The Bank of Me: The June Poker Report

2 June 2006

(Editor’s Note: It’s come to my attention that these little parenthetical asides of mine can be hard to read [because they take you further {and further} away from the sentence’s main point]. They’re made up mostly of extensions or explanations, and they aren’t that important and/or essential to the sentence’s main point [mostly, it’s just me being a goof {a complete goof}], so feel free to skip them [because I won’t mind at all {not even a little bit}].)

(Additional Editor’s Note: Next time, we’ll cover my use of the parenthetical aside in combination with a semi-colon used to link two independent clauses, thus making the parenthetical aside even harder to decode; God, I love semi-colons.)

How’d I Go Broke?: It's pretty amazing what one can get used to. There was a time when calling a $5 bet without the nut hand (the best possible hand that can be made from the cards on the board) involved a lot of analysis. Nowadays, if one's made a good hand at our table and is in a showdown, the tendency is to call because so much money's gone into the pot that another $5 isn't really all that much.

Do that often enough and lose, however, and your stacks will get eaten up. Next thing you know, you look down and think to yourself, "Where the hell did all my chips go?"

Old School: I used to deal a lot of Omaha, at the old limits and then at the new ones. The trouble was that I was at the ass-end of a lot of seemingly random beats. Why? Because people were calling my pre-flop bets with junk hands and then getting big pieces of the flop and then their cards would hold up when my own cards never came.

Still, Omaha leads to big pots, and big pots are what you want if you think that you're a rock solid player and can out-maneuver the other players at the table. But, again, I was getting way too many calls of my early bets and there'd be more people in at the flop than I wanted; somebody was bound to catch, and there I'd be, with my busted hand, trailing somebody who hit two pair with a "three" and a "five." Yeah, that actually happened, and the other two cards that this person was holding weren't that good, either.

But I love Omaha because there's going to be a lot of math involved and I'm kind of a math geek, but having a decent analytical mind doesn't really matter if people will just randomly call any pre-flop bet.

(I know what you're thinking: Isn't randomization a part of poker? Yes, it is, but what you're trying for is seeming randomness as a way to disguise the times that you do have a good hand or as a way to appear to be playing loosely when you are only really pretending to be doing so.)

I've recently decided to go back to dealing a lot of Hold 'Em. The pots aren't as big. The math isn't as hard. But people will be less likely play junk hands because there won't be that many cards that can help them. The money will move more slowly, but solid play should still mean profitable nights at the table.

Not tonight, though. The starter hands that I was getting were hardly ever that strong, or I wouldn't get much help from the board. I did much post-flop folding when the flop missed me, or called in the hopes that whatever hand I had made would be good enough to win at the end. Most of the time, it wasn't.

Still, though, the dealing-mostly-Hold 'Em strategy seems sound to me because, over time, those who make bad calls at the front end will pay out at the back end. I just have to be patient.

I Despise Wasting Time: If something's supposed to go down at a certain time, let's say 9:30 p.m., and one's presence is required (let's say because one needs at least four players to start a decent game and you're the fourth player) for the thing to actually start to go down, then it is incomprehensible and frustrating to see that person show up two hours late. How can a person make others wait around for two hours? How can one arrive without explanation or apology? How can a person be so fucking selfish? Apparently, it's easy.

Bad manners bother the hell out of me, so just on those grounds, this lack of consideration and apology pissed me off. What makes this type of bullshit even more upsetting is the fact that I could have been writing or reading during all of that wasted time.

My life's pretty busy, so I try as much as I can to not waste time because it's not like I have all of these extra hours that I can spend screwing around. I sometimes find myself counting seconds that I'm losing at an intersection (one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three…) because one of the cars in front of me didn't make a quick enough move when the light turned green. I'm always trying to find the quickest route between two points because I get pretty excited if I can save a minute here or there; think about it: you add up all of those minutes, and you might get a few more hours of writing and reading time during a given year. I also try to make all my daily activities as efficient as possible. Everything in my life's thought out in order to maximize useful minutes. Losing two hours, then, is never going to be cool.

Not Till It's Done: Because of the late arrival, we didn't actually get the game up and running until 11:30 p.m. My usual ending-time for our game is at 1:45 a.m., but this would have meant that I only would have played for a little over two hours, which was another reason that I wasn't too happy. Nobody else seemed too happy, either, so we kept playing past that time. I do, however, have a Saturday gig that I have to get to by 7:45 a.m., so I really couldn’t stick around much past the usual end time.

The problem was that I was getting my ass beat pretty badly, and I didn't want to be one of those cowards who leaves while he's losing, you know, because he wants to stop the losing by getting the hell out of the game. I'll lose every last dollar that I have in front of me before I'll leave the game, even if it means staying up much later than is reasonable and/or safe. (I'm not kidding about the "safe" thing; after the game, I have a long-ass drive that I have to make after a stressful day at work and many hours of poker and after being awake for eighteen hours, and I sometimes have to really fight to keep myself focused for the long drive to the town where I both work and live during the week; don't worry, these are country roads, and it's almost always just me out there).

I had the most reason to leave (work), but there's no way that I'll be the one to break up the game, even if I'm pouring money. Finally, the other players decide that we should quit at 4:00 a.m. It was around 3:30 a.m. when they decided this, so I had said that we should just keep playing until morning because it wouldn't make much sense for me to go home to sleep when I'd have to be up two hours later, but the other guys vetoed my idea. Still, I hung in until the end.

