Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Saturday, May 31, 2008

OMFG - there's a reason the soft opening was invented!

So I do a lot of work with churches and schools. And I install fairly complicated bits of technology in these places. And the skill level of the user personnel varies widely, to say the least. One of the biggest projects I've worked on, Westover Church in Greensboro, hired a professional lighting designer to run lights for the church. He knows what he's doing, to say the least. But most of the folks I deal with use volunteer personnel who have never worked with technology at this level before.

So today I've fielded half a dozen calls from a church that we worked on this spring that is getting ready for their first service. Tomorrow at 9:45 AM. They received training on their light board on Thursday, amidst electricians rewiring lighting in the sanctuary and fire alarm testing. While there were people working on the AC units, painting doors and building cabinetry. In the sanctuary. Needless to say, I didn't consider this site to be anywhere near ready for an opening this week. And the folks using the equipment had so much on their minds as I was trying to train them that practically nothing sank in, which was the root of the last three phone calls with the electricians.

So here I am with a tip for any of you in a commercial construction venture - have a soft opening. If it's a church, don't have your first service date set in stone when you begin the construction process. Get in the building when it's ready. Yes, there will be delays. Yes, it will cost more than initially budgeted. That's why you have a flexible calendar and a contingency fund in your building budget. But if you announce a hard opening you're going to do one of two things - miss the date and look like a jackass, or hit the date and endure a couple of weeks of hell trying to make a date that has no real significance anyway and end up with a facility that is less than it could be because of your own pig-headedness.

Oh, and another tip - if you're going to add an entirely new level of technology to your life, don't expect to get three hours of training on it and be able to operate it flawlessly the next day. Or week. Or month.
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And so it begins...

The WSOP 2008 edition has officially kicked off. The $10K Pot Limit Hold'em World Championship drew some big stars, including Doyle Brunson, Mike Sexton, Gavin Smith, Daniel Negreanu and a bunch of other people. My recap of the event is up at PokerNews, and there will be many more to follow over the next seven weeks.

I find it interesting, my work on these events. Since I'm not there, I don't have the kaleidoscope of emotions that a lot of other folks feel. I don't get the sense of homecoming that BJ talked about when he first walked in to see all the people that he hasn't seen in a long time. I don't get the sense of dread that Pauly has written about, because most of my work is done in my underpants on my sofa (sometimes I sit at my desk in my underpants for a change of scenery). And I don't get Otis' famous thousand-yard stare by week five.

I'm separate from the folks with boots on the ground, but what I do is almost equally important. The stuff I do is for a lot of people the only way they get their WSOP news, and I take a lot of pride in that fact. Yeah, this marks the third year in a row that I've had to turn down the chance to go out and work the whole series (that whole day job thing), but I enjoy my part of it, and by the time I finish juggling directing a play, performing in another play, designing lights for the one I'm performing in, designing lights for a musical for a whole different company, working my regular job 50-ish hours per week and recapping roughly 1/3 of the events at the series, I think I'll be pretty happy to see August roll around as well. Oh yeah, and there's that new writing gig I just took on that will keep me up 'til ludicrous hours of the morning a few Sundays a month and add a couple more hours of writing onto my plate each week. So yeah, it might be a busy summer.

And did I mention I'm going to Vegas next week? And DC the week after that?

So a question out there for those of you who are way better at linking up other bloggers than me - is there a plug-in for Firefox (or preferably Flock) that can save a list of commonly used links so that I don't have to type in every time I wanna link up Otis?

This week's edition of the Falstaff home game is tonight, and I'm going to try something different. I'm going to work on not losing my first three buy-in in the first 90 minutes of the game. This week, I'm going to try to remember to look at my cards preflop, chase fewer gutterballs, and try to not get amazingly stuck and have to make a huge comeback in the last hour of the night. I set the number of gutshots I chase at 8, is anyone silly enough to take the under?
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Friday, May 30, 2008

Too much tech?

As I was writing an email to my new boss (more to come on my new side gig next week once I survive the first test of my ability to actually do the job) giving him my MSN messenger ID, I got an email from my new cohort on this gig asking for my Yahoo! ID so he could IM me.

Now I primarily use AIM for work, because that's what my company uses, and I use GTalk for my personal IMs, because I drank the Google Kool-Aid a long time ago, but I do actually have Yahoo and MSN chat accounts.

And a Skype account, because that's how PokerNews communicates.

And I use Adium to collect all my accounts into one umbrella, because Pidgin is PC-only, so I had to find a new aggregator.

And I have JiveTalk on my Blackberry so I can get chats during the evening or weekends when I'm away from a PC (which for the next 7 weeks might be never).

Now that I'm all Twitter-pated, I might be a little too connected.

But if you wanna find me - here's how.

Skype - johnhartness
GTalk - johnhartness
AIM - jhartnessnc
Yahoo! - pokerstage
MSN - johnhartness AT gmail DOT com

and most of you have my cell phone, so I figure anybody who gives a shit now knows how to get in touch with me in any of half a dozen or more different methods.

Yes, it's Friday. No, I don't want to spend the last two hours of my workday working. Yes, my WSOP kicks off early tomorrow morning, when I get up to at the buttcrack of dawn to do my first recap of the series - the $10,000 PLHE event for PokerNews. I'll be doing a bunch of the recaps from the beginning this year, splitting time with the finest cleavage in poker (aka she of the hat) and a new person who I don't know yet.

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Gambling acceptable reason for murder in Arkansas

I think I'm moving. So homeboy killed a guy running a 3-card monte game because he was cheating (how do you cheat at 3-card monte? Isn't it supposed to be a scam?) and since he was trying to recover gambling losses, he gets off of death row.

So Grubby could murder the old woman who left a puddle at the Mr. Cashman machine and as long as he was stuck and chasing losses, it would be ok?

Wow. This is the state that gave you the Clintons. Any questions?

