Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ghosts Of Poker - Chapter 2: All That Warm Blue


Ch. 1 - A Brief Encounter.


I wasn’t thinking about my meeting with Pauly as I hit the sheets. When you’ve rebounded from a scandalous beat, gained some breathing room, and survived with just 117 others into the improbable land of day three of the Aussie Millions you’re not thinking of much. I say you’re “not thinking of much”, which is a far different thing from “not thinking.” You’re thinking as much and as fast as you are capable of thinking, and that’s your problem because . . . well, because you’re not thinking of much. It’s basically down to three topics, and they are playing handball in the space between your ears:

(1) “Holy Crap! THINK OF THE MONEY!”

(2) “Holy Crap! Whatever you do, DON’T THINK OF THE MONEY!”

(3) Total nonsense to distract the mind from this fundamental dichotomy.

It’s a very simple equation. You need eight hours of sleep to be at your best. Tomorrow, do you want to be at your best? Sir, yes sir. Then are you going to get eight hours of sleep?

Come on. No brainer. No brainer. No brainer.

No brainer.

No brainer.

Yep, just get to sleep stay frosty, that kid, what was his name, Murray, he stayed out, got stacked off day three (day four?) day three of the 2005 WSOP (it was 2004 no 2005), that won’t be you bubba, but anyway, anyway, you’re still in and just figure out about THE MONEY no no no, no, no don’t think about that, just don’t THINK about that, you’re fine, just settle and if you can just settle, but anyway, anyway, yeah if you can just get to sleep RIGHT NOW you’ll get seven hours at least you had better get to sleep RIGHT NOW but ok anyway just settle down Moneymaker in 2003 with the pot odds at 5:1 and I have how many outs if he’s got the set versus aces up with the, the, what’s the point you’re priced in if you get big stacked and don’t think about that because you can’t it’s all right and THE MONEY no no no NO . . .

Settle down.




It was John Murphy, the 2004 World Series OH WHAT THE SWEET BLOODY HELL DOES IT MATTER ANYWAY??.

I’ll cut this off now out of politeness. But you see? That’s what happens when you are swimming in darkness and staring at the red face of a digital readout, and it occurs to you that, void of all senses, and this was a silly thought, but that digital readout could just as easily be seven miles tall and on the horizon of the Australian Outback as on a bedside table in the Crown in Melbourne, and you just wouldn’t know . . .

If you’re lucky, you’ll manage like me to drift into a mostly unconscious jumble of false math problems. You have to give something to that part of your brain that just will not switch off. I feed mine math problems that don’t exist, like calculating the percentage of seven times banana. It’s almost sleep, and you can rest.

I had finally gotten to that place when my past caught up with me.

* * *

There was a noise, except that it was less like a noise and more like the sound of the end of the world, or at least the end of Australia as a viable island, a screaming, screeching mechanical noise, the sound of a steam shovel vomiting lug nuts, the sound of a rusted band saw on corrugated tin, the sound of people in hell being forced to laugh at Carrot Top for eternity. And then there was a light, but the light was totally incongruous to the diabolical pandemonium that assaulted me. It was a soft, orange light, the glow of the sun coming up on the Outback on a January morning.

I wasn’t focused on the light, though. I had jumped straight out of bed, barely awake and about to run. It was certain that the hotel was about to come down, and the only hope was to get to the stairs and pronto, Tonto.

But then I couldn’t run. There were no stairs. There was no door. There was no hotel room. No mini-bar, even. My Crown Casino hotel bed was sitting in the middle of the Australian outback. The light in the distance actually was the sunrise.

Also, there was a figure standing in silhouette between me and the glow. The figure gave a merry laugh. “Oy, don’t be all terrified, mate. That’s just Future runnin’ around behind me is all.”

“Guh?” I inquired, because I find that there’s nothing like disoriented terror to make you loquacious.

“Yeah, Future, he likes to make with the fearsomeness, but he ain’t no more dangerous than a common bush rattler. Bit of a bloody gallah, y’ask me.” The figure stepped closer, and his features became visible. Crisp khakis, short sleeved, short shorts. Huge grin. High socks. A sense of childlike wonder on the face. A heroically feathered sand-colored mullet.

It was the friggin’ Crocodile Hunter.

I know. I know. But it was. I was beyond stammering at this point. I’m like you; I know what happened to Steve Irwin. But here he was, healthy as a drover, helping me to my feet with one beefy arm, still talking exactly the way he did on his show. “See, now, what we’re gonna do now is take ya on a bonzer of a trip . . .”