Sideways: Even though I was truly pissed off the whole night (as upset as I've ever been at a poker table), I don't think that I played at all badly. I attacked when I thought that I should be leading or smooth-called when there was a good-to-great chance that I was. There wasn't one time at a showdown where I thought to myself that I had screwed up by being in the hand and making the calls and bets that I had.

The cards, however, were unkind. I lost many showdowns where my full house lost to a bigger full house, or where my straight barely lost to somebody else's straight. I also lost some flush battles.

It was the worst poker night of my life, at least in terms of how much I lost. How much did I lose? $190.50. That's ten dollars more than I lost that one time that I was really, really sick and played when I shouldn't have.

Truth be told, the part of my game that broke down was my reading of the other players: the betting and calling patterns, how they moved their chips into the pot, how they glanced back and forth between their hole cards and the board, their overall body language, even the sounds of their voices as they made plays; I just couldn't get my mind around the late arrival of one of the players; the more that I thought about it, the more incomprehensible (and, thus, dispiriting [yeah, I'm easily dispirited; I probably need to work on that]) it became to me, which meant that I had to keep thinking about it, if that makes any sense

My Chair Is Surprisingly Comfortable: The game breaks up at four, and I get to my weekday crib fifty minutes later. Even though I'm exhausted, there's no way that I'm lying down; I'm actually worried about sleeping right through my alarm clock. I had thought about staying up all night and reading on-line about Game 6 between the Heat and the Pistons, but I wasn't "for sure" on my actually being able to comprehend whatever the hell it was that I would be reading.

Much like Hillary Clinton, I looked for a "third way." What'd I come up with? I rolled my bomb-ass office chair over by my alarm clock, changed into some fresh clothes, put my feet up on my bed, didn't put in my ear plugs (I'm a light sleeper; if I even dream of the sound of a small cotton ball landing on a second, smaller cotton ball, I wake up), and took my first ever planned office-chair nap. It was okay, but, for some reason, my arms completely fell asleep. That was weird.

It Was Bad: As I stated previously, I lost $190.50 (my worst night ever, poker-wise), almost a third of my YTD Total. The won-loss’s dropped to 15-9 and the YTD Total’s down to +$450.75.

My Dynamite Pills: How am I getting by this morning on a little over two hours of sleep? Right now, I'm completely hopped up on caffeine pills and Mountain Dew, the drink of champions. Also, I will later be partaking of a Pay Day, the candy bar of champions, so that I can layer a sugar buzz on top of the caffeine buzz. It's a good little life that I've got going here.

11 June 2006

I Miss Jesse:
I’ve been doing some intensive data mining of my poker log to figure out why it’s all of a sudden gone sideways for me. Some of that data mining involves complicated math and sophisticated teasing out of trends and patterns.

Sometimes, though, it’s pretty easy to find a pattern. For instance, on my two worst nights of the year, when I lost $150 and $190, Jesse wasn’t at the game. Jesse’s not there equals I lost a ton of money. Jesse’s there and I either make money or lose a small amount.

Well, tonight, Jesse wasn’t there at the start of the game and I was down $75 in the first forty-five minutes.

How Embarrassing for Me: I’m holding pocket jacks. Not bad. One of the premium starter hands. When it comes to me, I decide to slow-play it and not go on the attack. The flop comes J-J-8. Son of a bitch, I’ve just flopped four of a kind. Unless the board hits runner runner queens or kings or aces and a player is holding a pair of the aforementioned pairs, I’m unbeatable.

I could continue to slow play this to the end and hope that somebody makes a decent hand with which he’ll bet. I’ve got nothing to lose this way, especially since any sizeable bet on my part will probably draw folds because I’ll be put on holding just one jack, which would already make me almost unbeatable. But I want to get some money into the pot. I bet a dollar. What happens? Everybody folds.

Four of a kind, and I make almost no money on it. I’m so proud of myself.

Jesse, v 2.0: Like I said, I tend to do better when Jesse’s around. His style of play just seems to pay me off more often than not. You can be sure that I was happy as hell when he cruised on in a few hours after the game had started. I figured that my turnaround was imminent.

The turnaround never came. It seems that the changes that Jesse has started to make to his game are now complete. No more random pre-flop bets. And now, instead of betting it up every single time that he has a good hand, he’ll check it down and then check-raise if there’s a bet ahead of him. This way, he can get even more money into the pot.

It’s always nice when one of your friends finds ways to better himself, but in this case, his betterment is costing me money, so my happiness was tinged with a little bit of sorrow. I know that that’s selfish, and, no, I’m not proud of myself.

The Fig Newtons, Raspberry Flavor, Fat Free: That’s right. Low calorie. Diet. Healthy. I stated previously on this blog that “on principle, I stand against that low-calorie shit,” and I meant it then, and I mean it now. Low-calorie anything is just gonna be unpleasant; there’s no way to get around that.

But I decided that this is the summer that I’m going to get healthy again. Now, Fig Newtons are sort of healthy; it’s right there in the name: Fig. Figs are a type of fruit, so good enough, you’d think.

Not good enough for me. Let’s make those fuckers low-calorie.

I’ve made so many mistakes in my life that when I think about them, it’s a miracle that I can get up in the morning or even look at myself in the mirror. Still, buying low-calorie Raspberry Flavor Fig Newtons is one of the worst mistakes that I have ever made.

