Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fantasy Sports Live Strategery Post

I don't have time to play poker, I'm spending all my free time writing about it. So here's my quick primer on playing the contests at Fantasy Sports Live (bonus code Falstaff, beetches!). Now keep in mind that I know fuckall about baseball and if the boys decided to screw with me and put some retired superstar in the available lineup, I'd probably pick him, because I make almost all my picks based on the "I've heard that name before" method.

So here's the key to my walloping $58 profit on Fantasy Sports Live* -

1) Copious research. As I'm flipping to the NFL section on CNN/SI's webpage, I occassionally notice a baseball player's name in the headlines. If they make the headlines, they're likely to be someone I want on my team. As long as they're alive, that is. Yeah, that's my idea of research, but remember, I have a degree in acting because I didn't want to read all those damn books my English professors wanted me to study.

2) Pitching is key. Apparently there's a reason these boys get so much friggin' money - they score a fuckton of fantasy points. Now I'm currently playing mostly salary cap contests, because those are the ones that I'm winning. I don't know how, but if Freddy Deeb can have a lucky shirt, then I can an unreasoning affinity for Salary Cap contests on Fantasy Sports Live (again, bonus code Falstaff). I start off by picking the most expensive pitcher in the day's games. This usually means I'm playing Chipper Jones instead of A-Rod further down the lineup, but didn't I mention that pitching is key? I kinda meant it.

In the three contests I played on Thursday, my pitcher Vasquez (Chicago) brought me 30 points. The nearest other pitcher was 13 points in all three contests. Oddly enough I cashed in all three, and if Nomar hadn't been worthless all week, I woulda been gold, Jerry, gold. That's a drawback to the "draft names you recognize" method - you don't know if you remember them for being good last year, or being good five years ago. And I really have no idea, but I remember Nomar being a cool name, and how wrong can you go with a last name like Garciaperra? Zero points wrong, obviously. Now, there's a theory that states that you could just pick a solid team all around, as several 10-14 point players will beat out a team with a star pitcher and bunch of nobodies, but that requires you to pay attention the the sport, which I find about as appealing as watching my grass grow. I wanna gamboooool, not watch baseball. So fuck a big bag of that, gimme a gunslinger!

3) Play the cap games. Just like in the NFL (you know, that league where there's a salary cap, and it matters), capgames level the field for those of us who know fuckall about baseball. Fantasy Sports Live does $450,000 cap games (in case you thought I forgot, BONUS CODE FALSTAFF, MOFOS!!!), and the most expesnive player I remember seeing was about $170K.

Yes, I could look it up, but that would be against the stream-of-semiconsciousness style of the post, so sod off.

This gives you two options - pick a stud and a pile of nobodies and hope that your stud pays huge dividends, or pick 4-5 marginally expensive players and 4-5 cheapies. If you're gonna pick cheapies, go for players that are cheap on reall good teams, or are playing at home, or playing in Colorado, because even I know that's a hitter's park and even the boys that aren't juicing can hit a mile up there where the air is thin. I try to go for the second route, since as I might have mentioned, I don't follow baseball and don't care enough to start.

4) Have fun. Most of the contests are cheap, ranging from $1 to $10, so why not have a good time farting around on the intertubes pretending to understanding baseball?

*admittedly my $58 includes a $20 instant deposit bonus, but shit, it's profit, right?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Playing Catch-Up, not Poker

With my big-guy manager in town this week for his quarterly visit, it's been harder to roll into work at 9:30-10ish like I've become accustomed to during the course of this play, so my fat ass is dragging. Although if I continue on this path, my fat ass will be less so. I'm down to 243, a total of 22 pounds lost since I started making an effort, and I feel a LOT better. Except for the broken toenail, monster bruise on my forearm and blown-out knee, but that's all from the show last night, so it'll heal.

My days are currently looking something like this - get up around 6:30, write for an hour to an hour and a half recapping one or two events at the WSOP for PokerNews, then shower and head for work. Roll into work around 9, hand out there marking time (yeah right, we've actually been pretty busy the past few weeks) until 5:30 then head out. If I'm lucky, I have enough time to swing by the house and shovel some grub before going to rehearsal. If it's a performance night, I go straight to the theatre since I'm the only one with a key. I also don't eat before a show, ever, largely because I have a serious and not-entirely-unfounded fear of repainting the stage in biological colors in mid-fight if I eat pre-show. Get out of the show around 10:30, home around 11, check out what my assignments are for the next day for PNews, then grab a few hours shuteye. I'm looking forward to this weekend, because at least Saturday, after I get up early and do my stories for PokerNews, I can go back to bed for a few hours.

Last night's show was pretty good, tempered as it was by the publication of the second review. It wasn't a bad review, not at all, but I was a little disconcerted that only Kate and myself were mentioned in the review. I'm not used to being the only thing talked about in a review, I'm much more accustomed to being the thing that's overlooked. It made me a little embarrassed, and I felt bad for the rest of the cast, who were roundly ignored. I also admit to feeling a little sick to my stomach at the first sentence, but any review that ends by comparing me to The Nature Boy can't be all bad. Here it is, courtesy of Creative Loafing Magazine -

John G. Hartness is not destined to become one of America's great actors. But as his performance as Petruchio in the current Shakespeare Carolina production of The Taming of the Shrew clearly demonstrates, Hartness has evolved into a very good actor on the strength of his own self-confidence.

Until he appears onstage at Theatre Charlotte to claim his Kate, this saucy comedy is a rather bland porridge -- competently done without much distinctive flavor. Facing off against Karen Surprise in the classic Padua wooing, transported to 1962 "Las Padua" by director Chris O'Neill, Hartness brings us lift-off in a curious way.

There's continuity to the physical warfare and precise timing, without the brave ferocity of the hunter or the frenzied frustration of the prey. This choreographed deconstruct of Petruchio's courtship and Kate's resistance somehow releases the beautifully timed reversals that Shakespeare imbeds in his dialogue.

Hartness is the antithesis of charisma, strutting the stage with a conceit you'd expect from Rick Flair in his heyday (plus goatee and black Nehru suit). And isn't that exactly what the Bard insinuates -- that Petruchio's way of dominion isn't inborn but the product of cunning study?

