Monday, May 30, 2011

End of May Report on Chicago Professional Sports: The Wasteland

Happy Memorial Day! For those of us who are fans of Chicago professional sports teams, however, "happy" is not a word I would currently use to describe us. Let's review why.

Chicago Blackhawks
Although the Hawks can claim to be the reigning Stanley Cup Champions for another ten days or so, the 2010-2011 season was a disaster. Immediately after winning the 2010 Stanley Cup, the Hawks were forced, due to salary cap restrictions, to let go of several key members of their Cup team. The team struggled throughout the reagular season, barely making it into the playoffs through the back door on the last night of the regular season. They then played the rival Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs and went down 3-0. They tied up the series and even had a great chance to win game seven in overtime, but lost to the Canucks on a play we have seen too often -- giving up the puck in the defensive zone and getting burned. However, a little hunger to regain the Cup might go a long way next season.

Chicago Bulls
The Bulls had an unexpectedly great regular season, finishing with the best record in their conference. However, the playoff semi-finals pitted them against the Miami Heat, a team the Bulls beat all three times in the regular season. The Bulls just don't have the horses -- yet -- to do it, and lost four in a row after blowing out the Heat in game one. If the Bulls can get a decent two guard in the off season, things might be different next season. For now, however, the loss to the Heat was painful.

Chicago Bears
Will there be an NFL season? How many games will be played? We will all hope to know the answers in the next month as the season is quickly approaching. Kudos to the Bears for coming within a game of the Super Bowl last season. The current state of football makes it difficult to handicap the fall season. The Vikings will be less of a threat without Brett Favre, but the Lions should be better this year. And of course, we can not forget the Packers ... I am a fan of Jay Cutler and look forward to seeing him lead the Bears to their first Super Bowl victory in over 25 years.

As you can see, the three cold-weather sports brought Chicago a championship and two teams that were there in the final four -- definitely the best overall showing that I can remember. As for the baseball teams ...

Chicago Cubs
The Cubs, in short, are a total mess. Their roster consists of a few good young players, a bunch of overpaid veterans who have not played up to potential, and a bunch of average to below-average players. They are currently in fifth place out of six teams in their division and sport a 23-28 record. More significantly, fans have stayed home this year and attendance is sure to drop. Of course, fans will still flock to the "friendly confines" on weekends this summer for the Wrgley Field experience, but check out the weekday attendance figures, especially when the Cubs are playing other poor teams. It is really time for the team owner to eat contracts, dump players, and rebuild. This team, as it is, is going nowhere fast

Chicago White Sox
The Sox are the biggest disappointment in 2011. They declared that in 2011 they are "all in" (where have I heard that before?), but have played uninspired baseball. They had a chance to start off the season smoking hot ... until then closer Matt Thornton blew five straight saves. Big hitters Adam Dunn and Alex Rios are in the midst of horrible slumps and the team has not played well. This is especially bad because their chief rivals, the Minnesota Twins, are having a rare poor start. The surprising Cleveland Indians are way out in first place. The Sox currently are in fourth place with a 24-31 record. There is hope, however, because of the good Sox pitching, that the team can make a run if the hitters get hot. It is possible that the Sox and the Detroit might be fighting it out at the end of the season. Am I just a dreamer?

Right now, it appears that the biggest game in Chicago this summer will be Manchester United vs. the Chicago Fire. That sums up the current state of Chicago baseball more than anything.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Keeping in Touch on Tuesday

What a nightmare of a weekend. Not only did I not go bye-bye in the Rapture, but I played some live poker on Sunday. In tournament action, I exited short of the final table when A-8os > J-J. Ace on the flop and I was a goner. I then played some cash games and saw how rusty I have become. The lack of both online poker and live poker sure showed. I'd better get in a couple more sessions before I go to Las Vegas if I want to hit the ground running.

Oh yeah -- my softball hitting streak came to an end as I went 0-3 last night. I actually got on base my first at bat, but even though I hit the ball sharply, the second baseman should have fielded it cleanly. A really generous scorer might call it a hit, but I am playing this one totally straight. But still ... a .588 batting average? I'll take it!