The filling was the second-driest supposedly moist thing that I had ever had in my mouth, surpassed in dryness only by the actual cookie (if the raspberry filling was the “fig,” does that mean that the cookie part is the “newton”?). Leave a few bags of these things in the sun (to get rid of the one tiny molecule of moisture contained within each cookie), buy yourself some mortar, get some plans on-line or at your local library, and you could build yourself a nice little barbecue pit.

(Later on, the dryness of the aforementioned components of the Raspberry Flavor Fig Newtons would be surpassed, but we’ll get to that in all due time.)

The Workout: I helped coach wrestling at a local high school in my spare time for three years, but not this last one; work was too much of a soul-stealing/heart-shattering pain, so I couldn’t find the time or the energy or the will to go help out. That meant that I haven't gotten in any workouts in forever.

But as of this summer (which begins now), I’m going to start working out again.

Day One is twenty-five minutes on the weights (I cycle through five sets of a row, a dead lift, a reverse curl, a squat, and a military press; it’s a highly efficient way to work out all of the major muscle groups, and the twenty-five minute time limit insures that I don’t waste time and that I suffer greatly) and then fifteen minutes on the Wavemaster to close it out, going as hard as I can the entire time. Day Two, it’s just twenty-five minutes on the Wavemaster. The third day’s a rest day, and then back to the Day One workout.

The Soy Chips: My health kick is a few days old, but Ivan's has been going for a while. How deep into his new lifestyle is Ivan, poker player deluxe and designer/programmer/host of this here website? He’s all about the soy.

Cool. Me, too, once upon a time, back when I was rolling with a girl who was into the Asian cookery, I was all up on the tofu and I could work miracles with that stuff. Don’t even get me started on my rice cooker skills. When I cooked that rice, it stayed cooked, son.

Being “all about the soy” means that instead of eating the tasty-ass poker snacks that I provide—seven different types of chips, a bowlful of Brach’s, Red Vines, cookies, popcorn, and Pay Days—you bring a bag of barbecue-flavored soy chips. When Ivan tore open the bag, he, classy guy that he is, offered them around the table.

If you’ve ever seen soy chips, they look like mini-rice cakes, and I despise rice cakes. I am of the belief that the inventor of rice cakes should be dug up out of whatever soil he’s poisoned for all time with his accursed remains, brought back to life, and forced to eat only rice cakes for the rest of his unnatural life until he aches for death’s sweet release. At that point, he should be made to eat more rice cakes.

What I’m saying, however subtly, is that I don’t like rice cakes, so these soy chips were suffering from guilt by association. I took a pass on the soy chips. Ivan said, however, that they were pretty good, so, as part of my new healthful-living plan, I decided to give one a try.

I popped it into my mouth and waited. The flavoring was okay (it’s hard to screw up barbecue flavoring), and I said so to Ivan. Then I bit into it. As soon as I did, my mouth went dry. Not because I was frightened or about to be ill. This is gonna be indelicate and I apologize in advance, but that goddamn soy chip sucked all of the saliva right out of my mouth. It was like a sponge. Because I, myself, aspire to be a classy dude, I tried to hide the unpleasantness from Ivan, who eats this kind of stuff on a regular basis, and I didn’t want to make him feel bad about his diet. I guess, however, that Ivan could see that I was in some sort of distress, and he asked me if I was okay. That was when I told him what the soy chip was doing to me. Luckily, he found the whole situation funny, as did the rest of my homies, though, to be honest, I was worried about dying of dehydration. Also, I was pretty sure that the soy chip was trying to steal my soul.

So, in the span of a few hours, I ate the two driest pieces of food, if we’re very loose in how we define “food,” that I've ever put in my mouth.

Happy to Lose: As I stated earlier, I was getting stomped.

Only ten days ago, I’d been up $640 and it was looking like I was heading toward a nice year-end total, but then I got chewed up last Friday for a total of $190.50. That bought the YTD total to $450.75, not great, but still giving me a shot at the total that I want to get to by the end of the year.

But tonight was going badly almost from the start, and when I was at the bottommost level of my losses, -$145, it was looking like I was only going to be up by about $300, if my losses didn’t get worse. That would have been an over 50% loss from my year-high total in just two games.

It was looking bleak. But then I got hot at the end and made a pretty strong comeback. I didn’t get all the way back to even, but I got close. I ended up losing $17.25 and my won-loss record’s gone to hell, 15-10, but I’ve never been happier to lose at a poker table.

16 June 2006

It’s a New Lifestyle, Bitches: I just finished the first week of my new lifestyle—the working out, the healthy eating—and I have much to report.

Low-Fat Mayo: I’m at the grocery store. In front of me, are about twenty different types of mayonnaises. Normally, I’d grab the biggest jar of Best Foods. Ninety calories per tablespoon, and each calorie is full of wonderful deliciousness. I like to take a popsicle stick, dip it into one jar of mayo, pull it out, dip it into a second jar of mayo, and then deep-fry the whole thing. That’s just good livin’.

