Monday, November 23, 2009

Funeral and Shiva arrangments

Mom will be interred at New Montefiore Cemetery, in West Bablyon, Long Island, on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 10:30am. Those wishing to attend are asked to arrive by 10:15am at the office inside the cemetery where we will gather and then proceed to the graveside for the service.

The family will be sitting shiva immediately following the service, and all day Thursday and Friday (until sundown), at my brother Eric's home. The address is 79 Prospect Avenue South, Lynbrook, NY 11563.

We will also sit shiva at my Aunt's home on Saturday (after sundown). Her address is 409 Madeira Blvd., Melville, NY 11747. She lives in a development called The Greens.

All who would like to attend are welcome. Please call me on my cell phone, day or night, if you have any questions. The number is 917 912 4452.

Thank you all, most sincerely, for the outpouring of love, support and empathy I've received in the last 48 hours. Your kindness is most welcome and a necessary part of the support mechanism keeping me and my family moving forward.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Heartache and Loss

My mom passed away early this morning, just after midnight. After 2+ weeks of fighting bravely against pneumonia brought on by chemotherapy, her frail body simply gave out. My grief is tempered by the remembrance of her wonderful life and the knowledge that her legacy of loyalty, tenacity and family won't soon be forgotten. She was a special woman to the many that loved and admired her and I will cry tears in the coming weeks not just for my own loss, but for the world's.

Thanks to all of you who have sent me messages of love and compassion in the past few weeks. Your support has been invaluable to me.

This is my favorite picture of me and my mom together and captures in a single frame what I would spend a lifetime trying to put into words:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chart of Degeneracy

I've been thinking lately about how people fall into the spectrum of gambling and gaming. I've come to categorize these people in this way:

(In order of degeneracy, from least to worst)

1. The Teetotaler - These are folks who, for reasons religious or moral, absolutely refuse to participate in gambling activities of any kind. They believe that any form of gambling is sinful or leads to such moral ruin that they feel compelled to warn you against it every chance they get. They also believe that anything involving chance is 'gambling' and don't make distinctions between games of luck or games of skill. If there's money on the line, it's gambling pure and simple and in their eyes, bad. My parents, and many other people I know, fall into this category.

2. The Scientist - People who refrain from gambling because the math doesn't work out in their favor. This person knows the odds of every scenario you can face in games of chance and, almost never having an edge, will abstain. Blackjack, Craps, Roulette and such are anathema to the Scientist. But games of skill, he is more likely to partake in. Games like Chess or Backgammon, where each move is known to each player and skill is the predominant factor are his pursuits whenever he wants to risk his hard-earned paycheck. The Scientist, however, is more interested in the intellectual pursuit of these games of skill, makign the most perfect play possible, and is far less interested in the money aspect. As such, the Scientist usually wagers little or nothing and is content to play for his personal advancement.

3. The Hobbyist - Also known as The Gamer. This person loves games of any sort and he's knowledgable enough to know when skill trumps luck. The Hobbyist tries to learn as much about a game before risking his money and tries to get it in with the best of it at all times. However, common sense dictates the this person isn't going to do this for a living and usually risks low to moderate amounts on each wager. This aversion to risk prevents the Hobbyist from losing a lot but also prevents him from winning a lot. The Hobbyist plays mostly for fun, rather than money, and doesn't harbor hopes of giving up his day job. He has the tools to be a great player but not the drive or the appetite for risk that would be required.

4. The Professional - The Professional risk taker is an expert at games of skill and will ruthlessly maximize his advantage whenever possible. Wagering large amounts of money is not out of the question for the pro, but he will only do so knowing he has the best of it. He can make a living at 'gambling' because he understands that Math never lies and he'll profit in the long run as long as there enough suckers to take the losing end of his propositions. He has the bankroll, the vision and the calm nerves to succceed. The Professional has the best mix of degeneracy and self-control in this whole group.

5. The Gambler - A Gambler is one who knows a lot about the games they're playing and even excels at games of skill. But the Gambler has an impulse that will drive him to take larger risks than is called for, albeit sometimes calculated and sometimes not. Even getting the worst of it, and knowing it, the Gambler will risk moderate to large amounts of money. The Gambler's variance is higher than the Hobbyist and it's always hard to know where his bankroll is at. He's a wild player and unpredictable which makes him a most dangerous opponent.