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) -- Arkansas' highest court ordered an inmate off of death row on Thursday, citing a 1940 court decision that gave an escape clause from an aggravated-robbery conviction to people trying to recover gambling losses.


A 1940 ruling says one can't be convicted of aggravated robbery while trying to recover gambling losses.

Justices ordered a new sentencing hearing for Michael B. Daniels, who said he was attempting to recover $20 he lost in a game of three-card monte when he stabbed and killed James Williams, 52, on January 8, 2006. Daniels claimed during the trial that Williams had cheated in the game.

Justices cited a 68-year-old ruling that said someone couldn't be convicted of aggravated robbery while trying to recover gambling losses. Aggravated robbery was the underlying circumstance when a jury ordered Daniels to die for Williams' death.

The split court reversed Daniels' aggravated robbery conviction and the capital murder charge linked to it, but upheld his conviction for premeditated and deliberate capital murder.

In the majority opinion, Associate Justice Robert L. Brown acknowledged that some could argue the 1940 case was not in the public's interest, but said, "it is nonetheless still good law in Arkansas."

Daniels' attorney, Teri Chambers, said Thursday's ruling "makes sense because you have to be able to commit a theft in order to commit a robbery. You have to be taking someone else's property to commit a theft."

It was unclear whether the ruling had been used to get anyone else off of Arkansas death row.

During the trial, Daniels' attorney admitted that his client stabbed Williams in the head, chest and stomach with a Bowie knife. The attack was recorded on surveillance video.

Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Williams cheated during the card game.
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

More UB Cheating fallout

Terrence 'Not Johnny' Chan put up a post with the email he got from UB about his losses to the superusers. Go check out his blog for the full text and his take on the losses and refund.

I think my immediate response is that even if I wasn't the worst online poker player in the world, I'd never put any money back on UB.

Johnny Bax, UltimateBet cheating, apologies, press release, and do we really care?

Once upon a time I read Pokerati for tales of poker games in titty bars. Little Danny's site has all grown up, publishing the story of the nominal end of the UB cheating scandal at the same time as PokerNews, the biggest poker news site in the world. Good on you and your peeps, Dan.

So with my hat tips out of the way, here's the UB press release - I'll take a few hours to process and then give my expert (because everyone's an expert on the internet) analysis.

MONTREAL, CANADA (MAY 29, 2008) — Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG (”Tokwiro”), proprietors of (”UltimateBet”), one of the world’s largest online card rooms, today announced the results of its lengthy investigation into allegations of unfair play, which was triggered by concerns about an account named ‘NioNio’. Tokwiro has worked diligently in cooperation with its regulatory body, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (”KGC”), and with independent third-party experts to conduct a thorough investigation that included a comprehensive review of hand histories and game data, thorough analyses of software and network security, and audits of its security practices and procedures.

The investigation has concluded that certain player accounts did in fact have an unfair advantage, and that these accounts targeted the highest limit games on the site. The individuals responsible were found to have worked for the previous ownership of UltimateBet prior to the sale of the business to Tokwiro in October 2006. Tokwiro is taking full responsibility for this situation and will immediately begin refunding UltimateBet customers for any losses that were incurred as a result of unfair play.

The fraudulent activity was enabled by unauthorized software code that allowed the perpetrators to obtain hole card information during live play. The existence of this vulnerability was unknown to Tokwiro until February 2008 and existed prior to UltimateBet’s acquisition by Tokwiro in October 2006. Our investigation has confirmed that the code was part of a legacy auditing system that was manipulated by the perpetrators. Gaming Associates, independent auditors hired by the KGC, have confirmed that the software code that provided the unfair advantage has been permanently removed.

Throughout the investigation of this incident, Tokwiro’s consistent priorities have been:

  1. To permanently remove the ability to engage in unfair play;
  2. To complete its investigation and come to a full understanding of what occurred;
  3. To refund the affected customers; and
  4. To implement measures that prevents future incidents.

The Company said, “We would like to thank our customers for their patience, loyalty and support, as well as for their understanding that we are doing everything we can to correct this situation. The staff and management of UltimateBet are fully committed to providing a safe and secure environment for our players, and we want to assure customers of our unwavering resolve to monitor site security with every resource at our disposal.”

Investigation Timeline

These are the key events in the course of the incident.

  • January 2008: UltimateBet is alerted to suspicions of unfair play on the part of the account “NioNio”. Within 24 hours, UltimateBet contacts the KGC to provide formal notice that UltimateBet has initiated an investigation of the incident. UltimateBet subsequently forwarded a copy of all related data to the KGC.
  • January 2008: The “NioNio” account and related accounts are suspended pending further investigation.
  • February 2008: Preliminary findings indicate abnormally high winning statistics for the suspect accounts. After discussions with the KGC, UltimateBet engages third-party gaming experts to assist with the analysis.
  • February 2008: Investigators confirm that the suspect accounts are associated with individuals who had worked for UltimateBet under the previous ownership.
  • February 2008: UltimateBet discovers the unauthorized code that allowed the perpetrators to obtain hole card information during live play. The code was part of a legacy auditing system that was manipulated by the perpetrators of the fraud.
  • February 2008: UltimateBet immediately removes the unauthorized code and works with the KGC and with third-party auditors to verify that the security hole has been eliminated.
  • March 2008: Six player accounts are confirmed to have participated in this scheme. No accounts were deleted at any point, although some account names were changed multiple times. The following account names are known to have been used in the fraudulent activity: NioNio, Sleepless, NoPaddles, nvtease, flatbroke33, ilike2win, UtakeIt2, FlipFlop2, erick456, WhackMe44, RockStarLA, stoned2nite, monizzle, FireNTexas, HeadKase01, LetsPatttty, NYMobser, and WhoWhereWhen.
  • May 2008: The investigation confirms that the fraudulent activity took place from March 7, 2006 to December 3, 2007.
  • May 2008: Gaming Associates certifies that the software code that enabled unfair play was removed from UltimateBet servers in February of 2008.
  • May 2008: Customers affected by this incident are identified, and plans for corrective action are reviewed with the KGC.

