It Would Surely Be the End of Me: The March 2008 Poker Report

(Editor's Note: Admittedly, this son of bitch is going live a little over three months after the last Poker Report. You’ve got no clue as to how much static I've gotten from various people about how long it’s taken me to post new material on my little website. Hey, man, I’ll trade you lives. I didn’t think so.

And when can you expect the April 2008 Poker Report? It shouldn’t be too long. I’m thinking some time in early 2012.)

7 March 2008

The Jehovah’s Witnesses: I was getting boned by the cards early tonight.

I often joke that God hates me (in general, I mean, but specifically when I’m playing poker), but, except for my not having even the slightest inclination toward belief, I don’t think that I've ever done much to give offense.

That may have changed tonight. I was at my place, taking care of some stuff on my computer (basically, trying to write [but, as usual, failing miserably]), when my doorbell rang.

Who does pop-ins anymore? I can’t remember the last time that I did a pop-in. There’s a good chance, actually, that I've never done a pop-in. I’m far too shy to go knocking on a door (which is why I failed miserably as a door-to-door leftist who was collecting signatures for California insurance reform back in the summer of 1990; also, that halfwit, Nader, had us collecting donations for the cause, which made it that much worse for me. Yes, in my wild-eyed and revolutionary youth I signed up with his crew [because, man, I believed], but quit because, along with the door-to-door begging nonsense [because, let’s face it, we were begging for money; it was mortifying], as I told our leader as I was walking out, “I thought we’d be holding demonstrations and handcuffing ourselves to buildings.” Ah, to be young and idealistic. If anything, though, my beliefs are even more leftist, but I’m over believing that handcuffing yourself to stuff is going to help fix anything.), and I hate being an imposition.

And the last time that I had a pop-in was when I lived back in Wisconsin, about seven years ago. I had a friend who would just show up and want to go for walks. I hate walking. If I can get to a place more quickly in a car, then car time it is. It’s just more efficient, and I can’t stand not being efficient.

I hate walking, but this was a cool person, and I liked talking with her, so I managed to not die when we went on our little walks, though I do remember asking her at the end of our first walk how far she thought that we had gone before I ventured a guess of eighteen miles. It was more like one mile, but the pain was great.

But pop-ins since then? None. So when my doorbell rang, I was trying to figure out whom it was as I went to my door.

Not a pop-in. Much worse. Religious people. A woman and a little girl.

Now, I've got no beef with religious people. Well, I do, actually, but just on scientific, rational, philosophical, and moral grounds. But other than that, we’re cool. My theory is that you can worship anything from a pack of cigarettes all the way to the sound of the wind in the trees, and anything in between, and we’ll be okay as long as you don’t let your beliefs keep you from being a decent human being. You know what I mean.

But proselytizing at my door, on a Friday afternoon, is not ever going to work for Daddy.

I was raised to be very polite, so, even though I immediately recognized the situation in which we were all in (a person imposing her beliefs on a stranger, which automatically seems very self-satisfied and hateful and deeply rude), I was very nice to the lady at my door. I smiled, said, “Hi, how can I help you?” and then waited for her to do her thing.

There was no way that I was going to get into a discussion with her because that would have been like a person who speaks only Oriya trying to have a conversation with a person who speaks only Icelandic, and it would have taken forever. In these situations, I rely on a saying that I heard a long time ago: Lie down before the charging bulls.

What that means is that if you know that they’re coming and that there’s no way to stop them or to get out of the way, just lie down in front of them and they’ll go right over you, hopefully.

I didn’t say one thing in opposition to what she was saying (which, thankfully, was actually a rather soft sell mostly relating information about her church and a service that it was having for potential new members) and nodded and got my hands on the reading material that I knew was soon to become my property as quickly as I could. I thanked her and closed the door and went back to not writing.