Surprise isn't any more Liz Taylor than Hartness is Richard Burton, but her initial frustration and her two stages of understanding are nicely rendered. First, when she gets Petruchio's game, and lastly when she recognizes him as a kindred spirit. A solid Charlotte debut for the Rock Hill-based troupe.

Like I said, not a bad review, but a little uncomfortable for me (and Karen/Kate) to be the only folks mentioned.

As more information becomes available about the murder/suicide of Chris Benoit and his family, I become more and more disgusted and distressed by the whole mess. This dude was seriously fucked up. I wish that someone could have seen that and gotten in the middle of it before it cost the lives of two innocent people. It might not have been "roid rage" exactly, but I don't think there's any question that these bizzaro drugs had some influence on the actions of Benoit. There's certainly an argument to be made that he wasn't wrapped too tight to begin with, but it was certainly exacerbated by the drugs. I wish someone could have seen the signs and stepped in before it was too late. And I, like a bunch of the sportswriters that I've been reading, think it's time for some outside agency to step in and deal with the rampant drug abuse (not just steroids) that occurs in pro wrestling. It's bad enough when stars like Eddie Guerrero and Brian Pillman die from drugs and their side effects too young, but it's unconscionable when someone like Benoit's 7-year-old son is an unwitting victim.

Go to and see what my office is doing. We're raising money for the 24 hours of Booty, a cancer fundraising bike ride that takes place in Charlotte every summer. Right now we're the #2 fundraising team in the ride, and that's pretty damn cool! Last year I think we raised a few hundred dollars for this event, this year we're at close to $10K!

Hey - if you pre-order the new Harry Potter book, not only do you get it for half price, Amazon will give you a $5 gift certificate via email for use on anything you buy from the site in August! So click the banner on the left and pre-order! I get a few pennies, and you get a good deal! I actually pre-ordered two, so Suzy doesn't have to wait for me to finish. I know, it's a little sad.

Oh, and here's a link to a video clip on YouTube of the fight scene from Taming of the Shrew. Karen's boyfriend recorded it a few nights ago, and she uploaded it. It's pretty damn funny watching my fat ass try to tango, not to mention the front flip!

The same chick that kicks my ass in that video is doing a fundraising walk for suicide prevention - here's the email she sent out about it. Her goal is only $200 for the walk. Fuck that. Help me blow through her goal. I'm in for a hundy in memory of my uncle Ed, who took his own life last February, leaving his family in disarray. Suicide has touched all of us at some point in some way, and maybe this walk that Karen is doing can help a few people. If it helps one, it's worth it. Here's the info -

Greetings, friends and family ~

On September 15th, I will be joining with thousands of walkers in the 2007 Out of the Darkness Community Walks to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

I am walking to raise awareness of mental illness and suicide. As some of you may know, I have lost loved ones to suicide and I am asking everyone I can to support this worthwhile cause. My fundraising goal for this event is $200.

Please consider making a donation in my name at or sending a donation by mail.

AFSP is dedicated to funding research, suicide prevention and educational programs, and conferences and support networks for survivors of suicide loss, mental health professionals, physicians and the public. Together, our support for AFSP will reduce suffering and the loss of life from suicide as well as end the broad stigma that surrounds mental illness and suicide. With more than 30,000 lives lost each year in the U.S. and over one million worldwide, the importance of AFSP's mission has never been greater, nor our work more urgent.

Please give a donation that leaves you feeling a part of this great event and that has you stretch beyond your usual contribution. I know it will make a difference for you and for many others. If you have any questions about the walks, or about AFSP, please do not hesitate to email me at (yeah right - I'm not printing her email. If you need any info, leave a comment and I'll have her get back to you).

Anyway, I didn't start out intending to uber it up, but I guess the spirit of my midget brother hath infused me, so that's it for now. Laters.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

RIP Crippler

Hearkening back to our highly enlightened conversation at dinner at the WPBT gathering, I've been a fan of professional wrestling all my life. This and the admitted fact that I'm a hillbilly kinda go hand in hand. So it was with shock and sadness that I read this morning about "The Crippler" Chris Benoit's passing. It's with rage and disgust that I read further this afternoon that he apparently murdered his wife and son before hanging himself in his home. And it's with outright shock that I read that authorities believe it may be a case of "roid rage" brought on by steroid abuse.

No, I'm not shocked that a pro wrestler might have been abusing steroids. I'm a hillbilly, not a moron (I know, debatable). I'm shocked that people in our relatively advanced society haven't figured out yet that this shit will kill you. It's not bad enough that it gives you monster zits, puts an asterisk by your name in the baseball record books and makes your pecker shrink, this shit will kill you. I know, sports and sports entertainment is a tough business, and people are looking for any edge they can come up with, just like poker players dumping a little toot in their Red Bull in the bathroom to get an even better boost. But come the fuck on, this is ridiculous.

So yeah, I'm saddened that I'll never get to watch one of my favorite performers in the ring. But I'm furious that someone whose ability and work I respected was too fucking stupid to put down the needle, and now apparently has murdered his whole family because of it. It makes me fucking sick. At least Vinny Vinh is only gonna kill himself with his stupid addictions.

My WSOP scheme

Or plan, or dream, or whatever. Here's my $.02. I think the $2,000 NLHE Shootout event is the event that an amateur has the most even field against the pros. Or maybe the $5K Heads-Up event, but I'm not paying that much, so never mind.

Let's think about this, a shootout is just a sit n' go. It's a live, progressive SNG against ostensibly better players, but it's still just a sit n' go. All you ever have to be concerned about is the players at your table. Beat those eight donkeys, and move on to eight more donkeys. There's no grand endgame scheme, it's just another SNG. And the hundreds and thousands of SNGs the average internet donkey plays in a year offsets the years of extra experience a bunch of the pros have, because even in big-field tournament play, they don't often get to experience a completely level and re-levelled field.

For the two people who read this who don't know what a shootout is - it's a series of single-table tournaments culminating in one final table. Rather than having players moved from table to table to keep things balanced as in a normal multi-table tournament, players play until only one player is left at their table, then all the players condense to new tables for another round of play. This continues until there are nine players left, and they form the final table. In this format, you NEVER have anyone starting a round or a final table with a chip lead. All players that beat their tables will have the same number of chips. So every round is a brand new tournament with a level playing field.

