after all, is death. And yet, I see great players going to great lengths to pick up the fish and shake them until they completely understand how unreasonable it is to call a re-raise with ace-jack off.
What do you have to gain by doing that? Do you know? I only ask because you are making better the people I can conceivably beat and that is more than a little annoying. Plus, it's just a little rude.
I have a couple more rules. First, you will never hear me criticize your game. Second, if you hear me complimenting your game (beyond the occasional and polite, "nice hand"), be very wary, because I probably don't mean it.
There are five people with whom I would be totally honest about their play--and then only of they asked. There was a time when I could still teach my poker friends. That time has long since passed. They now all have a fundamental understanding of the game and have developed their own style. If they played a hand badly, they know it as well as I do. However, if they ask, I will offer my opinion, because, as friends, we hope to improve each other's game. We all know our respective strengths and weaknesses. We explot those in home games, but otherwise, we work to encourage each other to improve...without working to discourage our friends.
When Phil Hellmuth won his eleventh World Series of Poker bracelet this year, I was standing about 20 feet away. I couldn't see it happen, because Hellmuth sat in a live coverage void in the Bluff Magazine tent. Still, it was clear what happened. When the crowd rose in applause, I clapped as well. I have no love for Hellmuth's personality, table demeanor, cash game, or general life outlook. Regardless, I respect him as one of, if not the best, no-limit hold'em tournament player in history.
There is probably only one honest thing I could say to someone at a table: "I appreciate the way you handle yourself at the table."
I know tons of good poker players. I know some great poker players. Among those people, the only ones I care about are the ones I can respect. Phil Hellmuth has turned himseld into poker's version of a pro wrestling villian by criticizing his opponents' play. Everybody else who tries to emulate the Whining Badboy Poker Genius character is just slapping his man-part against the glass.<-- Hide More
"Anyone at any time can suddenly find himself dependent on his own resources for survival...If you are not ready, it may cost your life."
How to Stay Alive in the Woods
In 1956, Bradford Angier published a book titled "Living Off the Country." Thirty years later, the book was repackaged under the much more sexy title "How to Stay Alive in the Woods." Maybe it doesn't seem like much of a change, but when I look at it, I see more than two different titles. I see how a society viewed itself.
Time changes more than the lines on our collective face. It changes the way we see the world. In the 1950s, we were about living. In the 1980s, we were about surviving.
Three decades may have changed the way we saw our ability to live off the land. It's only taken three years to change how we see our ability to live on and off the felt.More in this Poker Blog! -->
"Just as cold is actually the lack of heat...so is getting lost an entirely negative state of affairs. We become lost not because if anything we do, but because of what we leave undone." --Chapter 14, "Staying Found."
If you take the poker world's last year into account, there would be a lot more bad things about which to write than good things. Like the waning year of oversexed and hypercharged young love, the past year has been marked with a feel of cognitive dissonance that at times seems impossible to overcome. More times than not, the problems have not been because of what we as a poker community did, but what we did not do.
Congress stripped online poker funding options down to the bare bones and put us back in the dark ages. Amy Calistri and Tim Lavalli uncovered the Color Up Scandal at the 2006 World Series. Local games around the country (including a couple here in G-Vegas) were robbed and/or busted with unsettling regularity. All of these things happened because the poker world failed to prepare. Whether it was a too-late lobby on The Hill, to not hiring the kind of staff needed to oversee the world's biggest poker event, or not operating an underground game with a common sense level of discretion, the poker world didn't get lost because of its actions. It got lost because if its inaction.
Now, two huge scandals have rocked the online poker world within the span of one month. The first one was apparently perpetrated by the player. The second was apparently pulled off by a company insider. The latter case at Absolute Poker is the one that breaks my heart. We don't and likely won't know everything. Had it not been for people like Nat Arem, the Pocket Fives crew, and a few other industrious amateur journalists, we might not know anything. Instead, the biggest scandal in online poker history is raining down on the industry and players. Once again, the industry is being forced to react as opposed to acting in advance. If the allegations against Absolute Poker are true (and I have no reason to believe they are not), then Absolute Poker should cease to exist. Right now, there is no way to make that happen, because there is no one to make it happen.
"An unhealthy proportion of accidents occur because deep down, someone wants them to happen." --Chapter 21, "Emergency Aid"
It's all rather exhausting. It's such an emotionally tiresome experience that a lot of people might think about giving up. I'll admit that I have had those thoughts. Still, I also know enough about the business, its roots, and its heart that I can't make myself walk away. Sure, I've met a lot of bad people over the past three years. However, I have also met some of the most honest and hardworking poker people that I can't turn my back on the game or the industry.
I have to imagine that the troubles we have been fording are ones that we are meant to face to make this industry--and by extension, the game we all love--once again viable in the long-term. If we are to truly care about the game enough to fight for it, then we will win. If not, we might as well start looking for the next fun way to make money, because for the vast majority of us, it won't be in poker.
These are fairly trite observations, I know. It's all rather hard to consider. I've been sitting in a state of flux since July when I left the World Series. I've abandoned the local underground scene in favor of a couple of regular home games. I am barely playing online. My next trip to Vegas will either be December (hopefully) or...well, if not then, I don't know. I just don't know what to do or when to do it.
I remember a tumultuous few months with a college girlfriend. We'd maintained different pads, but had basically been living together for several months. Over the course of a few ugly weeks, things turned pretty bad. It started with walking in on her and a group of friends frantically tearing up the house in search of a lost tab of acid (it was in the freezer) and ended with her hurling a glass dolphin across the room. Suffice to say, we didn't see much of each other after that. Despite enjoying a relationship that had a lot going for it, it had a lot more working against it.
If poker were a college relationship, I'd probably be hitting the singles bars right about now. Fortunately, poker is not about a matter of the heart. We may love it, but we all know it's a business. You don't save a business with make-up sex.
"What people say you cannot do, you try and find you can." --Henry David Thoreau, as quoted in Chapter 1, "Every Necessity is Free."
At this time last year, I thought we were at a crossroads in the poker world. Now I don't think it anymore. I know it. For the poker world to survive and thrive as it did before it all started falling apart, two things have to happen and happen quickly.
1) The online poker lobby must convince the United States Congress to overturn the online gambling funding ban or carve out a place for poker.
2) Online poker must come under a regulatory body that has not merely oversight but punitive controls that will force out the rogue operators who give a black eye to the legitimate companies.
In the absence of accomplishing those two things, the outlook is not as pretty as it used to be. The industry will not dry up, but it will not thrive. For many years, it has simply seemed easier to stick with the status quo. There is no book on how to survive this. Bradford Algier can only teach us how to find food and stay warm. This new poker world uncharted territory. I am guilty as everybody else in believing that the good times would last far longer than they have. Now, we all have to be responsible. Otherwise, the poker community is facing a lonely wilderness where the game is not as plentiful and winter is coming.<-- Hide More
I probably don't say this enough.More in this Poker Blog! -->
But, thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to make your blogs what they are. Thank you for taking the time to write real stories. Thank you for offering good theory posts. Thank you for making en effort over the years to claim a real space in this ethereal world. Thank you for giving more than you get back. Thank you for taking an individual pursuit and forming a community out of a bunch of people who might not otherwise know each other.
In short, thank you for knowing what makes a good, and dare I say real blog.
I can't say whether I'll make it for the WBPT gathering in December, but if I do, I hope to thank you in person. You all may be a bunch of cantankerous misfits, but you are my kind of people and you deserve more recognition than you get.
That's all for now.<-- Hide More
"What hath God wrought."
It's what I wished I'd been quick enough to say that night in Las Vegas.
I was in the seven seat and on the heater of my trip. It was one of those gorgeous nights where nothing goes wrong, aces hold up, draws get there, and the other players are either scared or vindictive enough to try to make moves.
The guy in the two seat was playing badly. He'd just come over from a different game and it was obvious he was playing on the last money in his pocket. He wore a hooded sweatshirt, a flat-billed cap, and a pair of dark shades.
He hadn't been sitting at the table for a full orbit and had yet to play a hand with me when he came in for a raise. I called in position and flopped open-ended. When he made his continuation bet, I made the call. He checked the turn and I checked behind. The river paired me and he checked again. This time I bet out. He scowled and folded, saying as he mucked his cards, "If I were you, I'd kill myself."More in this Poker Blog! -->
I was actually surprised at how speechless I was. I'd heard and read the same phrase before, but it had never been directed at me. If it was an attempt at tilting me, it was fruitless, as I was running well and in a good mood. If it was an attempt at bravado, whatever he gained was short-lived. He busted soon after and I never saw him again.
Still, I had no response. Yet, today, I still think about that guy, not because he was a good poker player, but because he didn't think twice about throwing out a line like that after playing his hand the way he did and losing.
I was me and I didn't want to kill myself. This guy, however, seemed pretty sure of himself.
And he's not alone.
Several months ago I spent a lot of time reading 2+2. While I got a lot of enjoyment and a sense of community from reading poker blogs, I felt like there were a lot of other voices and ideas in forum communities. I never posted on 2+2, but spent a lot of time lurking around the legislative and online poker forums.
One day, there was a particularly good post about the legal implications of the NETeller pull-out and what it meant for online poker players. It stretched down the page longer than the average forum post, but was insightful and I felt more educated for having read it.
The very next post in the thread spanned five letters: TLDNR.
I looked at the acronym and felt old. I had no idea what it meant. I checked in with Google and discovered the acronym stood for "Too long, did not read."
I sighed. A lost, illiterate soul, I figured. That was until I scrolled down further and found several people offering a heartfelt, "LOL" about the "TLDNR." I scrolled down a little more and found several people asking for a summary of the post.
Before long--much like seeing a new car for the first time and then seeing it eight times in the same day--I started seeing the same acronym and the same tired requests for summaries in posts all over 2+2.
It was not a lost, illiterate soul. It was a growing subculture that lived under a banner of "I don't have time for your shit. Either give it to me or get the fuck out of my way."
My work has offered me both the privilege of seeing some of the best things about poker and the sickness of seeing some of the worst. I've written in depth about the good things I've seen. Whether to protect my tenuous position in the industry or out of some hope I was wrong, I've never written much about the young guns.
I've been back from the World Series for a couple of weeks now and hoped it would be enough time to cool me off. Human Head might say it's given me time to get properly indignant, like a reformed smoker or drinker who spends hours telling you how you're killing yourself. I'm not sure either has happened. I'm not properly cool, nor am I indignant (even if I'm coming across as such). I'm just worried.
See, if you didn't know, "What hath God wrought" were the first words Samuel Morse sent across telegraph lines. It was a form of communication that required shorthand like SOS, 73 (best wishes), and 30 (the end). There was an economy of time based on how slow the new fast process was.
Once an indispensible form of communication, the Pony Express and other advanced systems of communication sent Morse shorthand the way of the dodo a long time ago. Now we live a century later and have more ways to communicate than we need. People like me like to think we've gained a lot more knowledge through technology. However, there are a lot of folks out there that may be suffering the opposite effect. Today, short-hand is not because of a literal lack of time. It's laziness and a feeling that our time is much better spent doing something other than actually communicating.
Now, you'd think this is the middle of a long rant about the kids refusing to read anything that takes more than five minutes to shove in their brain. However, it's not. The refusal to read is a mere symptom of a larger problem.
I need to preface the following with a pretty obvious statement. There are some damned good kids out there playing poker today. By that, I don't mean they are just good poker players. They are good people. The most obvious example is Jason Strasser. If you don't know him, look him up. The kid is ten years younger than I am and more mature by just as many. He knows his place in poker and he's finding his place in the world.
One night, he and I stood at the literal crossroads in the Amazon Room at the WSOP. We had a discussion that lasted longer than it should've based on how long he had during his tournament break. However, during that time, Strasser managed to reveal a lot about himself. Despite being wildly successful in poker, he's leaving the life for a while to try out a life on Wall Street. As we parted, he said something to the effect of, "I will still be able to play poker in three years. If I wait on Wall Street, I may miss that opportunity." Though Strasser has made more money in poker than he stands to make on Wall Street in his first year, he's looking for something else for a while.
Strasser is just one example. There are several other young guys out there who have made an honorable life for themselves in poker or businesses surrounding poker. Eric "Rizen" Lynch, Nat Arem, and Luca Pagano come to mind, as well as several others you likely have never heard of. However, for every one of the good kids, there seems to be five others who have fallen victim to the TLDNR culture.
Now, you might think this is a rail-job on poker. It's not, per se. I see it everywhere. It just so happens that most of the kids I meet, I meet at the poker tables.
Unlike naming the good kids above, I'm not going to call out names on the bad ones. If you're not part of the world, you wouldn't recognize the names anyway. If you are part of the world, you know who I'm talking about. But what am I talking about? I'm talking about a subsection of the 19-28 year olds who believe that they are entitled to whatever they can win, borrow, or steal. Their grasp on morality, etiquette, and the golden rule is as weak as their handshake. If there is a gray line, they are happy to cross it if they believe they can benefit from it financially. What's more, they feel more than entitled in doing so.
In most industries, these traits will get you fired, get you arrested, or turn you into a pariah fast enough. Only in the entertainment industry and poker can you be an immoral, egomaniacal kid and find quick success. And the success, it can get you high faster than any drug. I can't speak personally about the kind of success the kids are having these days, but there was a year or two when I was playing the biggest games online. When I was winning, I thought I was King fucking Kong. I discovered quickly enough that success can be fleeting. I figured it out before I went poker-broke, thankfully. Still, I know what winning feels like and, like Chris Rock says, "I understand."
I was fortunate enough to have a few things on which to fall back. I'm not sure that a lot of the younger folks do. Many of them are winning insane amounts of money right now. Many of them are buying $30,000 watches, $100,000 cars, and who knows what else.
I don't begrudge their winning. For their sake, I hope it continues. However, it might be good if they look around and see what guys just a few years their senior are in the middle of right now. Like, without naming names, one known pro standing on the rail at the WSOP and repeatedly pestering another known pro because the latter is into him for more than a hundred grand and refuses to pay back the money. Or another known pro who is well-known for his big cash play who is spending more time hawking a D-list energy drink at the WSOP than he is playing poker. Why? Well, you can guess the rumors. That's not even to mention the Vinnie Vinh and Eskimo Clark stories.
As you might imagine, though, I'm not writing this entirely out of an altruistic worry for the up-and-coming generation. I mean, really, as a poker player, I should be happy if these guys continue to play and refund the poker economy. My greater worry is this: in ten or fifteen years, if nothing changes, a majority of the poker world will be made up of the kind of people I'm talking about. They are people who don't think multi-accounting is wrong because other people do it. They are people who believe collusion is okay if they can get away with it. They are people who think it is okay to borrow money and disappear. They are the people who feel it is completely appropriate to write (a honest to goodness line from a poker forum), "I would have put up the money to abort you."
In a game that is so great on so many levels, they are the people who represent everything that's wrong with it. It would be different if they were dinosaurs we were sending out to pasture (pardon the mixed metaphor, but it sort of fit, I think). However, they're not. They are Generation Next.
Maybe my worry is unfounded. Maybe I just haven't met enough of the Jason Strassers and Eric Lynchs to make me believe it's all going to be okay. Over my few years in the business, I've put my faith in a few of the young guns. Out of four I honestly, truly believed in, two have held my faith and two have broken my heart. I'm tired of putting my money in on coin flips.
And, of course, I hope to be wrong. I hope the above is just the late-night ramblings of a guy who needs a serious break from everything. Poker has been so good to me and it's a game I hope to play for the rest of my life. I hope poker's success live and online will continue unabated for as long as any of us care to play. I simply hope that there are enough good people out there to keep an eye on a generation in which I've lost a lot of faith.
The thing about the poker world is that it lets anybody with money in. There is not a sign at the door, a test to take, a guaranteed mentor to follow, or a list of terms and conditions anybody has to sign. Even if there were, most of the people I'm talking about would just scroll to the bottom and sign their name without reading.
I figure I've run the risk of offending some folks with this post. I've nearly deleted it twice now. However, I finally decided that no one I'm talking about will have read far enough to see any of this.
And if they did, it will just have been to scroll down far enough to comment, "TLDNR."<-- Hide More
Hey, I know it's Mother's Day and all. Poker is likely to play third or fourth fiddle today. However, if you've already taken care of all you duties for the day and you're playing some poker this afternoon, drop a few bucks for the Ocean's Thirteen Darfur Charity tournament on PokerStars. It's a $10 rebuy event with the entire prize pool being matched by PokerStars and shipped to the Not On Our Watch charity. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Jerry Weintraub are putting their names a lot of effort toward aiding the suffering in Darfur and it's pretty impressive they've teamed with PokerStars for this one. And, frankly, PokerStars' $1 million donation isn't chicken feed either.
Oh, I may have neglected to mention--you make the top four in the event today, you're going to roll on the red carpet at the Ocean's Thirteen party in Cannes. If you are looking for the event on PokerStars, you'll find it by clicking "Tourney" and "Special."
So, yeah. Picking up girls might be a little easier when you say you had drinks with George and Brad last night. And, if you're like me and your picking-up girls-days are long behind you, you can make it a Mother's Day present to your wife (on the condition she doesn't offer herself up as a surrogate for Brad and Angelina).
Note: If you can't play and still want to donate, you can do a transfer from your account on PokerStars to the account: NOOW.
I'm not one to add fuel to a fire. That said, I consider Terrence Chan a friend. The only thing I hate more than being accused of something I didn't do is watching someone try to attack a friend. Fortunately, Terrence doesn't need my support, as every right-thinking person in the poker world seems to be rallying around him. So, rather than add my worthless two cents, I'd just enourage you to read the following (you really should read them in order) and be sure to read the comments.
The best defense to this kind of stuff is little more than making sure everyone knows about it. A little awareness about people goes a long way.
Oh, and if I haven't already piqued your interest, try this quote:
"Remember one thing, Terrence, you're not Johnny Chan, you're Terrence Chan."
Overnight, while I was at a poker game, Terrence had some interesting updates about some conciliatory calls froms the princpals in this story. And then, Iggy went to work on the story and is posting the...other side of the story. My favorite line...
"thank you for seeing that i am being the scapegoat, it makes it a little easier to take ;-)"
Now, back to my hole.
I gotta admit, for a guy who has been as fortunate as I have, I'm still a little more than jealous of Pauly nabbing the best gig in all of poker writing. As we end the week, I encourage you to head over to the Tao and give him a pat on the back. Lotta work went into getting there and I, despite my envy, am happy for the guy.More in this Poker Blog! -->
As you'll see on Pauly's blog, Mookie (which is a name I've taken to calling just about everybody) whipped up a nice ESPN cover to commemorate Pauly's rise to fame.
As the hour grows late, I've decided if Pauly is working for the Worldwide Leader, I may still have a chance for the Worldwide Peter acclaim.<-- Hide More
The side benefit to my little workaday world is invitations and access that I normally wouldn't receive. Said invitations and access generally result in an increase in what I generally call The 80%.
Because of my responsibilities to my clients, I usually only blog about 20% of what I see and hear. The rest of it is off limits. Sure, I'll tell you about it over beers or something, but I can't risk pissing the wrong people off by revealing all the behind-the-scenes stuff in a public forum. So, The 80% is off-limits.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Last night, as I endured yet another day on the Cote d'Azur, our workday finished early (10:30pm as opposed to 4am). As such, there was a little more opportunity to delve into The 80%.
Maybe I'll write about it all some day, if it seems a good idea or a good story. Certainly, I'll have some stories when I get back home and have a little time to write.
--Well-known poker players in a nightclub bathroom playing a version of credit card roulette with hundred dollar bills for 500 euros a pop
--How one trip to the bar can cost the equivalent of $1,000 (no honey, this wasn't me).
--Americans searching for action on a city that closes at 2am (yes, honey, this was me).
--The return to McCarthy's and a full conversation with one guy who speaks only French and one guy who who speaks barely any
--Action starts at $25,000, sir.
And, for your interpretation, here's a mid-evening photo taken of me with Devilfish and my buddy Ed. He wasn't quite asleep yet.<-- Hide More
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for the "Know Otis" experiment. I took a stab at answering a few of the questions in a short narrative. Not sure it's worth anything, but after the jump you'll find the answers to...
Five years ago, did you see yourself where you are today (poker,life, work, etc...)? --TripJax
Chronicle for us your teens to adulthood by telling us what has been and now currently is your drink of choice. --BG
Have you ever uttered an obscenity on the air? If not, can you recall a time when you were very, very close? Sincerely, Riveted in Rancho Cucamonga --Speaker
Have you ever gotten in trouble for cursing loudly at a live shot location when you weren't even there?
When was the last time you played 7-Card Stud-Follow the Bitch-Low Cincinnati, and how much did you lose? --Team Scott SmithMore in this Poker Blog! -->
My parents, I think, never expected me to be a drinker.
The summers in southwest Missouri were 100 degree saute pans, sizzled in 100 percent humidity and spent on my grandparents' slab concrete porch. Nearly everybody drank iced tea saturated with cheap sugar, the likes of which made for a syrup that would slide over a young boy's tongue and propel him up into a backyard tree. It was shade and it was cool and it was a sense of place.
Grandpa drank Busch beer, though, and drank just enough of it that it seemed there were always enough pull tabs to fill a small bowl. Uncle Randy looked like he was drinking coke, but when he let his nephew take a pull from the bottle, there were a lot of laughs. It might have been my first taste of whiskey, an imperfect compliment to the occasional sip of beer my smiling Grandpa allowed.
I was fine with iced tea, though. It cooled me enough to walk past the Indian's house, past Purple Lady's house, and down to the corner store to pick up some baseball cards for me and cigarettes for the adults. Back then, all you had to say was, "They are for my dad," and the store clerk wouldn't think twice.
My parents didn't keep booze around the house. Much later in my life, I'd ask my dad why he didn't drink more than the occasional scotch. He said, "One day I realized I needed a drink at the end of the day. And I didn't need that." And that was it.
I drank my first full beer in 1990. While memorable, the effect of seeing my mom's face when I came home with the beer on my breath made it an unhappy memory. It wasn't until the summer of that year that I tasted my future. The parking lot of the Ozark Empire Fair grounds was filling up. Two girls, one blonde, one brunette--both with natural breasts as good as you'd find in the Ozark mountains--were taking money from people in need of a parking space. And they were drinking beer in huge plastic cups full of ice. Later in life I'd find the idea of beer on ice ridiculous. That day though, it was cold, it was illicit, it was sex, and it was the best thing I'd ever tasted.
I would be a beer man.
September 8, 2000 was the first time I lost $50 in poker game. It was a Friday night. Through college, I'd remained a beer man, fancying everything from Stag to hip microbrews (unfiltered wheat being both my savior and executioner). I went through a scotch phase. I went through a gin phase. I always came back to beer. On that night, I was sober as a judge. The game mixed up everything from five-card draw to insane bastardizations of seven-stud. It was rotating game that lasted for years, but spawned only a few posts on Up For Poker, most notably my failed creation of a game called Timebomb Poker.
For that game and many of the next several years, I packed candy and Diet Mountain Dew to get me through the night. It was a different time for me, one in which $50 wouldn't break the bank, but felt really, really bad. In those years, I was working in television and getting paid in the neighborhood of $26,000 a year plus overtime. I wasn't bad at my job and gained the respect of my then-employers. I rarely disappointed them.
One afternoon, my boss called me into the office.
"We have had some complaints about your behavior," he said.
I'd been up late the night before on the scene of a horrible interstate car crash. People were dead, the interstate was shut down, and I was in the middle of it all. I'd seen some bad, bad stuff that day, but didn't think my behavior had been out of line.
"Okay," I said.
"People said they heard you use the word 'fuck' several times last night when you were on the scene," my boss said.
Again, I likely muttered it a few times to myself, more in the manner of, "Fuck, I can't believe what I'm seeing here," but never screaming.
"When was this?" I asked.
The boss read off of his notes and said, "Somehwere between 10pm and 11pm."
It didn't make sense. I'd been off the scene during that time, back in the office working on the story.
