Thursday, August 27, 2009


I was talking with Ali about her finals schedules this year and we agree that Dec. 4th - Dec 13th would be the perfect time for me to do another poker trip. I realize I've already covered this topic, but it brings a specific problem into relief that I want to address.

The Dec. 11th weekend is the Winter Blogger gathering in Las Vegas. I've been invited to this before over the past few years, and haven't been able to go for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with scheduling at my job. In past years, the proximity to Christmas meant that if I wanted to take off for this event, I'd have to work through Christmas season. Especially seeing as how my girlfriend is in Law School and has Christmas off (and celebrates it intensely with her family), it's in my best interest to take the Christmas week off vs. an earlier week in the month.

So when things lined up so perfectly this year, with Ali's finals being the exact weekend of the Gathering, and Christmas being on a weekend so I don't have to take any time off to celebrate with Ali's family, I nearly succumbed and booked a trip to Vegas.

So why didn't I?

One word: dedication. And sacrifice. Uh...two words. Dedication, sacrifice and an almost fanatical devotion to my quest. Three words. (Couldn't resist the Monty Python reference, sorry)

I said a while ago that I would visit every legal poker room in this country. Seeing as how vacations alone are very rare (Ali refuses to go with me on a 'poker trip') and I wasn't able to do as much traveling this year because of my job loss in January, I would be wasting a chance to chalk up some more poker rooms to my list if I went to Vegas. Now, it's true that there are about a dozen poker rooms left in Vegas that I haven't seen yet, so I could clear those out of the way if I went to the Gathering (Sounds like Highlander, doesn't it?), but there's a better than average chance that I will be in Vegas someday with Ali so I can hit those rooms up then. Combining poker room visits with trips including Ali is possible, if I do it carefully. For example, Ali's friend lives in San Francisco, so I got the go-ahead from her to take two days off from any long weekend we plan out there to hit up the Bay area rooms. New Mexico is another example. If I took a week off to visit New Mexico, I could see all the rooms in the state in 4 days and then fly Ali out for a long weekend of sight-seeing for the other three days. It's all a matter of planning.

So I decided to use my precious vacation time to go to Arizona, where I would never normally go for any reason other than poker, instead of Vegas. It sucks a bit, because I am positive that I'll have a kickass time in Vegas and not so sure I'll have such a great time in the high desert of Arizona. But if I'm serious about seeing my quest through, I'm going to have to make a few sacrifices. Personal traveling pleasure being one of them.

In related news, I've started inputting all of the poker rooms I've been to into Google Maps. I had started a while back but dropped it because of restrictions in the interface that wouldn't allow me to show more than a certain number of items on the map at one time. This limited the idea of me being able to see the entire U.S. map with every poker room I need to visit, or every one I've been to. So I'm working around the issue by doing maps of each state. Google is kind enough to allow me to overlay maps on top of each other, so for traveling and planning purposes, I can show a map of Iowa, say, and then, turn on maps of the bordering states in order to plan how to best see the largest number of rooms. Often, casinos exist just over the border of one state or another, and showing a single state isn't optimal. Also, the proximity of large cities with no rooms, to the border of states with lots of rooms, allows me to plan better flights. An example is Dallas, TX. Texas has one room in Eagle Pass, all the way on the south-west border of the state, but the Dallas airport, to the far north, is very close to the southern end of Oklahoma. So if I want to do the Oklahoma state rooms, I'd probably fly into Dallas and then drive North, ending up in Oklahoma City. Thank god car rental companies allow you to rent in one place and drop off in another. I wouldn't be able to do this quest very efficiently if that weren't the case!

Once I'm done with entering the data into the maps (using, natch), I'll have two maps for every state with poker rooms. One map for rooms I haven't visited yet, and one map for rooms I've already been to. That's 130 rooms at the moment and 17 more to come with my Arizona trip in December. I've identified a few places in the country, so far, that would make good weekend trips. Fly in, drive no more than two hundred miles, see the rooms and fly home. If Ali has something to do that I can't be a part of, it's a good way for me to hit up some more sights.

It's still going to take me many years to complete this journey, and like I told Ali a few days ago, it will probably never really be done. New rooms open up all the time and I will NOT be taking a flight to the middle of Oregon and driving 350 miles, just because some room opened up with 2 tables in it. But I feel that as long as I make a good faith effort to see all the room's possible, I will still have accomplished my goal. What are my goals? To play a lot of poker and to see the country. Worthy goals, in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

WSOP coverage - a rant

This year, at the esteemed World Series of Poker, there were 57 official events in total. Events ranged from the $500 Casino Employees NLHE event to the $50,000 HORSE event and every interesting poker variant in-between. If you're a poker geek like I am, you loved the lineup at the World Series this year. 6-Handed Limit Hold'em? Got it. 2-7 lowball draw? Natch (for $10,000 no less!). PLO, Stud/8, Razz? Yes, Yes and Yes. There was certainly something for everyone this year. I was salivating to see the coverage this year on TV. Last year, there was great coverage of Stud events, HORSE events and Omaha events, in addition to the normal NLHE fare. It can only be good for poker for people to get a taste of the other games, right?

So I was MONUMENTALLY disappointed to learn that ESPN would not be covering ANY non NLHE games this year. And worse, they're covering just 3 tournaments, focusing the bulk of their coverage on the Main Event.

The three events are the $40,000 NLHE event (Event #2), the Ante Up for Africa charity tournament (not a bracelet event, thank god) and the Main Event.