So my current plan (which might last long enough for me to finish this post) for WSOP dominance is to use my dribs and drabs of Full Tilt fundage to play single-table SNGs, build up my bankroll to something resembling the $2,000 entry fee, and try my luck at the Shootout next summer. If I don't play anything at all, I can save up $600 on Full Tilt by then, and if I actually manage to improve my play, it should be simple enough for me to run that monthly ad revenue up to two grand over the course of a year.

Of course I have to suck less, but that's always been the issue, hasn't it? But it gives me something to try, and a reason to actually play online poker on Full Tilt again (that bonus code is Falstaff, by the way!).

Back in rehearsals for Hamlet again this week, lost another actor, pissed me off, but I'll deal. I'm gonna step in and play the role myself, just because I'm tired of begging people to be in plays. If they don't want to work on what will be a great project, fuck 'em. I'm perfectly capable of handling the language and learning the lines, so I'll do it. T's gonna design the lights this time 'round, so I don't have to sweat that aspect of production at least.

Go back into Shrew tomorrow night for our last four performances - if you find yourself in Charlotte anytime this weekend, come by and see the show, it's funny as hell, and what's better than watching me get my ass kicked? If you're not going to be in town, click the banner on the right-hand side of the page and make a donation, Jebus will love you for it!

Monday, June 25, 2007

WHAT! Man, This Fantasy Sports Stuff is EASY

So I signed up for Fantasy Sports Live (Bonus Code Falstaff, beetches!). Not because I like baseball, or because I know fuckall about baseball, but because some of my friends created the site and I think it's a pretty cool idea once football season starts. So I signed up, picked my players for my team (based largely on whether or not I've ever heard of them in my life) and this was what I got when I logged in this morning.

This contest has ended.
You placed 1st.

Entry Fee:
Draft Method:
No Salary Cap
Number of Contestants:
6 (This contest is closed to new entries)
Guaranteed Prizes:
1st: $17
2nd: $8
Total: $25
Started At:
7:05pm 6/22/2007 EDT

ROFLMAO! I just bested people that actually know who these players ARE in a fantasy baseball game! Shit, for all I knew I coulda put Ted Williams on my team, but I picked a few players that I've heard of and a few players that are on teams that I heard don't suck, and I won! That kicks ass! It's fun, and it's a 100% friggin' LEGAL way to gamble on sports, because the doucheballs that created the UIGEA left a carveout for fantasy sports! So go sign up for Fantasy Sports Live, and use Bonus Code Falstaff!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Initial Reviews

Well, we opened last night, and we had a reviewer show up for final dress on Wednesday. They turned around a review really quickly and had it up in time for all of us to know what they said before we went on for opening. Glad he liked it, or we could have had our groove seriously singed otherwise. I know, I'm not supposed to care what a critic says, but it still stings when you get slammed. Last night's performance went well, and as usual I can hardly walk today. That's how I know the fight went well, when my knee if so stiff the next day I move like granny on her walker.

Anyway, here's the review, I'll be back later with more drivel. This was originally posted at Arts A La Mode.

By William Shakespeare
Directed Chris O'Neill
June 21-30, Shakespeare Carolina at Theatre Charlotte

Shakespeare’s plays, even his comedies, can be challenging for both performers and audiences alike. Too often, the bard’s beautiful language is treated with so much respect that the lines are handed out to the audience like dusty antiques. It was therefore a relief for me that Shakespeare Carolina’s newest offering, "The Taming of the Shrew," tossed lines out to the audience not like antiques but more like rubber chickens. This utter love and, more importantly, enjoyment of language is the key to this production’s success.

"The Taming of the Shrew" focuses on the battle of the sexes. This production sets the action in a fantasy version of the late fifties and early sixties. A mix of Austin Powers and Laugh In. The producers of this play usually perform outside, and there is an energy to the performance that benefits from that experience.

Technically the production makes the most of what must be limited resources. The set, a Mondrian-styled collection of multi-colored squares (think Partridge Family bus), acts as a constant reminder that whimsy is the name of the game. The costumes by Susy Hartness are a joy.

The conflict of the play centers on the competition for the love of the lovely Bianca (played as a kind of “Gidget Goes to Padua” by Amy Laughter). The problem, as we know, is that no one can have Bianca until the older “shrew” of a sister is married. It is one of the most surreal and humorous moments of the play when Kate (played by the very funny Karen Surprise) enters for the first time. Dressed in white Go-Go boots, a retro mini-dress, and a helmet of platinum hair, there’s never been a shrew so stylish. Surprise is tart and playful. Of course, every Shrew needs someone to tame them, and this production gives us an oily, charming, game show host of a Petruchio played by the excellent John G. Hartness.

To even attempt to outline the chaotic farcical plot of this classic comedy would be madness. Suffice it say that many of the cast disguise themselves from one another, and this production cleverly uses rubber nose glasses to comical effect. Bianca’s sighing suitors are a trio of clowns. Jonathan Ewart plays Hortensio as an insane shriner complete with red fez and vest. His larger than life performance is another highlight of the production. His rival Gremio is played by the very funny Jimmy Cartee who makes the most of a variety of sailor costumes and alcoholic beverages.

There are also many more fine performances. Drew Nowlin is the earnest yet comic Lucentio (the one who gets the girl); Beau Tison is Baptista, the father of the two sisters; Nick Iammatteo is the opportunistic but always loyal servant Tranio; Sarah Eckhard, dressed in a sexy leather catsuit, is Petruchiou’s flirtatious servant Grumia; and Raj Karottukunnel is the stylish and powerful Vincentio; Cameron Jagoe, a young man with a wonderful sense of comic timing and a big voice, plays Biondello; and Brian White plays a the Pedant, a man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The rest of the cast is equally capable and completes this ensemble.

This is worth checking out. For those less experienced with Shakespeare, it’s probably worth looking up a plot outline online before attending. Sit back and enjoy this delightfully irreverent production. Review by Tim Baxter-Ferguson

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Go read something else

The best poker writer in the business just got me choked up over two pros that I've never met. I am humbled every time I read his stuff, and honored to call him my friend. I got chills, and I could feel the ghost of Stuey walk through the room.

Time to do it again

So once again, it's opening night. I'm able to blog this morning from the exhibit hall of the American Association of Community Theatre conference, where Barbizon is exhibiting this week. Yeah, on top of my work for PokerNews, my pesky day job and that theatre thing, I've got a trade show to exhibit at all week. Ye olde arse doth drag, methinks. That's Elizabethan for shit, I'm tired.