Eventually, I put two and two together. Team Scott Smith, a man who would one day become a friend, was working for the same TV station at the time and had managed to knock the power out to an entire neighborhood after raising live truck equipment into a bunch of power lines. He was reported to have said at the time, "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck."
Somehow, in the darkness, the people had heard the words uttered by a Gene Wilder look-alike and attributed them to me.
The worst thing I ever did on the air was identify the president of a ritzy homeowners association (an old white dude) as Priest Holmes.
It was football season.
And that was just a little more than five years ago.
I was about to play poker at the Bellagio for the the first time. I had not yet started playing poker online. Though I'd been playing for years, I think I can admit, I wasn't very good. Five years ago was the end of my old life, the time when I spent four nights a week in a bar, three days a week getting some sort of exercise, five days a week seeking out truth and justice, and maybe two nights a month playing poker. Back then, poker wasn't something that affected my mood. It was a pleasant diversion that, on a bad night, cost me $50.
Five years ago, I wouldn't have imagined that in 2007 90% of my recreational time would be spent playing poker. I would've laughed if you'd told me the kind of stakes I'd be playing for at times. Nor could I have imagined I would soon be making all my money writing about poker.
The are people who stay in the same job their whole life and there are people who bounce around and take risks. I'm not sure who is better off. A lot of people look at me and shake their head at how good my life must be. And, truthfully, most of the time it is.
These days, though, I am a vodka man. I still drink beer on most occasions, but if you give me a chance to have one drink with a friend, I'll more than likely order what I like to think of as a Dirty Goose.
It was in the middle of one of these drinks that a good friend and I had a long discussion about the pitfalls of defining one's self by what he does to earn a living. This friend is one of the people I know who puts in his eight hours and then leaves to live what he considers his real life.
I've not yet been able to do that.<-- Hide More
A few years ago, I did a series on Rapid Eye Reality called "Get to Know Your Otis." For lack of something in the way of a fine story to tell this week, I beg your indulgence in this forum.
Ask a question, I'll do my best to give an answer.
If I get a little lucky, your questions might remind me of a story I haven't told yet.
I don't think this is too subtle...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Say you're a kid and you've been playing ball in the same sand lot since you could hold a bat upright. All the kids in the neighborhood play, and though it gets a little loud sometimes, most of the neighborhood parents put up with it. First of all, it's America's game. Second of all, if all the kids are in one place, it's pretty easy to keep an eye on them. I mean, from a parent's perspective, it's a hell of a lot better than the kids running off to some other neighborhood where they might get rolled for their milk money.
Like any neighborhood, though, there is that crazy old dude who lives in the house that everybody believes is haunted. He's a codger and, when the mood strikes him, he stands on his front porch and yells at all the kids to stop being so loud. He's a frightening son of a bitch, but he generally stays in the confines of his musty old place and doesn't do any more than put a scare into most people.
Of course, there comes a day when Johnny Two-Ears fouls one off and the ball lands on the edge of the old guy's property. Making the matter worse, the old dude's dog runs up, grabs the ball, and drops it on the guy's front porch.
Without a ball, you're left with your bat and your gloves. Your parents aren't going to get you a new ball this year. And so, if you want a game, you gotta go get the ball.
After much gnashing of teeth, Paddy Pug-Snout says he'll go up to the porch and get the ball, but only if everybody will walk into the yard with him and back him up.
Paddy hasn't done much for the ball game. Everybody puts him in right field. He rarely gets a hit. Nonetheless, he evens up the teams and his mom will sometimes send him to the game with cookies. So, you keep him around.
It doesn't take long for people to start whispering.
Joey Two-Ears says, "Just send him to get the ball by himself. If he gets it, great. If not, well, then we're no worse off than we are now."
Lance "Marmoset" McGill says, "Why should we bother backing him up now? It's not like he's done anything for us before."
Sally "In the" Stands says, "No one has ever really given Paddy a chance to do anything. Now is his first real opportunity. All you have to do is stand behind him."
So, I ask you...
What do you do?<-- Hide More
Every word of this is true.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The parabolas north and south met in the middle over Greenville, South Carolina. One began over the northern states and drooped down across the Mason Dixon line. The other crept up from the Gulf of Mexico. Even with the television sound muted, it was clear the weatherman was telling us to expect something akin to apocalypse. Then he shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, "But hey, whatta I know, right?"
As the bread and milk aisles filled up in the grocery store, scientists from around the world prepared to release their report on global warming. The predictions told us that billions of people would suffer from water shortages while my son is still alive. Chaos and disaster, man-made, but wrought by nature, they will say.
The smiling man in the expensive suit says my town will freeze over before Thursday. The wild-haired scientists say my world will fall into global warming chaos shortly after I die.
I'm going to go to a poker game.
My head was numb and it took me three trips to the car and back into the house to get everything I needed to take with me. The air was frigid--cold enough to keep the drinks in the garage cool and cold enough to remind me that I'd forgotten my jacket. I didn't go back, instead choosing to shiver my way down the dark highway, hitting every red light as I sped--late--toward the underground room.
Three hours after the room got rolling, I didn't expect to find a seat when I was buzzed in. The parking lot was full and the room was loud. I was surprised to find the two seat at the second table open. I slid my money to the dealer and pushed myself down on an uncomfortable chair.
The atmosphere was unremarkable, at first. Even when I called a short-stack's all in and hit runner-runner to bust his made under-boat, I found no pleasure in it. My opponent, however, looked pained, as if the small amount of money he lost would somehow change his future.
Future, I thought. Which future is that?
The door at this game is held tight behind a deadbolt. The windows are covered in black plastic and the parking lot is dark. It's both a bunker and a shelter. It protects the players from eyes that shouldn't see, and it is a place to hide from the other world--the world where real jobs, real families, and real friends reside. Someone has to recognize your face to let you in. When you go out, the door locks behind you.
Though the room is big, it suddenly seemed full.
A cheer erupted from the table closest to the door and somebody yelled, "Jackpot!" The man in the one-seat held a suited 6-9 and made his ten-high straight flush to win the high-hand jackpot. The man who runs the game announced how much the one-seat had won. Everyone applauded and cursed their bad luck.
I was getting no action. I was bored. Something in my head pushed $25 into the pot, an open raise in a straddled pot with the hammer, both cards red. The flop came 77Q. We went check, check. The turn was an ace. My opponent led, I raised. He called. The river was a seven. My opponent put out a blocking bet, I raised anyway, he called reluctantly. I didn't wait for him to table his hand. I turned over the hammer, shrugged as if to say, "Whatta I know, right?" and silently stacked my chips in concert with the table's tribal chant of "Ham-mer, ha-mer, ham-mer!"
By the time I left the room, I would have forgotten this even happened.
The Jester spoke through a mouth of rocks. Though always talking, he might as well have been speaking in tongues, a devotee of August Busch and whatever other assorted manufactured pharmaceuticals he'd found that day.
Though it was below freezing outside, he wore flip-flops, baggy shorts, a wrinkled shirt, and an ear-flapped hunter's cap. He danced with the music, played air guitar with ping-pong paddles, and spoke in his own language--one I've come to call Boomhauer.
I could not understand a word he said. Even if he was standing five feet away and speaking slowly, he was as incomprehensible in speech as the action at the table was in terms of real poker. But every once in a while, he would get up from the table, go over to the side of the room, and start playing guitar. His voice was strong and, suddenly, like Mel Tillis' transformation from stuttering doofus to country crooner, The Jester was an artist, a bard, a minstrel.
Out of the more than 30 people playing and milling around the room, only one of them was a woman. Blonde-haired and beautiful, her innocent face belied her body's frame. Every male eye followed the cocktail waitress as she moved from player to player, checking on drinks, and giving the players whatever they needed to ply their spirits.
Whether it was the woman in the green tank top, the game of poker itself, or the bunker mentality, the lady's movements seemed to be the only thing binding the players to their seats. Would but that she could stay, the eight-way pots in hands that have been raised and re-raised to 20 times the big blind might just stay in a locale we could call sane and real.
She sat down quietly next to the game's owner. Though she'd been working her ass off for the past eight hours, her face still looked clean and serene, if only a little troubled. It was as if she knew what would happen if she left, but she knew she had to go.
She tapped her watch and said, just barely loud enough for me to hear it, "Looks like it's about that time."
Tuesday had turned into Wednesday. There are those who believe the sun and moon were created on Wednesday. Mickey Mouse told us, "Wednesday is Anything Can Happen Day." To me, it still felt like Tuesday.
My table was the boring one, the one where the jackpots weren't getting hit, the one where the inability to combat the turn and river made all post-flop play tiresome.
The Jester's table was different. There was life, hope, and laughter. The jackpot had given the table a different spirit. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw nearly everybody at The Jester's table stand up at once. Not involved in a hand, I stood and went to take a look.
The chips in the middle of the table sat in piles of green and red, an extraordinarily big pot, making up much of the wealth at the table. The flop was all middle cards with two clubs. Two players were already all-in and Mr. Jackpot was thinking. Finally, he called, making the single pot bigger than his jackpot winnings for the night.
He tabled 56 of clubs, for an open ended straight draw and low club draw. One opponent turned over pocket kings. The Jester did not reveal his cards, but I saw them as he peeled them up. He held A7 of clubs for the nut flush draw.
The drama was over quickly. A red four on the turn and no club on the river pushed the entire pot to Mr. Jackpot.
That did it. Like the breaking of the seventh seal, like Richie Valens' plane going down, like that late night phone call to tell you somebody is dead, a line had been crossed. Nothing would be the same, even if we couldn't immediately figure out the difference.
Although there were thousands upon thousands of dollars on the table, nothing seemed to matter much to the players anymore. Raises of any size were called in seven or eight spots. Pot-sized bets were called with abandon. Chips moved back and forth, formed into huge towers, and collapsed just as fast. Sodom, Gomorrah, and Skull Island had nothing on the chaos inside that little room.
"Who has a dick so short they can't hit the fucking toilet?"
The scream came across the room, a crude but seemingly appropriate reprimand to whoever pissed all over the ladies room floor. I'm not sure why we'd all been using the ladies room, but we had, and it was a mess. The floor was a puddle and littered with paper towels. A sign hung above the open tank: "Please don't put paper towels in the toliet (sic). Thanks, The Management."
While somewhat interested myself, I was more caught up watching the beginning of a discussion between Mr. Jackpot and The Jester. Though they were being quiet, I could tell by the looks on their faces, the closeness of their chests, and the rapid movements of their hands, something wasn't right.
I looked back to see my first ace-paint in an hour. Because I've been made to understand AJo is gold, I raised the straddle to $20. The player to my left min-raised. The player in the ten-seat who had proven himself willing to play any two cards to a re-raise, called. I, knowing full well I was behind, but hoping in one hand and puking in the other, tossed out my call, as well.
That's when the screaming started.
Half the room followed the yelling and ran for the front door.
"Should we pause the action?" asked the re-raiser. I agreed we should, but said I wasn't moving from my seat. One thing I like about this particular room is that the dealers are top notch. They are always calm, smart, and on top of things. I'm never worried about the game going astray. The dealer this night was no different. He paused the action, but kept his seat to keep an eye on the money and cards.
It was apparent that the discussion between Mr. Jackpot and The Jester had evolved into something more than a little dispute. I didn't go watch. This would be the third time I've been witness to violence or near-violence in a poker room and I know the number one rule: Protect your chips.
Like most disputes, this one was finished almost as soon as it started. Mr. Jackpot, still steaming, walked back into the poker area. The Jester was apparently gone. And, frankly, that had me worried.
When the ten-seat made two little pair to beat my top pair, I didn't even care. I don't like people leaving an underground game angry, The Jester had apparently done so, and I said as much to the people around me.
"All it takes is one phone call," I said, assuming everyone knew what I meant.
I'm not sure anybody heard me, because, again, something in the room had shifted. The testosterone-level was at its peak. In what is often a reserved poker room, players were battling in any way they could. Players with crazed looks and maniacal screams were clashing in a wild dance of doubles ping-pong, slashing the air with their paddles, dancing with each point, cursing at each loss. At some point, a free-weight bench had been put on the other side of the room and grown men were betting on how many times they could bench press 150 pounds. Now no longer in use as a poker table, the empty felt behind us became an arm-wrestling mat and players were testing their strength with the right and left arms.
"I can lift that weight with my dick!" came a scream from across the room.
People had formed a seated gallery around the ping-pong table and were keeping score for the insanity. The Rolling Stones pounded through the speakers, booze was pooling on the floor, beer cans and empty plastic shot glasses littered the carpet.
Every ounce of instinct told me to leave. Poker is a beautifully structured game, but there was nothing in the foundation of this room that made me feel calm. It was a wave of adrenalized war that bore no resemblance to anything I'd seen. The poker game had degenerated into something ugly, full of animosity, resignation, and acquiescence. Now, having bore witness to the good fortune of others who had done the same, no one would fold. Every pot, no matter how high it was raised, was a family endeavor. Players were purposefully ignoring rules of poker etiquette. They willfully mis-called their hands. They slow-rolled their winners, malice in their eyes with every flip of the cards. Players would verbally agree to check it down against an all-in opponent. Poker is not a friendly game, by nature. This one, however, was mean.
I should leave, I kept telling myself. Still, I couldn't stand. Though I was having no fun, I felt like I was bearing witness to something resembling the last poker game on Earth. This must be what it will be like, I thought. When the bombs are dropping or the disease is spreading, this is how people will play cards. They will throw chips at each other with abandon, fight for no reason, and parcel out their worldly hatred on whoever is closest to them.
Curses and cheers were louder than the music. Money, chips, buy-ins, set-ups, and tips went back and forth with scowls and sighs. There were those fighting against the end and those driving the bus toward oblivion.
And then a voice. An impossible to understand voice.
The Jester was back.
He sat in the ping pong gallery and put his fingers on the guitar strings. And then everything that came out of his mouth was clear, perfect, and beautiful.
He sang Amazing Grace.
When I walked back to my car at 3:30am, the amount of money in my pocket didn't matter. How I played didn't matter. The fact that I was going to be tired today didn't matter. Those are always the things I think about when I leave a game. This night, I only noticed the cold.
My jacket, still at home, would have done little to shield me from the frigid air. In my car, I turned the radio to the first station I could find and pulled out of the dark parking lot. In my mind, I've built poker up to be a personal test of discipline, will, and intelligence. I knew from the past seven hours, I had exhibited none of those traits.
The roads were deserted. I wondered as I drove through green light after green light, if in fact that had been the last poker game, why any of it would have mattered. There are two kinds of poker players. There are those who play for the money and there are those who play to feel what it's like to win and crush the other guy.
If it were the last game on Earth, the money wouldn't matter. And that made me wonder if there is some spiritual or atavistic need in man to win in the end. Do we believe, even if we don't consciously recognize it, that we will be rewarded on the other side if we can prove our worth, prove our ability to come out a winner?
Because that's the thing. In the end, we can't take the money with us. And if the sky is falling, why do we even bother to play?
After four consecutive green lights, I finally saw a red one in front of me. I moved my foot to the brake, but before I could press down, the light changed to a flashing yellow. Confused, I looked to the left and realized I was passing by a train crossing. The tracks ran parallel to my highway, so I didn't have to stop. I continued to drive toward home. When I looked back up, I saw the light of the freight train coming down the tracks in my direction, and I could only think, "How appropriate."
The horn wailed with the hard rock on the radio and I went home, wondering when I would sit down at a poker table again.<-- Hide More
If you're a poker player and a parent, I have to think you have made this connection. And if you haven't, well, I'm going in-fricking-sane, because I'm fairly convinced Captain Feathersword and Mike Matusow are the same person.
Weak evidence after the jump.
That's all I've got. For those of you headed to the Bahamas this week, I'll see you there.<-- Hide More
It was never my intention to become a regular at the bar of a chain Chinese restaurant. It was never my intention to spend one night out of every week bellied up to said bar, drinking from a stemmed glass, and talking poker with my friends. Still, that's where I find myself once a week and that's where I found myself last night.
Blood and I were involved in one of a few discussions we'd have over the next eight hours and he was insisting I had done or said something many months ago that I was pretty sure I had not. Finally, he convinced me and I could only respond, "I don't remember the last year of my life."
That was not entirely true. In fact, most of what's happened in the past eleven months--good and bad--is technicolor, dolby surround in my head and I can't get it out.
What I meant was this: The past two years of my life have been so odd, so beautiful, so inspiring, and so completely different from the rest of my life that it seems like it maybe even never happened. Like it was a drunk man's dream of barley fields and boobies. Like I made it all up in a workday daydream while waiting for a jury to come back.
The poker blogs, this one and the other ones that blazed a trail of debauchery and silliness, have been around for several years now. A lot of writing and online conversation took place before the writers and their running buddies finally made it all official. It happened nearly two years ago somewhere within a dog's scent of the Excalibur poker room and the Sherwood Forest Bar. For me, it sincerely began when BadBlood and I walked into the poker room and had the accented floor man page "Dr. Pauly." It continued a couple hours later when I first shared a Southern Comfort shot with Al. It fixed itself in concrete a couple of hours later when Iggy introduced himself to me (after, true to form, running a ruse on my cloudy brain).
That was all in December of 2004, about the time my life peeked at the real change that was about to happen. Since then--that heady time when what we were all doing was just a chance to be silly for a weekend--so much has changed that it would take more effort than I am willing to exert to list it all.
There's no doubt that change is snuggling up and trying to spoon our expanded group of misfits. Iggy has, again true to form, been mischievous and frustrating in the extended remix version of whatever change he's experiencing over at G&P. Pauly has become hacker-worthy. I've been...well, I've been loving and living an odd life. Plus, there's a lot more that never has and never will make the pages of this blog or any other. There's stuff that has happened and that is still happening that is of such a personal nature to the players that it doesn't belong on the blog pages.
But, that's sort of my point. In fact, that is my point exactly.
Two short years ago, those people I met in the once great and now worthless Excal poker room were just people. They were people I figured I might someday see again. I had no idea at the time that over the next two years, I would become so close to many of the people. I had no idea that I would invite them into my home, that I would be there for them when they needed it, and they would be there for me when I needed it. That is, I didn't know I would find virtual brothers and sisters that to this moment I consider such an important part of my life. I had no idea I would hold secrets so personal that I wouldn't have ever imagined I would be trusted to hear.
Eulogies, both funny and serious, now dot the blogscape. I've read them with both a sense of sadness and bemusement. I've had many a discussion among what some folks have called the Bloggerati about how nothing we've done in the past few years is real. That is, we've talked about how we've created a virtual world for ourselves that is the poker equivalent to the fake universes populated by people who like to pretend to be elves and, verily, dwarves. I remember a couple of discussions, both deep into the bottle, in which my comtemporaries said ruefully, "None of this is real."
At the time, I nodded because I knew it was true. But I didn't say anything because I wasn't really ready to voice what I already knew. I knew that the blogs themselves weren't clear pictures of the people behind them. I knew that some were money-making ventures and wouldn't exist but for the profit that could be made (and I don't write that without full recognition of the profit I've made from this experiment and the ads that span the right side of this blog). I knew that some blogs existed because people liked to tell stories, both true and semi-true, about their lives. I knew that most blogs existed because people really wanted to be a part of something. As it happens, I am the definition of all of the above and more.
But what I didn't say at the time, and what I think should be said now is this: There is something real about all of this. It's not what you read on the ethereal pages of your web browser. It's not the few bucks we make when we pound out a post. It's not even the fact that many of us have risen and fallen and risen again in the game that brought us all together.
What's real is the people behind the blogs. What's real is the friendship I share with those people. It's the admiration for talent. It's pulling someone out of a hole. It's talking someone down from life-tilt. It's sharing secrets that you know will never show up in a blog post.
Yeah, this universe isn't real. The past two years of this life have been, on one hand, a drunkard's dream in which we created and buried gods of blogging. The past two years have been a process of trading real and virtual dollars over real and virtual felt. On its face, it's an experiment that twenty years from now will be like a childhood summer when the sky was always blue, the thermometer always read 82 degrees, and your bike chain never fell off.
But on a level that actually means something, the past two years have just been a beginning. Iggy may be pulling the plug. Pauly may hint at his ever-growing disgust with poker writing. Al may never throw another Bash. I may never host another Bradoween. And who knows, the people who have put countless and thankless hours into hosting blogger conventions may finally get tired of all the bullshit that goes along with herding cats. The zenith of this time may be already a thing of the past.
However things turn out, though, there will be more than just memories. Friendship may have its genesis in a long collection of intertubes, but it's not bound together by the Internet. There is something greater here and I'm thankful for knowing it will continue.
That is all a very long way of saying thanks to everyone who has earned it.
Yeah, thanks for this drunkard's dream and whatever happens when we all wake up.<-- Hide More
There is a story about my grandpa that could very easily fit on this page. Instead, because it is more personal than poker, I wrote it on my other blog. If you're at all interested, feel free to read Grandpa was a Gambler.
If you're at all interested in what I'm doing for the next little while and wouldn't mind doing me a favor...More in this Poker Blog! -->
'Tis not a matter of ego or economics. If you wanna know the reason I'm asking, shoot me an e-mail and I'll fill you in.
Anyway, this is the code you can insert into your sidebar to get a headline feed of what I'm writing at the WSOP. If you can find a space for it (even for just a week or so), it would be appreciated. It looks like this.
[CJ's note: It'd be awesome if some of you could do this. I know Otis is going to work really hard out there, and I figure it's the least we can do. If you'd like to put it in your sidebar with a picture like I've done over to the left, then this is the code you can insert into your sidebar.]<-- Hide More
Ever get the feeling you are right on the edge of something? Every once in a while, I have some sort of premonition (not so much otherworldly as biological) that I'm either about to fall off a cliff or fall off a cliff and land in a featherbed full of millionaire virgins.
Or something like that.
And that is where I sit right now. It's a feeling of anticipation that I assume is brought on by the fact I'm heading out for the World Series of Poker in ten days. While not so much poker related, I sum up part of this presumption over at Rapid Eye Reality.
And there's something else, too. I feel like I am either on the verge of poker ruin or a big poker win. It's a bit of a dangerous place to be, I think. A few days ago, I chopped a large-for-the-locale live tournament for a nice little profit. That win came after two straight months of cash game losses. I've also been going deep in some of the larger online tournaments recently. Unfortunately, it's not been deep enough to...well, feel it.
I have no way to really explain how my noodle is working right now. At the halfway point in the year, I am stuck in cash games and comfortably in the black in tournaments. Frankly, I am not at all happy about it. I'd hoped to have my head on straight by now, but I'm like a whiplash victim without the benefit of pain killers.
Regardless, six weeks of Vegas looms. A large majority of that time will be spent working, but I'm hoping to work in a little cash game poker and a couple of WSOP events while I'm there.
I wish I had something more to offer in terms of critical thinking or storytelling. Right now, though, I got nothin'.
Here's to me hoping the cliff has a featherbed at the bottom.<-- Hide More
Since G-Rob neglected to take notes on last night's home game and is not bringing you a recap of the carnage that ensued, I thought I'd take a shot at TripJax's question thread.More in this Poker Blog! -->
1. What is the biggest mistake people make at a NL table?
I'd tend to agree with those who have answered 'playing marginal hands out of position.' However, more and more, I'm seeing people make an odd mistake on a fairly frequent basis. I'm seeing more and more people limp with AA, KK, QQ, and AK in early position. While the occasional use is fine at an aggressive table (especially in concert with a re-raise), pulling this move at a highly-passive table full of limpers is bound to screw you as much as it helps you.
2. What is the biggest mistake people make at a Limit table?
At the limits I tend to play, the people making the biggest mistakes are the people who aren't betting. Whether they are failing to make continuation bets, or worse, slowplaying their minor monsters (two pair, sets) they are finding a way to lose pots. Although I may have some disagreement on this, winning in limit poker is about taking the lead. Once you've lost control of the hand, it's not yours to win. It is yours to lose.
3. Why do you play poker?
I need to compete. I need to feel I'm good at something. I need to have tangible results. Poker gives me all three of these things.
