Sunday, March 30, 2008

Smashing the shoe

No one wants to beat Cinderella. I'd rather hug her. If Davidson wasn't playing Kansas, I would have rooted for them hard. What's not to like? Classy team, classy coach, amazing player.
But these are my Hawks.
Sorry, Cinderella.

I haven't been that nervous since Kansas beat Arizona to go to the Final Four five years ago. A loss to Davidson would have been devastating, and that's exactly how we played, a team hoping not to lose. There's something to be said for just hoping to last through a tournament or taking it by the horns and destroying it. Maybe there's a poker lesson there somewhere.
When the final shot fell short of the basket, I screamed, startling my co-workers at the paper, and ran up and down the hallway. Then I almost bawled. I'm sure I lost a year off my life.

We're in the Final Four. Later this week I'll talk about my desire to crush North Carolina. But right now I'm drained.

Totally, totally drained.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mucking through the Madness

I had a stack 3xs the average, I was hitting hands and I had a couple easy targets just waiting to give me even more chips last night in the Mookie.
So why was I also writing an article and messing around with my iTunes?
Why wasn't I 100 percent into it?
Perhaps I knew what was coming.
I knew, deep down, there was probably no way I was going to outlast yet another huge Mookie field. And I was exhausted and also knew that I would have to put in another two hours in order to even make the final table.
I really think I played great last night, and I rarely say that about my tournament play. I made a nice bluff early on when a fourth diamond hit the board and my opponent checked, obviously spooked, so I bet close to the pot, and he folded what I'm sure was a made hand, much better than my K-J.
I was aggressive and made the right reads. That work I've done lately on picking spots has paid off, and I'm feeling better about my tournament game now. I'll always play tight, that's just who I am, but now I've got enough aggression to make it to a final table.
At least, I think.
I'm also growing more and more weary of tournaments. Later in the tournament, I'm the big stack at my table, and a guy in middle position raises. I have 10-10 and shove on him, for two reasons. One, I'm thinking I have a big stack and he might just fold, and two, I'm thinking the odds are that everyone else will fold is pretty high as well. Plus I do have a hand if he calls.
Well, the BB has J-J, and my stack is cut in half.
I don't know. Maybe that's a bad play. I'd love to hear your thoughts. But exactly the kind of shit that befalls me week after week in the Mookie. There's a less than 20 percent chance someone has a higher pair than me, and sure enough, someone has it.
Still, I'm building my stack back, mainly by shoving on weak limpers when it's around to me, and I'm in business when I get K-K for the third time that night. EP raise puts me all in, so I call, and he has J-J.
I won't go on only to say that this is also the third or fourth week in a row that my higher overpair hasn't held up. It's getting old.
If I only played tournaments, I'd hate poker by now, and I don't know if I'll play the Mookie next week. I think the BBT3 is an awesome, awesome thing for us, but it's making the fields in the Mookie a little large, and I don't know if I want to wade through all that when I really just play the Mookie to play against good players and learn some things, not win a seat to a tournament I won't win.
Fortunately there's always the cash tables to keep my poker happy and healthy.
Oh, and Kansas, who plays Friday. This is the greatest time of year, even if it is another tournament.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Best Poker Sites Review

Remember the old days, when you would scour poker rooms like a toddler sifting through the front lawn for that plastic easter egg with the five Hershey kisses?
You'd plow through bonuses like a high school sophomore with a trunk full of Schaeffer's working up the courage to ask that junior varsity cheerleader to homecoming. We'd reload, play five rooms at once and overfish the oceans.
Ah, the good old days.
Well, Online Poker Sites might just bring back memories of those glorious old days, before our government decided online poker was bad for us without consulting the banks on exactly how the suits were going to actually enforce the law.
The site is as complete as they come by offering lists of some of the best poker rooms in the world, with complete reviews and rankings (in case you don't want to read all that text), and even gives you some added swag by offering bonuses you might not get anywhere else.
Some of the highlights:
• There are plenty of news links, general news, poker hand rankings, so it's not just there to shill poker rooms.
• The site offers several alternatives to Neteller, an unfortunate must-have in today's poker world, as our government's stupid law did manage to shut down the easiest way to deposit. This is helpful, as there are some Americans out there who still believe it's nearly impossible to get money online. It's not, and the site shows you how its' done.
• If you're Canadian, you'll find several poker rooms that take your bacon.
• If you're American, you'll find options here thanks to the site as well.
Though it was a bit depressing to see the Old Glory on only three of the site's top 10 rooms, I did discover one room that might get me to sign up and chase a bonus.
You know, just like the old days.