“You’re . . . You . . . “

“Oh yeah, you’d know me from telly, wouldn’t ya? Good onya, mate! That’s not my place now. Ghost of the past, that’s me.”


“In your case, Ghost of Poker Past. Though I do Christmas, too, not to mention Kwanza, Easter, Yom Kippur, and Happy Hour.” Crocodile Hunter grabbed my shoulder. “Blimey, let’s go!”

And with that, everything melted away and we were in my study, standing behind . . . me. Not only that, but my study is the old color. I painted it years ago. My hair looks a little different. I may be a bit thinner.

And I’m playing on PokerStars. That clinches it. This must be the past.

“Recognize it, mate?” It’s Irwin. He’s sitting on my futon.

“Well, it’s a poker tournament. I play a lot of those.”

“Look a touch closer, then.”

I sidle up to myself. You’ve never had an experience that weird, just trust me. I don’t notice myself, I’m looking at the screen, and I seem interested in what’s happening. I take a peek at my hole cards. Pocket queens. Nice.

Wait. Wait! That’s GRob min-raising. He’s the big stack to my right. I’m second in chips. I know this. I remember now. I remember.

“Fold,” I whisper to myself. “Fold, you fool.”

I don’t listen. I min raise him right back. With blinds at 1000/2000, we each put 10K in the pot. That’s a fifth of my stack and an eighth of his.
The flop comes: 6s 3c 3h

“Fold,” I say to my previous self, a little louder. I’m deaf to myself. I don’t fold. What I do is push 31,887 more into the 20,800 pot.

GRob calls, immediately. “Uh oh,” previous me says. GRob flips over Queen three for about the sickest possible showing. That’s a queen with a trey, the gay waiter. When we put ten thousand in, he was crushed. Now, I’m a one-outer. The one outer doesn’t come. My past self screams and jumps to his feet. A former Star Trek ensign chats:

“It’s GRob’s world, we just shit in it.”

And I’m gone, gone, gone.

* * *

My study is melting, and I’m back in my hotel in Melbourne. That’s nice for my sanity, but the Crocodile Hunter is still with me, so I’m not nearly out of the crazy-woods yet.

“You recognized it, did ya?”

“It was the second Wheatie. All the bloggers showed up, or at least 120 of them. It was my first multi-table tournament, and I made the final table. It’s when I really fell for poker in a big way.”

“Fair dinkum.”

“But did you SEE what GRob called me with?” My voice kicks right up into the whiny octaves. “What the HELL was that? He called off a quarter of his stack with Queen three. And then to catch literally the ONLY flop that could help him? I should have won there. If I win that hand, man, I’m taking down the whole tournament.”

“If you say so, mate . . .” Crocodile Hunter is eyeing me. He’s relaxing, leaned against the wall, but on psychological planes of reality, can you imagine him stalking me? Think of it, he’s in night-vision and he’s telling the camera: We’ve just found a Woe-is-me Screamer. His venom is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, now watch this, I’m going to jump right into the water and grab him by the tail . . .

“If I say so? Can you imagine a beat worse than Queen three versus a pocket –“

Irwin looks at me, just once, then looks away. It’s enough. I know in that instant that I’ve been caught by the tail.

* * *

It was a stingray barb. You read about it, too. Those who know about these things say that it was a million to one against that it would happen. Precautions were taken, all the precautions. There were few people in the known universe who knew their way around a potentially dangerous beast than Croc Hunter. You want a bad beat? Try being knocked out of the Really Big Tournament in the early levels by a 1/9,999th outer.

Imagine that. All that warm blue sea, cradling you, rocking you in paradise and every bit of it good, and suddenly one infinitesimal portion of it is hard and sharp and pierces your heart. What poker player can’t relate to this? You play for hours for the hope of getting all the chips in with what? 80% of the equity? 98% is a pipe dream. Imagine it’s that pipe dream, ninety-eight percent. Your opponent has one out once, and all the other cards feel as warm and nuturing as the ocean around the Great Barrier Reef. But one of them is coiled up in there, ready to end you.

Yeah, I get it.

“Sorry. I'm really sorry.”

“No worries, mate.” The guy is still smiling. I guess if you can smile when you’re holding a cobra by the tail, you’re pretty unflappable. Nothing flaps Steve Irwin, that’s for sure.

Then my stubbornness sticks its big shoe in. Stubborn as a goat, that’s me. How disgustingly apt. I say:

“So you of anybody should understand bad luck.”

Steve Irwin laughs. “Crickey! Bad luck? Listen, matey, you know what I did every single day of my life? Every single day? I did what I loved, with the people I loved, until the day I was all done. No offense to ya, but I don’t know a blessed thing about bad luck.”