But I wouldn't have it any other way. If I didn't get off on this shit, I wouldn't sign up for it, I guess. Last night was final dress, so we all finally got into all our costume pieces.

Some were more flattering than others.

It's a good show. The cast changes are working out well and we had a very responsive (but small) invited audience last night. It was good to get the show in at full speed (with a full cast) in front of real live people for a change. And obviously there was a certain amount of goofing around backstage.

It's a good bunch of folks (retards though they all are) and I'm proud to share a stage with them. Our new folks have stepped up huge in learning new parts with only a little more than a week to get into the roles, and everyone has really pulled together to get the set together, lights focused and programmed, and all the costume adjustments done with only a few days of stage time. I just have to finish up the programs today, and maybe blow off work a touch early to take a nap, since I got up at 6 this morning to write my recap for PokerNews and be here at the exhibit hall by 8(ish).

Monday, June 18, 2007

Another new(s) gig

Thanks to a moment of inspiration and a friend on the inside, there's another name on the "Place I Write" blogroll these days. I'm happy to be the newest member of PokerNews' WSOP coverage team, taking on some tournament recaps for them from the comfort of my desk here in the NC. Adding this to Gambling Weblog, my scribblings here and my Pokerworks gigs, and there's a pretty full plate of writing assignments coming out of this here keyboard. Still bankroll-deprived, so if anybody else needs a scribbler, lemme know. And thanks to my buddy for making the intro and to Caldwell for giving me a shot!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

In which we diverge

From our WPBT trip reports to blog about life back here in the NC. When I got back it was time to get down and dirty in rehearsals for our revival of Taming of the Shrew, which opens this Thursday. Only problem with that was, several actors were having issues with attending rehearsals. Some things in folks personal lives had gotten all fucked up, including a mother in the hospital, a dying aunt, and various and sundry other shit, leading to us not having a full cast for a single rehearsal of the revival yet. Festive.

Pile on top of that the fact that one of the people with some personal life issues that necessitated her replacement in the show was the woman playing Kate, and it's been a wee bit stressful as I try to remember my lines, and try to break in a new(ish) co-lead. We promoted our Biance to Kate, so it's not like I've got to work with someone completely new to the show, and she's doing great, but tonight was the first night she and I have ever done the fight scene on stage and full out. So I'm a little sore, and we're getting together tomorrow early to work on the fight.

So with that stress, plus the stress of getting back to work, PLUS the stress of losing all my money in Vegas, it was great to have a pile of people over last night to play cards. We had a pretty decent crowd, with T, Special K, BG, Uncle Phil, Nate, Nick and Dan all hanging around. Phil nailed me with the high hand of the night when my gin card gave me the nut flush. "Phil, you should fold. I got there."

"I check"

"Ok, Phil, I told you to fold. I'm all in."

He rechecks his hole cards. "I call."

"Well, okay, the straight flush beats me, but otherwise I've got the nut flush."

"Well, I've got the straight flush." And he wasn't angle-shooting or trying to BS me, he really wanted to double-check his hole cards to make sure he had it, then he called. I was happy enough to lose to the King-high straight flush, but less than pleased that it also meant that I no longer had the high hand of the night. I haven't won the high hand jackpot since we started it into our home game, and at that point my Kings full was the best hand. Oh well, I'll get another shot in a couple of weeks.

It was an up and down game, up when my trip Kings with a Queen kicker busted Gregor's trip Kings with a 9 kicker. Down when T caught pocket Kings at least six times over the course of the night, catching a set a couple of times to hurt my rivered two pair. I finished up down about $40, not bad for six hours of amusement. I have acquired some more new chips for the home game (a recurring theme, I know) and they met with almost the appropriate adoration. I replaced the $5 chips I had from the Aruba Palm Beach casino with $5 Samurai Palace fantasy chips, largely because Suzy likes the Samurais better. I also replaced my Nevada Jacks clay fantasy $1 chips with chips from the closed Crystal Park casino in California. They're very pretty, with an inlay design that's very remniscent of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album cover.

Today we built the set for Shrew. Well, designed and built, as we kinda scavenged available flats and platforms into something usable and then made a set out of it all. It's beginning to take shape, but I gotta go sleep now before my crippled old body completely gives out on the keyboard.

Friday, June 15, 2007

WPBT Trip Report Continued

Shit, I dunno, part 3 or 4, whatever. Friday.

I got up. At some point. Played more Pai Gow then lost more money playing poker. Then it got good. We got our table of mixed games going about 10:30, thanks to Gadzooks, who started a list for us and it went off shortly thereafter, at $3/6 this time 'round. More like 3/6 with blinds of 1/3/6, since the rock went immediately into play. It was a little hard figuring out how to straddle in the stud games, so we just bet blind. A lot.

In his absence, I pulled a Drizz, buying into the 3/6 game for $500 (I know, a paltry attempt at Drizzling up the table, but it was what I had on me). Turns out it was a good thing that I didn't but in for 8-10 racks, because it was less than 30 minutes later when the floor guy had to come by with a rack of reds to buy my blue chips back. The poker room was out of $1 chips! Gotta love it. So my tower of power didn't last long, but the fun was just beginning.

The table was loaded with bloggers including me, Penner, Columbo, MeanHappyGuy, Gadzooks, Bayne, PokerGnome and others, and there was one poor civilian in the 7s. He was only a pseudo-civilian, though, as he was a reader. He was brave enough to hang for a little while, to be replaced later by Civilian Gordon, who hung for the rest of the night. He asked a little later if having a CardPlayer profile written about him counted to let him drop the "civilian" title.

"Did you write it?" I asked.


"Then you're a civilian. Unless you have a blog?"

"I have MySpace."

"That's pretty gay. But do you blog on it?"


"Ok then, you're MySpace Gordon."

And he was. I was drinking FAR too much to remember any specific hands, except I remember sucking out on PokerGnome at least twice with hands that got capped preflop (SIX bets with the straddle in play, Yay Action!) in Omaha for a scoop when I played the whole hand blind. I also pushed Bayne off his hand in Razz with a J-low showing, proving that Razz is a game of playing the board. I was blind to my hole cards there, too, but Bayne had paired on 6th, so he was actually behind to my Jack. I sat for about 4 hours, and finally got up a little after 3, booking what I didn't know would be my only winning session of the trip, +$140.