Corrective Actions Taken

The following actions have been taken or are currently underway as a direct result of this investigation.

  • The security hole identified in UltimateBet’s investigation has been permanently eliminated.
  • UltimateBet is establishing a state-of-the-art software Security Center that consolidates and greatly enhances existing security capabilities. The first release of the new Security Center focuses solely on the immediate detection of abnormal winnings. Gaming mathematicians, poker professionals, and security software developers have all contributed to the specifications for the new Security Center.
  • UltimateBet customers are no longer permitted to change account names unless they have suffered abuse in chat rooms. Requests for changes must be supported by proof of abuse and must be approved by the Chief Compliance Officer.
  • In addition to its existing security department, UltimateBet has established a new specialized Poker Security team of professionals dedicated to fraud prevention.
  • The refund process will begin immediately. The accounts associated with fraudulent activity did not use an unfair advantage in all play sessions. Regardless, UltimateBet is refunding all losses to these accounts.
  • Accounts related to the fraudulent activity have been disabled, and the individuals associated with those accounts permanently banned from the site.
  • UltimateBet has worked closely and transparently with its governing body, the KGC and its designated expert auditors, to determine exactly what happened, how it happened, and who was involved, and has taken action to prevent any possibility of this situation recurring.
  • Tokwiro is pursuing its legal options in regard to this incident.


sophomoric joke to test out the blog editor in Flock
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I'm now on Twitter. You can follow my day-to-day inanity at my Twitter page, or click the link on the sidebar to follow me on twitter. Dunno if I'm cool enough to keep up with it, but we'll see.


I didn't know she had a sister!

Anyway, I did indeed play cards last weekend. It started off going very very badly, as I was on buy-in #3 within the first hour of play. I wish I could attribute it to anything other than simply playing poory, but I can't. I lost a buy-in to T when my flopped set was no good against her flopped bottom straight. I lost another buy-in to Nate with circumstances I've banished to the furthest reaches of my mind, and lost yet another buy-in to T when I flopped TPTK on a Q-high board. Thinking my AQ was good, I jammed, knowing she'd call with several inferior holdings.

Of course, she'd also call with QQ for top set, so that wasn't my best move. I managed to recover a bit, finding myself heading into the O8 portion of the evening only about $100 down. I picked up half of a big pot with an emergency high, making a baby flush that was good since both my opponents were going low, and then picked up a couple of other medium sized pots to finish up $70 on the night. I certainly don't mind the results, but living through $400 swings in a .25/.50 game is starting to wear on my. Maybe if I looked at my cards preflop I'd increase my fold equity.

Naaaah. I've worked really diligently on creating a particular table image at my home game, and I just need to realize that it's worked, everybody thinks I'm a nutjob (I am), and live with it. It's a fun game, and I think that at times it's a running contest to deliver the worst bad beat of the night. Tough on the fenders in the street, but fun for the rest of us.

With Vegas looming on the horizon next week, I'm about 98% guaranteed to play the $150 shootout at Binion's at 4PM on Saturday. I think it'll be interesting to play a live shootout, and the price is right. Also, with a shootout, if I win my table, I should be in the money, so that's also appealing. Most of the rest of my time will be spent playing 1/2 or 2/5 NL, but I do want to find a decent 8/16 or 10/20 limit game to try my hand at that game. Any recommendations are welcome.

There are also a few people that I want to meet while I'm out there (and no, I don't really care about any of the 'name' player). Shamus is always a great read, and he's out there as part of the PokerNews team. Haley is also out there, and I've worked with her for the last year without ever meeting face to face. And the Poker Grump is such a good read I'd like to tip a glass with him as well. And of course, the Good Dr., Change100, BWoP, F-Train, Pokerati Dan, California Jen, JenLeo, Schecky, Linda, The Shrink and way too many others to link. Because I'm lazy.

And StB reminded me that he owes me lunch because DAVIDSON beat Wisconsin like a drum in the NCAA tourney. I think I need to bring him a jersey. But I won't, because I'm lazy. If he's lucky, I'll bring his duck and let him visit.

Long story, don't ask.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Grumpy bitch in the rain

After hiring a friend to do some demolition work in my kitchen in preparation for the arrival of my new stove, I took the afternoon off yesterday so that said stove could be delivered.

Yeah - I said demolition work.

One of the things that naive homebuyers don't realize about buying a 40 year old house is that the appliances, which are all original, are of a size that is no longer manufactured for the general public. So to replace the circa 1967 drop-in range and oven will require either a cash outlay of $1200 for the base model, or reconstruction of a significant portion of the kitchen.

Well, having friends that are marginally skilled at carpenterial efforts, and that are also willing to rip apart a kitchen for a couple hundred bucks came in handy, and Uncle Phil spent the better part of his Memorial Day beating the ever-loving hell out of my kitchen, all so that my stove could be delivered yesterday.

Yeah, about that.

So I took the afternoon off because Suzy had an orthodontist's appointment. Yes, my 38-year-old wife will be getting braces this summer. Thank god the WSOP is getting ready to start up, because I need the work to pay for her extractions and mandibular manipulations.

Yes, I know I'm not getting a blowjob for the next two years.

No, I'm not okay with that.

So I waited for the stove. The delivery was scheduled for between 2 and 6 PM. Knowing as I do the immutable laws of delivery guys, I knew that if i left the house at any point, he would arrive. And I also understood that if I stayed there through the proscribed period of time, it would be near the absolute end of the period before I heard from him.

He called at 5:50.

To tell us that he had loaded the wrong stove on the truck and the warehouse was closed. He promised to return this morning.

Between 6 and 7 AM.

All I do at 6AM is get up to pee. And go back to bed. Except this morning, when I dealt with the delivery guy. So I have a stove, not enough sleep, and a sour attitude.