(You know, I was just trying [but probably failing] to be funny with that mayo bit, but you could totally make deep-fried mayo sticks. This is an advanced bit of cookery, and it involves liquid nitrogen, so it’s probably only going to work in professional kitchens. What you do is take a popsicle stick, dip it in the mayo, then in the liquid nitrogen to set it, then back in the mayo for a second layer [if you want to be fancy, this second dipping can be into a flavored mayo of some sort {but not into something utterly stupid like peach-flavored mayo; have some decency, for God’s sake}], then back in the liquid nitrogen. Now you quickly bread the frozen mayo stick [it’s going to have to be relatively thick breading in order for the product to retain it’s shape during the final step] and then deep-fry that mother. Serve with an acidic dipping sauce of some sort in order to cut the richness. If you adopt this recipe for your restaurant [and I guarantee that you’ll make a fortune], I want them to be called De Luna Sticks; they’ll be my best shot for enduring fame.)

But the consumption of regular mayo is not congruent with trying to not die of a heart attack before I’m forty. It’s the only goal that I have in my shiftless and wasted life, so I’m going to try to meet it.

That means that I’m standing in that fucking aisle trying to decide between low-fat and non-fat mayo. I knew that the non-fat was the healthiest way to go, but the mayo contained within the jar, though it had hardly any calories, quite frankly, scared me. If it didn’t have that many calories, then what the hell was filling up the jar? Also, it looked unpleasant, man, just unpleasant: too white and way too dense, like spackle. Finally, I feared what damage it might do to my delicate taste buds and my even more delicate constitution.

Instead, I purchased the low-fat mayo. A few days later, I tried it. It’s not so bad if you can try to forget what real mayo is like. The trick is to use it as more of a binding agent than as an agent for flavoring and/or richness. (Can you tell by all that fancy lingo that I took a cooking class in college [Asian cooking: I make a killer Ants on the Tree, or oyster beef, and I can kung pao the hell out of anything] or that I worked a summer as the salad dude in the then-finest restaurant in Madtown? Yeah, I walked in on one of the cooks snorting coke in the restaurant [with a rolled-up dollar bill; he kindly offered me a toot, but I graciously declined], and one of the waitresses, Adrianne [the most beautiful waitress whom I have ever seen], completely came on to me [to my great shame, I panicked and temporarily lost the ability to speak; I’m such a coward], but the food was great. I remember that people used to come in on Saturdays just for my made-that-morning potato salad; the key/secret ingredient is a few finely chopped gherkins. That, and love.)

Diet Pepsi: I come from a long line of Pepsi drinkers (one of my nephews prefers Coke, but we embrace difference in our family and we love him anyway), so I was ready to give Diet Pepsi a shot, flavor-wise.

After having consumed this drink for a few days, I think it is safe to say the following: If a soft drink is served in hell, I imagine that it will be Diet Pepsi. Nasty stuff, and you will continue to taste it for the rest of the day after one sip, but I had purchased a case (or whatever you call those thirty-six can boxes), so I don’t really have a choice about switching back to the regular stuff.

He’s the Devil: So I’m doing the health thing now. I’m a week into it, and it hasn’t killed me yet, though the Diet Pepsi tried. I can make this work, I think.

But then Jesse shows up with a box of leftover Yum Yum donuts. I had already told myself that for poker nights all bets were off, health-wise; I’d eat and drink whatever the hell I wanted because I wasn’t going to be a nerdling when I was hanging out with the homies. It’s difficult to project a hardcore image when you're trying to read the Nutritional Information off of the back of a box of cookies, so, fiscally, I had no choice but to not diet. How’s that for world-class justification?

But donuts are just incredibly bad for you. Everything that makes them delicious—the sugar, the white flour, the calorie count—is exactly what makes them bad for you.

I tried to resist the magical powers of the donuts, but, man, they’re donuts and only a person who was dead inside (to pleasure and desire and all that is beautiful and just in the world ) could have resisted. Also, I love maple bars like a crackhead loves crack: probably a little too much. I ate one, just one, but then I went back and got two more.

Till Four: I didn’t have a thing to do the next day (other than to sit around doing nothing), so I could play all night. Bert, inventor of the Bert Classic and the neutral density filter, and Shawn Gee, the artist formerly known as Pumpkin Boy, were also down to play until the morning light came in through the windows. Jesse, on the other hand, said that he needed to bounce early.

That’s bullshit, dude, and I’ll tell you why. He’s the one who always tries to keep the game going, even though some of us (uh, me) have a Saturday gig, and others of us, on occasion, may have something going on on Saturday. So when Jesse said that he needed to cut at three, we just sort of ignored that until it was 3:12 a.m. It’s always a little weird to not end on the hour or the half-hour, somehow a little untidy and common, so we decided to go until 3:30. But then it was 3:43 a.m., and we were in the same untidy and common boat. Finally, 4:00 a.m. was mentioned as the final, final, final game-end time, and we finally stuck to it.

I Jinx Myself: Shawn Gee, the artist formerly known as Pumpkin Boy, dropped his entire roll (the really low three figures), so he was just chilling, bullshitting and talking smack with the rest of us. Shawn Gee, the artist formerly known as Pumpkin Boy, and I go back and forth with the capping and the belittling, but it’s all in good fun. At some point, I noted that all of us still in the game were up, and I wondered aloud how that had happened. Then I turned to Shawn and said, “Oh, that’s right.” That, my friends, is a quality burn. Subtle. Well-delivered. Cold-blooded.

Then I went on a losing streak. As I mentioned in the above paragraph, I was ahead, right around $80, which put me close to being the chip leader. I figured that I was a few well-played hands from making the $100 profit that is my nightly goal.