I don’t have much to say to that.

“I won’t be the last ghost you see tonight,” The Crocodile Hunter says as he twinkles out of reality, leaving me standing in the dark of my hotel room, with the alarm clock showing 2:30 AM.

And that’s when I remember what Pauly told me.


This is Part II of my entry to the Write Your Way To Australia promotional. This story has been broken into four parts, both as tribute to Charles Dickens and in honor of those who don't like to read lots of words all in one spot, like.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ghosts Of Poker - Chapter 1: A Brief Encounter

Come here, I’ll tell you all the things you find out about being under a spotlight.

First, there’s the light. Of course, there’s light, dummy; otherwise it’d just be a spot, wouldn’t it? As it was in the beginning, so it is at the TV table. Let there be light, fine. But so much? You can’t see far past it. Try to gaze out there and you’ll feel like you’ve just tried to watch an eclipse the stupid way.

Then, heat. Television lights put off plenty of British thermal units, my friend, and they put them right onto your shoulders. Most of these guys feel the sweat rising up from their shoulder blades, tickling down their backs in little runnels and dampening their undies. It’s twitchy feeling, right at a time when you’d do well not to twitch.

Next, there’s them. You know . . . them. This is the one you really don’t ever think about. They can see you, and you can’t see them. It’s not like this at home. How you deal with it is what matters. Remember, you can’t see them. But you can feel them; they are out there in numbers you can’t discern, out on the periphery of all your senses. Relax, there’s only a hundred of them. A hundred fifty tops. This is what the logical part of your mind is telling you, but that part is busy calculating pot odds right now and can’t be bothered to mollycoddle you. Meanwhile, the reptilian part of your brain has swelled that half-bored crowd into an ocean. Hiss of breath, murmur murmur murmur, an odd scent, desultory motion out of the corner of your eye, the inescapable sense of anticipation; that at some point – perhaps at this point – you’ll make a misstep and fall, or have a tantrum, or a breakdown, or perhaps do something brilliant. They’re looking for something they haven’t seen before. The pressure of them, the weight of them, you can feel it, and in that moment they really are an ocean, and you are deep beneath them, and the pressure of that is all you can bear.

Also, Phil Ivey’s eyes are trying to drill into your brain, right through the skull and into the brainpan.

I’ll confess to you, that last one isn’t a common attribute of the spotlight, but it absolutely is an attribute of this particular one. Ivey. He’s like some malignant alien intelligence. He wants to get into your mind and feast on all your tender nuggets. People who are caught up in the banal and the merely superficial call him the Tiger Woods of Poker, but in truth he’s the Dick Cheney of Poker: He’s got all the information and he’ll never give you any of it, but he wants all your secrets. Also, he’s completely heartless. Also, he’s the devil.

I made that last one up. Ivey’s not the devil; he doesn’t want your soul, just every one of your chips.

Now . . . we’re not really talking about spotlights anymore. This is a more specific thing. A simple hand of poker. A situation to address. A problem to solve. You have two overs and a flush draw with two to come, and the Dick Cheney of Poker has just re-raised you for nearly a third of what you have left. It’s push or fold time.

And we’re not actually talking about you. I should be clear about that. I'm just trying to help you feel it. The “you” is me. My name is Goat, which sadly doesn’t preclude me from being a donkey. I have no idea what is about to happen. I barely even know how I got here.

Well, that’s not true. Of course I know how I got here. And of course I remember what the ghosts told me. But now I have to remember what it means. It won’t be too long before Ivey calls the clock on me.

* * *

How did I get here? I got here on a TWA people-carrier. It flew, believe it or not. A 400-ton aluminum tube shoots up into the air and stays there, which is almost as baffling a thing as twenty-seven relative strangers, some in their underwear, all playing poker from twenty-seven different locations for the chance to ride that tube.

The impartial Martian observer who has silently watched our planet since the beginning of the universe asks himself: How could such a thing as this be? And, more importantly, why?

We don’t know why, but sure, online poker is as real as any airliner. I won my way into the Tournament of Champions and then I took the thing down. Suddenly I was going to Australia. I was the one. Crazy. Unfathomable. Fuel couldn’t believe it, either.

