Monday, April 30, 2007

Lying in wait and living on the edge

— "Sometimes I feel I've got to (clap clap) run away"
Soft Cell

On midnight on a Sunday, with a work week staring you in the face, I think I'd rather be anywhere than Wal-Mart.
At that time, it looks like the worst place on earth, with its fading yellow ozone light flooding the store and ragged low-level employees who just crawled out of the sea and sprouted legs hanging by the entrance and smoking and staring at you through their meth hazes with sunken eyes.
Yet there I was, shuffling through the store, looking for Motrin. Jayden came down with a sore throat, and after a visit to the E.R., needed some tropical punch Motrin to help ease the swelling (air passages, after all, are a good thing). I was the only one in the store besides the zombie employees and some large person who wore a wife beater and a pair of Zuma pants who could have passed for a man or a woman. I just wanted to get out of there. And then Soft Cell started playing over the loudspeaker, and Wal-Mart on a Sunday night was the place for a little reflection.
I'm now old enough to have one of my favorites songs when I was a kid be played at Wal-Mart, which doesn't exactly go for what I would call an edgy playlist. And I'm facing easily one of the biggest challenges of my life, any day now.
And at the moment, I honestly don't know if I can handle it.
The Twins Thing is hanging over our heads like a piano in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and I've reached the point now where I just want the damn thing to drop.
When Kate went into labor three weeks ago, I honestly was deathly relieved when they stopped the contractions, but what I didn't realize at the time was I was also relieved that they were going to be here and we could move on and start working.
I am the kind of person who stresses out at the anticipation of work more than stresses about the work itself. Once I dive in, I can chew through just about anything. This is pretty typical of the Type A folk (A, of course, stands for "Anal") that I group myself with. So just imagine with being presented with a big project - a Twins-sized project - and have it dangle in your Inbox for days and now weeks on end without any resoultion.
I was grateful for the extra time. Now I just want it over with.
The Well Meaners have only made things worse. Parents of multiples talk about the same thing, the "You've got your hands full" comments during a trip to the mall, and how after a while they start to feel like a tiny piece of broken glass has just been interested under your fingernail every time you hear it. Every time I hear "How's The Wife Doing," I wince. Are they here yet? I'll bet you're on pins and needles! When is she due again? Chortle Chortle Chortle.
I appreciate their concern. I know they are showing their support. But at this point, too much really is enough.
(On a side note, someone asked Kate Saturday in a restaurant if she was having twins. We weren't talking about it at the time, so she obviously just looked at her belly. WTF? What if the answer is no? "Oh, well, you're really huge anyway.")
It could also be that I truly haven't been honest with myself and how stressed I actually am about this whole thing. Kate finally admitted to me, last night at 1 a.m., when I was explaining why I was such a pissant lately, that she too was worried about it and was feeling guilty about not being more excited about this.
I told her, and I'm telling myself now, that we're not more excited because we know what's coming. Mountain climbing is one of the best things I do in this world. And yet when I'm getting up at 2:30 a.m. and packing my pack and heading out for a long day, I'm not excited. I know how hard it's gonna be.
But I also know how satisfied and happy I'll be at the end of the day.
I think the piano will drop any day now. And as of today, I'll welcome it when it does.
In the Bugs Bunny cartoon, after all, when that piano does drop, it hurts at first. They're squished, in fact.
But in the very next frame, they're whole again.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A very special episode of "Intervention"

Preview: On the next "Intervention"....

Voice over: A family struggles to overcome its addictions.
A father gambles too much.

Dad, aka Pokerpeaker: "Dammit! Why do I continue to play sooted connectors? They never hit! And I HATE QQ! And why do you leave the computer on at night if you don't want me to play before I go to bed?"
Mom, aka Kate: "We could have had a dinner together at McDonalds with the money you just lost!"

Voice over: A mother, pregnant with twins and due ANY MOMENT NOW, falls in love with naps.


Voice over: And a toddler named Jayden enters into treatment for pacifier addiction.

Jayden: (Frantic sounds). WWAAAAAAAAA!
(Dad puts pacifier back in Jayden's mouth)
(Jayden gets contented, almost dreamy, look on his face)

Three family members. Three struggles with addiction. On the next "Intervention"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Finishing Second to Mom is heartwarming but frustrating

For my new column for the Greeley Tribune, I"ll occasionally write a personal column, as I did last month about the Daddy Spot. This is my second one. I thought I would share it again.

A couple quick things:

• I am Mr. Split Personality. I"m just crushing the cash games right now (three-tabling $25 NL on Ultimate Bet), but my SnG game has gone in the tank. I"m still making good decisions, but all my good hands have not held up or I'm just running into monster coolers. But my Mookie game is strong, as last week's third-place finish and fourth-place position on the leaderboard shows.
Of course, this is much better than tanking the Mookie and the cash games and doing well in SnGs, so I'm not complaining.

• Speaking of The Mookie, I'll be there tonight. It's been a blast lately with the good turnouts.

Here's the column:

There is nothing in this world that warms my heart more than when Jayden says, "Daddy!"