***The following was a paid review.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Scrambled thoughts on poker, not the NCAA tournament

My wife would disagree with me, but really, I have thought about other things than basketball (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!) since the NCAA tournament started.
Like poker, for instance.

And, oh, making sure the twins don't crawl down the stairs.
(Really, what is it with a baby's propensity to commit suicide? The population would be much, much lower if babies were allowed to act on their own. Maybe that's why it's an issue: We really all are lemmings at heart and are just trying to control the population, and our parents, because they've spent a few months (make that 10) getting up three times a night, won't let us plunge off the cliff. Maybe if our wives gave birth three weeks after getting pregnant, this wouldn't be a problem, but then again that wouldn't be as much fun as four months of getting yelled at for cutting a grapefruit in front of her, three months of crying jags and two months of snoring loud enough to wake three states.
Dear Girls: The stairs are dangerous. It's also not wise to shove every throat-sized thing you see on the floor, like the dog food, down your throat. Love, Daddy).

Thought #1 - Don't go to bed angry. That's what our preacher told us during those pre-marriage sessions that the Catholic church requires (along with pledging your first born and promising not to use birth control, the last of course we did with fingers crossed). And yet I have had trouble not taking stupid plays and bad beats to bed.
The problem is you're probably going to have one or the other every time you play an hour or more of online poker. I never play a session perfectly, for instance, and suckouts always happen to me, as they do to anyone who understands that if you are re-raised and you are holding J-K os, you should probably fold.
After waking up still mad and frustrated, I've decided that enough is enough. My health is good and I'm in great shape, so it would be stupid to blow up my heart on stress related to poker. Besides, I don't play high limits and poker, ultimately, is about making a little money while having fun. It's not a job. Not even close.
Once I made that resolution - call it my New March Resolution - I had one of my best runs of the year today, almost 12 miles and feeling great. I hope there's a connection there.
I can't say I'll live up to the resolution - most people don't - but I'll continue to try.

Thought #2 - Usually when I have a big hand on the river, I'm having a hard time these days deciding whether to value bet, check and hope for a bet so I can raise, overbet for value (usually just jamming) or bet lightly and hope for a raise.
I'm usually failing on the side of overbetting because I figure the times they do call will make up for the times I get nothing out of the river bet. Skalansky advocates this as well.
I still believe this although lately I'm having a hard time getting my monsters paid, and I don't think I'm playing overly tight (plus I'm playing at the lemming level where they don't pay attention to table image too much), though that is always my nature.
Your thoughts?

Thought #3 - I have been more aggressive lately in cash games and it seems to be paying off, though I'm still jamming at the wrong times occasionally (on the river, when I have no fold equity) and just jamming with high pocket pairs instead of playing them better.
This seems to be making me money, though I've made two bad mistakes lately that cost me more profit, mistakes I would not have made, because I"m trying to be more aggressive.
I suppose this is what we call learning.
Like learning that crawling down the stairs is not a good thing. The trick is for it not to kill you before the lesson is learned.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