But I had been a tad dishonest with her, and I knew that I had been from the start. That charging bull thing is just a way to evade an honest engagement, so by not speaking my mind I had, in effect, lied to her. And I had taken the reading material knowing that I wasn’t going to read it and I never said that I wouldn’t be attending that special service when she mentioned the day and the time. I just something like, “Oh, that’s great.”

I felt bad about the interaction, and it made me feel guilty.

So when the cards were being unkind to Daddy, I ascribed that unkindness to the higher plane.

It’s a Tradition: At this point, I've been doing the hot dog thing for a few weeks, and I've got everybody digging the food. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where there’s now an official break while I get those bastards ready.

The messed up thing is that I end up feeling sort of bad. Let me explain: Before I go on hot dog duty, I ask everybody else how many hot dogs they want. Usually there’s a pause while the first person I ask takes thoughtful measure of his level of hunger.

I know that sometimes one feels a little funny, somehow exposed, when trying to figure out much food to ask for. So, to ease any potential momentary awkwardness, I like to volunteer the number of hot dogs that I intend to consume. I’ll say something like, “I’m getting down on two,” which gives everybody else a good number for which to aim for their hot dog consumption.

The tragedy begins when the other three remaining players then says that they are fine with just one hot dog. I spend a good deal of my time feeling bad about myself (somewhere in the range of 93-97% of my waking minutes), so it’s not utterly shocking that this hot dog situation had brought me low.

I go to the kitchen, place the hot dogs on a plate, go to and open the microwave, put in the be-plated hot dogs, crank that mother to four minutes on high, and watch the wieners start to spin. I’ll tell you what I saw when I looked at the odd-numbered hot dogs go round and round: those hot dogs were a metaphor for my life. Also, the mustard would represent misery, and the bun would be death. I’m not sure what my iced tea represented, but it probably wasn’t good.

It’s a Pattern: For the second week in a row, I was burning through the First Hundred™ as if I had just won the Lotto and money was no longer of consequence. And it wasn’t as if I were playing badly; I just couldn’t get my cards to hold up. Soon, I was on the Second Hundred™. It was still early in the evening, so I thought that I might have to eventually dip into the Third Hundred™, something that I hadn’t had to do in a long while.

But then my cards started holding. As a relatively solid player, I’m not one to deal out bad beats; I get my money in when I’m ahead and hope to stay that way. Usually, the odds say that it will stay that way, but they are only odds. You might be a 70-30 favorite after the flop and still lose a hand three times in a row.

You know that, eventually, actual play will tend to be in equilibrium with the percentages, so all that you can do is keep making the right decisions.

And, sure enough, I got back to even, then I was a little bit ahead (by about $27), but then it got sideways on me again, sometimes when, like an imbecile, I bet into or called off to made hands. So I ended up losing $38.75 for the night, but I didn’t mind that much. If I had one just one more of those 70-30 hands, I would have been back at just about even, and I do think that I played relatively well.

Still, the YTD’s down to +$118.25 and the overall records down to a rather unimpressive 7-4.

14 March 2008

Doctor Me: One of my homies needs to put in some prescription eye drops for a serious surgical procedure for which the drops are preparing his eyeballs.

But he doesn’t want to administer the drops himself. We’ve all been there. Every time that the drop is about to fall, we blink and end up with cheeks full of medicine, hearts full of shame, and minds destroyed by overwhelming self-doubt.

That’s some traumatic stuff to have to deal with just because of some eye drops, so Surge asked me if I’d eye drop him.

It’s an honor, and I screw up my courage and step up to take care of business. Just to keep it hygienic, I ask Surge if he wants me to glove up. I've got a box full of surgical gloves (they’re great for when one is cleaning and just generally dealing with “gross” things), so it wouldn’t be a problem. “No, it’s cool,” he says, and it’s time.

It’s high pressure, though. I completely miss the first drop because I’m too scared to get too close to his eyeball and poke it out, which might affect the mood at the poker game. What made it harder was that two of the guys at the table were laughing hysterically the entire time. I think that my “glove up” query had set them off, juvenile nitwits that they are.

