Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Monday, April 30, 2007

Blogger Bracelet Race and Kitty Litter Poker

Well, that was quick. For a guy that managed to pick up like 6 pocket pairs in the first hour of the tournament, including KK twice, I think it says a LOT about my ability to play this game that I finished far, far behind Pauly, who was sitting out until he finally got blinded out 22nd. It takes real skill to be a card rack and STILL play yourself out of the tournament before the first break.

Now my table draw was not exactly what I had dreamt of, with Lucko on my right elbow and STB and the Luckbox (congrats, again, CJ!!) across the table, plus a couple of people I don't know. But I was able to chip up nicely picking off some of Lucko's steal attempts early, assisted by getting AK, AQ, AT all multiple times in the early going, and typically hitting the flop pretty hard as well. 'Course, Lucko was busy locking up his seat to the WSOP Main Event while we were having our little game as well, so congrats to him on that one!

A couple of big hands came late in my tenure at the table. Zeem had just gotten to the table (Dude, lost your URL, hit me in comments and I'll link you up) and I picked up some mediocre starting hand like KJo and raised in position with it. Zeem calls, I miss the flop, C-bet, get called, hate life. Two hearts on the flop and one on the turn. Great if I had a heart in my hand. Not so much otherwise, I check, thinking "if I had really hit the flush here, I'd check." Zeem checks behind and I bet about 3/4 pot on the river with air. He thinks for a long time before folding and I'm feeling all ten feet tall and bulletproof (c'mon hillbillies, what country singer that looks an awful lot like a taller Blogfather released that as an album title?)

I pick up 99 about an orbit later, and STB raises from early position to 240. Blinds are at 30/60. I pop it to 640, and he calls. I don't like that. It doesn't make me happy that he called. He was supposed to fold there, didn't he get the memo?

Flop comes Q33 and there are very few hands that I can put him on that would both call a reraise preflop and hit that board, so I bet, thinking to myself "Self, that's a GREAT flop for 99." He calls, and I'm sure I can take this hand now. If he's got QQ-AA he reraises me there, so the only thing I'm sweating is TT or JJ, and those I can likely push out on the turn.

Not so much. He checks the turn and I push, thinking not only am I not smart enough to get away from a full house in Hold Em, but there still isn't a hand with a Queen in it that I can put him on here. He makes the call with his AQs, and I've doubled him up.

It was a really good play preflop by STB to call my reraise with a marginal hand like AQ, because I had been super-active at the table, and even had remarked that I was getting hit in the head with the deck. So he took a preflop flyer with a hand that would be easy to get away from if it missed, and when he hit it he knew he could count on my aggro style to do the betting for him, and I did. Well played, sir.

So that was 3,500 in chips gone. I manage to double through CJ when my KK was way further ahead of his 22 than the two overs he naturally assumed I was shoving with, and then went out to Lucko when my AKs didn't catch against his 88. I just thought he was stealing again, because he had been the only one at the table to stick out more position raises than me, but maybe he just happened to catch a shitload of cards when I was in the SB or on the button. Who knows.

So I went out in 54th place, but I don't think I played it too poorly. I'd rather flame out as a victim of my own aggressive play than wash out by playing too passively.

Saturday night was the end of our play's first run, and that typically means one thing - CAST PARTY!!! This usually involves consuming ridiculous amounts of adult beverages and someone getting naked. Now you know why I get along so well with all of you, it sounds a LOT like a blogger gathering. Extra special kudos go to the chick in the cast who showed up to strike the set the next afternoon and helped clean up the set between sessions of leaning into the bushes to puke. That's dedication.

Anyway, there was a part. And since we chipped in and got our director a set of nice chips for his gift, I knew there would be pokering. The chips are BR Pro Tiki Ceramic chips, since Chris and Jill's porch is decorated like a Tiki Lounge.

There was pokering indeed, of a sort. There was more drinking than pokering, and there were times that I needed help reading the board early on, but not nearly as much as my buddy Jimmy, who blew through about 4 buy-ins at $.25/.50 NLHE in a couple hours. When you measure your alcohol consumption by the yard rather than by some fluid measurement, it's not going to be pretty. I ran my QQ into O'Neill's KK once for a pretty expensive pot, but my Aces held up and flopped trips with 65 to get most of that back. I ran a few bluffs, but only a very few, because you can't really bluff someone who is betting $20 - $50 blind on every third hand. I finished up $145 for the night, marking one of my first winning sessions this month! I'd kinda forgotten what it was like to leave a poker table with more money than I sat down with.

So after the game, we put Jimmy to bed. Kinda. As the attempt was being made, Jewart ran for a trashcan to put by the bed (you know why). As he was returning, he found Jimmy holding his hat. His hat full of puke. Better than the floor, I guess. At least he didn't put the hat back on. Then he loaded up the trashcan too. JJ comes out onto the porch where me and Chris were sitting and said, in his very southern and very gay accent (think a male Delta Burke kinda voice) "Chris, I don't think you've got a trashcan that's not full of vomit now." Jewart finally got Jimmy horizontal and he crashed for a few minutes.

For a few minutes. About ten minutes later he staggers out onto the porch, and standing in the doorway announces, one hand pointing skyward, "I will not be put to bed so easily, like kitty litter."

And that just kinda summed up the evening right there.

The fun of the draft

If you're JaMarcus Russell, it was a good day. If you're Brady Quinn it was an expensive day. If you're Troy Smith or Chris Leak, it was heartbreaking and frankly stupid.

Leak set all kinds of passing records as a kid here in Charlotte, leading his team to a couple of undefeated seasons. Then he went to Florida, and all he managed there was to win the National Friggin' Championship. But he can't get picked up in seven rounds of the NFL draft? At least the Bears were willing to sign him as a free agent once the draft ended.

Because he's short? Doug Flutie managed a decent career at 5'10" and Leak is an even 6'. Which happens to be the same height as another quarterback who had a decent year in the NFL last year. Some guy names Brees. I think it's dumb that a couple inches in height can outweigh the obvious football smarts a kid has or his big game experience. You don't get any more big game in college than beating out Troy Smith and OSU for the national title.

Of course, not like Troy Smith didn't also get a bit of a raw deal this weekend, too. But I'll let some of my Okie friends weigh in on that one. Good luck with Da Bears, Chris. They need a smart quarterback a shitload more than they need a tall one.