To live and die in NCAA

The addiction to Kansas basketball started as it does with most, on my first trip to Allen Field House, the home of the Jayhawks.
I smelled popcorn as I walked past the security guard into the back entrance and clutching my trombone. It was the closest thing a band member ever came to being cool.
Students actually looked at me with envy, something I wasn't accustomed to while carrying my horn. I had a floor seat waiting for me, and all I would have to do to get it was play, something that in the past led to many of those students, or students like them, calling me a geek.
I nodded my head at the security guard as I walked on by. Just one the band members. Have a nice day.
I was still a little conflicted. I grew up hating the Jayhawks, as my parents both went to Missouri, Kansas' blood rival, and rooting for them seemed a little strange.
When I went my first tournament, against Indiana, I was no longer conflicted, but I wasn't entirely hooked yet, either. It was just something fun to do, and I was excited to get to see an NCAA tournament game live.
Now not only were strange students looking at me with envy, all of my dormmates were too.
Kansas went into the game as a heavy underdog. Indiana was the surprise No. 2 seed, as they finished the No. 2 team in the country, and not many gave us a chance as the No. 3 seed.
We started the game on a 26-5 run, and it was over in the first five minutes.
We played Arkansas next and its 40 minutes of hell, and the first half went just like everyone expected. The Razorbacks put us down by 12. But in the second half, we came out like lightning and won the game by 12. We outscored the top team in the country by 24 points.
Before the team came home to a packed Allen Field House, they allowed the band to run out to the floor and play a couple songs. We did, to bleacher-shaking screams, and when we played "In The Stone" by Earth, Wind and Fire, the place literally rocked.
I was no longer conflicted, and I was no longer indifferent.
I was in love.
The next year, we were heavy favorites to make the Final Four again, and it seemed like a lock after the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in our region were upset by the second round. I could taste a Final Four, and this year, I'd be able to go, as I was no longer a freshman and had first pick of the games I could attend and those I couldn't.
We went into the game against UTEP overconfident, but who could blame us, especially after last year?
It made the hurt that much sharper when the final seconds ticked down, and pretty soon, we all gathered in a circle as Roy Williams walked up the stairs and apologized for the loss, and I cried, hard.
My wife always wondered why I was so obsessed with Kansas basketball. She went to the University of Northern Colorado, a place that drew maybe 500 a game. I took to Allen one night over Christmas break, the only time it was possible to get tickets, and after the game she said, "I get it now."
Today starts another journey through the NCAA tournament, and loving Kansas basketball isn't much different than any other affair I've had. There's joy and moments of pure passion and searing heartbreak that stays with you forever.
Maybe she did get it that day, but I'm not so sure. I've sometimes wondered why I care so much about a team when it really has no affect on my daily life. The birth of my children, the day I got married and the day I had to leave the girl I was engaged all changed my life far more than the result of a basketball game.
Yet the games, especially this time of year, have stirred the same things I felt during those times.
The emotions are intoxicating, the memories invigorating, and they, just like the trombone, are a part of me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tagged by the Twinkies

The Twinkies tagged me, and while I don't normally buy into these things, I will do it because I love her blog, I have a special place in my heart for mothers of twins (since I am married to one) and this blog is a little unique in that it's only partially about poker and more about poker, running, mountain climbing, my toddler and twins and the occasional rant.

The rules are:

Link to the person who tagged you
Post the rules here
Share 7 random or weird facts about yourself
Tag 7 random people at the end of the post, linking to them
Leave a comment on their blog so that they know they’ve been tagged (not anonymously!!)

1. I secretly love cats. I used to hate them until I was living with a girl while in Salina who had them. They were very affectionate creatures, and one especially thought I was his buddy. He would follow me everywhere. When I moved to Greeley I took a cat with me and loved her. I had to give her up because Kate was allergic after we got married. It was heartbreaking and I still think about her occasionally.
2. I like to look at my shit before I flush it away (in case anyone thought I was turning into a girl on #1) to see how big it is. Does anyone else do this?
3. I used to hate cold weather. But over time, I conditioned myself to tolerate cold weather. I did this in just a few months before a trip when I would climb Mount Rainier in the winter. Now I can run in sub-zero weather and actually enjoy it if the wind isn't blowing. You can condition your mind to tolerate and then start to enjoy it things that you might previously find intolerable.
This is why people can play Omaha Hi/Lo.
4. I used to hate brocoli. Now I love it if it's steamed. See example #3.
5. I am a big heavy metal fan, but I find myself enjoying guilty pleasures such as Rihanna and pop songs. I'm not sure if this makes me a weaker metal fan or just more well rounded in my musical tastes. I also love classical and jazz music but those two genres are a lot like metal, probably more than you may realize. Maybe Blood will need to rule on whether it's OK to have Rihanna and Shadows Fall in your iPod Shuffle during a long run.
6. I really don't like to watch much TV, so I usually refuse to watch a show even if it gets drooled over by everyone else. I eventually regret this decision. I'd probably love "Lost," for instance. But I don't want to waste the time to see if I'll like a show.
7. Snakes are my favorite animal. During "Snakes on a Plane" I found myself rooting for the snakes. I really want a snake but my wife is phobic of them and would divorce me if I brought a snake into the house. So there's my out if we get empty nest syndrome once the kids are out of the house.
Just kidding, sweetie.