I'll take this in order:
1. The $40,000 event - A perfectly good decision to air this. It's a high-buyin event, ensuring there will be plenty of well-known poker players in attendance. The high buy-in also ensures a high payout for the final table, making for good drama. Nothing wrong here.

2. Ante Up for Africa - I understand why ESPN, in a bid to attract ratings, would want to show a charity that they know will feature plenty of Hollywood eye candy. The broadcast was fun, even if it made for completely meaningless poker. By the final table, the participants (no celebs made it to the final table), all had an M under 10 and it turned into a complete push-fest. Fun to watch but crap poker.

3. The Main Event - The decision was made to air the Main Event every Tuesday over the course of 30 (!!!) episodes. The idea, I think, is to have a long and slow build-up to the Final Table on November 10. I'm ambivilent about this decision.
A. Pros - Giving us Main Event coverage in drips is definitely better than last year where we had a huge 4 month gap between the end of coverage and the final table. Interest in the event definitely waned in the meantime and having weekly updates should help keep that interest up. Also, long and detailed coverage will allow people to see more of the early rounds, where small-ball poker is key. Coverage of NLHE tourneys has been criticized, rightly, for emphasizing all-in and call situations. This will allow us to see many more tough decisions, tough folds and good bluffs. In other words, good tournament poker.

B. Cons - Devoting this much coverage to the Main Event diminishes the luster of the other events and doesn't leave time to cover them. Jeff Lisandro won three bracelets this year, an unbelievable feat. But you won't see any of them, because his events weren't deemed important. Never mind that one of them was the $10,000 buyin Stud/8 event. And dropping out coverage of the highest buyin event, the $50,000 HORSE event, is unconscionable. That event was being billed as the "Player's Championship", where the pros would meet to see who was best. You're guaranteed to have big names at that final table and it's poker playing for poker players. You know, your audience!

I see what ESPN is trying to do here, but there has to be an eye towards growing the sport, if for no other reason than to ensure future audiences. My suggestion is to air at least 2 episode versions of all $10,000 or greater buyin events, with special extended coverage of the Main Event. The $10,000 events are all billed as the 'World Championships' of those games, so it would mean someting special to see them. And for god's sake, promote the HORSE event! The event suffered from a big drop-off in participation this year, specifically because TV coverage was dropped for it. It's hard for a pro to get sponsorship for their big buyin if it isn't on TV!

So, in short, include the $10,000+ events, drop the charity tourney to one day and we'll see how the Main Event coverage pans out.

One other thing. There was talk this year of making the HORSE final table a NLHE affair in order to up it's excitement and make it good for television. Two words. GOD. FORBID.

In my opinion, HORSE is going to be exciting for people when there is a network push behind it to promote it. Start with the insanely high buyin, for one. Also, concentrate on this as the game of the pro players. And run that drunk Scotty Ngyuen coverage from last year on a loop. That was some good TV.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's starting to look like Arizona

I talked it over with Ali and it seems like Arizona is my best bet for a December poker trip. Ali had concerns, not totally unfounded, that driving around Oklahoma during the winter could lead to weather I wouldn't want to be driving in. New Mexico got dropped because there are only 7 rooms in close proximity, so it could be combined with a sightseeing trip with Ali. Florida is kind of a waste of a trip because of the quality of the poker rooms and Southern Indiana suffers from worse weather than Oklahoma.

I've put together an initial road itinerary:

View Poker - California in a larger map

Approx. 1134 miles, without counting the casinos in Phoenix. Should be fun.

500 down, thousands to go

This is my 500th post. I had hoped that there would be more to report at this milestone than there is, but alas, life has a funny way of working out differently than you'd expected. Better, in my case.

I'm employed (for the moment) at a job I like, I live in Manhattan with no strings attached and I have the love of a woman so wonderful and special that I still have trouble believing she lives with me of her own free will and accord. In short, life is good. It's rare that we sit back and dwell long and hard on how good we have it. For all the bad things that happen to us (and have happened to me), it's a special thing to be able to recognize when the sun is shining through the clouds.

Ok, before this post becomes a Hallmark card, it should be noted that Ali is starting her 3rd and final year of law school today. This means that I will be facing the prospect of many a night of her freaking out about a paper or a test. But it also means that she will be having finals in December. And finals means lots and lots of studying. So much studying, in fact, that my own presence is not to be tolerated. And that means:


So, it's being announced officially, I will be taking another of my world-famous poker trips from Dec. 4th through Dec. 13th. I don't know where, yet, but my preliminary thoughts are trending towards 5 possibilities:

1. Arizona - I fly in Phoenix and spend a week making a huge circular loop around the state, hitting every poker room on the way. I end up back in Phoenix around Thursday and spend the rest of the weekend hitting the Phoenix poker rooms and fly back from the same city (a rare treat). 14-17 casinos possible.

2. New Mexico - There are two tacts I can take with this trip:
A. Fly to San Antonio and drive to Eagle Pass, Tx to hit the only poker room in Texas. Drive back to San Antonio and fly to New Mexico, using the rest of the week to hit all the rooms in the state.
B. Ditch the Eagle Pass option and just fly directly to NM. There are fewer rooms in New Mexico (7 in total, all based in Alberquerque and Santa Fe, with one near Roswell), so a good portion of the trip would be spent sightseeing. Desert Buttes, tremendous sunsets, Roswell UFO's, White Sands National Monument and the Carlsbad Caverns would all be on the menu.

3. Oklahoma - This one would get hairy. Most likely, I would fly into Dallas and attack the state from the bottom up, making a circle around Oklahoma City, before coming back there to fly out. Alternatively, I could force my way up and fly out of Tulsa in the North-East corner of the state. This option would probably have the most driving and the most casinos (about 27!)