That's the only time I've ever played the blogger mixed games and not lost every chip I put on the table. Admittedly, it's hard to lose $500 playing 3/6 limit (not that I didn't manage to do it at 4/8 later), but I was very pleased with my drunken profit. Of course, as with all blogger tables, the real winners were the dealers. On the way back to the Orleans, Penner admitted to being stuck about $60 for the session, and we figured it was almost certainly in tips. That was easily the most enjoyable session of the trip for me, and T enjoyed it to, when I had her play my stack while I meandered off for a while. Folks were wondering if she was Mrs. Falstaff, and she said "No, but if you're ever read his blog and seen him talk about a girl named T in his home game, that's me." A surprising number of people did recognize her from that, once again amazing me that people read this drivel.

On a different note, I think it's time for my return to serious (yeah, friggin' right) online play. Largely fueled by the kindness of the folks at Full Tilt to pay for an ad here every month and the kindness of someone to sign up for Full Tilt through one of my banners (Bonus Code Falstaff), I've actually got a little mobney on FTP for a change. $125 isn't much to start with, but I figure it's enough for a dozen or so $10 6-max SNGs, so we'll start there and see if we can make anything out of it. I'll let you know when it's all gone. Shouldn't take long.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Good Stuff

Lest you think from my last post that nothing good came of the weekend, let's correct that. It was a good trip. I had a blast meeting new people and hanging with some old friends. I had a ball playing Pai Gow with the Astin and the Penner boyz. I had a great dinner with Bayne, T, Special K, Blood, Stb, Mattazuma, Columbo and Alan and others, and the private HORSE tourney that I crashed with Matt, Statikkling, Shamanalix and Columbo was an absolute hoot!

But I learned something on this trip. Five days without my wife by my side is too long for me to be "on vacation." It would be different if I were Otis or CC or Spaceman (but I still don't think I could hang), and I was working during the periods of separation from my wife, but for five days to wake up in an empty bed was just a little too long for me. I had a good time meandering along, but next time I make a Vegas trip sans wife, it'll have to be shorter. Then I can leave Vegas wanting more, rather than leaving Vegas wanting to be home.

But anywho, that's next time (BTW, next time starts on July 30, and the wifey and I will be staying downtown at the Plaza with some other friends. If you're local, I'll call you. If you're not, and you'll be in town, you call me) and this is this time, which should be a trip report, part 3 - the Good Stuff. The good stuff started Thursday night with bowling (upon which we descended after demolishing some wings at the Hooters casino, immediately prior to which I fell victim to a douchetastic runner-runner wheel to have my 77 crushed by the mighty 44). I was buzzed the whole time, having started drinking mimosas at around 9:30 AM while playing Pai Gow with a terribly witty old broad who dropped this bomb on the table describing her current physique -

I finally got myself a body made for a bikini, and now I can't find anyone to press the wrinkles out of my birthday suit.

And that was worth the price of admission right there. So after my morning Pai Gow/Mimosa session, I went over the Rio to meet Stb for lunch, and we saw Badblood walking by, so he jumped the handrail to join us. We meandered through the Rio for a bit, chatted with Pauly and stopped to say hi to the Shrink. We railed Hoy for a few minutes on the way to his cash in the 6-handed NLHE event (congrats, again, bro!), and then went to MGM to play cards. I broke even at $4/8, and continued to drink mimosas for the next four hours, prompting plenty of shit from Stb. He even got the cocktail waitress to call me "Mimosa boy," which got her extra tips from both of us. Then it was time to bowl, which was also my first meeting with Bayne and Irongirl.

Yes. you might note that I haven't linked to anyone. It's not that I don't love everyone, but I'm really, really lazy. I'll work on getting links in, I promise.

showed up, and as he called, he said "I'm bringing a friend, is that cool?" The answer was "of course," and when he showed up, I asked "who's your friend? Cause I know that drunk - that's Brandon!" Yep, MHG's friend was Boathouse Beer Pong Almost-Champion and Mr. Brightside singer to the Stars, Brandon Schaefer! It was good to see Brandon again, and good to meet MHG as well. We had a great bunch for bowling, even though our team lost the bet on the second game. I take the blame firmly on my shoulders, since my 96 in the first game fell to a 62 in the second as my drunkenness increased. I did win a prop bet with Penner when he didn't strike the last frame, though. So it was all g00t. Big Pirate Wes showed up for a bit, then we all went downstairs to teach Astin how to play Pai Gow.

And teach we did. Homeboy picked it up pretty quick, but none of us managed to pick up on Penner the Younger's mad Pai Gow skillz and strategery, which mostly consisted of hitting Quad Aces with a K kicker. And JJ for his low hand! Yeah, he bet the bonus. Yeah, it was a good night. Until they broke our table and moved us to a cooler table because we were winning too much. Between me, Astin and the Penners we were up about a combined $300 playing $10 Pai Gow. Within 15 minutes at our new table every one of us was down to even. I put on my skirt and went to bed, leaving the real world-beating degenerates to fight the power without me.

more coming...including pictures of why we loves us some blogger chicas!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Trip Report 2: The Bait and Switch

Let's start right off with the biggest clusterfuck of the weekend - the Blogger tournament at the Orleans poker room (btw, my mad SEO skillz are working, I'm already on the front page of Google search results for Orleans poker, so hopefully I'll be able to help kill their action). We were originally told they could not host a tournament of our size, then we were told that it would not be a problem. The fee was $65 + $10 juice + $5 dealer toke, for a total of $80. No big deal, that's cheaper than the last couple blogger events, and I kinda like having the dealer toke built in so you only tip if you feel the service was really good at the end of the event. This meant that 6 dealers would split a couple hundred bucks for the time they dealt to us, plus the other time they worked, and they should work out okay. We were told that we would get the standard structure for an Orleans poker tournament.

That's the bait. When I showed up at 11AM (yes, three hours before the event) to check with Brian the TD that everything was ok, I was told we were fine, no problem. Okey-dokey, I toddle off to lunch with a pile of people, including a random reader of BadBlood's who just happened to be in Vegas and wanted to buy him a beer. Cool, right?