So much for that. My losing streak lasted ninety minutes, and I went from +$80 to -$57. If you do the math, you’ll see that I had a -$137 turnaround. I’ll admit that I wasn’t thrilled by this development.

I am proud to say that I didn’t punk when I had hands that were playable; I was still out there, making max bets and raises and calls. My cards just weren't holding up, which sometimes happens.

Thankfully, in the last half hour, I hit two big hands and a couple of smaller ones, and I made a bit of a comeback. Not enough to make a profit or get back to even, but enough so that I only lost $16.00. My won-loss record’s at 15-11, which gives me a pretty lousy winning percentage (57.69%), and the YTD Total’s dropped to +$417.50. I’m also on a three-game losing streak, my first of the year.

23 June 2006

Maybe It’s Me: 7:49 p.m. About fifty-five minutes ago, I almost got into a fight with two dudes. I was driving to my big bro’s, where I stay for the summer, and the dudes were on the rightmost edge of my lane, heading toward me on a four-wheeler, one driving and one on the handlebars. Of course, neither was wearing a helmet. I scooted over, though I didn’t cross the center divider (because I was on a bit of an uphill and I couldn’t be sure what was coming at me from the other lane, and, besides, why should I take on risk when I’m not the one engaged in risky activity), but we all had enough room to avoid coming anywhere close to a collision. Still, as I passed them, the guy on the handles flipped me off.

I couldn’t believe it. I made a u-turn, pulled over on the other side of the street, and got out to have a chat with these gentlemen. I was going to explain all of the reasons why it’s not cool to be flipping people off, and especially not when those people haven't done anything wrong, but the conversation didn’t go very well.

As I was crossing the street, the flipper-offer was hurriedly walking away, toward his house, leaving the driver behind. How cowardly is that, leaving the guy who didn’t do anything wrong to deal with me? What a punk.

He didn’t get very far, though, before I finished crossing the street. I started off by asking, “Is there a problem, bro?” At this point, he turned around and slowly/hesitantly came back in my direction.

I asked him why he had flipped me off and he said because I hadn't skooshed over and I said that I did, but not so that I was driving into potentially oncoming traffic, and, besides, it’s just not classy to be flipping people off and he came back to how I hadn't, in his estimation, skooshed over far enough. We were just going 'round and 'round about whom it was who had been uncool.

The dude just wasn’t getting it; no matter what, flipping off a person who’s driving by on a country road might buy you a whole bunch of trouble. If a car’s on a country road, there’s a good chance that he lives in the area, so it won’t be much of a problem to pull over to have a little chat or to apply a beatdown with a fire extinguisher to a dude. Mostly, though, manners./courtesy-wise, it just wasn’t right; he and the driver had been the ones in the wrong, not me; if anything, I should have been flipping them off, not that I ever would (because I’m not a common fellow).

After about thirty seconds, the dude who had been driving the four-wheeler got off, I guess for intimidation purposes. Two of them were standing now, versus just me; the only was to read this was that it was an escalation.

The ATV driver was wearing a wife beater (don’t get mad at me; that’s what the kids call them) and he was all covered in tattoos, and I guess that he thought that he’d scare me, but he would have had to have been on fire or a Republican to scare me because I knew that he wouldn’t have stood a chance; he was way too close and way too vulnerable to any number of debilitating strikes, especially since his hands were hanging loosely at his sides. Unless he and the flipper-offer came at me as a unit, it wouldn’t have worked out for them.

(I’m not saying that I’m badass, because I’m nowhere near being badass, but tattoo guy just wasn’t ready, and some little throat thing or knee thing, not even well-delivered [because if I’m delivering the technique, it’s going to be rusty and it’s definitely not going to be pretty] or perfectly placed [that’s what’s great about knees and throats: large, sensitive areas], would have put him out of action, at least temporarily, and then the flipper-offer had already shown himself to be a bit of a weenie when he was in full retreat, so he would have entered whatever was going to go down in the wrong frame of mind.)

But once tattoo guy saw that his standing up had had no effect on me, he seemed to relax, like he could stop pretending that he was ready to get down. He did, however, join the lively debate on his associate’s side.

Both were of the opinion that I should have moved over more, but I explained, again and again, that they were the ones driving a four-wheeler on the wrong side of the road and with a dude on the handles and that they were the ones who were being unsafe and probably violating a whole host of traffic laws. They didn’t get it, so I said, “Okay, let’s go through this slowly,” almost as if I were explaining something complicated like compound-complex sentences or reciprocity failure or reverse implied pot odds.

That tattooed guy was at this point trying to keep the peace, but I had never been looking to brawl; I hate discourtesy and I was trying to explain to these cats that they needed to modify their behavior. At some point, I said that they were “common and coarse and rude and discourteous and ill-mannered and uncouth and vulgar and gauche and immature.” Yeah, when I get upset, I can really tie the predicate adjectives together. Mostly, I just like how they sound when they’re joined together with the conjunction, “and”; it’s kind of pretty.

The tattooed guy finally acknowledged that they had been in the wrong, but I think he was just trying to get me to go away. The flipper-offer at this point had been slowly walking away, his back turned to me and his homie, but he was still saying stuff, which was just completely cowardly; if you’ve got something to say, say it to the other guy’s face, like a man, not half under your breath and with your back turned while you're walking away. See? I said that he was a punk.