But this shit is serious, so I sternly told them both to be quiet and to settle down because these are expensive eye drops and my friend has asked me for my help. He’s under my care, and I don’t want to let him down.

I man up, as we say on the street, and I got that dropper within a half centimeter of his eyes and administered the first set of drops. Then, I administered the second set with a different medicine.

Surge blinked that medicine deep into his ocular cavities, as it were, and then we went back to the action. It was the most serious medical procedure that I had undertaken, next to that one time that I spent a half hour trying and failing to dig a splinter out of my foot.

And, since Surge is my broham, I decided to make my care a freebie. Any follow-ups, however, will incur my usual fees.

5945.5-1: Those were the odds of Jesse hitting the cards that he needed to hit in order to beat me in the three hands that cost me about $70, not to speak of the money that he had put in so badly.

On one hand, I flopped the 6-6-6-5-5 boat with my wired sixes. I checked the flop, he bet $3, and I took it to eight. I know that he didn’t get a piece of that flop. Worst case, he puts me on a five, giving me trips, and he folds. Maybe he puts me on an overpair, which would also make him a massive underdog. But he calls. Of course he does.

The turn is a jack; I bet the five, and he calls. Unless he has pocket jacks, I’m not too concerned and am, in fact, happy that he’s putting in money on a dream.

Then the river is another jack.

I know that I’m boned. Jesse is a bad enough poker player to be in there with a random jack, even after having flopped nothing. Still, I bet the $5, and he raises it to $10. I know that it’s over and that he’s miraculously lucked out. I throw in the $5 call, and he turns over A-J. He was behind all the way to the river. He had called a check-raise on air. He had called a turn bet on what any halfway intelligent poker player had to know was a two-outer because he had to know that I was on at least trips.

His odds of hitting runner runner? 360.34-1.

He also flushed up on a 5-1 draw and straightened out on a 3.3-1 straight/flush combo draw against my set of sixes, all of which adds up to odds of 5945.5-1.

If I win one of those hands, add about $50 to my total. I win two, and you can add about $100 to it. Or, if I win all three hands as the math says that I normally would, then, counting dead money, add about $160 to my total.

Instead, I profit $31, and Jesse, he who made a series of unbelievably bad plays, pulls $140 on miracle draws.

And that’s not counting the three-outer that he hit against Surge. The odds of Jesse winning those four hands: 91165.354597621-to-1.

But I’m not at all bitter.

The Thirty-Two Ounce Monster: Don’t be gross. I’m talking about the drink that Ivan left for me in the refrigerator at my big bro’s house. Ivan had known that he was probably going to have to miss tonight’s poker game, and he knows that I love/can’t function without the caffeine, so while he was at a grocery store, he saw this 32 oz. bastard and knew that I would be appreciative. He left it for me in the fridge with a note saying that the drink was for me.

(As a vulgar aside, the note read as follows: Manuel, I know you can handle this thick one.

I know that he was trying to be funny [And it was pretty funny; Ivan even told me that he worked on that one sentence until he had it just right; as a writer, I both appreciate the perfection of his sentence and the effort that went into its crafting. Well done, sir, well done.], but a compliment’s a compliment.)

It’s thirty-two ounces of miracle, and I kill it during the game, no problem, but I was still tired the entire time that we were playing. This leaves me to wonder: Do they have a gallon-sized can?

Good Enough: Even though Jesse slaughtered me on his miracle draws, I still pulled some profit: $31 straight. The YTD is now at +$149.25 and the overall record has improved to a still unimpressive 8-4.

21 March 2008

A Miracle: Both my big bro and Jesse flop a queen, but my big bro is holding A-Q for the nut hand. He checks, Jesse bets $4, and I big bro check raises to $9. My big bro bets the max on the turn and Jesse calls. The river is a worthless six, my big bro bets the max again, but this time Jesse raises it to $10.

We all know what’s happened: Jesse has yet again put in his money like a retarded monkey high on crack and has, yet again, somehow found a way to get lucky and win the hand. My big bro knows, too, but he’s got to call.