I really don't want to link to others because a lot of my blogging buds already get tagged a lot by memes. But I will link to her because seems to like them, these three are fellow northern Colorado bloggers, and this guy writes my favorite blog just because it makes me laugh. Plus he doesn't mind when I bug him in the girly chat.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

March Gladness

I should feel really, really guilty right now.
I mean, the guy just became a father for I think the 13th time.
He has mouths to feed. Many mouths. Like 400.
That's a LOT of Mookie buy-ins.
Yet we all know how much I love my Kansas Jayhawks.
A few weeks ago, they lost in the last seconds to Texas in Hook 'Em Hell-ville, and a few minutes later I got a comment on my blog.
"Hook 'Em Horns!"
I yahooed the guy responsible and quickly offered a friendly bet.
Beat us again, I said, and I'll pay for your next Mookie.
Only you have to do the same.
He agreed, and Sunday, after one of the greatest games I have ever seen, I found a transfer for my next Mookie.
Hey, at least all the citizens of his third-world nation will be honest.
So I should feel really guilty right now taking the money from a new father.
But I don't.
Sorry, Mookie, but you DID start it.

P.S. Besides I have a toddler and twins.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Paid review of USA Online Casinos

* The following is a paid review.

Top USA Online Casinos has the right idea.
It's a Web site designed to keep us good 'ole American poker players in the game by helping us determine what sites still take us despite our government pronouncing online poker as on the level of heathens.
As I said, it's a nice idea.
If only Top USA Online Casinos did it the right way.
The Web site doesn't really have a lot of information that we probably couldn't get on our own. Granted, I may not be being completely fair. The site doesn't lay claim to being the best online poker information site, just one of the best casino sites.
In that regard it's not bad. You'll find an easy list of some of the best sites, a way to download it, what bonus you can expect and the strongest point of the site.
I hesitate to blast Online Casinos too much because those juicy bonuses remind me of the old days, when I could play poker and get a little extra scratch on the side. These days that doesn't happen nearly enough.
But the reviews really don't seem to be much more than promotional material you could find on the site itself. I'm all for short, bulleted, quick-hitting items, but if you're going to review a casino, I want to know its strengths and weaknesses in detail. What will make me choose this site, in other words, over others?
If you're a poker player, and many of you are, which is why you're here, you'll find nothing of any real value. The "online poker room" link leads to exactly two poker rooms. I'm pretty sure more sites than that take us American poker players.
As I said, Top USA Online Casinos has the right idea. We need to promote online poker in our country, especially since our government seems so concerned about stopping it, but sites that just want to cash in on a cooling craze by offering nothing but a few links is the wrong way to do it.