4. If you weren't playing poker, what would you be doing?
For a long time, I couldn't answer this question. There was little else I wanted to do. What's more, this question is bait to ask, well then why aren't you doing that? But, I'll answer anyway. If I weren't playing poker, I'd be reading, writing, and playing guitar more.
5. What is your favorite poker book and why?
Strategy: Harrington on Hold'em Vol. 2.
Narrative: The Big Deal by Anthony Holden
6. Who is your favorite poker player and why?
Greg Raymer, hands down. I have a lot of respect for a lot of poker players. Some are a good time, some are mysterious, and some are just damned good. Raymer is all three. He's smart, a damned good player, gracious in winning, humble in defeat, a great conversationalist, not caught up in his own fame, and a great teacher.
Of course, there is also Isabelle Mercier. But that's another story for a different day.
7. Which poker player do you dislike the most and why?
It's not any poker player who thinks he is the best. Most do. It's the poker player who thinks everyone else sucks. There are a lot of those, too. Phil Hellmuth may be the most cartoonish of them. If I hadn't seen him act that way when the TV cameras weren't around, I'd think it was all an act. It is not.
8. Do your coworkers know about your blog?
I got hired BECAUSE of the blog.
9. What is the most you have won in a cash game or MTT (both live and online)?
I only discuss this after two Guinness drafts and shot of something.
10. What is the most you have lost in a cash game or in one day total (both live and online)?
I only discuss this after four Guinness drafts and two shots of something.
11. Who was your first poker blog read?
12. What satisfies you more, your aces holding up for a big pot or a bluff working for a big pot?
Just the other day, I played this pot. I was not the Hero. And I didn't have a flush. The same day I won a pot with aces. I'll let you decide which I enjoyed more.
13. Why do you blog?
I blog because I like to telll stories. I blog because I've fallen head over heels for the community of bloggers. I've made some real friends through this blog, the kind of friends I'd trust to keep an eye on my wife. I don't blog to get i the middle of flame wars. I don't blog to talk bad abouut people. I don't blog to critique other's styles.
Of course, I also blog to pay the bills. And screw you if you think there is something wrong with that. :)
14. Do you read blogs from an RSS reader like bloglines or do you visit each blog?
I read my 20 favorite blogs from Bloglines and then visit their site to comment if I choose. The rest, I visit from time to time via the links on this blog.
15. Would you rather play poker for a living than do what you currently do for a living?
Would I? I dunno. Probably not. As a husband and father, getting started professionally would be a risk I'm not willing to take financially. However, I would like to be able to play more than I currently do.
16. Do you wear a tin foil hat on occasion?
In regards to online poker sites and being rigged, absolutely not. However, I do keep my eye out for collusion.
17. If you had to pin it down to one specific trait, what does a great poker player have (or do) that separates them from an average player?
Recall. Most human beings are creatures of habit. The players who have a great sense of recall are those that rise above the competition.
18. Is Drizz the coolest person on the planet for naming his baby Vegas?
Only if you don't count Pascal Perrault who did it a few years ago. Still, Drizz is pretty damned cool (and so is Mrs. Drizz for going along with it). Few people know, L'il Otis' middle name is River. Actually, that's a lie.
19. What is your primary poker goal and are you close to accomplishing it?
Final tabling a major poker tournament...and...no.
20. What is your primary online site and why?
The best online poker site is, far and away, PokerStars. The customer support team is second to none. The tournament structures are fantastic. The VIP Club is the best in the business.
And, yeah, I'm shilling, but not one of the above statements is untrue.
21. What site do you dislike and why?
I don't like to slam individual sites. However, take from this what you will. I hate bad customer support. I hate bad tournament structures. And I hate sites that are down half the time.<-- Hide More
It was summertime, the time in South Carolina when the nights were as hot as Minnesota days and mosquitoes battled the bats for midnight snacks. It was a time before ceramic chips and thousands of dollars would sit on the table in the G-Vegas poker games. Back in those days, the days where the entire room's bankroll couldn't buy a home computer, we played in my garage. Lawnmower gasoline fumes hung in the air and mingled with the stale beer and liquor smells. We played on K-Mart-bought folding table-toppers and my 11.5 gram eBay chips were the envy of the G-Vegas circuit.
It was on one of those nights, then a pricey $20-buy-in event, that Shep brought his son to the game.More in this Poker Blog! -->
"Kid needs a nickname," somebody mused as we drank it up and slung chips around like we were big-time professionals.
I was one of many that night that figured we wouldn't see the kid again. After all, he was maybe old enough to drive and $20 buys a lot of Taco Bell and mini doughnuts. I was one of many players that night that found themselves wondering how such a young buck was winning. And I was one of many players wondering if we were wrong in introducing the kid to what some people still considered to be capital "G" Gambling.
Somewhere along the way--I can't remember if it was that night or some other time, maybe at BadBlood's--somebody dubbed the kid "The Wolverine." And somehow, it stuck.
Poker is a game that not only can, but will eat your soul if you let it. Just looking at four months of my own stats shows that I am just as tasty to the poker soul-eating monster as anybody. Of course, it wasn't until my soul was half-digested did I stop for a moment and wonder if I had been deluding myself for a long time. Indeed, I wondered if maybe I had let myself believe that I was stronger than all those people who warned about the dangers of getting in too deep. As bar singer Allen Ross once sang in a different context, "It's a slap in the face, it's a kick in the ass. That's what you get, when you get attached."
Wins and losses (and, yes, subsequent losses) had stopped phasing me a great deal. I'd grown numb to all of it. It's what I'm supposed to do, I told myself. And that's true, to a point. We're supposed to see the chips as chips and forget about the money involved.
Recently though, I've had a lot of discussions with Mrs. Otis about my frequency of play. She gently reminded me that I had a lot of other things in my life that I could and probably should be paying attention to. I resisted, of course, because I had a lot of things I wanted to do in the coming months. First and foremost, I wanted to get unstuck. This year has been a tough one and I've slid through a couple of slumps that were downright scary at points. What's more, as I'll likely be spending most of the summer in Las Vegas, I wanted to build up a side roll to fund a few WSOP events. Finally, I've recently become bent on playing in a WPT main event. I'm not sure how the urge set upon me, but it's become a bit of an obsession.
All of that said, I've cut back to 2004 frequency of play (at least in the last couple of weeks). While I can't admit to liking it per se, I think it probably has saved me from going down a dark road toward broke. Broke--poker broke anyway--is something that scares the bejesus out of me.
In the past year, I've met a lot of what I call The Poker Kids. In one particular case, I overheard a conversation with a kid who was talking about getting into a sit and go at a major tournament. His young friends were saying, "Go for it, man."
I heard him mumble, "I think I have an edge." He wandered off and I wondered if he could handle the buy-in to a $100 SNG. About ten minutes later, I found the kid seated between Greg Raymer and Carlos Moretenson. They we're playing for $10,000 a piece. A few hours later, the kid had taken second place to Joe Hachem.
The kids are everywhere. Anyone who even watches TV knows that. There are kids winning millions of bucks before they could've even finished college--if they'd gone to college in the first place.
Out in the mainstream, there are people who have what are some probably legitimate worries. These kids are playing for the kind of money that few seasoned mainstream adults wouldn't spend on a house, let alone risk on the turn of a card. What's more, these kids are skipping an education in favor of the big money available now. Frankly, its hard to blame them, I guess. However, in the event (some would say "eventuality") that the poker boom goes boom, these kids will wake up with no higher education and find themselves virtually unemployable. What's more, if the games do dry up (and I'm not ready to admit that is a certainty), these kids will be reduced to either playing against the best in the world for their rent money or being forced into a real job that doesn't pay in a year what these kids had been making in a month playing poker.
The Wolverine was good and got better. Just a few weeks ago, he drew the seat on my right in a local tournament and we played against each other for several hours. Although I had many years of experience on the kid, he had absorbed so much in just a few years of playing with us. He was making moves when he sensed weakness. He was careful when he should've been. At times, he was outplaying me. And once, when I outplayed him (maybe the only time all night), he pulled me aside to ask how I made my decisions on the hand. He wasn't cocky. He wanted to learn. Somewhere along the way, he has picked up the impression that I know something about poker, and he mines me for whatever information I'll give up. It's flattering, especially when most people consider me a drunk donk.
In one of many conversations with my wife, I admitted something to her that I don't think I've ever written here.
When I was a kid, I wasn't good at much of anything that required physical skill. I was an awful soccer player in kindergarten. I was a worse baseball player in first grade. From second to fifth grade, I was a tragically bad basketball player. From sixth through eleventh grade, I played football, but anybody who knows me knows that I wasn't very good at that either. After that, I played softball (badly) and frisbee golf (pretty badly) to get off my competitive jones. And, yeah, that's what it was all about anyway. It was that Otis family competitive drive that moved me to play games at which I had no talent.
And, in all honesty, when I started playing poker, I wasn't very good at that either. Even after playing through most of my teens and early 20s, I was a losing player. The first time I played in a G-Vegas game, I lost $50 and I thought I'd found yet another game at which I could suck all varieties of eggs.
And then something clicked. I'm not sure exactly what it was or if I can even define the exact moment. It seemed like I slowly formed some sort of poker consciousness and one day realized, "I can be good at this game. I can compete. I can win."
If we're being honest, I know I'm not a great player, but I know that I play poker better than I do almost anything. As I'm nowhere as good as a lot of people I know, I don't know if that realization makes me proud or sad.
What's more, I'm beginning to realilze that I may be a little late in capitalizing on the skill. Had I ten years of my life to focus at my current level on the game, I could be in a position to where I wasn't learning at the expense of other things in my life.
Thus completes the circle of hobbyist to big player to hobbyist.
At least for now.
The Wolverine hasn't graduated from high school yet, but he's one of the best players on the G-Vegas circuit. His results may not be as good as others, but that is largely because he can't round in this town without his dad.
Indeed, the Wolverine has instincts like few others and certainly 500% better than mine. What's more, he's young and his mind is still absorbing information like a sponge. He has a chance to be a top player when he comes of age, should his life take him in that direction.
Problem for me is, I don't know whether to advocate for or fight against the kid's interest--er, passion--for the game. First and foremost, I would kick anybody in the balls that suggested The Wolverine skip college. So, don't think I'm going there. However, is simply saying, "Go to college," enough to protect a young mind from the lure of such a great game? What's more, I get the feeling that the Wolverine feels a lot like I did when I discovered I could actually be good at something. Frankly, I think, trying to discourage someone when it's the one thing they can be good at is just asking to be ignored.
There are no answers here. Everyone has his or her own idea about what's right, about whether poker is a sin, about whether it can be considered a legitimate pursuit. Me? I'm still working on me and trying to figure out how poker fits into my big picture--if at all.
What makes this all much easier is that the Wolverine has a dad, and a damned good one. It's not up to me to make any decisions or actually be accountable.
What makes this all the more hard, though, is that I've got a son of my own and, if forced to right now, I would have to lie to tell him what I think he should do. Fortunately, the kid is more entranced with a sandbox now than a poker felt.
Maybe by the time he's old enough to tell a gutshot draw from the nuts, I will have figured this all out.<-- Hide More
Narrator: "Now it's time for silly songs with Otis, the part of the show where Otis comes out and sings a silly song, or, in fact, rambles without purpose for many paragraphs, nearly deletes the post, then says screw it, and hits publish"
Friday night was one of those homegames, the kind where people are drinking and having fun, the kind where the stakes aren't going to break anybody, and, verily, the kind where I'm relaxed and have little doubt I'm going to win. And I did. Sure, I got a little lucky once or twice. Sure, the cards were coming my way. Still, I was in a relaxed zone in which I wasn't so much trying to win as waiting for it to happen.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The Yin and Yang in my life (capitalized here because I see them more as ancient Asian spirit guides that offer me miso soup when I'm feeling low) are really, really confusing poker sherpas. Recently, my live game has been at a reasonable 91% effectiveness whereas my online game has been running at about 12%. That's not ROI. It's more a like a power meter from an old video game.
There's two paragraphs that don't begin to explain what I want to write.
And the thing is, I don't know what I want to write. It's somewhere in between a topic a fellow southeasterner has explored in recent weeks and the reality check offered by the best sit and go player around. In short, in recent weeks, I've lost touch with reality and I've lost touch with fantasy. That is, in pursuit of fantasy I have raced far too far ahead of my real life. What's more, I raced ahead of the fantasy itself.
It's good, I think, that I took BadBlood's lead and have been keeping meticulous win and loss records of both my live and online play since January 1. What's funny is, after three months, I've already determined that everything I thought was true is false. That is, if three months of records are any indication, I am not a better limit player than no-limit player. What's more, I may not be a better online player than live player. The only thing I may have been telling the truth about is that I am an above-average tournament player. Then again, I could prove that wrong pretty fast, too.
Sure, I'm extrapolating far past where I should here. What's more, I'm rambling. I'm just not prepared to accept (in written form) that I may have taken this little hobby a bit far. I think I am ready to accept that I've been running a bit too fast, however. It's funny. I've always been patient to a fault, yet recently, I've been anything but. I want the brass ring and I want it in a responsible way. However, I may have escaped the boundries of responsibility in my methods. I think I have forgotten some important bankroll management tools. I think I may have neglected my family. That is, I think I got caught up in my own little whirlwind.
So, what? I dunno. There is a part of me (a part that, at least, I think is pretty smart) that tells me that any kind of poker break will result in nothing but rust. There is a part of me that screams, "Ride the wave because the breakers are coming!" However, there is a part of me (a part I don't listen to much any more) that says, "Give it a rest, chico. You're a hobbyist. That's all."
You know, there is something good about being a succesful hobbyist. I should be happy with that. Somehow, though, I don't think I will be. And yet, as spring turns the real world warm and blossomy, I get the sense that I need to slow down a little bit.
Thankfully, this realization has hit me before I got broke or divorced. The money swings have been, in a word, stupid (someone--I think Matt from the Poker Chronicles--wrote the other day, "I was stuck a Camry before coming back"). I didn't blink. Mrs. Otis, too, has been patient, but I sense the patience waning.
I've not yet formed a real strategy on where to go from here. Most of the pros I know (not that I'm considering going pro, mind you) are single men with fewer responsibilities or guys with rolls that most folks would consider life-changing. Being neither single nor filthy rich leaves me few people to consult on my current malaise.
Yeah, I don't really know where I'm going with this. I only know that I'm not going broke. And I know I need to think about my game a little bit. I need to decide if I have a game. I need to decide if I'm having fun anymore or playing out of habit--you know, like turning on Seinfeld reruns and watching the worst episode because, even if it sucks, it's still Seinfeld. And I need to decide WHY I'm playing.
Okay, since I'm rambling, let's explore that for a second. Why am I playing?
1) I'm playing because I have more fun playing poker than playing any other game? Answer: Yes.
2) I'm playing because I want to challenge myself and actually believe I am good at something? Answer: Yes.
3) I'm playing because I think I have the potential to eventually win life-changing money? Answer: Maybe
4) I'm playing because I want to play professionally? Answer: Not really.
5) I'm playing because I can't afford not to play? Answer: No.
6) I'm playing because I'm addicted to action? Answer: Admittedly, maybe.
Okay, with that out of the way, I guess I should decide if the above reasons are worth the time and effort I put into them. That's probably an exercise for another day.
In short, as the title suggested, I need to define my game. I need to define who I am. I need to define how the two go together.
That shouldn't be too hard, right?<-- Hide More
I remember the eyes of the Bahamian Gaming Board members. The whites had grown large against the dark faces as they stood on the rail and watched hundreds of people dig thousands of dollars out of their pockets. The Gaming Board was beside itself.
Poker? People are acting this way because of poker?More in this Poker Blog! -->
The action games were a twenty minute walk to the main casino. There, the odds were against all the players. The casino officials were doing their best to lure the crowds to the casino for $25 mininum bet craps. Instead, the poker players were lined up ten-deep at every table looking to play...poker.
That was almost exactly a year ago, at the beginning of 2005, a year that's been called everything from the downslope of a fad to the continuation of a revolution.
So, which is it?
On the bubble?
It's usually one of my drunk friends trying to be serious, or a relative who can't quite grasp what I do for a living who asks, "So, how long do you think it will last?" They mean the poker boom, or, in their minds, the poker bubble. In their eyes, I see a muted form of pity. They know I've staked my profession, and most recently my family's financial stability, on an industry that is widely being described as a fad.
I usually answer, "I dunno. A year? Twenty years? I'm not worried." It's usually an answer that doesn't satisfy the people who want me to realize I've put all my eggs in a very fragile basket.
Just the other day, I saw a story online at CNN Money. It was, in essence, an obituary for the poker industry. The evidence was overwhelming. Walgreens and Wal-Mart were having a hard time selling poker chips, so they were moving them to the back of the stores. Mr. Moss, I have to let you go.
Like the reality TV boom--which despite my repeated insistence that it must die, it lives on--when poker started to look popular again, every manaufacturer in the country started adding poker products to the line-up. "Cash in while you still can!" was the battle cry. Soon, cheap poker sets started showing up at Barnes and Noble and CVS.
And apparently, the chips were selling for a while, but have since not been selling as well. This has the economy wonks in a masturbatory lather. "Kill it. Kill the industry! Give us something to talk about! Die, poker, die! (Which, later they would claim in court was German 'for the, poker, the')"
I thought about the chip sales falling off and wondered if there had been a time during the beginning of televised baseball in which bats and gloves sold like hotcakes. Eventually, nearly every kid on the block had one. Bats and gloves last for a long time, so there was no reason to buy new ones. Kind of like poker chips and plastic cards, now that I think about it. Did some economy wonk say baseball was dead?
I kept digging through the story looking for some further evidence that poker was dead and I was screwing a corpse (necrophilia never having beeen among my top ten fetishes, I was a little worried I'd turned an ugly corner). Apparently some father of a teenager said his son was at once time excited about the game, but now never talks about it.
That was about all the evidence I needed. The simple fact that a teenager couldn't keep his attention focused on something for longer than a year was certain evidence the game that supports my family was rotting in a grave.
People talk about poker like it is the dot com boom, a time of heady investment in which venture capitalists sprung erections over smart young kids and the stock market followed along. Eventually, when not everybody could be the next big thing, the bubble fell sticky on the floor, bunch of rich people lost money, and a bunch of smart young kids lost several years of their life.
Poker is not the dot com boom. The bubble, when and if it bursts, will not happen all at once. And it won't be because of slagging poker chip sales. Frankly, other than an attack by the federal and state governments on online and home game poker, I can't think of any one force could seriously damage poker popularity in the near future.
The problem for our society is that it spends so much time looking for action, growth, movement, and the 'next big thing' that it never has the patience to ride out a good thing. It kills its babies before they can be truly productive. We live in an ADD culture that is hopped up on perscription speed and not content to watch a movie that lasts more than one hour and 42 minutes. That's why our society at large has a hard time accepting poker as a long-term proposition. We are surroundded by action junkies who want to be in on every hand instead of waiting for cards that will pay off. People with that attitude may think they can handle poker, but they are really looking for Pai Gow. Trust me, I know.
In short, the people standing at the side of the table screaming for the river card that will sink poker are the same people who are betting the Don't Pass line at the craps table (no offense, CJ). I like to think of them as Andre the Giant's neighbors. "Damn, Martha, the boy is getting big. Jesus, Martha, he's getting huge--like eight feet tall! Wait, he's not getting any bigger. What's on TV?"
Protesting too much?
There have been and will be people who suggest I'm the relative of the terminal cancer paitent who insists his loved one has a chance. They further have or will suggest that since I have such a vested interest in poker's viability that I can't be objective about its ability to sustain itself as a viable industry.
I've thought about this a lot and have come to believe, surprisingly, that I'm right and those people are wrong. At least for now.
I won't pretend that I have any greater evidence than slagging chip sales to support my assertion that poker is not quite done growing and hasn't even considered dying yet. My evidence, like the economy wonks, is anecdotal. Nonetheless, I offer it for your end of year thoughts.
Those are just three little things that knock my socks off. Every one of them is amazing in its own right. That's to say nothing about the millions and millions of dollars being wagered at any moment in online and brick and mortar poker rooms.
So, in short, 2005 was a year of unsustainable growth. I can accept that. Anything that continues to grow that fast will implode under its own weight. I think 2006 will be a year of growth for the industry, but not nearly as large as it was in 2005. Within a year or two, we might see a plateau and maybe even a soft decline. But, as near as I can tell, despite Walgreens soft plastic chip sales, poker is here to stay for a long time.
You may or may not have noticed that I have not written a lot about my personal play in the past six months or so. Unless there was a great story to go along with a game, I didn't see much reason to explain my reasoning behind calling with my aces even though I figured Shep held a better hand. Unless there was some great help I thought I could offer with explaining why I took two or three big shots this year, I just kept it to myself or private conversations.
So, how did I do this year? Well, my record keeping has not been as good as one might imagine (something I plan to rectify in 2006), but I know I set a bankroll goal for myself back in June. It was seemingly unattainable at the time, but things changed around mid-summer and I never looked back. I hit the goal and then bested it by another 50%. No one is more amazed than me.
I'm playing online regularly at levels that I would ont have comprehended even a year ago. I'm also fairly happy with my tournament game, although there is some tweaking that needs to happen for me to think I'm any good.
My biggest personal problem is my apparently inability to translate online success to good live play. That, by the way, is another New Year's poker resolution.
But, my resolutions and goals will have to wait for another post.
After all, it's New Years's Eve and I'm going to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in two days.
Happy New Year, all. Thanks for making it one of the best.<-- Hide More
From the Did You Know? Desk...More in this Poker Blog! -->
**Marty points out Daddy's old blog has already been hijacked by a porn shill site. Either that or Daddy is taking on a new genre of writing. Or...Pauly is looking into other money-making opportunities.
Regardless, despite my respect for Daddy's decision, I miss the donkey fucker already.
**The WPBT is actually listed on an acronym-finder site.
**Taking a shot can be a very good idea sometimes.
**I miss Al.<-- Hide More
Something occurred to me a couple of minutes ago as I looked at Orion and wondered why I rarely look at the stars anymore.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I haven't been writing here nearly enough.
This is my best excuse.
But it's not enough. Last night I suffered the first bout of pre-WPBT Winter Classic insomnia. So, while it's nearly 5am here on the right coast, I'm thinking about Las Vegas and a motley crew of bloggers I'll see in about eight days.
So, I feel a post coming on.
That's all. I'm going back to look at the stars for a few minutes.<-- Hide More
Since I started writing for Up For Poker, I have never, ever posted a hand history. It's been a little rule I had for myself. However, I've been given a Thanksgiving gift and I think that's reason to break the rule for once. The gift? I can coin a phrase (actually, I can bastardize a term coined by Grubby).
I give you...
The Pentagon Hammer.More in this Poker Blog! -->
$1000 NL Texas Hold'em - Friday, November 25, 01:24:52 EDT 2005
Seat 9 is the button
Total number of players : 10
Seat 1: Dude #1 ( $1478.25 )
Seat 3: Otis ( $5664.25 )
Seat 4: Dude #2 ( $499 )
Seat 7: Dude #3 ( $2258.80 )
Seat 9: Dude #4 ( $1411 )
Seat 10: Villian #1 ( $358 )
Seat 2: Dude #5 ( $266.75 )
Seat 5: Villian #2 ( $905 )
Seat 8: Dude #6 ( $2097 )
Seat 6: Dude #7 ( $980 )
Villian #1 posts small blind [$5].
Dude #1 posts big blind [$10].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to Otis [ 7c 2s ]
Otis raises [$30].
Villian #2 calls [$30].
Villian #1 calls [$25].
** Dealing Flop ** [ 6s, 2d, 7d ]
Villian #1 checks.
Otis bets [$97].
Villian #2 calls [$97].
Villian #1 calls [$97].
** Dealing Turn ** [ 3h ]
Villian #1 checks.
Otis bets [$400].