Okay, this is the part of which I’m not proud: That was when I said, “It’s here if you want it,” and I did that thing where you slightly bend your arms at the elbow and turn your hands palm-side up. As I like to say, sometimes the ghetto comes out. He just kept walking away.

Yeah, it was stupid to come back to talk to these guys and then to keep trying to get them to understand, but I can’t help it. I really think that I can make a positive difference in the world, even if that means beefing with dudes by the side of the road. Who knows, maybe next time they’ll think twice about driving a four-wheeler in such an unsafe manner and also about flipping random people off.

The best part of this thing? The background music: Talvin Singh’s Light. I had left my car running and my stereo blasting when I had stepped out of my ride, and this song had barely started to play. It’s pretty and sad and propulsive, and it was close to dusk, so I kind of felt like I was an action hero as I walked back to my car after the thing was over. If you ever have a similar incident of your own, I would suggest that you take a second to find this song on the iPod that you’ve got linked to your car stereo. It will make potentially getting your ass kicked totally worth it.

The Workout: Ivan, poker player deluxe and designer/programmer/host of this here website, believes that it is perhaps my workout regimen that led to the thing with the dudes. He feels that perhaps the fact that I’ve been lifting weights and beating the hell out of my Wavemaster (and looking much fitter) has gotten me all keyed up and looking for trouble.

I might be able to buy that argument if it weren’t for the fact that a similar thing went down only a few months ago, and I wasn’t working out then.

I’m Not Saying That It Didn’t Hurt: I’ve always said that my limit is $300: if I lose that much in a night, I quit. I always buy in for $100, and that usually lasts the night. Sometimes, though, I have to reload with the second $100, and then that gets me through the night. Only very rarely have I had to make the third buy-in that puts me in danger of actually losing the mythical $300. Even then, I managed to keep my losses at under $200.

Tonight, however, the nightmare scenario played out. I’d get good starter hands and come out betting, but I’d get a call with amazingly bad hands and the flop would miss me and I’d be up against a player who made two weak pairs that would then hold up.

Worse still, I’d make a great hand, but somebody would make a better hand. For example, on one hand, I made a pretty strong full house, but I lost to a guy who filled a gutshot straight flush draw to the eight of hearts. Basically, only a six of hearts hurt me in the hand (that’s one card out of the entire deck), and that was what he had gotten on the turn. I was drawing dead after that point, even though I had had top and bottom pairs after the flop that boated up on the river.

All of these beats led to the all-time record for losses at our game: -$270.25. How does it feel to hold the record for the worst ass-kicking at our game? My life has been one bereft of consequence and accomplishment, so I hold this record dear and hope to be remembered for it for a long, long time.

Who had held the previous record? Yours truly, when I dropped $190,50 only three weeks previous. And who had held the record before that? Again, that would be me when I dropped a little over $180 the week before Christmas.

Mofos, I Don’t Stop Until It’s Done: I know what you're thinking: why the hell didn’t I just quit after the first $100, or even the second one, or even when the third one was getting bled out of me? Most of the players at our game will drop a $100, or maybe a little more, and then call it a night, so my quitting at any point after the first $100 wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary.

But I’ve got this idea that I’m not going to punk out during a game. Have you ever seen a boxing match where one dude is just getting brutalized by the other dude, is even getting knocked down on occasion, but he keeps on fighting? Why isn’t he quitting? Because it’s a fight, so you fight. Because he’s got pride and a dude fights until he can’t. He goes from one bell and he tries his hardest to get to the other, even if he knows that he can’t win.

In boxing, though, there’s a referee who can stop the fight if it’s obvious that the dude catching the beatdown is not going to pull it out and is in serious peril. You don’t have that in a poker game; if you know that you're getting the worst of it and that that isn’t going to change, then you’ve got to be able to stand up and walk away.

But I don’t have it in me to quit. We had set the end-time for 3:00 a.m., and I was going to play until then, that is if my third $100 made it that far.

It barely did. By 3:00 a.m., I only had $29.75 in chips in front of me. I've never been happier for a poker game to end. Truth be told, most of the time I just want the game to go on and on. Not tonight.

At the end of the night, these were the final numbers: Yes, I had dropped $270.25, but that, bad as it was, was only part of the story. I’ve just had my first four-game losing streak in the nearly eighteen months that I've been keeping track. My won-loss is at 15-12, which means that my winning percentage is now in the mid-50s. And, finally, the YTD Total’s down to +$147.25. In the last four games, I’ve lost $494, which is 77% of the money that I had managed to win. Out of every four dollars that I had won during the entire year, I gave back three of them tonight.

30 June 2006

Here Comes the Girl:
It’s early in the game. At this point we’re playing three-handed (Bert, inventor of the Bert Classic and the categorical imperative; Ivan, programmer/designer/host of this here website; and Big Daddy [I’m Big Daddy]). We’ve switched to the summer poker room at my big bro’s. Every other season, we play in the living room, but summers are especially hot, so we switch to a huge room in the back of the house that’s more comfortable.

Then we hear some shouting from the front of the house (from the back, it’s nearly impossible to hear a person at the front door). It’s a girl.