4. Southern Indiana to Missouri - This is another big driving trip, but it's more casual and there's more sights to see. I'll be doing a rough sqauare starting in Indianapolis, going down through Lexington, KY, into Nashville, TN and ending up in St. Louis, MO. Lots of great music, Mint Juleps and midwestern cooking to be had.

5. Northern and Central Florida - Starting in the west end of the Panhandle at Panama City, FL, I'd drive due east to Jacksonville and then go south towards Daytona. Cutting Westward, I'd go through Orlando, stopping at Disney World to placate my inner child, before ending up in Tampa. Florida has that stupid $100 max buyin rule for NLHE, but the drive could be fun.

There are probably other itineraries possible, but I was trying to avoid northern states as I'd be traveling in December. I'm specifically leaving California out of this list because Ali said she'd like to go with me on that trip, especially to San Francisco, where one of her friends lives.

Anyone else have an idea on how I can visit lots of poker rooms in the time allotted?

Or better yet, does anyone want to come with me? It's gets lonely on the road...

Here's to the next 500 posts!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sir Charles delivers again

I'm watching the Ante Up for Africa celebrity poker tourney on ESPN when I catch the following exchange:

Kenny Smith: "Chuck, How you doing?"
Charles Barkley: "Struggling like black folks in the '60s"

Charles Barkley, a national treasure.

Updated Top Ten

I've updated my Top Ten Poker Rooms list, again. This time, I've included a list of my criteria for inclusion as well as adding The Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods to their proper places.

I'd love to hear from you readers about what I'm missing. Please don't say Bay 101. I know about that one! How about others?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Barney Frank just moved up a notch

Please God, let the wingnuts continue comparing Health-Care reform to the Nazis. Please.

Godwin's Law is in da house!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Going downtown

Brett Favre is signing with the Vikings. The Vikings! How many times did he face them on the other side of the field and now he's their QB1?!?! WTF? Try to imagine that Derek Jeter, at age 42 and way past his prime, signs a one year deal with the Bosox to be their DH. Holy crow!

Granted, Favre is making 10-12 million for a one year deal, but couldn't he get pretty close to that doing Viagra commercials? Dude, you're OLD. And you kinda suck. You got me all excited last year when you came to my beloved Jets and then you threaded the needle for a league leading 22 regular season Interceptions. I personally saw four of those, and I only went to two freaking games. You have the career Interception record and you don't scramble the way you used to. One good hit and you're done. Didn't you have surgery on a torn bicep muscle in the off-season. Wasn't that God's way of telling you, "Dude, I gave you a good run. Open a car dealership or something."

Hang it up kid.

Who wants to set the over/under on his interceptions this season? I'd say 20 but I don't know if he'll actually play all the games.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Indian Summer

Ali was up with her parents at the cape for a full week. What to do...What to do...

Oh yeah, there's always that poker thing! :-0

Thursday, my dinner with my brother ended early and I headed over to Matty Ebs game for some 1-2. This is the game that I used to run but handed over to Matty, mostly as a gift for him setting me up with Ali (the two are not equal, but it's all I have). I ran pretty good, peaking at +$200 at one point, but I gave it all back trying to add on to the stack. Nothing particularly noteworthy. It's not like I took any bad beats or anything, just couldn't connect with some good starting cards. Suited connectors weren't working for me at all. I got bluffed out of one pot with JJ at one point. There was a pre-flop raise from Eric to $12 and two callers, including myself. Flop was A37 and Eric, first to act, led out with $35. It folded to me and I was forced to muck. When Eric flashed 99, I was a little miffed, but had to commend him on the guts to lead out with an Ace showing as the first to act. Pretty impressive.

Also, there was a long discussion about a hand I had posted a while back with another player who was there. Evidently, I'd slammed him pretty hard for making a call on me to stack me and we talked about it and did the math and it turns out he had the right odds to make the call. Oops, my bad. Sorry 'bout that. I was just frustrated about getting stacked.

I ended the night with +50 in profit on the strength of one hand. I'm in the BB with 25 (the Darko!) and there's a raise to $12 PF by Big Paul. Normally, I don't hold with playing 'lucky hands', but there were 3 other callers so I came along for the ride. Flop is AJ4. Uh-oh, I have a flush draw AND a gut shot. Either a good flop for me, or a disastrous one. I check and it gets to Big Paul who makes a bet of $20. Two guys call and I make the call. Turn is a brick and I check again. Paul bets $45 and the other players fold. Now I have to make a decision. I do the math in my head. $45 to win about $175 in the pot is about 4-1 in pot odds. I can make a winning hand (I think) with 12 remaining cards (9 clubs and 3 Three's). That's about a 4-1 draw right there and the implied odds if he pays off a river bet put me firmly in +EV land. I make the call and the turn is the A. Ooooh, that hurts. Could be good, could be bad. Paul might have made a boat here, or he might have trip Aces and feel he's good. I lead out for $50 and he insta-mucks what he claims is an Ace. Good fold on his part and he mutters to himself, "Scoopy, Scoopy...." when I flash him the winning hand. I find it a little frustrating sometimes that my friends find me so readable as to lay down trips to me when the pot is laying 5-1 or more, but I guess it's not the worst thing in the world to usually have the best hand at the river. Besides, I've made good money bluffing the river using this very same image. So it works both ways.

Anyhow, this was all just a warmup for the main event anyway. Mohegan Sun for the weekend!