Another game of skill

This is a sponsored post.

Backgammon has been a springboard for many famous poker players, including Erik Seidel and "Quack Quack" Paul Magriel, whose antics at the table are distracting enough, but when you realize that underneath that loony exterior is a brilliant mind, it's downright unnerving. Magriel wrote what has been considered the seminal text on the game, called simply Backgammon. Now a new website is teaching people the game, with a poker-type twist. Backgammon Masters uses an exciting graphic interface to teach people how to play backgammon online and let them test their skills against other players from around the world.

Backgammon Masters has a great user interface, very easy to navigate and figure out, and the tutorials will get a novice up and running in no time. There is also a real money option, so that you can play backgammon online for cash against friends and strangers. New players can learn against Jean-Claude, the Backgammon Masters mascot and #1 online player. Jean-Claude plays through a series of animated tutorials designed to teach players strategy and optimal tactics.

"BackgammonMasters creates a new dimension in online backgammon branding in their 5 part interactive animation series titled 'Life According to Jean-Claude'." In the series we are exposed to a hilarious explanation and comparison by Jean-Claude of how to succeed at everything from playing backgammon to chopping onions, to fulfilling ones dreams and make important life choices.

The site offers play for all skill levels, and there are regular and tournament backgammon games available. So go give it a shot, see if you can beat Jean-Claude!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The moment

The sun was setting slowly, shadows lengthening through the trees. The wind had died down finally. There was not a cloud in the sky, and if I hadn't been wearing my headphones, I could have heard the sound of pop tops and beer bottles opening as the audience settled in.

I leaned over, pushing agains the stone wall to stretch out my calves, rolled my neck from side to side to get out the worst of the snap crackle and pop, and knelt down a couple times to give my knees one last chance to pop off like a .22 long. Eminem on the iPod talking about vomiting up his spaghetti, and I feel the butterflies come on. No panic, not even really stage fright, but that tightening up, the anticipation of going on. Like when your turn at bat is coming up and you know you've had the sweet stroke for the past week and it's gonna go long. A welcome tightening up of all the muscles, a sharpening of all the senses.

I could smell the beer from the audience. I could see the veins on every leaf in the tree in front of me. I could feel every imperfection in the stone wallI leaned against. I could hear Eminem telling me to lose myself. Then the sun went down, the lights went up, and I did.

Saturday night's show was one of the good ones, one of the magic times when things just gel, when you can invent new things in the middle of a centuries-old play and your scene partner goes right along with you, and you drag the audience along for the ride. Somewhere along the kicking, biting and spanking in Act II I could really tell that it was gonna be a good ride. I can always tell when that scene goes well by how much I sweat when it's over, and I had sweat almost all the hair gel out on Saturday, so it went really well. We came up with new bits, fine-tuned our reactions and connections, and it all got dialed in for a couple hours.

Tomorrow we all go back to work. Tonight I'm sporting a sunburn I picked up this afternoon tearing down our stage. But Saturday night will hang with me all week, and well into the rehearsals for the remount of the show in June, as an example of what it can be, what acting is supposed to be. Oh yeah, that's why I spent 6 weeks driving 50+ miles 5 days a week to rehearse a show that I'm not getting paid for. Because it's what we do.

And when we can have someone say to us later "I don't get Shakespeare, but I really liked that," or better "you know, I've never really been to a play before, but that was really enjoyable," then it's worth every minute and every gallon of gas. It's worth every bruised knee, every slap to the chops, every kick in the jaw. It's worth the panic attacks over my lines, the frustration over liability insurance, the sticker shock over Porta-Jon rentals. Yeah, it's worth it.

Yeah, I'm an actor. Again. I haven't been for a long time, but now I remember why I started down this road to begin with.

The revival is June 21-30. You're all invited. I'll be there.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Wow. There but for the grace...

So a friend of mine did something stupid but harmless, and now is going to lose their career over it. How many times have I (or most of you, for that matter) done something dumb and gotten away with it?

Well, there are the times I've gone out to the car the next morning and done the "how did I get home" walkaround to look for evidence of impact.

Then there was the driving to the mall in another state while tripping on Robitussin.

Then there was that whole thing dating the crazy stripper in South Carolina.

No wait, most of those things shoulda killed me, not jut gotten me fired. But a friend gets their image plastered on the wrong website and all of a sudden their employment is fucked and their future is jeopardized. Sorry I can't be more specific, but too many people 'round here pop in from time to time, suffice to say that I'm spending a good chunk of my afternoon talking a friend down out of high freakout mode and trying to help them plan for the future. No fun, really, but that's what we do. Enough of you guys have listened to me rant and weep that now it's time for me to pay it back a little.

Just keep in mind that none of us are really that anonymous, and sometimes people can get Braceleted in worse ways than just having to take down their blogs. So be careful how public you are with those flickr accounts if your place of employment cares about such things.

UPDATE - Looks like my friend stays employed, but with an official reprimand and a black mark on their employment record. But the career seems to have pulled a Hellmuth and dodged a bullet. The earlier warning about being photographed or referenced by real name still stands, though. I'm fortunate to work in an industry where I can get away with a bunch, but we're not all in the same boat, so be cognizant of your surroundings.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Streak Continues

Wish it were a better streak, though. Last night, $120 freezout in a guy's guest cottage/converted playhouse/efficiency apartment/whatever - three tables in the room, only 16 players showed up though. Pretty decent play on my part, a couple bluffs with bottom pair, only to have a hand go down almost exactly the way I had planned it.


I'm in the BB with a little over 7,000 in chips. Blinds are at 200/400 and I'm looking to make a move. It's limped around to me and I check, preparing to dump my 26o at the slightest preflop aggression. Flop comes 2k6 rainbow and I toss out a tiny bet (500). I get a raise from late position and I shove with my two pair, hoping to get called with a KJ or something of the sort. I get my caller, with KT, and we're off to the races.

And a K on the turn hobbles me right there at the gate. I'm busted in 11th, no problem with the way I played, I made a lot of read-based moves as the night went on, but you gotta get lucky to win tournaments, and I was on the wrong end of the luckbox that time around.

