Sunday, December 31, 2006

I resolve to play better poker

That’s my poker score from
  • this Web site
  • . That’s pretty good. It was better than
  • Smokkee's
  • after all, and he’s a much better player than me.
    But you wouldn’t know it from my December results.

    Everyone has variance, and I suffered an incredible amount of suckouts this month, probably more than average (although everyone would say that), but I also didn’t play as well as I should.
    My results showed it. After averaging $300 a month this year, I’ll be lucky to make $100, and there’s a chance I’ll barely break even.
    High speed Internet and a new laptop.
    Now I'm driving a Ferrari after playing poker with a station wagon for many years. And when you’re handed a Ferrari, you want to go fast. Fast means action, and action means multi-tabling.
    I realize
  • some of you
  • probably play 25 tables at a time, with results that will help you pay off your mortgage by next year. But I’ve discovered that I can’t do it and play as well as I should.
    I thought about the reasons why I love live poker. There are many. I love talking to people while I play. I love the atmosphere. I love live tells, which I’m better at picking up than I gave myself credit for initially. I love holding the cards. I love chips.
    But most of all, live poker FORCED ME TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE GAME.
    I could put people on a hand (or at least have some idea as to what they have) by the first hour. I could play each person differently. I could even play hands in different positions based on what person raised, if any raised.
    I was playing poker. I loved it more than I thought I did.
    Only when I got the laptop first and high-speed Internet in December, I became an action junkie rather than a poker player. I played three tables at low limits and an SnG all at the same time.
    I was playing bot-like poker rather than the kind of poker that wins you pots.
    I was not playing my game.
    And it showed.

    That brings me to my New Year’s Resolutions.

    • Play only one table at a time — I’ve started this week, and I won $100 for the week. I’ve made some concessions regarding this. I’ve moved to .50/$1 NL. I’ll stay there. No more playing .10/.25 or even .25/.50. I’m bored at those levels, which is another reason why I wanted to play more than one table. I’m going to watch the players and make adjustments according to the way they play, regardless of my cards.
    I’m not criticizing others who multi-table.
    It just doesn’t work for me.

    • Play more SnGs/Control your bonus chasing — They are fun, and they’ve always been profitable for me. But when I chase after bonuses, I play exclusively cash games, and cobwebs eventually start to grow on my game.
    SnGs help me play more aggressively, make a little money and experiment with some moves I’m learning from fellow bloggers.
    I’ll go after an Ultimate Bet bonus, and then I’ll stick to Full Tilt and Poker Stars, and I’ll play at least one SnG a night.

    • Don’t take suckouts to bed — Suckouts are the worst part of poker. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting your money in with the best of it and getting punished for it. And this month, especially, it seemed to happen to me every night, hair-curling, gut-wretching, mind-tearing suckouts that knocked me out of tournaments instead of giving me chip leads. I don’t even want to think about how much money they cost me this month.
    And yet....
    They were bothering me far too much. At times, I’m ashamed to admit, they cost me some sleep.
    No more.
    I finally realized what can get me past them.
    Every good player, and I think I can call myself that, even if I do have holes, must take their share of suckouts.
    When we do that, WE ARE DOING OUR PART TO HELP THE POKER ECONOMY. That’s what keeps the bad players from playing and giving us money. If there were no suckouts, poker would not only be unprofitable, it would be boring.
    Sorry, but everyone has to do it.
    I’ve done my share.
    Time for you to step it up.

    • Be aggressive, be be aggressive — In their excellent new book, “Why You Lose at Poker,” Russell Fox and Scott T. Harker say this the biggest reason why people lose at poker, other than playing too many hands, is they aren’t aggressive enough.
    What an eye-opener.
    I play tight/aggressive. I hardly play like a nit. but sometimes I play far too solid. I knew it was a hole in my game. I just didn’t know how lmuch money it was costing me.

    So I’ve taken that to heart. I’ve bet at practically every orphan pot last week and taken most of them. I’ve bluffed more than I should, and most of the time, it’s worked. I haven’t bet big to push players off a huge hand, but I’m not sure I’d be successful at that anyway, given my limits are still fairly low.
    And when I have a hand? Pot-sized bets. Raises. Overbetting the river in certain situations. And No. Free. Cards. No more thinking about Monsters Under The Bed.

    • Have fun — Yes, poker is about making money, but if I want to play three SnGs at once, I will. If I want to play Triple Draw, I will. If I want to play Omaha. I will.
    Just at small stakes.

    Tonight I’ll play solid, tight/aggressive poker at Harrah’s on the Missouri riverboats for New Year’s Eve.
    I settled on $3/6 limit poker. My bankroll is still limited, and a $400 buy in for $2/5 NL poker is a lot for me to swallow because you have to play like you don’t mind losing it.
    And I would mind losing that.

    Have a safe New Year’s and good luck at the tables.

    Friday, December 29, 2006

    Stuffed full of good feelings

    OK, now I understand why people are fat.
    I never quite got that. I was never judgmental of fat people - not too much, anyway - but I never understood them. What was all that fat for? In case of nuclear war? Or a really bad snowstorm (wait....maybe they DO know what they are doing).
    But there's an emotional component to food, much like herion, cocaine or Zima, and that's what I failed to understand.
    Now I think I might get it.
    All year long, one of the highlights of my annual visit home to Kansas City is a trip to a barbecue joint.
    We Kansas City folk pride ourselves at our talents to overglaze, carmelize, juicify, outright candify (is that a word?) large chunks of meat and apply it to coals mixed with 40 different kinds of wood, spices and a special heating system that could power a third-world country. We love putting sausage and sauce and bits of meat and 57 other treats into our baked beans (everything but actual beans) and slow cooking them for 50 years. We do love our corn bread here with three kinds of exotic jelly and a butter that will clog your arteries the moment it hits your tounge.
    That's where I went tonight.
    This is what I had....

    I'm STILL drinking water to counteract the salt that's currently thickening my blood.

    Now we eat barbecue because it's crazy good. The beans melt like ice cream and cotton candy on the roof of your mouth, the cheesy corn was creamy and yet crisp, and I had burnt ends. Sausage. And I believe burn ends are the small pieces of meat that fall down into the coals and surface after they clean the grill. But they're damn good.
    Really the ribs weren't that great. I've had much better. The meal was wonderful but it wasn't the best meal I've had even in the last two months.
    But we don't get that kind of barbecue anywhere else.
    Earlier this week I had a Cheesy Crab sandwhich from Planet Sub, an incredible deli that started at the University of Kansas, my school (and why my blood pumps crimson and blue). It was just like being back in college. I had some cheap tacos from a small fast food joint that I used to eat in high school (there must be only three around).
    Oh, and I had a peanut butter/hot fudge shake from my favorite old-style burger joint in Salina, Kan., where I worked for five years (and where Kate's grandmother lives).
    It's all great food. I love to eat it because it's hard to find food that good anywhere else.
    But I love it more because it's home.

    Maybe I'm creating new memories for someone else. After all...

    Someone else liked it too!

    Later I got to play poker with
  • Gracie
  • and have a nice talk with her. You gotta love this....

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer woman. Later my AA got cracked by JJ by runner, runner straight, so I suppose it's catching, like a bad cold, but I was still happy for her.

    Have a great New Year's Eve. I'll post my resolutions that day.

    P.S. If you didn't like this post, don't blame me....

    It wasn't me.

    Tuesday, December 26, 2006

    Christmas present gives a lesson for the future

    For many, many years, Christmas was all about the presents.
    My wife's family is religious, so for her, Christmas means something more, something along the lines of Linus' speech. I have faith, but it's certainly not a traditional faith, so Christmas, ultimately, was about what I was getting for Christmas.
    My fondest memories of Christmas include the year we got an Atari and we played it for two days straight, barely giving ourselves time to eat a Christmas dinner and, well, shower or sleep, despite not leaving the house (and, yes, I include my parents in that; they had fun too). Or what about the year I figured out how to rip the corner of the paper off the present and tape it back on so I could, Mission-Impossible-style, find out what I was getting before the day (when my parents caught me, I was given a lecture about "The Christmas Spirit" and sent to my room for some time out). Or the year I got a new dirt bike.
    In fairness to me, I liked giving gifts almost as much as receiving them. Occasionally I would get as inspired as a before model Queer-Eye-For-The-Straight-Guy kind of guy could get. Once I took a picture of me on a summit wrote something semi-inspired about acheiving our own summits, framed it and presented it to Mom after she beat cancer. Another year I made my brother a Longs Peak poster after he finally climbed it under my guidance (I think he liked it; it's not something you would display in your living room, unless you were 35 and living alone, which he's not, but he keeps it in his basement).
    But that was the point. Memories of Christmas revolved around what I got or what I gave.
    Things worsened after my parents divorced. Most of you, especially you poker-playing degenerates who surely must have come from crack houses, flophouses and, even worse, Democrat houses (so sayeth the poker-banning legislators who now have their sad faces pressed against the political glass), have probably divided up Christmas. It's not bad, but it just ain't the same when the house you grew up in belongs to someone else, your mother lives in a strange city you've never heard of, a good half-hour from the old neighborhood, and your Dad has another family.
    All those Christmas traditions, if you had any, kind of fly out the window like Rudolph at that point, and you're left with claymation Christmas specials, a Life Savers box Dad insists on giving you every year (despite the fact that you're over 30) and a few old friends you get to see once a year.
    So Christmas was all about the presents, even as I got older.
    Then, this year, well, I don't know.
    I found myself thinking more about seeing an old friend I hadn't seen in five years because he lived in St. Louis and finally moved back to Kansas City. I looked forward to the chance to return to Lawrence, Kan., my college town, to see a Kansas Jayhawks basketball game (and pray at one of the altars I have in my life, an altar that most Kansas graduates worship, I'm afraid). I wanted a cheesy crab from Planet Sub and my mom's enchaladias and my Dad's Greek Christmas dinner (courtsey of his new Greek family) and some mouth-watering Kansas City Barbecue, which comes straight from heaven, and if it doesn't I don't want to be there).
    Finally, I looked forward to Jayden getting to see his grandparents.
    I envy my friends who have their parents close, and not just for the free babysitting. There's a real joy in watching your parents with a little one. I honestly have to remind myself, when I start to go over how to change Jayden's diaper just so, that, um, they've done this before. It's really fun to get a sneak peek to see how you were raised. Because I don't remember much of that. At least the first few years.
    Mom held Jayden's hand all the way to the car after we got off the plane. Dad took him out to swing, even digging out the baby swing in the back, just so he could laugh at the J-man's squeals of joy. Both of them watched, maybe with a little pride, while I made him laugh a Santa-like ho-ho-ho by nibbling on his ribs (mmmm, ribs...something tells me I'd better get to that barbecue).
    This is not some sap about the True Meaning of Christmas. I plan to hit a casino New Year's Eve, leave my wife with $40 (possibly $60) to blow on slots and play some poker. I'll eat way more than I should and work out not nearly enough. I've already dropped three f-bombs around Mom (oops). And I spent Christmas night late obsessing over my fantasy football team, which, incidentially, won me my third title in six years (and more importantly, $400, or 10Xs the buy-in).
    I'm happy with what I got this year, too. I got an Apple gift certificate (new external hard drive here I come, to hold home movie footage that I can edit with iMovie because now I'm the Oliver Stone of home movies), an REI gift certificate (always can use that), a very cool hoodie Kansas sweatshirt and lots of other goodies. Oh, and a Jayhawk clock from Kate.
    But that's not what I"ll remember. I'll remember the food, the fun and the good times with Jayden and Kate.
    I'll hope I'll remember this when I'm 50, so I can pass this lesson my kids need to learn a little earlier than I did.
    Christmas is not about the presents.
    Christmas is about being home.