Paulie, Chris, Matt and I all met up at 7PM at Chris' garage on Gold and Spruce downtown. Which was nice because I was able to run home and change before I needed to see them and then I just walked to the garage. We hit the road shortly afterwards and, amazingly, hit little to no traffic on the entire ride. Other than a short mix-up getting to I-95 (Thanks Google Maps for saving my ass, again!), we had smooth sailing the whole way and made it to our hotel, a mile from the casino, in 2.5 hours flat. Pretty damned good timing for a Friday night from Manhattan! After checking in and dropping our stuff off, we were at the poker room an hour later and cards were in the air. Chris had a waiting list for the 2-5 tables, so she sat with me at 1-2 for a while. The table, like all the tables I played that weekend, was tight and passive. I ground out a tidy little profit for a while before scoring my big pot with KK vs. my opponent's JJ. I raised PF and he had called me. When the flop came down 245, he quick-shoved and I quick-called. I was surprised he played Jacks so strongly without waiting to see what I would do, but that kind of play was pretty much standard over the whole trip. Yay me! I cashed out at 2:00a at +215 on the session.

We woke up the next day and had a continental breakfast at the hotel. A short drive later, we were in the poker room at 11:00a and there were plenty of tables going. A quick note about the poker room; It is greatly improved. A month ago, the casino installed a large colored glass partition over the previously open entranceway to the room which has blocked 95% of the casino floor sound. As a result, the room, while still boisterous, is much quieter and sounds now like a normal large poker room should. Before, the cacophony was too much to bear. Now, it's juuuust right. The improvement is so great that I am going to be forced to make new changes to my Top Ten poker room list.

I sat down at a 1-2 table that was opening up and killed it. Matt and Paulie were with me at the table. It helped that I got good cards, but I didn't really play many hands. My first double up was when I got KK. A Freddie Deeb lookalike in seat 7 raised to $26 PF in lat position. The raise was on the large size, even after a few limpers, and I was pretty sure he had a big hand because he had made the same play before with KK. So when it got to me in the SB, I popped it to $75. When it got back to him, he smooth called. Absent a re-re-raise from him, I was now a little more certain (but not positive) that he didn't have AA. The flop was all unders, J45, rainbow. I was a little worried he might have JJ, but I shoved anyway. $120 more to him. He called so quickly, I was sure he would flip over AA or JJ, but instead, he showed QQ. I flipped over my KK and he said, "I knew you had Kings. I don't know why I called." I do. You're a donkey with too much testosterone. But thanks for the money, buddy. I'll be eating a nice dinner with it. The board ran out harmlessly and I stacked the sugar.

I took down my other nice pot with AQ. I was in early position and I raised PF to $12, getting two callers. Flop was 963. Trash, but I decided to C-bet to represent an overpair. I bet out $20 and got calls from the same two players. I put one on an overpair and the other on top pair. The turn was a tricky A. I ran into top pair, but I could be against two pair here. The Freddie Deeb guy was one of the callers, so I was pretty sure he was drawing thin, maybe an up and down straight draw. The other guy was pretty solid though. I bet out $50 and both guys called. The turn was a brick, maybe a red 2, and I slowed down by checking. Fortunately, it checked around and I took it down with a pair of Aces. The solid guy showed JJ and Freddie Deeb mucked without showing. I got away with one there. I finished the session at 6:45p, +301, just in time for lunch.

Paulie and I ate lunch at 2pm at SolToro, the Mexican restaurant affiliated with the Michael Jordan Steakhouse franchise. It's an excellent meal, but the portions are HUGE. I wanted just to get a few appetizers to tide us over until dinner, but when I ordered the Tamales (normally small thin strips of corn meal stuffed with pork, they brought out two potato sized corn husks stuffed with the goodies. Everything was so delicious that I ate it all anyway, pig that I am. The diet starts Monday, I swear!

After lunch, I was sated and happy and sat with Matt at a 1-2 table for a while, grinding out a little $75 profit before I couldn't take any more. I walked around the casino a bit, trying to work off lunch in time for dinner and managed to work up a small appetite by the time dinner rolled around.

We ate at Summer Shack, where I treated myself by ordering the 3 lb. Steamed lobster (yum!). Chris had steamers and bouillabaisse, Paulie had the lobster roll and Matt had...I forget. But it was all delicious. Man, that lobster was good!

I'd never had more than a two pounder in my whole life, but I was flush and sometimes you need to say, "I deserve this". I did. Meanwhile, Paulie, Chris and Matt didn't even let me pay for it (yay birthdays!) but my Jewish guilt wouldn't let them pick up the whole tab so I left the tip. It was a fantastic meal. Even the enormous Mexican lunch didn't stop me from killing that lobster cold.

The after dinner session was also profitable, and I left the table at +$200 exactly. After taking down a few small pots here and there, I ran into my big hand of the day, and the source of some debate for myself. I had JJ in the cutoff and it limped to the Hijack seat who raised to $15, a standard raise. I called and the button popped to $45, decidedly not standard for this table. I read the button for a high pocket pair (QQ, KK, AA) but I had no idea what the Hijack had, especially when he called. It was about $30 to me with about $110 in the pot and I decided the implied odd would justify my call if I hit a set. I called. Flop was perfection personified. J33. I flopped a boat with a diamond draw on board. I could only hope one of them, hopefully the Hijack, had a diamond draw. Hijack checks, I check and button bets $60. Hijack calls! Wow. Okay, I have to put Hijack on the diamond draw, right? Maybe AK? I call. Turn is 8. Hijack checks. Now, I have a decision to make. If I'm Hijack with AK, I might check here too, hoping someone else would shove with a worse flush, or an overpair. How to extract the most money here? I decide to go with my read and I go all in for about $140. Button, predictably, mucks what he says later is QQ. I was hoping he'd have a big pair with a diamond to go with it, maybe he'd call with another diamond as an 'out'. But no, he didn't have a diamond. It gets back to the Hijack, who just has me covered and he mucks!!!! What the hell? Why did he call the $60 flop bet?!? He tells me he folded AK, which sucks because if he had folded the flop bet, I would have checked the turn and the button said he would have shoved the turn in that case. Damn. In hindsight, I should have checked the turn, hoping the button would commit, but I would have been horrified to see the Q fall on the river. So I didn't win as much as I could have, but it was still a healthy pot for a table that tight.