Now that my bankroll is less than 50% what it was to start this month I'm thinking it's a good fuckin' thing people will pay me to write about poker, because I sure as hell can't win playing it lately. About half of this horrible run has been bad luck, and half has been purely abysmal play. When you make a $400 call on the turn with two pair against the tightest player in the room, you're probably behind. That sort of shit. But I think my tournament play has actually improved in the last few weeks, as I've done fairly well in the three live tourneys I've played. Hopefully I can snap out of this shit before June, or I'm gonna pay off some other bloggers' credit card bills this summer.

Monday, April 23, 2007

So nobody died...

We opened Friday, and it was good. A small but appreciative audience braved the chill in the air to watch us do our thing out on the green. Our rhythm was good, the show flowed well, and we had some good audience moments. There were a few last-minute hiccups, but there always are, and we survived them all. Then we did it all again Saturday. Looking around Saturday at 4:15 while people are getting into costume backstage as the sun set slowly down on us reminded me of why I do this.

Let me set the scene for you a little bit. We're performing outside, in a found space of sorts. We built our stage in a parking lot facing a greenway on Main Street. So we have Main Street off stage left, and a major road behind us as well, with train tracks running parallel to the upstage line of the stage. The stage is 24' wide by 12' deep, with a canvas backdrop and a few flats for imperfect off-and backstage masking. All of the scenery, lighting and sound equipment, props and costumes store in a 12' trailer that is parked upstage.

Once we set the stage every night, the trailer doubles as our dressing room. I back my Element up beside the trailer and drop the tailgate to create a makeup table. Seating for the audience is bring your own, and we encourage coolers. The bathrooms are Porta-Jons shared by cast and audience alike, so we all try to pee before we get into costume. The steps leading up onto the stage are pilfered cinder blocks, and the backdrop sags a bit in the middle. As I told one kid Friday night "we shoot for ghetto fabulous, and sometimes only get halfway there."

But once the sun goes down (right around time for curtain each night) and the lights go up, none of that matters. It doesn't matter that we don't all have body mics and we're trying to aim our voices a little at the three mics lined up across the stage. It doesn't matter that anybody who has a quick change is gonna be sharing dressing space with someone of the opposite gender. It doesn't matter that we can be seen backstage making entrances and costume adjustments.

All that matters is the words, as we go out to "speak the speech," and follow in a tradition thousands of years old, of creating a new world with nothing more than a few scraps of brightly colored fabric and our own voices and bodies. All that matters is at the end of each performance, we're exhausted, like an athlete that's left it all out on the field. All that matters is that we're doing what people have done since long before there were trains blaring behind us or redneck cadillacs with their loud mufflers blatting alongside us. We're celebrating life and love through art, and it really does elevate us.

So sitting in a camp chair Saturday, outside, in a tux with my iPod on, looking over my script at my castmates goofing off and fussing with their wigs, I remembered. And there was no place in the world I'd have rather been.

And now I only get to do this three more times. Weather permitting.

Give a brother some love

Send some love and support Hoff's way. He's having a rough time of it and deserves your virtual hugs.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Okay, look

So I'm counting on my director not seeing this post until tomorrow at the earliest, so Chris, if you're reading this -FUCK OFF FOR A DAY, YOU DO NOT WANT TO HEAR THE BULLSHIT THAT I'M ABOUT TO SPEW.

The rest of you might not, either, but now you're intrigued.

We open in five hours and I've started to freak out a little. I'm looking back over my lines, doing those things that a diligent actor does (regardless of the fact that those very actions are counter to what a diligent employee should be doing, but anyway), getting focused, and I'm starting to freak out more than a little.

This is the biggest role I've ever done. By a lot. I'm a character actor. That's theatre speak for fat, if you're not in the business. Those of us who are not what society typically brands as beautiful are spared the terror of having to learn many lines in plays, because we aren't cast as leads. Well, I went and fucked that one up, and now I have the worst feeling that I can't carry the part, and that all my work is gonna be for nothing, that I'm gonna get another shitty review telling me that my character is one-dimensional, or at least that I'm gonna fall off the stage, get kicked in the jaw and eye or rip my pants all down the front from knee to belt.

BTW, two of those three things have happened already this week. You guess which two.

I know it's just jitters, but there's a lot of people counting on me to not fuck up the landing, and I'm absolutely fucking terrified right now and having a big bad case of the "FUCK why did I want this part?" second thoughts.

I know it'll be okay. I hope. I know. I hope. I hope I know. I gotta go look over my lines again. And maybe eat a Xanax and drink a Red Bull.

Hmmm...'Nother Openin' - Take TWO!

If you don't like the weather in the Carolinas in April, wait fifteen minutes and you'll get something different. So it may have been lovely yesterday at 3PM, but by 5 it was raining like a mother. Combine that with dry-clean-only costumes and outdoor theatre, and it's not looking good for our heroes. Throw in a little lightning and then go have a beer.

So we did. No show last night, but the forecast is clear for the next two days, so I hope to see at least one of you (maybe) at the show this weekend. If any of the rest of you are stuck in Charlotte or anywhere close with nothing to do, come down and check it out. It's pretty good, and tonight should be killer, since we have all the pent-up anticipation that we didn't get to expel last night. Kinda like tantric theatre.

Yeah, don't visualize.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

WPBT Summer Classic Banner

Thanks to Mookie for the Banner! If you're HTML-tarded like me and want to put this in your sidebar, hit me with an email (johnhartness AT gmail NOSPAMCOCKSUCKERS!!! Dot com) and I'll shoot it over to you.

Dress Rehearsal Photos

Nice Hat, Jimmy
My lovely bride (at least for the next two weekends)
The Girls of "Shrew"
The happily wedded couple, Kate and Petruchio

A fat hippy and his servant-wench

Another Openin', Another Show...

Not Phoenix, Philly, OR Baltimo', but Rock Hill, SC. Tonight (weather permitting, the perennial parenthetical of outdoor theatre) we open. After weeks of short-handed rehearsals including a male lead with two other shows to finish up and a conference to go to that forced him (me) to miss two weeks of rehearsal, a female lead with impacted wisdom teeth and emergency oral surgery that caused her to miss rehearsals down the stretch, at least one perennially late supporting actor and a major supporting actor with a throat issue that left us scrambling for an 8th-inning save from the bullpen, we're opening tonight.