I guess donkeys can do anything,” he wrote in the chatbox, and now, under the spotlight, I would have to agree. How could this be happening? This is the Aussie Millions near the end of the third day, and we’re well past “in the money” time. We’re three-tabled. I busted Sam Farha earlier today. I keep thinking I busted Sam Farha and it doesn’t take. That sentence cannot possibly be connected to reality. It’s like thinking, I just opened up an omelet sandwich on your left chin, Harpo. Total gibberish. But still, it’s true. It was one of the few times in the last few days I’d gotten my money in behind, and I thought I was crippled for sure. Then I caught one of my five outs, and Sam was done. He looked at me as though he wanted to open an omelet sandwich on my left chin, I promise you. I think he was thinking the same thing as Fuel. Donkeys can do anything.

We writers call that ‘felicitous synchronicity.’

No, we don’t. I just made that phrase up, or at least I think I did. Maybe it will catch on.

Don’t worry. The impartial Martian observer doesn’t understand me, either.

* * *

The first day had been madness. I was just learning to handle my chips, and that’s not a euphemism. Somehow I’d survived, and more than survived. I’d grown my chips to an above average stack. The nerves had kept me from any of my normal stupidities.

The second day was when the wheels nearly spun off. It had been bad from nearly the start. I’d gotten my money in with a set and jammed and a maniac with a half-stack had called me faster than our modern technology can measure. He was on a pure inside straight draw, and the turn was cruel to me. And just like that, I was the half-stack and he was a grinning monkey.

“Nice hand,” I hissed at him. You can say those words and mean so many things. The Inuit have dozens of words for different types of snow. Poker players have dozens of ways to say ‘nice hand’, and one of them even means ‘nice hand.’

I chose the one that meant, “How do you even see the cards with no oxygen going to your brain, you embarrassment to all living mammals, you?”

I got up to walk off the steam and found myself in the lobby. I sank into one of the deep sofas there and was considering ordering a quick drink when I saw a familiar face through the window. By this I mean a face familiar to me, though I was completely sure that he had no idea who I was. There was no mistaking it, though, for this was one of the bright stars in the dim sky of poker bloggery, this was the guy who had dropped the hammer in every continent, a fellow Phish fan and jam music junkie, this was the one and only Dr. Pauly. I’d been wondering if I’d see him; it was public knowledge that he’d be covering the event. He was standing outside and enjoying a smoke. I decided to make valor the better part of discretion and went out to introduce myself. By all accounts, he’s a nice guy, by any standard he’s a fine writer, and I'd always wanted to tell him how much I liked what he'd written about Phish's final performance of Slave to the Traffic Light. And besides, why not?

He looked up as I approached.

“Hey,” I said.

Pauly nodded politely, but that was all. He was waiting for the next move.

“You don’t know me, but I’m the BBT winner if you’ve heard of that. My name’s Andrew, but you’ve played me a couple times as –“

“Goat,” he said. I blinked at him, surprised. He grinned.

“I do think I read something a little something about the BBT on one or two of those blogs, you know. Well, good job getting here. You enjoying Oz?”

“I was until a few minutes ago.” Suddenly I was fuming. “You’d think the level of play would get a little better at a major tournament, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t believe what just happened, I had tens in middle pos…”

“Oh NO. OH GOD NO!” Pauly was transformed. The mild-mannered, friendly chap with whom I’d just been conversing was gone. He deftly barrel-spun what appeared to be a two-hundred pound ashcan between me and him. “You’re going to try to tell a goddam bad beat story, aren’t you?” He huddled in the corner like a dog that had been thrown into acid too many times. “I thought you read my stuff I thought you were a friend I thought you KNEW how AWFUL bad beat stories are WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME??”

“Look, I know, but this was a hand I played perfec—“

“Listen,” Pauly said, jerking his thumb back toward the casino ballroom. “If you listen closely, you can hear seven bad beats just as rancid as yours happening right now. Right now. And there’s another. And there’s another. And another. And another. And they all want to come find me and tell me all about them, every one of them. This is the nexus of bad beats on this continent, man. If you wanted to avoid them, you should have stayed as far away from poker as possible. Don’t you know where bad beats come from, you lummox, you moon-faced dummy you?”

“I guess, but . . .”

Pauly took another drag and looked at me. At that moment, I thought I saw pity in his eyes. “You need help, bud,” he finally said. “And it’s more than I can provide.”

All I could think to say was this: “Sure, maybe.”

“Maybe? Within ten seconds of meeting me, you’re reliving your bad beat for me. I ask how you’re enjoying Australia, and you tell me about some cards. Have you looked around? Do you realize where you are? This happens to be something close to paradise. You need to think about it.”

“Well, I need to get back there and defend what’s left of my stack, anyway,” I said, more than a little peeved. Who did this guy think he was? So you’re a bigtime blogger, whoop dee do. Doesn’t give you the right to be so holy high-and-mighty.