Villian #2 is all-In [$778]
Villian #1 is all-In [$231]
Otis: uh-ph, this could be embarassinig
Otis calls [$378].
** Dealing River ** [ 5c ]
Otis shows [ 7c, 2s ] two pairs, sevens and twos.
Villian #2 shows [ 6d, 6c ] three of a kind, sixes.
Villian #1 doesn't show [ 5h, 7s ] two pairs, sevens and fives.
Villian #2 wins $1094 from side pot #1 with three of a kind, sixes.
Villian #2 wins $1081 from the main pot with three of a kind, sixes.
Why the Pentgon Hammer?
Cause it costs a $1000.
(Manufacturers warning: The Pentagon Hammer is most often found at the tail end of a good session and when you are chatting with several bloggers in the girly IM chat thingy)<-- Hide More
You know, the other night I watched I, Robot and I have to admit it freaked me out a little bit. That said, if you need a break from your pokering, you gotta check out Little Lost Robot. This dude is what blogging is all about. He has more talent in his mouse than I have in my entire computer.
Of particualr interest this week is his new robot version of the "My Humps" video, which I think could become an internet classic.
Do yourself a favor and spend some happy time in his archives.
Should we all be screaming blog thief?
Heath, with the Blog Bunch, has removed Up For Poker from his listing. If other poker bloggers wish to do the same, I'd suggest sending an email.
AKA-- How to go broke without ever playing a hand
I don't carry rubbers when I travel. I pack with slightly more clothes than the Accidental Tourist would recommend. I carry a suitcase, a garment bag, a backpack, and whatever I shove in my pockets. Nowhere in any of the bags or pockets will you find a condom. The reason is pretty simple. As Daddy always said, "Don't point a gun unless you plan to shoot it."
My random target shooting days ended about ten years ago.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I own condoms, though. Back when Mrs. Otis went off the pill in prepartion for L'il Otis, I bought condoms in bulk. Over the internet no less. I ordered like 100 of them. The arrived in the mail one day and I played with them like they were pennies fallen from heaven. I picked them up in great handfuls and let them fall through my fingers onto the bed. If I'd been alone, I might have yelled "Condoms! Condoms!" in my most maniacal voice.
But I wasn't alone. Mrs. Otis was sitting there. I could see her making mental note of the count. She looked at me sideways, as if to say, "You're certainly very confident of yourself."
Needless to say, by the time the condoms were unncessary, I still had about eighty left. They're mashed in a bathroom drawer, growing old toward their expiration date, and mocking me each time I go looking for the nail clippers. I can almost hear the ones in the back scoffing about my eyes being bigger than my virility.
The thing is, I always got a kick out of rubbers. Early in high school, I carried one around in my wallet. Later in high school, the 21 year old girl that I made time with kept them in a basket by her bed. Once I got to college, I'd run up to the Student Health Center, grab a handful, and run back to the dorms screaming, "Condoms! Condoms!" Later in college, I'd keep a supply in my sock drawer for the right occasion.
In recent years, I haven't had much need for them. Of course, like any man, I don't like wearing them. But I really like having them around, if only as a reminder that when I first bedded my wife, I had to convince her that I really kept condoms around and didn't go bumming them at the last minute. Come on, honey. I stopped that after my freshman year (thanks, Rich).
So, I still own them. They're mine and nobody can take them away from me. I suspect Mrs. Otis inventories them from time to time to make sure I'm not taking them out and on trips with me. That's fine. As, I said, I don't pack rubbers when I travel. They are little more than a latex invitation to be an idiot, and frankly, I have come up with much better ways of being an idiot than cheating on my wife.
London, in all its glory, had been unremarkable on the poker front. The folks at the Grosvenor Victoria Casino (aka The Vic) seemed almost bothered to have a world class poker tournament in their venue. From all indications the cash games were cheap and soft. I heard very believable tales of people cashing in for 50 pounds, and cashing out for 800 after a few hours. I, in all of my glory, did not have a chance to play. The Vic was historic, if only in that it still maintined a fairly 1980s view of technology. Wireless internet was no where to be found. The poker tournament was tight and hot, and not in a good way. The only moments of even vague fun were conversations with Isabelle and Luca, two of my favorite people on the tour.
Every night at dinner, I'd run from the casino screaming "Condoms!" (okay, not really) and onto Edgware Road, where Middle Eastern men smoked from giant hookahs and Middle Eastern women hid behind black veils and made sure their children didn't get run over by double decker buses. Huge chunks of meat spun on giant spits, dripping grease into pans below and wafting smoke out onto the road. One night I got taken for about 10 pounds by a gypsy cab driver who took advantage of my obvious desire to be anywhere but near the casino.
So, it was with great joy that I escape London in the back of a slow moving cab. The cab driver listened to French lauguage instructional tapes for the entire ride. By the end of the cab trip, I felt like I'd caught up on all the french I'd learned in high school and college. What a freakin' waste.
It was only a two-hour flight, but the casino in Baden, Austria was a different world. The ceilings were high and adorned with glass ornaments. The chips were clean. The tournament was amazing. There was no need for a dinner break, because the waitresses would deliver filet and prawns to players at the table. Desserts of every kind lined the walls.
By day two of the tournament, the media had found themselves in such a state of bliss, they were unsure what to do with a night off. During a meal of fine food and drink, one member of the press suggested a friendly sit and go in the back of the casino. We figured we could wrangle some chips and a dealer to accomodate us.
After the meal, the same guy sidled up to me conspiratorially.
"For a variety of reasons," he said in his thick British accent, "we can't have our game here."
He looked around to see who was listening.
"But it seems we have acquired enough casino chips to have a game in one of the local hotels."
Twenty minutes later, eight of us were in two cabs, riding through Baden's back streets, a bucket of Casino Baden chips in tow.
We arrived at the hotel and walked through the front doors. Directly in front of me was a giant poster of Pope Benedict.
I thought little of it. I couldn't read the German writing on all the posters. I took to helping the assembled players find a suitable table and chairs for the game. By the time we'd found a large and beautiful table in the back of the room and covered it with a table cloth, I'd settled into the quiet smile of a man about to play cards.
That's when I noticed all the collars. Suddenly, the room was full of priests. Somehow our game had ended up in the midddle of some sort of Catholic convention.
We'd not secured enough chips from the casino, so the lone female of the group, who was serving as tournament director, came over with an armful of match boxes. The front of the boxes all were printed with Christian crosses, presumbly to light the priests' cigarettes or holy candles.
The game, a friendly 50 euro buy-in freeze out began, and I settled into a rockish image. The table had four pros and four regular joes like me. Iwan, a Welshman with an endless supply of sheep-screwing jokes, sat to my left. Jen, an American-Englishwoman was next. Julian sat next to her, with Tony on his left. Rolf, Conrad, and Stratford Steve rounded out the table.
Three levels into the first game, I loosened up a bit. I called a small raise with QJo in the cutoff. The flop came down QT9 rainbow. Stratford Steve bet out and I raised the pot. I figured top-pair open-ended wasn't that bad. Iwan thought for just a moment before pushing all in. Steve folded and I fell into the tank.
Tony, king of dry-humor and a wiley player, offered, "I dunno, Otis. It smells a bit move-ish to me."
And it did smell a bit move-ish, but I didn't think long enough. I didn't quite have the odds to call. The only thing I could think I was beating there was JT, which was a reasonable holding for him. However, there were a lot of other hands he could've had that beat me. In retrospect, I should've laid it down. Rock Otis would've. But, I had loosened up.
I called to see his 9T. His two-pair held up and I was out in seventh place. I looked to my left and a priest was looking at me. His mouth formed a giant "O" and he clapped his hand over his lips. Then--and I could never make this up--he did a little dance and headed for the elevator.
I ordered a beer from the waitress and sat with a flushed face until the second game began.
The second game was a 100 euro buy-in and I figured to make my money back. We had agreed to pay everything to first place but leave everything open for deals.
During the game, in which the phrase, "It smells a bit move-ish" became a staple, Tony told a story of a friend who had won a sizable sum in a tournament. When he returned home, he didn't want to tell his wife how much he had earned, so he put a chunk of the cash (10,000 euros) in a video cassette box behind a wardrobe in his daughter's room. One day the man returned home to see the wardrbe had been moved. The cassette box was gone. He never saw the money again.
As I sat thinking about how I would never do something so foolhardy, I went on to get three-handed with Rolf and Julian. A blind steal eventually got picked off and I was out in third.
After a night where I never saw a hand better than QQ (and that was only once), I walked away happy to have only lost 150 euros. Playing with proper players is refeshing and I thought it would help me out with my game. After all, my online bankroll was at an all-time high. And I would never be so stupid as to put all my money in one box.
It took me 22 hours to get from my hotel in Austria to my home in South Carolina. During that time, I nearly missed two flights and lost two pieces of luggage.
I got home and slept for a long time. When I woke up today, there poker forums were abuzz with word that Party Poker had cut off all its skins. I was briefly miffed. For the past six months, I've been playing all my cash games on a Party skin. I'd been offered a rakeback deal which had proven to be a nice source of walking-around money.
During a conversation with someone I know in the business, I heard the phrase, "Run on the bank."
My stomach did two flips and landed on the floor.
Holy fucking shit.
A few years ago, a local finance company that held $280 million worth of unsecured investments closed its doors. It had been funneling money to its parent company and supporting a failing business for too many months. To do this, it had been using the unsecured investments of thousands of regular working folk who had put their money in the 40 year-old company for a nice 8% interest deal. One morning, everybody woke up and realized their life savings were gone. What's more, there wasn't much of any chance of that money ever coming back.
During my years in the TV business, failed investment company became the focus of my life. I spent countless hours investigating how it happened. I spent countles hours listening to the people who had lost everything. I watched old men cry. I read coroner's reports about somebody who committed suicide. I watched people go to jail. It was hell.
All along, though, I promised myself that I would never be so short-sighted as to put all my eggs in one basket. Never depend on one company to protect everything you have worked for.
But, of course, I didn't listen to myself. For a variety of reasons, I have kept 75% of my poker bankroll in this Party skin. The remaining 25% is on Party itself. I play tournaments on Party and cash games on the skin.
I spent a good part of the morning doing everything I could to collect my bankroll on this skin. The maximum withdrawl from the site accounts for about a third of my account. That means, given the withdrawls actually go through, it will take me three days to withdraw everything.
The site has returned an e-mail and promises the withdrawls will go through. Still, I have felt sick all day. The amount of money involved bascially accounts for about a year's worth of succesful poker play and, if I should lose it, it will essentially cripple me. I will have to start over. That is not something I am prepared to deal with right now.
I'm not ready to jump off a poker bridge yet, but I have still yet to recover my stomach from the floor. I can't see straight.
As those who know me already know, the only reason I play on this site is because I can't play for the site for which I work. It just so happens, the site for which I work would never have this problem because it keeps all player account money in a segregated account and never uses player funds for operating expenses.
I have a lot to talk about on this subject, but right now, I'm not myself. Plus, I may be more freaked out than is necessary. Hopefully by week's end, this will all be worked out.
In the meantime, I'm going to sit back and start trying to figure out how many eggs belong in each basket.<-- Hide More
The Rooster is a cagey character. The table was breakable plastic. The cards were sticky. Bobby Bracelet was using a pack of "I love my penis" matches as his card protector. Mike seemed increasingly angry at the deck and the way it attacked his stack in retribution for his only buying in for $70. Helixx smiled. BadBlood tried not to flex. John kept asking how many cards he could use. Steve talked about massage parlors. "Not like I know or anything," he said. Spaceman came over later after busting out of the NL game. Twice, I think.
Our game was HORSE. And The Rooster, as I said, was a cagey character.More in this Poker Blog! -->
"Just keep the money off the table," Al had said as he spun in frantic circles from band stage to poker game making sure everyone was happy, everyone was getting drunk, and everyone would at least have the briefest of opportunities to confirm Bobby Bracelet's junk.
I was comfortable from the start of the game. I'd played with several of the guys before, and the others fell into a familiar rhythm quickly. And it was only because The Rooster check-raised me early in the game that I vowed to keep an eye on him.
Something about him was cagey, and I wasn't sure I liked it one bit. Early in the game, as he pecked away at the others stacks, I decided to look him up once. And I saw, he didn't have as many eggs in his basket as he'd been counting on or representing. Cagey, indeed.
"The upstairs bar opens at 4pm," Al said and disapeared again in a cloud of smoke and goodwill.
I stood and climbed the Boathouse outdoor stairs. At the bar, Steve stood with two beers and some money in his hand. Al sat at the bar with a shot of Soco in front of him.
I only mention the moment because it was the beginning. Not the beginning where Eva, princess to us all, picked me up at the airport and took me to Delaware for cheese steaks. Not the beginning where she drove me around listening to the Gourds and waiting on BadBlood. Not the beginning where I sat down with The Rooster and the rest of the fowl. But the beginning where I started drinking.
Steve, who had offered to by the first round, walked away with the money and his drinks in his hand muttering something about "being first in line and getting pushed to the back." That's what happens around here, it seems.
There have been nights like this in my drinking career, but none I think I enjoyed quite as much. If I were Hunter Thompson, I would make up the things that happened in between the memories and make them sound like I was in control the entire time. However, since I've learned there is both photographic and video evidence to the contrary, I'll just leave those parts out and settle on the highlights.
---- Me: "There is a better than reasonable chance I'm going to fall in love with the lead singer of the band at some point this evening." Someone please e-mail me and tell me if I ever did and, if so, did I ever express it?
---- Big Mike, the most generous man I have ever met, refusing to let me pay for a drink, but at the same time, being understanding enough to let me put as much as I cared to toward the bar staff and charity.
---- Eva has a tattoo
---- Bobby Bracelet is the hardest working man in all of junk confirming. I have never seen such diligence. It was as though if he was not thrice confirmed by sun up, children would die. He really took one for the team this weekend.
---- Me: "What are you guys doing?"
Bloggers: "Paying this girl money to see her boobs."
Me: "All of her boobs or just a portion of her boobs?"
Blogger #1: "She has a really nice bra."
Blogger #2: "Trust me, it's worth it."
Me: "Will ten bucks cover it?"
---- Girl: "Could I get through here?"
Me: "Give me just a second okay?"
Girl: Says something rude and unintelligible
Me: "If you could get through here, what would you want?"
Girl: "A Coors Light."
Moments later, when I have ordered the girl a Coors Light, she is gone. I find her five minutes later.
Me: "You know, I bought you a Coors Light."
Girl: "I see that. (Pause) Can I have it?"
Me: "Um...I don't think so." (Walks off drinking the beer)
Boom shot in from the outside of the bar, rising up above Lewey Hill, through the back entrance, across the hardwood deck, and to the bar. Otis, BadBoood, Big Mike, Al, and Eva are spread out around the bar as Mike writes a check to the Boathouse and makes a joke about it bouncing.
Suddenly, Otis is aware of his surroundings again. He's not sure how long it has been since he was not. All he knows is that someone is talking about the Borgata and his having won a free weekend there.
Otis: "I won what?"
Indeed, it was that kind of night.
How did this happen? Well, it happed because of Al, Eva, and Big Mike. You don't know party hosts until you've met these people.
That's the main reason. But there is another reason. And he's cagey.
The game was seven stud. I had TJ/Q on the deal. The Rooster was being aggressive, asserting his cocksure attitude around the table.
Something in my soul told me that this was my hand. Something told me the three card straight would turn into something good. No matter what The Rooster did, I was going to snuff it.
By fifth street, a nine and king had fallen. I was good. Five cards, one straight. The battle between the Rooster and me would soon be over, I thought. Looking at his cards, looking at his face, remembering his betting patterns, I knew one thing. He needed his river card to beat me.
When the river hit, he looked. BadBlood saw it as well as I did. Even when he checked, I didn't believe it. I still put out my bet and called his check-raise.
"You boated up on me on the river, didn't you?" I said.
The Rooster looked up and smiled. "I boated up on you on the river," turning over his hole cards to show the full house.
I stood for a couple of seconds and walked around the deck for a few minutes. The Rooster was a better player than I remembered. His game was more aggressive than I remembered. Even that stroke of luck on the river didn't make him seem lucky. He was, in short, good. And it was me, frankly, who got lucky catching the straight in five cards.
I walked back over to the table and realized that I couldn't play cards any more.
And so, then, friends, I went and got drunk.
Thanks to Al, Eva, Big Mike, and all the folks at the Boathouse for making it a helluva 24 hour run.
I'm going to need a few weeks to recover and a lot of help remembering it all.<-- Hide More
He expected the sand to be whiter, the girls more tan, the boats in the harbor to be a little more broken down. The image he'd conjured when he hopped the puddle-jumper out of a South Florida regional airport was one out of the movies. The women would all have impossible legs. A bartender with an accent would sit under a tiki hut and serve warm beer in sweating bottles while he listened to the lamentations of the expatritots. The lives the future alcoholics had led would be the lives that led them to the little island and the bartender would listen to it all.
But that's not what sat at the shore. The sand was white, but not that white. The bartender had an accent, but she was the only one with impossible legs and she didn't feel like talking after a long day of standing behind the bar.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I'm a wanderlusting Otis. There hasn't been a point in my life when I didn't want to just disappear for a while and tell no one where I was going. When I was a kid, I'd conjure up knapsack trips into the nearby woods. In college, I'd imagine a long cross-country drive that ended in New Orleans or Las Vegas, two cities where I knew I could blend into the melange, just another lost soul. But, I always told myself, I would be the soul that had actually found itself.
These days, adult times to be sure, the dreams rear their little head every once in a while. And, of course, they take me to strange places. Sometimes it's some non-touristy beach in the Caribbean. Sometimes it's somewhere in the American Northwest. It's always somewhere where nobody knows me.
Many people in my life have misunderstood this little revelry as a lack of satisfaction or love for my real life. Nothing could be further from the truth. There have been very few times in my life where I haven't been satisfied with my life. Even now, in what can only be described as the best of times, I still fantasize about running away from time to time.
It's a romantic and mysterious notion to be sure, and one I almost surely will never act on. A man has responsibilities and he would surely miss everything, even if he were only gone for a while. That's why those romantic and mysterious notions are fantasies. Fantasies are fun. I mean, I surely won't end up in bed with a couple of women at once, but that shouldn't stop me from thinking about it every once in a while (or maybe it should, now that I think about it).
At the bar, he eventually convinced the bartendress to talk to him. The tourists had long since gone to their hotel rooms to put aloe on their sunburns. The sunset had been as pretty as you might expect. The beer was colder than his romantic notions had allowed, but that was probably better. The island beer tasted a little skunky unless it was exceptionally cold, and thankfully, that's how Lisa kept it.
Yeah, the girl behind the bar's name was Lisa. She wasn't an island girl. She'd made the trek to the island from Southeast Missouri after a life of listening to people pronounce her hometown, Haiti, as HAY-TIE. She played guitar like Sheryl Crow who had grown up just down the highway. Lisa liked ballads about beer, getting lost, and boys who aren't mean.
She'd intended to come to the island and sing at a bar while dark men sipped their drinks and the sun set behind her. When she landed in the airport, the a-string on her guitar broke. That really wasn't the reason she wasn't singing, but that's what she told people who asked. When she first started telling the story, she's said her "g-string" broke, but that got too many snickers from the peanut gallery.
He hadn't made the mistake of mentioning the g-string when she told her story and shared a beer with him. Instead he said, "You have simply impossible legs."
And Lisa didn't seem to mind.
So, it happens that I tend to virtually escape for a little while. I let my blogs and the blogs to which I'm supposed to contribute go without my ramblings for a while. Sure, there are reasons. WCOOP kicked my ever-lovin' ass. The rest of work has kicked my ever-lovin' ass. My side projects, including my contributions to DoubleAs Poker Hacks, have not kicked my ass yet, but I figure they will since I have a couple more minutes to dedicate to them.
I've always sort of wondered if I did escape and run off somewhere, how I would talk to people when I got back. Would I tell them about my great adventures and finding myself. Or would I simply show up with long, sun-bleached hair and five months of growth on my face and let people figure it out on their own.
I talk too much, I figure, especially after a few beers. I figure that I'd eventually end up rambling on about where I've been and hw I've changed.
How does that all fit in here? Well, I suppose the biggest way is that I haven't really written much poker content here recently. I'd like to say it has a lot to do with a lack of real poker content in my life, but that's not necessarily true. I've had my share of poker recently, both online and live.
However, I've found that the best stuff I write here is about the new poker lives I find. When I went to The Mark for the first time, it was a wild, new experience. When I sat for hours on end at the $10/$20 games in Vegas, there were always new characters. Hell, when I final tabled in a big online tournament for the first time, it was something new and profitable. Now, when it happens, the same excitement isn't there. I suppose it will take a $20K+ win to really move me to the keyboard.
Jesus, that sounds slimy. Ooooh, Otis doesn't get excited about winning a lot of money.
That's not true. I do. It's just that I can't think of how any emotions I might feel would come out good in writing. And I'm certainly not going to preach strategy when you have DoubleAs, Hank, and, frankly, BadBlood to read. I'll be the first to admit, I know strategy, I employ strategy, but I can't teach it. It's like teaching my wife to ski. Somebody is going to get hurt and it's probably going to be me.
"So, sing for me," he said.
"Can't," Lisa said. She was mopping up the bar. She'd been doing it for twenty minutes as an excuse not to look at him. "A-string is broken."
He turned up his beer, swallowed, and looked at her with purpose. "You really think that's funnier than a broken g-string? I really think you're missing an opportunity with that."
She didn't look up from the bar. "I am the queen of missed opportunity."
"That's supposed to sound dark and mysterious, isn't it." He wasn't being mean and Lisa seemed to understand.
"It's from a song," she said.
"What did you rhyme 'opportunity' with?" he said. Now, she could tell, he was poking fun.
"It doesn't rhyme."
Then she leaned over the bar and kissed him.
If you care at all, I'm running well right now. Two sizable final tables and a successful run at the $30/$60 limit and $10/$20 NL tables have treated me pretty well. My bankroll is bigger than it has ever been by about 20%. Simply typing that virtually guarantees me a 30% downswing over the next month. I really should learn to never speak when I'm running well.
I've been chatting recently with several people who are just entering the game. They ask how different it is at the higher limits. I admit to them that aggression pays off a lot more at the higher limits, but at the same time, all idiots aren't poor yet. In a $10/20 NL game the other night, I flopped a little set. A guy who had raised pre-flop called me all the way down (pot-sized bets the whole way, including one check-raise). The flop had come king-high and I put the guy on AK. I was feeling sort of bad for him losing nearly all of his buy-in when he called a huge bet on the river. I showed him my set and he mucked. I clicked the hand history to see what he held. Indeed, he had the king. His kicker was an un-paired offsuit ten.
I've also spent some time quietly analyzing the play of people I know and seeing how it stacks up about how I viewed their play before. It's interesting, but I haven't formed any opinion other than, to be honest with yourself about how you play, you have to be honest with the people you tell about your play.
So, what the hell was with the rest of this post?
Sorry, just taking you along for a little ride in my head.<-- Hide More
I've been waiting until today to announce this here. Long story short, PokerStars announced a 20% bonus today up to $120. That's a frequent thing and normally wouldn't get a splash here.
However, in light of the sickening tragedy in one of my old haunts and Wil Wheaton's generosity, I thought this one deserved a little more play.
So, go deposit some cash in the best site on the 'net (and I'm completely serious about that), get your $120 in free money, and use it to help out the folks who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina. I see Gracie and Al Can't Hang have already signed up. Thanks guys. PokerStars has charity buy-ins from $5 to $100. All but one penny of the prize pool gets matched 100% by PokerStars and sent to the American Red Cross. Plus, while I can't release the specific details of the prizes yet, from what I know, there could be some really cool prizes for the final table finishers.
I'd play if I could, but I can't due to my relationship with the site. In lieu of donating there, I've sent some cash with a poker buddy who is taking a truckload of supplies down to the coast from Memphis. But I'd really appreciate it if you folks could go over to Stars, create an account if you need to, deposit just a little money, and give. If you need any help, shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment with your questions.
