Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Losing Our Heroes: The Night John Lennon Died

Tonight is a rough night in my family. My youngest daughter's hero, Edd Gould, a creator of humorous flash animation, passed away on Sunday after a long battle with cancer. He was only 24 years old. His passing was announced earlier today.

Unfortunately for my daughter, a sensitive artistic-type, this news hit her extremely hard. Several months ago I made a trip to the post office to mail a package to England. Inside was an original art work my daughter had made for Edd to help cheer him up. I am now so glad that she made it and I sent it.

I was reminded of that dark night over 30 years ago when I heard that John Lennon had been murdered. The first thing I did was call my old best friend from high school, Zed. John Lennon was our hero. Like many of our generation, we revered the man who was always taking on the establishment while searching out a better world. Unfortunately, Zed and I had grown distant as my friend had descended into a hazy world of drug abuse. The drugs had completely changed him. He was not the same person. The first major sorrow in my life was seeing my best friend's brain destroyed. He had been wickedly brilliant, possibly the most clever person I had ever know up to that point in my life. But that guy was long gone.

Fighting back tears, I called my old friend and bleated out "Someone's killed John Lennon." His nonchalant reply: "Yeah, man, that's too bad."

Hell of a night. My hero had died and I was reminded that my best friend had, in a sense, also died. A little part of me also died that night.

So tonight my little angel unfortunately has learned one of those difficult life lessons we all learn one way or another. She'll learn that things get better as time goes on, but she'll never be the same. We never are, even years and years later.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Poker Strategy: Limping With AA?

A recent post by Tony Bigcharles (or TBC or sevencard2003) mentioned his regret at limping in two hands with AA in early position in some cash game $1/2 NL Hold em. Not surprisingly, he lost both hands. Several posters on Tony's blog and other places in cyberspace blasted him for it, with many players claiming that you should never limp with AA. Well, never means never, and I certainly do not agree. If you agree with the premise that sometimes you can limp with AA, the issue then becomes "when can you do it, and how should you play after you do it?" Or course, I realize that limping with AA is certainly not a normal play good players make and takes a player with a good sense of the circumstances and table character along with a willingness to gamble (lol).

First, position is extremely important. Sometimes people are tempted to limp with AA when they are UTG or in early position and fear that a raise might scare off players, leaving them with only the blinds -- a very poor return on the best starting hand in poker. Of course, since players have a tendency to overplay pocket Aces, isn't winning a little bit better than potentially losing a lot?

On the other hand, limping in also increases the odds that several people might be in the pot -- something you obviously do not want to happen. Limping in and seeing the flop with four or five others is a disaster waiting to happen.

I think limping UTG or in EP is most effective in the following circumstances:

1) You are convinced that one or more players at the table, based on previous hands, will be aggressive and raise the pot. This gives you a chance to reraise, maybe even push all in if the circumstances seem right.

2) You are short stacked in a tournament and are trying to induce a raise from someone looking to steal from your limp. However, if you have been extremely short stacked and have been in fold or shove mode, you are practically announcing that you have a monster and will likely get little or no action.

3) You are in a tournament that has a top-heavy payout or bonus. For example, the first place winner gets a bonus of a ticket to a a big tournament and second place on only gets a meager payouts. In this kind of example it might be worth the risk to lose the hand since the upside is so high.

A key point in limping with AA, however, is that you can't fall in love with the cards. When you know you are beat you have to have the discipline to fold your hand. If you can't muster the courage to do that, you probably have no business limping with them in the first place.

I am sure that some other players can come up with additional examples of when limping with Aces might be a decent idea. The point is that, like most things in life, there is not a 100% black or white, right or wrong answer. Those who think like that are likely missing opportunities to take their game to the next level.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Illinois Primary: Voting Disclosure

Today was a voting day -- the Illinois primary. Although some people do not allow political talk on their poker blogs, I am going the opposite direction and am in fact disclosing one of my votes in today's primary election.

First, let me say that I have always been a big fan of Subway sandwiches. Subway was the first big name in fresh made-to-order sandwiches and has always impressed me with its many options to have a healthy alternative to fast food. I generally have lots of veggies on my sandwich, eschewing the fatty sauces that add empty calories to the meal. However, I will admit  to liking other brands, notably Penn Station and Silver Mine. However, I was determined not to let my fondness for one brand have an effect on my voting when the stakes are so high -- the future of the United States of America.