It's a good show. It's not a great show, but it's a good show. It has the potential to be a great experience, if the audience is game and comes along with us for the ride. There really is something magical about being able to look up over the lights and see stars as your backdrop. It's far from perfect - the sound is only okay, the lighting is rudimentary at best and the set isn't painted yet, but it's not just a "plucky" show. This isn't Mickey and Judy doing a little show in Dad's barn, this is a group of trained and dedicated professionals tackling the words of the greatest playwright of the English language, and it's a good show.

I'm proud of it. I'm proud that this ragtag group of our theatre community's castaway toys has come together, sucked it up, and put on a hell of a show. Most of us would never be cast in these roles in a larger theatre company. Most of us would never even be auditioned for these roles in a larger company. But here we are, doing it. No, none of us will ever take down a Tony for our work. But tonight, and for five performances after tonight, we'll make Big Will's words come alive again, for us and for the people brave enough to hang out on the grass with us, wait for the "hold for the train to pass" moments, look past the sagging backdrop, and see the beauty of theatre - that anyone can be anything, as long as they can dream it.

If it sounds like this is some kind of religious experience, it's because it is. This is my church. Opening night and closing night are my High Holy Days. There's a moment you get, when you sit in a theatre (or in our case, on the stage on a parking deck) after everyone has left, whether they clapped, cried or didn't care, that's a peace like I've never felt anywhere else. There's a feeling I get when I know I've done it right, or at least as right as my meager talents will allow. I'm exhausted, drained, sore. I feel an empty place inside where all the emotion, sound and fury of the character and the action was, that I left it all out on the stage. I feel a satisfaction all the way down to my toes, a sense of sublime accomplishment, and a yearning for it not be over just yet. That's my holiest moment. If you're around, come visit. You can sit on the stage with me and share it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

WPBT Summer Classic Update

Update 5-1-07: The Room block is set to expire the end of this week, so if you want to stay at the Orleans, go ahead and book your room! Also, if you are coming out to Vegas for the gathering, let me know via email (johnhartness AT gmail DOT com) with your name, where you'll be, your sell phone number and how long you'll be there. That way I can keep folks updated on our group.

The room block is ready for booking at The Orleans. For those who have forgotten, the rates are as follows -

Wednesday Night - $60
Thursday Night - $60
Friday Night - $110
Saturday Night - $110
Sunday Night - $65

There are 50 rooms held at those rates, plus the million dollars in taxes and other fees that come with. The room block will vanish in three weeks, so don't dick around!

Call 1-800-675-3267 for reservations. Make sure you tell them this is for the World Poker Blogger Tour, June 6-10.

Also, if you're coming, please email me (johnhartness AT gmail DOTDON'TYOUDARESPAMME com), so I can start compiling a contact list of everybody that will be there. Let me know your Real name (if you want), blogger name, dates of arrival and departure, where you're staying, and contact info (if you want people to have it). This list will be distributed to everyone who's coming, so if you don't want your cell phone number bandied about, tell me.

Thanks to Mookie for the banner!

Update: THERE WILL BE A PRIVATE TOURNEY FOR ALL OF US! Thanks to my homeboy RadioVegas, The Orleans will hook us up with a private tournament on June 9th. Here's all the details. Email him for an RSVP to the tourney - sloshr AT gmail DOTNOSPAM com.

The WPBT Summer Classic 2007 tournament will be held June 9th at The Orleans in Las Vegas. Start time will be at about 2pm.

Buy in will be $65 + $10 + optional $5.

$65 goes into prize pool, $10 to the house and the optional $5 goes directly to the dealers.

Starting chips will be 1600 and if you pay the $5 extra dealer add on you get an additional 400 in chips.

I do not have a copy of the blind structure but its fairly standard
with 20 minute levels. If enough interest I will make a copy of the
blind structure.

It is important that I have a rough estimate of how many people will
be planning to play so the Orleans can staff their dealers

Drop me an email if you're attending: sloshr * gmail * com.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

30+ gone, no answers

Like everybody, my heart weeps for the folks at Virginia Tech today. There's no answer as to why someone does something like this, and it's really just awful for the folks left behind. I really got nothing.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Social integration

"Anybody who says society self-segregates has never been to this place." That was T a couple hours into her first (and maybe last) trip to one of Charlotte's finest underground gaming establishments. She and BG (no, not that BG) had joined me in a journey to the dark side, the weekly $40 rebuy tourney. I lasted to the final table on the back of two massive suckouts (runner-runner quads and runner-runner flush) before my AsKs ran into QQ and I lost the coinflip.

But as T looked around a cash game table that included three gypsies (yes, real gypsies), a dealer from Palace Station (yes, a Vegas dealer hanging out in NC - sick mom), a computer goof from some little startup in Washington state, a Carolina Panther, a very pleasant guy named Rico who I have no doubt could make me disappear without a trace and a couple of random hillibillies and determined that the Great American Melting Pot is the poker table. The English-only rule is a myth, as the ten gypsies running around the room will attest to, but they'll teach you Gypsy if you play with them long enough. Nobody really talks about their real life, but they'll talk about their golf bets of the day. Nobody talks about what they do for a living, but they'll happily show you pictures of their kids.

It's a fun game, but it can get expensive. A miracle occured this trip, though. I watched pocket Aces hold up 4 out of 5 times, and the time they got cracked, the guy who had them admitted that he limped with them to try to play a big pot and got killed for it. I had them three times in 4 hours, and still managed to drop half a buy-in. I got paid off a little each time, but really wasn't involved in too many big pots. Rico made the most interesting defense of his hand I've ever seen at a table, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this move.

I'm in middle position in a loose 1/2 NL game. There's a raise to $10 in front of me and I look down at AsKs. I only want to play against other legitimate hands here, so I pop it another $50 on top. I figure I'll get probably two callers. Rico pushes all in for $165, and flips up his biracial Aces. Now this is legal in this game, so his hand is live. Everybody looks at him like he's crazy, but we all fold. He runs out KQ, AK and QQ, and he protects his hand against the case Queen which would have hit on the river. Now Toyota Todd was itching to call with his KQ, and the QQ and I were almost certainly going to call the other $100, so he saved me the rest of my stack as well, but it was a pretty unorthodox move, if effective. His statement later was that Aces weren't good against four other random hands, and he was correct.