I left the table shortly afterwards because the big stack ($1500 in front of him! But tight as a clam) left and the other donkeys got up and left. After racking up for the night, I was +$790 for the weekend so far and it was 11p. Rather than start a new session, I polled the other guys to see if they wanted to go. No one was quite ready yet, so I killed some time playing 1-5 Stud, cashing out two hours later at +$4.50 (what a nit game, but good for killing time) and we headed back for some sleep.

I've now played about 6 different cash sessions and 1 tournament at Mohegan Sun and I have not had a losing session yet. I'm starting to like this poker room, a lot.

Sunday morning, we woke up and went back to the casino strictly for breakfast, which consisted of a White Clam pizza and a Standard cheese pizza at Frank Pepe's. It was heavenly. Way better than most of the normal fare you'd get in a casino. The trick is they use of a coal oven, rather than a standard brick oven, which imparts a charcoal taste to the baked dough. Really delicious. Traffic back to NY was pretty bad and the afternoon sun was beating down like a MOFO, with the car's AC hardly able to keep up. I called Ali, who was at her parent's house in Trumbull, CT and had her meet me at the Fairfield train station just in time for the 2:23p train to Grand Central. Incredibly, Google Maps made an epic fail by pointing us to the wrong exit, but a quick stop at a gas station to ask directions got us back on track and we made the train with minutes to spare.

A huge thanks go out to Paulie, Chris and Matt who made it one of the best weekends on record.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Too Late

Warning: No Poker Content and Sad News

Les Paul (pronounced LESS-Paul, not LAY-Paul), the legendary musician and inventor of the solid body electric guitar, is dead at the age of 94.

The man was a giant of music, end of story. He invented the Electric Guitar for god's sake! Not just the Gibson Les Paul, the greatest of all electrics with the possible exception of the Fender Stratocaster, but the first electric solid body guitar of any type! That remarkable invention has spawned countless millions of rock gods, wailing away on their parent's basements with the amplifier turned up too loud for anyone's taste (myself included). Just this one gift to the world alone would have immortalized Les Paul in the annals of human history, but he also invented multi-track recording. For those of you who don't know, multi-track recording is the technique that allows different parts of a song to be recorded without overwriting the part already on tape. It's the thing that allows Jay-Z to say, "Hey, I love this track as it is, but it would really bounce with a precussion part panned right in the mix".

So, to recap, Les Paul is the inventor of modern musical recording and the most popular instrument the world has ever seen.


For many years now, Mr. Paul has played Monday night concerts first at Fat Tuesday's and then Iridium here in Manhattan. For just as many years, I swore I'd see him play. Every Monday, something would come up or I would forget. Just as recently as two weeks ago, I said to myself as I was walking past the Iridium on a Monday night, "Damn, I'd better get tickets soon before he dies. 'Cause he's old."

And now it's too late. The same thing happened to me with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. I never saw a show and then one day, Jerry died, leaving nothing but Phish concerts and a kickass Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor in his wake.

So as of today, I'm on a quest to make sure I don't miss out on any performers I really really want to see. Except there aren't any I haven't seen yet. All of my 'must-see' artists I've seen at this point. BB King, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant (though not with Led Zeppelin), The Who (a few times) and Elton John (way better than I though he'd be). I've never seen The Rolling Stones but I never felt the need. I saw Springsteen in concert and it was nearly religious. I saw Rush and it kicked ass. I even saw KISS and loved them.

The only artist I'm really jonesing to see now is Jack White, preferably with The White Stripes. I'd better get me some tickets before he gets hit by a bus.

Any other artists I need to see who are in danger of departing this great earth?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mint.Com - A (glowing) review

Warning: No Poker Content

After reading a great article about finance-aggregator Mint.Com on Lifehacker, I was convinced to give it a go. I've been notoriously poor with money management in my life. Not poor in my spending or saving habits, per se, just poor at keeping track of it all. A loooong time ago, I used Quicken to do this for me. But that only lasted a few months because of the enormous workload it took to manually enter EVERY single transaction that I did on all my different accounts. As the internet took hold, things got a bit easier, but it was still mostly a cut-and-paste affair with most software.

Now that we are in the age where every financial entity in existence has a web site you can log into to check your balances and activity, it only makes sense for a meta-site like Mint to come along and make our lives easier. There is a downside, you have to give all of your logins and passwords to a single portal, but I'll address that in a second.