6. The Degenerate - This person is consistently risking large amounts on losing propositions. As such, he may have lost his relationships, his assets and his job because of his passion. The thrill of the chase is what propels him and his winning or his losing are largely irrelevant. He's not propelled by rational thought but he's predictable in the way he tosses good money after bad.

Most of the poker players I know fall between the Hobbyist and the Professional. I consider myself to be somewhere in between, probably leaning toward the Hobbyist side as my appetite for risk is rather low. The Backgammon players I play with are mostly of the Gambler type, though some are Degenerates, taking nearly any cube, no matter how dire his situation.

Somewhere in this list is a a formula that can be derived taking into account factors of skill, risk aversion, bankroll and nerves to place a person here, but I haven't quite worked it out yet.

New pursuits

As my mind hasn't been on poker much, I've only been dicking around a bit online. At the moment, I'm not running particularly well and I've been card dead in my last two tournaments of Omaha. But it's only a distraction. I've tried to shift things up a bit by playing more Backgammon, which is growing more fascinating to me by the day. It helps that not 200 feet from my front door is an active community of Backgammon players that play daily, Monday through Friday, in the community lounge at 60 Wall Street. The group, comprising about 30 regulars and an odd assortment of floaters, such as myself, play money games of Backgammon and Chess. The guy who runs the games, whose name I'd rather not mention, has been really nice to me, introducing me to the players and talking strategy with me every chance we get. He's also an avid poker player, so there's lots of talk about that as well.

The players themselves are perfectly nice people, once you get to know them, though they're pretty crusty and ornery. These people are gamblers, pure and simple, but that's not necessarily the worst thing in the world. Some of them are pure degenerates and others are highly intelligent people who are deeply involved in their games of choice, arguing minutatie of strategy and studying the literature.

I've been doing a little bit of studying myself to try and bone up on my Backgammon game and at least start to be competitive with these Jackals. For those of you who don't know, Backgammon is a skill game. Period. It looks like luck plays a factor, and it does, but just like Poker, it's the skilled player who wins out in the long run. After starting to play these guys for $5/point, and losing with great frequency, I now play for $3 a point. I've been memorizing the standard opening plays and trying to develop my understanding of the different types of games (running, blocking, gammon, etc...) to adapt to the different rolls of the dice. Playing speed chess with these guys is out of my league, but I believe I can improve myself enough in Backgammon to make it a worthwhile pursuit.

Already, with just a few weeks of training (concurrently with good books and with GnuBackgammon open source software), I've built up my game enough to bring my win rate up significantly. I'm still a losing player against these guys who play every single day for hours a day, but I'm winning enough to boost my confidence. The key is in the doubling cube. Knowing when to double your bet, when to take your opponent's double and when to give it up, is crucial in winning points. The other day, I had taken a double when I thought I was only moderately behind early in the game. Twelve rolls later, I had seized a significant advantage, making a five point prime with three builders on points 4 through 8 on my board and having two of his runners on my inner board. All of my runners were safe and I was threatining a six prime. Foolishly, I doubled and he immediately declined. An onlooker admonished me by saying, "bad cube", and he was right. I had such an overwhelming advantage that playing for the gammon was the proper play. These are the things I'm learning by playing more experienced players and what excites me about the game. There are lessons to be learned and, just like in poker, knowing when to cube (roughly equivalent to bet sizing in poker) is a large part of it.

If there is a poker analogy here, and there is, it's like learning how to play Limit Hold'em by playing $.25/$.50 stakes against players who normally play $25/$50 and having them critique your play as you play! Basically, I'm getting a very very cheap education in how to play the game properly. In time, I'll play as well as them and maybe even overtake them. This will allow me to be at least a break-even player against these guys, but a monstrous favorite against your average man-off-the-street.

Just gotta grind it out...


I haven't blogged in a while, or played much for that matter. My mind's been on other things, like my family. My mom is in the hospital in Florida, having contracted pneumonia from a compromised immune system due to chemotherapy administered for the treatment of lymphoma. Yeah, it's a mouthful, but the bottom line is she's in pretty bad shape. I'm going down to Florida tonight to be with my Father. This will be my second trip down there in less than two weeks. Thankfully, my mother is stable, but still critical and breathing with the aid of a respirator. I'm hoping the coming days will see more steady improvement on her antibiotic treatment regimen. All I can do now is pray and help my brothers hold us together during this trying time.