What do you think of this move?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Answer to the Very Important Question

With my typical contrariness, I went with Red, flying in the face of public sentiment. Red, in end, had one overwhelming advantage over Blue.

It was in stock.

I wanna give a monster shout out to Maudie for her recent posts and links to internet car-buying resources. This was a huge help to me in the manner in which to comport myself when inking this lease deal, and while yesterday was still a monstrous pain in the arse to get the deal done, her tips and chronicling of her experience was still invaluable.

Yeah, I know, a lease is a terrible long-term deal. It's worse than renting an apartment, because not only do you have nothing to show for it at the end, if you use the car too much, you pay extra. But this is a company car, and it's no good for a corporation to own a vehicle when they can lease.

When a company owns the car, they're taxed on the property, just like an individual. But since they own nothing in the lease, they pay nothing other than the sales tax, and actually can write off most of the payments. That's at least how it was explained to me, and I'm about the furthest thing from a tax attorney, plus I just work here, so I do as I'm told.

So we typically set up a corporate lease, with the driver as a co-signer. Now I knew that was going to be less-than-brilliant as far as the interest rate goes, because my credit still hasn't recovered from a rough patch Suzy and I had 4 years or so ago, so my credit score is fucked. I was right, once they put me on the lease, the interest rate jumped and the payment did as well.

Then it all went pear-shaped. To do a corporate lease, the dealership wanted two years worth of audited financials from our company. Now we're not a publicly held company, but we had 12 locations in the US and London, and our financials would take days to set up, plus we're not likely to give those out just for a piddly little $20K car load. So the dealership decided they could get me approved on my own for the money we talked about.

Ok, no biggie, the bill comes to me, and the office pays it. Fine. Now what about insurance? Does the vehicle then need to go on my insurance, since the company's name won't be on the lease anywhere? That question took a couple hours to get answered because our comptroller was having a busy-as-fuck day. It's nice to just be able to call the comptroller with any questions, which I couldn't do in a larger company, but it's a bitch that he's in NYC, which he wouldn't be in a smaller company. Being a big "small company" (12 locations, close to 200 employees) has its perks and its drawbacks.

The ultimate answe was yes, it had to go on my insurance. Fortunately I had thought about this and already had called my agent and gotten my policy info to send to the dealership. This was about 3:45. I had rehearsal at 7. An hour away from the dealership. Since my co-lead had already been subject to a fair amount of ridicule last week for being late to rehearsal due to car-buying, I had no intention of suffering the same fate.

So I get a ride up to the dealership, see my sales guy (BTW, if buying a car in the Charlotte area, I do recommend Chip at Honda of Concord. He took care of me and out of five area Honda dealers was the only one to respond with an actual email and not a form letter, i.e. he actually read my request!), and close the deal. It took about an hour and I read and signed more papers than I've seen since i bought my house, but now I'm retiring the Purple PT Cruiser (with the blue flames) for the Red Element.

Cool features - the seats fold into all sorts of cool configurations, including up against the side walls for a fuckton of cargo room, 3 months of free XM radio (just a sample, to get you hooked, like a deposit bonus!), a built-in subwoofer in the stereo, and it's fast! I made it to rehearsal on time, too.

I really think I need to find a shop to put flames on the front, though.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I might be wrong.

It happens.

I can't really be wrong in my opinion of the Imus firing. It's my opinion, and that's all. But I did say something in my post that some of my friends are proving me incorrect about.

And now two of my favorite people on the internets are proving me wrong.

I wrote this morning "This accomplishes nothing. It opens no valid dialogue on race and gender relations between Imus and the Rutgers women. It doesn't pose interesting dinner-table questions for parents and children."

And now two of my favorite people on the internets are proving me wrong. Mr. & Mrs. Otis are sharing an incredibly hurtful incident that happened in their professional lives, and Doog is also tackling the issue on his blog. So I was wrong, people are talking. And that's worth it to me. It's worth the hurt feelings of a group of innocent young women who should be known as nothing more than the best Cinderella story of the year. It's worth the career of a radio DJ that I disliked. As long as people will notice, and talk about the fact that we have a race issue in this country.

Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick can all kiss my ass, because they're just using this incident to make political hay. But when real people pick the scabs off old wounds and share their stories about race relations in America, as fucked as it is, then it's worth it.

Weighing in

No, not that kind, I'm still a fatass. But more like weighing in on our weekly hot-button issue.

I don't agree with firing Don Imus. I don't like Imus. I've listened to his show a couple times years ago and was never a fan. And I don't approve of calling the Rutgers basketball team, or any other group of African-American women "nappy-haired hos." Unless of course they're hanging around the Geisha Bar at 3 AM, in which case they probably are unkempt women of African descent in the sex trade.

But while I think Imus is an obnoxious git who stuck his foot in his mouth, I also think that there are a precious few examples of free speech left in our country, and an unhealthy amount of self-righteous indignation. I think what he said was over the line, no question about it. I also think that as a representative of CBS, MSNBC and a bunch of other initials, it's within the rights of those companies to discipline their employee.

But firing him does no good. If you want Imus to learn that what he said was wrong, dock him 3 months' salary. Hit him where it hurts. Don't just cut him loose to make him a martyr to his fans and guarantee that he'll get picked up again by someone who doesn't care about the current public opinion (or at least someone who'll wait until all this indignation blows over to hire him). This accomplishes nothing. It opens no valid dialogue on race and gender relations between Imus and the Rutgers women. It doesn't pose interesting dinner-table questions for parents and children. It doesn't even do anything to change Imus' character.

I understand that in a public broadcast position, you have to watch what you say. Hell, in a private medium such as a blog you self-censor a little (unless you're Waffles). But even in the bright lights of the media, a man should be able to say something stupid, apologize, pay penance, and move on.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

You had to be there

There's no way this is as funny in the retelling as it was live, but bear with me.

So we're at rehearsal last night, and as usual, one of the female actors is wearing the standard 20-something apparel of low-rise jeans. As she squats down to get something out of her bag, the typical sight occurs, ye olde butt-cleavage.

Now I'm not one to be bothered by a little flash of the forbidden girly flesh, so I'm checking out the ass in question when one of my castmates decides to play the slots.