Thanks folks. You'd be surprised how good karma comes back around.
This weekend, Mt. Otis finally recovered from Bradoween. It was nothing a little Stanley Steamer, Glad Trash Bag Co., and FEMA couldn't handle. There were many things left behind. A set of Copags and chips (recovered by The Mark), an Old Navy shirt (oddly, in my kid's nursery), two pair of sunglasses, a pair of girls high-soled flip flops, two coolers, two tables, and more gross stuff on my lawn than I care to inventory.
Also left behind was the Al Can't Hang Experience Banner. That belongs in Philly. As such, I'm going to hand-deliver it to Al next month. My only regret from Bradoween was working too hard and not spending enough time with my friends. As such, I hope to see many of you in Philly for the Bash at the Boathouse on September 24. Mrs. Otis and I are making the whirlwind trip and I recommend you do as well. In the extended text, I've offered a little incentive.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Roundtrip flights as of August 29
LAX to PHL--$234
CHI to PHL--$163
NYC to PHL--$300 (Screw it, drive you bums)
OKC to PHL--$266
STL to PHL--$249
AUS to PHL--$292
DET to PHL--$261
CVG to PHL--$297
WAS to PHL--$226
CLT to PHL--$273
DFW to PHL--$292
LAS to PHL--$268
Make it happen, cap'n<-- Hide More
Iggy posted the link to Modern Drunkard's 86 Rules of Boozing.
It reminded me of the weekend, which I had largely forgot, but I know started with poker and ended...well, with these new rules for myself.More in this Poker Blog! -->
1) When the girl sitting next to you at the bar orders a shot with her boyfriend, don't say, "We'll have what they're having." This is in large part because it's going to cost you way too much and not get you drunk enough.
2) When you reach the bottom of your fourth beer, don't let your friend decide whether it's time to go home, because he will say he'd like to stay out and you'll say okay.
3) When G-Rob shows up, run away.
4) When G-Rob offers to buy a round, tell him you don't want a drink with 151 in it, because, if you don't specify, that's what he'll bring back.
5) When you offer a band too little money for a booking when they already have a contract, it's improper to ask them again if they'll do it for the same amount. It's even more improper to ask again. And again. And again. And it's further improper to then chase the band down the street asking for the same thing for the same amount.
6) When your friends have heard of your dismay at having been turned down by the band, refrain from telling the same story over and over again. And again. And again.
7) When a girl tells you her name is Stella, it's very proper (and still hilarious) to yell at the top of your lungs, "Stellllllaaaa! Stellllllaaa!" Yeah, even if she hears that joke every day.
Obviously, I need to do some more priming before this weekend. Else, I may be in trouble.<-- Hide More
I stood in the hallway, a backpack over my shoulder, and an ancient feeling of anxiety tied up in my gut. This was not my battlefield. This place belonged to someone else. By some quirk of fate, I'd slipped in. Maybe the real competitors needed a practice team, I thought.
The hallways were teeming with wide-eyed live poker virgins and girthy veteran gamblers. A half-eaten breakfast sat in my stomach and tried to work its way around my anxiety. I looked across the tournament area and saw a little number two hanging over a table in the back corner.
Just then, my brother and CJ walked up and asked a question I wasn't expecting.
"Is it Sweet Tarts or Spree?"More in this Poker Blog! -->
I always wanted to be an athlete. In kindergarten I kicked a ball around a soccer field. In first grade I got hit by slow fast balls as I tried to play catcher. By my late grade school years, I was missing baskets and running up and down the court in my Bearcats uniform. By sixth grade I was strapping on pads and playing football. It became my game of choice, though never a game at which I was very proficient. Somewhere along the way I earned the nickname "Teflon Hands." Still, I practiced hard and in the early years got some playing time.
My freshman year in high school, the team traveled to Ozark and I got put in the game. We drove the length of the field. When we hit the five yard line, the coach called a passing play, a curl pattern that I had practiced and practiced during the hot Missouri summer. When Danny Enos screamed "Hut!" I bolted into the end zone, curled around, and found the ball two feet in front of me. Instinct took over and my body somehow absorbed the ball. It was my first and last touchdown. I looked into the stands and saw my dad. His hands were in the air, his mouth open in a scream of pride like I'd never seen. It was as if that one twenty-second moment was enough payment for every game he'd been to and every game he would attend in the future.
Later, one of my teams (I forget which year) went undefeated. As the clock ticked off on the final game versus Rogersville, I ran onto the field, my hands in the air, my father's scream coming from my lungs. As I reached the other sideline, Danny, still the starting QB, looked at me and said, "What are you yelling for? You didn't do anything."
Though Danny and I went on to become good friends when we were older, it was a moment that never really escaped my psyche. It was a moment I was happy no one else saw.
Mostly because it was true.
The answer was "Sweet Tarts." Though I'd played a lot of poker with my dad and friends when I was in high school, my serious interest in the game developed a little more than six years ago. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, I'd step into the low-limit dealer's choice home game in town. I'd always carry two Diet Mountain Dews and two packs of Sweet Tarts with me when I went.
So, when I stood at the Rio sixty days ago and did my best to keep my breakfast down, I felt oddly touched that my brother and CJ had gone out of their way so early on a Vegas morning to seek out my candy of choice. Somewhere in my brother's eyes, I saw my father's pride. I saw that he saw me as a player, just like my dad had seen me as a player so many years before.
How I had I gotten here? How had I made my way from a low-limit cash game in Upstate South Carolina to pulling $1500 out of my pocket and buying into a tournament with more than 2300 players? How, when most people there were slumming in the low-buy-in tourney, did I see it as a defining moment?
Well, in short, I was ready to win.
Recently, I went to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. Well, it was less a meeting than me sitting on my back porch with a beer in my hand. To no one in particular, I said, "Hi, my name is Otis and I have a gambling problem."
By the time most people have reached this point, they have lost their house, car, and wife, not to mention their bankroll and the rest of their life savings. Not me. My bankroll is flush, I have no debt except my mortgage, and my wife played cards with me and the boys the other night. What's more, I'm pretty on top of my limit cash game and am doing pretty well at $30/$60.
So, what's the problem? Where's the addiction in that?
Anyone who plays cards will tell you that "it's all just one long session." When you play cash games, you can't rely on a session's results as an indicator of winning or losing. And over the past two years of serious play, I am a winner. But the game isn't over. And it never will be.
That is the problem. Looking back, I never really wanted to be an athlete. I wanted to be a winner. Poker, I thought, offers that opportunity. To put a slightly more fine point on it, tournament poker offers that opportunity.
I had the one seat when I sat down in my first WSOP event. My brother and CJ had found a space on the rail and sensed my anxiety. I looked at Dr. Jeff and he gave me a reassuring nod, as if to say, "You don't care about the money, you're a good player, just have fun." It was true that I didn't care about the money. My recent poker successes had made the buy-in reasonable. I considered myself a good player and I wanted to have fun. But, I wanted to win. Worse, I wanted to not lose.
In the first level, I caught pocket aces and wanted to muck them immediately. Upon realizing this, I decided I'd never be a poker player. Still, when a guy in early position came in for a raise. I raised the pot and we went heads up. The flop came down Qxx rainbow. My opponent thought for two seconds and announced, "I'm all in."
I paused and looked at the board. I thought it was too early in the tournament for a stone-cold bluff. The range of hands I put him on was pretty small. I figured he had one of three hands: AQ, KK, or QQ. Finally, after what must have seemed like much too long for my tablemates, I meekly said, "I call."
My opponent stood and slapped two painted cards on the table. For half a second, I was sure they were queens. Then I looked again and saw reality--a pair of kings. The dealer laid out the inconsequential turn and river. I didn't realize that I'd been holding my breath since I'd called. I exhaled and let every bit of anxiety wash over the table.
A guy sitting across the table laughed as I raked in the chips. "It's okay," he said. "You can breathe now."
And I could. The anxiety was gone and the fun had arrived. I looked up to show my stack to my railbirds, but they had run off in search of some more excitement. Regardless, I was breathing again.
What I didn't realize is that I was breathing in an addiction like none I had ever experienced.
In the past few years, I have actually only "won" two tournaments, both of them WPBT events. I have monied many times and final tabled in three major multi-table tournaments. I also won a $12,000 seat in a WPT event that I didn't end up using.
But as far as "winning" goes, the WPBT events, as prestigous as they were, were the extent of it. Though I feel I get more respect that I deserve as both a writer and poker player, there is a part of me that wants more. There is a part of me that wants to be seen as a winner. More than that, there is a part of me that cares less about being seen as a winner as the absolute rush that goes along with beating everybody.
It's not just a rush. It's the best sex you've ever had, with the best looking woman you've ever known, followed by the best meal you've ever eaten, followed by some psychedelic wonder drug that nobody has ever invented running through your system like a sped-up hippy chick at a music festival.
In short, there ain't much better.
Over the course of the next six hours at the WSOP, I sat at three more tables and played, if not the best poker of my life, very close to it. I made one very good laydown that kept me in the tournament and picked my spots at the right times. My nemesis was pocket jacks, a hand that I still don't know how to play in early position and, in my mind, cost me doing any better than I did in the WSOP event. I played a little too tightly in the fourth level and it cost me a couple of opportunities.
All day long, the bloggers and my brother had been sweating me and living every moment as I lived it. At one point, after the aforementioned laydown, my brother eavesdropped on my opponent's conversation with his railbird and discovered he held pocket aces to my AK on a king-high flop. My brother looked at me and mouthed he word, "aces." It felt good to know I'd gotten away from the loser.
Though I played almost as well as I think I could've, the final hand hurt just as much as I expected. I'd been getting blinded off for an hour or so. We were ten minutes from the dinner break and I only had about 8x the big blind left. I'd survived 1800 players but was still about 200-250 players short of the money. While the money would've been nice, it wasn't my primary concern. I wanted to win. Winning was the thing.
A middle position player made a standard raise. I found AKo and didn't think twice. I pushed. My opponent thought for just a minute before calling with pocket tens. Needless to point out, I lost the race. I stood and stumbled for the rail. I know Maudie hugged me. I know G-Rob talked about food. Blood was there, too. So were others. I couldn't see. I don't remember.
I had lost.
In the two months since then, I've lived four of the weeks in Vegas. While I was there, I spent too many of my off hours playing tournaments. While I did well in the cash games and satellites I played, I couldn't crack the tournaments. I told myself the structures were too fast and that any donkey could win. I just happened to be the donkey who couldn't.
In my off hours since I've been home, I've played an inordinate amount of tournaments online. So far, the best I've done is a cash for $700, which doesn't even come close to covering the buy-ins. If it weren't for cash games, I'd be hurting.
I'm fully aware that for most people (obviously myself included) tournaments are a -EV proposition. While I enjoy the occasional game of craps, I don't have any real leaks...except tournaments.
Admitting it, I suppose, is the first step. I'm still working on the other eleven steps. That is, I'm still working on figuring out what the other eleven steps are.
Now, I know many people who would eat fermented shark (sorry, watched the Anthony Bourdain show last night) to have my problem. Of course, those are people who have a firmer grasp on the concept of winning than I do.
I walked out of the Rio, belly a-boil with Red Bull and Sweet Tarts. I hadn't eaten in ten hours, I had the remainder of an ignored hangover, and the cab line was an hour long. So, I started walking. I walked down the sidewalk, ignoring the heat, ignoring the scary people, ignoring everything except the fact I'd just lost.
When I made it to the Bellagio, I asked a security guard to point me to a cab stand. He asked if wouldn't rather take the tram. He pointed to Ballys, where I walked and couldn't find the tram. I was overheated, sweating cold sweat through my shirt. I was confused and likely on the edge of some sort of stroke. I found a cab stand and told the guy to take me to the MGM.
"Are you sure you don't want to take the tram," he asked.
It must have been something in my eyes, some wild yet forlorn blinking lost gaze. "MGM it is," he said.
When I got back to my hotel, I looked like Johnny Depp in "Blow" when his wife is having their kid. Mrs. Otis laid me back in the bed and wiped the sweat off my brow. She talked me down, then took me to the one place she knew I'd be better. She took me to The Castle and sat me down with my friends.
To play cards.
In the years since I was a kid, I've learned a lot about what people expect from me. In short, the people who love me only want two things. They want me to work hard and to be a good person. I do my best.
I've come to learn, however, that after years of thinking I was trying to win for other people, no one else really cares whether I win. I've actually only been trying to win for myself. Somehow, that makes it harder to do.
I need to find a way to reconcile my addiction to tournaments with my love for the game and my need to win.
In the meantime, I take comfort in the things I enjoy as much as winning. My kid's laugh, my wife's exaperation at my stupid jokes, and sitting next to friends at poker tables, learning from them, and laughing.
An I'm sure the day will come when I finally convince myself that I actually won a long time ago.<-- Hide More
The Bradoween Open is--remarkably--almost full. However, the rules will be bent (and I'd be willing to sit 11-handed if necessary...) if a poker neophyte from the left coast wants to play.
One thing to consider...I like to see my name in print.
Nikki, it's spelled O-T-I-S.
Seriously, the girl wants traffic. Give it to her. Secondly, I'm serious about the Open. Seven seats remain.
Read G-Rob's trip report below...this is just self-pimpageMore in this Poker Blog! -->
My newest article in CardPlayer came out today. It ain't going to win a Pulitzer or anything, but I like it better than the last one.
I'm off for my month in Vegas tomorrow. Pauly says I won't make it until July. Sounds like a challenge to me.<-- Hide More
In the little town of Willits, CA, the waitressess have eyes like sea creatures and serve your food with a smile you know really isn't a smile. It's the same as Davenport, Iowa, where the entire collection of townfolk are sizing you up to make sure you'll fit on their grill come sundown. You eat quickly and ignore the tatse of bitter almonds in your food. As long as you make it out alive, you know you'll be able to forget Willits before sundown.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I was behind the wheel of a brand new, silver, convertible Mustang. Mrs. Otis sat beside me and worked to figure out how the one-slotted six CD changer worked. Eventually Jay Farrar's voice hit hard in the over-bassed speakers and shocked me back to conciousness. I felt lucky to have survived the town. The young blonde hostess at Perko's diner was the only one in town who wasn't fat or other otherwise disabled. Yet her eyes had been glazed over since we walked in the door. A tall, fat man with a ponytail was hitting on her and annoying the old lady who was waiting to be seated. I wanted to grab the young girl and put her in the backseat of the Mustang and drive her the couple hours back to San Francisco.
I doubt she would've been missed.
Nonetheless, I was getting out of there as fast as the Mustang's engine would take me. I'd been driving fast all morning, top down (even though the air was too cool for it), and mulling over the past six days. I'd been to Vegas then San Francisco (they call it The City, like they need the capital letters to make it better than Willits, CA or something). Now I was in Willits and bearing down on Crescent City, CA.
Redwoods and coastal drives were in the future and my mind should've been anywhere but back in Vegas where I'd spent my last night drunk, talking to a cabbie about his prodigal Malaysian wife, and arguing with some Vegas local at a 10/20 game about chopping the blinds. By 4am Sunday morning, I'd grown cranky and drunk without realizing it was happening. The solo ride from the Plaza back to the MGM had shifted my brain into some sort of do-or-die mode that would prove to be ineffectual and frustrating.
But there I sat on the corner of Highway 101 and some Willits byway, mulling over the trip reports I'd planned to write and wondering how to capture moments like 2am Pai Gow, dropping the Hammer on my first orbit of poker Thursday night, and watching my brother triple up in one orbit of a limit game.
I looked up from the window and sighed. It would have to wait for a while. I'd promised myself no writing for the duration of my vacation with my wife.. She, as many of you realized this past weekend, is deserving of just about every positive vibe I can offer. She deserves a lot and I give her a little and she rarely complains about it.
Plus, while in San Franciso, there had been another development that would change the way I looked at everything.
I looked up through the window of the Mustang, still waiting to turn onto Highway 101, and there sat a homeless guy. There were a lot of them up and down the California and Oregon coasts. When Mrs. Otis mused on the implications of homelessness and the seemingly over abundance of homeless denizens, I offered what I always do in such situations, "If you were homeless, wouldn't you want to live here?"
It was true, in a way. While a little chilly, windy, and on the rainy side, Northern California and Oregon are among the most beautiful places I've ever seen. And I've been around. If I were homeless, it's where I'd hang out.
I looked up at the homeless guy and he offered a wry smile. I looked down at his sign (they all have them) and found inspiration. Scrawled in black on a ripped piece of cardboard, the longhaired dude had written three words, one on top of another:
Indeed, I thought.
There was little question what the dude meant. Everybody has a ripped piece of cardboard and after all these years of clever witticisms or poignant pleadings, it's all pretty much been written. "Blah, Blah, Blah" pretty much said it. It seemed to say, "That's what I got left. Deal with it."
The car's engine roared as I pulled out onto Highway 101 and gunned the engine down the road. I looked at Mrs. Otis. She wore a West Coast Choppers beanie and a pair of cheap Vegas sunglasses. The wind whipped at her windbreaker and she seemed content. I should do better by her.
Our first night in San Franciso, I'd managed to get my GSM broadband to work and discovered an e-mail that was both intriguing and cause for concern. I won't go into the details at the moment, but it basicallly means this little vacation (ending here in a few moments when I board an eastbound Delta flight from Portland) will be the last chance I'll have to spend with my wife for the next month. Long story short, I'm moving to Vegas for the duration of the WSOP.
So, what does all this mean? Well, a few things. First, my trip reports from Vegas will be delayed for a bit. I have some neat stories and some things I'd like to write. Al pointed out that this past WPBT conference was not the same drunken bash as December. I'd tend to agree. While most of us maintained a good steady buzz, I didn't end up pimping hookers out from the Sherwood Forest bar or claiming to be the Surgeon General.
After reading "Blah, Blah, Blah" I toyed with the idea that maybe I didn't need to write anything. Maybe I should just leave it to the other great writers out there (by the way, I've been sneaking a few minutes each day to check in with your trip reports and have been enjoying them). G-Rob abd CJ have been holding up Up For Poker damned well without me.
Of course, that was silly talk. After reading some Dr. Pauly, some Christopher Moore, and that article in Rolling Stone about The Crew I decided I needed get back on the stick. And, so, here I am, in an airport, headed home for a precious few days with L'il Otis, before packing my bags and moving into a hotel for a month.
If anyone were to ask how I feel about this or what it all means, I'm not sure I could answer with any amount of honesty. While I'm inordinately plagued with feelings of guilt about leaving my family for so long, I'm also intrigued by the creative potential offered by a month in the middle of a poker maelstrom.
I'll have some more details in a few days. In the meantime, keep the trip reports coming.
I met some damned good people last weekend and was inspired by your personalities. Thanks for making me feel like more than I am and more than I'm worth.
Wheels up, once again.<-- Hide More
UPDATE: First hammer reference dropped 1:15pm London time.
Tired. Spent. Jet-lagged.
I had no intention of blogging here while in London, but today's events, I think, required an ever-so-brief cut-and-paste from the official blog of the week.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It's been an interesting time today with this blog on the road. Just seconds before the second match of the day, PokerStars and the producers of the Poker Channel popped in and asked me to serve as color commentator for a few matches. As a former TV guy who just happens to be really into poker, how could I refuse?
Yep. I've been serving as the VVP of the WCP. Lord help Europe.
I looked for every opportunity to slip in a reference to the Hammer. It never came. The Jackhammer, however, made an appearance and got its due.
Some life I'm leading.<-- Hide More
Well, I'm headed back out across the pond. My posts will be few and far between for the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, the WPBT is hosting one more blogger/reader WSOP Event #2 Satellite on PokerStars. Late notice this time. It's Sunday. Get there and make it happen, cap'n. Bobby Bracelet is playing in Event #2. Russell is playing. Wes (we hope) is playing. I'm playing. Make it five.
Chances are, I will not be able to be on the rail for this satellite, so good luck to all.
Lastly, although I don't have the power to do so, I hereby declare the end to all ill-will, silliness, and snarkiness. Just three weeks to Vegas (sorry, Gene). Get rowdy. If you need help, remember this:
It was back in the good ol' days. The salad years. It was a time before any real life seriousness. It was the time of Melrose Gulfman.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Ah, yes, Melrose Gulfman.
The G-man (not to be confused with G-Rob) was one of our running buddies for a long time. He was an eclectic guy who could pound a twelve-pack, officiate the Drunk Olympics, then surprise you by waxing poetic abuot the relative softness and variety of pillows at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
We had a few songs about the G-man. My favorite was a little blues number titled, "The G-Man is an Ass Man." Which he was. As they say, it's funny because it's true.
Now, Melrose Gulfman.
Back in the day before Gulfman died (he didn't actually die but fell into a very deep pit and got mired in marriage and suburbia, never to be heard from again), he lived in a little middle-rent apartment complex in the middle of town. It was a refuge for the rest of us married types who needed some place where we could go, watch TV, and slip into the single life every once in a while. Occasionally, we'd take the day off work, go to Melrose Gulfman, and just hang out.
We called it Melrose Gulfman because the stories that surrounded his little apartment were better than any primetime soap opera. Our personal favorite were the smoked-up, drunken girls who lived across the breezeway. The cast at the girls' place was always changing, but one of the girls always remained the same. She was the girl who would come over in her Victoria's Secret hip-length nightgown to hang out. She was the girl who would be getting ready go out, come over wearing nothing but a pair of blue jeans (her hands covering the other parts) to see if we liked the way the jeans fit.
So, fun, in fact, it made us all sad the day we realized she was a rabid, yet secret, racist.
We were all chilling, making fun of the G-Man's stolen candy machines, throwing around the stuffed football, and finishing off Gulfman's 12 or 13 beers (he always knew within one the number of beers he had in his fridge). This girl came over, sat down, and started chatting. Then she did it.
She dropped the n-word.
We all sort of looked around like, "Well, what the hell is that all about? Maybe she'll take her pants off."
And then she did it again. The n-word. Not the pants.
The fun drained out of the room. We boys were tolerant types with patience for just about any form of social dysfunction. Racism, however, we didn't tolerate.
We all tried to change the subject, cut her off, get her to just stop talking. No good. She was deep in her own high and was babbling about nothing, but making us all sort of uncomfortable.
It seemed nothing would shut her up. So, I stepped out of my "normally not so profane around women" personality. I looked her straight in the eye, held my hands fairly wide, and said:
"My c*ck is THIS big."
Since that time, that phrase has become the catch-phrase for any time we want someone to shut up or change the subject. I had to break it out again when my half-Jewish buddy and I ended up sitting with a hot aerobics instructor at the G-Spot (not to be confused with G-man, or G-Rob). When the night was over, the girl was forever known as Anti-Semite Sheryl.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, little, really.
Nonetheless, I'd like to offer up a hearty "my c*ck is THIS big" right now.
After all, the WBPT convention begins in 23 days.
I fell asleep thinking about it last night.<-- Hide More
After a bit of a wait, my CardPlayer article about the Bahamas has come out.
Special note to a few of the bloggers who joined me in the Bahamas...there's smallish nod to your adventures buried in the copy.
It relates to one of my favorites Boy Genius tales:
I really believe the difference was in the ounce of water Al left in the bottle as ballast. Well, that and he doesnâ€™t throw like heâ€™s afraid of being laughed at like a little girl. Thunk! The bottle was dead-on, and was thrown with enough heat to rock the can on its heels just a little bit in the process.
â€œYou got action on this?â€ Some dude and his buddies wandered into the fray as they watched G-Rob toss Al his bones. â€œWhatâ€™s the game?â€
That's BG's writing, if the blockquote didn't give it away. He writes better than I do.
Oh yeah, Vegas is a mere 27 days away.
One of the great things about the World Poker Blogger Tour Vegas conventions is that there is rarely an agenda. The bloggers strap themselves to virtual surfboards and ride waves of Southern Comfort, Irish Car Bombs, cards, chips, and revelry through several days of silliness.
But, I have an idea.More in this Poker Blog! -->
As of right now, there are only a few must-do items for the upcoming WPBT convention in Vegas.