Sure enough, Jesse turns over the Q-6 for a rivered two pair. He was a 15.3-to-1 underdog on the river, and there’s no way that he couldn’t not have known that, which means that he needed to get $76.50 for his $5 call after the turn. After my big bro’s bet there had been $21 in the pot for Jesse’s $5 call. $21. That’s genius.

Kool Aid Girl: Kool Aid, who doesn’t love it? But it’s a young person’s drink. At minimum, it’s not a drink that an adult without children should be making. Next thing you know, you’ll find yourself skipping.

(Editor’s Note: If you want to feel sad [and who doesn’t?], think about the last time that you had the opportunity to run full out. I’ll bet that it was a long time ago. Remember how great it felt? You probably couldn’t help but smile. Isn’t life beautiful? That shit is gone, my man, gone.

I once asked my buddy and a fellow writer [a lovely writer whose first book is incredible] if he could remember the last time that he had sprinted for any reason. I then offered him ten bucks to run to a distant light pole while we were walking along Lake Michigan with two other fellow writers. He handed me his bag, and his ass took off. I had my camera with me, and I snapped an action pic as he hauled. It’s pretty cool.)

But Arizona was recently offered said drink by a special lady friend with whom he had recently gotten involved.

So, men being men, we added an erotic meaning to Kool Aid, as in, “If you don’t get over there after the game, she won’t give you any Kool Aid.”

Then another player, in a moment of inspiration, said, “Yeah, you won’t get Kool Laid.”

That was beautiful. I expressed that thought by saying, “Oh, that was beautiful.” I also applauded.

Airball: That’s my new word for when my hole cards get no piece of the board. Usually, I use it as a verb, as in, “I airballed that shit,” as I throw my cards away.

As an analogy, it works great.

But now Jesse’s trying to appropriate it for his own use. I've already lost so many sayings, either to other players taking them from me or, worse, from their expecting me to use them.

That’s how I lost, Brother against brother. It’s Biblical.” Every time that it was heads-up between siblings, I could feel the table tense with anticipation for my uttering of this particular phrase.

But, hey, that’s part of the business. I've just got to generate new material. It is a shame, though, because airball is just so apt to the situation where you miss entirely on the flop..

Aces Versus Queens: It’s Bert versus Daddy.

Pre-flop, Bert takes it to $3.50, but I counter and take it to $8. Bert calls. The flop lands queen-high. I want to get action, so I decide to bet small, as if the flop scares me (which, with my monster hand, it doesn’t), and come out with a $3 bet. I think that Bert’s fallen for it when he takes it to $8. I go to $13, and he caps it at $18.

The turn is a low card, so I’m still feeling good. I bet the $5, but Bert still isn’t slowing down and raises me to $10. I’m still not worried. I’m putting him on A-Q or even pocket kings, which would both force him to take the same line that he’s taken.

I’m not worried, but I’m concerned. When the river misses me again, I decide to check and hope for a free showdown. Bert’s not having it because he bets $5. There’s $77 in the pot, and, almost certainly, I’ve got to have the winning hand. I call, putting the pot at $82, and turn over my aces.

No good. Bert flips over wired queens for a set. He had outdrawn me on the flop and had put me on a two-outer, about a 9-to-1. He was 20% to make his hand by the river, but only 12% to pass me on the flop.

$41 I lost on that hand, but I didn’t feel at all bad. Worst case, I could have lost a whole lot more. And only a coward wouldn’t have kept raising with his hand when he thought that it was good.

At Least It Wasn’t Triple Digits: But just barely. I lost $99, taking the YTD down to a mortifying +$50.25 and pimp-slapping the overall record to 8-5.

28 March 2008

The Ice: Starting at the end of 2006, Ice, through his connections to Arizona, had become a regular in our game. Thank God because we were having a hard time getting new people to stay in our game: a dude would play one night and then never come back.