Therefore, please know that I can attest with 100% veracity and an equivalent measure of sincerity that in today's Illinois primary, I actually cast a vote for ... the one ... the only ... the original ...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cutting Corners in a Lean Economy

This morning I had a conversation with one of my old friends about the economy. He is convinced that if things get much worse that there will be a tremendous social upheaval. Of course, one of the problems in a tight economy is that people don't have money to spend and those that do cut back. I started thinking of some measures that I have been taking lately:

1) Used a coupon and my favorite shop to get an oil change and tire rotation for $20. Quite a bargain
2) Decided to downgrade to a budget motel on my trip this weekend to Rochester, MN. Since my son and I barely spend any time at the motel and just basically need it for a place to sleep one night, I decided to make a reservation at a highly rated budget chain motel. I am sure that it will not be as nice as the one we have normally stayed at, but it also costs 40% less.
3) Making sure that I get my prescriptions through mail order rather than at the local drug store since I can get a three-month supply via mail for the cost of a one-month supply locally.
4) Although a local car dealer has a great sale on Mustang convertibles, I looked at them and thought that it might be better to instead get some body work done on my current convertible and continue to drive it. So ... I spent $800 for body work and the old car looks pretty darn good. Much better than picking up a new monthly payment.
5) Bought lettuce by the head instead of buying the more convenient but also more costly pre-packaged and pre-washed variety.
6) Bought gyros from a place that has a "buy two, get one free after 4:00 p.m." deal.
7) Searched for found a coupon code that can be used online to order large one-item pizzas from a national chain for $4.99 each.

These examples are just off the top of my head. The point is that the economy has forced me to look carefully at my spending habits and has caused me to change my behavior. The end result is that I am pumping less money into the economy. Take someone like me and multiply the same behavior by thousands or millions and you begin to wonder how this economic mess can ever be fixed. Do not fear, however, as a 900-mile automobile trip this weekend with gas currently at $4.099/gal means that I will be pumping my share of cash into the economy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Strip Joint Story: Yes -- The Place Was As Nasty As I Had Heard

At the end of my junior year in college, I prepared to say goodbye to one of my best friends, Roger. Roger was a year ahead of me and had just accepted an out-of-state job working for the Boy Scouts of America. Before he moved, however, his brother and a few friends set up a going away party for him at a place that had a famous local reputation, a strip joint named Joe and Jan's. Word was that the place was a nasty-ass club run by the Mafia. I had heard stories earlier in the year -- stories I had dismissed as being part of the usually bullshit stories told by one of my roomies. Now I would find out the truth.

I don't remember if we paid a cover to enter. I think we got in free and were thinking "man -- this is a good deal." Then we saw the "club:" a ratty room with card tables set up u-shaped with chairs all around the outside. Someone ordered a pitcher of beer and we were shocked to find out that the pitcher cost us three or four times what we would pay at the local campus pub. Roger was having the time of his life and even was more than willing to buy the strippers the bogus drinks that cost a fortune. Then the real fun began.

A stripper got on the stage and proceeded to grab the cowboy hat of Roger's brother. She put both boobs in it and paraded up and down the tables. A nasty, dirty-looking old coot sitting at one of the tables flashed a dollar bill and the stripper came right to him. Instead of doing the old "let him slide the bill in my g-string" routine (the stripper was completely in the buff anyway), she sat down in front of his face, spread her legs, and he went diving in full force. Pretty soon a bunch of other guys were all waving dollars in the air. One by one, they all went muff diving with this stripper. Finally, Roger's brother calls her over and requests a freebie since she used his hat. The next thing I know this stripper's leg was in front of me as the brother went to town and got his share. She seemed to be enjoying it all, with boobs covered in slimy saliva from all the guys who were also getting their share of action on the top.

Since the place had that reputation of being run by organized crime, we thought it best to not extend our stay too long, not to mention we didn't want to be buying more of the expensive pitchers. On the ride home, Roger's brother had the classic shit-eating grin on his face. Well ... he was eating something!

We never got to go back to Joe and Jan's as it burned to the ground several months after our visit. The rumor was that the owners got behind on some of their payments and the mafiosos extracted their revenge.