On Friday, I know Bracelet Bob, R. Fox, and whoever else ends up playing wouldn't mind the occasional railbird during Event #2 of the WSOP.
On Saturday at 10am, the CJ-organized WBPT Aladdin Classic is filling up.
Following that tournament, the WPBT Minister of Debauchery (aka Minister of Intoxication--I can't decide which I prefer) is working to organize an after-party for all of us. I don't think the deal is done yet, but I'm hearing tales of 100 different tequilas.
Those are the only must-dos.
I suggest one more.
See, last December, the bloggers took up residence in the low-rent district at the Excalibur poker room. We played some low-stakes, drank it up, cheered for a dog-riding monkey, and got an Albanian dude to do Teddy KGB impersonations. Pauly was stuck in the middle of a poker room brawl. Marty check-raised a guy on three consecutive streets, only making the best hand on the river. At one point the ceiling opened up and water poured onto a table. Felicia organized an O8 game that ended up as an tutoring session for the dealers. I ate gumbo that wasn't gumbo. Some unsuspecting woman drank Al's soco shot.
In short, it was good times all around.
Last night, during an extended chat session that accompanied thet WPBT WSOP Satellite, I posed the question. And I'll pose it again here, opening up the comments section for Vegas-bound bloggers to determine whether we'll do it.
Here it is...
At a pre-determined time, the WPBT Storms the Castle. As of right now, based on the timing of everything, I'm suggesting 10pm on Friday night. If for some reason one of our bloggers is still in the WSOP, railbirds can come following the event.
But imagine the Excalibur poker room, purring along with it's regular Friday night crowd, all of a sudden stormed by 60+ poker bloggers looking for some low-limit action.
It would be, in short, a hoot.
Thoughts?<-- Hide More
This ain't for you. It's for me.More in this Poker Blog! -->
1) Knowledge that isn't utilized is worse than ignorance.
2) Pride is not an excuse.
3) In the realm of cliches, it's not so much that patience is a virtue as haste truly makes waste.
4) To overcome envy, one must accept that it exists.
5) There's a reason it's called "instinct."
6) Furthermore, there is a reason they are called "decisions."
A few important notes...and a not-so-important note.
First: BOB=THE NUTS. Congrats to the guy who snubbed me during a 3am Pai Gow binge in Las Vegas last winner for winning the WPBT WSOP Event #2 satellite.
Now...More in this Poker Blog! -->
1) Good luck to all the WPBT members playing on PokerStars tonight. I'll be on the rail watching the action.
2) I'm a jerk sometimes. Maybe more than sometimes. Nonetheless, I unintentionally pulled a screwjob on the good folks at LasVegasVegas. No need to go into the details. The issue has been worked out. Regardless, it reminded me that I'd been meaning to push our readers over to LasVegasVegas. These guys are the hardest working poker bloggers out there. Go on over and be sure to check out the Poker Player Newpaper, which is by the far the most comprehensive poker news site on the market today. They've been kicking every other site's ass all week at the WPT.
3) There's a new blog out there and this is something I'm pretty proud of. When I joined Stars, I wanted to find a way to introduce poker blogging to the Stars community. The brand new Official PokerStars Blog was the answer. We launched it today. Wish me luck on this one. It promises to be a lot of work, but something worth the effort.
4) When I registered PokerPapers.com last year, I had a few ideas about what to do with it. Since then, it has gone through a couple variations. Now, I've turned it into a sort of portfolio site for myself. If you give a damn, go take a look. It's not finished yet, but it's okay for public comsumption.
Again, good luck to everybody tonight. I can't wait to see who'll be joining me in Event #2 of the WSOP.<-- Hide More
It was several years ago. I was sitting at a Pai Gow poker table. Actually my cocktail was sitting at the table. I was in the bottom of the glass and using the stir-straw as an airway to the high-octane-oxygenated air above.
I was just a few hours away from hitting the Bellagio poker room for the first time and in lock-stock-and-barrel preparation for a fully ill-equipped session of losing poker.
What did I know, you know? I was a low-stakes blackjack player who'd been lured into the sleezy and backstabbing world of Pai Gow poker, where cocktail waitresses will come by once every ten minutes if you leave a dollar chip on the padded rail and Pai Gow sharks will hit the dragon hand every time. Everyone looked at me funny when I asked if it was appropriate to chase the dragon at the table.
I left my tin foil and lighter in my pocket.
From the bottom of my glass, I'd been pestering the pit boss for a steak and eggs comp. I understood I'd have to play another three hours if I wanted my breakfast. And then, through the grapefruit juice and vodka, I heard the sound.More in this Poker Blog! -->
At first I thought the low-rent casino had given up on the idea of a lounge act and just started piping pre-recorded music through the room. After all, every song that came through sounded exactly like the original performer. Tom Jones, Aretha Franklin, Pat Boone.
I emerged from my glass for a much-needed trip to the restroom. The towel guy in the head was holding a mint for me. Later I would learn from Joey Two-Hands that pit bosses frown on playing a breath mint for the dealer, but I didn't know that then.
As I passed by the lounge, I realized, it was not pre-recorded music. It was an actual lounge act. I watched the lead singer as he shifted and moved and changed his voice with every song. The only thing that made the guy more amazing was that he was a heavily-accented Asian guy.
Fucking amazing, I thought, then stumbled to the bathroom for my dollar breath-mint.
Now, I know, that little tale has nothing to do with poker.
But it does.
See, poker is a musical game. It has a clearly designed pattern like notes on a sheet music staff, but can fall into long periods of improvisation and chaos, a lot like a night I lay out of my mind on a blanket at a Grateful Dead show while a fourteen-year-old hackey-sacked Head sat stoned out of his mind behind me.
These days a lot of players bring their iPods to the table. I have no real problem with it. It's a good way to break up the hours of monotony. I'd do it, but I have a serious need to listen to the table banter.
But it got me to thinking today. If bloggers had iPods at the table, to what would they be listening? Furthermore, does it say anything about their style of play?
I don't think I've reached any conclusions on the latter, but I certainly know a few things about the former.
It's no big secret that the resident kings of the Headbangers Ball are Al Can't Hang and Bad Blood. Common sense would say they would be reckless, screaming, booze-swilling malcontents with a penchant for biting the heads of live koalas and check-raising with the jack-hammer, just because they like to show it down.
Well, that's half true, I guess.
Enter Pauly and Up For Poker's own G-Rob. From the Dead to Widespread to Phish, one would think these guys would be happy to sit back and let the cards come as they may, the results be damned.
Um...not so true.
The Americana Boys
From old school country to the acoustic stylings of Uncle Tupelo, folks like The Fat Guy, Iggy, HDouble, and the Poker Prof are right at home under the sunds of a slide guitar and beer-soaked song. Drunken country-brawlers, though? Not so much.
And then...there is of course, DJ Boy Genius and the Slick-Willies with their groovin' hip hop sounds.
I tend to fit in with the Americana Boys category more than any other, although I have found myself with The Heads from time to time. And my iPod currently has everything from the Bottle Rockets, to Uncle Tupelo, to the Beatles, to the Beatie Boys, to Etta James.
I'm eclectic, what can I say?
I only bring it up, because several dozen of us will be converging on Vegas in less than two months. Sure, we'll all have poker to bring us together. At the same time, I think that the only thing that brings people together better than poker is music.
So, I offer the comments section here for the Vegas-bound. If you were to wear an Ipod at the table, what would be on it?<-- Hide More
Before you read this, read CJ's post below, and then come back for...
Ten Reasons to go to Las Vegas in June for the WPBT convention, even if you can't get a seat in the Aladdin ClassicMore in this Poker Blog! -->
Number One: Meeting the other bloggers
When I went out to Vegas for the Holiday Classic in December, I only knew a couple of other bloggers face-to-face. Those were guys who lived in my town. The rest were unknown commodities. And so happens the first time you meet the others.
BadBlood was near bubbly as we hit the motorized walkway. He'd cashed in his first Vegas tournament and we were on our way to meet the bloggers.
"We have to page Dr. Pauly," he said.
I agreed in earnest and did my best to avert my eyes as we walked into the poker room.
"Don't let them see you looking," Blood said.
Blood walked to the front counter and grabbed Ari, the manager.
"Could you please page Dr. Pauly?" Blood asked.
Ari jumped on the mic. I could barely contain myself as Ari and his accent hit the airewaves:
"Dr. Paury! Paging Dr. Paury!"
And there he was at a middle table, jumping up to greet us. The great Dr. Paury himself.
It is here, friends, that life in the Days of Otis, begins to take an odd but fantastically sublime turn.
My first day trip report can be found at "I'll see your Guinness and raise you one egg salad."
Number Two: Becoming a member of the Al Can't Hang Experience
It is no coincidence that the acronym for the ACH Experience is ACHE. There seems to be only one initiation rite.
I did what every reasonable poker blogger would. I accepted Al's offer of a shot of Soco.
Enter blurry poker play.
When I emerged from my first-shot haze, I heard a delcaration blaring from the seat to my left.
"That's not gumbo. That's not gumbo. Gumbo only comes from New Orleans. That's not gumbo!"
Al was moving into a land I like to call, "Full effect." He had two dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts under his chair, a sideboard of Soco shots lined up at his sidetable, and a sure insistance that what I was eating was bad free buffet food.
Like always, Al was right.
For more on this, read "Three tables, one playground, half-drunk"
Number three: Solving life's greatest mysteries
A lot of things surprised me when I was in Vegas last December. Solving one of the big mysteries was one of the most surprising.
"Otis," he said. It wasn't a question. It was a definitive statement. He knew who I was.
"Hey, man." I was being friendly, despite the fact that my brain was trying to work its way around how to play the hand sitting in front of me.
The guy said his name was something or other, then went on to mumble something about really liking my blog.
"I'm a friend of Hank's," he said. "We drove in together, and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your writing."
Now, something should've clicked right there. Just thirty minutes earlier Hank had said he'd made the drive alone. I'd actively listened to that conversation.
And, so, the long-haired guy kneeling on my left kept talking. G-Rob's stack kept flucuating, the cocktail waitress kept bringing beer, and, for the love of all that's holy, I was still involved in a hand.
Do I raise? Do I cold call?
Passively, through increasingly drunk ears, I listened to the guy who was still talking. And just like when I hear 10-89 (local police ten-code for death) pop out of the police scanner, I heard something from my left that made me slip back into active listening.
The word was "dwarf."
I turned to my left and saw the smile creeping in the corners of the guy's mouth. Indeed, he had said "dwarf."
Somehow, I just knew.
I bounded from my chair and wrapped the guy in a hug like I would a brother I hadn't seen in years.
"You son of a bitch," I said.
Iggy had arrived.
Read the rest of this, including the first Pai Gow run, at "Let's Get to Saturday, shall we?"
Number four: A city that never sleeps
When the Bloggers are in town, there is rarely a moment when there isn't somebody to hang with. Even when you want to sleep, there are people wanting to party with you.
My ribs and stomach were starting to hurt. Something very wrong was happening to my body.
Through the clouds, I heard the voice of some Monty Python-esque god.
I think I answered, "No." I might've said, "I'm ill-equipped."
I smelled cigarette smoke and the pain was growing worse.
I opened my eyes to mere slits and looked up. There--more than six feet above me--stood G-Rob, his hair a mess, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He was kicking me in the ribs and stomach. Repeatedly.
"Get up. Big Mike just called for a stretch Excursion to take us to Sam's Town."
Within a few minutes, unshowered, in the same clothes I'd been wearing for 36 hours, I stood up, grabbed my Otis jacket and hat, and followed G-Rob back to the elevators.
One thing I learned on this trip: When Big Mike is being generous, it is a foolish man who doesn't accept the generosity.
For the whole story of how most of the bloggers were awake for a straight 48, read "Decisions, decisions"
Number five: Only one person can win the tournament, but everybody can have fun
Now, I feel shame that, as much as I wanted to enjoy the Holiday Classic tournament, I was ill-equipped. In fact, I was ill-eqippued for all of it.
As Charlie spoke, Evelyn Ng walked in the door. My mind again shifted. The lack of sleep started getting to me again. I could tell that Daddy recognized this from his seat in front of me. More than recognizing it, I felt like he empathized. He vocalized what was going through my head. Loathe to misquote him, I only remember that his first few words were, "In terms of weird..."
He continued, but I already knew where he was going. Here we were, a couple of schlubs, surrounded by some of the greatest pros, on our way to a private tournament set up in our honor, working on a few minutes sleep, after a rock-star night and morning that we shoud not have survived, and Evelyn Ng just walked into the room on a virtual hydrofoil of beauty.
In terms of weird, indeed.
That's when I broke down. It all just became too much for one tired Otis to handle. I felt myself breaking up and didn't want to disturb Charlie's speech. As quietly as I could, I slipped out a side door into the faux open air of the Sam's Town Casino courtyard.
To read what happened in the actual tournament, you can read, "The Holiday Classic through Otisian eyes"
But the point is this...even if you're not playing in the tournament, everyone will be there. Most people will bust out and be there on the rail with you. Go play slots with Grubby. Go do soco shots with the ACHE. Hit on Mrs. Otis. There will be things to do.
Number Six: The characters
When you start slinging chips with the bloggers in the sidegames, you'll meet a cast of characters you'll remember forever. Just last Friday, I told the story of Albania.
Albania arrived in a quiet whoosh of funk and bed-fashion. I questioned for a while whether he had teeth. I could tell he was from out of town (way out of town) but couldn't get a read on his personality otherwise. That was until someone beat him on one hand and he degenerated into the quickest tilt I've ever seen. Then, I was fascinated by his rebound, as he came back two hands later and laid a beat on somebody, slammed his cards on the table a' la Phil Hellmuth and beamed with pride..
Finally, someone got up the courage to ask, "So, where you from, bud?"
His one word answer set the stage for the next several hours: "Albania."
Dr. Jeff and I looked at each other across the table. The song clicked with both of us at the same time.
To the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In" we began singing, "Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic..."
The table looked at us, expecting an explanation. We could only offer that the song was from an old version of the show Cheers in which Coach was studying for some geography exam and needed songs to help him remember his countries. Sadly, for a long time, we couldn't remember the rest of the song.
Albania's catch-phrase was "You be nice to me, I'll be nice to you." Albania didn't like to be checked-raised, slow-played, or otherwise hammer-inflicted. Anytime he felt like he was wandering into a trap, he'd sit up in his chair, look at his opponent and say in his thick Albanian accent, "You be nice to me, I'll be nice to you."
He said it to Dr. Jeff at one point, to which Dr. Jeff with more poise than I'd expect from a guy 12 hours into a session, responded "How about this? I'll play my hand and we'll just see how it turns out." As it turned out, Dr. Jeff won the pot.
It was about that time I had a fantastic idea.
"Albania," I said, "do me a favor. Say this: Give that man his money."
For some reason, Albania indulged me. And suddenly, there, sitting at the back table of the Excalbur Poker room sat none other than Teddy KGB.
I couldn't have been more pleased.
And make no mistake, the bloggers will take over a poker room (more than likely the Excalibur). And when they do, you'll never want to leave.
Number seven: The stories you won't immediately tell your signigicant other
I tell Mrs. Otis everything. But some things I wait a few days to divulge. Like this moment in the Sherwood Forest.
As the sun again threatened to rise, two hookers who couldn't land cowboys came up and grabbed us.
"Well, it looks like you're it," one of them said.
These girls were not attractive. They both looked used up and tired. Nevertheless, they were friendly and conversational. While G-Rob and I tacitly agreed that "never in the world would we ever consider...yadayada" we thought it would be fun to talk with them.
And so we did, for a very, very long time.
Before I knew what I was doing, I had vowed to help them land dates for the night. At one point I started trying to brush in cowboys who were walking by the bar.
As one guy in a cowboy hat walked by I said, "Hey, buddy, want a shot? Have a seat."
G-Rob pointed out that I had just become a pimp. And not a very good one.
For how this could've ended ini my arrest, read the rest of "From rock gardens to Sherwood Forest."
Number eight: Reasons to come back
By the time the fourth day had arrived, i was ready to call it quits.
Feeling more and more ill-equipped but determined to fight on for the final few hours, I dragged Marty and G-Rob through the pit and enegaged in a little single-deck blackjack. Just when the table was getting hot and our drinks had arrived, Dr. Jeff called me on my cell phone.
"You better get back to the poker room. There was just a big fight in here and I think it has something to do with Pauly."
I colored up in seconds, grabbed my drink, and made tracks back to the poker room in time to watch the flor crew pick up the final chips from the floor. I scooted over to Pauly's table where he told me the story.
I sat back and thought, "That should just about do it. This trip has now seen everything."
Even if you're not playing in the tournament, you're going to have stories to tell forever.
Number nine: The friendships last beyond the weekend
I'd be hardpressed to tell you anything about how BG, G-Rob, Eva, and Al played in the Holiday Classic, with the excpetion that Al is colorblind and couldn't tell the difference between green and gray chips. But, I know that these crazy folks showed up out of the blue in the Bahamas when I was there and we had a ball.
Number ten: ?
Well, that's a secret. But keep an eye here and on Guinness and Poker in the coming days. If everything works out, you may not give a damn whether you play in the Classic or not.
So, there's ten reasons out of a hundred I have.
I bet there are some other folks out there who have a few of their own.<-- Hide More
I have a special place in my pants for April Fools Day.
It started on a Spring day in Springfield, MO. Mauve walls, afternoon sun filtered through tan mini-blinds. Hialeagh Avenue had few cars and fewer peeping toms. A little, old dog sat in the living room.
Somehow, I'd just convinced a girl who bore a passing remeblance to Helena Bonham Carter to treat me to an afternoon romp in the sack...my first romp in the sack.
When it was over, I eventually made my way to the bathroom to secretly smile at finally having crossed the barrier from heavy-petting to the great beyond.
Knowing I would someday sit and write up the experience in a poker blog, I checked my mental datebook to recrod the experience.
Yep. I lost my virginity on April Fool's Day.
When you have a life-joke like that played on you, you don't need a punchline.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It strikes me as I rejoin this post at 2am on April 2 that my wife (currently sleeping under a blanket on the couch next to me) would disapprove of this sub-head.
"It's 'running well'," she would say if she were awake.
On TV, MSNBC is in Pope Watch. The dog is the only one watching. I already know the story. Pope dies, a dude smacks the corpse in the head three times with a silver hammer, the Cardinals all gather, and then a group called the Illuminati start kidnapping probable Popes and planting antimatter bombs in the Vatican. I won't give the rest of the story away, but keep your eye on the camerlengo.
It's funny I start here, because I'm just at the end of running bad. Fortunately, the concept of running good is still swimming in my head.
Running good started a couple of weeks ago when an online pro friend of mine offered me a rakeback deal and nice bonus through a Party skin. I don't believe online sites can flip a switch to make me run well, but if it were possible, it happened. I swam back into the $5/$10 PL games and swam out with the biggest winning month of my life In fact, I've won more in the past month than I've won in any year since I started playing.
With a nicely padded bankroll, I decided to start practicing for this summer. I intend to play in the first event of the WSOP on June 3 when I'm in Vegas for the WPBT Aladdin Classic. I suspect the field will be at least 1000 strong. Given that the tournament will have to be down to nine players by the end of the day, the blind structure will have to be beyond aggressive. I suspect it will be equivalent to online multi-table tournaments. With that in mind, I've decided to try to play at least one big online MTT with a buy-in of $150 or more per week until June.
Last week, I survived into the money in Party's $150 Super Thursday tournament, but barely. This week I did a little better. Actually a lot better. In a field of 852 players, I made it to seventh place before finally having to push-in with 77. I was dominated by a pair of nines that flopped a set. While I had a nice finish, I wasn't satisfied with my play. I need to work on my agression level a bit. I think I need to loosen up a bit.
Fresh off the win, I decided to sit for my new employer's Staff Invitational tournament Friday afternoon. There was no buy-in and no prize other than bragging rights. I splashed around for a bit before calling a limping field from the small blind with 95o. The flop came down 95x rainbow. I bet out, was raised, and went all-in. Some guy called me with AJ and I doubled up. A few hands later, my pair of aces got paid off. That chip stack and some unimaginative but solid play allowed me to survive until the final table where I managed to suck out on one of the chip leaders. I went for a blind steal from the small blind with KJ. The big blind called with JJ. I caught a king on the river to double up. Later, a guy tried to re-raise steal my TT raise with 94. I won. Long story short...I won the sonofabitch and took down my first staff tourney.
So...my live cash game, tourney game, and staff game life is running good...er...running well.
So, why am I sitting here on Pope Watch and typing.
Well, because I'm also...
I guess it started last weekend when I went to BadBlood's for a cash game. I was right in the middle of my online winning streak and feeling like King Kong on cocaine (I stole that line from CSI because it is EXACTLY how I feel when I'm winning...I walk around with a virtual Faye Wray in my arms and climbing buildings while snorting coke off mirrors the size of automobiles).
The moment I sat down, I was distracted. My folks were in town and I'd left them to go play poker. One of my best friends was having a "I'm leaving town for six months" party and I'd decided to delay my arrival there so I could play poker. But Blood had thrown the game in honor of my return from Europe, and, frankly, I really, really wanted to play live.
I sucked. I chased. I folded. I sucked.
Yeah, I sucked.
Let's speed this ugly part along. Tonight, I had a horrible online session. Then I went to The Mark for the first time in months and I sucked.
So, right now, I suck.
Notice, the suck part of this post wasn't as long as the don't-suck part. There's two reasons for that. Number one, it's late. Number two, I think I'm very bad at understanding how and when I suck.
You know what sucks?
This post.<-- Hide More
First, here's a shot from my friends at Poker Images showing the...errr...glamorous life of a pro blogger. Incidentally, around midnight every night, I'd replace those Pellegrino bottles with Monaco beer. It made for a better picture, but no one was around to shoot it.
Poker Images has quite a good business going. They go to tournaments and shoot every player, then sell the shots screen printed onto fine canvas. They also have a great gallery and collection of stock footage. I haven't licensed this photo, so go make good by taking a look at their stuff. The owner has licensed some good older galleries with some great stuff in it. For other news from across the pond, my write up from Vienna and Monte Carlo can be found below.
In other news, had I not taken this new gig, I would be on the Party Million cruise right now. I'm pleased to report that private Live Journal poker blogger Terrence Chan is doing quite well. I'm sad to report that another poker blogger we all know is no longer playing. So, bloggers are 50-50 right now.
I sorta wish I was there...
The ceiling of the Irish pub was low. If I wanted to, I could hop up and touch it. But the floor was sticky enough to slow my shoes, so I guessed the ceiling wasn't much more clean. A four-piece band was too loud for the small space. Somebody forgot to tell them INXS didn't matter that much anymore. In the line for the bathroom, a man spoke to me quickly in French. I had no idea what he was saying, but held up two fingers, hoping he would understand the men's room only had two toilets and they were full. He rolled his eyes and patted me on the back. He understood, but followed me in anyway. I thought he was going to piss in the sink. He didn't.
At the bar, they served the Guinness cold with shots of Jameson's on the side. Eventually, the band would take a break and Jim Morrison's voice would blare over the crowd. I thought for a second how seven years before I'd stood at Morrison's grave and wondered why I was there. Then I wondered why he was there. While I was thinking, some young citizen of the Principality of Monaco headbanged past me, singing in broken English, "Let it roll, baby, roll."More in this Poker Blog! -->
I'd been on the road for two weeks at this point and thought I should just go to bed. But the Guinness tasted good and, frankly, I was lonely. Even when you spend your days surrounded by hundreds of people, there are times you'd give anything just to be sitting on a back porch deck drinking beer and playing guitar wih your buddies.
As I walked out to the bar patio, a television producer walked up and said, "Poker at the Grand. You in?" As my mind worked through the hundreds of valid excuses for declining, my mouth said, "Yep." Minutes later, I was walking through Monte Carlo's hilly streets on my way to a hotel room game.