But I don't hear it as often as I'd like.

"Mom?" Jayden says to me as Kate drives away for a break with her friends, leaving him in my care at Pheasant Run Park during a glorious evening.

Jayden is a couple months shy of his second birthday, and he's learned to say a few words. He can't put together sentences yet, but one word usually does the trick. "Mom?," of course, means "Where the heck is Mom?"

He asks that 10 more times as our mini-van drives away.

In our home, Mom, not Daddy, is King.

When Kate places him on the bed in the morning, in the few minutes I'll have with him before I have to get ready for work, Jayden usually cries out of fear that Mom will go away. At night, when I'm excited to see him, Jayden squirms when I pick him up, angling his way back to Mom. When I open my arms as he watches "Cars," he'll nod his head "No" and nuzzle up next to Mom.

It's not all bad. When I lay on the floor, Jayden inevitably can't resist the urge to dogpile me. When he's playing in the backyard, Jayden usually comes in to "ask" me to join him (the kid already knows his father). And when I come home, he always says, "Daddy!"

Then he goes back to Mom.

"Mom?" Jayden says to me at the park, in between slides down on his belly while he says "weeeee!" He just saw a woman get out of another minivan who looks like a mom. She is a mom. Just not Mom.

"Go play," I say.

I've got no one to blame for this but myself. I put in my fair share of time, even watching him on Fridays, one of my "weekend" days for working Sunday, but Kate puts more hours than me. She gets up with him early to watch cartoons, feeds him breakfast and takes him to day care. She is extremely good at being Mom.

But other times I wonder if it would make a difference if I, say, fixed him breakfast (we'll find out soon enough, when the twins arrive). After spending all day with him Friday, on Saturday morning, Jayden favors Mom once again. Jayden doesn't hand out extra credit for a day spent with him. Either that or Mom gets awarded double points.

I have to admit, sometimes I get a little jealous at being second fiddle, even when I realize that my mom is the first person I call when I'm sick. And I'm 35.

I also know our roles are different. I'm the one Jayden can dogpile. I'm the one who throws him under the bed to make forts. I, more than Kate, take him to the park.

"Daddy?" Jayden says, in the distance, as he struggles to find his way through a plastic tube filled with screaming children. "I'm here," I answer.

Jayden appears a moment later, after another trip down the slide, with his arms outstretched to me, so I can pick him up and put him on a wheel that spins around and around. He laughs. I laugh. He turns to look at me and touches my nose. I pretend to eat his hand. He laughs and wants to be put down. He runs off to the slide again.

"Daddy!" he says, again, before I tell him it's time to head to the car and grab some dinner. It's times like these when the jealousy fades, and I feel good about my place in his world.

Then, as we're walking back to the car, he looks over at another mini-van that's just pulled up. A woman yells at her kids to get in the car.

"Mom?" Jayden asks and looks at me.


— Dan England covers the outdoors, entertainment and the environment for The Tribune. His column runs on Tuesdays. If you have an idea for a column, call 392-4418 or write

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The first race, suckout special and still put

Every time I’m in a race, there are moments I just want it to be over.
“Damn,” I’ll think to myself. “This is HARD.”
Thoughts of stopping and walking always haunt me. It just looks so sweet, those walking alongside the course, the way new parents look at pillows three stacks high or dieters gaze at cheesecake (or poker players smile at a turned set).
There are many reasons I run races. Not a whole lot of them have anything to do with fun.
Sunday I ran my first race of the summer season. It was a 5-mile run over rolling hills through Greeley and put on by our running coach. It, like many of the races I’ve run, was a lot more fun upon reflection than during the actual race.
I think a lot of our experiences are like that. Christmas dinner with the family can mean itchy sweaters, tense moments and dry turkey. Poker tournaments are stressful, sometimes cantankerous affairs, yet I always think how much fun they were, even after I bust out.
Races are the same way, too, and Sunday was no exception. It was hot at times. At times I couldn’t breathe much. I gagged a few times after the bile in my throat got caught in my craw. I was exhausted at times, too, and other times I had lots of energy. I rarely felt really good, but I know my running is improving because I rarely was completely miserable either.
My time was 38:52, or about a 7:47 per-mile pace. I was proud of that, and that time meant I may very well reach my goal of 47-48 minutes at the BolderBoulder, one of the country’s biggest (and most fun) 10K races in Boulder.
Still, there were many times during the race when I wanted to stop. The fun comes when you push through that pain and make yourself go, and go, in fact a little faster.

• • •

Speaking of pain, last night a guy at my table was raising every hand, and I pushed all in with AA when I flopped a set. The guy got his runner, runner flush on the river when he couldn’t let Q,10 sooted go to a re-raise.
That’s what I get for playing .5/.10 poker as a wind-down to the evening after playing the $25 NL tables for the better part of an hour Friday night. If I’m going to hang around there, even if it’s just for fun, I have to expect suckouts. I got one.