First of all, why do you need to do this? Simply, because it's the easiest thing you'll ever do and the wealth of information you get in return is invaluable. After a fast process (10 minutes tops) of entering your login/passwords to all your different financial sites, you are done. Incidentally, I didn't realize how many different financial accounts I had! The total number came to 9, which is probably on the low end for most people, but seemed like a lot to me. My accounts consist of:

1. Citibank Checking Account
2. Citibank Savings Account
3. Citibank 7-month CD
4. Bank Of Internet Checking Account
5. Bank Of Internet Savings Account
6. American Express Green Card
7. Citibank Mastercard
8. Citibank Student Loan
9. Scottrade IRA account

Whew, that's a lot of financial information flowing back and forth. They also do mortgage accounts, car loans, personal loans and just about anything else you can think of. To aggregate all of that by hand (something my Dad still does every week) would take hours. Once you've entered just your login/passwords, Mint does it all instantaneously. But that's just the start. You get an opening dashboard with a snapshot of your entire portfolio, including a Net Worth number of Assets-Debts. Pretty charts and graphs tell you where everything is going. All of your expenses (credit card charges, bank checks, etc...) get an automatic categorization based on the vendor. Tagging uncategorized charges is a snap and you can even custom tag your stuff in addition to applying multiple tags to the same charge. This is important if, say, you take a client out to dinner. You can tag it as 'Restaurant' and 'Tax Deductible'. So you can then get a breakout in both categories, great for end of year reporting.

Also, Mint has built in customized alerts available. For instance, when a transaction over a certain dollar threshold hits your account, you can get a text message or email alert instantly. This allays some of the security concerns people may have because you'll be alerted right away about funny business, something even your Credit Cards won't always do. There are also easy budgeting tools that allow you to set a dollar threshold for a particular category and it will show up on your web page as a chart. For instance, if I allow $400 for groceries, every time I buy in the 'Grocery' category, the line will inch up until it hits that dollar amount, after which I'll get, you guessed it, an alert. Alerts will show up on the website, and/or on the mobile phone web app that Mint has (Bless the iPhone).

So, for a single 10 minutes of work, which I do every day anyway, all my financial information is in one place on one site and actually useful to me. Plus it's very very pretty. Web 2.0 at it's finest with lots of slice and dicing tools.

Check it out and get a handle on your financial picture.

I'm 37, I'm not OLD!

Today is my birthday. Other than this blogpost and the unseemly begging for gifts I do every year, I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on it. It's not a 'momentous' day for me, though I must say I'm happy I'm not dead yet.

Birthdays are a good time to take stock of your life, and I've been doing that, but I really don't have a lot to complain about. I've bounced back from so much adversity in my life lately, and been gifted so richly n return, that I don't think it's fair to complain about the small things.

I will take the liberty to complain about one thing, though. My nose sucks. I can't breath at all through my left nostril. If you want to know how I feel, tape down your left nostril and leave it like that, forever. Tough to take a deep breath without using your mouth, isn't it? I've got revision Septoplasty surgery scheduled for Sept. 23rd, so I'm hoping that clears things up.

In short, I can't breathe well and I don't sleep well as a consequence, but I have a nice new job, a wonderful and progressing relationship with a goddess of a girlfriend and I live in what most human beings would consider luxury in the greatest city in the world.

Happy Birthday to me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

LJ's cousin needs your help!

Have a heart. She'd do the same for you.

UPDATE: CK has some deets of how you can help and it won't cost you a penny.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why does this not exist?

Do you realize there is no RSS feed for TV listings? Wouldn't that just be incredibly useful? I check my RSS aggregator (currently Bloglines but moving over to Google Reader) about 15 times a day. It would be nice if there was a way to customize an RSS feed that would, perhaps, update 3 times a day, with the listings of specific channels I select. Or maybe even alert me when a particular show or movie is being shown? How nice would it be if I could just say, "Send me an alert when any channel is going to broadcast something with the word 'Blues' in it". Or, "Send me an alert when 'The Ten Commandments' is being shown. Etc...

I suspect there is nothing like this because TV listings are intellectual property, or some such nonsense. You'd think TVGuide.Com would jump all over this, wouldn't you?

Birthday reminder

This Wed., August 12th, is my 37th birthday. Unlike some bloggers I won't name (but will happily link to), I'm not vain about my age.

But like those same bloggers that blogger, I am eerily greedy. It's a side effect of my childhood growing up without toys (TRUE STORY!!!!).

So please, find it in your heart to make liberal use of my Amazon Wish List. I will love you forever and think of you fondly and even pray to your god for you.

Hey Mom! Look What I Can Do!

Instead of writing Ac for the Ace of Clubs:


OMG! Thanks to Memphis Mojo for teaching me this very elusive technique.

And no, I won't teach you. Unless you email me directly for instructions.

Upgrading the image of poker players everywhere...

Holy crap! The founder of PokerListings.Com was found shot to death in his home in Sweden. SWEDEN! And it was a mob-style hit. How on earth could someone involved in the poker industry be connected to the mob?!?

Oh, right...

Chasing Foxwoods Around the Cape

I spent the weekend in Cape Cod (Falmouth, MA to be precise) with Ali and her family. It was pretty close to idyllic. Ali's family has rented the same house 200 feet from the beach for the past 20 years. The beaches on the Cape are not like the beaches of South Florida or even Long Island that I'm used to. They're much narrower (maybe 40 feet wide) with perhaps half of that as real sand and the other half of pebbles and rocks. But this actually has the effect of limiting the number of people who can come onto the beach, which makes for more space available for you and a quieter experience. The weather was cool and comfortable, perfect for New England, and bay across from Martha's Vineyard was buzzing with nautical activity.

I spent the first day lounging on the beach watching the sailboats pass and the ferry's shuttling people to and fro. We had dinner at the Marina that night as Ali's family took me out for my birthday (this coming Wed., August 12th, if you didn't know. Buy me presents using my Amazon wishlist! Pleeaaassseee!!!). When we got back, they surprised me with a collassal MOUND of presents. This family does birthdays the right way. Not like my own family whose idea of birthdays comes from the Quakers (read: a pat on the head). My favorite gifts (pictures coming at a later date) were a silver Tiffany's Megan David (That's a Star of David for you heathens), and a ceramic jar with "Atlantic City Money" painted on the side. Perfect day.