And we had thought that Ice would be another one of those one-timers, especially after he had dropped in the medium-low three digits by his first evening’s end. But he fought through whatever it is that one feels when one drops that much at a poker game, and he had become even more reliable than some of our long-time gamblers. True, he likes the Celtics, but he’s cool.

2008, however, has seen him disappear. He’s moving up in the world and he’s got a lovely family, so that’s probably why he’s missing so many games.

Hey, I can respect that, even if I don’t understand it. But he was back tonight, in his little Celtics hat, as if nothing had changed. Well, one thing did change: tonight, he sat to my immediate left, gaining a positional advantage on me.

Other than that, it was as if he had never left.

The Hot Dog Break: After finally figuring out that burritos weren’t going to move and that hot dogs would, I committed to trying to keep a ready supply on hand. Sometimes it’s not easy, what with how busy the life seems to get, so I airballed it last week. I did have chicken chunks and fish sticks, but nobody showed any interest.

This week, I managed to get to the store in time. Planning ahead, for a change, I decided to double up on my purchases: two packages of buns and two of hot dogs. And, best of all, I had lucked into a sale on Ball Park beef franks, the Cadillac of hot dogs, so I didn’t have to cost-benefit my hot dog decision.

So there we were, all gathered around the table, when I made what I thought was an important, life-altering announcement: hot dogs were on the premises.

The reaction could not have been more underwhelming.

It was heartbreaking, really, and it took me a long time to get over the pain. It’s just like everything else in this horrible world of ours: what had once been special (hot dogs) had become common, what had once given meaning to our lives (hot dogs) had emptied out of its magic.

So there I was, at the table, bereft. Life, man; how does anybody get through it?

The Commentary: I had started a riff about how obvious sports commentary is. You know, like when an announcer says of a team that is way behind that “they really need to score here.” Really? I thought that maybe they could score in the next game and those points could retroactively be added to their score for this game. Thanks for the info.

Poker commentary can be just as tiresome, if you’ve actually ever heard any, so I started stating the obvious in one of those announcer voices. “What those players are holding in their hands are called ‘cards.’”

And then Arizona jumped in on the riff, and then, extending the riff, we started working other stuff in the room. We focused on the heater that was resting on the wood-burning stove. We worked that heater hard, saying stuff like, “This heater takes electricity and converts it into heat, thus warming the room.” I closed the bit with “the orange light on top indicates that the heater is, in fact, currently plugged in.”

By that point, nobody was laughing, and the only people having a good time were Arizona and yours truly. Still, I thought that we had done some good work, so I fist tapped Arizona.

Aces: But then the sense of fellowship was wrecked. I looked down at my whole cards and saw American Airlines. I want action, but not too much action. Heads-up is ideal, but I won’t mind going to the flop three-handed if I have to.

To limit players in the hand, I bet $3. Not a lot, but since I don’t play many hands, and especially not bad ones, I know that it’s an amount that will get respect. Ice folds behind, but then Arizona raises it to $8. Everybody else folds behind and now it’s back to me.

I know that if Arizona raised me that he has to have a good hand, which I don’t mind at all because, no matter what, he’s going to be on some pretty thin draws. Better still, if Arizona has a hand good enough to raise with, then he’s certainly going to call any raise that I can make. I take it to $13, and he calls.

The flop is king-high and I’m first to act. There’s no use checking because Arizona’s a cautious enough player to check behind if he missed, and he’s much more likely to have missed than not. I bet the $5 and he calls. The turn is a card that I don’t think is of much consequence to either hand, so I bet the max again, and Arizona calls again.

The river is a jack. At this point, there’s $46 in the pot, so there’s no way that Arizona can fold, even if he’s completely missed the board. He’s got to see my cards, so I can safely bet the $5, which I do.

Arizona calls and turns over pocket jacks. A two-outer after the flop, a 26-1 shot, a roughly five-percenter on the river, and he hit it. I lose a $56 pot, $28 of which is money that I invested.