• • •

Oh, yeah, the girls. Kate is taking those blood pressure pills, and though she’s still having the occasional contraction, they’re still staying put for now. The doc wants her on those pills until they are 36 weeks, but I’m almost thinking a compromise is in order. They make her feel dizzy and exhausted all the time.
I say she takes them until mid-way through the 35th week. They’ve had those steroid shots and they’re already 5 pounds each. Really, how bad could it be?
Kate also thinks her body is getting ready for labor.
They’re coming. I can feel it too. Just not right now.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thank you, girls, for staying put for another week

That may be the title of my posts until they actually come.

I could have done something braggy like:
• A New Me at the Mookie
• I Am Awesome
• I Love The Mookie
• Chop, Chop, Chop
• We here are Bartles and James thanks you for your support

But, nah, let's keep the karma going, shall we?
Yes. Let's.

First of all, thank you for all your support, folks. Things are dandy right now. Kate is feeling the weight of almost 11 pounds of baby, which is like having a Shaq, but so far those little girls are actually cooperating with Daddy and have decided to hang in the womb a bit longer. So now even if Kate lasts until Sunday, I get to cover the jazz festival here, I get to run in a race, and, most importantly, the two will be at 34 weeks and their lungs will have had the chance to get some super-mongo development thanks to a steriod shot or two that Kate got before she went home.
(Side note: Kate took the shot in the butt. Damn. Those girls aren't even out yet and they're ALREADY kicking our ass).
Kate, a P.E. teacher, hopes that doesn't ruin their chances in gymnastics for the Olympics. I hope the steriod doesn't mean they will have huge racks at 13, thereby forcing me to take lessons on how to clean a shotgun on my front porch until they are 26.

Anyway, shall we move on to the Mookie?
Yes. Let's

• • •

So I am floating around here:

And what would the old Pokerpeaker, like the guy, er, two weeks ago would have done? He would have waited around for a premium hand and hoped for the best.
That, after two years of playing good, solid poker, I've discovered does not win you tournaments. Especially blogger tournaments. Tough ones like the Mookie.
Now I have blogged before about how I was changing my style, blah blah blah, yeah yeah yeah. And I did. I bluff a lot more now. But what I still didn't do was steal.
Stealing is an art. It is much harder than it looks. And it's something that poker books don't teach. At least, not very well. I was a book learner. After a year of play money three years ago, I decided to really learn the game and got a bunch of books and read the shit out of them. Those books helped. I learned the game. I am extremely sound. Fundamental. Downright solid.
But unfortunately, those books, along with playing a year of play money and learning that simply playing solid poker wins big pots, doesn't teach you how to steal. When everyone else at the table knows how to play - and that's true more and more these days, not just at blogger tournaments, well, you can't just play solid poker, make great laydowns and hope others make a mistake.
I figured that given my style of tight-until-a-diamond-comes-out-of-your-butt wouldn't have to change too much. But I did need to steal. I needed to be more aggressive pre-flop based on position and the situation and who I was up against and not just my cards.
So I've been working on that. I have played $25 NL poker to build my bankroll on Ultimate Bet (my last PSO bonus before Neteller exploded, so I figure why not build that sucker up to go along with Full Tilt and Poker Stars?). I have stolen many more pots, even at that level. the Mookie tonight, I stole. A lot. For me, at least. I didn't go crazy. Every hand I raised with was a decent holding. But I raised more on position than what I had. Before I would fold K,8 sooted, even on the button in a six-handed game. Tonight I raised it automatically.
I won't go on and on about this. There were other keys tonight. I made some great laydowns - K,A three times, JJ once when Kat re-raised me all in with AA - and I made some decent bluffs post-flop, including 10,3 against Waffles when I was on life support and 4,2 against a big blind with nothing. And I got lucky, twice getting trips with K,8, once when I was nearly gasping for air. I only made two bad plays tonight and got away from them when I realized they weren't working.
Finally, though, I realized something. It was easier when I was raising a fair amount. For instance, it was easy to get away from JJ, even though I had to raise it in first position, because Kat, a solid player, re-raised me. Plus I had lots more blinds to work with, so I wasn't always pushing and hoping for coin flips. In fact, I didn't have many tonight. The ones I did have, 2-3, I won two and lost one.
Oh, and there was this, too:

That's right, two away from the final table, I am re-raised all in while I hold K,A, and I call it, and he has K,J, and he gets a J on the flop, and I was just starting to say MOTHER *((^(8JLI SON....
And then the A hit on the turn.
Never mind.

So, I got lucky, and I made good laydowns, and I made a lot more steals than I normally would, and after winning that huge pot, it was on to the final table, and we wound up chopping it up for second and third, given that Mattazuma had a huge lead on the two of us and I wanted to take the money at that point.
Nice win, Matta.

Here it is, with a tie for second:

So I believe I"m looking pretty good on the Mookie leader board.
Maybe, just maybe, that hot wind that Don is feeling on his neck is me breathing down it.
Wait. That sounded really ghey.
Moving on.

• • •

This poker blog continues to entertain me with the top-10 Poker Babes. I love it.
I have a few in mind. Change 100, Kat, Gracie, Iron Girl, Poison, Love Elf, Carmen, The Princess, April and my favorite twin mom (links to the right, I'm tired). My wife gets counted too even though she knows about as much about poker as Jayden (something I hope to remedy one day; Jayden, not Kate). She's carrying two boulders in her belly right now. She gets a pass.

