Saturday, April 28, 2007

Oh, Yeah, About THAT Story...

It was just before my recent week-plus of personal travails that Jason Spry, one of my two bosses over at the Kick Ass Poker site, popped in on Internet Messenger. "One of our league players said we got a nice write-up in Poker Pro Magazine," said Jason. "Four or five paragraphs."
I was flattered, of course, and curious, because I didn't know nuttin' about it. But between the traveling and the medical stuff I was only able to check into one bookstore, the internationally acclaimed Book World in Stevens Point, WI (which didn't have the magazine), and the current issue also wasn't available on line.

I was at the local mall and remembered to check for it today. Wow. Thank you, Jennifer. Those were very, very nice words.

For backfill, Jennifer Newell wrote a "Best of the Blogs" piece which has just appeared in the April 2007 issue of Poker Pro. A handful of blogs are highlighted there, and Jennifer saw fit to mention both of my blogs --- this and the KAP blog --- along with luminaries of the blogging world such as Iggy, Wicked Chops and Pauly. Screen grabs, even!

Wow. I'm flabbergasted and honored. I'm also getting quite the kick out of the people who must have stopped by during this last week and a half of unexpected wordus interruptus and found not much going on. Oh, well. Them's the breaks. Also mentioned were most of the PokerWorks gang, Lou Krieger (who regularly gets hate mail just for giving me a leg up in the poker-media world) and Michael Craig over at FT.

I'm kind of surprised that the PPA finance thingy reared its head again, as Jennifer mentioned the KAP pieces from a few months back when the PPA was being a tad niggardly with its financial reports. Truth be told, I wasn't asking or demanding that the PPA publish that stuff because I thought that I or KAP was big enough or important to ask for it; I was merely adding my voice to the public clamor for that financial stuff to made available to the public. I bemoaned the lack of PPA response to me not because I felt personally entitled to it, but because I felt that promising a contact and not following through wasn't very professional, and that such an approach combined with the PPA's original reticence to make public those finances was a very strange combination for a non-profit concern seeking to win public favor.

I'm actually starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, the KAP posts played a tiny part in the PPA publishing its tax records. I don't know that it's true but I can't disprove it either, and it's not the first time I've seen a source point back to the KAP blog. For its part, I'll say that the PPA is doing much better these days, and I'd like to acknowledge that publicly. They're learning.

It also brings up the whole particle-vs.-wave thing about not just writing about what's in the news, but affecting it. Any writer worth the proverbial tinker's damn carries that fear --- writing on an issue and somehow causing a change, and then learning after the fact that it's been written wrong. If I ever lose that fear, I'll quit writing. I'm not afraid to make mistakes; I'm afraid to wield my admittedly sharp tongue without any regard at all for the consequences. I have huge ego. I have ego not quite huge enough to pretend that other people can't be hurt.

But back to Jenn's piece. I hope that any readers bouncing here after seeing that article will go back to my January/February archives and read the whole ' domain' series, which is by far the best stuff I've published here. Were that I had something of that scope to publish here every month, but unfortunately, that was an unusual combination of a whole lot of research and a story too hot and scary for any traditional poker outlet to touch. I suppose it paid off in notoriety and added readership, but it's also left me searching for other good stories or a follow-up for the folks that come by here. I don't do a lot of non-poker stuff, and my one recent poker excursion, at a Bodog limit table, was just ugly*.

(*Oh, really ugly. Down 45 BB's, most courtesy of an ultra-bleeping donkey who cold-called with any two suited from any position and absolutely could not miss. On the last big hand where he broke me, I had top two pairs and he parlayed his 9-2 soooted from UTG into trip deuces on the turn. Of course I raised pre-flop and three-bet the flop, because I knew His LAGgy Donkey Assness would play anything. But when someone like that runs hot, there's simply not much you can do. So much for a return to the tables.)

I do have quite a bit more material from that story that I never used, and of course, the whole nasty legal mess is still unfolding. Maybe there'll be a book's worth of story when all is said and done. I've heard that Federico Schiavo, the story's central character, is either (a) a really nice guy or (b) a litigious sonuvabitch, neither of which prevented me from writing the story in the first place. I didn't care, and I didn't have anything against him when compiling the story, though he doesn't come out very well as it unfolds. Besides that, most poker folks walk on tippy-toe when it comes to anything concerning Harrah's or the World Series of Poker. I'm no fan of monolithic mega-corporations in general, either. Harrah's came out of it as something akin to a victim, in an odd sort of way. Harrah's did do its own share of screw-ups, and when I saw those, I pointed them out as well. No free passes.