Those games were going on everywhere for stakes from ten to two hundred thousand euros. In fact, that two hundred thousand euro game was the talk of the bar patio. Reportedly, a well-known player (yes, you have heard of him) was stuck 150,000 from an online massacre the night before and was trying to make it back up. Don't ask who it is. I have mental filter.
Poker in Vienna
Frankly, I was just about done with poker. I'd watched and played more than my share in the past two weeks. In the after hours, I'd play online in my room and lose. In the off hours in the cardrooms I'd play and win. And then I would play and lose. The peak of excitement came during a 3/6 limit game (essentially American 4/8) with BadBlood. We occupied the one and two seats of a table for much longer than we should've. I dropped the hammer on top pair by flopping and rivering a seven. It was a very winnable game, which BadBlood proved and I mocked by losing my buy-in and going to breakfast.
After BadBlood left, I continued to work. After the tournament was over, I had a few hours to kill and decided to play a little more. I was up about 100 at the softest table I'd seen in a while. I didn't understand the old, smoke-soaked men who played this game. They didn't understand check-raising. They didn't understand betting for value. And when they made the nuts, they flat-called. And, as you might expect, I was bored. I wanted to play bigger, but the next highest game was the equivalent of a 15/30 game and I only had enough cash on me for one buy-in. I didn't want to go in behind.
I noticed the other running game was full of action. A drunk Swede in the four seat had the entire table on tilt. When he bet, he did so by knocking his stack over onto the table. When it was his turn to act, he's always ask how much. And he never shut the hell up.
So, I don't know why I moved over there. I guess I was looking for something other than old men who didn't speak English.
I ended up right next to the drunk Swede.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
"America." I said.
"I don't believe you," he said. "If so, you're the first American I've met who speaks English."
"And where do you live in America?"
"Ah, there's a song about that, yes?" He started humming "Sweet Home Alabama."
"That's not it," I said, knowing I should shut up. "That song is about Alabama."
"I'm quite sure you're wrong," he said. The rest of the table was glad he'd found me as a target. "Sweet Home Carolina," he sang over the crowd.
This had been going on to varying degrees for some time. The table had repeatedly asked the floorman to take some action. The floor didn't seem to care until the entire table revolted. Facing a mere six euro bet on the river (after having made the nuts, by the way), the guy sat and refused to call or fold. He just sat there pretending to think. Finally the floor told him he had one minute to make a decison.
'Fine," he said, "I call" and knocked 100 red chips into the center. He won that hand, but that was it. The floor man brought the kid some racks. The kid pretended to be agreeable, but started racking his chips by putting them in the rack sideways. Finally, the floorman did it for the kid. He had 170 euros, which the floorman brough the kid in cash.
"What is this?" the drunk said. The floor explained that was his money.
"Where is the rest of it?" the drunk said, muching on a piece of toast dipped in ketchup.
By the time it was over, he kid had exploded in a rage, demanding to see the security tapes which he believed (incorrectly) would prove he had more than 500 in front of him. I smirked a bit as security escorted the kid out into the parking lot. The show almost made up for the fact I gave back my winnings from the other table.
And to Monte Carlo
So, I was about done with poker. In Monte Carlo, I played four sit and go tournaments and suffered just about every kind of beat you can imagine. I came to peace with it as I sat playing with the Russian buy-a-bride of a European player (I have to assume he bought her, anyway). So, I lost. I've done enough losing recently, I think I haven't been lying when I tell people "I'm a better writer than poker player, and that should tell you a lot."
Action had been everywhere. Chinese poker games, 1000 euro ten-person tourneys played by World Champions, entire poker tables filled with Europeans playing online poker on their laptops.
And yet there I was on my way to a hotel room game with a crew of TV people and PR folks. When I got there, I wished I had gone back to my room. It appeared there would be little in the way of poker being played. Two pretty, young English girls were gnawing on medium rare hamburgers and tossing back glasses of wine. A producer was demonstrating his ability to open beer bottles with just about anything. He did it with a cigarette lighter (easy), he did it with a cell phone (not as easy). He started doing it on the bed frame but stopped when he ripped some paint off. He started using the brim of a Yankees cap before the owner took it away from him. He finally failed when he tried to use a poker chip and the chip shattered in four pieces.
Finally, the game (a ten-person tournament) got started on a room service table. By the time we'd reached four people, I shared the chip lead, one of the players was asleep, and the floor was covered in beer. I suggested a four-way chop which was immediately accepted.
As I walked back to my hotel room, a player who had cashed for a goodly sum in the tournament was walking back with what I still assume was a prosititute. If I'm wrong, I guess I'll have to apologize later.
It's been two weeks and I get to go home in about six hours. If you've read this far, you'll likely agree, while sometimes neat and sometimes exotic, this gig ain't necessariy as glamorous as it might seem.
Then again, it sure beats digging ditches.<-- Hide More
If I had more time to write, I'd go all Mean Gene on this. Instead, just a blurb:
I'm one who fully believes the concept of jumping the shark has long ago jumped the shark. In fact, the idea that poker jumped the shark about the first time someone used the phrase jumped the shark and poker together. That said...
On a return trip from the kid's daycare, I heard a radio commercial based at a Poker Championship. The protagonist had a big problem...how to concentrate on his cards with all that itching and swelling going on.
Yep... a poker commercial for Preparation-H medicated singles.
I was going to write up some stuff from Deauville today, but not right now..
Actually, I got to France on a plane that could've crashed on landing, then went into an airport where people were blowing up suspicious packages. Nonetheless, I wouldn't have made it France without the winner of this competition.
Back in a few days with one hell of a story about making it to the final four of a tournament (given...a small tournament) with Mean Gene's favorite European player in the four seat.
Oh, yeah, I was in the three seat.
And if you have any interest in keeping up with the French Open, be sure to check it out at the EPT blog.
A few things leading up to tonight's WPBT tournament on PokerStars...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Knock my happy ass out of this tournament and you get a brand-spankin' new PokerStars windbreaker (size large, I think).
I'll be playing with a teething kid on my lap tonight, so I should be easy to bust.
Brian, who some of you met in Vegas, is doing a little more than blogging these days. He, like me, is an aspiring freelance writer. Be sure to check out his blog and his recent essay about being a new player coming into the game.
I've been chatting with a blog reader for a few weeks now. He's not a blogger (yet?), but seems to have a keen interest in the game and blogging. He asked if he could offer a guest post here and I thought it might be a good chance for him to get some feedback on whether he should start a blog of his own. His name is Rich. He's a poker player and jam band musician form the West coast. Give him a read and let him know what you think in the comments section.
***Unedited from Rich's e-mail***
It may have happened to you back in kindergarten. Away for the first time in your life from the support network of family & friends, you find yourself wandering around the play yard, cafeteria, or some such other locale of your pre-educational youth. There is an unfamiliar and somewhat unpleasant feeling that's not quite fear but certainly isn't the warm & fuzzy that's ruled your realm up till now; call it "trepidation" (ok, its TREPIDATION - thank you :>) - whatever it is, its not good - "me no likey" - you want to go home, now - enough already, and yet...
You see others of your ilk there, doing things, together, that look like FUN
F is for friends who do stuff together
U is for you and me
N is for anywhere and anytime at all...
OK, stop - enough SpongeBob - where were we? Oh yeah - other kids who look & sound much like yourself, are thoroughly enjoying each other's company - playing on the swings/seesaw/slide, playing Johnny-on-the-pony (or buck-buck, or whatever other name that insane, vertebrae cracking game happened to go by in your neck of the woods), or just doing some general, amorphous roughhousing - and they're doing it without you. But it sure looks like fun, and you wish you were doing it too â€“ with them.
And then it happens - a glance, met & acknowledged, a shared smile â€“ a slight nod of the head, that says "hey - you wanna play?" So you respond with a quick look down, a shuffle of the shoes, maybe a shrug - you can barely contain your excitement, but for some reason you feel you should (that poker face starts early, don't it?).
But youâ€™re overjoyed that you are WELCOME - you have on some, small & brief, and as yet undefined level, been ACCEPTED; you've found kindred spirits - you've made FRIENDS. If you're lucky, this scene repeats itself several times throughout the course of your life - at school (grade, middle, high), at college (the separation of "school" & "college" is not unintentional) â€“ wait, is that not a non-double-negative? (this writing stuff is harder than it looks !!!) - and even more importantly, when you become an adult and start W * O * R * K * I * N * G for a living - when it no longer seems to be so easy to do something that once came so naturally - the simple act of opening up and extending one's self to another.
I remember instances of this in my life â€“ there was probably something similar to the aforementioned preschool incident (though I must confess, I may have created that one out of whole cloth) â€“ but thatâ€™s not the point â€“ you get the idea (donâ€™t you?) â€“ for I really do remember a time when I and a bunch of other drunk & rowdy members of the high school football team traipsed out to the beach at night, and gleefully dug a giant hole in the sand â€“ which we proceeded to fill with the smashed, cracked, and broken members of the lifeguard chair we had just demolished â€“ and then set it afire â€“ in retrospect (and at the time), it seemed incredibly pointless & wasteful â€“ but it was FUN and I was doing it with my FRIENDS â€“ I was IN with THE CROWD â€“ sounds a little likeâ€¦
Other serendipitous & socially engaging epiphanies have followed â€“ such as the discovery that learning to keep time on a drum set at a volume remotely resembling reasonable, while simultaneously listening to what other folks were playing on their instruments â€“ well, that skill earns you an eternal membership in the brotherhood of aspiring amateur musicians.
And if you like to run, and participate in organized group races, you find no shortage of sweaty, fellow striders â€“ especially if you continually pace yourself a few steps/seconds behind them, and share your extra energy gel packets â€“ bonus points for remembering to pack some post race ibuprofen.
Well, for months now, Iâ€™ve been enjoying the collective works of poker bloggers in general, and specifically the posts of the contributors to Up For Poker. Iâ€™ve watched from afar â€“ I think I may have caught a subtle wave of the hand from one of them, but Iâ€™m not sure. Iâ€™ve affected a bored and averted gazed. But now its time to come clean, and get to the pointâ€¦
â€œhey um, Guys?
â€¦can I, ah â€“
can I play too??â€
See you at the WPBT tonight, folks.<-- Hide More
The knock came through a dense fog of hyper-sexual dreams and worry that I had somehow missed the final hand of a tournament that had not yet started. I jumped from the bed and found myself standing in a room decorated in East Asian chic. Where in the hell am I? Tai Pei? No, that's not right. Something is wrong.
I saw the hotel room door just as it was opening. The man was walking in with a tenative lean. He looked at me as I started to speak and muttered with a thick Danish accent, "Oh, I'm sorry. Sorry, sir." And he escaped back into the hallway.
I stood confused for two seconds and then looked down at myself. I was wearing nothing but a pair of tight, tight European-style boxer briefs.
It looked like I was smuggling fruit and I suspected the Danish police would be there soon to arrest me on some customs violation.
This is my new life, I thought.More in this Poker Blog! -->
SAS airlines had lost my luggage as I flew into Copenhagen and I was forced to go on a three-hour walking tour of the city's downtown in search of clothes to wear in the dress-coded Casino Copenhagen. I ended up with a new sport jacket, slacks, socks, shirt, and fruit-smuggling underwear. How many thousand Kroner they cost, I'm still not sure.
My luggage eventually arrived and I settled back into the tournament reporting routine, rubbing elbows with some of the finer players in Europe and giggling at the antics of Marcel Luske. Note: He doesn't just perform when the TV cameras are on. What you see on TV is Marcel as he is all the time.
While a good tournament, the weekend was otherwise uneventful. For those who haven't been to Denmark, a few notes.
* Scandanavian women are some of the most beautiful creatures ever created. Even the ugly ones look good. It is as if there is nothing extraneous on their body. Every curve and slant is there for a purpose. I have no doubt now why Hank chose a Scandanavian woman as his bride.
* European players are far more polite and reserved at the poker tables. Only twice in the entire tournament did I hear an Americanized outburst. The first was received poorly by the other European players. The second was from Luske after he hit a two-outer on the river and was more funny than outrageous. I think Americans, especially members of The Crew, could learn a lot from the Europeans.
* Suck-outs happen everywhere. I watched one hand where a guy called an all-in bet with AT of diamonds on a paired flop (sixes) versus ace-ace. Sure enough, the turn and river came runner-runner diamonds. Only online, my ass.
* I've been quietly studying a particular kind of tournament player. I think I'm developing a theory about loose-aggressive tournament play. If I develop it a little more, it may be worth a post of its own.
I lurked in the blogosphere over the weekend and found myself reading a lot of posts about the changing nature of our poker blogger community. While I don't really feel comfortable inserting myself in the debate, I think I will anyway.
There's no doubt that the number of poker blogs continues to grow exponentially. Therein lies the real fear of the poker blog message, such as it is, becoming watered down and trite.
While I don't think it's something we should ignore, I don't think there's any reason to get over excited about it. Here's why:
There is something very Darwinian about the online world. Those with the wherewithal to leap out from the masses and get noticed will leap out from the masses and get noticed.
While I have a vested interest in maintaining the poker blogger community, the last thing I want it to become is an exclusive club. The beauty of this community is its willingness to look at new talent and accept it for what it is. I can't imagine how discouraged I would've been if I had been turned away at the door 18 months ago. I probably never would've continued with the poker blogging that is now becoming my life and income.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think any of the bloggers have suggested we shut the doors and not let anybody in. What's more, I agree, there's a lot of crap out there. But I've noticed some good new talent.
That's a long way of saying, while I think it's good if we look at ourselves and ask where we're going, I don't think we need to worry too much about about the new blogging glut. If we strive for excellence and maintain an actively inclusive atmosphere, we will thrive in the same way we have for the past two years.
As poker players, it is our nature to be both competitive and success-oriented. As people, though, I've found we are at our roots good people. I owe this group for almost everything good that's happened to me in the past few months. I would love to think we could show someone else the same love and respect I've received.
Here ends my two-cents worth.
While this is not something I want to discuss at length or in the comments , I think everyone should know that I am no longer going to play in the PPMIV. There are a few reasons behind my decision, which the more intuitive readers can probably figure out. To answer the obvious question with an obvious answer: Yes, I'm disappointed. But in the long run, it's for the best.
One thing about my new gig is that it's going to cut into time that I would've otherwise spent playing poker. I've been to two major tournaments in the past four weeks and haven't played one hand of cards the entire time. While I feel like my game will suffer in the short-term (it's already suffering, actually), I think I have a lot to learn about tournament poker in watching the world class players on the circuit. While I'll still be grinding away in my off-hours, I'm becoming a bit fascinated with tournament play and strategy. Like G-Rob, some of the energy has seeped out of my cash game play and I'm not playing well as a result. I'm playing distracted, like something to do in the background when I'm doing something else. That's no way to play poker. I think further studying tournament strategy might add something to my game that could re-energize my poker play.
Oh, yeah, and thanks to everyone who has written with words of encouragement. You folks are, in no uncertain terms, the best.<-- Hide More
Thanks for all the well-wishing comments and e-mails regarding the previous post. I can't tell you how much all of your support means to me.
By way of explanation...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Check out this site.
It'll give you some idea how I'll spending the next couple of months.
More later. I have some packing to do.<-- Hide More
It's a second in time. Maybe a millionth of a second more. It's so negligible, it's the kind of time-frame in which only a scientist would find any real interest. It's like that final moment when you realize you could die. Speaking on a much less mortal scale, of course.
This is a long story, friends. If you don't have the time to read it, I understand. If you do, fill up a pint of Guinness and sit back, because we're about to go on a little walk together.
And I hesitate to mention where we're going to end up.More in this Poker Blog! -->
11.5 grams...the weight of a chip between life and death
That split second is a moment you've all likely experienced. For those readers who may have come here from my other blog, let me assure you, it's a brief state of suspended panic that you'll never really understand unless you've felt it--a numb sense of panicked resignation that you've just risked everything for a shot at great reward.
It doesn't happen to me much anymore. When it does, I'm almost grateful. We adults who don't work in the arena of law enforcement or extreme sports don't get to involuntarily feel our heart beat very often.
It happened the other day. I was dealt aces in the big blind in a game of $200 max. At first I was disheartened when everyone folded around to the small blind. The little blind raised into me and I re-raised. He cold called. The flop came down 9Qx. He bet into me and I raised the pot. He called. I ruled out the possiblity he had QQ in the hole, figuring he would've raised me all-in at that point. Maybe 99, I considered, but I didn't really believe that either. I put the guy on AQ and settled in for the turn. It was another rag. He checked to me and I went bone-headed and checked. I told myself I was setting him up for the river, but deep down I knew I was afraid he'd made a set and was milking me. Looking back, I realize I made a severely amateur move (or lack of move) there. I'd been suffering some serious beats and was playing scared. Nonetheless the river came as another rag and my opponent pushed the rest of his chips in the middle. I sat and thought. I think it was about $135 more to call. It should've been an easy call since I thought I had ruled out a set, but I wasn't trusting my read anymore. Playing scared is no way to play cards. Still, I called and literally turned my head away not wanting to see his cards.
There was the moment. The heart beats hard three times. If a body had time to sweat, beads of it would've popped out on the forehead. Instead, it's just three quick, hard heartbeats. And then you find out whether you live or die.
When I turned back, the pot was moving my way. I looked at my opponent's cards. He held JTo, had been on an open-ended straight draw (which I foolishly gave him a chance to make), and pushed all-in on a stone bluff at the river.
Against good sense and good theory, Otis wins.
My heart took one more hard beat and settled back in for a life more ordinary.
Catching the wave without a surfboard
Of course, many of you know my life has been anything but ordinary for the past five weeks. During a trip to Vegas for the WPBT Holiday Classic, I was able to work out a deal with PokerStars.com to blog the Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas. After a debaucherous weekend with a posse of misfits and degenerate gamblers in Sin City, I came home and packed for the islands.
To be honest, while I have a respectable background in both poker and blogging, I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into. I hadn't been hired to write a trip report. I'd been hired to keep tens of thousands of people constantly updated on a major poker event.
While I knew that on the surface, as I touched down on Nassau and made my way through customs, I felt like a tourist. Not just an island tourist, but a tourist in the world of big poker. I'd flown in with a couple of dealers and taxied over the bridge to an opulent resort where Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Damon Wayans would soon be shooting craps and signing autographs. It was a place where armed guard stood sentry in front of the the little hotel shops to guard the hundred-thousand-dollar diamond bracelets inside. It was a place where multi-million dollar yachts pulled up to the docks to have some good Jewish food at the dockside deli.
Understand, if you don't already, that I'm sort of a smalltown kid. I grew up in a medium-sized city in Missouri, but went to school in a town with a population of less than two thousand. There were twenty times as many churches as traffic signals. There were two cops. The greatest competition took place on the football field or during after-school brawls at Snider's Bridge.
I eased away from the small town life eventually and found myself experimenting in travel. I saw Hawaii, Aruba, Vegas, LA, and various towns in Texas and New Mexico. I spent time in Chicago, New York, and assorted other cities across America. I traveled Europe for a little bit and returned home to jobs in the Midwest, Deep South, and Southeast.
That's a bit of a long way of saying, when I arrived at the Atlantis resort, I was both in and out of my element. I knew how to travel. I knew how to write. I knew how to write about poker.
But, I was forced to admit to even myself, this was a whole new world.
Adaptation, by Otis
I'm an adapter by nature.
I can talk to girls in cowboy bars. I can ease onto blankets with zoney-eyed head-bobbers at Dead shows. I can walk into a CEO's office in a suit and pretend like I belong there. It's the only way to survive, I figure.
And, so, I adapted. For seven days, I wasn't just playing the role of a professional blogger. I was a professional blogger. It seemed a strange concept to a lot of people. I couldn't count the number of people who came up to me and asked, "Is this your job? Is this how you make your living?"
Each time, I made sure to calm their fears that they were living in a work-a-day existence and I was making a living by scrawling out tournament reports in rapid-fire fashion.
"No, this is just for fun," I said. "I'm a TV reporter by trade."
They always seemed happier after that.
Because I had assumed the role of professional blogger, my mind started working in the same way. Hundreds of e-mails started hitting my inbox. I religously checked the site's stats. I reported back to my superiors on successes and failures. And I worked. A lot. Only one day out of the week saw less than 12 hours of work. One day saw eighteen hours.
After the first couple of days, it started to feel very natural. It felt real. When I sidled up next to the world class players and sweated them for a few hands, I didn't feel like I shouldn't be there.
That's always sort of been a problem of mine. Despite the fact that I adapt well to my surroundings, I often feel like an outsider looking in. That's a big reason why I find myself so happy when I'm accepted by a group of people like my buddies in college, my buddies in GreenVegas, or, more recently, the WPBT. A sense of community is a wonderful thing to have.
The folks from Stars and the players began to embrace me and how I worked. I started getting requests from players and employees to see their picture or story in the blog. It felt very, very real and very, very good.
But I won't lie. As much as I was working, the week away got a little lonely. While I loved the people working around me, I missed my family much more than I expected. I love being on the road, but...well, anyone with a wife and kid knows how that sentence ends.
The arrival of some core members of the WPBT made for a good diversion, though. And I relaxed some more. There would be good stories to tell and re-tell from this trip.
And then I happened back into the poker room and watched Evelyn Ng's AKs get crushed by pocket sixes on a runner-runner flush. And then I watched a guy hit a miracle gut-shot straight. And then I got involved in a discussion in which everyone decided that "implied bluffing odds" should be a chapter in a new Sklansky book.
Yes, there are poker stories and life stories to tell and I enjoy telling them.
For the first time in my life (and I write this with no small amount of honesty and fear of reprisal), I admitted to myself that I'm meant to do one thing with my life.
I'm supposed to be a writer.
That admission, made to myself in the middle of a giant ballroom and hundreds of poker faces, amounted to one thing. With no one else watching, no railbirds hooting from a few feet away, I shoved my chips in the middle of the table and dared Life to call me.
My heart beat three hard times.
When I started writing on this blog 18 months ago, it was a nice diversion from real life. As the days went by, I found myself writing here more and more. In fact, for the past six to eight months, I've been writing here more than on the blog that has been a chronicle of my life since August of 2001 when a good friend suggested I start keeping a blog. I still owe her for that one.
For the purposes of this post, I'm going to ask you to do something a little out of the ordinary. Because the remainder of this post is more about real life than poker life, I'd ask that you read the end of it...over at Rapid Eye Reality.
If you choose not to click over, I'll be back here shortly.<-- Hide More
I think I have some good poker blog content coming. In the meantime, though, I'm spending a little time at my neglected home-blog which today, incidentally, has a little bit of poker content. A little bit.
I disappointed my wife, I think, by being on the poker machine when she got home from work Friday night. I hadn't intended to be, although my reasoning was a bit shortsighted. I'd entered a fairly large buy-in tournament at ten o'clock. As I've told other players: don't enter a tournament of such a size unless you intend to finish it five hours later. If you don't have that intention, you've set yourself up for failure. Either you bust out early, meaning you finish by the time you need to be finished. Or, you're still playing when you didn't want to be and you're ill-equipped to be playing because you wish you hadn't started in the first place.
My bags still aren't unpacked because L'il Otis grabbed my nose when I walked in the door and hasn't let go. I could likely disengage his grasp, but I've found that when he grabs ma nez, he grabs on to my heartstings as well.
As such, I've fallen a bit behind in both my poker play and writing. I still owe you a couple of final posts from the Vegas trip report as well as a proper write-up on the Bahamas. My fatherly duties are also keeping me from playing in some homegames and underground tourneys with BadBlood this week. That's probably for the best, though, because my online game is full of holes right now (although, oddly, I'm winning) and my online performance often translates itself to my live play.
Beyond that, I'm stuck in the real working world and, frankly, after having tasted a world outside the realm of armed SWAT standoffs and tornadic weather, I'm not so sure I'm suited for this business anymore.
I hope to be back in a couple of days. As for now, my head isn't on straight and that's no way to write or play cards.
I woke up too early this morning. I figured an international flight, even if it was just across a stretch of blue water, would mean a bunch of early risers and long lines. While the lines did start to form, the Delta agents didn't show up until several hours after I got there.