The perspective of poker

I think probably the one thing poker has given me, other than a lot of fun, time with friends (both virtual and actual) and enough money to, say, go buy a Wii without the wife saying anything at all about it, is perspective.
Per-spec-tive, as the food critic in Ratatouille says.
It's taught me, someone who puts far too much weight into the results of something, that one moment does not make a career.
I write a mediocre story or make a mistake? I know I've done good work in the past, and I'll do it again.
I raise my voice to Jayden because he won't stop climbing on the chair even though I've told him not to about 785,386 times? I'll apologize and be a better father in a minute.
And, mostly importantly, at least lately, I have a bad run on two hours sleep at one of my favorite 5Ks of the year? My next race will surely be better.
Running is not easy for me. I've never been blessed with athletic skills. Those of you who can rifle a football 50 yards, hit a softball 500 feet and dribble a basketball between your legs while you take off from the free throw line will not relate to this post.
If you've read me before, you'll notice that my favorite sports are the kind that reward hard work, guts and a little suffering, not the ability to ballet in mid-air. I do love my raquetball and softball, but my passions are mountain climbing, biking and, most recently, running.
What that means is I train, hard, year-round, but if you're one of the silky-smooth, you'll probably eventually beat me if you put in your fair share of runs.
Still, I get after it, and because of that, I do better than most. But it's always sort of a struggle.
Lately I've done these tempo runs at four miles, and I try to maintain an 8-minute pace.
I've had a good winter season putting in miles and preparing for what I think will be my best year ever. Today, for instance, I ran 10 miles, and while I was certainly tired, I wasn't dead tired. I feel pretty good right now.
It seems to be paying off. I ran 22:50 for a winter 5K. That's a great time for this time of the year, when I'm not running serious intervals and had to dodge ice and snow and it was colder than a castle dungeon.
And yet, I can't seem to glide along during this 8-minute pace. It should be getting easier, in other words, but every time I pull into my driveway, I'm so glad it's over. I pant and wheeze and pull off my sweaty clothes and like nothing more than hopping into the shower and pouring a bowl of Golden Grahams.
How can I expect to break 48 minutes in a 10K if I can't even run faster than 8 minutes during a tempo run?
But then I tell myself that there are times when I struggle at the poker table. Times? Hell, more than half the time I'm frustrated and a little pissy after a session, even if I win a little bit.
But ultimately, every month I come out of there with a little green.
I'll never be a great player, just like I'll never be a great runner. I don't have the time to devote to either pursuits to become great.
But poker is a great reminder that my new favorite sport is indeed just one long run.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


I got my swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated in the mail a couple weeks ago. Normally this is cause for a celebration that rivals the Irish whooping it up for St. Patrick's Day. Instead, I haven't even cracked its cover.
I was whooping up a storm as I walked in the kitchen, mail in hand, already anticipating a night of Marvin Gaye, low lighting and soft, slow turns of the page. It's a tradition I've loved since I was 13, when the Internet didn't exist, we didn't have cable and its generous helpings of Cinemax every night and the Sears catalouge sometimes had to do.
The SI swimsuit, compared to the Sears catalouge, rocks.
I used to bargain with my friends. We would trade Paulina Porizkova for Kathy Ireland as if they were baseball cards and when I stumbled upon the old Christie Brinkley issues, I was treated like the guy with the best snow in Miami. Fortunately reason took over me at the last second and I turned away the sissors, preferring to keep Ms. Brinkley whole, the way she should always be, before Billy Joel got to her.
I still have all the issues in a box up on the shelf, next to the Kansas Jayhawk Final Four editions and when the Royals won the World Series.
Only when I walked into the kitchen, my two girls were staring up at me, happy and excited to see their Daddy home.
And I remembered when I gave my brother a Girls of KU calendar for Christmas one year. We were both new parents. Our children were just a few months old, and I thought it would be fun to relive our college days.
I had a son. He had a daughter.
Kate looked at the calendar.
"Maybe Sofia will be in there one day," Kate said.
She knew exactly what she was doing. Brian laughed for just a second, and then his mouth slowly turned into a grimace, then a frown, and finally, a new expression I hadn't seen before, one with wide eyes, a slightly downturned gnash and a wrinkled nose.
It is probably the face of any father the first time they see their daughter walk down the stairs in her prom dress, or when they take a family trip to the beach and notice that their little girl has boobs.
The three stages I saw in Brian, just like any father, I would imagine, were:
• Holy Shit.
• Wait, I remember what I was like when I was a teenage boy.
• If anyone touches my daughter, I'll KILL him. With an axe. While I laugh merrily and sing "Helter Skelter" by the Beatles or maybe, in a pinch, the Motley Crue version.
I didn't go through all those stages just yet. I blocked out my thoughts, and my hearing, and ran downstairs before Kate could see the magazine and ruin it for me.
But the vision of my two, smiling, innocent faces is enough to make me pause and think "that's someone's daughter" when the TV brushes across Cinemax late at night.
Before you think I've reformed, let me tell you I haven't. That would be too easy. I'd throw the magazines away, block Cinemax and smash all my extra-special videotapes that I keep downstairs. And that would be the end of it.
But I'm torn, and it's not just because the 15-year-old in me says "WAIT, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" with his voice cracking under puberty.
I really don't think what the women are doing is immoral. I'm not exactly the church-going type, anyway, but the photos in SI are tasteful and professional (at least I think so, I haven't seen them yet) and, though they border on Playboy material these days, the models do that for a living and make damn good money doing it, in fact.
I don't even have a problem with stripping or, I suppose, porn. I dated a stripper once, and she was a good woman. We had a good time together.
And I'm still a guy and love beautiful women who like to get naked.
Finally, it bothers me that a woman who models or strips or even does porn is a whore but the men who do it are studs (or gay, but that's not what I'm talking about here).
Yet I can't help but wonder, especially when it comes to strippers and porn, that for every liberated, well-spoken woman who chooses to do that for a living because it's great money and because she feels great about herself and her body, there are dozens who do it because Daddy fucked up, or Step-Daddy fucked her, or Uncle Johnny stared at her a little too long and did something about it later that night.
Or her parents ignored her.
That makes me sad.
At one point, they were daughters in their high chairs, happy when their Daddy came home, just wanting him to love them.
That's the image I can't get out of my head when I look at that Sports Illustrated issue.
That's why, for now, it remains closed.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A step-by-step guide to changing twins at the ass-crack of dawn