That said, Harrah's has been aware of the story for a good two months or so and they haven't sued me yet, either, which means they either verified the facts for themselves or they ran a credit report on me and gave it up as a lost cause.

Jenn referred to me as "an ideal example of the kind of journalistic integrity that all writers strive to maintain," and that's one of the highest compliments I've ever received. It's too much compliment, really, because I try to have high standards but I get lazy and stupid at times, just like most other writers. I've also done lots and lots of hackwork, and that is what it is. I'm often laughing as I'm cranking the very worst of it out, and on more than one occasion my mind has wandered to the apocryphal tale of Stephen King's explaining that he once tried to write a porn novel, and finally threw the thing into the fire after he reached the point where he had two lesbians perched together atop a birdbath. I'm even going to be lazy and not go check to make sure I've got the details exactly right, just so some King fan can correct me if I screwed it up.

Still, if there's any reason that this and the KAP site have established a small but stable fan base it's that I've tried to write what's on my mind. I also try not to write when I don't have anything to say, so it can be a week or so between posts, followed by three of four all in a big hurry, as is happening now. I write this stuff for free and I try to respect the people who invest their time in visiting, so that when I do post something, readers can know that I'm just not barfing up pixels to watch them dance on the screen. If you demand a post a day, demand elsewhere. Ain't gonna happen here on my watch.

The same quality baseline goes for the KAP blog, which is why I'm fond of the thing. It's not a huge dollar gig for me, but I have, for the most part, carte blanche on what appears there. We've only had major concerns over content twice in fourteen months, one of which I disagree with this to day, and another where I went off on about three-quarters cock. (Northwoods upbringing, there.) That's a pretty good track record, given that the site was supposed to be edgy and distinctive without pissing off too many of the advertisers. The job was also the first paying work I had inside the poker world, so I'm loyal to Brad and Jason for that, too.

The article was cool, though, and a very nice egoboo at the end of a damn tough week. Thanks again, Jennifer, and thanks to Poker Pro, too.

So Nice of Tina to Write...

Tina, the Queen of Hearts at, sure has as an interest in my welfare. Else how could I explain this?

Even the online sites are noticing that I haven't played much poker lately. It's not that I don't want to, dammit... I mean, I haven't even made the Wheatie in a month, I've missed the last two KAP online league events, after running deep in the two previous ones, and as for the other blogger events, those are but a dream. I haven't even heard Lou and Amy's webcast show (or any of the other Hold'em Radio offerings) for a month and I always enjoy being part of the chat-room peanut gallery.

But I still get a kick out of mailings like these. Umm, that's a nice figure there that they chose to include right in the e-mail --- thanks a lot for that, --- and suffice it to say that I haven't forgotten about it; it's a good chunk of my online bankroll. I'm also going to venture a guess that Tina's never heard of me, much like the 'personal' letter I got from Mike Sexton last week begging me to join the PPA.

Ummm, considering I've got lots of money there and I'm still working on one of those sizeable, neverending re-deposit bonuses myself, why would I want to put even more money in there right now? I've got enough to play any of the ring games or tournaments that I'd want to, several times over. The rest of you, though, feel free to use the code. As for me, I'll just marvel again at software filters applied in a way-too-broad manner. You'd think they'd be happy with the fact that those funds are just sitting there in the virtual bank, generating virtual interest for someone who isn't me. But no, they want the rake, too.

I'm not cranky about this, by the way. I just think it's funny stuff. Don't worry, dear, I shant desert you....

Seriously, I do like the guys, and I'm pretty sure they know that. Still, the 'loss retention' portion of modern-day marketing (which this is a part of) is somethimg I've never fully understood. Seems to me that if people were actually angry to leave something and move elsewhere, that throwing extra dollars at those customers is akin to sending good money after bad.

I remember getting a string of e-mails from a 'VIP rep' at Royal Vegas Poker a year or two ago, each inquiring why my play had fallen off so drastically or stopped entirely or whatever it was, and this was way before RVP said they wouldn't accept customers from Bouvet Island or wherever it is that I live. After getting five or six of these e-mails, I finally responded and listed the reasons why I departed, which basically amounted to the gutting of every value-added program for my price range that was available on the site. I used to multi-table the low-limit games at .50/1 and 1/2 and 2/4 there like there was no tomorrow, which one day turned out to be true.

So I sent that e-mail, finally. Never got a reply, nor a thanks for taking the time to respond. That alone might have been enough to win some return business. But I guess the personal touch on the RVP letters was faked, too.