    Friday, December 22, 2006

    The color of chaos

    Colorado is a beautiful state - it's why I live here, besides all the recreational opportunities - and after a big, huge, mongo-amazing snowstorm, you forget how pretty it all is.

    Until the sun comes out two days later.

    Here are a few photos to show you a glorious morning.

    (Then we'll get back to poker).

    A sea of snow at our recreation center:


    Another pretty sight?

    We've got a fun home game planned tonight with 10 people! Bring on the queso and the hard lemonade!!!

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    The Snowstorm, Part II (and like most sequels, this was worst than the first)

    There's probably nothing worse than your alarm buzzing you awake, early in the morning, when you know you've got some hard work ahead of you.
    I put out my sweats and a few warm layers out last night, so I wouldn't crap out.
    And I knew exactly where the snow shovel was.
    I hit the driveway at 7:30 a.m. and started shoveling, telling myself to lift with the legs. First, though, we let Jayden out for a few minutes for his first major snowstorm.

    Yeah, it's cold:

    He actually loved it, however, and threw a fit when we brought him in, despite his cherry cheeks. That left me with three feet of snow to clear off the driveway and well out into the street. When the snowplows cleared our street, they left a Berlin Wall of snow blocking our driveway.
    Greeley got two feet of snow during the storm, and the strong winds shaped it into hard, crusty blocks of crystal, some of which towered eight feet or more:

    It was a discouraging job. Shovel, huff, shovel, huff, shovel, huff, shovel, huff, three deep breaths....and I would look down to see a tiny patch of concrete as the reward for my hard work. Thank God for my mountaineering gear, which left me fairly toasty until the last half-hour, when the wind picked up again and it almost started to snow. It stopped, I think, because of my severe threats when I saw the first few flakes drifting down to the ground.

    Most of the roads were choked with snow, making it almost impossible to get out. The city was shut down; my newspaper was closed, though we were going to put out a paper for tommorow. All the fast food joints, save for a McDonalds, were closed.

    I watched as one city PLOW got stuck on a side street near my house. It took him 15 minutes to dig his way out.

    Parting the white sea on our neighborhood streets:

    The drift in our driveway was twice as big as the J-man:

    Two hours into the shoveling, my arms screamed at me, my butt ached (I was determined to lift with the legs, not my back, and compromised with my trunk) and I was cold and cranky.
    My neighbor walked outside with a snow blower. I gazed at it with the lust I used to share for my Heather Thomas poster when I was 15.

    When I finally, finally finished, three hours later, I gave a Braveheart yell and called my editor, who said she'd like a couple stories, if I could get them. I told her I'd talk to some folks on my way into work.

    I was frosty, and the tips of my fingers felt as if I had just finished with Everest, when I walked in the door.
    Jayden was on the stairs.

    "Da da," he said, for the first time in his life.

    I was warm again.


    The best thing to do when it's cold? Enjoy a hot meal!

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    Scenes from a super snowstorm

    We're holed up here, in the homestead, while a blizzard cripples our state.
    I know all you
  • Poker Players from Minnesota
  • go through this five times a year, even in July, but for the rest of us, even us Coloradans, a storm that dumps two feet of snow (as it's supposed to by the end) with winds that propel the snow sideways, tends to give us all pause.
    I, of course, had to be outside covering the storm while everyone else sat in their easy chairs and sipped on hot chocolate.
    Poor me.
    It's times like these that make me really want to keep online poker around. I can't go see my longtime friend at Old Chicago's just a couple miles away, but I can play poker with y'all all over the country.
    If we haven't resorted to cannibalism by then.

    Here's a guy snowshoeing on our neighborhood street:

    Here's another house in our neighborhood:

    And this is from our house:

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    Fantasizing (without thinking of Full Tilt tattoos on a boobie)

    I think my Fantasy Football jones/geekiness/obsession reached a new high Monday night, when I worked late after watching J-man all day and focused most of my productivity on the Colts/Bengals game.
    I did that partly for three reasons:
    1) Work was a little boring
    2) The desire to work is a little down right now, given that I'm two days away from vacation and almost two weeks' full of barbecue, time with family and longtime friends and nothing to do with journalism.
    Oh, and presents. Those are pretty cool too.
    3) J-man has decided that sleeping from 3 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. isn't really necessary and that crying and screaming in his crib is a much better option. While I disagree with this, reasoning with an 18-month-old is much like reasoning with Republicans (or poker-banning legislators, in case you're a conservative and want to stop reading this blog as a result, for I'm assuming you at least think those folks suck).
    So lately I've lost my best hour of sleep of the night, when I'm usually dreaming of Catholic girls in short skirts, rainbow-flopped sets and misty magic mountain tops.

    Mostly, though, I watched because my fantasy team is in the playoffs.
    That's right. I'm chasing my third title in six years in our tough fantasy league. I know me just saying that makes you want to shed your clothes and rip off mine, even if you're male (maybe ESPECIALLY if you're male, now that I think about it).
    And, wow, what a game last night.

    In a game between the two best teams this year and a game that would determine who would go to the finals and get at least $100, I started the game four points behind, with Carson Palmer and Adam Vinateri. My opponent had the lead and Chad Johnson.
    And the score was tied, 70-70, with three minutes to go in the game.
    OK, if you don't know fantasy football, and don't apologize if you don't (sheesh), most fantasy games don't exactly go down to the wire, and even if they're close, they usually don't go down to the WIRE like last night.
    Imagine putting up A,K versus another guy's QQ, and then have that race stretched out for three hours, and put up $100 and a chance to win $400, and you'll know how I felt.

    When Vinateri kicked that glorious field goal in the last two minutes, basically sealing the win for me, I knew I had won the coin flip.

    Who-hoo, I said.
    Probably louder than I should have at work.

    I then went home and proceeded to celebrate by playing some pokah on Full Tilt and giving some of those fine players at $25 NL a bit of my money. Then I played a $5.50 SnG, as I am reworking my game, and I was up a lot early and then busted in third when I lost three coinflips, suffered two suckouts and got squawked at by a partridge in a pair tree.

    I was slightly pissed, which is unusual for me, given that I usually handle suckouts and coinflip losses with the utmost in maturity and professionalism.

    But then I thought about the football game that night.

    I lost a potential $10, but still cashed, in an SnG because I lost some coinflips.

    I won $100, and quite possibly $400, because I got one earlier.

    Which one would you rather win?

    Saturday, December 16, 2006

    20 questions

    1. Is this really the most wonderful time of the year?
    2. Don't you think Waffles is kinda sweet on Carmen?
    3. And did you think he was 17? I was stunned to see his photo.
    I mean that in the nicest way, too. The guy seems to have too much energy!
    4. Is it wrong to head to a casino over your Christmas break with your mom and dad?
    5. Just once?
    6. Would you play limit or no limit at said casino if you're bankroll isn't huge, but you usually play no limit?
    7. What do you tell yourself after yet another 80 percent bad beat knocks you out of yet another tournament to make yourself feel better?
    8. Besides "That's Poker?"
    9. Is check raising the lamest move in poker?
    10. What's geekier, my obsession with fantasy football, Gun the video game or watching "Lord of the Rings" again?
    11. Isn't Gracie a sweetie?
    12. Isn't Drizz funny?
    13. Isn't TripJax just cool?
    14. Can anyone help me change this format?
    15. Can I stop at 15?


    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    Taking a break

    I guess I should say a pause.
    I'm still playing poker and still blogging.
    Just not as often as I was.

