As a kid, I think it's safe to say, few people knew less about the pop culture world. By the fifth grade I could name the person who held every cabiniet post in the Reagan administration, but I couldn't name 3 songs on the "American Top 40." I remember, at the YMCA day camp, with a group of kids whose stay-at-home moms really needed a break, they'd play name that tune with current pop songs. The first kid to guess from my team guessed "Private Eyes" by Hall and Oates and, because I now knew the name of THAT song, I guessed it for every song thereafter. Evidently our counselors didn't have that album.
Also in the fifth grade I started wearing parachute pants, and hanging out with kids who would carry strips of linoleum around from house to house. Back then the single greatest songs in my world were, "Din Da Da (Din Do Do)" from the BREAKIN' 2 : ELECTRIC BOOGALOO soundtrack, and oddly enough "1999" by Prince. My neighbor Michael had both albums, and even then I resolved to make New Year's Eve 2000, the greatest party of my life.
I've had some truly fantastic year end celebrations. In '94/'95, the lovely not-yet-bride and I rang in the year with a few college buddies at a bar in Amsterdam. For several years the biggest party in town was at the house of Otis. Last year, I hosted myself.
Oddly enough, the best years of my life came after the WORST New Year's parties. Like in 1991, when my friend Matt Piatt and I hung out on his couch and watched Sportscenter. Whoooopeee! The next year, my senior year in high school, ranks in the lifetime top 5.
2000 was like that too. I spent the night at work, I was live on the air at midnight. The worst planned, worst executed, and in retrospect, funniest night of television I've even been unlucky enough to witness. I had a fantastic year.
THE YEAR IN POKER
2005 was, with almost no comparison whatsoever, the peak of personal poker so far. I won a rather signifigant amount of money in my live play, at least large compared to buy-in. I broke almost completely even during the Vegas trip in the summer, and won a little in December. I had a rather exciting year in G-Vegas.
Perhaps most important is, with the exception of a few relatively brief droughts of self confidence, I leared to trust my reads and make the plays I knew were right. I'm sure CJ and Otis will back me up, I'm a far better player than I was 12 months ago. It's a tribute to the you, dear reader, that I remain the worst player alive.
Here are the biggest lessons I've learned :
1) You can tell relatively early in any game, ring games mostly but tournaments too, just how much the buyin means to any given player. I first realized the power of the overstepping mind during the WCOOP on Stars. Funny thing is, I was given a free entry into a $200+rebuy event and treated it like I'd bought in for $20K. I did use the add-on at the break, and that too $200 from my own pocket, but it was never more money that I'd be comfortable with in a normal game.
Actually, I'm very comfortable at about that limit. In Vegas, I'll come loaded with quite a few buyins for the $200 NL game and won't blink an eye if the first couple of them vanish. Actually, I would be upset, but I figured I'd try to look cool with the preceeding sentence. In G-Vegas, I regularly play in a $200 NL game every Monday night. The buy-in has never been a problem there.
The problem with the WCOOP was, I was well aware of the other players. I knew I was swimming with some real sharks, real poker pros, and I was timid in that pool. Normally, I think you know this by now, I'm an unusually aggressive player and that's the style that suits me best. Somehow I grew timid in that uncomfortable surrounding and I made several plays I immediately knew were wrong.
Players outside of there financial comfort zone will be passive more often than not. It is profitable to take advantage. Recognizing this will allow you to take advantage of a timid player almost from the start... without having to watch 2 hours at the table first.
2.) Look for the fish in a wolf-suit. Every homegame in America has at least one. You know him well. He's the guy who likes to break down each hand, usually in an incorrect fashion, using cool poker words. He hasn't been at your table for 5 minutes before he's hit you with "nuts, suckout, gutshot, big slick, big lick, and 'The Brunson.'"
Dr. Pauly's written a good bit about this. He's absolutely right. A good poker player goes to great lengths to convince you he sucks. There are hundreds of people in G-Vegas who actually think BadBlood's name is "Mr. Donkey" because its the only thing he calls himself. BadBlood is excellent at poker. Beware the guy who says he sucks. Of course, I am the exception that proves the rule.
Usually there is a tremendous amount of ego involved in poker. It's why so many of us have a hard time writing about our really bad runs. People want to fit in and be percieved as a solid player. Of course, if you are a solid player, all those chips you keep winning will sorta make that case. If you suck... time to start talking.
I GREATLY strengthen my aggression against a guy who likes to talk poker.