• • •

I will abide by Pauly's wishes and not blast ESPN for deciding to part with him so soon after getting us all excited about the poker coverage this year.
Instead, I'll offer a note of praise.
Pauly isn't working there because of creative differences.
Now, it would be extremely easy for Pauly to have given in and decided he would do fluffy features on the same fucking (sorry, pardon my french but I'm fired up over this) pros every damn year. He didn't do that, despite the fact that this gig meant a lot to him, more, I believe, than he's even letting on.
As a journalist, I've had to fight for my writing style in the past, and so when Pauly got the gig, I (and apparently lots of others) sent him one piece of advice: Be yourself.
Apparently he took that to heart, but I get the feeling he knew that anyway.
Look, I'm so impressed with this because I'm not sure I would do the same thing. It's easy for me to say I would stick to my guns and tell ESPN that it would be my way or no way, but that's a pretty nice gig. I'm sure I would probably compromise a bit. It hurts to say that, and yet, I probably would.
Pauly stuck to it. He's also right. Poker is a nasty business and a wonderful game at the same time, and I'm tired of ESPN presenting it like it's the annual Scrabble tournament. Pauly wanted to show both sides. As, by the way, most good journalists do.
Good for him. I'll continue to read his wonderful blog. Now more than ever.

• • •

I was thinking about how much fun tournaments are, but I've focused most of my attention on cash games this year, successfully, I might add. I don't know if I'll have much else when the girls arrive. It's a lot easier to leave a cash game and tend to a squawly baby than an SnG. Even if it's turbo. And I hate turbo SnGs anyway.
I do hope I can continue with the Mookie. I don't know if convincing Mom when she's out here that I need her to feed baby A or Baby 1A so I can play a poker tournament will work.
Maybe if I tell her about how you've all been so supportive lately it will help.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Something to cheer us up (including myself)

Today's gut-grabbing news out of Virginia Tech brought me out of my funk in a strange way.
It's truly horrible what happened out there, and you all know that. But it brought our recent scare, as well as my whole attitude toward the twins, into a little more focus.
I'll never complain about having twins again. How can I after seeing so many kids - and they still are kids - have their lives cut short.
And though Friday's scare in the hospital was worrisome, even a little terrifying at times, the twins would have a great chance of pulling out of it, to the degree that talking about the alternative probably isn't even necessary. We have hope, and it grows stronger every day Kate can carry those twins.
Yes, she's miserable right now, but she's carrying a couple new lives. I know the parents of those students would give anything to trade with us.
My heart goes out to them.

• • • 

This situation isn't nearly as dire, but today I got a letter from one of my favorite sites, Pandora.

"I'm writing today to ask for your help. The survival of Pandora and all of Internet radio is in jeopardy because of a recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board in Washington, DC to almost triple the licensing fees for Internet radio sites like Pandora. The new royalty rates are irrationally high, more than four times what satellite radio pays and broadcast radio doesn't pay these at all. Left unchanged, these new royalties will kill every Internet radio site, including Pandora.
In response to these new and unfair fees, we have formed the SaveNetRadio Coalition, a group that includes listeners, artists, labels and webcasters. I hope that you will consider joining us.
Please sign our petition urging your Congressional representative to act to save Internet radio.

Please sign the petition. I'm a big fan of Internet radio and would hate to see something else in my life screwed with (like online poker) because of Congress.

• • •

Finally, this poker blog is listing the top 10 poker babes. We could all use a little mindless, fun poker chatter right now, so stop by when you get a chance to restore at least a little faith back in this world.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