    Although I have no addictions, I have a slightly addictive personality. Sometimes that's a good thing, as I can't rest until a project is compelted. That little nagging voice in my head prevents me from procrastinating too much. In other ways, I can become fixated on something.
    Like poker, for instance.

    Poker is a tough game. It's not a game to take lightly. It requires a lot of thought to play it well. And when you do play it well, you aren't always rewarded; in some cases you are punished.
    And all those suckouts were getting to me.
    Way too much.

    So I went back to video games. I got away from video games because I was playing a lot of poker. In fact, I got away from reading and watching movies, too. I wasn't stupid enough to ignore my wife or baby - I always played after they went back to bed - but I set aside everything else.

    As a result, I'm a much better player than a year ago, when I first started playing for money. I have more disposable income. I have an iPod shuffle and a laptop. I also had a stress level that I shouldn't over something that's supposed to be enjoyable.
    In fact, poker became a second job. Open a couple tables, work off those bonuses (see, there's that word, work), grind out a few dollars a night, bitch about suckouts and go to bed, usually sort of unhappy, even if I won that night.
    So now I"m playing Gun and loving it. I'll start on Half Life 2 again here shortly, and I'll also hit up some books - Jay Greenspan's is first on my list - and maybe write a bit more.

    Oh, I"ll still play poker. In fact, here's where you'll find me tonight:

    But I'm limiting poker to an hour or two a night at the most.
    Poker is supposed to be fun.
    Maybe I'll start realizing that if I don't get to it quite so much.

    Sunday, December 10, 2006

    Notes from a casino

    Jealous, green and just plain pouty as I was about not being in Vegas with all y'all, we decided to hit up Black Hawk for some Colorado $2/5 limit poker (the only game in town).

    Man, oh, man, are those players bad. Which is good. Unless you get a hand and it loses to 8,3 os when the guy hits his two pair. Which is bad. Unless you also get a straight and get paid off by five players to the maximum when they pair, second pair, two pair, ?, and A high. I saw both of those Saturday night.

    I got no hands the whole night and was looking at a $100 loss after four hours of play. The two times I got TPNK, both times they lost to an overpair and a straight. The only other time my overpair lost to K,3 when she called my raise with a pair of 3s. I had won two small pots. I honestly was thinking about ditching my discipline and just playing everything hoping it hit like everyone else. Perhaps I didn't do that because I wanted to feel good about my play, and I also had one of my best friends there (Dono in the three wise asses blog; the link is to your right) and wanted to stick by the lecture I gave him about playing solid. So many others at our table were just burning through money, calling every hand, even raises, in the hopes of catching that 10 percent card. I refuse to play that way, even if it does work sometimes. Even recreational poker should be taken seriously, and quite frankly, $2/5 limit poker is still quite a bit for my overall bankroll.

    Kate and Dono's girlfriend were ready to go, so we gave them a half-hour deadline. After making my only mistake of the night, calling down with J,A and top pair on the board when I knew I was beat, I bought in for my last $40 and hoped to hang on to it for a half-hour.

    Not long after, I'm dealt K,Q. Wow. A decent hand. I call the $2 blind, ready to call a raise, and four others join me.
    The flop comes K,Q,x, two hearts. I raise when three call the $5 bet from the first player. Two others call.
    Blank on the turn, and I raise the bet again when it comes around to $10. Both call.
    The 9 of hearts falls on the river. Shit. If someone was chasing a flush (likely), I'm done, and if someone was chasing a straight (likely), I'm done. Neither, however, bet it, and so I bet $5, thinking I'm good. Both call. Shit.
    One has a K, weak kicker, and the other had nothing, like a Q or something. She mucked.
    Top two pair goot!
    And suddenly I'm down only $20 for the night.
    I've never felt better about losing $20 in my life.

    • I totally destroyed my opponents in the Gun game for the X-Box (all right, so I"m a little behind on video games, you try playing when you're addicted to poker and you've got a little one) in a Texas Hold Em tournament. The players weren't very good.
    I took notes, but then I realized how geeky that was and stopped.

    • I really enjoyed my six-mile run Sunday. It was actually 50 degrees here instead of negative whatever. Positive temperatures are good.

    • I hope you're having fun.

    • My fantasy team sucks now. Great time for it too.

    • So do my Chiefs. Great time for it too.

    • The home, at least, is unpacked. Feels so good.

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    Cardroom Supply review

    The following is a paid advertisement.

    If you're looking to build a poker room in your basement, but your spouse doesn't want it to look like a seedy backroom you'd find in the old Texas bars once prowled by Doyle Brunson,
  • Cardroom Supply
  • may be your answer.
    At first glance, it looks like what you'd expect from your typical poker supply site. And at first glance, you might not be too impressed.
    The poker chips are nothing special, and could be called a little cheesy. If I'm going to buy chips instead of get them from a bonus on Poker Source Online or a similar site, then they'd better be special.
    I'd love some reproductions of the World Series of Poker chips, for example, or maybe poker chips with a Metallica symbol.
    The timers range from $800 to $20, and the chip cases, while sharp, aren't anything you couldn't buy at Wal-Mart.
    Just as you're ready to write it off, however, and start reading poker blogs(cough, cough), stop by the poker tables.
    You'll quickly change your mind.
    Wow. The tables, quite frankly, blew me away. I have to admit, I'm your basic middle class guy who envies my friend's World Poker Tour table he got at a discount store for $40. But I think anyone would be impressed by these tables.
    The best thing is many of them don't look like poker tables. Poker tables can be pretty handsome, but too many times they look like a vinyl, black circle coated with the playing surface of the old Houston Astrodome.
    These tables look like high-end furniture. You could, honestly, put these in your living room, and your spouse wouldn't complain (he or she might complain about all that cigar smoke, the hair metal at all hours and the swearing when your K,K loses
    to 8,3 os, but that's your problem).
    There's oak, there's cherry and all of it looks better than my dining room table.
    As you might expect, these tables are expensive. Many cost at least $1,000.
    If you're afraid your buddies will make fun of you and ask for a large beer can to be dropped on your head at your first poker party, or you would rather use your poker bankroll to play poker, well, there's plenty of low-cost alternatives, and even those look fairly sharp. One of them costs $80.
    The Web site itself is clean, easy to navigate and offers free shipping on any order over $100, which is significant, if you think about how much it would cost to ship one of those poker tables.
    If you're looking for basic poker tools, like chips and cards, you might want to head somewhere else.
    But if you're looking for a poker table, I can't think of a better place to go.
    And when your spouse doesn't realize that you've been using that new dining room table to play cards late at night, well, you can thank me later.
    Send a little karma my way. I'm tired of KK losing to 8,3 os.

    Sunday, December 03, 2006


    Thank you all very much for commenting. I really, really appreciate it. Yes, I played that hand in those exact circumstances, and I don't know if another hand in recent memory had me questioning my decision as much as I did.
    I seriously considered folding there.

    P.S. I would like to start a forum where bloggers discuss hands by e-mail. Interested? And yes I know we have 2 + 2. What do you all think?

    Here's why I thought about folding:

    • With a raise at 3xs the BB in EP, instead of a push, as most of the table was doing at that point, even the bigger stacks, he seemed to be begging for a call. Even the 3xs raise was almost half his stack.

    • I was in 18th place, the first cashing place with four players behind me, and I believed I had a 50 percent chance of folding my way to a cash. Again, I consider any night I make $20 a good night, and that's what that cash would have given me. Also, the $20 + $2 buy in was steeper than I was used to. It was still far within my bankroll, but the penny pincher in me (a natural tendency when you are a journalist and your wife is a teacher and you have a new house payment, a kid and another on the way) still hesitated at that price.

    • I had JJ, a hand that, at best, is good for a coin flip, unless you get lucky and the guy has 10,10 or 9,9.

    But I pushed, and thanks, fellow bloggers and poker players, for making me feel good about my decision. You all made these points (in addition to many I hadn't considered), but I'll review what I was thinking:

    • I have JJ. I'm a dog to only three hands, QQ, KK and AA. There's no shame in losing to one of those hands. If he has that, it's just not your tournament.

    • I'd barely squeak in a cash, if I'm lucky to cash, but if I win this hand, I'm not only going to cash, I may do some serious damage, as it will be the first time I have a stack to play with. I haven't seen much good play, and I could be looking at a $200 or more score at this point. First prize is $1,200, and I'm capable of that given these players.

    • Do I want to play pussy poker or go down swinging?

    I went down swinging.
    He had KK.
    I did flop a flush draw, but the fourth spade didn't come because that would disrupt the 10/1 ratio of suckouts against to suckouts for I'm currently under and God knows we can't have that. I was disappointed, to say the least.
    Three spots away from the money.
    So I beat up some of the kids playing the Bodog Beginner tournaments and $10 cash games.
    And I felt better.

    • • •

    One quick point: This is why I've always hesitated to play MTTs, as it seems to me that you can play great for three hours and it will still come down to pushing, pushing and more pushing and hoping your hand either holds up or sucks out, and usually you're facing a coin flip. Heads you win $1,000, tails you are out.
    I know I'm simplifying it greatly but I think I'm more right about this than people want to admit.

    • • •

    So I was feeling sorry for myself big time about 3 p.m. Sunday. Kansas lost to DePaul after blowing a 14-point lead with 14 minutes to play. The Chiefs lose to the Browns after blowing a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. My fantasy team, currently nursing a first-place tie with the playoffs only one week away, scores a pathetic 44 points and loses the division lead and the points lead.
    And it was -4 degrees, making my six-mile run Sunday feel like Rocky's meat punching workout.
    Poor, poor me.