And it's raining.

Have a nice day.

I need to be in Vegas. Regardless of the fact that I have a retarded friend who is seriously considering going to the state Republican convention rather than Vegas next week. I've been to a big Republican gathering. You might remember it, the party made the brilliant decision to put the re-election party for one of the most polarizing, inept and loathed presidents in history in one of the most liberal cities in the country. It was about 4 years ago. I was there, with all the big Republican brass and Secret Service agents.

I was paid to be there, I was performing It's a long story, and worth a beer.

Needless to say, there's no question where I'd be if given the choice between a Republican convention in a backwoods state like mine or Vegas. Hope T comes to her senses.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Rehearsal update

You know you're hanging around with some funny motherfuckers when you assign someone in the cast to write down the funny shit that comes up every night.

Add a holiday weekend and a video camera, and it gets ugly.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bag Recommendations

I saw from a post on Mean Gene's blog that some of you are looking for a lapto bag that will also handle a digital SLR camera.

May I present - my laptop bag -
Specs are here, and here's what I know from toting this puppy around for most of a year.

1 - Was obviously designed around a MacBook or smaller computer. The padded laptop sleeve is a perfect fit for my new Mac, but I had to carry my 15" PC in the main compartment. Inconvenient, but not terrrible.

2 - It's a camera bag that will hold a laptop, not a laptop bag that will hold a camera. The rearrangable velcro dividers are a staple of photo bags and are very helpful if you're into filters and other jazz (by the way, if you're into camera filters, email me with sizes and I'll check out current overstock on Tiffen - we're having a sale on big filters (series 9 and 82mm)).

3 - It holds up to the rigors of airline travel and Falstaff travel. Mine still looks really good after several months of abuse.

4 - Don't pay $128 for it, email me. I'm a distributor for these and can get you a 20% or so discount off list price.

There you go - lemme know if you likey.

The Countdown has started...

In just a couple of short weeks I'll be sitting at a Pai Gow table, drunk off my ever-loving ass, trying to see three feet in front of my face enough to set my hand and yelling PAI GOWWWW at the top of my lungs with some of you degenerates. In case you've missed the schedule - such as it is - here it is again.

Thursday Night - Get drunk at the Geisha Bar at the IP - Start around 9ish - stop when the wheelchairs come out.

Friday Night - Heroe's Welcome Party - Our buddy has returned home safe, sound and way more ripped than he was before he went off the great sandy, and we're really glad. The Sports Book Bar at the MGM is the place, and the Doc and The Wife are not allowed to pay for any booze all night. He earned it. The Doc's entering a new phase in life today, so swing over to his place and say thanks. He's given 22 years in service to our country, and I'm grateful for it.

EDIT - after this comment - the Rhino meeting on Sunday night has been moved to Friday night. I think getting The Wife drunk and getting her a lap dance is the best homecoming gift we can give the good Dr. Careful what you wish for, darlin'.

The Wife has left a new comment on your post "The Countdown has started...":

And me drinks? You know, a drunk Mrs. Chako could be a dangerous Mrs. Chako.

And I'm a little disappointed that you're doing the Rhino after we leave . . . I never did get my lap dance last time I was there.

Saturday Night - If all goes well for me, I'll still be playing in the Binion's Shootout. More realistically, this would be a good night to go drink at the Rio so we can hang with the PokerNews folks and Otis when they get a rare break in the action at the WSOP.

Sunday - Brunch at the Wynn, anyone? Lil' Nick is talking George Carlin Sunday night, so I may join him for that, after which we have to get him inducted into the Spearmint Rhino Hall of Shame.

Monday - back to reality.

See you in 2 weeks!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Good customer service and a crisis of faith

So yesterday I wasn't feeling well, so I stayed home from work. Along in the afternoon I felt better, but since I had burned a sick day I decided to go ahead and get some things taken care of that had been neglected for a while, like a haircut. I also decided to head to the Apple store and pick up a second power adaptor for my new MacBook. I had never been to the Apple store here, because it's in a mall and I hate malls. Not to mention it's not on my side of town, and I can buy iPods in other places. As is evidenced by the fact that I have more than two iPods for each resident of my house, I can but iPods in far too many places.

But I digress. You'll have that, it's a blog. Deal.

So I went to the Apple store, and the first thing I noticed was how busy they were for midafternoon on a Tuesday. There were probably 30 people in the store shopping, which I thought was extraordinary traffic for a mid-sized city on a Tuesday. The next thing I noticed was how well-staffed the store was. There were probably 10 people in there working, if not 15. And this wasn't a huge store, just a typically-sized mall storefront. The kind of store that if it's a shoe store or a clothing store there might be 3-4 employees. But this joint had a dozen employees - and the traffic to back it up. So I walk in, someone comes over immediately to help me, gets my product and asks if I'm paying with a credit card. I respond affirmatively, and he says "then I can ring you up here" as he whips out a portable thingamajig that swipes my card, processes my purchase and emails me a receipt within seconds. He slapped a sticker on my box and I was out the door in less than three minutes.

As I was walking out I couldn't help but think how pleasant the whole experience had been. I didn't have to wait on anyone, and never stood in line. The kid knew the answer to my questions about other products, and was polite and efficient. As I walked to the car I couldn't help but think "I just had a positive shopping experience in a mall."

I don't know that I've ever really thought that before.

In other news, I watched Across the Universe yesterday afternoon before rehearsal, and it made me a little ill. Julie Taymor is one of those people who just sees the world a few degrees differently than most people, and I'm so jealous of her vision that it makes me wanna puke. I see the things that she does with film and theatre and it makes me want to either elevate my craft or just give up because I'll never be that good, and I'm not sure which. It did bring about a small crisis of faith, however, because listening to her in the special features interviews made me realize that I need to care more about my projects.