Ken Prevo loves to heap abuse on the poor residents of Illinois. Yes -- I carefully chose my words there! In reality, however, it is not much fun waiting and wondering how much your state governmenet will attempt to make you grab your ankes to take care of their screw ups. Although I have faithfully paid into my pension system every month for  21 years, the state legislators, who passed budgets for several years that did not pay the required amount into the pension system, are ready to pass a law that will screw me and others who have spent the best professional working years of our lives educating students in the state. As soon as the legislature passes the law, which for years has been considered to be unconstitutional, the final decision will be left to the courts. Hmmm ... who do we trust in Illinois? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Finally -- Bulls vs. Heat game four tonight. The Heat looked awesome in game three and the Bulls need to re-group. Can the Bulls pull out game four and the series? I hope. I believe. Maybe I dream?

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Friday, May 20, 2011

R.I.P. Macho Man

Today is a sad day for professional wrestling fans around the world as "Macho Man" Randy Savage passed away from a heart attack while driving in Florida. The Macho Man was 58.

Savage, whose real name is Randy Poffo, grew up in Downers Grove, IL along with his brother "Leaping" Lanny Poffo. Father Angelo Poffo was himself a professional wrestler, famous for being part of the wrestling tag team "The Graduates."

Growing up in the town right next to Downers Grove, I always thought it was amazing that this regular guy going to high school in the neighboring town became the flamboyant Macho Man. Sadly, Macho Man's former wife, Miss Elizabeth, passed away many years ago due to a drug overdose.

Tonight I'll be saying a prayer for you, Randy. Oooooohhhhh Yeaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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Coping with Changes in the Online Poker World

Life After Black Friday
We are now five weeks past Black Friday, the day that the world of online poker in the USA was turned completely on its head. Instead of focusing on the related issues such as the status of money at Full Tilt Poker, I instead wanted to focus on the day-to-day reality of the change.

How has it affected me? For starters, it has increased boredom in my life. After a hard day's work I used to look forward to spending some time on Full Tilt Poker, be it playing in one of several blogger private tournaments or messing around at the cash tables. Like many, I really liked playing at Full Tilt. Now it was gone. I have been able to still play at some of my less favorite sites, like UB, Bodog, and Cake, but it is just not the same.

I find that I have been watching more televised sports, especially since post-season play in the NHL and the NBA has been so spectacular. I have watched a few movies and have spent more time cruising around the internet.

What I have really felt, however, is a loss of some of the closeness with some of my blogger friends. Without a regular weekly tournament like the Mookie/Dank, I find that my communication with other bloggers has greatly decreased. Just after a great event like Survive Donkey Island invigorated the blogger community, it is now like we are in a period of extended vacation. Thankfully, some of the bloggers have continued to post on a somewhat regular basis. At least posting and commenting on posts keeps us connected. But, to tell the truth, I really miss the regular routine. A couple of the play money tournaments have been okay, but they are just not the same.

Softball Update
Is it really May? My last softball game was played in frigid, windy conditions. I only got two at bats but went 1-2 with a single (naturally), bringing my batting average down a bit to .714. Ha ha -- I love that -- bringing my average down to .714!

My trip to Las Vegas is getting a little closer and the desire to play some live games is again on the increase. A road trip this weekend might be in order.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Quick Wednesday Night Thoughts -- Scores and Scorches

1) I sent in a check to pay what should be my last obligation on my daughter's lease from her ill-fated move to Texas. Thank goodness the property managers found someone to sublease the apartment. Otherwise, I was on the hook until October.  SCORE

2) Turned in my signed contract for next work year. I was on the contract team when we negotiated this sweetheart five-year contract about four years ago -- right before the bottom fell out of the economy. Nothing like putting money directly into the pockets of your coworkers to make you feel the love.  SCORE

3) A big down side of my daughter's Texas travails -- and we were afraid of this -- bed bugs! My daughter's apartment had bed bugs and we most likely brought some home with us. My arms look like Josie has been slapping me around. We seemed to find the source (hopefully), so with some cleaning and an exterminator's help we will get this unpleasant surprise taken care of.  SCORCH

4) I really miss playing blogger tournaments and cash games at Full Tilt. I was really ready for a great BBT6 series. I have still been playing some cash games at UB, but it is not the same.  SCORCH

5) Las Vegas is coming sooner than I think. Only 5 1/2 weeks to go! I'll be there June 19-24. I hope to meet up with Yestbay1 before he leaves town. I have already offered my services as his final table servant should he go that far in his WSOP event! Anyone else going to be in Sin City that week? Let me know.  SCORE

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Full Tilt Bonus Posted in Account Today

I received an e-mail message that my bonus from Full Tilt Poker's Take 2 promotion has been credited to my account. So ... it looks like this may be the start of the Full Tilt cash out process?