    Then I went to work and got this in my e-mail for an obit:

    Zachary Parker Voss

    Age: 2

    Residence: Greeley

    Tribute: Zachary was born in Greeley, March 9, 2004, to Darin and Carla Voss. He enjoyed reading, coloring back and forth, blowing bubbles, doing puzzles, playing with balls, and watching the kid’s shows Maisy and Blue’s Clues. He was sweet, funny, and smart. He knew all his numbers, letters, and colors before he was two. He slept with his stuffed animal “Monkey,” and loved his favorite blanket “One.” He loved eating bacon, salami, and string cheese. He will be dearly missed by his family and friends.

    Zachary passed away from a brain tumor December 1, 2006 at his home.

    Survivors include: His parents Darin and Carla Voss of Greeley; grandparents Don & Beth Burough of Greeley; grandparents Vern & Carolyn Voss of Tucson, AZ; Uncle Mark & Aunt Cory Burough of Greeley (and cousins Halli & Carli); Uncle Matt & Aunt Christie Voss of Salt Lake City, UT (and cousins Cameron & Maddox).

    Service: 11:00 a.m. Wednesday (December 6) at First Assembly of God, 3000 W. 16th Street in Greeley. Interment at Sunset Memorial Gardens.

    Notes: Memorial gifts may be made in leiu of flowers to the First Assembly of God Children’s Ministry.

    Um, yeah.
    Things are fine.
    I don't know why I need reminders like this one. I definitely need them more than I should. I focus a little too much at times on poker, the Jayhawks and pro football, includng my fucking FANTASY football team. Why? Why do I let those things eat me up when I have a terrific (and healthy) 17-month old at home?
    I'm not sure. But I'm glad life is there to smack me around when the pity party starts disturbing the neighbors.

    Saturday, December 02, 2006

    How would you play it?

    Blinds are 300/600. Ante is 20.

    My M is less than 5, let's say 4.5. I'm around 3,700 in chips.

    I'm 18th out of 22 left.

    18 paid spots.

    $20 + $2 tournament, a relatively high buy in for me, but with $1,000 added and 131 players, I have to take a shot at it.

    Mansion Poker. The players have been only fair for the most part.

    I have built up a very tight image. Several folds to my all-ins with marginal hands.

    Of the three stacks behind me in the whole tournament, one has an M of less than 1, the two others have around 2500 in chips, or an M of 3.

    The closest stack above me has 4,500 in chips, or one more M than me.

    I have seen some re-raises folded because we're near the bubble.

    I can still take a huge chunk out of someone's stack, given that the average is around 6,000, so I still have fold equity.

    A cash would mean something, given that it's 2xs the buy-in, and I usually average about $300 a month profit, a month I'm always happy with.

    A guy in EP raises 3x the big blind. He has me covered with about 8,000 in chips.

    EDIT: You have JJ.

    What's your move?

    Wednesday, November 29, 2006

    Why I lost at poker in 20 easy steps

    Poker last night:

    1) Wait for good hands.
    2) Continue to wait.
    3) Wait some more.
    4) Try bluffing.
    5) Oops.
    6) Continue to wait for good hands.
    7) Finally get good hand. Raise.
    8) Miss flop.
    9) Continuation bet anyway.
    10) Oops.
    11) Wait for another good hand.
    12) Keep waiting.
    13) Fold 10,3 os for the 20th time that night.
    14) Watch "Everest" on the Discovery Channel for much-needed break
    15) Turn on computer again.
    16) Wait for good hands.
    17) Keep waiting.
    18) Finally get great hand.
    19) Suffer suckout.
    20) Start over.

    P.S. Cash at $11 SnG on Full Tilt (third, who-hoo) after pushing all-in at least 15 times with crazy-high blinds and have no callers with each push, including one with AA (but with several others with 4,4 and A,8 and such).

    Sunday, November 26, 2006

    Poker is not a healthy habit (but it sure is fun)

    I'm dragging a bit today.
    And it doesn't have much to do with the fact that I rifled through more cardboard boxes in the last two days than a hobo's lifetime. Or surrendering to the crowds at Kohl's when Black Friday came (name the song or band I'm referring to there) and settling for a $59 Portable DVD at Radio Shack and a bunch of gift cards purchased online. Or the fact that I"m at work after a three-day weekend. Or that the house is almost moved, but that it seems like "we've only got a few more boxes to unpack" has lasted for two weeks now, as if we're stuck in a "Groundhog Day"-like move, where every day, a fresh stack of cardboard boxes packed with Kate's 25,783 knick-knacks that only a woman could love awaits me.
    No, I played a $10 buy-in home game tournament last night. Blinds go up every 20 minutes, with a computer keeping track of the blinds, the time and their size. Pretty cool. I went after a get-together with our little group, which ended with lots of queso and the first half of the beaaaaauuuuuoooootiful Kansas/Florida game.
    I taped the second half and headed over to the game, which kicked off at 11 p.m. I got home at 3 a.m.
    And I got up at 9 a.m. to run eight miles with my running partner.
    Poker is a hobby that seems to conflict with staying healthy, despite Cindy Violette and all her crystals, strange-ass food and general meditating. When I play poker, I eat candy, queso, ice cream, drink beer and frozen lemonade and stay up too late. When I run, or climb mountains, I eat healthy, drink water and get up early.
    Poker happens late at night, when the dark side of human nature howls like the coyotes behind our new house.
    Running or climbing usually happens that morning, when the birds are chirping, the sun is shining and Jayden is either happily screaming and running through the house or peacefully watching "Little Einsteins," a show that teaches him classical music and that friendly rockets can fly if you pat your lap fast enough.
    Running makes me feel good. Climbing gives me wonderful memories and enough photos to entertain those who watch the Discovery Channel's "Everest" show (8 p.m. mountain time Tuesdays, you MUST check it out) for three years.
    Poker frustrates me, stresses me out and occasionally really pisses me off, like when I lost to five two-outers in the last two days. Yes, poker makes me feel good when I win, in the same way that a herion injection probably makes a junkie smile.
    I believe everyone needs a vice, or else we become boring monks. Poker is definitely my vice. I could give up beer, or fattening foods (or at least reduce them), or nekkid ladies, but I could not, should not and will not give up poker.
    I am at war with my vice.
    I took second in that tournament.
    That will help pay for a new pair of running shoes.
    I am at war.
    But we secretly meet at night, in the fog and under the bridge, through the cover of darkness, to embrace.

    Thursday, November 23, 2006

    Thank God for Thanksgiving

    Reasons I could be in a bad mood:

    • I ran 22:55 in the Turkey Trot this year. A 7:23 per mile pace, but a disappointing time. The 5K is a tough course, and the first mile is all uphilll, and I ran that mile too quickly, frying me for the rest of the race.
    • I'm playing the other division leader in my fantasy football game this week, a game I really need to win. He has Terry Glenn. Terry Glenn decides to look like a hall of famer. I have Joey Galloway. Joey Galloway decides to look merely competent.
    • The Chiefs play the Bronocs tonight. They need to win.

    Reasons why I'm not:
    Food, family and friends.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Edit: And a HUGE Chiefs victory doesn't hurt!

    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    Pre-Thanksgiving Day thoughts

    The tunnel is still dark, but I can just barely make out a flashlight at the end, a tiny, glimmering light.
    We're getting there.

    Boxes are starting to disappear. We are starting to see our carpet in the basement (a not-so-flattering shade of Miami Dolphin blue that isn't quite teal but is closer than I would like, but we'll tackle that in a couple of years). We aren't tripping nine times a day over knick knacks and paddywhacks. Jayden isn't falling into cardboard boxes nearly as much as before.

    We're starting to make our place into a home instead of "a place where we've put all our shit."

    • • •

    This job doesn't pay well, but it can be fun sometimes. And it has its perks.

    Phil Gordon's manager e-mailed me about a story I wrote about the new online regulations. When I said OHMYGODI'MSUCHABIGFAN and mentioned I didn't have the DVDs, he sent a signed copy of Final Table Poker to me.
    It's fantastic.

    Sorry. I'm sounding ubergey right now.

    • • •

    Two days and counting
    No, not to the turkey.
    The Turkey Trot.

    I’m not sure why I’m putting so much stake into this race. Yes, I’m certainly competitive. Um, OK, VERY competitive, but mostly with myself. So, yes, that’s part of it.
    But I think it’s because I really do measure my progress through this race.
    I first ran the Turkey Trot, a 5K, two years ago and was proud of my 27-minute time. Last year I was a little bummed at just over 23 minutes but recognized that I had, indeed, improved a lot. This year I’m shooting for just over (or just under) 22 minutes, and I think I can I think I can I think I can.

    I sincerely hope that this race will go much like the half marathon a couple weeks ago, when I set what I think may be an unrealistic goal and actually do better than it.

    But 5Ks are unpredictable at best. They are three miles, but they are basically sprints, and a bad start can wreck your whole race. And there’s certainly a good chance of a bad start, given that the race’s first mile is mostly uphill. Run it too fast, and you burn yourself out the rest of the race. Run it too slow, and you’ll never catch up.
    And running up hills just kinda sucks.

    I’m trying to enjoy the preparation for this race as much as I can. The Trot is one of my favorite races of the year, a time when Greeley gets together to run before we all stuff ourselves. It’s a wonderful holiday tradition.
    I hope I feel that way after it’s over.