But when Pauly spoke again, his voice had changed completely. It was low, and hoarse, and it seemed to be coming from all 360 degrees at once.

“I have been doomed, doomed, doomed,” he said, and the way he said it shut me right up. “Dooooomed to hear bad beat stories. Dooooomed. But that fate need not be yours, Goat. I can send aid to you that you will not at first welcome. You will be visited by three Australians. Listen to them well, for they will not come again.”

“What are you talking about?”

“They will visit you. They will teach you if you will learn,” Pauly said, and then he put on his shades and shut his mouth. I took the hint and went back inside.

* * *

I caught fire after returning. My first double-through after I got back was utter luck. I caught quads and the other guy had a boat. Set up hand all the way. My next one was a very nice concealed straight against a top pair donkey. My next one was another set, and this one held. By the time we broke for the day, I had a nice healthy stack, and returned to my hotel room ready for sleep.

But as it turned out, sleep was not ready for me . . .


This story has been broken into four parts, both as tribute to Charles Dickens and in honor of those who like to start and finish all in one trip to the john.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Name That Shot 005: No, You Must Be Don Fransico's Sister


Second, I'm taking a BBTBreak™, but that doesn't mean we can't do a shot or two. The shot from Monday was from . . .

Love and Death (Woody Allen, 1975). Look, comedy is a highly subjective thing. One man's "Great! The Waterboy!" is another man's "Great. The Waterboy." So it is not without some level of trepidation that I write these words: The very funniest movie ever made, the most sublime example of cinematic hilarity, is, in my opinion, Woody Allen's Love and Death.

I know there are more of you out there who feel this way. One of you, maybe? Really? None? Come on, people, holler if you hear me. Not a minute goes by without an honest-to-Tolstoy gut-laugh. It's great. Hilarious. Criminally under-appreciated. Come on, now, brothers and sisters. Give me some love. Even the premise is hilarious. Who other than Woody in his 'funny era' prime would conceive of a spoof film lampooning 19th Century Russian novels, of all things? Who else would pull it off? Allen plays Boris Grushenko, an inveterate coward and reluctant atheist who carries his butterfly collection to war, falls inadvertently into heroism ('You should have such inadvertent heroism"), attempts to assassinate Napoleon, and engages in 'deep' philosophical debates with his beloved cousin, Sonja (Diane Keaton), one of which leads to this exchange:

"But judgement of any system or a priori relation of phenomena exists in any rational, or metaphysical, or at least epistimological contradication to an abstracted empirical concept such as 'being', or 'to be', or 'to occur' in the thing itself or of the thing itself. "

"Yes, I've said that many times."

This is a film that is not afraid to use the word 'jejune', and is at the same time perfectly willing to turn around make a joke of people who use the word 'jejune'. When Boris and his father hunker down to talk about the old neighborhood, you won't need to have a knowledge of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky to laugh, but it doesn't hurt, either. The viewer is rewarded for erudition, but you won't be left out of the party if you don't know who Raskolnikov is and hate the people who do. As a result, the ridiculous and the sublime clash to maximum effect.

Allen made this movie right before he started his more introspective - and more acclaimed - period, beginning with the marvelous (and beloved) Annie Hall. As though anticipating the shift he was about to take toward the dramatic, Allen first cranked out his most sucessful 'pure' laugher, cramming it full to bursting with every possible influence, from his patented one-liners and yammering 'Woody' monologues to slapstick right out of the Three Stooges, wordplay right out of Groucho's playbook, and winking (yet still compelling) recreations of famous shots from such art house fare as Persona and The Battleship Potemkin. Yet unlike previous efforts such as Bananas or Sleeper, Love & Death doesn't overstay it's welcome, because it doesn't depend on easy jokes or a one-note concept. Allen's decision to play with a highbrow and obscure milieu gives him the perfect palette for comedy. Against this backdrop, the ludicrous becomes all the more funny for the contrast, while providing a depth which justifies many of more philosophical – though still wrenchingly funny – elements, which rise from Boris' struggles with mortality, suicide, murder, and religion.

Keaton cannot be over-praised for her performance; she's as good here as she was in in Annie Hall, if not better. Her put-downs of prospective lovers alone should be legend ( "No. Not here. Not on the piano. It's a rented piano."). Allen gave her at least as many good lines as he gave himself, and in return she elevated herself into the pantheon of comic genius. Equally intelligent, sexy, gangly, and foolish, it may be enough to say that she gives the funniest performance in the funniest Woody Allen film.