It's not that I don't care about the projects I undertake, but it's been a while since a project consumed me, lit me from within with a fire that threatened to burn me out. That kind of desire to produce great art is something that's currently missing in me, and my work suffers from it. Don't get me wrong, I still put on good shows, but the intensity of focus that I've brought to some projects in the past just isn't there and hasn't been for a while. I think I need a new medium.

I've said for years that I'm bored with plays, so I think I need to creatively hibernate for a little while and see what comes out. There are things and themes that I want to explore and experiment with, and I think after several years of just getting by I'm ready to start making art again.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Falstaff home game

It's a variable beast, and this week's edition was of the smaller variety. Only five brave souls ventured into the wilds of the Casa de Falstaff to join our hero in his quest for chips. Some were successful, some less so. Uncle Phil ventured back into the wilds after a savage reaming on his last trip to the felts. BG came out in a bad head space, but managed to get his poop in a group enough to recover and book a win for the night. Big Dan took a couple of rough beats at the hand of the host before getting felted early and heading home. New guy Ricky made his debut performance, which might end up being his farewell performance after dropping two buy-ins. And Special K ran colder than Cruella Deville's vagina to end the night with a suckout from the host sending him home chipless.

And our hero? Was he able to climb back on the horse after having his win streak snapped at 9 sessions? Yeah, he picked up a nice win cash-wise, but the play was impressive only in its atrociousness. I may have exhibited some of the worst play in the history of poker on my way to finishing +3 buy-ins on the night, but it all spends, no matter how ill-gotten.

I made New Guy Ricky my bitch on one big hand, where he raised preflop and I called with trash. I completely missed the 8-high flop, but looked him straight in the eye and said "There's no reasonable hand that you raised preflop with that hit that board" before I bet the flop. He called with his overcards and when another baby card hit the turn I pushed all in. He couldn't call, and I picked up another pot with crap cards. It was a night of playing hands blind and catching, and hitting bug draws at the right time.

I picked up two big open-ended straight draws in key moments, one to stack Dan and one to stack Special K. Special K's was a little more of a bad beat since he had flopped a straight and I rivered the higher end after he fired on every street. I thought all along that I would have been good catching the low end, but turns out that would have gotten expensive for me. When I rivered the nuts, I figured we were chopping, but it was not to be, so I picked up a big pot.

I'm not playing particularly well, but I feel like my reads are good. I made one good laydown to BG when he shoved on the turn and I had a gutshot with the nut flush draw, but I laid it down when I looked back at the board and saw that there was a higher straight already out there, lacking only a 6. So I thought that I could hit 4 of my outs and still not be good, so I laid it down. He was kind enough to tell me that I would have been good, and the 2d would have been the river, giving me the wheel. But I wasn't willing to pay $10 per out for my flush, and he took a big one. I also paid him off on one big hand where I rivered the 2nd-nut flush and talked Ricky out of betting his baby flush. But when BG fired a big bet after I've sat there talking about my big flush I wasn't good enough to fold to his obvious full house. BG is perfectly capable of making a move in that position, but only if he's on his A game. He was on his B- game due to personal issues Saturday night and I should have known that he either had the nut flush or the boat. As it was, I said "if you're full, I gotta pay you off." And did.

That's a huge leak in my game, making bad calls when I know I'm beat if I'm up a little for the night. I'm working on it, but not very hard. Frankly, I know I'm not playing very well right now, but I'm having a good time and it's currently profitable, so I'll take it.

Looking forward to seeing you degenerates in a few weeks!

Friday, May 16, 2008

lather, rinse, repeat

That's kinda what life has felt like at the Casa de Falstaff lately. More to the point, it's work, rehearse, sleep, repeat. I get up, head to work, head to rehearsal, go to bed, get up every morning and do it again. With two shows going in rep, we're going to be rehearsing 6 or 7 days a week for most of the summer. Add to that a bust summer of work and it makes for crispity Falstaff. So take pity on me if I pass out at the pai gow table in a few weeks.

Take pity on me translates into "buy me another drink," in case you were wondering. I'm beginning to get close enough to look forward to the trip, and to seeing my degenerate friends again, even if walking outside in June in Las Vegas does feel like walking face-first into a hair dryer.

Rehearsals are going well, which means that we haven't gotten to the point where I've threatened actors with grievous bodily harm or being replaced with sock puppets (I've done it. It's a long story, but the sock puppets don't give me any bullshit about their motivation). We will likely reach that point by next Wednesday, since we should finish blocking by then. I'll toss up some photos next week, we've got a cast of some familiar faces and some new folks, and I think the show will be really good. If I don't kill everyone in the process.

Poker has gone pretty well, but my streak of 9 winning sessions in a row came to an end this week. There was a local tourney, which I missed due to rehearsal, but I stopped by for the cash game later. After quickly blowing through my first buy-in, I found myself all in on my second buy-in (which I had to borrow from BG since I brought hardly any cash to the game) on the last hand of the night with Q9o. I raised preflop, got two callers, and caught a 9 on the flop. I fired again, and Nate called (duh). Dan the Man also called, which concerned me, since he's usually pretty tight. I hit my Q on the turn, but the 8 on the board left a possible straight out there. I still stuck the rest of my meager stack in the middle, and found two callers. I asked "anybody got the straight?" as I tabled my two pair, and when the 6s came on the river, the answer was a resounding NO as I raked in the pot. I paid back BG, and cashed out down $13 thanks to the monster pot I picked up with two pair at the last possible moment. So I feel a little bad that my hot streak has ended, but I'm glad that I didn't lose more in ending a win streak. Now I just need to try to start a new one. Let's try tomorrow night, shall we?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

As promised, here are some photos blended together in iMovie to give an idea of what some of my lighting design work looks like. 

The first one is from a production of Corpus Christi that was lit entirely with Christmas lights, four strands of rope light and four bare light bulbs. Add seven tons of sand into an 80-seat theatre, and magic happened. 