My mind is blown. He had airballed the flop and then the turn and he had called every one of my bets. So then one is left to wonder what it is that was going through Arizona’s mind.

It’s not that hard to figure out, really. Pre-flop, I could have been betting with anything, and Arizona had had a hand with which to raise. I’m sure my reraise hadn't made him too happy, but he was getting slightly over four to one to call with his jacks, which is an automatic. In fact, a reraise on his part may have been in order.

Then, if he doesn’t put me on aces or even A-K, there’s a good chance that the flop hasn’t helped me. But what else could I have been betting after the flop except for an overpair or an A-K that had turned into top pair, top kicker?

Unless, of course, Arizona had had a read with which he had decided that he was going and had thought that I was making a play with which I would stick until the end.

Unfortunately, in this case, he had been wrong. Ordinarily, his wrongness would have led to Daddy winning a huge pot because, ordinarily, I would tend to win twenty out of twenty-one hands when holding an overpair with one card to come at the river.

So Arizona’s cards and his read weren’t out of line. And his play, based on what he had thought that he had known makes sense in that context. But he makes that play twenty-one times and I profit 95.45% of the time. Not a bad return, and, as in all things, one should take the long view.

Still, I decided to blow a gasket.

That’s when I said that his play had been “world class.” He had already said that he had gotten lucky when he had turned over his jacks, but I made the “world class” comment a few more times. That’s when Arizona said, “Dude, I already said that I got lucky,” and that’s when I countered by saying, “And I said that it was world class.”

The conversation was going exactly nowhere, and it was all my fault.

It’s clear: I’m a bastard. I wasn’t really upset with Arizona. The cards had been unkind, but it’s hard to be a mean to cards. Maybe I could have stared at the cards coldly, or given them a hard shuffle, or been distant, but I didn’t think of any of that at the time.

The Fist Tap: Equally nasty, but in a good way, was a hand that went down a little later. I’m in the big blind with K-9. Not a great hand with which to start, but it’s workable if you’re a disciplined player.

When the betting gets to Bert, he raises to $3. Jesse folds, and it’s back to me. I’m getting 2.25-1 and, unless Bert has a pocket pair higher than nines, I’m getting the right price to call.

Which I do. The flop? K-K-9. That’s right, I've flopped a boat. Not only is it a boat, but it’s a nearly unbeatable boat. I can only really lose to pocket aces that catch an ace on the turn or the river for a better full house. That’s a two-outer, but only if Bert has aces. He might have a king in his hand with a better kicker, but that’s even more unlikely because that would mean that all four kings would have to be out among the board and our four down cards.

Even if he does have aces, I don’t care. At best, I can’t lose; at worst, I’m an 11-1 favorite. My only problem is in figuring out how to build up the pot.

Bert’s an aggressive player and he’ll bet with air. He’ll also, on occasion, make some calls that perhaps aren’t the most reasonable. If you hit a hand against him, you can usually get him to pay you off.

But I don’t want to scare him off, either. There’s $6.50 in the pot, so a $5 bet might get a fold. I decide to bet weakly as if I missed the flop and just want him to fold. I bet $2, a tiny bet that’s less than a third of the pot and that gives Bert 4-1 to call.

It doesn’t take Bert long to make his decision. He says, “Manuel, I’m going to lay this down,” turning over his pocket aces, “because I know that you have a king.”

Bert had made a monumental fold. It was so awesome that I turned over my king to acknowledge his read and how much respect that I had for his letting go of his aces, a hand with which he easily could have hung himself.

Usually, a player seeing two kings on the flop would have to deduce that another player most likely wouldn’t have a king in his hand. In fact, I had semi-expected Bert to raise back, making all of my future decisions much easier and giving me a chance to get even more money in there by three-betting him, a raise that he would have to call if he had had a hand with which he could have raised me in the first place.

But he let his aces go.

Like I said, he had made a monumental fold. I had to reach over and recognize the monumentality of his fold with a fist tap, though he should have paid me off.