One deep breath, then another

Other than the worst pain we've ever felt in our lives, together (Kate with the labor pains, mine with the fingers that she crushed thanks to said pains), Kate's labor with Jayden was one of the most fun times of my life.
Kate essentially started labor after her check-up to the doctor's two days before he was due. Contractions started 10 minutes apart and stayed that way, one after another, painless little tight pushes that I happily marked with questions and my watch, even at a wings place where we ate dinner, drawing worried stares from our waitress.
She came down at 11 p.m. that night, 10 hours after her appointment, and said, "Um, my water just broke."
Um, OK, let's call the doctor.
We were ready.
Kate was a sprinter, and six hours later, she had Jayden, one of the happiest times in my life.
I had those memories as Kate began having contractions last night, Friday night, after a long, two-hour struggle to get Jayden to stay in his new toddler bed and hit the hay.
They were 10 minutes apart; little, tight pushes like clockwork, and earlier that day, our doc told us she was dialating a bit and her cervix was thinning.
Only this time, Kate was a hair's length of 33 weeks.
We were not ready.
Not even close.
Um, OK, let's call the doctor, I said.
The doctor left it up to us. We could come in or try to wait it out a little longer and hoped the contractions stopped.
At 10 p.m. Kate looked at me.
"We'd better go in," she said.
Labor, despite the horrible pain that comes with it, is supposed to be happy, exciting, fun time. People, after all, rarely make it a point to bring video cameras to the hospital.
Last night, we were doing everything we could to prevent it.
Once the doctor checked Kate, she admitted her right away. Kate's cervix was soft, like butter, she said, and she didn't want to take chances.
We moved into our labor room and hoped for the best. They gave Kate a shot to slow the contractions, and I crashed on the couch, which they fixed up with a stiff pillow and sterile sheets. It was as wide as a coffin, so my arms squished into side, making them fall asleep, meaning I woke up every 20 minutes to pins and needles.
It matched my nerves.
"Have you had one," I asked Kate every 10 minutes, through sleep.
The contractions died down, and I began to dream of my own pillow and Jayden, who was in bed and being watched by Kate's brother. Then they kicked up again.
"I'm starting to cramp," Kate told me.
The situation wasn't dire. Even if they were born that night, they would be almost 5 pounds each. It's just that the less time they don't have to spend in the infant hospital, the better.
I woke up an hour later. It was 2:30 a.m. I sat up and asked Kate how she was doing.
"I haven't had any in an hour," she said. "I think you can go home."
I threw on her sweatshirt and went out into the cold night.
Jayden woke up at 6:15 a.m., but after I brought him back to bed with me, he slept for another hour, until it was 7:30 a.m. and I was dreaming of silk sheets, deep pillows and...
I heard Jayden giggling on my back. Now, as I am a guy, I can appreciate a good dogpile as anyone, but not at 7:30 a.m., when I"m already tired.
A lot of good came out this experience. I spent a good day with Jayden instead of staining our new wooden fence and fertizling our lawn (with lawn care, mind you). It made me appreciate our twins and made me realize that I really do want them here and healthy. It made me appreciate our first labor with Jayden and how nice it was to have a relatively easy and quick delivery.
Most of all, it will make me appreciate our next time in the delivery room, when the girls come to our world to say hello.
I just hope the girls appreciate what a special place the womb is, and that they can wait at least another week or two before they leave it for good.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Small Steps, like buying wind energy, might be pretty cool

I try to be an environmentalist.
I recycle everything. I mulch our lawn rather than bag the grass and fill up our landfills. I turn off the water when I brush my teeth.
But I also drive an SUV. It’s a Toyota CRV that gets 20 miles to the gallon, but I could be driving a much better car.
And I also use disposable diapers.
And I tend to leave too many lights on in the house and the computer on for too long.
I’m even the environmental reporter for our paper, but I don’t cover the environment well because I don’t have time for it - I’m also the entertainment reporter and the Adventure editor, among my duties - and I struggle to make national environmental issues relevant for our local readers.
So after watching “An Inconvenient Truth” and now being convinced, more than ever, that global warming will in fact destroy our planet if nothing is done, I struggled with what to do. “Sports Illustrated” just did a story on global warming and how it will affect sports, and every day there’s another story in the newspaper about it. So I can’t just push it aside in my mind.
I’m not trading in my CRV for a hybrid. I love it, and I still am a mountaineer and need the 4WD. Plus, the car is paid for and in great shape. Money is tight and will only get a lot tighter once the girls are born in a couple weeks. I can’t afford another monthly payment.
I’m not switching to cloth diapers. We’ll have three children in them. I’m sure that it would be much better to use cloth diapers, but the energy it will take to wash them probably offsets what I’ll save by using cloth. My energy, not the Earth’s.
I will do my best to turn off lights when I leave the room and make sure the computer is off or at least asleep. But bad habits are bad habits. They’re hard to break no matter how hard you try.
But here’s what I just did.
I just signed up for wind energy.
It was easier than I thought. I went to Xcel Energy’s Web site and signed up for its Windsource program.
It will cost me almost $5 a month extra to pay for the five 100-kWh blocks a month. As the average house uses 6 100-kWh blocks a month, I’ve nearly paid for all my home’s energy using wind power.
I really hate the wind, so I might as well put some if it to use.
I'll pay for it through my poker money. $5 a month means I'll have to make one less donkey call, play one less small stakes SnG or goad someone into calling my value bet when I have quads. Besides, I"m charitable enough with my poker money. I'd rather give it to the earth than some douchebag who slowplayed QQ to the river.
I’m not being preachy here. But this is a small, inexpensive way to help with global warming. Xcel energy is a business. If there’s no demand for wind power, it won’t attempt to produce as much as possible, only what voters require. But if the demand is there, it’s quite possible Xcel will do what it can to supply more wind power.
I’ve just added a bit more to the demand.
The problem with the environment and an issue like global warming is it seems like such an overwhelming problem that it really seems as if there’s no way one person could do anything to make a difference.
This is one cheap, easy, small step that can, in fact, make a big difference.
I won’t save the world. I’m too selfish for that. And my family needs me.
But maybe I’ll continue to take small steps like buying wind energy. If I continue to do that, maybe instead of trying to be an environmentalist, I’ll actually be one.

The Don goes down tonight

"It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business."
— Michael Corleone

I've come to know Miami Don these last few weeks, and I really like the guy. I really do. He's a good virtual friend. He's an University of Missouri graduate, but even then, he's a good guy and an interesting character.
He also knows his poker.
Hence this post.