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hello world, meet Hal

No, this is not a 2001: a Space Odyssey reference, but another Shakespeare reference. After all, Falstaff would be nothing in the Shakespeare canon without a Prince Hal, right? Or maybe I should name my new Mac Hotspur? 

So yeah, I went Mac. And almost a week later, I can't really see me going back. I picked up a used Macbook on Craigslist and feel like I got a great deal on it. It's a year old, with a fresh install of MS Office 2008, 2.2 gHz dual core processor and 4 GB of RAM. it's small enough to fit in my laptop bag, which obviously was designed around a 13.3" or smaller screen, and is screaming fast. 

I just spent the last hour or so playing around with Garage Band, which might be even more geeky cool than Guitar Hero, because it actually lets me create music from dozens of loops. Pretty nifty. Oh yeah, and I'm getting better than 4 hours of battery life at a session, which is roughly 4x the life of my old PC. In a little bit I'll post the movie portfolio I created this morning for a design interview I've got tomorrow, so you folks can see some of the lighting design work I've done over the past ten years. But I will note - running iMovie, Safari and Garage Band does make the processor work like a pig. Yeah, my old PC couldn't handle any two of those apps at one time, and I'm whining about a little fan noise when running all three? No, I couldn't be happier. Now to get all the porn off my old laptop and sell it on Craigslist...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Mouths of Babes

Speaker and I disagree on the money quote, but the whole article is gold.

This is why we fight cancer. Because some good people lose. 

The kid gave advice to the journalist who was writing a feature article about him living (and dying) with cancer. It's worth all of us reading. Read to the bottom for the quote. It's worth it. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

More ways to monetize your blog

If you liked my post about Text Link Ads last weekend, here's another, very similar, site that also makes me a little money each month.

Linkworth is almost identical to Text Link Ads, and they've recently revamped their website and made the whole thing much more user-friendly. You submit your site and to what degree you want to become a dirty filthy whore, and they sell links. You publish links, and they leave a twenty on the nightstand each month. Or in your paypal account. But you get the picture. If you're into squeezing every nickel you can out of your piece of teh interwebs, give Linkworth a shot, too. If not, hang around, some shiny object will grab my attention and I'll toss some other drivel up here soon enough.

The November Nine

That's what BJ Nemeth quotes a Harrah's (or is it Caesar's) Entertainment rep as referring to the final tablists at this year's WSOP Main Event. I agree with BJ (most do, he's a smart cookie), it's catchy. From today's PokerNews -

"As soon as the final table is set, the November Nine will immediately be paid ninth-place money. (Last year, ninth place paid $525,934; the average over the past four years was $890,798.) The remaining prizepool will be placed in an interest-bearing account, and the interest will be added to the prizepool."

So what would you do if you made the final table? Aside from drink heavily in celebration knowing that you didn't have to go to work tomorrow?

Would you call up Dan Harrington (or Phil Hellmuth, or Howard Lederer or Annette Obrestad or whatever poker tournament genius you could find) and put them on retainer for four months of training?

Would you join CardRunners and get help from some of the internet wunderkinder?

Would you study SNG and final table strategy?

Would you call up Mike Sexton and ask WWSUD? (What would Stu Ungar do?)

I'd honestly spend somewhere around 20% of the after-tax portion of the money I got in trying to give myself an edge. If it meant paying Phil Hellmuth $20K for a night's worth of poker lessons, you damn skippy I'd do it. If it meant setting up a dozen or more single-table tourneys with my friends running simulations of the final table by giving everyone the relative chip stacks and mimicking playing styles of my opponents as much as I could, you better believe it. If it meant paying some pimply-faced 14-year-old's annual subscription to for the next ten years so he'd write me the AI for a simulator program, absolutely I'd do it.

But I would spend that four months doing everything in my power to improve my game for the specific set of circumstances I would be facing in November. I doubt I'd play a single multi-table tournament, because that part of the event is over. I'd concentrate on SNGs and heads-up play, and I'd play thousands and thousands of hands of poker against the players that most closely mimicked the people I'd be facing. I'd be the Peyton Manning of poker I'd study so much f'n game tape. I'd stalk my opponents to their home games if I had a chance, just to get a little more information on how they played.

Is this good for the game? Who knows. It'll be a couple of years before we figure that out. If it gives poker another ratings bump that translates over to other broadcasts, then yes. If it fills more poker rooms with more fish, then yes. But this won't be a Moneymaker year. You won't have the wide-eyed hillbilly who plays in his first ever live poker tournament. You'll have, if they're smart, a group of nine final table competitors who may have been rubes in the summer, but who spent the whole of the fall turning into sharp poker players. And while the ability of ESPN to celebritize the November Nine may help boost poker in the public perception, the Moneymaker series was lightning in a bottle, and this will not be able to replicate that effect in any huge way.

But I reserve the right to be wrong. It's about the only right the current administration has left me. Time to go vote - I have a valid primary all of a sudden. And really, there can't be a whole lot of question who I'm supporting in this election. I'm supporting the candidate who wants to end the war and actually lived in the state he was elected to represent prior to deciding to run for Senate. I think the body count in a McCain presidency will be too high for me to stomach, and I think that Hillary will say anything in the world to get herself elected, and I trust her about as far as I can throw her husband and his chubby girlfriend. Obama is not the perfect candidate, and his former pastor is a racist. But frankly, my dad's a racist, and if I can move past that (although I still cross the street if I see a white guy coming late at night) then Obama can move past the statements his pastor has made.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Are blogs journalism?

Sometimes. Not this one. This is my weblog, my totally gay online diary.

But for someone who wants to be the spokesmodel for reasoned, sound journalism, Buzz Bissinger spent a large portion of this segment of Costas looking like an uninformed Luddite who's just afraid of that newfangled technology because he's scared he's going to lose his job. I don't know his work as a sportswriter prior to that segment, but I was less than impressed with his preparation for the segment.