Love and Death is one of those rare and wonderful films that I can watch again and again, and still find new enjoyment each time.

And now . . . a guy who's just been kicked in the junk. I bet somebody recognizes this one.

GoatLinks 001: Selling My Clothes, My Rings, My Silver Brushes

Here's webby brilliance for you on a Wednesday.

The Vader Chronicles. Funniest Star Wars thing ever.

More Humane Mousetraps. This is silly. Those NIMH mice would beat these things in 5 seconds.

Rice-cabulary. Define 'inveigle', save the world. My top score was 47, surely you can beat that.

Portal, Flash Version. Awesome. You're welcome for the next 17 hours of your life.

Hey Look! It's the web page that will NEVER find its intended audience!

Al Can't Hang Is Amazing. Write your way to Australia? It's like it's raining Guinness and snowing bacon these days. Too bad for me that people like Otis exist.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Name That Shot 004: I Told You When I Came I Was A Stranger

Sweet Neddy Dingo, what a weird MATH! I'm not even referring to the fact that a mind-numbing 82 people showed up for Hoy's little shindig, either. I've been telling Hoy since BBT one ended that if and when it came back it was going to be huge. I didn't think it would be THIS huge (and I think it's going to get even bigger now that Full Tilt actually has it right on their site), but still . . .

No, what I'm referring to is the bizarro game of poker I just got done with. I spun my wheels early, foolishly (I think) folding AK to Lucko's re-raise, and after that, I couldn't get my money in ahead. Short-stacked, I pushed 44 into a Wonka's AA and caught the flush draw on the turn and the four on the river. Later, I pushed 88 into somebody's QQ and caught the runner-runner straight. I told Alan that it was all skill, 8th level thinking, and that he couldn't possibly try to think that way unless, like me, he was from the future.

After my epic suckouttery, my Queens won the flip vs. ck's AK (let me know the link CK and I'll link you), which finally got me healthy. Then I got most of my chips in with KK against jjok's pocket Jacks.

JJ OK? No. JJ totally and ironically unbeatable. Flop came JJx and I was crrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrushed like a shredded wheat biscuit. Turns out that JJOK is from even further in the future than I am. I went out shortly thereafter in the 40-highs. I can't complain about the suckout given what I'd done to get there. KK holds up and I like my chances to take it deep, though. Ultimately I'm happy with my game, though I'd have preferred to not have pushed my underpairs into quite so many overpairs. Then again, it appears that dominated pairs are gold tonight. I've had a total blast with the first two BBT events. I'll be sitting BBT out until next week sometime, but it's been more fun than a barrel full of pretty much anything. Except monkeys. I draw the line at monkeys, which are (let's face it) insanely fun, especially when found in barrel form.

ETA: Apparently, my chips are good luck. Congrats to jjok for riding his epic suckout to the first MATH victory of BBTwo (and I ain't paying you diddly, nemesis) and a spot on the three table Tournament of Champs! You can suckout once or twice, but to take the whole thing down you have to have played some fine poker along the way.

TOC Thus far

jeciimd - Big Game
jjok - MATH

Anyway, away from the awesomeness that is the every-growing BBT, and on to the screenshot challenge. Yesterday's shot was met with the mighty sound of many crickets, which is a shame, because it comes from . . .

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971), which is one of my favorite films. If you haven't noticed by now, I'm taking shots pretty much from great movies from my must-see list. I figure there are enough buried treasures that are readily available to tell you about; you don't really need my help finding You and Me and Dupree or whatever the crap is being stuffed down America's gullet this week. I'll keep telling you about great movies, which tend to have some of the best screenshots, anyway.

Where shall I start? How about a quiz?

This is . . .

A) Arguably Robert Altman's best film.
B) One of the best Westerns ever made.
C) Probably the best film about a poker player ever made.
D) All of the above.

I'm going to assume that you're all smart people and can tell a rhetorical multiple-choice question when you see one. This is a Western that feels so real that I sometimes think about it as someplace I've been, not something I've seen. It has an authenticity that I can't describe. It's enormously affecting, completely unsentimental, and it just has a vibe that you should experience for yourself. There's no legend-making here; it seems as if Altman and Warren Beatty stepped into a time machine with some cameras, went up to the Pacific Northwest, and started shooting.

I'm going to leave it up to you to go rent this extraordinary movie, and leave you with the lines of the song by the poet Leonard Cohen, that plays over the opening credits of this story about a gambler, a drifter, and a dreamer who chases after one card too many.

After that, I'll leave you with something completely different; see if you can guess.