    • • •
    Suckouts are really starting to piss me off.
    I suffered three brutal, but-I-was-dominating (!) suckouts last night in my SnG. I win one of those, I definitely cash. There's nothing more disheartening than playing well and getting good hands the whole game, only to lose because some idiot calls you with an inferior hand and gets lucky. Because I'm a good player (cough, cough), as you all are, I suffer far more than I dish out. It honestly makes me want to go all-in with K,J on the first hand and laugh like a monkey when I spike that second J on the river.
    Maybe I will with a $1 tournament. Or I'll play penny poker.

    I know they shouldn't bother me as much as they do. They're part of the game, poker is still gambling even if it is skilled gambling, and I should let all the jackasses who gloat about it later just roll off my back. Maybe I'm playing too much, but I'm not, actually. I think I am playing more SnGs lately, and maybe I'm just not as densitized to them as I was in the past, given that a lot more happen in SnGs just because of the nature of the game. After looking through my records, I've seen that I average at least one suckout against me per SnG (usually a 3:1 favorite or more), which is probably normal. In fact, suckouts, in SnGs filled with decent, rocky players, are probably the only way players get knocked out, other than getting blinded off.

    Besides, karma is karma, and last week, in a live tournament with 15 others, I lost the first one when my KK lost to A,J when she spiked an A on the river. The second, however, I won, after flopping two straights and two two-pairs in the last 10 hands when it was down to five.

    Still, I'd love just one week when I don't have any.
    Good luck with that.

    • • •

    Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Rolls. Yams. Crab Rangoon.

    My brother always served the Rangoon with his Thanksgiving dinner, and that's my favorite part.

    Given that the Chiefs are playing the Broncos that afternoon, I don't think we'll be playing Scatagories (fun for the whole family) this year.
    The news of that is better than pumpkin pie.

    Saturday, November 18, 2006

    Unsettled: Update

    Well, it's a start...

    Now I know this isn't QUITE the score that Iak just had. His is just a smidge more impressive. However, given my last post, and all that talk about feeling unsettled and all that, well, it's almost as if a box fairy decided to come to our house and unpack for us.
    She unpacked my brain, that's for sure.
    I raised with air many times, remained aggressive and yet not stupid, and used the good luck that came my way (and to be fair, there was quite a bit of it) to the max and took this down.
    A new me? Maybe. It's not like I was a soft little twinkie before I started to change my style a bit. But, yeah, I'm feeling better about mixing it up now.
    Ironically a cash game got me started for the night. I had KK, two called my raise, the board came Q,10,6, two diamonds. I bet the pot, and a guy raised me 3xs the pot. I thought for a bit and folded. I folded after my frustrating hands for the past hour, when Full Tilt was deciding to kick me in the nuts again and again and laughing merrily all the while.
    He showed me A,A.
    It reminded me that I am good at making pretty good laydowns, and that helped my confidence a bit.
    OK, afterglow over. Be patient with me. Even the small victories count for something. They sometimes, after all, lead to $12K scores.
    Right, Iak?

    Friday, November 17, 2006


    Although our lives are slowly, painfully, being unpacked from our cardboard boxes — if I need something, there's a 3-1 chance it's actually available now, although still more often than not, the object sucks out and I can't find it — I still don't feel comfortable.
    It's exactly where I am in my poker game.
    Poker, as in life right now, isn't automatic anymore. Calls have become tougher, bluffs seemed forced and my range of starting hands now appears to wider than the average American's plate at a Western Sizzlin buffet.
    It's been a year since I started playing poker online for real money, and in that year, I quickly developed a tight, occassionally aggressive game. It's certainly not a bad game to play when you're starting out on the .25 NL tables and the $5 SnGs. But in the last month, as I've moved up in SnGs and played the cadre of rocks at Full Tilt, I've come to realize that I wasn't outplaying the others in the last year as much as I did outlast them. I never made any moves, bluffed only in tournaments and sporadically at that and rarely played anything beyond the top 20 percent range. And I'm ashamed to admit it, but I rarely thought about position.
    I know that I'll never be an aggressive player, nor do I want to be. But what I don't want to be is predictable, and I'm afraid that my game, to anyone not playing three tables, fantasizing about Hiliary Duff and chatting on Yahoo, is far too predictable.
    So I'm trying to change that. Occasionally (but not enough), I raise in position with a speculative hand. Occasionally, I bluff when no one wants to take the pot. Occasionally, I'll pretend I have an A, when in fact, I may not! How sneaky!
    Results have been mixed.
    Unfortunately, playing looser, apparently to that inner poker player who tells me what to do, means making looser calls, and while I've caught more bluffs lately, I've also made some eye-rolling payoffs.
    Thanks to Fuel, who has helped me think about things other than the cards, and to Iakaris, who is providing more than enough inspiration on how hard work pays off (and having the brain of three journalists like me don't hurt neither), I'm trying to improve my game.
    At times it's paid off. At my home game last week, a game filled with good players, they had no idea where I was for the first time in two years and I won a lot despite an overall lack of quality cards. Other times, suhc as last night in the DADI, results have been not all that impressive.
    I know that in three months, I'll be grateful that all that work from the move gave us a better life.
    I just hope that in that same time, I'll feel the same way about poker.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Go go go

    We heard the heartbeat today at the Doctor's office.
    Number two appears to be coming along nicely at almost 12 weeks.

    And his heart rate was 166, or about what my heart goes when I'm running a 5K, the hardest thing for me to do because of the intensity of the race.

    Atta boy (or girl)

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    Top 10 thoughts now that we're seeing the light

    10. I'm so out of sorts right now. Where's this? Where's that? It's like hunting for eggs on Easter, only there's no fucking chocolate to reward you for finding something, only a sinking feeling as you realize now you have to find a place for it.
    9. Poor Jayden. Our 16-month-old is addicted to Little Einsteins, and Comcast doesn't carry Playhouse Disney, so we can't find it anymore. After quite possibly the worst temper tantrum ever thrown by someone his age, we are rushing out to Target tonight to get a DVD for the upstairs living room, as the DVD player was downstairs in the new, "surround-sound" basement that my wife will probably get around to hooking up in three months.
    8. Why can't I do that? I'm a retard when it comes to stuff like that. Seriously. I was proud of myself for simply figuring out how to hook up my X-Box, a VCR and a DVD along with our cable to our TV by using a splitter.
    7. Aren't these "Top 10" formats lame? At least I'm posting in this incredibly chaotic time.
    6. I'm still playing poker. Bodog continues to be the site of choice, even though it's my third favorite site of the three I play on, but I'm winning there too much to stop. The players just aren't that good, especially at Omaha, and I'm getting good hands to boot.
    5. Can you get high from the smell of cardboard boxes? Maybe Pot Committed can answer this one, if she recovers enough from her Amsterdam trip to recognize the English language once again. At least her writing hasn't suffered.
    4. We heard coyotes howling outside our new home last night. Cool. We're a little farther west from the center of Greeley than I thought.
    3. The mountains look full of snow already. I hope I can eventually get up there to enjoy it.
    2. Our new bedroom is purple, and I've just decided that has to change by this spring.
    1. Good luck to everyone playing blogger tournaments and the Full Tilt stuff this week. I hope to join you.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Top 10 thoughts now that we're in our new home

    1. Man, we still have a lot of crap.
    2. I've seen enough boxes.
    3. Maybe by next month we can use our garage.
    4. Where's our mailbox?
    5. A 9 on the river against my KK? (Oh, wait, sorry, that's a poker thought, but it does demonstrate how my week in poker has gone).
    6. Jayden, stay out of there.
    7. High speed, wireless Internet is wonderful.
    8. Lots of water pressure in the shower and a big tub in the bathroom. What else could I want?
    9. Ouch.
    10. Home game tonight. I really need it.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Top Ten thoughts during the move

    10. What the hell is that?
    9. Do we really need that?
    8. Goddamn we have a lot of shit.
    7. Where's Jayden?
    6. Oh, he's in a cardboard box.
    5. Wow, my arms are about to fall off.
    4. I can't believe I have to work Election Night and then get up at 6 a.m. to close the next day.
    3. Thank GOD the truck is all packed.
    2. *(&^(*((&9.
    1. We move to our new place tommorow. Now the real fun begins.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    The day after


    Ow ow ow ow ow.


    Stupid half marathon.

    P.S. We move starting Tuesday. I hope I can move after we move.

    P.S.S And I lost a $85 pot when my set of 10s lost to AA when villian got his A on the turn.
    So that didn't help either.