WRONG. The switch happened when we got back to start signups at 1:30. I told the guy we'd have a guaranteed 4 tables, maybe as many as 6, so spread six and collapse if need be. They didn't call in any extra dealers for us, as they had plenty of cash games and their noon tourney still running, so we caused no imposition on them other than the extreme stress of counting out a few extra seat cards and breaking a table early. My heart bleeds.

So when we start signing up is when I'm told that we lose two levels to get the event done in time for their 7PM tourney. We lost the 25-25 level and the 150-300 level with no ante, going straight to 25/50 and jumping from 100-200 to 150-300 with 25 ante. Not a huge deal, although 50BB isn't a very good starting stack if you don't wanna play pushmonkey poker. The real pile of shit got dropped on us when they changed the levels to 15 minutes instead of 20. That meant that if there was one big hand where a tough decision had to be made, that we wouldn't get through an entire orbit before the blinds went up. It wasn't helped by the fact that at least one of the dealers remembered when poker was invented and moved as though he were dealing through molasses. I mean homeboy was sloooooooow.

OK, so the structure for the Orleans poker tournament sucked ass. I expected at best a mediocre structure, since most structures under $100 in Vegas suck. But a bad structure can be overcome with good service. Or exacerbated by terrible service. Guess which one we got?

Yup, awful. From the moment I spoke to the Orleans poker TD at 11AM, we were treated as though we were something gross he had stepped in on his way into the building. It was very obvious that we weren't wanted, or welcome, and the TD went out of his way time and again to show us that we weren't wanted. From being snippy with everyone trying to register (including snapping at BadBlood of all people!), to running people out of the poker room after they busted instead of letting them rail their friends, to yelling at Linda and not letting her take pictures in the card room, everything he did was not only excessively tight-assed, but spoken in such a way as to let us know that we were an imposition and that he couldn't wait to get us out of there and make room for his regulars.

Now I can understand if the Orleans poker room is full, you can't have people clogging up the aisles so folks can't walk. But the tournament half of the room was not terribly crowded, and we are, as a group, pretty damn considerate of others and good about staying out of the way. We've done this enough times to know what the deal is and how to behave in a poker room.

So thanks to the abysmal structure, there was about 45 minutes of poker, then a couple hours of push-fest, then the final table had enough chips to return to playing poker. Eventually we all just ignored Captain D-bag and crowded around the final table, making prop bets and taking pictures no matter how much of a polesmoker the TD was, and he eventually gave up trying to herd the kittens. Funny, if he'd been polite early in the day, we never would have revolted, but if he'd been reasonable, we'd never have needed to. All in all, the Summer Classic lasted around or under 5 hours for 42 people, in contrast to the HORSE tourney Gadzooks set up at the IP for Sunday, which lasted a hair over 5 hours for 18 people. You think the folks at the IP care about customer service? You damn skippy they do.

So once again, I'll never set foot in the Orleans poker room again, and I encourage others to to the same. The hotel rooms were nice, the seven Pai Gow tables were great (until they moved me, Astin and the Penners to a table with the cooler because we were winning too much) and the bowling was awesome. Unfortunately the Tournament Director for the Orleans poker room was such a jerk that he pretty much killed any positive vibes any of us felt for the casino.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Trip Report 1 : The Overview

Thank God people pay me to write about poker, because I obviously can't win any money playing it. This weekend was long, at times phenomenal in ways both good and bad, and made me realize things about myself that I'm still processing. It also made me broke. Again.

Not quite broke, for those of you with me as a horse in the blogger Dead Pool, my bankroll now sits flush around the $500 mark. That's right, all American triple digits, baby! That of course means that the other $2,000 of it was redistributed back into the poker economy this weekend, with no one to blame but myself. I need to retool my swing, and maybe get a coach, because my game is in the absolute shitter. I played well in the two tournaments I played, but no cashy-cashy, and the blogger mixed game at the MGM was the only winning session I booked over the five days I was in Vegas. That's bad, even for me, and we all know how quickly I can lose.

Looking back on it, I got tilty the very first afternoon I got there when the 70-year-old Chinese rock in the 10s slowplayed his KK to perfection to get all my money in with Jacks on a 10-high board. His check-push on the turn looked enough like a move that it got all my money in, but I should have been paying better attention to realize that the old leather-asses at the Orleans cash tables are not shoving more than $25 into a pot without the nuts. But I got outplayed and that set the stage for me to outplay myself for the next several days, spiraling further and further into bankroll depletion as I chased losses with poor play right up until I left for the airport, finally pressing my bets too hard at pai gow to leave Vegas with only one little Benjy and a few twenties in my pocket.

There will be more to come, but here's the quick note to start - NO BLOGGER TOURNEY I HAVE ANYTHING TO WITH WILL EVER BE HELD AT THE ORLEANS OR ANY OTHER CASINO EMPLOYING THAT TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR. I have never been party to any group that was treated so poorly by a tournament director at a casino. From the moment I walked into the poker room at 11AM to confirm that everything was good, we were treated as a nuisance and second-class citizens by the TD of the Orleans poker room. We were rushed, our blinds were changed from the agreed-upon structure, and we were generally sneered at by the TD. I'll better describe the bait-and-switch later, but I need to spread my vitriol out over several posts so that the Orleans poker room is mentioned frequently on this blog, so my slamming of the staff at the Orleans poker room Las Vegas moves up on the search engine rankings. Notthat I'm bitter about the terrible treatment we received at the hands of the Orleans poker tournament staff or anything.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Wrapping up

Hand sanitizer - check

Burt's Bees lip balm - check

Revitalized bankroll - check

Laptop charged - check

Liver been warned - check

Cell phone wall charger - check

Download new stuff to watch on plane - not yet

iPod shuffle - check

iPod video - check

Big dork bringing more than one iPod - check check

kilt clean and pressed - check

haircut - check

new sunglasses - check

got all my shit done at work - you gotta be kidding me

hookup with that chick to get a couple Xanax for the plane - check

Yeah, so 48 hours from now I should be wheels up in the air over western SC about 20 minutes after takeoff, headed to the party. Of course I'm not caught up on my work. Of course I still have to buy toothpaste and deodorant, but I do have plenty of hair product. Thanks to my darling wife, almost every article of clothing I own is now clean, so I just need to figure out what I'm taking with me to wear and we'll be golden. Yeah, I know, it's a friggin' hardship to decide which black t-shirt I'm wearing each day. Usually I go by the time-honored excruciating process of "open the dresser and grab the one on top," but that doesn't always work when travelling. Ok, so it kinda does. Face it, I might not be a complete fashion moron (but I might), but I'll never, ever be a Donkeypuncher.