(Editor’s Note: I saw Bert at a barbecue four days later, and we talked over the hand again. I was still so moved by how he played the hand that I had to fist tap him yet again. Then we ate hamburgers.)

Not Good: After the Arizona fiasco, it was going to be hard to get straight for the night, and I didn’t come anywhere close to pulling it off. At the end of the night, I was down $53.00.

Not a huge number, but neither was it small. It was just big enough, in fact, to make me feel bad about myself. Well, since the self-hate makes it hard to get through the days, I should say that it made me feel worse than usual, which is already pretty bad.

(Of course, if I win the aforementioned Arizona hand, I actually would have turned a slight profit of $3, but I’ve got to let that shit go if I ever want to get healthy.)

(Or if I could somehow go back in time and choose to not play the hand at all, then I get at least the $28 that I invested back, but, as stated previously, about one paragraph ago, I need to find a way to get clear.)

Son of a Bitch: March turned out to be a real drag. I lost at three out of the four games, and at the one game at which I did manage to win, it was for a tiny amount.

In all, I lost $159.75. I know that, in many respects, that doesn’t seem like a lot. I mean, I’ve lost more than that on a single night any number of times.

The tough part with which to deal is the fact that losing that $159.75 means that I’m running a deficit at the end of March, the deepest into any year that I’ve ever run a deficit.

You may now be wondering the amount of that deficit. It’s $2.75 that I’m down for the year. I know that that may not seem like a great tragedy, but I’m a sensitive fellow, and I feel much more inadequate than usual.



Editor's Note: The title of this month’s Poker Report comes from Rick James’s song, You and I.

This is going to sound weird, especially to those who know me personally (who know how pent up and closed off and nerdy I am), but I feel a great kinship to Mr. James. Not the burning the ladies with crack pipes thing. Not the mountains of blow thing*. And not the sparkly jumpsuits thing (although, truthfully, I probably would have worn one if I had both owned one in the early 1980’s and had had reasonable occasion to put the sexy thing on).

No, I mean the seeking transcendence (and I don’t mean cheap or easy transcendence, either; I mean transcendence on or at its deepest levels)—in as many varieties as is possible—thing. Mr. James of course sought it through sensory inputs of all types—physical and chemical and musical and who knows how else, bless his wild and lovely heart—and I’m doing the same thing, but on a much less grand scale: poetry and prose and art and film and music.

He and I are also artists (me with the words and him with the songs [oh, and if you think that popular music can’t be art, then you are both an elitist {because you only look for beauty in the obvious and officially sanctioned places: in high art} and a moron {because you don’t have the intelligence and the knowledge and the language and the heart to be able to actually find beauty in every part of the culture in which it might exist}, and you are living a stunted and irrevocably marred life and you are both incredibly sad (because nobody has to limit your life because you are already doing such a good job at it) and worth of all of the contempt that I can generate for you (and I can generate a lot of hate); I’m sorry if that was harsh, but you really are stupid, one of those people who isn't smart enough to not now that he or she isn't smart enough]), and I can appreciate his music as a fellow art maker, its construction and how that construction works to create objects of beauty.

One of Mr. James’s works of art that I can’t get over is his eight-minute classic, You and I. First, you have to be badass to even try to pull of a song of that length because there are so many ways that it can go wrong, mostly having to do with not having enough ideas to warrant the length of the song in the first place. You have to be ambitious and confident, and you have to have high standards to make the song work.

The first three-and-a-half minutes follow the standard verse-chorus-verse structure of most pop songs, and the song is about a male-female romantic/sexual relationship (like so much of our music is, either subtly [like music used to have to be, {which served to give us one of the truly great pop songs, the Shirelles's Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow}], or, like this song, rather overtly), and there’s some fairly ridiculous double-entendre sex stuff in there (we'll be together 'til the six is nine, for example, and, later, I never hesitate, I always come. It's so much fun.) that’s both dirty (but in a sweet way) and also pretty funny (that Mr. James would think that those lyrics, of course, belonged in a song). What saves those lyrics, I think, is that Mr. James absolutely means them (because I’m pretty sure that he both made a six into a nine and a nine into a six many, many [many] times and because I’m sure that he never hesitated and it was always, as it should be, so much fun.)