    Saturday, November 04, 2006

    Half a marathon, one big goal

    Shivering in the cold and surrounded by hundreds of runnings stoned on adrenline, I allowed myself a moment to dream.
    8:30 would be nice, I thought.
    Runners don’t really measure races in a whole time. They piece the seconds and minutes together and talk about their pace per mile. Running is designed to be a consistent motion, as efficent as a Detriot factory line or a McDonald’s during lunch hour.
    If you run anything beyond a 5K, as I was doing Saturday, it’s especially important. Imagine motoring your car off the line (Rev on the Red Line, as Foreigner put it) and then screeching to a halt. You’d be seeing your mechanic by the end of the week. Your joints aren’t much different than a car. If you jump between 7:05 and 9:30, you’ll grind your joints to dust, and you simply ain’t finishing the race.
    This would be my second half marathon Saturday, around a lake and through some woods to the finish line we go. In May I ran my first, a triumph that left me proud just to finish. This time I’d be looking for something more. Now that I know I can finish, I told myself, let’s finish strong.
    An 8:30 per-mile pace would do just that.
    Three years ago, I don’t even remember why I started running, but I did. For years I was in good shape, climbing all the while, with dozens of peaks already under my belt, but I never ran. It seemed, quite frankly, too painful. I could always bike 25 miles and barely break a sweat, but whenever I tried running even a mile, I was always left gasping for air and clutching my side as if a little goblin was stabbing it with a pitchfork.
    I finally entered a 5K for something fun to do on Thanksgiving and was proud when I finished it at an 8:40 pace. Not bad, I told myself, never expecting anything more.
    But being a journalist has taught me that sometimes you don’t change. Sometimes life changes you. And for a project that would be one of the most challening and rewarding stories of my life, a story on a man who was an elite runner before being diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer, I showed up one night at a running group coached by a local God of Running and the owner of a shoe store in town, Doug Bell.
    Bell is a guy who started late but now runs 15-minute 5Ks even though he’s in his mid-50s. He owns the national indoor mile record for the Masters division. It’s something insane like 4:49.
    So he’s an impressive guy, but in order to be that good in such a demanding sport, you have to be positive and believe in yourself at all times. And as it turns out, there’s a reason dozens of runners show up for intervals, what amounts to running torture sessions, on Wednesdays - Doug’s passion and encouragement rubs off on others. In fact, after only one session, he broke through my cynical barrier of self-doubt, and I bought into it. I started showing up every Wednesday and running the same torture sessions with guys (and gals) who could be my father or mother and were good enough to kick my ass anytime they pleased.
    My times dropped at an alarming pace, and with it, my weight. I was never fat, or even chunky, but I did develop a bit of a gut. Suddenly I found myself at my high school weight and running times that I never thought possible, even remotely possible.
    Saturday, three years later, I was a true runner, a guy who wasn’t a world-class or even a state-class runner but an elite runner nonetheless, a guy who could beat 99 percent of the population and finished in the top 10 percent of any race.
    Still, I always doubted myself and was usually shocked when I did better than I thought. When I ran 6:10 in the mile this last time, in October, I was stunned. I continued to doubt myself, or at least think of those times as flukes, the result of a good meal the night before.
    When the gun finally sounded, I turned on my brand new iPod Shuffle and got going.
    The first mile always requires as much mental toughness as the last two, mostly because everyone takes off as if his or her shorts were on fire. I forced myself to believe in my own goals and my own pace and ignore the others.
    It worked.
    Sort of.
    When I looked at my GPS, I was stunned, again, to find me look at 8:05 for a pace. And I told myself right then that I would run at the pace that felt good, rather than the pace I thought I should be running.
    That takes belief in yourself because you have to know that you’ll have enough energy to finish. And finishing, as always, without walking or crapping out, is the most important thing.
    The race continued to go well. I stopped once to dump my top layer and a second time to dump my water backpack. A stopped a third time to down a gel. Other than that I ran smoothly and was never tempted to stop.
    By the time mile 12 rolled around, I was in pain. My hips felt like cinder blocks, my knee bitched at every step and my ankles felt stretched, as if I had just gotten out of a dungeon.
    And I decided to pick it up.
    When I looked at my GPS, I was running 7:15, and it felt good. My iPod had crapped out (in fact, I’ll have to send it back after talking with Apple), so no more Haste the Day, Brand New Heavies, Jamiroquai, Audioslave, Into Enternity, Testament, Gnarls Barkley and others to give me the energy I would need.
    I would have to rely on myself.
    When I crossed the finish line, I put my head into Kate’s shoulder and just sat there. I was utterly spent.
    Then I looked at my time.
    You can dream big, like winning the World Series of Poker, having twins or being handed the keys to a Porchse after you smash your Toyota into a tree.
    And you should.
    But it also helps to dream little goals, like running a time you never thought was possible,
    Dreaming big is how we somehow seperate ourselves from the daily grind.
    Dreaming of small goals, and then somehow trusting myself, leaving the doubts on the course and acheiving them, is how I free myself from it.

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Mommy, where's Daddy?

    Doesn't this smack of a Deadbeat Dad sort of sleeze, sort of a "Here's an X-Box game son see you in three months I'll miss you a lot now I have to go bang my stripper 17-year-old drug-addled girlfriend" feel to it?

    Fuck you, Pokerroom.

    Pokerroom raised me as a poker player. I played in a weekly home game just with friends and happily chased inside straight draws until I started playing poker online for fun. I played on Pokerroom because it was Mac compatible, but it was also a damn good Website. Even today I'd say that. It was far better than Party Poker, that's for damn sure, and I loved how you could play it anywhere (even at work!) on the Web.

    When I finally reached $1 million in play money, I decided to start playing for real money and played a ton of $5 six-handed SnGs. I believe I played about 80 on that initial $20 deposit before losing it. I read a ton of books, used my birthday money to deposit again, and now I'm a winning player with a pretty decent bankroll.

    What strikes me the most is the fact that pokerroom doesn't HAVE to leave, just like Daddy doesn't have to suck, either, yet it is because it's just easier that way. "We're sure gonna miss you!"

    Yeah? Fuck you. Just like the son who turns to his more caring step-fathers and uncles, I've moved on to Full Tilt, Poker Stars and Bodog. I"ll hang with them forever and never visit Pokerroom again. And if this all shakes out and Pokerroom, cap in hand, wants my love back?


    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    It's not the game, it's the limits

    That's it. I'm playing more Omaha.
    .5/.10 Omaha, that is.
    $25 profit from last night.
    I basically broke even at Omaha before last night playing .25 PL Omaha, which I considered fine, given that the game is very, very cruel. You have a K-high flush? Someone has the A. You have a full house? Someone has a better one. You have a straight. The river just blew it up.
    And yet that's also what makes the game so much fun.
    But I also played far too tentatively. If I had a set I would still check if more than one person was in the hand, convinced that someone would draw out against me (and I was usually right).
    At .5/.10, I felt comfortable to play a lot of hands, since Omaha is more about speculation and draws than simply waiting for pocket pairs, and I felt comfortable enough to bet the hands hard if I did, say, hit my set.
    Plus the players are much worse at that level. Someone really thought they could use all four cards on the board if they had it.
    I loved it.
    I'm adding a .5/.10 game to my two .50 NL tables I play every night. Late last night (yes, I took my kid trick or treating, don't worry, the highlight was the house giving out bottles of booze for the adults), I was playing Omaha at Full Tilt, and I lost to a higher flush, a higher full house and a higher straight. Plus both my two pairs lost (as I expected them to).
    And that cost me $2.
    I love that game.

    P.S. Bodog Omaha at .25 is basically the same thing. Just a tip.

    P.S.S. See you at the Mookie tonight. I'll be the one bragging about tiny bottles of Jack Daniels.

    P.S.S.S. Was anyone else a little disappointed that the WSOP and ESPN didn't think we could handle watching a final table of HORSE and so switched it to NLHE? All ESPN talked about was how hard it was to play all the games and how cool it was that all these players struggled...and then showed us NLHE the whole time.
    I was enthralled with the players, and I loved the two-hour broadcast, but geez.

    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    Boxed in

    With my left hand wrapped in a band-aid the size of a hamster, the result of a serious rug burn after a mishap in a haunted house (or something like that), I strained and huffed and puffed my way through a monster stack of boxes into my brother-in-law’s trailer this weekend.
    My poker game that night wasn’t much different.
    Poker, like life right now, is a struggle.
    It’s a happy struggle. For three years we wanted to sell our house. We put half our lives in storage. We waited to get high-speed Internet. We didn’t put up a Christmas tree. We took our pictures down and let “stagers” decorate our home for us. And we left our home three times a week and let strangers drag in mud on our carpet.
    Now, finally, it’s all over. That takes the sting out of lifting your 157th box of the day.
    Poker, also, is a happy struggle. Ultimately, after all, it’s there for my entertainment, and poker wouldn’t be fun, say, if all players did was push with J,3 os every time you held AA (ah, for the days of play money again).
    But, damn, despite all that, my back hurts, and now my ass hurts as well after a weekend full of brutal, bad beats and tilty poker sessions.
    Nothing, I believe, saps your ability to play well than losing a buy-in. I certainly won’t go the bad beats, but in all of them I was at least a 75 percent favorite, and all eight times I lost. And I would love to say that it was because of bad beats that I lost all my money. But I would be lying.
    I found myself questioning my own play even before Bad Beat Thursday almost a year after I made my first deposit. I’ve made some good money (enough for a laptop and a trip to Vegas) playing poker, and I had one losing month out of the whole year.
    All that goes out the window when you find yourself struggling at a $1 NL table, when you play well for hours and then give it all back and more in one hand. Or when you play SnG after SnG, including those advertised token races, and continue to bubble after months of crushing them.
    You ask yourself several questions:
    1) Was I winning simply because I was playing bad players? And now that I’m moving up, and (theoretically) playing better players, am I now one of the fish instead of the sharks?
    2) Should I be more aggressive?
    3) Why me?
    After I did lose a buy-in at a $1 NL table (maybe not a lot to you, but ouch to me) Saturday, after a Thursday night that we should call the Night of the Living Suckouts (in honor of Halloween), I took a step back.
    Throughout the last couple of weeks, as our lives are now cardboard boxes, cardboard boxes (yes, I meant to repeat that) and packing tape that seems to stick to itself more than the cardboard boxes, our mantra has been One Step At A Time.
    It has probably saved my life already a couple of times, as my wife has nearly exploded once or twice. Truth be told, I would have spontaneously combusted myself a few times without that reminder.
    Saturday night I took the same mantra.
    One Step (Box?) At A Time.
    OK, yes, I need to improve my aggression. But I’m not a calling station. I’m not weak/tight. I am an aggressive/tight player who sometimes errs on the side of being too cautious.
    Fuck it. That’s who I am.
    Once I realized that, I started winning again. I took two $8 beginner tournaments on Bodog and finished up $25 on Full Tilt. I cut my losses in half for the night. I even played my first Omaha Hi/Lo tourney, a 45-person, and cashed the damn thing (Drizz would be so proud of me). I went to bed satisfied.
    I have started to bluff at orphan pots just begging to be picked up. I am making continuation bets now, even in cash games. And I am raising more pre-flop.
    That’s enough for now.
    One Step At A Time.
    One day, when the boxes are unpacked, we’ll look for a new sofa.
    And one day, I’ll tackle the $1 NL games again. And I’ll play them aggressively.
    Just let me unload the trailer first.