But here's my planned wardrobe, which for those of you never attending a blogger get-together might shed some light on the wide range of acceptable apparel. Unbeknownst to the good Doctor, it is acceptable to wear something other than jeans, an untucked dress shirt and a sport coat. The look works for him. Not so much for my fat ass.

Pants - I'll wear a pair of jeans, pack a pair of decent pants, and pack two pair of cargo shorts. More than enough for all the poker, and one decent pair of pants in case I end up going somewhere that needs such.

Shirts - lots of black t-shirts. It's a theatre thing, and after this long, it's just ingrained. I'll wear/stuff in my carryon a long-sleeve denim shirt for plane/casino wear, and I'll pack my Full Tilt jersey and a couple of short-sleeved shirts with collars.

Kilt - if you got it, flaunt it. I do, and I will.

Socks - this is important, and it's where I overpack. I take two pair per day of travel, and the first thing I do when I get into my hotel room is take off my socks. The world just looks better when you've got a fresh pair of socks.

Underwear - optional. See kilt.

Shoes - the poker rooms are almost always a long way from everything, so bring good shoes. They do not have to be "cute" shoes, ladies. Good shoes. I'm a cheap bastard, clothing-wise, but I buy good shoes. I suggest you do the same. But don't but good shoes today and expect them to be broken in by the time you land on Thursday.

I'll probably also toss a hoody or something in the bag, because a lot of poker rooms are friggin' COLD.

So that's how I pack for Vegas. This is disregarding the obligatory poker website ball cap, laptop and other electronics jizz that invariably comes along with. And make sure there's enough space in the bag for souvenirs, and a spare battery for the digital camera never hurts, either.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Quote of the night

From last night's cash game.

I push all-in on a three-spade board with the Ks.

T calls. I say "Well, I'm on a draw."

T turns over the As.

"Fuck. I hope I don't hit."


From Hoyazo -

Edit: Al tells me this morning that allegedly the hands for MysticJoe, who is some kind of Riverchasers employee guy, were actually being played by his 12-year-old son and not even by himself. As redonkulous as that sounds, it actually fits with most of what I saw and what I've shown here on the blog today, so I actually believe it. Sick. A 12-year-old kid wins a 57-person blonkament with suckout after suckout and suckout and bad call after bad call after bad call. Good stuff right there.

Somehow I don't think this is what Greg Raymer was looking for when he went before members of Congress to argue that internet poker is a game of skill. I of course friggin' love it. But I also wasn't playing the tournament, so I might find it funnier than some :).

Takeoff is T-minus 75 hours and counting.

Live Game Selection - Playing the right size game

Here's a rarity for you at PokerStage, a strategy post. Not much strategy emanating from Donk Central usually, but this is kinda an important thing to keep in mind as you're bouncing around in the poker world where poker is illegal and you don't have casinos with structured games to choose from all that often.

It's really important to understand your game and at what level you play your best.

Let's look at that again. It's really important to understand your game and at what level you play your best.

So with anything, we need examples. Okey-doke. I just left a small home game, where after about 45 minutes I had almost every chip on the table and was up about $80 on the evening. By the time I left, I had not a single chip and was stuck $50 for the night. This game played too small for me and I couldn't pay enough attention to play optimally, and I ended up loser for the night. On the other end of the spectrum, some of these uncapped NL games that I've played at in these underground card room around town play bigger than I'm comfortable playing, and that hamstrings me in a different direction.

I do well in our home game, which is a $50 max buy-in game, but with $700+ on the table, it plays a little bigger than the typical $50 game. I do well in $1/2 in casinos where the buy-in is capped, because no one can sit down with an $1800 stack for a 1/2 game and run me over. My game is predicated on applying pressure to my opponents and forcing them to fold when I want them to. If the game is too big or too small, that tool is taken away from me and I cannot play my best game. If I'm not playing my best game, I'm probably not going to have the most profitable results.

So pay attention to that kind of stuff. If you're a particularly tight player, you don't want to play at a 6-handed table. If you're a LAG, you don't mind playing short at ALL. If you want to be able to push people around, you can't be the tiny stack at the table, so playing way above your bankroll is probably a bad idea. If you're a nut peddler, then you want a full table where you can wait for premium hands to commit chips with. If you don't have many options in where to play, you have to be more flexible in your playing style. That's where I got into trouble tonight. Once I had established my maniac table image, the game got too shorthanded to really sit back and ratchet down, so I bled chips. Then once the other guys at the table had chips, I was outgunned and instead of rebuying for a full $50, I rebought for $20 like everyone else had been doing. So I hamstrung myself again, by playing a suboptimal game with not enough ammo.

Now this only matters if you care about winning. If you're just playing to have fun, then who gives a shit, right? Well, all I got to say to that is, it's a whole lot more fun to win than it is to lose.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sometimes it just doesn't go as planned

Two interesting quotes about my game from Uncle Phil -

"Usually the earlier in the night John reaches into his pocket for his second buy-in, the more chips he's got in front of him at the end of the night."

"I can't believe after all this time these people are still all limping in front of you just waiting for you to raise $4-$5 preflop and then fold."

It's no secret that I'm one of the more loose-aggressive players in our home game. I really don't put the screws down and play like I've got half a brain until my second (or sometimes third) buy-in. And so far, nobody's really caught on that my loose play over the first hour just sets the tone of the night and is not indicative of the type of cards I'm playing all through the night. Fortunately, even though a good number of my home game friends read this here blog, they still don't really believe me when I shift gears, which is how I'm able to survive craziness like last night.

I did end up with a profit, although it took me three buy-ins to get there (for the record, it's a $.25/$.50 home game, with about $800 on the table by the end of the night - a max buy-in is $50, but I allow the looser players to rebuy for $60 to cut down on change). By the time I got stacked for the second time, losing to my third all-in move (one of someone else's), I had managed to gt my money in good all three times.