I like Miami Don a lot. He's one of the guys I really want to meet when I finally make it out to a blogger event this winter.
But tonight he goes down.
It's not personal. It's strictly business.

Don cannot, must not and will not make the FInal Table of the Mookie tonight, folks.
Don, like me, is mostly a cash game player. He's a brother. He's a Big 12 guy.
But enough is enough. He's dominating too many blogger tournaments. We're all pretty good players, except maybe for Waffles. (Ha ha ha ha ha, just kidding you little psycho elf). Don won the Mookie two weeks ago, a long overdue win that I railbirded and rooted for. Then he won again, and while I was a little jealous, I was impressed. He beat perhaps the toughest Mookie field ever, and he did it back to back. Amazing.

But then he beat the Hoy, even if it was a three-way chop.
And we can't have a three-peat in the Mook.
Tonight the Don goes down.
Let's get that sucka.

It's not personal. It's just poker.

• • •

The twins are more than 4.5 pounds. EACH. So Kate is carrying around almost 10 pounds of baby. And she may still have a month to go. We're both feeling the strain. She isn't sleeping much but is hanging in there and doing a great job. It seems amazing that having twins might be easier once they're out, but that might be true.
For her, anyway.

I have cancelled the money baby contest due to a lack of interest. It's now free. Email me your guess at and I'll buy in the winner in a tournament of your choice, $11 max. Fuel and Tripjax have guessed. Why not you? Or you can leave me a comment with your guess.
Remember, Kate is due June 3, but most twins don't arrive on time. Many arrive from 33 weeks to 38 weeks. Kate is now 31 weeks.
If you're one of those twins bloggers, I could give you a gift certificate to Target or something for some diapers?

• • •

My faith in humanity, or at least huge media conglomerates, has been temporarily restored as Oprah has selected
"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, one of my favorite books in recent years, as her book of the month.
It deserves it.
I'll admit an odd and kind of creepy fetish for nuclear war and doomsday stories. The idea of society being blown to pieces somehow fascinates me in the sense of how our world could be turned into a lawless place where the strongest survive. The thought terrifies me and also makes me curious.
Weird, I know.
So this book is about exactly that, and yet, it's not. Here's a description:

"The father and son move through the ruins searching for food and shelter, trying to keep safe from murderous, roving bands. They have only a pistol to defend themselves, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
Awesome in the totality of its vision, The Road is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation."

This book is a classic, and I would love it even without my strange fetish. Enjoy.
And see you tonight at this:

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My last hurrah

By the time it was 10:45 p.m. Saturday, I was praying for 10,3. Honest. After a run of cards in the last half hour that were so nice I gladly would have committed my stack, any size stack, to them, I was worn out.
For this was 2/5 limit poker, the only game in town in Colorado, not No Limit. I play 97 percent No Limit online, and while it can be a tougher game, it would have been easier in that half-hour. I could have pushed people off their hands, rather than pitching in $5 or raising another $5 and hoping for the best. It was, in fact, more stressful than No Limit, given that I didn't feel like I had control of the hand regardless of what I did. Luck was my companion, not aggression, good reads or solid play, and no solid poker player is completely comfortable dancing with luck, even if it happens to be on his or her side.
I peer down at my cards and sigh at my pair of Hiltons. Great. I really needed a break. Instead I would have to deal with my best starting hand other than the pairs of Aces I played earlier. When a total donkey raised the blind to $5, I merely called rather than re-raise. I"ll be honest. I was staring at my stack and, after spending five hours hovering around a $60 loss, was fine leaving with a small profit.
But I was still a poker player, and if I can't play QQ in limit poker, even in early position, then I should just quit and take up online Monopoly.
I had played for nine hours, and I knew that this would be my last time to play live poker until at least this fall because of the twin girls. So I really didn't to leave. I also knew my heart wasn't in it anymore.
"I call," I said.
"Make it 10," an agressive, wild, unpredictable player says immeaditely after I throw my chips in."
Oh, shit.
• • •
"Would it be OK if I played poker all day at Black Hawk, sort of as a last hurrah?"
"Yes, as long as this is the last thing you do before they're born."
"It will be."
"OK, then. Have fun."
Music to my ears. I rounded up some recent Heavy Metal mixes, a couple magazines in case of a long wait, a water bottle, $300 cash and an anxiousness about getting to play live. I love playing live, but the opportunities don't come as often as I'd like. The casinos are a tricky, two-hour drive from Greeley, up mountain roads, and Saturday thick fog and some snow would only add to the journey.
Still, after teaching my Boot Camp for New Dads class, I left Greeley at noon. I would be by myself after my buddy came down with a miserable cough. But that was fine, too. I went to the Ameristar. See Chipper's blog for a cool picture and his trip report from Friday. It's a swanky new place, with a smoke-free casino, friendly staff and a couple good places to grab some grub. It's also got notoriously bad players, like the MGM $3/6 limit game in Vegas. As Chipper will tell you, no pair is safe, and that includes a pair of Aces or Kings in your hand.
As I told Chipper, the stragety is to play great starting hands or any pair, as well as sooted connecting cards and occasionally non-connecting, play them aggressively when the flop hits you, and then just hope for the best.
It's not really great poker, but it is live poker, so therefore I enjoy it. I love it, in fact. I planned to take full advantage of my last opportunity to play it for a while.
Unfortunately, for the first five hours, the cards weren't cooperating.
I do not screw around in Black Hawk. You can't bluff. You can't "push" people off hands. You can't really even bet them off. You might be able to semi-bluff in the hopes of throwing them off if you do hit your draw. But the best way to weave your way through the suckout minefield is just to play solid and hit your Bingo.
In fact, for the first few hours, many at my table played the same way. People were folding. Bluffs still didn't work, but at least they were folding if they had only a gutshot, and the pots remained fairly small. That was fine with me. I wasn't getting shit.
I got AA once, and it held up, but then my TPTK lost to runner, runner straight. That's typical. No biggie. I hit a Broadway straight with A,K (the only time it hit in the 7 times I had it) on the river when I stayed with it too far (I had a flush and straight draw with two overcards but I have to admit I had a hard time letting a good starting hand go because they were so far and few between),
By the time I went to get a little dinner and bring it back to the table, I was still hovering around a $60 loss. I chose a healthy dinner. Tomato Basil Soup. An orange. Chips. Half a cookie. And a free Mountain Dew. Reasonably healthy, anyway. It was delicious and only $7. Not bad, really.
My cold streak continued until I finished the soup.
And then all hell broke lose.
I called 3,3 to a raise from my favorite player at the table. I now call any pocket pairs to raises, and the set mining has been good for my bankroll. After missing sets nine other times that day, I finally hit a 3 on a J,3,K flop. I wasn't messing around. There were six other players in the hand. I bet and got a raise. I re-raised and everyone else folded. The initial player, a beautiful, older Asian woman who was prone to tilting, was cautious after that. She was also observant and knew I was tight. I bet the other two rounds, she called, and when I flipped my set over she tapped the felt and mucked.
I got 5,5 the next hand (presto!) and it hit and later turned into a full house. When the board double paired on 6s and 3s to go with my 5, she had the lower, a 3, but I had 5s full of 3s and had another huge pot shipped my way. In two hands I was now up $50 after being down $60.
I won a few more pots after that and then looked down at beautiful AA for the third time that night. The second time I raised and no one called. This time I raised again and got two callers, one from a guy who had to be told, every.single.time. from the dealer his options. You can check, call or raise. How much is it? he asked. Every.Single.Time. He had no idea what was going on.
You probably know what's coming next. An A hit the flop, bells go off in my head, and then... I'll spare you the details other than to say after raising the shit out of the stoopid donkey who asked about bets (sounds like a children's book), he hit runner, runner gutshot straight with Q,4 soooted.
In the very next hand, I hit a set of 9s and raised on the flop. A 10 hit the turn, and the player, an aggressive, unusual, tricky player, a young guy who probably watched too much poker on ESPN, re-raised me. Uh-oh. I merely checked and called after that, and sure enough, he hit his set of 10s.
I'm now down $60 and tilting like a MoFo.
On the VERY NEXT HAND I get JJ. There's a raise from the Asian woman again. I call and a J hits the flop. WTF?
When she raises my bet I re-raise, and pretty soon there's a huge pot in the middle. She shows me AA after the betting is done and I win most of my money back from the last hand. I'm now even and completely worn out mentally.
Then I get the third-best starting hand two hands later.
• • •
Well, I'm not folding QQ, not in limit and not to a raise from a semi-donkey. I call and see what happens.
It's a J-high flop. Check, check, and I bet. He calls and the stooopid donkey calls. I'm curious so I check on the turn. Only the stoopid donkey bets after asking the dealer how much he can bet. We both call.
The river seems harmless. I honestly don't even really remember the hand. There were no overcards. So I bet $5. Mr. ESPN raises me.
Crap. What does he have? Was he slowplaying KK? He might have. But I'm not folding now. It's too big a pot and I like my hand.
I call.
He flips over 7,7.
And after pitching A,10 UTG - I just don't have the energy to play that in early position - I decide to go.
I finish $60 ahead.
I'll take it.
I walk out of the casino at 10:45 p.m., far earlier than I planned to, but it's snowing outside, I'm exhausted mentally, and I'm satisfied.
And it seems only fitting to me that, given the twins that are basically due at any time after a couple of weeks, I would leave, and leave up, thanks to a pair of ladies.