Then, for the last four-and-a-half minutes, the song goes insane. The musicianship is incredible. First, there’s a tasty guitar solo over a powerful funk beat. Then the guitarist and the sax player start trading twos for a few bars and then the aforementioned sax player, Danny LeMelle, takes a mother of a solo. (I want to take the opportunity now to say that I love how Mr. James features Mr. LeMelle’s sax solos so prominently in so many of his songs.) But then there’s another sax (probably a tenor, but what the hell do I know?) that comes in to close off some of Mr. LeMelle’s phrases.

(You might not even notice that there’s a second sax in there, but once you do notice, you hear and understand how great a bandleader Mr. James was, that he could combine so many elements so well.)

And then, if I may invoke the name of the All-Father (all blessings upon Him, from whom everything springs), Mr. James goes James Brown on his band. What I mean is that, like The Godfather (may that which is true and lovely in the world honor Him above all things), Mr. James directs his musicians as if they were an extension of his imagination, almost as if they were an instrument that he can play through his verbal instructions. So, just like Mr. Brown directing his band to drop out and “give the drummer some,” or, when that particular groove turns out to be so lovely, telling the bass player to “go on, play with him,” or, saying to his backup singers “now, everybody, repeat after me,” and they follow his vocal improvisations for nearly the last two minutes of “There Was a Time,” Mr. James directs his backup singers to sing one of two lines: everybody dance on the funk or everybody shake your booty down.

(And, as far as commands, go, those two are pretty good ones. If more people danced on the funk or shook their booty down, I think that the world would be a much better place.)

Later, he says “now, blow it, Danny” to the aforementioned Danny LeMelle (and I want to take this opportunity to make sure to say that Mr. LeMelle can blow the holy goddamn hell out of his sax; Mr. LeMelle also gets to solo [after having been instructed to “blow, Danny,”] at the end of another Rick James classic, Superfreak, another song about finding pleasure and transcendence in, um, well, you know, plentiful and rigorous and inventive sex with the ladies. Bless, again, his wild and lovely heart.), and then Mr. LeMelle, who’s been tearing it up for the whole song, proceeds to tear it up some more.

And then, toward the end of the song, the lead guitarist and the sax player start trading twos again, jazz style (and I’m not making that allusion to jazz lightly; the music is that complex and rewarding), with that tenor still sneaking in a few notes, but then Mr. LeMelle takes the closing solo.

That band man, The Stone City Band, they were, to use the technical term, motherfuckers, all of them astounding musicians, and you just know that they were having so much fun playing together, and playing together in service of such a great song, and playing together in service of such a great artist.

Yeah, Mr. James may on occasion have been out of his mind on coke, but you can bet that he was sober (even if he was high) and deadly serious about making his songs as beautiful as they could be. He was an artist; his life may have been a 24/7 disaster, but his music, his art, never was.

Like I said, the song’s just slightly over eight minutes long, and there’s not one second that doesn’t have to be in there. It’s the kind of song (ambitious, built for the ages), which only a real artist would attempt. It’s the kind of song in which you find more every time that you listen to it and are attentive and are ready to be moved.

* I’ve got to say that I've been waiting all of my life to use that phrase, mountains of blow, and it felt so good. I was never and currently am not into drugs of any type (see, I wasn’t kidding about the nerd thing), so I’ve never had many opportunities to use drug slang, and I’ve thus always felt left out of a big part of American culture, the culture of getting to use words like blow. I feel so cool right now.

Poker Blogs

Dude, this is why I love reading the poker blogs when they come out. Sometimes I forget some of the things that happen within the span of our game. We, also, have some epic stories and events go down, that I love to relive again and again. Good work, brotha! - Arizona