It seemed like he went online for fifteen minutes, saw a few things that pissed him off and printed them out without bothering to develop an understanding of the difference between the blog posters and the commenters. That was a huge issue that I had with Costas as well, and I've typically liked him in the past. But I could see Will Leitch of Deadspin getting frustrated almost to the point where it looked like he wanted to say "if you can't figure out the difference between the writers and the commenters, then what am I doing here?"

Holding a blog writer responsible for the statements left in comments is like holding The Sports Babe responsible for the drivel that people call into her show with. Commenters are the internet equivalent of the callers on sports radio (at least in the case of a big blog. Here, you're usually my friends, but like I said, this is not a journalism blog), and other than basic spam filtering you can't hold the blogger responsible for the shot that people write in comments.

Face it, blogs are the new journalism, and they're not even new anymore. Just like newspapers replaced the town criers, and TV news replaced radio, blogs are replacing newspapers. Time marches on, and it might just be that these old-fogey sportswriters will have to write for, gasp!, blogs themselves in the future.

Buying a new MacBook

So I need some advice from people who are bigger geeks than me, and what better place to look than the internet?

I really am looking at getting a MacBook. I'm thinking the 2.4 ghz with 4GB of Ram should be smokin, but I'll take suggestions from anyone who knows Mac better than me. Which is everyone. I'm currently limping along with a 1.6 ghz Gateway which I hate (battery life is not worth a damn) and I'm trying to run Vista with just 1 GB of RAM. Bad idea.

So for what I do - writing, email, surfing porn, and online poker - will I notice the increase in clock speed from 2.1 ghz to 2.4? And do I need 4GB of RAM or is 2GB on a 2.1 ghz processor gonna feel like warp 3 to me anyway?

I've thought about getting the MacBook Air, but can't see paying the premium for style and weight, because it's significantly more expensive and has a significantly slower processor. Comments are open, thanks for the help.

Thin edges and vomitous roller coasters.

So my run of profitable sessions continues for one more week, thanks again to a big hand in Omaha Hi/Lo. I repeat - I am not good at this game. I'm not even significantly better than most of the other players in my home game.

I'm just enough better than a couple to take a couple of big hands each week to keep my head above water. And that, Mr. Frost, has made all the difference.

Last night's game was one of the most volatile I've ever been in, with me being into the game for $400 at one point. Not much money in the grand scheme of things, but remember, it's a $.25/.50 game!

Buy-in #1 - $50 - got nothing going, pretty sure I gave it to Jimmy over the course of a couple of stupid plays.

Buy-in #2 - $100 - see above

Buy-in #3 - $100 - Shortly after the beginning of the O8 portion of the evening, I'm in late position in a pot where we called a small raise. There's a bet in front of my from BG, who knows what's going on in O8 as much as any of us do, and DB calls. DB calls. That's what he does. And he hit enough monsters in O8 to keep him around. So I flopped the but straight on a board of 5-7-9 with two diamonds. This is another one of those instances when you flop the nuts in O8 but you're still not a favorite to win the hand. I thought that a jam of $120 ish into a $40ish pot would be enough of a stupid overbet that no one would call, but I got called by DB who had a flush draw and a low draw. The 2d on the turn gave him the whole pot and put me reaching into my pocket for -

Buy-in #4 - $140 - I actually managed to get something going on my fourth buyin with not a ton of time left in the evening, doubling through DB when he again called my overbet of $100+ into a $50ish pot. I had AAK3 double suited on a flop with a couple of low cards and a Jack and when it checked to me I jammed.

I said I wasn't a good O8 player. Leave me alone. DB called, had deuces with no diamonds or anything else good, and running Jacks gave me a boat and doubled me up.

My next double up came when I flopped the nut low draw on a flushy board, got it all in on the turn when I made my wheel thinking no one would bother calling because of the obvious chop unless he also held A2, got called by DB with A3 and rivered Broadway to scoop the high with Broadway and the low with the wheel.

It's not really as cool as it sounds, because he misread his hand and thought he was better off than he was, making two sessions at my house in a row where my profits for the night have come from someone else misreading their hand. That feels so much better than when I fire off huge river bluffs after misreading my hand.

So I rode the vomit comet all night, watching my chips ebb and flow at ridiculous rates, and paying off bad players and good players alike. I got stupid lucky to make a profit at all, but since I lose as often as not when I play well, I'll settle for lucky. I hope everyone views it as a loan, because I'm sure that's what it really is.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Try this - it'll make us both money

So there's no question I'm a big whore when it comes to monetizing my free webspace, and talking with Special K last night I realized that some folks are interested in doing so but don't know all of the tools to do so with, so here's a link to Text Link Ads, which generates a nice little piece of monthly revenue for me here. It's nothing huge, but the two blocks of links that they put on my blog earn me a little over $120/month, which is a nice little chunk of change. And if you click on my affiliate link and publish the code on your blog you start getting ads and making money, and I get a little kickback.

So if you're a dirty whore like me, click the link and sign up! My quest for a new MacBook thanks you.

If that link doesn't work, you can go to and click the banner there. For some reason I can't get that banner to work on Blogger but it works fine on Wordpress. Yes, I know Wordpress is a better format than blogger, I've just been a vag about updating things and redirecting and moving this blog to wordpress with real hosting. Maybe soon.

Jack High Nuts

Another trip to G-Vegas to the House of Blood.

Another session where I pick up pocket Aces 4 times in one night.

Another session of catching the perfect card at the perfect time to lay a couple of nasty beats on Special K.

So why, with that much money on the table and with that much card-rackedness floating around in my soul, did I only finish the night up 1/2 of a buy-in?

Because I'm not a very good poker player and am incapable of laying down one pair to a big river bet 3 times out of 4. Sorry, Rick, I think the only time I managed to get away from top pair, decent kicker ALL NIGHT was when I laid it down to your big bet on the river.