From at least ten feet away he flips a quarter through the air and in slow motion it makes a Jordanesque arc through the air before falling, just like Grubby last nickel at a Mr. Cashman machine, into the crack of her ass.

I almost peed. It got better when she couldn't reach it before her next entrance and had to jump around and jiggle until it fell out of her pants leg. Gold, Jerry, gold.

Show opens next week - if you've been meaning to click through the RSS reader and donate to Shakespeare Carolina but haven't gotten around to it, now would be a great time for that. We're good on cash for this show, but the remount and Hamlet are coming up, so all gifts of cash from my blogger brethren and sistren will be rewarded with big wet sloppy kisses and drinks in Vegas in June.

Ok, I'll try to find somebody else to kiss all the boys, since you're gonna be that way about it. Change? You up for slobbering all over the male donors? April? I know Maudie'll do it, after all, it's for art!

"Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."

Kurt Vonnegut


Another giant upon whose shoulders we stand, allowing us to see even farther.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Really important question...

Should I get the Blue one...

Or the Red one?
Yup. Car shopping. Really, really evil. But the lease is up on my purple PT Cruiser (with blue ghost flames on the front) the end of this month, and since the company will get me a new car every 3-4 years, I'm all over it. So I've decided that the Element best fits my needs for a work vehicle. It's got a ton of room inside, so I can haul whatever shit I need to haul, it seats four comfortably and has enough headroom even for Drizz, and gets more than 25 MPG on the highway, which is about all I can ask for from a work vehicle. They test drive nicely, now let's see which one of the five dealerships I just emailed will hit my price point for the high-mileage lease I'm looking for (18,000 miles/year - $350/month).

But really, red or blue?

Back on the horse

So with three principals sick the week before opening, our director decided to give us all the night off to rest, recuperate and work on lines.

So I played poker. Duh.

There's a small tournament that runs on Tuesday nights that I've had some success in in the past, so I gave it another shot last night. While it is a little frustrating to play for 4 hours, finish in the money and still lose $30, it was nice to play a session and not feel bad about really any of my play for a change.

The structure goes something like this - $60 gets you $4,000 in chips. $10 tip to the dealer gets you another $2,000 in chips and there is one optional $60 rebuy or add-on (but you don't get to do both). So there's about $10,000 in chips for the folks that immediately take their rebuy, or $6K for the rest of us. Blinds are 20 min levels for the first hour (also the rebuy period) and start at 25/50. After that they go up every 15 minutes.

A little fast? I agree, but not my game, I just live in it. So last night we had 16 runners, and I was sitting around the middle of the pack at the break. Didn't take long to get down to the final table, and that's when I was actually able to play a little. I kept my M floating around 11-14 for most of the night, stealing when I could and taking advantage of mistakes when I saw them. Without any real notable hands other than my Kings holding up, the bubble had burst and I was in the money.

We were all pretty evenly stacked, but still only had Ms of about 8, so for the next 30 minutes or so the preflop all-in was all it took to pick up the blinds (no antes in this game). Then an interesting hand happened where I was able to exploit the mistake of a young guy at the table. One of the other players, who also is one of the guys that runs the game, had just gotten done teaching the kid (I called him Maverick because of his aviator shades) about keeping his higher denomination chips out in front of him, and I'd just busted him about candy-striping his stacks, trying to teach him to keep his stacks clean so people can see what he's got going on, chip-wise. He's UTG and I'm the button 4-handed.

Blinds are 1,000/2,000 and Maverick throws out a 5,000 chip then once it slides to a stop says "that's a raise." Well, of course a single oversized chip without an announcement is not a raise, it's a call. So he's forced to limp. I look down at my 5s6s and limp right along, although I likely would have called the raise in that situation, given that it was a hand that turns into a monster if it hits and is easy to get away from if it doesn't. Of course I hit the flop hard, with 5d9d6c on the board, and he folds to my bet. He asks, and I tell him that no, I'm not in that hand if he makes a legal raise. A lie, but it is a poker table, so it's not like I'm under oath.

I would like opinions on how I went out. Blinds are 2,000/4,000 and I've got about T24,000. One card is exposed during the deal, so the burn card is the Qs. James, an aggressive player who is wont to steal, pushes all in from the button into my big blind. This could be any big Ace, and pocket pair, or even any two suited connectors higher than an 8 judging by the way he's played previously. He's the only one left in the tournament with a real concept of M and late-stage play, so the range of hands I put him on was pretty wide.

I look down at AdQh, and think about that Queen laying face up in the center of the table. Then I think about all the hands he could have that I'm ahead of (about 60% of his range) and all the hands he could have that I'm behind (about 40% of his range) and how many of that 40% I could catch up to and/or pass if I hit my Ace or one fo the two remaining Queens (about 80% of the 40%). I call.

He flips up his dueces, I don't improve, he hits a set on the turn and IGHN. The flop gave me four more outs to the straight, negating the dead Queen out, but that's pretty irrelevant. What do you think of the way I played this? I think I'm too short and it's too late to do anything but push with Ace-paint, because if I win, I'm chipleader, and if I lose, I get to go to bed. That did actually factor into my decision a little because I knew that at best I had about 30 minutes of optimal play left in the tank, so it was now or never for many reasons.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Well that sucked, too

I'm batting 1.000 in the whiny bitch World Series this week, methinks. Last night's rehearsal sucked flaming dog's ass. Everybody's energy was all fucked up, we started late, some folks were out, more folks were sick, and I couldn't remember the lines I'd worked on all afternoon.

It happens. Every single show you hit a point where the energy required to go through rehearsals is not quite matched by the energy that folks have left after dealing with their day jobs and other real-life issues. And it usually happens a little more than a week before opening, so we're right on schedule.

Doesn't make me any happier about it. I know it will all come together, we've got a good show at the root of it, we just need a little more polish on it and it'll be good.

Eventually. By August, we should have this shit down cold.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

That could have gone better

Subtitled My 2-Day tour of the Charlotte underground poker scene, and it only cost me $900.

So yeah, this is one of those posts that stings a little. It's better than my How I Went Busto for New Year's post, but still not a lot of fun. After diligently picking up writing assignments to inflate my bankroll to previously untoushed levels (ok, $3K, but that's higher than it's ever been) I spent the last two nights giving it back to various members of the local poker community that donated it to me in the first place.