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A Funeral & A Softball Update

The Funeral
I went to a funeral today for the husband of my wife's cousin. The guy was the first of our generation of the cousins to pass away. It gets you thinking ...

My wife came from this big Catholic family which used to be pretty tight, so she has cousins galore. I had not seen many of them or their spouses for several years -- maybe since the last death in the family some time ago?

It was nice to see that almost everyone seemed to be doing well -- nice families, no tragic stories. Yes, there is something to definitely say about raising kids the proper way ...

Although my softball team took it on the chin once again, the warm weather seemed to help the "veterans" look good. I was back at second base and had to deal with a nasty wind blowing straight in from left field. Yeah -- popups I can still handle. The flip from the shortstop I can still hamdle. The throws from the outfield I can still handle. Hard-hit ground balls? They are always an adventure!

Strangely enough, my hot hitting continued. A hard liner to center, a shot over the pitcher's head, and a ball that stayed just fair down the third base line meant this old guy went 3-3, raising my season average to a ridiculous .750! Now, I swear all my hits this season have been totally clean -- untouched by fielders until the ball has gotten to the outfield. They have all been singles, but damn -- this has been one hell of a start to the season!

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

An Uplifting Story of Spring

So yeah -- my last post that focused on death was depressing. There is another side to spring, though -- that of renewal, growth, change, and hope.

One year ago my family was recovering from a severe shock to the system -- my son's cancer. However, pending a clean chest x-ray my son will have in just over a week, we will clearly see that his medical problems are really a thing of the past. He will always need to be vigilant, but we all can certainly live with that.

Rick has really come out of his shell the past few years. He has made great friends through his Scholastic Bowl team, and tonight he went to his junior prom with the friend of a friend. As he left for dinner after taking pictures with several of his friends and their dates, I noticed how beautiful a May day can be ...

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Death Permeates Spring

It is the first week of May. I used to remember this time of the year for the temperate weather, the flowers, the introduction of the wonder of summer. This year in particular, however, I feel sad, despondent, and lonely. At a time that I traditionally saw as a new beginning, I feel a depressing reminder of the end.

Death. It seems to be everywhere. The father of a fellow poker blogger. The father of an Italian Dinner Club friend. The first member of my generation of relatives and their spouses.

My long-time insurance agent, a guy who generated more positive vibes that almost anyone I can remember, is in hospice care. An almost deserted office tells his sad story.

But it is not just the present. One blogger is reflecting on the anniversary of his father's death. Later this month my wife and I will be remembering that sad time when my father-in-law was forced to throw in the towel in his fight against cancer. May is sure not what it used to be.

And oh yeah -- happy birthday, Dad. Let's hope that guy upstairs springs for a beer. I'd buy you one if I could.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Official" Statement From Cereus Regarding Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet

Dear Sucker:

It is finally time for all the chumps in the world (and that includes you, buddy) to get a life and realize that you were dumb shits to do business with us. Geez -- it was not enough that superuser accounts were created and some players lost ungodly amount of mobney playing at an unfair advantage? Even when the stories surfaced you still believed in us? Pathetic! At least you know that we always had secure connections -- uh ... right?

Did you ever try to follow the money to find out who really was running the show here? Holy JFK -- talk about a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma!

Even after the DOJ indictments came down and even after PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker suspended real money play to USA poker players, we still continuue to offer tournaments and "cash" games. If you have not yet figured it out, let us explain it to you: our "cash" games now = play money games. Have fun playing while our sites are still functional.

Oh yeah -- don't come looking for us. That deserted building you might find? We're on an extended vacation.

One more thing regarding cash outs ..................



The Management

NOTE: A good read for the real sad story here ...

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Bring on Ken P -- I Be Badenov

Raskolnikov -- There is no way a squirrel would get the best of me.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts: Softball, Texas Freedom, and the Chicago White Sox

One thing about life that is certain is that it is always interesting. Sometimes , however, interesting may not be that great.

Softball seemed to reach a new low for me as a dagger to the heart of a recreational player was felt Tuesday night. My team was cruising early when the new guy on the team, our big slugger, knocked out a three-run home run. Before he even got to third base, the opposing team challenged his hit, saying he used an illegal bat.

wtf -- This is a stupid recreational league! Worse yet, the umpire, before the game, was checking out our bats. So if there was an illegal one in the rack, shouldn't he tell us we can't use it?