The next day, Ali and I rented bikes and went for 7 mile ride along the ocean, ending at Wood's Hole. It's a very pretty little town, reminiscent of Holland with it's small canals, and we stopped in a bar for the best glass of iced tea I've ever tasted. We biked back along a wooded bike path, to the Falmouth town center. After walking around another insanely picturesque little New England town (I could have died from the 'cute' factor), we stumbled upon a real find. CupCapes of Falmouth. A new artisinal cupcake shop had opened up and Ali and I had the Very Vanilla cupcake as well as the Red Velvet cupcake. BEST. CUPCAKES. EVER.

Better than Buttercup, Crumbs, Magnolia and any others you can think of. Small batches make for better quality, but if this woman could find a way to quintuple her production (she makes 100 dozen a day) and keep the same taste, she'd put those other bakeries out of business in New York. It was that good.

Dinner that night was a plate of delicious fried clams and oysters for me, on a rooftop little eatery overlooking the harbor entrance. Very cozy. Later that night, after a trying experience at the AT&T store trying to transfer Ali's cell number onto my account, we saw the movie Julie and Julia. Meh. See it for Meryl Streep's crazy good performace as Julia Child.

Which brings me to the poker part of this story. I woke up at 6AM on our very uncomfortable twin bed, and decided that I was going to leave early. Ali was staying behind with her family for the week and I had to get back to New York for work on Monday. Falmouth was having it's annual road race that Sunday, which meant the roads were going to be closed at 9AM and reopened at 1PM. But the clouds were rolling in and I didn't feel like sitting in the house until I could leave. Not to mention the large traffic jams that awaited me if all the road racers left at the same time. So I had a nice early morning walk on the beach with Ali and then packed my things and left.

Two hours later, I made it to Foxwoods. You knew I was going there, right? I mean, I haven't made an official visit for my quest yet and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. So I parked at the first available entrance, which was the new MGM Grand casino. Big mistake. The poker room is at the Rainmaker Casino, a full 17 minute walk away. Meh. Note to all my readers: Park at the Rainmaker entrance if you're there to play poker. I walked through the MAMMOTH casino (biggest in the world) and make it to the large poker room.

A lot of people have issues with this poker room and the biggest complaint I hear from them is that it's dark. I can see why they say that, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be. My personal biggest complaint is that the room is laid out poorly. And that could be because the space is clearly not designed as a poker room. It sits underneath the casino floor on the ground level and was just a large empty space they could fit poker tables into. It's more like the space was 'designated' a room, rather than a room being built. It's functional, but not particularly conducive to good poker. On the plus side, it's big and there are lots of people. The brush desk needs a little work and the staff isn't really competent, but it's not that bad of a room overall.

I wanted to play 1-2 NLHE, but when I saw a list of interest for 4-8 Omaha Hi/Lo, I couldn't help myself. The list filled quickly and they eventually got the main game going at 11:15a. At it's peak, they had TWO must-move tables into the main game. The game played very passively, believe it or not, and I was surprised to see a lot of familiar faces from the 5-10 TAJ game in Atlantic City! Why are these people traveling this far? Usually, people either go to Foxwoods or go to Atlantic City, not both. Anyhow, the play was awful and predictable. There were maybe two good players at the table and the dead stacks lost their money at a comfortable rate. I would have made a nice profit on the session were it not for one hand in particular.

I have 4-4-2-5 on the button. A middling hand, but the wheel possibilities and the position allow me to come into the hand. It limps around with about 7 callers and then then BB, an older gentlemen who talks non-stop and clearly wants to be table captain, throws in a raise. He's an aggressive player, but one of the few who know what they're doing, so I immediately assume AA2X suited. Everyone calls and I call as well. I have an awful hand if I'm facing AA2, but I'm getting something like 15-1 to make the call, so I do. Flop is 4-4-3. Gin! I flop quads in position. The BB leads out by throwing up his bet in an arc until it lands on the table. His demeanor is still showing AA2 to me. Maybe even AA25. I'd be pretty happy with my hand too if I had AA25 in this spot! He gets a couple of callers. I decide to sit on my quads for a while and call. In my head, I say to myself (I really said this), "Please don't put the 2 on board". Turn card: 2. NOOOOOOO! The board is showing an Open Ended Straight Flush. I'm beaten by A-5 or 5-6. When BB bets out again, I just call. There are two other players in, but they're insignificant except for the money they're contributing. The river is a brick, maybe a low card. BB bets out again, gets one caller and it comes to me. At this point, I decide that BB might just have nut low and nut flush or even just nut low. There are enough possibilities that I might be ahead on the high that I put a raise in for value. He re-raises. Shit balls. The other guy calls and I call and audibly sigh.

"Ok," I say, "I call. You win."
"Can you see through my cards?," he asks, showing me just the 5.
"Yes," I say, "you have the Ace of clubs underneath".

He opens his hand to show the A and officially scoops the pot (other player was in with 6-4 low! Lol!). So, if you're keeping track at home, he hit a one outer to scoop me. Grrrr...

Incidentally, I played about 6 hours of Omaha during this session during which I won and lost but didn't see a single instance of either quads OR a straight flush the entire session. The only single instance of quads and a straight flush were in the same hand. Sick, sick, sick.