A girl? Now, I love the ladies, and I wouldn’t mind having a girl play at our game. I just have to clean up some of my bits (because I like to work blue) and try to dial it back on the swearing (because I sure like to swear [it probably has to do with the fact that I was a wrestler in high school {and there’s not a more macho/badass group of people than a bunch of high school wrestlers} and with the fact that swear words are the coolest sounding words in English; seriously, just sit in front of your computer and swear your ass off for a minute, and I guarantee that you will feel wonderful]).

The thing is, the last time that we had women at the game (Dina and Megan, two lovely and charming and funny young ladies [though one of them was completely unimpressed when I showed her my book; damn, that was harsh {and I’m whatever’s the opposite of smooth}]), one of our players caught some heat because he was socializing with women without his special lady’s presence.

That game had been on a Friday, and by Monday, this dude was in deep trouble with his aforementioned special lady. It’s wonderful how people are unknowingly connected to each other through various friendships and relationships (it somehow makes the world seem a little smaller and not as cruel), but not when it gets you your ass chewed out at the house. What made the situation for my homie especially cruel was that none of us except for the inviter knew that these young ladies were on their way, and I’m sure that the busted guy would have skipped the game if he had known. Not that it was wrong for the inviter to have invited D and M; he just hadn't known, either, about the existence of these regulations.

In my mind, it hadn't been a big deal that these nice young ladies had been invited, but I guess that some other guys live under a very specific set of restrictions. I’d never heard of this you-can’t-hang-out-with-women-if-I’m-not-there rule, but it turns out that it’s much more common that I had thought. Knowing how worthless men are, I can see why this rule might exist. Now I know.

But it wasn’t a girl who had arrived. It was Kay Jay, and his girly voice. And it wasn’t just me who thought that it was a girl at the door; everybody else at the table thought so, too. Of course, me being the classy guy that I am and Kay Jay being Kay Jay (a solid player but a bit of a pain), I told him that his voice was, um, less than manly.

I’m a Nitwit: Here’s an embarrassing story. A few months ago, I was at Koffeeheads, my caffeine/wifi place, working on I can’t remember what (knowing myself, probably something for this website; uh, the novel? don’t worry, ill finish it one day), when two young ladies walk in. One of them looks at me and does that tentative half-smile that you do when you're not sure that the person at whom you’re smiling will recognize you. Sure enough, I didn’t recognize the smiler, nor the other girl walking close behind.

There were two problems. First, I’m shy, so when a pretty young woman half-smiled at me, I looked away as quickly as I could, you know, because she might see how vacant and broken inside I am. Second, I’m basically blind. Anything too close to my face will be terribly blurry. Additionally, anything too far away will also be terribly blurry. I’m good from about twelve inches to, depending on the breaks, about thirteen-and-a half; seeing anything not in that range is going to be a crapshoot, at best. Also, I’d been staring at my laptop’s screen for hours and hours, so I had laptop vision, where it takes your eyes a while to work properly after having been staring at your screen for hours and hours.

It was only after the smiler hadn't received her counter-smile and had looked away in that sad way that one does when one’s smile isn’t returned that I half-understood that I knew her from somewhere. But where, I was wondering, would I have met the smiler, and, more importantly, how could I have met such a nice looking person and not have better recall of the circumstances under which we met, and, even more importantly, how could I not have better recall of her?

As an adult living an adult-style life, you know that it becomes really difficult to meet new people because the whole wide and beautiful world is essentially closed off to you. That sounds tragic and heartbreaking, and it mostly is (so fucking tragic and heartbreaking that it makes you wonder how you could have let so much of it so easily slip away), but it actually helped me out in this instance. I just thought back to the recent months, to the few occasions where I could have met new people.

It was only after they had gotten their drinks and were sitting outside on the patio that I started to figure it out. Of course. I realized where I had met them: at our poker game. I also realized who they were: Megan and Dina. The two who had inadvertently and unintentionally gotten one of my homies chewed the hell out by his special lady.

Great, I had basically just snubbed two people whom I had made laugh and laugh with my dumb jokes, which hadn't been that easy because I had had to clean up my material quite a bit. I’m so uptight and self-conscious and twitchy (you have no idea) that I can only really relax in a few places: a wrestling room, a photography darkroom, and a poker table. These two young ladies had seen me while I was being talkative and funny and charming, but they probably now thought that I had just blown them off. I’m sure that they were wondering what my deal was, why I had gone from Mr. Semi-Hilarity (or at least Mr. Thinks He’s Funny But Not Really But Let's Laugh To Spare His Feelings) to The Snubber.

Now comes the hard part. How do I handle this? Do I, Plan A, go outside and explain the whole thing to them and apologize, which would be the classy thing? Or, Plan B, do I go the other way and hide behind my laptop until they leave? I went with Plan B. Like I said, I’m shy.

The Bank of Me: I keep a lot of cash on me. Not because I’m heavy in green (because, as a poet, I’m not), but because I hate having to go to the bank every time that I need cash and because you just never know when a poker game’s going to break out, and you don’t want to be caught short out on the street. Consequently, I have, on occasion, made instant loans to guys at our poker game when they had had a bad run of cards and hadn't bought enough cash with them to keep playing. Not a big deal; they just get me the next time that they show up at the game.