I have never been able to understand why some guys pay hundreds of dollars at strip clubs to see a little female flesh and get some crappy dances with a little rubbing. I guess they just don't know the value of a dollar like I came to know it so many years ago.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Credit Card Numbers Ripped Off AGAIN

I received a phone call from the Fraud Division of Citi credit cards, checking on some suspected attempted fraudulent purchases on one of my credit cards. I have begun to lose count, but I believe that this is the fifth time someone has gotten my numbers and attempted to charge items to one of my accounts. Fortunately, I had not been using this card frequently, and I believe I can pinpoint the transmission where the number was obtained. About a week ago my son used the card to order something from Amazon. Shortly thereafter, the fraudulent charges began.

One charge actually was approved -- apparently to an online Spanish website that deals with recharging phones. Almost always, the scammer tries out the card by making one or two minor purchases. If these purchases are approved, the next step is to attempt to charge things that cost in the hundreds or over $1000. So no, as I told the fraud rep from Citi, I did not attempt to charge anything to Czeck Airlines or Abercrombie. Fraud had already picked up on those requests and they were not approved.

As usual, the problem is easily solved. The company issuing the credit card closes your account and sends you new cards with new numbers. Any disputed charges are usually handled pretty easily. It still sucks to have to deal with this, though. And you always wonder when they will get your information next and what else virtually anyone in the world can access about you. Welcome to the digital age!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The International Poker Home Game

I recently wrote about a new home game I stumbled upon. If I ever feel like I have a poker itch to scratch, this appears to be the place to do it. It reminds me of going back before the U.S. government found the need to get involved in the online poker world.

This particular group of poker players can't seem to get enough of the home game. There is a regularly scheduled game on Tuesday nights, apparently another one on Thursday nights (I do not know much about that one yet), and for the second week in a row, a Saturday night game. Yowsa!

I call it the International Home Game because the game features many non-U.S. players. There is quite a difference in the rosters of my regular home game and this new one. Regular: John, Mike, Bob, Bob, Steve, Chris, Terry, Dan. International: John, Ron, David, Joe, Murph, ... Azi, Mohammad, Sibin, Ankit, Varun, Ravi, Aviral, Jundong, Amir, ...

The new home game has been profitable for me so far. We usually place a tournament and then cash games. My tournament showings have been second, second, second, out of the money. I broke even in the first two cash games, had a small profit in the third, then killed it last Tuesday. Aside from one guy who seemed to have my number all night (beat my A-Q with A-K and my K-K with A-A), I cruised through the rest of the field when some big hands hit. The play is generally loose, and one LAG player sent lots of chips my way when he did things like go all in with a flop of three diamonds when I held the nut flush. Poker is EZ sometimes!

I am considering driving to The Shoe in Hammond tomorrow, but having these home games in town takes away my motivation for tackling the almost five-hour round trip driving required to play at The Shoe. Playing at the river boat in Peoria is only a three-hour round trip drive, but if I am driving I would rather travel the extra hour each way to get to the best poker room in the Midwest.

Today is a beautiful day. Spring means softball. Time to check out my speed and stamina as my team holds its first practice of the season today.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Six Month Updates: Joining the Enemy & Good Numbers

Joining the Enemy
My world was a topsy turvy place six months ago. Veteran readers of this blog may remember that I had my latest run in with my homeowners association over my wife's straw bale garden. The association was not at the top of our Christmas card list as it was, due to the manner in which we felt we were contacted regarding our annual dues and some other concerns. I decided to take my attorney's advice and do what needed to be done. As of last night, I am now officially a homeowners association board member.

They jokingly said that they would be sending me out the next time they think someone needs to contact a resident regarding an issue. I would actually be fine with that because I can guarantee that my people skills are much better than one or more of the current and previous board members. One woman who I had never met immediately said "I vote no" when the issue of my candidacy was brought up. Hmmm ... a sense of humor among the heartless tyrants. I'll probably like her!

Good Numbers
I am closing in on the six month anniversary (I guess you'd call it that?) of my mild heart attack. Being no one's fool, I immediately got exercise and nutrition religion and am happy to list the following information:

Weight: Lost 30 pounds
Cholesterol:  Total: 154   LDL: 85   HDL: 47   Triglycerides: 112

However, my last blood test also showed that my A1C score continued to be in the "prediabetes" area, and I have adjusted my diet accordingly, cutting back on the bad carbs and balancing my carbs/diet accordingly.

So ... challenges still remain, but overall I feel like I am in a pretty good place right now. Things certainly look a lot less scary than they did six months ago.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Unofficial Las Vegas Hookers Week

It was started by this guy ... and continued by this guy ... so what the hell, I am ready to jump on the bandwagon and make it a reality: the first blogger Unofficial Las Vegas Hookers Week. Yowsa!