Not much else to report on the game. Lots of donkey calls. Lots of value betting on my part. I even value bet with nothing more than a pair of Kings, because I knew the guy was going low the whole time. He missed, I scooped. I was about even on the session, down a touch because of the quads hands, but had a good time booking the visit on my list. Next Weekend, Mohegan Sun with PP and Christine.

Mojo funny

"Do you have the nuts?" asked a man who had called all the way to the river.

The woman who had been betting said, with a straight face, "No, but I've got the breasts," as she turned over the nuts.

-From Memphis Mojo's blog

Thursday, August 6, 2009

You mess with the bull

You get the horns

John Hughes, director of The Breakfast Club (*the* seminal 80's movie in my opinion), and Home Alone, is dead at 59.

Seriously, The Breakfast Club, was the prefect generational movie. It was to Generation X what Easy Rider was to the Boomers. And let's not forget Sixteen Candles, National Lampoon's Vacation, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Home Alone (All written and/or directed by Mr. Hughes.

For a guy not in my generation, he had our voice down to a 'T'.

Mixed Game in Midtown

I played in Matty Eb's mixed rotation game last night and had a great time. The games were Omaha Hi/Lo, 7-Stud Hi-Lo and 2-7 Triple Draw. The rake was an extremely reasonable $5/hr plus $1 out of every pot. I bought in for $200 and cashed out a few hours later at $285. I peaked at +$170 an hour before that, but managed to lose a big pot in 2-7 Triple Draw towards the end of the night.

I had been dealt 7623X and it took me two draws to make 87623. When the guy in the SB led out after the second draw and got one caller, I raised it on the button and got a call from both players. I was gratified that not only hadn't I been re-raised, but both players drew on the 3rd draw! This time, the SB led out again and I was forced to make the call after standing pat. He made an 8-6 low to beat my 8-7. His cards were 8-6-5-4-3. I asked him which card he had drawn and he said the six. I had a six and a deuce (his only outs to beat me) in my hand, so it was a slim draw. But hey, that's the game. Matty actually had the best 'draw' of the night in 2-7 Triple Draw when he took down a big pot late by being dealt THE NUTS (7-5-4-3-2). Wow. I wasn't in the hand, thankfully, but it seems there was so much chatter and banter at the table that nobody noticed that Matt had stood pat on every round! Lol.

My best play of the night came during a Stud/8 round. I had been bantering a little bit with Leo, who was multi-tabling by playing in the game and also playing a tournament online! Big Paul was doing the same thing, and while I feel for their wanting to cash in an FTOPS event, it did slow an already slow game down some. But since it's a rare event, I bit my tongue. I'd rather have them at the table. I would say that their distraction was good for my bankroll, but Big Paul predicatably doubled his $300 buyin. That guy is a huge horseshoe. So sick. Ok, back to my story. I was bantering with Leo about how draw heavy these games tend to be. And then I mentioned how I rarely raise without the nuts because the fear of getting counterfeited or outdrawn is so great when everybody tends to stay in. That comment was setting the stage. I didn't think I was giving up any information, because the only guy who ever folds to my raises is Matty Ebs, having played with me for so long. The other players just stay in for their draws, regardless of my table image.

So knowing this, and keeping the conversation with Leo in mind, I had a Stud/8 hand in which two players were going low and I, who *had* been going low, made a pair of Kings on 5th street. Logic says I can bet here, except I wanted to keep a small pot because I don't like to bet just a high pair against two players going low because the odds of one of them making a small two pair are big. I like to have two pair myself before I feel comfortable. Or at least another draw to go with it. In this case, I had bupkus, just the Kings. So when I *checked* my Kings, Matty shouted out, "Jamie, you're so predictable!". He was being jokey and amiable, but that statement would bit him in the ass one hand later.

I took the high with my Kings and was dealt 8(A-A) on my next hand. I raised, of course, and got a few callers. 4th street gave me the 9
. Matty was showing 7-T(X-X). So when he led out on 4th street, I looked at his board and assumed the 7 had given him trips. I made a stupid call, hoping he only had Tens and 7's and I could outdraw him with my hidden Aces. The only other person who was in at this point was Big Paul, who has two low cards showing and was check-calling every bet, indicating he was going low. 5th street gave Matty J for board of J-7-T(X-X). I got the T for a board of T-9-8(A-A). Matty seeing my 5th street, let out a "You're kidding me!". He had given away his hand by "crumbing the play" as they say. By expressing his frustration at what looked like a flush on my board, he had told me that his hand was actually a straight! So when Matty bet out and Big Paul called, I decided to RAISE! I knew Matty thought of me as a bit of a nit (and I am, who am I kidding?), so if I represented the flush, I knew he was a good enough player to fold. Indeed, when it got back to him, he folded and showed his 5 card monster straight to the players out of the hand, patting himself on the back quite hard.

Which made it even sweeter to show him my unimproved Aces to take the high half of the pot on showdown.

God I love this game.

We had a good laugh about it, but I know Matty won't make the same mistake again, to me or anyone else. Perils of being table captain, I guess. You end up being chatty and maybe a little *too* chatty. Matty ran a great game and I'm looking forward to getting back there soon.

Life of a Poker Pro

The money blog, Budgets Are Sexy, has a new post up about the 'life of a poker pro'. Not much new in this post that I haven't heard before, but there is an interesting crystallization of the dangers of forgetting how valuable money is. His point is that if you make $80,000 a year at poker, you're likely making swings of $1000 to $5000 a day at the tables. At that level, $100 is a pre-flop bet. But when you get out into the 'real world', you have to now think of that $100 in the same way as people who make $80,000 a year (not the most princely sum) think of it. The same money that was insignificant at the table, is now entirely significant. Well put.