It's true that all the men you knew were dealers
who said they were through with dealing
Every time you gave them shelter
I know that kind of man
It's hard to hold the hand of anyone
who is reaching for the sky just to surrender
who is reaching for the sky just to surrender.

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
you find he did not leave you very much not even laughter
Like any dealer he was watching for the card
that is so high and wild
he'll never need to deal another
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger.

And then leaning on your window sill
he'll say one day you caused his will
to weaken with your love and warmth and shelter
And then taking from his wallet
an old schedule of trains, he'll say
I told you when I came I was a stranger
I told you when I came I was a stranger.

But now another stranger seems
to want you to ignore his dreams
as though they were the burden of some other
O you've seen that man before
his golden arm dispatching cards
but now it's rusted from the elbows to the finger
And he wants to trade the game he plays for shelter
Yes he wants to trade the game he knows for shelter.

Ah you hate to see another tired man
lay down his hand
like he was giving up the holy game of poker
And while he talks his dreams to sleep
you notice there's a highway
that is curling up like smoke above his shoulder
It is curling just like smoke above his shoulder.

You tell him to come in sit down
but something makes you turn around
The door is open you can't close your shelter
You try the handle of the road
It opens do not be afraid
It's you my love, you who are the stranger
It's you my love, you who are the stranger.

Well, I've been waiting, I was sure
we'd meet between the trains we're waiting for
I think it's time to board another
Please understand, I never had a secret chart
to get me to the heart of this
or any other matter
When he talks like this
you don't know what he's after
When he speaks like this,you don't know what he's after.

Let's meet tomorrow if you choose
upon the shore, beneath the bridge
that they are building on some endless river
Then he leaves the platform
for the sleeping car that's warm
You realize, he's only advertising one more shelter
And it comes to you, he never was a stranger
And you say ok the bridge or someplace later.

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
you find he did not leave you very much not even laughter

And then leaning on your window sill
he'll say one day you caused his will
to weaken with your love and warmth and shelter

I told you when I came I was a stranger.
Yes, I told you when I came I was a stranger.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Name That Shot 003: The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship

All right, first, the last shot I posted was, as Al was first to devine, from the great classic Casablanca.

I don't know what to tell you about this movie, except to say that if you haven't caught it on Turner Movie Classics or basic cable, wherever . . . then RUN! Stop reading this! What are you thinking, you haven't seen Casablanca?

Seriously, this is a piece of the collective cultural consciousness at this point. It informs everything from modern noir to Bugs Bunny cartoons. Not only that, but it's Bogie rocking the white tux as only Bogie can. One of the coolest cats in movie history in one of his best roles, and the gold standard for good scripts. Claude Raines, Ingrid Bergman, and Peter Lorre. For the love of Pete, get out there and Netflix this one.

Ok, next, on to Miami Don's Big Game. I'm too tired and a bit too cranky for a long story, so here's the short one.

Yes, that's me and the JackAce vacationing at the final table. I even folded the JackAce to serious preflop action. Aren't you proud of me?

I feel that I played quite well, indeed. I got my money in re-raising from the blinds with pocket tens and TripJax, who was a big stack for sure, called me pretty quickly with King Jack getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 2:1. I don't love the play, but I've been bigstacked before and feeling invincible, and I've absolutely made calls of that kind in that spot. I expect he put me on a worse hand than tens, but it would really have been essentially the same story versus 44 or 22, so I think bad call makes good. However, so be it. If I got called, I was hoping to be against some overs. Then I was called, I was indeed against overs, and it didn't work out. That's about it, so I won't cry too much. I made the money, and made a pretty nice start to BBT deuce as well. I fully intend to make some noise in this series.

The important thing is to note that I have played TripJax now many times, and can't remember a time that he didn't completely destroy me on pretty much every hand we played together. I think he must have a lock read on me, or he can see my cards. Either way, he's a nice guy but he's my nemesis. Like Luke Skywalker in training, I must defeat him before I will truly be a Jedi. And since he asked me to do one of these posts right before he killed me (and since he clearly owns me), I will oblige, and dedicate today's shot to the guy who I have in my crosshairs. Try to guess it, I dare you.

You hear me, TripJax? I'ma poppa cap in ya.

Monday, October 15, 2007

BBT: With Two You Get Bankroll

Is it just me, or did all the air just get sucked right out of the room?

In case you missed it, something big is coming.

Real big.