Otis summed it up early when he looked around and said "There are softer tables elsewhere in the world." With Frank the Tank dealing, we had our host, me, Gucci Rick, Otis, Dean, The Rankster, Special K and G-Rob in attendance. So yeah, there are softer tables. My strategy whenever I go to G-Vegas is simple - remember that at least half the players at the table are better than me, so play standard tight aggressive poker and don't try to get creative.

If I'd stuck to that, I'd have been much better off. But as is my wont, once I got ahead for the evening I got call-happy and pissed away all my profits.

A couple of times.

One pivotal hand, which might actually be the worst beat I've ever laid on anyone in real life, went down like this (and in the tradition of Derek, I don't owe anyone a dollar because I'm the one giving out the beat and not whining about taking it) - the straddle was live from Gucci Rick on the button, and 27 people came in off I-85 to call to $5. It calls around to Blood in the cutoff+1 and he pops it to $25.

I look down at pocket Jacks, and having just donked off half my stack to Blood the hand prior, decide this is a great time to either double up or reload, so I shove for $125. Rick looks down at his cards and folds, and Otis dumps his hand too. Dean had already stood up to cash out, but thought for a long moment before flat-calling. Rankster, Special K and Frank all fold, and Blood thinks for about half a second before dumping his hand. Dean asks if I have Aces, to which I respond "No, Jacks," as he turns over his Kings.

I look over at Frank and say "I'd like a two-outer now, please."

Blood says "I swear to God I folded King-Jack."

I look back at Frank and say "Sorry, I'd like a one-outer now, please."

Frank responds by peeling off the top three cards, peeking at them and saying "Oh my God," before putting out a Jack in the window.

Make that the Jack. The flop included an Ace with that Jack, and the turn was a 10, so I look at Frank and mention that I'd like to dodge 5 outs now, please, and he continues to oblige by sticking out the 5s on the river. So I spiked a one-outer to double through Dean on his last hand of the night.

I didn't really feel that dirty. Not nearly as dirty as when I pushed Special K off a made flush by going over top of his flop bet with my two pair. I really did think I had the best hand at the time, and obviously conveyed that in my body language, because he dumped his baby flush.

As I mentioned, I picked up Aces 4 times over the course of the night, and suffered exactly zero bad beats, which was nice. I only won three of the hands, which was less nice, but I lost the first one to may own stupidity and lack of familiarity with the style of the game. Frank raised preflop in Middle Position, and I flat-called from the cutoff expecting at most one other caller. Rick made the move that was to become a pattern for the night, by calling almost every hand I called, and Otis followed suit. Somebody else came along, and I was in the ignoble position of seeing a flop five ways with Aces. Two Queens on the flop, and I stuck out a little bet to see where I was. Two callers and then a raise gave me all the info I needed, so I got out of the way. Obviously a re-raise would have saved me a bunch of money there, so I filed that away for next time.

I picked up the blinds one time I got Aces, and the other two times went down almost the exact same way, once against Otis and once against Rankster. I raised stiff or re-raised preflop and got down to either heads-up or three-handed, then saw a drawish flop both times. Against Otis it had straight potential, and against Rank it was flushy, so I stuck out a big flop bet both times. I got called both times, then once the turn didn't help any reasonable preflop calling hands, I moved all in.

Otis went into the tank for a long time before folding, because my push didn't make any sense. It was a pretty massive overbet, and I will freely admit that it was a less than optimal play, because I was pretty sure I was ahead, and decided the pot was big enough to be happy about and I wanted to take it down right there. It made a little more sense against Rankster because I only had pushed about $200 into a pot of about $130, and the flush draw was much more reasonable than any draws in the hand with Otis, so I didn't want Rank to stick around. Turned out to be a fortunate (note I didn't say good) move both times, since Otis would have rivered trips and Rankster would have rivered his flush. So my suboptimal move saved my stack both times.

Not to say that all my suboptimal moves worked out quite so well. In absolute mewling half-assed defense of this next hand, I've been having contact lens issues lately where at certain points (for about 30 min at a time) throughout the day it becomes difficult for me to see fine details. It's not anything that makes it hard to drive, I can read road signs and all that jazz, but as my eyes get fatigued, for short periods of time it gets tough to see details.

Like the number of pips on a card from across a table.

I called a small preflop raise in late position with J-10 soooted, and the flop came down 7-9-x. It checked around on the flop and the turn, and the river peeled off a lovely 8d. There had been flush draws out there, but that completed none of them, so I held the stone cold nuts. And it was well-disguised since I'd not bet my draw and the gutty came on the river, so I was doing little cartwheels inside when Dean fired out $20 into a $35ish pot. Rankster called and I popped it to $75. Dean folded, and Rank went into the tank. Deeeeeepppp into the tank. So deep I figured he was going to fold, so I started trying to give off tells about being weak. I turned away to not look at him. I licked my lips like I was thirsty. I sagged my shoulders a little. Blood had leaned over to peek at my cards, and I was happy to show, since I had the nuts. Finally, Rankster called and I tossed my cards face up and said "I have the nuts" in my best, theatrically trained declarative voice.

Except that the river card was the 6d and I was packing Jack-high instead of the straight I had just value-bet.

Rankster kinda mucked before someone said "wait a minute, you've got Jack high" and I realized that I'd horribly misread the board. He reclaimed his hand and turned over the 10-high straight and took down his pot, as I felt like the biggest moron to ever play a hand of poker. But I wasn't angle-shooting, I was just stupid. Blood remarked that he was really impressed with the river bluff, and I responded that it would have been a level 13 move if I had, in fact, known that it was a bluff and didn't think it was a value raise.

And that, my friends, is how I can pick up Aces 4 times in a home game with a ton of money on the table and still not end up a serious winner for the night. But it wasn't a losing session, and win or lose I always have a great time with the G-Vegas boys, so I'll be back when schedule permits.