So the first time I got stacked, all the money went in on a flop of 94Q rainbow. I had limped in late position with 94o (don't get all Sklansky on me, this is not a bad strategy in low-stakes, loosey-goosey home game poker). Crazy Nate bets out on the flop, and I raise. He re-raises me, and I shove. He calls with the expected Q-rag, and I'm pretty thrilled with life until running 5s give him Queens up. About a 75-25 favorite there, but not so much.

Then there was my second stacking (or almost stacking) at the hands of Warbucks. Now this is pure whining on my part and I want these calls every single day, but when three hands make the difference between being nearly $200 up on the night and being $35 up on the night, I'm gonna piss and moan a little. Otherwise, what's the point of having a poker blog? With AJo in a blind, there are several limpers and Jim puts out a healthy raise, something like $3-$4. This is a good raise, if Crazy Nate wasn't on his left, calling everything in the free world. So Nate calls, then the Porno Imp calls, then I look around, see the potential for a couple more callers, and it's worth it to me to call. So I do.

Flop comes down a red Ace and two spades. I check, it checks around to Jim, who bets out $5. Nate calls, Imp folds and I wanna know exactly where I am in the hand, so I pop it $20. Jim thinks for a second or two, and I think at that point he doesn't have an ace. Then he shoves, for another $39, and Nate folds like a cheap suit. At this point I think (and say, for that matter) that even if I'm dominated by AK or AQ, with almost $100 in the pot and not quite $40 to call, I feel like the 2.5-1 I'm getting on my money is worth it, plus Jim could be making that move with a wide range of hands that I'm ahead of, like a medium pair. Or the KQs, giving him the nut spade draw. I'm pretty thrilled with the revalation (although I wasn't quite as far ahead as I thought I was, only a 63-37 favorite) of the spade draw, but less so when he hits the 3s on the turn and I go for rebuy #2.

My third silly hand of the night wasn't a stacking, but it crippled me, I think prior to stacking #1, when the Porno Imp doubled through me by rivering two pair to beat my TPTK. Meh. I got my own back on him later when he ran his Kings into my Aces, and the Jack-high board didn't help out so much. Matter of fact, it was a bad night for Brokeback Mountain, because I think Warucks managed to stack off all his chips to Nate drawing to two outs when Nate flop top set on a Q-high board and Jim bet the farm with his overpair. Whattaya gonna do? With me n the Imp's case, and Nate in Jim's case there's no friggin way you put the opponent on the one hand that's got you crushed, so you're gonna go broke.

So over the next several hours I managed to build my stack to a nice pile, nearly $100 up, then Jim cracks my pocket Tens with K7o, calling a big raise with rags and catching the flop when starting the hand with a 25% chance to win against my TT and Nate's 22. Meh, at least that one happened on the flop and I was able to get away from the hand. It's not like I didn't snap Dan off twice calling big preflop raises in late position with shit like J2 and catching two pair to make gold on the turn. I admire the play, and think that Jim's style mirrors mine more than either of us typically are willing to let on, although he's still looser post-flop than I am, willing to commit more chips on draws than I am. That's because he's a gambler, a real old-school gambler, and plays to have fun and nothing more.

Me too, I love my home game and the cast of characters we've created. And that's the place where we have fun. Casinos and underground rooms is where I go to play more seriously. I'm just a little whiney this morning because like on my last trip to Vegas, there were a few very specific hands that determined the fiscal outcome of the endeavor. I don't really care about the money, but I'm a really competitive person by nature, and I do better at anything when there's someone to compete with to make me strive to do better. I want to win to win, the money is just how we keep score.

I'm really fortunate that I've found a group of people who let me take out my competitive urges around the poker table, and are willing to keep coming back week in and week out. It's a running joke that we're really just passing the same couple hundred dollars back and forth around the table, and it's pretty true. Most of us go on streaks, hot or cold, and very seldom does anyone go for too long without a winning night to salve the wounds of a couple weeks of running bad. It's a good group, and I'm happy that they'll be here when I get back, and wish that I could unleash Jim and Nate at opposite ends of the same $1/2 table in Vegas and watch the fireworks (preferably from the 5s).

Friday, June 01, 2007

I've been remiss...

A whole week has gone by and I haven't written up last week's home game. Geez, you'd think I was busy at work and rehearsal or something. So last Friday night we had a little tourney at Casa de Falstaff, with ten players to start off the evening with a $10 rebuy madness tourney. Everyone bought in double to begin, and I promised that at some point in the first orbit I would go all-in blind.

I did, waiting until my turn in the hijack position to do so, driving out the blinds and the two limpers in front of me. Then it was on. With a ridiculous number of rebuys, led by yours truly, payouts for the little $10 tourney were $240 for first, $140 second and $90 for third. I wish I could say that I even sniffed the money, but my only interaction with cashing in the tournament was to put it all in the little box and then count it out for the winners. I didn't even pick up a single $5 bounty all tourney long. We went with 15 minute levels to get things wrapped up fairly quickly, and ran ten players down to one winner in about 2:15, with Crazy Nate prevailing over NewGuy Nick (second only to me in number of rebuys, but he used his more effectively, obviously) for the top prize. Uncle Phil pulled in a decent profit for third since he was only in for the initial double buy plus the add-on, so he did okay.

The rest of us sat on the couch licking our wounds as Nate knocked out 7 of the 9 other players en route to victory. I think Warbucks took me out, pretty standard since I seem to have Jim knock me out of tourneys pretty regularly.

Then it was time for the cash game. I went into the cash game intending to play wild for the first orbit, then tighten up and cash in on my maniac table image, netting myself a good profit on the night.

Yeah, well...maybe eventually, but first I was into my pocket for three buy-ins before I could get anything to click. The stack fluctuations are crazy in this game, and Nate stacked NewGuy Nick on the second hand when he rivered a better two pair to bust Nick's flopped top two. You'll have that with Nate. A lot. I passed a bunch of chips around the table before I eventually started to collect them back, but not before O'Neill walked out up two buyins on the night after being down to his last allocated $20 in the cash game. He played some good poker and dropped a couple good suckouts at the right time to build his stack over $200 before he left.

But at the end, by the time we got down to our typical short-handed degeneracy, with almost every chip I owned on the table, I was able to trap Nate in a few hands to finish the night up tow and a half buyins over the course of the evening, so it was fun and profitable in the long run. Tonight those same lunatics are coming over for more ridiculousness, this time cash game only, and I'll show off my new Crystal Park $1 chips (ooohh, pretty).