It mattered not, I was living this surreal sunrise over the Bahamian horizon, where the cabbie listened to rasta music and grooved to his own stoned navigational sense. He turned through a back alley and I figured for a while I'd end up dead for the roll of cash in my backpack.
But the cabbie turned back onto the main drag and the rasta continued.
Looks like I'm going home.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I have more to write about than sense to write it. A man can see and do a lot in a week and I think it takes a week in the real world to truly gauge what was real and what was a figment of a tired, tired mind.
For those just tuning in, I'm returning from a week-long blogging trip in the Bahamas covering the PokerStars.com Caribbean Adventure. I'm pleased to say it went well. Better than expected, to be honest.
No word right now on the next project. My only sure plan is playing in the PPM in March. I'm also hoping to make it out for the Series this summer. However, my plans could change at any time. You never know what may become of old Otis. I've become quite a klutz recently. I may end up falling off a big rock or something.
I've noticed a lot of folks clicking over from the PCA blog. Welcome, people. Just by way of introduction, Up For Poker is made up of three primary contributors: CJ (founder), G-Rob, and me. You can determine who is who by looking at the bottom of each post.
Again, as I sit here in the Bahamas airport on a surprisingly good Wi-Fi connection, I feel a little off in the head. I think it's some weird recipe of fatigue and ambition melted down with sure homesickness. I've been on a lot of road trips in the past few years and have always missed the old lady. Now that there's a L'il Otis in the mix, though, it makes it all the worse. Gotta find a way to make this kind of thing work with that kind of thing.
Or something like that.
So, to all my old friends: I'm on my way home. To anyone new who has come across from PCA, thanks for coming and be sure to check out all the poker blogs on the left.
I'll be back in a bit. I've got a lot about which to write. For now, though, I need to spend a little L'il and Mrs. Otis time.
Flight is about to board.
Otis=Skyward.<-- Hide More
I've been having a ball in the Bahamas. I'm working my ass off and dealing with juvenile commenters, but it's a great experience.
Still, I was feeling a little down in the dumps.
Until...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Out of fucking nowhere arrives Al, Eva, BG, and G-Rob.
The stories that could come from this are limitless. Until I have time I'll leave you with two moments of Zen.
That's us and Isabelle Mercier. Sorry, Gene.
And that is the new Mrs. Eva Raymer.
Damn, life can be good sometimes.<-- Hide More
Sometimes the liquid soap is just especially sudsy and that makes me happy. The water is just hot enough to make the shower relaxing on a tired Friday morning. Enough to make me ignore the slight growth of filth on the shower curtain liner.
This is going to be a good day, I thought.
Then I got out of the shower and came face to face with Mrs. Otis. She'd just gotten off the phone.
"You better high-tail it to work."More in this Poker Blog! -->
Somebody at work had screwed up in the overnight hours. The exact details of the collossal mistake are irrelevant. To put it in terms you can understand, it was if they'd managed to lose half their stack againt someone playing pocket aces face-up, then handed the rest of their stack over to me and said, "Okay, you gotta finish this. And...oh, yeah, you've gotta win."
By Noon, I'd doubled up. By 3pm I was the chip leader. I suspect within a few hours I'll be scooping the final pot of the night.
Did I get a little lucky? Absolutely. Did it take a little skill? Sure.
I hate to draw weak analogies just to give myself something about which to write, but I'm feeling a great deal of peace as the week comes to a close.
My folks are in town to see L'il Otis. Last night, I fired up Party on the laptop and sat next to my dad on the couch, narrarating my play and realizing how far I've come in my game since the day he taught me to play.
In four hands we had pocket kings, pocket aces, and flopped the nut straight. And we got no action on any of them. And I didn't care. I was sitting next to my dad, breaking even, and happily listing my agenda for next week's Vegas trip.
Later that night, I started getting killed on the $100NL tables. TPTK killed by a turned flush. Pocket queens run over by pocket aces. Etc. I took tenth in a three-tabler after a mid-sized stack called my 99 all-in bet with ATo and caught a four spades to give himself the flush. It was all fishy play by me, in retrospect.
By Midnight, I started slipping into a familair defeated mood. I'd seen it in G-Rob's eyes the day before after he'd lost four buy-ins in one day. It's not just a look of defeat. It's a look of self-doubt fused with the worst possible feeling you can have in poker--fear.
Feeling the defeatselfdoubtfear like an ostrich with a goiter, I slipped into bed. I couldn't concentrate on the horrible movie on TV. I mean, what kind of premise is "A fillandering wine dealer steals a diamond necklace only to have his unsuspecting wife mistakenly run away with it and Stephen Dorf." What was Nicholson thinking?
I put myself to sleep in much the same way I've been doing for the past three nights. I imagine myself getting in the car, driving the hour and half to the airport, boarding the place, landing in Vegas, and hopping a cab to the Strip. By the time I've made it to the poker room, I've usually drifted off into restless slumber.
Something happened in the middle of the night. And since I don't kiss and tell, suffice it to say, I woke up in a fantastic mood.
Somehow, a few hours sleep had removed the defeatselfdoubtfear from my bloodstream. In its place, I found two better feelings. In fact, I consider them to be two of the best feelings I ever have: Anticipation and hope.
Admittedly, I lost two buy-ins last night and didn't cash in my three-tabler. Admittedly, I came into work with the chips down and had to rally or die.
But, you know what? I can come back.
Not only that, but we all can.
Here's something that's taken me a long time to realize: Anyone who doesn't have to deal with the occasional short-stack has no idea how to appreciate absolutely fucking fantastic it is to have a Raymer-esque pyramid of chips.
I'd say 75-80% of the people preparing for next week's WPBT Holiday Classic are experiencing many of the same emotions. They're examining their poker play, over-critiquing it, fearing the worst possible outcome will befall them.
I've recently been in discussions with a few people about their fear of losing their roll at the tables on their fist day in Vegas. Try as I might, I can't convince them of the obvious: Vegas is ripe with the same fish as Party Poker.
I think that a lot of us feel like we're going to Vegas with a short-stack, literal or figurative.
As we all push the clock hands foward as fast as they'll go, let me propose this: There is no way we come away from this trip as losers. Simple as that.
Tomorrow I'm going to buy a Christmas tree and decorate it with the family. Tomorrow night, I'm going to hit the town with a bunch of thirty-somethings (yeah, I know a couple of you aren't 30 yet) and pretend like I'm 21 again. I'll try to remember that ten years ago, my buddies carried me down Cherry Street singing happy birthday and kept me from getting killed when I hugged Marlo Finner and told him what a good game he played that day.
Short-stack or pyramid, I'm one happy Otis today.
And damned if that doesn't decapitate the Goiter Ostrich every time.
Have a good weekend, all.<-- Hide More
Warning: The following is mindless drivel that is not even worth reading. I just needed to get it out of my system for the morning
In Kansas City, Missouri, the autumn air can take on a bit of a dewy haze. Bright red brake lights on the noodly junction onto I-70 shoot through the dew droplets in millions of tiny prisms. It makes it hard to drive, especially if you're fighting to get back to a holiday you created. It makes it even harder if your libido is making it difficult for you to correctly turn the steering wheel.
Damn that woman, I thought, just two seconds after my front right tire slammed into a bridge.
It was the last weekend of October 1992.More in this Poker Blog! -->
That night was sort of a turning point in my life. The car survived, I made the trip back to Columbia, MO. I left the woman behind and proceeded to embark on a night of debauchery that I have matched few times in my young life.
The last weekend in October--back in those days--was Dionysian Weekend, a self-proclaimed holiday-ish event that took my friends through three straight days of silliness and rowdy-rambling.
I was ill-prepared for that first holiday weekend. It ended with me sprawled on a bathroom floor, speckled with grape-scented vomit, and a guy standing above me remarking, "You can still smell the grape!"
At some point in our lives, we all realize that while spontaneity is a virtue, preparation is no sin.
It was shortly after that weekend that I took to priming the pump for big events.
And as any reader knows, a big event sits on the all-too tantalizingly close horizon.
I'm like a little damned kid when it comes to stuff like the next week's WPBT conference. It's not all I think about, but it fills a goodly portion of my daydream musings. G-Rob and I can only take a certain portion of our workday to discuss the lack of sleep we expect to get before the Holiday Classic, our poor chances of lasting past the first break, and how we plan to maintain our composure over several long days in Vegas. We do have to do some work before then, after all.
And while Mrs. Otis has been quite a champ about the whole thing, I do my best not to overfill her head with my musings. After all, she's staying home to take care of L'il Otis while I go have fun.
Brief digression: Here's something fun about Mrs. Otis that I haven't shared yet. Thanksgiving night, after the in-laws had left the house, I retired to bed with the laptop and started playing a little NL. Eventually, Mrs. Otis snuggled in beside me, quizzing me on pot odds, implied odds, and the like. On one particular hand, I flopped an open-ended straight draw. My opponent underbet the pot, giving me the odds to call. I explained my play to Mrs. Otis, listing my outs and the likelihood that I would hit one of them. The turn gave me my straight, but I didn't say anything. I was pleased to hear a quick gasp from my wife. "Is that the nuts?" she asked. Bless that woman.
"Yes, baby, that's the nuts," I said. And then I promptly doubled up.
So, she humors me and I owe her the respect of not constantly jabbering about my Vegas plans.
So, that leaves me stuck inside my head, making mental lists of everything I want to do.
Oh, and of course, it leaves me with my prized space in Up For Poker. Which means if you accidentally read this far, you've become the unwitting victim of my safety ventihilation.
Sorry about that.
So, priming the pump.
There's only so much I can do to prime for this trip, but I'm doing my best.
In an attempt to ready myself for what cold be the longest poker binge of my short career, I have started playing online like I might at a B&M cardroom. That is, intead of mutli-tabling two NL games and one limit game at the same time, I've dialed back my online play to one table. Complete concentration rules the day.
In preparation for the Holiday Classic, I've taken to playing three-table tournaments. My results have been mixed so far. Out of five tournaments, I've cashed in two, including a first place finish last night. I don't like those results that much.
This is an area where I need serious, emergency priming. Not since a fairly sober time in 1997-1998 have I spent so long as a level-headed, responsible human being. An ideal pump-priming would have called for three straight weeks of rowdiness leading up to Dec. 10-14. Instead, I've spent the past several months blissfully emmersed in fatherhood and concentrated poker play.
This coming Saturday is my birthday and should prove to be a good indicator of my stamina. You might see in the previous post that commenters are already setting the over/under on the number of full-fall stumbles I'll take during our trip out west. Obviously, there are those out there who are of little faith.
They may be right this time.
The Yonder Mountain String band would advise you, "If there's still ramblin' in the rambler', let him go."
I've got enough ramble left in me for the next several days. However, rather than bore you with all the other stuff that's slipping in and out of my noodle, I'll just ask two questions:
Am I the only one who is this excited?
If you're afflicted as I am, what mental/physical preps are you making?<-- Hide More
He sat in the wooden chair looking out across the room at people who hate him. I watched him shift in his seat, the prostate cancer obviously causing him some problems. The knot on his tie was exceptionally big. Old men tie their ties big, I thought.
He'd lost weight in the past year. Living through 18 months of pure hatred and cancer will do that to you. His once well-tailored suits hung on him when he shuffled in and out of the courthouse. His wife would walk beside him. His ex-wife would follow behind. The dynamic of the relationship was lost on me.
But that's not really what I was thinking about. That's just where I was at the moment.More in this Poker Blog! -->
My phone rang. Some insistant person on the other end of the line (like there really are phone lines anymore) wanted something and I promised they'd have it. Experience told me, though, that they didn't really want it as much as they thought they wanted it. They weren't really thinking about me at the moment. I wouldn't expect them to, anyway.
About fifteen miles north of us, in a grand gap between two small mountains, search teams had just found a body. They'd been looking for a hiker for three days. He was a 75-year-old man who had turned back from what had turned out to be an unexpectedly tough trek through the gap. He was supposed to wait for his party at the parking lot at the foot of the mountain. While an experienced hiker, he apparently got lost.
The tale seemed fairly familiar. In my reading of A Walk in the Woods, I remembered another experienced hiker who got lost, got hypothermia, and inexplicably jumped in a cold mountain stream. And died, of course.
And as sad as the story was and continued to be, that's not really what I was thinking about either.
Thinking back to my declaration that I was taking a live poker break, I keep finding myself repeating "Looks like I picked the right time to quit sniffing glue."
Almost upon making the declaration, life at Mt. Otis slipped into an unfamiliar land of turmoil. It was nothing serious like death, cancer, or man-on-beast adultery. But it was enough to make me glad I didn't have three poker games a week on my schedule.
Still, I dabbled online. I cashed in a big Party tournament. I watched my ring-game bankroll go up and down like a piston on some ancient pseudo-medical sex machine. I fell to sleep on many a night dreaming of the four nights I'll be spending in Vegas with the denizens of the internet poker writing elite. One fantasy finds me in a poker room where the bloggers have all taken seats at different tables. Every few minutes a blogger will stand up, scream "Hammer time!" and rake a massive pot to the disgust of the other tourists and locals at the table. Before the fantasy ends, the poker room manager has quietly offered us a $1000 freeroll tournament if we'll just stop pestering the other players with our 72offsuit.
Somehow the spirit of the trip has spilled over into my regular life. Where my traveling companions once thought one room would be too big to hold the small traveling party, we now probably don't have enough space to hold everyone. The room rates have skyrocketed in the past two weeks. I'm vowing to do my part by not sleeping for the first two nights, and if I do, I'll sleep in the bathrub, surrounded by empty cans of beer and spent cigarette butts.
But, those fantasies are future fodder and only what I can think about to get my mind off real life.
The past two weeks have forced the keepers of the Mt. Willis bankroll to make some major decisions. While nothing is official for the moment, the decision is imminent. The likely outcome will mean a lot of things, both good and bad. First, it will allow me to play more poker and do more writing. Second, it will cut into my poker and writing time.
Yeah, it's been that kind of month.
While I hate to be such a teasing vauge-abond, discretion requires I keep silent for the next couple of days. Bear with me.
Anyone who plays live knows that dealers have to contend with walkers, those people who hold their seats with chips but spend an indornaite amount of time walking around the casino. One night when I was playing in Atlantic City, a guy took the eight-seat to my left, put down his chips and bourbon, and left. I sat there for a full hour before he came back, played three hands, then left again.
That's sort of where I am right now. My chips are on the table, my drink is ready to be consumed, but I can't sit down quite yet.
In the meantime, BadBlood is organizing his bi-weekly homegame and tempting me to come off my break a week early. Frankly, it hasn't been much of a break to begin with. G-Rob is already pestering me to just admit that it hasn't been a break at all. We'll have to see what Mrs. Otis thinks about that.
In the meantime, I'm going to be staring at the cancer-ridden, much-hated, big-knotted man in the chair and wondering what will become of him in the coming days. Sadly, I already know what's happened to the man on the mountain.
I can only hope my fate will be better than theirs.
Oh, and it will be, by the way.<-- Hide More
My life has a soundtrack.
When Dad and Uncle Darrell shot pool, I rested my chin on the table, and tapped my foot to the Beach Boys' "Endless Summer." Uncle Randy liked the J. Giles Band and Kiss, but he didn't hang out with his brother very much.
A few years later, Dad would drive fast in his black Monte Carlo, The Eagles putting an absolute hurt on the stock stero speakers. I'd sit unbuckled in the back seat, watching the Missouri countryside blur against the speed.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Sean sang the Marshall Tucker Band around the campfire and made me wish I had black hair and a voice that made women tremble. The music of "The Big Chill" and Aretha Franklin make me think of sweaty sex. Ska makes me think of The Blue Note, drunk, stupid, and happy to go through life that way.
My life, friends, has a soundtrack that drives almost everything I do.
I've recently discovered that one poker blogger is a big fan of a band from my hometown that I like very much. Late last year I discovered that another popular poker blogger really likes of one of my most favorite bands of all time.
This means what? I dunno.
But, it must mean something.
When I discvered Yahoo! Launchcast, I discovered that I now have a soundtrack for online poker play (my user name is otisbdart for those wanting a taste of the good life). When the cards aren't going right (as they haven't been for some time), I click over to LaunchCast and slip into the amber world that used to keep me so happy in years past
I sat down to write, hoping a few words on the screen might bring me out of a misty funk I've been wading through for a couple of weeks. So far, the words aren't helping, but Leo Kotke and Guy Clark are a little bit.
Maybe I'll just sit back and listen to some Uncle Tupelo and wonder who else is fnding comfort in the acoustic guitars tonight.<-- Hide More
The chatter of a foreign language zipped around the table. Tall beers, mexican food, and a flurry of waiters busboys, and latin hostesses filled the room. L'il Otis slept through it all as I sat with Mrs. Otis and two smiling people.
Amazing, I thought.
About 18 years ago, my dad taught me to play poker with plastic chips and an old deck of cards. Over the years, he'd sit in on games with my high school friends, schooling us on when to draw and when not to draw.
Years later, he'd take me on my first trip to Vegas. I was too young to play at the time, occasionally slipping next to a slot machine for a few pulls or up to a roulette table for a few spins of the wheel. My dad would be sitting in a poker room, raking chips, hitting bad beat jackpots, and staying up much later than he ever did in life around the house.
At the time, I remember longing to be sitting there with him, slinging chips, playing the old father and son games that we did in the years before.More in this Poker Blog! -->
In April of 2003, I won an award for a project I completed in my day job. It was fairly prestigious and was presented to me in Atlantic City in front of my wife and parents. Afterwards, Dad and I headed to a poker room and sat up until 4am coffeehousing with the locals and fufilling my dream of playing as father and son.
As we got ready to part the next morning, Dad cornered me by the elevators and slipped a roll of cash into my hand. He knew I was pretty poor and didn't have much of a bankroll to play. "I didn't lose as much as thought I would on this trip. Take it and do whatever you want with it," he said.
The summer passed and I had done little with the money. I'd played in a few home games with it and built it up a little. I took it to Vegas and played with it there, raking pots and thanking Dad for it all along. It's good to have a backer, I thought.
By October of 2003 I was playing better and winning more. I'd gone on a weekend trip to a semi-annual music festival I use to get my head straight. That October trip had been fun, but busted in the waning moments when the social dynamic of a long-time group of friends was ripped apart by the indiscretions of one of my buddies. The thoughts were weighing on my mind as I drove home from the mountains.
I picked up my dog from the kennel and was five minutes from home when my brother called on my cell phone.
"Dad is in the hospital," he said.
My brother, the doctor, went on to explain as best he could in layperson's terms what had happened. An aneurysm had ruptured behind my dad's left eye, forming a huge clot in his brain. The chances of him living were slim. If he managed to pull through, the chances of him living any normal sort of life were almost none. The best-case scenarios in discussion were life in a wheelchair that would probably have to be attended to my a fulltime nurse.
Barely showered from my camping trip, I hopped on a plane with my wife and flew home. Eight hours later I was looking at my dad, the gregarious, chip-slinging hero. He was full of tubes, unconcious, and looking worse than I'd ever seen him.
I tried to play the tough guy, the rock for the family. But as a card player I knew the odds were slim. The man had so few outs that if he'd been in a game he would've been walking away from the table before the river hit.
The doctors said they'd try to fix what was broken, but in trying to fix it, there was a better than 50% chance they would kill or paralyze him. If they didn't fix it, he would die pretty soon anyway.
We waited for three days before the first surgery before watching him get wheeled into the OR. Three hours later, the doctors emerged. "We didn't get it," they said.
Apparently, the surgery was all about "getting it" (fixing the rupture).
The surgery was a wash. We were back to square one.
Three days later, they tried again, but were largely unsuccessful. The dynamics of the surgery were changing. They'd removed the clot, but were unable to fix the rupture.
By this point, I'd done what my dad always told me to do if something were to happen to him. I'd gotten his attorney on the phone and started making arrangements to make sure my mom was set up.
I had lost my cool by that point, wandering the hospital grounds, breaking into racking crying fits that my wife tried desperately to control. I was lost.
It finally came down to a late-night discission in the Emergency Room parking lot with the chief neurosurgeon. We could leave things as they are. If we did, Dad had a 50/50 chance of living for another six months. After that, all bets were off. And even then, he likely would be wheelchair-bound and living no sort of real life.
Or, they could try one last, ultimately risky surgery.
I didn't have to think. Dad would want the surgery. He didn't want to cash. He wanted to win.
That afternoon, I stood at the OR bay doors and watched him get wheeled for a third time to what would almost certainly be the last gamble he'd ever take. It was the worst feeling I'd ever had.
An hour ticked by, then another. The waiting room phone rang and rang, but each time it was for another grieving family. About a dozen of my dad's family and friends sat thumbing through magazines, lying to themselves and each other about how they were sure everything was going to be okay.
As another hour passed I resigned myself to the inevitable. It had taken too long to be a success. I imagined my mother falling to the ground in a round of sobs and wails that I would never be able to get out of my head.
Again, the phone broke through the din. I stood and answered it, nodding as everyone watched.
I hung up and through a blur of tears announced to the room, "They got it."
That was almost a year ago, though it seems like last month. While they had "gotten it" the prognosis was still unclear. Dad had limited use of his right leg and he wasn't communicating well.
The story goes on and on in a blur of hospital rooms, rehab centers, and tears. it's a book, really. But, it culminated two months ago when my dad walked into my wife's hospital room and held his grandson for the first time.
"Look at all his hair," he said in the same voice I've been comforted by for 30 years.
Last night my parents came to town and joined my wife, son, and I for dinner. Over mexican food, Dad quizzed me about my poker playing, and sat wide-eyed as I explained my rise through the limits, my recent successes, and my struggles with maintaining discipline after big wins.
In his eyes, I saw pride and a longing to be right there at the table with me in two months when I go to Vegas.
His recovery has been amazing. He still has a good distance to travel before he'll feel like he's actually recovered enough to outsmart the sharks at the poker tables. I think he's already there, but he's a calculating sonofagun and wants to be at his prime when he sits back down again.
I'm ready for that day.
I'd intended for this to be a one-paragraph post, about how I want to see ALL my online and offline friends in Vegas (make it happen people), to be sure to sign up for the WPBT V on Poker Stars, and to let everyone know that I'm taking a long weekend in the mountains to listen to Billy Joe Shaver, Acoustic Syndicate, and whoever else tickles my fancy.
And then I remembered that it was on my way home from this trip last year that I heard my dad was about to die.
There's something beautifully cyclical about life. From a father's teachings to his son, to a son's love for his father, to a father becoming a grandfather and caring for his grandson for a weekend so his son can go away and find his head again.
This year when I drive back down the mountain, I know my father and son will be safe at home, which means I can sit by a lake for three days and think.
Poker is a game of skill, no doubt. But life can be a game of good fortune. And I am, perhaps, the most fortunate person I know.
Have a good weekend, all.<-- Hide More
...just a brief entry to freak out a little.More in this Poker Blog! -->
A few weeks ago, I sat in a poker tournament across from a guy I'd never met before. He was a friend of a fellow poker blogger. He came along to pony up the $50 buy-in, have a little fun, and bust out of the tourney first.
In case you don't know, when I'm not a poker playing Otis, I'm a journalist who often covers the court system.
Flash forward to a criminal trial I covered all of last week: The last witness on the stand (and perhaps the one that convinced the defendant to cop a plea) was a guy by the same name as the guy who played in the tourney.
Turns out, he did not only have the same name, but also the same DNA.
Now, I'm fully aware of how small a world it is, but it freaks me out a little bit that a poker blogger I only met a month or so ago also happens to be friends with a guy who played a major role in a case I've been covering for the past year and a half.
Small world, my ass.
That's just freaky.<-- Hide More
A quick hiatus from the hiatus to wish Iggy's cat, Monty, well. There is nothing greater the unconditional love of a pet. And little hurts worse than not being able to personally fix what's broken. From Scoop the Therapy Mutt and one animal lover to another... peace, friend.