So last night I started out in a new room that I'd never been to before, a nicely remodeled room in a contractor's office. There were only six of us that showed up, probably due to the newness of the room. Location is a little remote, too, but most rooms around here are. I managed to blow through $300 in ever-increasing chunks playing short-handed short buy-in poker, which is not something I do well. Most people bought in initially for $40-60, and it didn't take me long to realize that all in meant nothing and I was playing No Limit No Fold 'Em Hold 'Em. Long enough for me to lose $100, but still not very long.

I don't even have any bad beat stories to tell about that buy-in, unless you count a guy calling me on every street to hit his flush on the river, but I want that call every time, because 3 out of 4 times, my two pair holds up. So no real bad beat stories there.

Then I move on to a room where I've played before and sit down in an 11-handed game where most people are stacked around $200. Not a ton of money on the table but not bad. I pick up Aces, get all my money, and they hold, but the guy I pushed with had less money than me, so I don't quite manage the double up. Regardless, I'm nicely ahead and one of two deeper stacks at the table when I limp on the button with Big Lick, 96o. With 8 callers in front of me I like to see a flop with practically anything, and if I hit, I'm jamming.

Flop of Q96 looks awfully pretty to me, and I raise the middle position guy who throws $20 at it. I pop it up $50, and he goes all in for another $50. I figure I'm behind when he re-raises, but getting about 4:1 on my money I make the call. He shows his Q9, I don't hit a 6, and my shout of Rebuy echoes through another room. My next buyin goes away when a hand goes down exactly as I had planned it, until the river of course.

I hereby freely admit that I owe you all a dollar for the bad beat story that I am about to relay.

I have KsQs under the gun, and I make it $12 to go. I get raised by the biggest fish at the table to $24. I'm the only caller to see the KJ3 rainbow flop, and I shove. I've bled my stack down to a little less than $100 by missing flops for two hours, and I've been waiting for a chance to get all my money in against this guy, knowing that he calls me with any Jack, any King or any gutshot draw.

He shows his J10, and I'm feeling pretty good. I'm actually less than thrilled at the Queen on the turn, as that more than triples his outs, and I'm really not thrilled at the Jack on the river. IGHN, $500 down on the night.

So tonight I roll over to a different card room and check out their cash game action, which looks pretty good. This place is pretty crazy, and I'm now looking at 2 losing sessions there and 1 winner, but obviously my sample size is pretty small. I buy in for $200 and lose half the first buyin when my KK goes down in flames to a 4c6c on a A44 flop. Yes, I raised preflop. Yes, my $20 preflop raise got called in 4 places, including the 46, which given that she was in late position and there were two callers in front of her I don't fault her call at all.

The rest of it goes away in one of those situations where I'm just going to go broke every time. I call a preflop raise of $12 with 55, and hear angels sing when the flop comes A5K rainbow. Preflop raiser checks, I bet $20, he raises to $60, I shove about $350 in the pot and of course the man that flopped top set calls.

Why did I bet so much? Because I'd seen this same guy call off his entire first buy-in with AJ v. AQ on an A-high flop, and put him on at best AK for the two pair. I also figured that any big Ace and he thinks I'm trying to steal and he calls. He's sitting behind about $1500, and I want to double through him. I probably could have avoided losing my entire stack, but if I'm calling a raise with Presto, I'm looking to flop a set and shove all my chips in. That's just how I play small to medium pocket pairs. So I went broke with set over set, and left the joint a $400 loser.

And that, kids, is how to lose 1/3 of your bankroll in two days.

1) Play like a donkey for two hours.
2) Overvalue two pair on what looks like a non-threatening board.
3) Lose a pile of money to set over set.

All in all I feel like I didn't play poorly in my last two sessions, and that's what matters in the long run. Like I told Suzy last night, I didn't build a bankroll to look at it, I built it to play cards with it and increase it. If a couple of hands go differently, I'm up big for the two nights. As it is, I'm stuck close to a grand for the weekend. Not a good feeling, but better than the one when I did the same move and was broke at the end. I'll be back at it in a week or so, depending on how rehearsals go this week. That was one reason I tried to cram so much play in this weekend, because I don't lnow how long it will be before I can play again. Oh well, shit happens.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pursuant to last night's post...

I'm not even sure that's the proper use of the word "pursuant." If not, feel free to educate me. I just watch too much Law & Order and wanted to use it.

This story is about a blogger who obviously does consider himself a journalist. Almost a year in jail for contempt of court, that's sticking by your principles. I gotta admire that, and I don't know if I could do it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Are bloggers journalists? Are journalists bloggers?

The Fresh Princess poses an interesting question over at Pokerati about conflicts of interest in blogging, and links to this interesting CNET article about the topic. Which got me thinking. are we journalists?

Obviously there are some of us who are. Nobody's going to question the journalistic abilities and ethics of Dr. Pauly or the Up For Poker boys. But what about the rest of us? Those of us who aren't doing this professionally, or at best are doing this "semi-pro." Or more to the point, really, what about me? Because that's what it's all about, right? Me.

My blog, bitches, of course it's all about me. Believe it or not, this is something I've thought about before now, and before the whole ReviewMe controversy and before I started doing sponsored posts for PayPerPost. Once upon a time I took a journalism class, and was filled with all the idealism of becoming the next Bob Woodward. Only chubbier. Then I found out how much reporters get paid and decided public education would be far more lucrative.

So what am I? Well, I'm not a journalist, at least not here. This blog is not about reporting news. I might occassionally throw you a bone if I get wind of something newsworthy, but usually that's going to end up on Pokerworks. That's where I'm writing the things that might be looked upon as news. Or analysis of news, or regurgitation of news, or something like that. I like the work I do over there, because it allows me to fulfill the Woodward jones I still occassionally have, and I think I've done some decent writing over there.

But not everything I write there is like this article, which I thought was a pretty good piece on the WTO case between Antigua and the US. Some things are promo pieces, designed to inform visitors to Pokerworks about tourneys or new features on online poker sites, which by the way are the main method by which Pokerworks pays its bills. Those pieces aren't journalism by any stretch, they're ads. And there's nothing wrong with that. Pokerworks needs to pay the bills, including mine, and sponsorships by online poker rooms is how they do that. I don't think anyone is going to confuse this article I wrote promoting Mermaid Poker's freerolls with Haley's epic analysis and investigative report on the WSOP website and all its permutations.