The purpose of this week, if I might be so bold to suggest, is to "honor" the ladies of the night of Sin City. Well, maybe not so much honor, but to at least acknowledge the people who are as much a part of our Las Vegas experience as the porn slappers who line the Strip we love so dearly.

First, let me start by saying that I do not have any great stories of actually patronizing any Las Vegas hookers. As this guy will tell you, I am a Midwesterner. We are known for our common sense values, friendliness, and steadfastness. I have been married for over twenty years. I take my marriage vows seriously. 'nough said. But ... that doesn't mean that I don't know what goes on around me.

I lost count of the number of sojourns I have made to Las Vegas some time ago. I would estimate maybe 75-100 trips? For several years, I would have been hard pressed to know that hookers even existed in Las Vegas. Was it that I was so innocent ... or was it that my brother and I hung out on the north side of the strip in the el cheapo places? During the early years many nights were spent at Circus-Circus -- one of the low rollers dream spots. Cheap hotel, cheap eats, but tons of kiddies and families. It would not exactly be a great place for business for a lady of the night, I imagine. Other times we stayed and hung out at Westward Ho. If you had ever been in the Ho before, you realize that we were really pushing the limit there. If you weren't at least 60 years old you didn't fit in at the Ho. Certainly that place would not be hookers' paradise.

Later we moved toward the center of the Strip, the place where we feel most comfortable today. Bingo -- hookerland! Now we know that any late night spent on the strip will tend to bring you at least a few invitations if you so much as even look at the hookers. Some of the usual-type comments:

Upon seeing a rather attractive group of three hookers, led by an attractive blond, I perhaps looked a little too long, which resulted in:

hooker: "I'd sure like to make your night."

Hmmm ... there were three ... hmmm ...

After a long poker session after the economy turned bad, the hookers in and near the Imperial Palace were getting really aggressive.

hooker: "Hey baby, where ya going"
light: "To my room."  (big mistake to say this)
hooker: "Take me with you, baby."
light -- swatting the woman's hands off me: "Going to SLEEP."

Most of the time I try to give the "definitely not interested" vibe when I am in hookerland, but a guy walking solo down the strip at 4:00 a.m. seems to give off maybe a "pathetic" vibe instead.

The hookers are not hard to spot. Look for the women who look like they are advertising their wares, and bingo -- you betcha! Of course, if you go past a club like Drai's late at night, the women who appear to wear clothing best described as tight and minimal are the young partiers who might have a future in the world's oldest profession -- but not just yet.

So ... now it is time to do your part to promote this week. Post a comment here. Post your own hooker story in your blog. Let the good times roll!

Friday, March 02, 2012

A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness

Some of you poker players with knowledge of both the Old Testament and the New Testament may recognize my reference to Isaiah and John the Baptist. Not to imply that I am some sort of prophet or anything, but I do see that I can serve a purpose for those people who know that they are are the road to medical problems but, like I used to be, are not doing the things they need to do in order to stay away from dire consequences.

In case you are a more recent reader of this blog, please note that almost six months ago I had a mild heart attack. I chronicled some information about it in three blog posts last September. I will not rehash all the details from the past six months here, but please know that I have changed my eating habits, exercise regularly, and have lost in the area of 28 pounds. I feel great.

Several of my blogger friends, either in part spurred on by my story or just by a desire to improve their lives, have been looking at ways to change their diets and get more exercise. More power to you. But today I wanted to write a little bit more about why it is so important to get off your duff and do what you need to do.

Fear is a great motivator. There have been a few times in my life when I thought my life was in danger, usually based on something stupid I had done when driving my car. However, those times were usually due to a moment of carelessness and were quickly gone. Being ready to undergo a hospital procedure and being told there is a small percentage chance that you could die during the procedure is certainly frightening, especially since you have absolutely no control over anything at that point.

In the weeks after my procedure, there was fear the first times any chest or arm pains came. I began thinking "I am having a heart issue or is this no big deal?" Even if you are pretty sure it is nothing to be worried about, you begin to think that there is a chance that when you go to sleep, you might never wake up. Wonderful.

After several months had gone by, I was feeling pretty good about everything until the day when some chest pains returned. Although I had been working hard at exercising and dieting, there was still this creepy, nagging feeling that I could heading halfway down the grave. I saw my cardiologist, who allayed my fears. But it was still scary.