The umpire was a total, wimpy moron. He checked with someone, then declared the batter out. The captain of my team chose not to play the game under protest, and I felt like we were the wimps of the world. An inning later, the other team got a player on first and the guys on his team were telling him to make sure he breaks up the double play. Uh yeah -- I was the second baseman. So, as stupid as this sounds for a guy who should not be thinking this, I was prepared to knock the shit out of this guy if he came anywhere near me. As luck would have it, the next batter grounded to short, who flipped to me at second. I made the pivot and the throw to first but the runner was nowhere near me. Probably saved myself lots of hurt!

Oh yeah -- the end result was that we lost by one run. The bat turned out to indeed be illegal, but calling a team on that in a recreational league is a d-bag play. And ... once again I went two for three, keeping my .667 batting average. Not bad for a ... veteran.

Texas Freedom
I had recently been bleeding money left and right. It used to be that money was bled in $20's, then $100's, now $1,000's. I was delighted to find out that my daughter's apartment in Texas, for which I had guaranteed a lease through October, has been rented! Yes -- off the hook to the tune of several thousand dollars. Hmmm ... maybe I should be considering a WSOP donkament ...

The Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox have hit bottom for the young season, sporting MLB's worst record and getting no-hit tonight by arch rival Minnesota. With the Sox starting rotation and band of good hitters, I was expecting much the opposite this season. They are already ten games out of first place and could be 10 1/2 before the night is over. Is it finally time to pull the plug on the Ozzie show and move in a different direction? Frankly, I have gotten tired of watching Ozzie vs Kenny Williams, Ozzie vs Bobby Jenks, Ozzie vs the Chicago Cubs, ... With a last place team and knowing that you can't fire the whole team, I think the manager's hot seat should be steamimg right now. Stay tuned ...

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Osama bin Laden is Dead & A Re-posting of a Timely Fishing Story

This is a re-post of  something I wrote almost three years ago. A celebration now seems in order.

My Greatest Catch - A Fishing/Life Story

My family was not exactly the type that would buy Field & Stream or Outdoor Life magazines. No family members except a brother-in-law had ever gone hunting. Fishing was something you did at the local pond with a bamboo pole, a bobber, and a worm. So when the opportunity came up to take a week-long fishing trip in Canada with my father-in-law and several of my wife's relatives, I was both excited and scared. Doing a week at Lake of the Woods in Nestor Falls, Ontario with a bunch of guys sounded like a great time. However, I knew I would be the worst fisherman out there, and would have to be taught a number of different strategies and techniques. The trip ended up being great, and the annual fishing trip was something I looked forward to.

A year after my father-in-law passed away, I went on the trip with my wife's cousin, Tim, and my wife's Uncle Don. Tim and Don were hard core fishermen, as evidenced by one trip where we spent over 70 hours on the water in one week. Tim and Don taught me about 50% of what I knew about fishing.

One afternoon, I got one hell of a yank on my line. The fish was obviously a monster, and smart too, as he tried to get away under the boat. Tim and Don later said that they couldn't believe that my fishing pole didn't break as it was bent in a U-shape when the fish ran under the boat. After much struggling and fighting, I landed the sucker. I was hoping that I had caught my first muskie, but instead it was a huge northern pike. Yes -- I was so damn proud of myself.

I couldn't wait to get back to shore. The plan was to bring in the boat and I would fix dinner while Tim and Don went to the tavern up the road to call home and check in with their wives. Of course, as I was cooking, there was a spring in my step. I kept thinking that life just didn't get much better than it was that day.

Tim and Don would usually be back right away, but this time it was taking them forever to return. It was dark outside and the dinner was beginning to get cold, so I began to think that I might need to go down to the tavern and see what was holding them up. Before I could get out the door, they came back in with grim looks on their faces.

I wish I could go into detail about the length and weight of my greatest catch, but the details were lost in the events of that day.

September 11, 2001.

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Blogger "Home Game" at PokerStars Tonight

Thanks to heffmike for setting this up. Of course, if you are looking to make things a little more interesting, check out Jordan's blog.

I will be there. Will you?

Watching Stanley Cup Playoffs ...

... last night and today. Predators vs Canucks. Red Wings vs Sharks.