P.S. Speaking of the ladies, I have cancelled the money baby contest due to a lack of interest. It's now free. Email me your guess at and I'll buy in the winner in a tournament of your choice, $11 max. Fuel has guessed. Why not you? Leave a comment as well.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I had a blast at the Mookie last night, and I only finished in the upper-middle of the pack.
Practically everyone who's a who in the poker blogging world was there. I was honestly bummed I didn't get to say hi to most of them, even though they really don't know me very well. I swear at times I feel like I'm the kid running around the turf with a scorecard and a pen before baseball's all-star game.
Congrats to Miami Don for going back-to-back on Mookie titles. That's an amazing accomplishment, especially against such a tough field.
I didn't get many cards last night, and the hands I did play generally played wiffle ball. Three highlights:
• The second-place finisher in the Mookie, oossuuu754 (what's your blog?), tries to push me off with A,Q and I re-raise all in with A,K. Runner, runner two pair on the board and we chop it. If he loses that hand he's severely crippled. I point this out only to show the fascinating nature of these tournaments. A double up would have helped me a lot there and probably knocked him out early. Instead I had to play shortstack poker for most of the night, and oossuuu754 used his second chance to play excellent poker down the stretch and finish second in his first Mookie and one of the toughest fields ever. I can think of many times I've won a tournament or lost a tournament based on the outcome of one hand. When I won the Mookie, I won several coinflips that would have sent me home.
It's what makes the game so great, but it's also what keeps me humble. Those who think about how brilliant they are at tournament poker need to remember this.
• A shortie simply pushes with an M of 10 in late position. I'm in first position with a pair of 10s and I had limped. Many of you may disagree with this move, but I wanted to see what the rest of the table would do before I decided how far I wanted to push a semi-strong pair. I put the shortie, based on that action, on a small pair and I think my 10s are good. I call. She has JJ. Oops. Trash flop. I turn a 10. Bingo! She gets a J on the river.
That sucked but I had no right to complain so I didn't. I was behind to begin with, so a little justice was delievered there.
• I sucked out with K,Q on an all in versus K,A when a Q hits the flop. My suckout ratio improves to 9-1 against. Still, I felt bad, as I always hate it when that happens to me.
I went out when I pushed with A,J sooted in the cutoff. The button has QQ. I really hate A,J but my M was four and I was hoping they would fold when it was over to me. I had two of my suit on the turn but no luck.

Three questions:
• How often should I steal in the later portion of the matches, and what do you consider stealing hands, as I still prefer to have something in case I'm called.
• What's your range of all in pushes with an M of 5 or less? The problem with A,J is it might be dominated, where if you have 9,10 your cards are probably live. So do you prefer still pushing with something like a fairly strong A or something that has a greater chance of being live but may not hold up as the high card if no one hits?
• Is it possible to final table a tournament like the Mookie and be for the most part card dead? My game still relies on me getting good cards and hitting flops, even though I have learned to bluff and steal with regularity. How much does your game rely on getting good cards? And am I weak because of that?

I had an awesome time last night. It would be great to see a turnout like that again. Perhaps my personal highlight was talking metal with Bad Blood and AlCan'tHang. I would love, at some point, to play a poker match with those two and maybe Speaker and just talk about metal music. That sounds pretty dorky, I realize, but that's basically what our home game is like every month and I have a blast.
I went out in the second chance HORSE match when my 7 in razz lost to a 6 at the final table. Ugh. I had a much better starting hand but the guy got perfect, perfect, perfect while I was delivered a set of bricks.

P.S. Happy 200th post to me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sunday in the park - it came after a constant cry

Yes, after writing that column below about how much I love my son, you might think that love is constant.
Well, sometimes I need reminders.
This weekend was tough. Jayden had the worst three-day stint of his little life in at least a year after he began taking medicine for acid reflux.
He was fussy, whiny, cranky and even a bit bratty.
A lot bratty, even.
By the end of Saturday, I had forgotten how much I loved him.
You never stop loving your children. At least I don’t think so. I haven’t yet. But those feelings of undying devotion had faded a bit. Constant screaming, crying and a general attitude of “I want my way” all the time will eventually wear you down, I discovered.
To make things worse, I was busy all day Saturday decorating the bedroom (our last taskof officially being moved in, something that had to wait until the room was painted) and also battling the new faux wood shades in the hopes that they would eventually hang. The decorating went fine, given my faux women’s touch for that.
But my talent for such things like, er, taking a screwdriver and hanging blinds is not exactly on the level of Home Improvement Host. It is not really on the level of Normal Guy. It is more along the lines of Kindergarten. Barely.
So things like installing blinds in the bedroom leaves me a little frustrated. And quite pissy.
A kid screaming at me tends to exacerbate the situation.
Oh, and it terrified me, seeing him act that way. We’re having twins, ya know. We don’t need a toddler filled with angst running around as well.
I tempered my pissyness with a little understanding, just like when a guy goes all in and cracks my AA with KK. Hey, it’s KK.
Hey, Jayden is still less than 2 and just got over a seriously bad illness that left his throat sore and spiked his temperature for four days. He was probably still really worn out and may still have been sick. So I understood.
So Sunday I got up, put Jayden in the running stroller and took him to the park. Maybe it would help.
It was exactly the reminder I needed:

My son is a great little guy. He’s also a little guy. Along with the wonders and joys and pleasures of having children comes occasionally with hissy fits that bend your paitence into pretzels.
The good with the bad.
That is, after all, the vow I took with my wife.
The reminder I needed is I took that same vow when Jayden was born.