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Make the bad luck work for you

    So you've had kind of a shitty week of poker, and you sit down Wednesday night ready to have some fun.
    And the plan of fun quickly turns to shit, as bad luck, rather than chips, come your way yet again.
    And you tell the person currently reading this blog (hi!) that this will not be a blog of bad beat stories. Trust me. I'm basically even for the week despite the blahness of it, and I've had a couple good weeks prior to this one, so No Bitching Allowed.
    But you get NO action on your good cards in The Mookie. You raise with K,A four times and nothing. And you get QQ and nothing. Now I know I can be downlike rock-like at times, but I probably raised at least once an orbit. You might think that someone might want to look me up, no?

    So, of course, I'm on life support, with about 1K in chips, and my M is 5, so I get 9,9 and shove. And someone with A,K calls me. A good call, in my mind. When the eager-beaver overacheiver gets not only one but two Ks on the flop, I'm done in 34th (?) place, and I lose yet a coin flip with a pocket pair against two overcards for the second week in a row.
    I am not pissed at all, given that I enter The Mookie because it's fun to play with good players and have little to no expectation of winning on a regular basis. When the field is stacked, as they say, things simply have to go your way to make the final table.

    So I then enter two token races, Turbo races, mind you, and I place 7th and 8th in both. Six places pay. I had chips in both and got blinded off essentially both times.

    Now I know I have a serious hole in my game in that I don't like to steal too often. I prefer to wait for the cards and play them well. And the problem comes when you are second in chips in the goddam turbo tournament and the other short stacks refuse to cooperate and win their coin flips. You eventually just get eaten away by the blinds. And the blinds are so high you might as well go all-in rather than raise 3xs, given that you'll be left on life support if you lose.
    Sorry, I don't want to put my hard-earned chips on the line with 10 high. And 10 high, or something less than that, was what I was seeing in these late rounds.

    NOTHING makes you question your game more than bubble finishes. I'm too weak. I'm too predictable. I'm too patient. Patience, of course, is a good trait in many tournaments.
    But basically I'm through with the Turbo token races. Yes, they pay better, but I think I might try the $6 slower races, as they pay less but are more suited to my style.

    Then I entered a HORSE SnG for the first time evah and got sucked out on five times. Twice in Omaha, which don't really count, and twice in 7-card stud, the final blow coming when the dude called my two pair of As and Js with nothing and needing two spades with four cards to come. He got them both, the last on the cruel 7th Street. I win that and I probably cash.

    So now I'm frustrated, but I saw something in Razz. I had never played Razz before but knew enough about it from reading all y' all. The game struck me as easy and fun.
    So with a little coaching from Slb and Felicia's advice to never bring in unless you have three cards with 7 or under (I modified it to 8 or under), I dove into a $1/2 limit razz game to end the night.

    I started down $8 but hung in there and played tight. And then I won a $25 pot with 2,3,4,6,7. Who-hoo! I was about $20 most of the night after winning another big pot when a guy called me with Q high (?). I did lose a couple of tough ones, including the last pot when a Q on 7th Street screwed me, but it worked out well and I won $12 for the session.
    Plus the rake helped me with my bonus.

    So the moral of the story is, if you're getting shitty luck, play Razz, where you will be transported to an alternate universe, where bad luck is good, Hair Metal is still popular, and Britney Spears never got pregnant and is still appearing on TV half-naked.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006


    Results from last night:

    • Two $8 beginner SnGs from Bodog, played at the same time:

    First - $16 profit
    Third - $4 profit

    $20 profit. Not bad for an hour's work!

    • $10 NL cash game played while playing the SnGs

    $5 profit

    • $100 NL cash game on Full Tilt:


    This doesn't make me a shark because sharks can take on the badasses as well as the guppies.
    Apparently, lately, I'm really good at shredding guppies by the mouthful and losing to the sting rays and barracudas at the $1 NL tables.
    I think this makes me a scavenger type, or a type of fish that feeds on the bottom feeders and dead money.

    I am poker crustacean.

    P.S. Tonight I will continue to crawl along the botton depths as I'll be hunting for tokens on Full Tilt in preparation for the DADI tournament!!!!

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    My 1-year-old is better than me

    Occasionally, it’s hard not to get jealous of my 16-month-old.
    Especially when Mom comes to visit.
    I take the “oohs” and “awwws” and “how cutes” from all the hot women I run into as a source of pride. I helped create Jayden, after all, and I gave him those long, darling eyelashes that everyone just gushes over. I also think he’s pretty cute myself.
    So I don’t get jealous there.
    I take the “look at how talented he is” comments with a grain of salt. Basically everyone underestimates babies. If they can go through a day without getting a lot of poop on their foreheads, everyone thinks they’re going to design the next particle accelerator.
    So I don’t get jealous there either.
    But Mom comes to town, as she is now, and a small part of me, just a small part, sometimes gets a little annoyed. She’s obviously there to see Jayden.
    Her grandson.
    My friends have told stories about how their parents’ attention shifts once they poke out a kid or two. I was prepared for that. Mostly.
    Jared, one of my best friends, is a veteran Dad. I basically see him as the Phil Ivey of dads for all you poker players. So he fills me in on little bits of advice. He loves to tell a story about a visit from his mother.
    I’ll get some of the details wrong, but basically his mother, upon her greeting, was in the backseat with his two boys for a good 20 minutes before Jared finally said, “Oh, by the way, hi Mom.”
    I greeted Mom at the airport, so I knew that wouldn’t happen.
    But since then a lot of her attention has gone to Jayden.
    Now it’s not fair for me to say Mom’s ignored me. In fact, the break from all Taz, all the time, has been nice. Jayden, shall we say, likes to explore and seems to have an unlimited reservoir of energy in which to do so.
    But Mom came out to visit, maybe, once a year. This time she said she plans to come out every four months. And she said, once, “I’m out here to get my grandchild fix.”
    Don’t I count?
    Sometimes that thought creeps through. But I can’t allow myself to think that way.
    And here’s why.
    The package may be funnier and cuter. And a lot more adorable.
    But when she comes out to see Jayden, she’s still seeing me.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    I am poker champ?

    Part of me says yes.

    A much louder, more annoying and more insistent part of me is saying no today.
    Exhibit A, presents the louder Prosecutor (Mr. High on Poker, perhaps?), says that I went all in with 7,7 when I still had 950 of my original 1,500 in chips in the Mookie last night.
    "He limped in, your honor, and then pushed to a re-raise, which screams small pocket pair!!!"
    Said Jordan, an aggressive Jordan, mind you, also raised me off K,Q and A,J twice with 7,2.

    But I digress. My opponent called with Q,J, which is not a good call, except in those cases, when he read me like War and Peace, or perhaps Jayden's current favorite, "Duck on Holiday." (I can't give myself credit for War and Peace).
    He got his J and that was that. So much for my Final Table/money performance last week. That's older news than Brad and Jennifer's break up.

    Exhibit B, Mr. Prosecutor (Jordan) says, is the fact that I stacked off at Bodog at a $10 NL table (.5/.10 for those of you counting at home) when I flopped a straight with A,5, the only slight problem, of course, is that there were three clubs out there, and not only did one of the opponents have the other two, both did.

    Exhibit C? I can't beat Full Tilt. Sure, I can crush Bodog's little puny limits, and crack the hell out of the $8 Beginner Tournaments and make $250 in two weeks playing those tables. But throw some decent players my way, the Prosecutor says, and you leak chips like little blood vessels escaping your injured, helpless bankroll.

    OK, so my defense jumps to my rescue. So you didn't win a race in the Mookie. Is anyone good enough to win a tough tournament like that without winning a race? Maybe. But I doubt it.
    And OK, so you stacked off that $10. You wound up WINNING $25 ahead after you settled down and played good, aggressive poker. Who cares if it's against weaker opposition? Money is money. Most casinos are filled with bad players, players much worse than the Internet, and you don't mind stacking them.
    Full Tilt is a bit of a concern, sure, but you've won on every other site, and you've only lost $50 on that site. Just play well and the money will come. You even folded Q,Q last night to a raise and a re-raise after being painfully card dead, and sure enough, one guy had A,A and the other guy had K,K. Yes, a Q came on the flop, and you would have won a $150 pot, but you wanna call off $50 for 20 percent every time? I didn't think so.

    The defense, however, just gets shouted down too often.

    Poker is a tough hobby. I don't mind being tough on myself. That's how I'll improve.

    But far too often, I attach my play to my self-worth and call myself an idiot when perhaps I should just realize that, hey, that's poker.

    And let the Prosecution rest.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Spice plus Sports equals Pokerpeaker

    I'd be Sporty Spice.

    If I have to explain why, you obviously haven't read this blog much.

    Plus she was a lesbian. Maybe. So we have those two things in common.

    That's enough for me.

    Question of the day: I've been playing these $8 beginner tournaments at Bodog to help clear my bonus while I'm two-tabling. Basically it pays five spots instead of three. I've been crushing them. I am not a pro, but I'm not a beginner either. So at times I feel like Kramer beating up all the kids in his karate class on "Seinfeld."
    My question is, does that make me a bad person?