These loans are usually made right after a guy has lost his last chip. Tonight, however, one of the players sought pre-approval for a loan. What happened was this: Around one in the morning, Shawn Gee, the artist formerly known as Pumpkin Boy, calls me on my cellie to ask if the game’s still going strong. Yes, I said, the cards were still flying. I get off of my phone and get back to the game. My cellie then rings about a minute later. It’s Shawn Gee, the artist formerly known as Pumpkin Boy, again, asking if I have any extra cash on me because he doesn’t want to have to stop at the bank. I said that, yeah, dude, I had plenty of cash to cover him, so he needed to just get his ass to the game, and we were good to go.

Defeated by Vinegar: Being the good host that I am, I provide plenty of snacks, even if I try not to partake now that I’m trying to not have a heart attack before I’m forty; after forty, I’m going to let myself go (completely; it’s gonna be great), and all bets are off. One snack that’s a no-brainer is potato chips; just about everybody loves them, and those who don’t should be looked upon with suspicion and contempt.

Back in the day, though, there were only really two varieties of potato chip: barbecue and regular; nowadays, however, there’s a wide selection, so you find yourself staring at all of these differently colored bags, trying to figure out which ones might be the most tasty.

Everything’s about sourness nowadays, and everybody loves salt, so I had picked up a bag of salt and vinegar-flavored chips, which, before the poker crew arrived, I had dutifully placed atop the snack table, along with the rest of the food.

Remember how Shawn Gee, the artist formerly known as Pumpkin Boy, had arrived late? After he greeted everybody and bought in and got settled, he went and got the salt and vinegar chips. He sat down, opened the bag, pulled out a chip, put it in his mouth, and then made a truly unhappy face as both the salt and the vinegar (though mostly the vinegar) went to work on his taste buds.

He complained bitterly about the flavor of the chips, and then he closed up the bag and put it back on the snack table. That’s right, he couldn’t get past the first chip. As all true snackers know, sometimes you have to commit to your snackery (I think that I just made up a word) and fight through any early unpleasantness until you get in the zone. It’s like when you're playing some hoops but your jumper isn’t falling: the only thing to do, man, is to shoot your way through it.

But Shawn Gee, the artist formerly known as Pumpkin Boy, didn’t have it in him to keep eating the chips. In the battle between chip and man, the chip won.

My Boys Are Thoughtful: So I’m doing this new diet thing and I'd bitched endlessly last week about how nasty Diet Pepsi tastes.

Ivan shows up with four six-packs of Diet Vault. We put those bad boys in the fridge to chill and I cracked one open after I had killed off my third 20 ml bottle of water of the day. When you're drinking that Diet Pepsi poison, water tastes like heaven, so it’s become my default drink. It’s sugar-free, but makes up for it by being full of caffeine. Yeah, the taste is a little off—anything with artificial sweeteners is going to be at least a little off—but it’s close enough. The trick, I think, is to try to imagine what the drink/food would taste like if it actually had sugar in it.

Then Jesse, a late arrival again (what a surprise), shows up with a six-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper. It is a truth universally acknowledged that of all the diet sodas, Diet Dr. Pepper is the one that most closely resembles its non-diet counterpart, at least in terms of flavor. After I finished my Vault, I got a diet Dr. Pepper, and I can report that it is, in fact, pretty close in flavor to regular Dr. Pepper. The only hang-up, then, is that you actually have to like the flavor of regular Dr. Pepper, and, as we all know, most people have strong feelings, pro or con, about the taste of Dr. Pepper. Nobody said that life was easy

Thank Christ It’s Over: Tonight, to complete the nightmare, I lose $111.75. June of 2006 was my worst month of poker, ever. I went 0-5 (the first time that I’d ever gone an entire month without winning) and had my first-ever five-game losing streak. My won-loss is now at 15-13; if I lose the next two games (the way that things are going, it’s a distinct possibility) I’ll be at 15-15. It wasn’t that long ago that I was 14-7. Last year, after twenty-eight games, my record was 16-12, but I was up $609.75, which is only four dollars more than I lost this month: $605.75. My YTD Total? At the end of May, it had been $641.25. Now, it’s at +$35.50. After seven months and twenty-eight games, I’ve made $35.50. That’s a 94.46% loss. That means that for every dollar that I had won over five months, I managed to give ninety-five cents back, and it only took me a month to do it.

Let’s have some fun with the numbers. I’m averaging +$7.07 a month, or +$1.27 a game. If we play, on average, about six hours, I’m making twenty-one cents an hour. If this were a century earlier, that’d be a decent hourly amount, but not in 2006.

At the end of May, when I was averaging +$128.25 a month, I was only $358.75 away from making a grand by the end of the year, the goal that I had missed out on in 2005. With seven months to go I only needed to average $51.25 a month for the rest of the year. It seemed almost impossible to not make a grand, or even to at least get there for a while before going back down. I didn’t have to necessarily live in the halls of paradise, but I thought that I would at least get to visit.

Now, like most of my other dreams (all of the important ones, anyway), this dream has also died. Let’s pretend, though, that it could still come true. What would have to happen? I’d have to average $160.75 a month for the rest of the year. True, when I was on my great four-month February-through-March run, I averaged +$188.63 a month, but that was sandwiched in between a bad month and an even worse one. Basically, I’d have to have nothing but really good (hopefully great) months for the rest of the year; just one mediocre month would be the end of me.

No, forget it. Can’t happen. Life, as we all know, is one long series of sad and soul-destroying letdowns, so why should poker be any different?


Spackle wtf?! GREAT READ! -Ivan