It's safe to say there's never been a blogger tournament series of this magnitude before. I'm a newbie, by far. Maybe there are other huge happenings I'm not aware of. This is easily the biggest thing I've seen happen in terms of an online event for this group. Inconceivable doesn't begin to describe it. FullTilt must love our writing. A lot. Are you aware that Al Can't Hang and his fellows have landed a little north $20K worth of free prizes for the BBT2? That's free. Free prizes. Zero dollah. Try getting THAT for your home game.

Man, what's the over/under on runner in the Mookie? 100?

Here's the weekly events:

Tournament: Mondays at the Hoy
When: Every Monday. 10pm ET
Game: NLHE Deepstack
Buyin: $24+2
Password: hammer

Tournament: The Mookie
When: Every Wednesday. 10pm ET
Game: NLHE Deepstack
Buyin: $10+1
Password: vegas1

Tournament: Riverchasers Online Poker Tour
When: Every Thursday. 21:00 ET
Game: NLHE Deepstack
Buyin: $10+1Password: Riverchasers

So get out there and get it done. Sign up. Show Tilt what we're made of.

See you at the Big Game.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Name That Shot 002: The Play's The Thing

On Friday I posted a screenshot for you to ooh and ah over, and perhaps to guess. None of you did so, but as Hoy rightly pointed out, it was meant to be hard.

I put a tiny hint in the text of yesterday's post; see if you can spot it. The shot came from . . .

Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh, 2006). If you haven't seen this, honestly, do yourself a favor and get it. Don't be put off by the fact that it's Shakespeare (if you're the type of person to be put off by Shakespeare). This production is the exact opposite of everything that rankles people about the Bard in 10th grade English class. If you've seen any of Mr. Branagh's Shakespeare adaptations, you know that the guy has a gift for bringing Shakespeare to life with intensity, creativity, depth, and emotional honesty. I think what's most impressive is the way he as a director stages scenes to both make the action perfectly match the script's meaning, while adding surprising new layers and reimagining. The scene shown above is the 'to be or not to be' scene. Now . . . I'm a big Shakespeare nerd, so perhaps you have to take this with a grain of salt, but I was blown away with this scene, which I'd probably seen done a half-dozen different times by different productions. This one finds a completely fresh take on the material, adding layers of meaning to an a speech made almost meaningless through over-familiarity.

Hamlet was shot in 70 mm, a process that allowed for clearer, sharper, and steadier images. (It was used, for example by David Lean to shoot Lawrence of Arabia.) It was the first film to be shot using this process in 25 years. No other movie has used the process since; it's too expensive. In other words, this is one of the most incredible looking films of all time, and it finally, finally, has come to DVD. The performances are first rate (a couple exceptions, Branagh had to pack in some Hollywood stars to get the fundage) with standouts from Branagh, Kate Winslet, and Derek Jacobi, the language is high flown and beautiful but clearly understandable, and the production design is among the most magnificent in the last decade or so. This is the definitive Hamlet, the definitive Shakespeare film, my favorite film of 1996, and it's one for the archive. Go, watch it. If you hate it, I'll kill ya.

I should probably warn you that it's four hours long, which means I've lost those of you I didn't lose with 'Shakespeare.'

By the way, I've heard the single plea that the shot was too small. You may now click to embiggen.

Here's the next shot. Try to guess where this is from, or, failing that, make a snide remark or two.

Name That Shot 001

I clearly have nothing interesting to say about poker these days. I am still playing a couple nights a week, so let me break it down for you. Some wins when I'm ahead, some suckouts when I'm behind. Lots of beats. Some smaller cashes. Bankroll growing slowly.


So, to fill the yawning poker void with something that is hopefully diverting, I'll borrow a trick from my film review days (Alas, poor I wrote for it, Horatio.) and put up a cool looking screenshot.

See if you can be the first to correctly guess the film from which this shot comes. If you can't do that, see if you can make the snarkiest comment.

If you can't do that, see if you can soak your head in a bucket of piranha fish.

WARNING: If anybody at all seems to be enjoying this feature, I'll probably make it a regular thing.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007


We have hard wood floors, to which sometime gunk accrues. Gunk? Maybe banana residue, or old fruit snacks, perhaps peanut butter, it's hard to tell, for now it's black and sticky and congealed together with pet hair.

Anyway, I'm cleaning it. My eldest daughter, 3 years old, asks:

"What you doing, m'dad?"

"I'm cleaning the floor."

"What you cleaning?"

"Um . . . I'm not sure. Just something that stuck here."

"Why it stick?"

"It's just something that happens, sweetie. Floors get dirty."

"Why it get dirty?"

"Because of entropy."

"Why is there entropy, dad?"

So, at least now she's asking the important questions.

I'm Registered

Anybody want to do a last longer?

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 5691158