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    You want what? Fine, we'll take something better

    Well. It’s been a hectic couple of days, so hectic I was only able to squeeze in five hours of poker.
    Which reminds me of one of the funniest quotes from Homer Simpson:
    “I had to work two jobs and take care of Maggie and the other kids at home. It was tough, but somehow I managed to squeeze in eight hours of TV a day.”
    But I digress, as usual.

    We got the house.
    We just didn’t the house we wanted at first.
    But we may have gotten the house we wanted more.

    On the first house, the owners counter-offered. Technically. Actually, their offer was about as funny as a donkey justifying why he was correct to call with his inside straight draw after you bet twice the pot.
    We offered $5,000 off the list price and $5,000 in closing costs. Yes, with that kind of offer, you expect a counter.

    They countered with full price.
    Or we could pay $5,000 more and have $5,000 in closing costs.
    And they wanted to close three weeks later than our move-out date.
    And they wanted to put a contingency on that moving date that basically said if they didn’t find a home they liked before the closing date the deal was off.
    My response was pretty simple.

    “Have the realtor call us when they’re ready to sell the house.”

    So that left us scrambling Friday to find another house, and sometimes, when you take a second look at something, the light shines much brighter, much like how when you take another look at how you played your set and realize that the guy had an uber-draw and it really wasn’t as big a suckout as you thought when you lost.

    We initially dismissed a house we really liked because it seemed to be too expensive and it didn’t have a fence in the back. With our options limited — one of the homes we looked at Friday was decorated before the age of disco, with the golden yellow 60’s lava lamp wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom the highlight — we took another look at it.
    And we fell in love.

    The fence, we decided, could be built in the back, and Mom, God Bless her, instantly volunteered to help pay for it. Yes, the price was more than we wanted, but our payments would be about $100 more a month, and we would bargain them down a bit.

    We offered essentially $7,000 off the list price and said we had to close Nov. 8.
    Last night our realtors called with the good news: They signed the contract.

    Sometimes things happen for a reason, as cliched as that sounds. We would have been happy with the first house, but we think we’ll be much happiera with the new one.

    Packing feels like fun after the long struggle.
    After three years, one more month, and it’s all over. Well, until Kate decides she wants to change something about the house. But that’s a new struggle. After three years, I’m ready for any struggle that’s new.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Beginners luck at the Mookie...aka waiting on a house...aka I'm a nervous little rascal

    That title is a tribute to the blogging world's rising star, Iakaris, who generously railbirded me with buckets of good advice at the final table of the Mookie.

    The encouragement was much needed, given that I was in a tournament with bloggers for the first time, which is something like going from fighting guys in Iak's medical school Chemistry 678 class for a long time to facing, um, Mike Tyson? (The old Mike, the badass one, not the ear biter, although even that version of Mike could put a world of hurt on me, to be honest; I'm a lover, not a climber, or something like that).

    Thanks also go to Drizz and Slb as well.

    I would link y'all but I don't have my linky HTML thing here at home, and it's 11 p.m. and I haven't heard about our offer on a house yet so I'm a little cranky. Bitchy, even.

    I am proud of the way I played, but I would also like to say that having, say AA and then flopping a set and having someone else flop an underset, shall we say, helps a little. Pushing with JJ when you are on life support and getting a call from 6,6 and then flopping Quads, shall we say, helps. Having Will, whom I love, push with A,J on the short stack and having A,Q winking at me helps, and having 7,7 hold up against A,K helps too. So lady luck was not only on my side but in my damn bed last night demanding I put out for the fourth time in an hour. And she had huge boobs.

    I may have done better had I not gotten too frisky with Q,J sooted and K,9 os near the end there, trying to be the bully I know I should be with a big chip lead but can just never seem to manage the right spots to do so. But it's all good, I made the money, and the money, even last money, is better than bouncing on the bubble.

    I will have to play more blogger events, as they are a blast.

    • • •

    Complicating things a bit is the fact that we were supposed to hear about our offer by 9 p.m., and it's 11:05 p.m., which is definitely not 9 p.m. That's OK. We're only talking about our fucking life here. I'm guessing they want to counter offer, which is fine, we can deal until the sun goes down, except it's far down now.

    • • •

    Tough workout tonight. Six three-minute runs, with three sets of two three-minute runs back to back and a three minute rest in between sets. I ran them at about a 6:30 mile pace each, and so my leg cramped up at the final table, which is something I've never seen before on ESPN.

    Speaking of which, were you gagging as much as I was when Dutch Boyd on this week's show gets his whole sob story about making the final table but never winning the big one? And then him squawking about how great he was and that no one can beat him even though he was playing against the WORLD CHAMP (the last great one anyway, not our current douchey)? And then ESPN stating for like 10 seconds in passing that he tried some venture and "a lot of people were upset at him?" Way to report the shit out of that ESPN.

    Yuck. Yuck yuck yuck.

    Here's to final tables, final offers and one final stretch before I hit the hay.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    Full House

    Why do we play 3,3, even to a standard re-raise, when just about anything can squash it after the river?
    We hope that that magical third 3 will hit a rainbow flop, and then you get a whole lotta chippies shipped your way and you get to brag in your blog that you are the Best Poker Player Ever.
    If a fourth hits, you get to say something about quads and beeches.
    The chances are small, of course, that you will hit, but when you do, magic happens.
    Or everyone folds to your bet and you get $2.
    But I digress.
    I kept this in mind every time we would spend an hour picking up toys, shoving magazines in the bottom drawer under the TV and loading up the two wild labs and the kiddie-poo in the car for a showing. I kept it in mind through the endless open houses when I had to take the labs to the dog park on a windy, cold day and the Chiefs were actually playing on CBS that week instead of the goddam Denver Broncos. I kept it in mind when, twice, we had offers waived under our nose, only to yank them away at the last second, once because they decided our basement was just a little too big. Suckouts happen against you as well, even when you have a set.
    Such is the housing market in Greeley, CO. I even wrote stories on it. If you had a home you needed to sell, well, your chances were about as good as hitting your set on the flop. We have too many lots and despite our monster growth, not even people to buy them.
    In our case, our chances were much, much worse, given that in three years on the market, we had two close calls and no offers. Our home was nice, honest. We aren't meth users. We just had only two bedrooms and a monster-huge basement (finished). That was enough to turn away most families who were in that first-time homebuyer market we were trying to serve.
    That's about a 1:456 chance, which is, if I"m not mistaken, like getting AA back to back and getting them paid both times? It's twice as easy to flop a flush than those odds.
    But then, during another showing last week, Kate called and said the people were there for more than a half-hour and were very excited about the house. At that point, I was through. I had had enough of playing those small pocket pairs only to get stiffed on the flop. I was convinced we were never going to sell our home.
    Friday, we got an offer.
    I couldn't even believe it at first. And it was fair, really a fair offer.
    We've spent the last few days shopping for a new house. We need more room for the J-man and possibly another one on the way in the next few months (before you start sending me cigars, no, it hasn't happened yet). We need a house we're happy with.
    We need a home.
    I'm trying not to think too hard about it, but tonight we will narrow our choices and pick a home. I'll finally be able to get high speed Internet and have my own "guy's" room. Our "two car" garage won't force us to lose 30 pounds every time we try to get out of our cars. I won't have to fuck with the goddam weeds in the back all the time or pick up after our ugly cottonwoods.
    Our buyer is a kind old lady who loved our house. I doubt she's backing out. The chips have not been shipped my way yet.
    But I think, finally, I just hit a full house.

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Mile High

    I didn’t expect much from my last mile of the year with Doug Bell’s track group on Wednesday nights.
    The group meets once a week to run intervals, which are short, measured bursts of intense running designed to boost the way your body processes oxygen. They are painful and intense and yet I credit them, more than any other part of my fitness plan, for dropping my race times and making me as fit as I can be.
    I am not an athlete. I am a hard worker whose only talent, in my mind, is a strong will and a lot of endurance. I have little, if any, athletic ability and get by because I work hard, not because I have any grace or skill. Mountain climbing and running are great sports for me, then, because you can excel in them with hard work instead of Michael Jordan’s athletic ability.
    As a result, I doubt myself frequently when it comes to sports.
    So as I trudged up the hill ready to start, I planned on running under 6:30. I ran 6:16 in August, a time that thrilled me, the fastest I had ever run, ever, in my life. I started running two years ago but did run a bit in junior high school, but I never reached past 6:30 in the mile. I figured 6:16 was a fluke, and I wasn’t exactly confident after throwing up and battling the 24-hour flu Monday night.
    Bell’s group runs the mile as a way to test ourselves, to see how hard we’ve worked and how we’ve progressed through the interval/racing season. So it’s an important test, and everyone takes it very seriously.
    Bell, who still runs 5Ks in under 17 minutes despite being in his mid-50s, sounded the gun, and off we went.
    I yelled at myself to relax as I ran down the hill and into Nottingham Field. My biggest problem is sometimes I run TOO seriously, tensing up, which constricts my breathing, a fate that is pure death for a runner trying to set a personal record.
    By the half-mile, my time was 3:00.
    I was stunned.
    My legs tightened a bit, as they always do, about halfway through the third quarter, but I told myself to just maintain the pace. I struggled to do so, but I told myself to continue to relax and breathe.
    I picked it up a little at the end, but I didn’t have the kick I wanted. When you’re already at your maximum, asking your body to do much more is a little difficult.
    I crossed the line in 6:10.
    I couldn’t let out a primal scream. I didn’t have the breath for that.
    A smile, and the satisfaction that maybe I was an elite runner now, was enough.