Before you begin changing your 9-month-old, just-learned-to-crawl-twins (video coming), it's highly recommended you practice for a bit.
We recommend fishing out a bass with your bare hands and trying to put a sweater on it, learning how to scuba dive and wrestling with a squid or playing with a Slinky while you juggle a carton of eggs and jog up and down a flight of stairs.

1. Hear wife's lovely voice asking you to get up at 6 a.m. Try to ignore fact that wife's voice sounds like sandpaper being rubbed on a chalk board that early in the morning.
2. Walk into nursery and have gray clouds lifted from soul, at least a little, by big, wide smiles and babbling.
3. Remove twin from crib and place on carpet.
4. Instantly scoot over to catch twin before she crawls into the bathroom.
5. Pull now screaming twin back to you.
6. Put pacifier in twin's mouth.
7. Remove one piece of tape from diaper.
8. Flip twin back over.
9. Remove other piece of tape from diaper.
10. See something that looks like Bill Cosby stuck one of his Jello Pudding Pops inside diaper overnight.
11. Yell for wipes when you discover the bag is out.
12. Try to hold twin by leg while she squirms left and right and try to clean bottom with wipe.
13. Ignore protests from said twin, who prefers to be on the move ALL THE TIME.
14. Finish job, release twin from foothold and turn around to get diaper.
15. Scoot across carpet to catch twin. Drag her back, flip her over.
16. Move her to open diaper.
17. Move her again.
18. Again.
19. There you go. Put diaper on twin.
20. Ask wife to pick out outfits. Grunt when she asks if everything is OK.
21. Hold down protesting twin long enough to get pants on. Fight like hell to get her to stay put long enough to put on pants.
22. Remove twin's legs from one pant and start over.
23. Do it again. Fight like hell urge to toss twin out of second-story window.
24. Catch twin, flip her over and put pants on one leg at a time.
25. Give twin plastic crab.
26. Sit twin up and put on shirt. Make brrrrrrrr noise with mouth so twin doesn't panic when her face is covered for 30 seconds.
27. Give twin a smile. You're done!
28. Close bedroom door so twin doesn't escape.
29. Lift second twin out of crib.
30. Start over.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

This is a little spooky

I hadn't flopped a set in a long time during this ho-hum, blah streak, and I picked up a pair of 5s. Presto!

Here's the result:

Again, not paid off that much. But that's not the point. The point is I don't get quads very often - who does, really - but the four times I've had them in the last three months have all come with Presto.

Count me among the members of the Presto is Gold cult.