If you've got a healthy mom, now would be the time to call her up and tell her you love her. It's a gift.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday morning managing

The Yanks won, and I'm pretty happy about it. It's always good to see New York City up on the top of the heap where it belongs, even if it's not my beloved Mets. And let me be clear about this AGAIN, I am a fan of New York City. That means I am a fan of any of the New York Teams. My allegiance lies with the Jets, Knicks, Mets and Islanders but that doesn't mean I won't be happy for the Giants, Nets, Yankees or Rangers.

Which leads me to the reason for my post, and that's to question Joe Girardi on a small point. In the 7th inning of last night's World Series Game 6, reliever Joba Chamberlain was in a sticky spot. He had just given up two baserunners (a hit and a walk? Two walks? I don't remember), with two outs and the lefty Chase Utley was coming up to the plate. At this point, the Yankees were up 7-3, but a home run by Utley makes it a one run ball game and would have demoralized the Yanks to the point where I think they would have ended up losing. Even a long double would give the Phillies a decent shot of catching up.

So Girardi wisely chose to pull Chamberlain, who was waning and is a righty, and bring in fresh blood in the form of lefty Damaso Marte. Marte ended up making the biggest strikeout of his career by shutting down Utley who, incidentally, could very well have been voted MVP of the series even though his team didn't win.

So far, all well and good. Girardi even left Marte in to start the 8th inning and he struck out the first batter. Then, Girardi made what I believe was a mistake. Granted, it all worked out in the end, but I believe it was a mistake none-the-less. In poker terms, the mistake is on par with betting the river with bottom pair when it's been checked to you. Yes, you may win, but your opponent could raise and then you will be forced to throw away your hand (ok, that's a stretched analogy, I know).

So what was the mistake? Girardi brought in Mariano Rivera to close out the game. But you're saying to yourself, "Rivera is the best closer in baseball history! Why wouldn't Girardi want to put him in? Especially as he's a righty and the second batter was right handed."

Well, here's the thing. With the Yankees up by 4 runs, there was a comfortable enough lead for Marte, who was pitching spectacularly, to finish out the 8th inning. Then you can bring Rivera in to close the 9th. The danger is that if Rivera starts giving up runs in the 8th and the 9th, who do you have to go to? If you have to pull out Rivera because he blows the lead, who else is left on the bench?!? Gaudin? Or do you have C.C. Sabathia warm up and take over, in which case, who're you going to use to start Game 7 if needed? AND, if Rivers blows the save, he probably will have pitched out his arm enough to make him vulnerable for Game 7 being played the next day!

So that's my gripe. I think Girardi brought in Rivera too early with Marte pitching so nicely and introduced a risk that wasn't necessary. It turned out fine, though. I guess he won his 55/45 flip (another poker analogy, FTW!).

What do you think?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shockingly Obvious

Two posts ago, I posted an innocuous hand where I was playing in a $1.20 PL Omaha/8 tourney and got busted on a ridiculous two-outer. Nothing to write home about, normally, but I got two Anonymous comments that were troubling. At 3:24am, some tool decides to write:

"lol. you are a fucking fish"


"you are -ev in any game you play--ring or tournament"

The identity of this waste of human life is irrelevant, and normally I don't respond to such inanity. But in this instance, I felt the need to retort so here goes:

1. I am not a poker pro. I do not make my living from poker. I do not choose to make my living from poker. This is why I am playing in a $1.20 buy-in tournament. I make an excellent living from my primary profession, thank you very much, and I have no desire to give that up so I can play all night, sleep all day and pretend that I'm 22 again.

2. I am an online fish. This is something I've posted about many times before. I have an online leak of massive proportions, yet another reason I don't play for higher stakes online. For this reason, I keep my online play to small stakes so I can kill time, enjoy myself, and maybe try out new strategies. I could care less what my EV is online. More importantly, I could care less what *YOU* think of my EV online, or live for that matter. I don't play to impress you.

3. Poker is a *hobby*, not my life. I do not derive my self-esteem from my poker skills. This is why you won't find me skulking around other people's poker blogs anonymously, dropping insults with no constructive feedback. People who do that are douchebags, yourself included. There are a ton of great poker bloggers I know who form a meaningful community of players and helpfully criticize each other's play in an effort to improve themselves and others. You are not one of these fine specimens. You are a dick.

I've now disallowed Anonymous commenting for this blog. I may still receive screeds from Heywood Jablome and Hugh Jazz, but that should cut down on the stupidity factor a bit.