Of course, beware of people who play "the hammer".
I was playing over at Frank the Tank's last Wednesday, it was a $60 tourney where I played like crap, when someone dropped a huge hammer bluff. Weird thing about it was: a) I'd never seen this guy before and b) he called his hand "the hammer."
One of the players at the table, an older guy sitting to my right, asked him, "why do people call that hand 'the hammer'?" A third player, at the end of the table, another guy I'd never seen before, chimed in, "That's what it's always been called... like Big Slick... it's what all the pros call it."
I was stunned.
BadBlood, who was also at my table, chimed in with this nugget of truth, "Actually, it was invented by a friend of ours, a writer named "Grubby"."
The entire table laughed at what they obviously thought was a joke. BadBlood didn't bother to insist.
HEY! WE'VE GOT GAS
So back to the big party for a bit.
I rang in the new first number, the biggest bash of them all, the long awaited year 2000, in the breakroom at a station in Georgia. I worked as the weekend anchor there and was stuck on that special night.
We got the assignments at about 11:42. Here's the News Director's plan:
We'd go live at exactly 12:01, cutting into the national celebration and the dropping NY ball, to bring you a very special West Georgia news update. It was 15 minutes long, until 12:16 AM.
Our main female anchor, Teresa, was to hold down the fort. She'd sit at the main news desk and handle everything there.
The main male anchor, Phil, was out at an ATM. The premise, at least what I assume was the premise, was to demonstrate that the Y2K bug hadn't crippled the banking system. We'd be watching Phil make a withdrawl.
Our main weather girl was stationed at a big gala downtown. She's blessed with the ad-lib gift and was almost certainly the one thing we couldn't screw up.
One reporter, Jon, was downtown, using the same live truck, talking about the festivities in the street.
I was in the breakroom, telling viewers the lights were on, the water was running, and yes... the stove still had gas. No need to panic folks.
So at 12:01 Teresa welcomed the drunken, and now disappointed viewing audience, and told them we'd be taking control. Then she tossed to Phil.
Phil did his best to calm the Y2K fears. Then he took his debit card out of his wallet and put it in the machiene. "Looks like we have a problem," he excitedly declared, "It will not let me make a withdrawl!"
After several minutes of dramatic number bashing, rivaled only by the climactic photocopying scene in "THE FIRM," Phil left confusion in the air as he tossed it back to the desk.
"Gosh!" Teresa declared, "We'll try to find out the extent of this Y2K problem! But first, Let's check in with our weather girl downtown...."
Sure enough, this went off fine. Our weather girl introduced us to her husband and son, and they talked among themselves. I'm not 100% positive she knew she was on camera, but still, it was the greatest success of our night.
So, glowing from this unexpected success, Teresa tossed to Jon downtown. Jon forgot to use a microphone. We watched his lips flap for a full 90 seconds before we finally cut him off.
Now, in the breakroom, I was ready to get it done. The ND himself was running my camera... he'd forgotten to schedule a photographer. He'd also forgotten to get a mic. I ran into the studio and grabbed the weather girl's wireless one, but the breakroom was out of range. When Teresa tossed, all she heard was static.
So, now unhappy about the two failed shots, Teresa had to update our lead. Phil had called in. His failed withdrawl wasn't Y2K... nossir... his wife, afraid of Y2K, had just made the MAXIMUM DAILY WITHDRAWL. He couldn't get anymore. Folks, the banks are fine.
It was 12:06
The News Director ran back to the studio and held up a handwritten sign. It said, I kid you not, "CAN YOU FILL 10 MINUTES??????"
Teresa was not amused. She said, and I quote, "I guess we just can't handle this, I'm going home. Have a happy new year!" Then she took off the mic and walked directly to her car.
The ND was fired on the next Monday.
After a few decades of waiting for this party, I ended that New Year with a cup of coffee and a very excited prayer from my Evangelical ND. It wasn't what I planned.
Later that year, I got a much better job in a much better place. I moved from an apartment to a house. My first child turned one and my second was concieved (the best and most underrated part of having kids). And I moved to G-Vegas that year.
I'm at work again. You can tell I'm at work because this post is 10,000 words long and makes no sense. Instead of hitting a party, I'll head straight home for the ball's fall. Not the party I'd planned.
But this year my contract expires at the place I call home and I may be moving again. I hope I'm just as lucky. I also hope that this will be the year I drop the label, "WORST POKER PLAYER ALIVE!" But I'm not sure I can ever be lucky enough.