But does that make me less of a journalist than Haley? No. The thing that makes me less of a journalist than Haley, or Amy, or Pauly, or Otis or any of a number of other folks is that I'm not a journalist. I'm a writer. A scribbler. Every once in a while I'll get a chance to put on my Woodward hat and dig for a story, or break down a big pile of facts with decent analysis. But not often.

Usually, I'm a storyteller, a bard, a drunken scribe sitting in the corner looking at events through my own filter. And that's I suppose the big difference for me. Journalists are supposed to be objective, to subjugate themselves in the facts and the reporting thereof. Bloggers are by nature individual, and we celebrate our filters, our individual take on the facts, our spin on events.

And that, I suppose, is what makes this more fun. I don't really know if this ramble made any sense, but the end isn't what matters here, it's the journey. I guess I boil it down this way. Pokerstage is my gay online diary, and Pokerworks is where I write professionally, with more a sense of journalistic responsibility. So far, it's been a good ride. I enjoy writing the stuff I write at Pokerworks, and I couldn't stop this crazy train over here even if I tried. But I'm not a journalist, so I don't hold myself to those standards. I am however a writer (some days moreso than others), and damn proud to be one.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Black Shields

We don't know what happened. We don't know why he did it, if he did. He hasn't said anything, and they can't. Two cops were shot in the head and killed Saturday night in Charlotte, the first line-of-duty deaths here in more than a dozen years. Neither officer had fired their weapons, and the man that's been arrested for their shooting isn't talking, even to protest his innocence.

Now don't get me wrong, I play "Fuck Tha Police" as loud as anybody, but the deaths of these officers has shaken me a little. There are a few professions to me that are sacred, people that are, or at least should be, untouchable. Mostly these are people that have given their lives to helping others. Police officers, firefighters, teachers, clergy, doctors, folks like that. Normal people, people like me, who just go out and have a job that they may or may not be fulfilled by or may or may not feel like they affect any change in society by the work that they do, we're different. We're the working class, white or blue-collar schlubs out there grubbing for a dollar.

But those folks that put it out there for the greater good, there's something holy there. The sacrifices they make are different - cops and firefighters and soldiers put their lives on the line, teachers work for shit money, doctors and preachers spend years perfecting their work so they can be on call at all hours of the night. And for what? I don't know, I'm not them. But I gotta think that the feeling of satisfaction they get from healing someone, body or soul, from saving someone's home or life from fire or a bad dude, is the reward they're working for. I'm very glad that there are still selfless people out there willing to take these jobs.

But now these guys are gone, and we don't know why. But looking at the black ribbon on the badge of the guy at the diner last night, I really just wanted to say thanks. I appreciate you. I'm sorry you lost two brothers, and I feel diminished for the actions of an angry young man. But I didn't say that. I just picked up my takeout and drove home.

So I'm saying it now. Thanks. To all of you.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Random update

Hanging out today watching movies with Suzy. She had a doctor's thing this morning (everything's fine) and I took the day of to be with her. No rehearsal tonight so I'm working on lines tonight. I'm off book for the first three acts and a chunk of Act 4, so hopefully I'll be able to get the rest of my lines down (at least mostly) by the run through tomorrow night. We've got two weeks until opening, so it's going pretty well. Got really nothing for you today, just random mumblings. I'll have something coherent later in the week, maybe.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Well I said I hoped I could make it through the night without screwing up, and except for horribly misplaying Aces for the second time in as many games, I did okay. I hit a flaming ton of stuff, and made some good moves when I needed to as well. I did have to go two buy-ins deep, but ended up positive by more than five buy-ins, so it was a worthwhile endeavor. Two big hands for me on the evening.

Here's the one where I misplayed my Aces, trying to get more money in the pot. We're down to 5 or six-handed at this point from a high of 12-handed. I've picked up Aces after an evening of doing very well with almost all garbage hands, suited gap hands, crap like that. This is only the second decent pocket pair I'd started with, after losing with JJ earlier. Three limpers and I pop it to $3, pretty much the standard raise for the night. Three callers.

Warbucks bets $5 on the flop of AsKsXd. I elect to call here (MISTAKE #1) because I see Leo, the new guy to the game holding a $5 chip in his hand, ready to call and with top set I want his money. Had I thought a little more clearly I would have remembered his willingness to call big bets, and popped it to $20 or so. Warbucks bets $5 blind before the turn comes, and this time I think I raise (memory a little fuzzy, might have just called). Either way, if I raised, it was only $10 into a $40 pot at that point, so it wasn't enough, especially since the turn was a 10d, putting a lot of draws out there. River is the 3d, Warbucks checks, and for some reason I decide to shove with top set regardless of the completed straight and flush draw laying out there.

Of course I'm called in two places, Warbucks tables the diamond flush that I let him get, and I double him up (and then some, since there were two of us in the hand). I got greedy, and I got punished. Had I raised the flop hard, and then bet hard on the turn I could have gotten him to lay down 2nd pair with a flush draw, although it would have taken two big bets. I think I could have done it if I popped it to $20 on the flop and then shoved on the turn, but we'll never really know. Warbucks was holding second pair, no kicker, and might not have been willing to risk all his chips on a draw, but it was getting late and he may have been willing to go there. Regardless, I played Aces poorly for two straight sessions, so I might need to reevaluate that a touch.

My other big hand was a litte more pleasant in its outcome for me. I called a preflop raise with K5c, flop comes down with 2 clubs. Gregor had raised to $3.50 preflop and Warbucks makes it $10 to go on the flop. I pop it to $30 and Gregor shove all in for another $40 on top. Leo folds, Warbucks thinks about it and folds. I look at it, count it out, and realize I've got to call $40 to pick up about $110 and make the call. Odds-wise it was marginal, but when the club peeled off on the turn it paid off. Gregor had a horrible night, so I felt a little bad about stacking him, but that passed pretty quickly. I'd make that call again most every day.

Certainly the biggest home game we've had in a long while, and with a shitload of chips flying around. I had almost every chip in my cash set in play by the time we finished up, so that was impressive. I think most folks had a good time, even the ones that were down for the night. It'll be a couple weeks before we can play again because of rehearsals and stuff. Which reminds me, I gotta go build a set.