Side Effects - Physical
I have always been a person who prefers not to take any medication unless necessary. I had to adjust to my morning pills -- three new ones prescribed by my cardiologist, one I had already been taking, plus aspirin, a multi-vitamin, and a fish oil pill. Fortunately, I only have to take one in the evening.

Because of my current medication I now bruise easily. It sucks knowing that almost anytime you hit into anything or anything hits you, the result will be a nasty bruise. I have been pretty fortunate to not have much else in the way of side effects except that I occasionally get dizzy from a head rush if I am sitting or laying down and get up too fast.

Side Effects - Psychological
Outside of the fear I already mentioned, one thing that has definitely changed in my life is that for the first time I think I am actually beginning to understand the concept of death. Having this scare has caused my to re-evaluate my priorities and rethink some of the ways I had thought for many years. I feel fortunate that my background in psychology and my personality have allowed me to absorb this all, but I shudder to think what it could have done if I was not so well grounded in things in my life.

More than anything else, perhaps, I have felt that for being a pretty bright guy, I was unbelievably stupid and obtuse. I even joked around with co-workers, telling them that I was a prime candidate for a stroke or heart attack. Of course, I was able to joke about it because I thought it would never happen to me because ... well ... because it just wouldn't happen to me. What a chump I was. I could have prevented this if I had taken it all more seriously.

Lesson for Today
Since I did begin with biblical references, it seems only fitting that there should be some type of  learning or spiritual objective to this post. I think that I can sum things up pretty succinctly:

1) Don't be a chump like me and think that it won't happen to you. It just might. Do what you need to do now!
2) Although we often hear and say that the most important thing is our health, sometimes we do not give our health it's due until we have to. I have changed -- I believe! I believe!
3) If you really want to do some serious reflection on your life, have a medical scare. You will be surprised at what you will learn and how it will change the way you think.

My best to everyone. Viva la vida!

Rocking the Home Games

Game two of my three-game home game week was on Tuesday night. This game, as I have mentioned previously, consists of several international students and computer techie types. I got the invite through my friend, Azi, who plays in the game with her husband, Mohammad. My first time at the home game I chopped second/third place money in the tournament and broke even in the wild cash game.

The tournament was unremarkable. The final three, in fact, were Azi, Mohammad, and me. I was the shortie. They usually chop when the final three are reached so that we can get to the cash games, but I wanted to take the sucker down. Azi had been running hot and had the huge stack. After she busted her husband, I told her I would come all the way back (down maybe 20-1 in chips!) and almost did. Unfortunately, I ran my suited K into K-Q, and that was it.

The cash game was really wild with this group of mostly loose players. People buy in for about $20-$30 with .05, .10, and .20 blinds. The raises, however, are way big for a game with this low buy in. People bet $1, $2, $3, ... with crapola. Unfortunately, I was getting zilch for cards and folded ... and folded ... and folded, until I finally got a hand: A-A! Of course, I was expecting to get my Aces cracked. I made a big re-raise pre-flop, which should have been screaming BIG HAND since I had been folding forever. I got two callers, however (one guy stayed in the pot with hopes of stacking the third player, Azi, who had a mountain of chips). The Ace on the flop told me that we were going to have fun. The turn was a second Queen, completing my boat. I had a feeling the Queen would pay off big time. It did, as Azi had a Queen in her hand. Suddenly -- boom, I hand a nice stack of chips. I got a few more decent hands and ended up with a tidy profit.

The final game was Wednesday night -- hosted by me with mostly softball teammates and a few other friends. We play an interesting mix of dealer's choice games including NL Hold em, Omaha, Five Card Draw, Follow the Queen, Black Mariah, Shit or Git, High/Low Chicago, Screw your Neighbor, ... There was plenty of drinking and plenty of laughing among friends. One player, Hollywood (nicknamed this because he is a professional singer and former actor), was the big winner. I ended up with a small profit -- perhaps the only other player on the plus side. More importantly, having da boyz over for a night of poker is a winner no matter what.

What to do this weekend? I am tempted to play in one of the tournaments in the Chicago Classic at Harrah's Horseshoe Hammond or hit the cash games there. The problem is the 2+ hour drive there and back, plus the wait in a registration line. I just might wait to see how lucky I feel.

Thanks for the read. May your monster hands hold!