Which tends to be a really bad thing. Just because a practice has widespread acceptance doesn't make it right, does it?

More Proof Shakespeare Had It Right

Lol. So sick. It reminds me of the joke that goes something like you've got a gun with two bullets, and you've got Hitler, Pol Pot and a lawyer to choose from. The punchline, of course, is that you shoot the lawyer twice, just to be on the safe side.

Thanks to the BARGE mailing list for the sad laugh of the day.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Still Waitin' on the WSOP

Heh. Like watching water boil. Yes, I plan on being there. No, I don't know exactly when, yet, or for how long. Three days? Six weeks? I've got no less than four partial deals for writing stuff in the process of being worked out, so that's not the problem, but I'm still waiting for stuff to shake free so I can make my hotel commitments and the like.

Ideally, I'd like to drive out there, but whether that plan will work remains to be seen. It's very rare these days when I can arrange for a contiguous period of 48 hours without being online and when I don't have a pressing deadline, though that has some nice rewards, too.

As with yesterday, when I put in a lo-o-o-ng day after taking Wednesday off for that surgery. The anasthetic turned out to a valium-morphine mix (and was rather yummy!), but between that and the Vicodins for after I was pretty much out of it for more than a day.

Back to poker.

Will I be able to play in any of the smaller WSOP events? That was once a dream, but it's looking a bit more remote, just from the time factor involved. I'll likely be too busy with other projects to be able to commit to a long strecth at the tables myself, though, of course, that's optimistic planning. Chances are I'd get in and get bounced relatively quick. I probably will have the chance to play a couple of those crapshoot $160 super-sats, so I may have a lammer or two if I'm fortunate enough to win one.

More serious poker discussion shortly. I'm still in catch-up mode.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Off Non-Pokering for a Couple of Days

I expected a bad call some time during the day today and received it; my parents had had to put their dog, Breaker, to sleep today. He wasn't that old of a dog but had always had weight problems, and the cancer on his left rear leg grew aggressively and went deep into the poor guy's muscle. My sister and I had purchased Breaker for my parents several years back, after they'd been yearning for another dog after their previous dog, Bingo, passed after a long, full life.

I'd had to help my mother put Bingo down myself at the end, a very tough day and a drive of its own I'll never forget. I couldn't be there this time around with Breaker, though I was up there on the weekend to say a final sad, brief goodbye. One look and I pretty much knew that the dog had no chance, and he had other health issues as well. His quality of life was slipping away, and some things, I guess, are just meant to be.

I spent some time over the weekend with old friends, too, in a once-a-year thing that just fell this time around on the same weekend. But my mood was off a bit this year, for a whole lot of reasons.

Being on the road put a damper on my personal blogging stuff, too. I was able to keep up with almost all of my contractual obligations while up in northern Wisconsin, but my heart wasn't in it. And playing poker? Pfft that for a few days while other things have precedence. It's been twelve days since the last time I actually played a hand of poker, just from being too busy. Yesterday and today I've been playing catch-up on a few other things, and in the morning I go to the oral surgeon myself. I've never been under general anasthesia in my life and I'm not looking forward to it.

Rest easy, Breaker. Godspeed.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Gotta Love the Full Tilt Rail-aments... Just Ask McManus

Along about 10:30 or 11:00 pm on a Sunday evening is the time I usually fire up Full Tilt and Poker Stars to check on the big Sunday tourneys for the online wrap that appears on Mondays at It's been a few weeks since anything oddball has happened, despite the fact that I've seen several plays at the final tables of these major tournaments that I'd be embarrassed to make in an event with a $10 buy-in. Don't ask for examples... just trust me on that one.

It'd been a while since I'd seen any of the 'red names' make a deep run in the big weekly event at Full Tilt, and that's where this post is headed. This being the monthly $500 buy-in version, there were deeper stacks to start with and more tables in play when I logged in, perhaps a dozen. Two were red-lined. One held Lee Watkinson, the other Jim McManus. McManus?? Wasn't he doing something with Poker Stars last summer at the WSOP? Well, maybe, though he's certainly one of the "Friends of Full Tilt" now, though he's still playing with a generic avatar, a la David Chiu. (McManus was using a pirate, whereas Chiu has used that goofy monkey thing every time I checked.)

Anyhow, McManus, like every famous name on FT, drew quite the railbird action as he moved deeper and deeper into the money. And, just like Baptists and Mormons banging on your door, the railbirds had to take their cheap shots. With McManus that means bringing up the Ellix Powers episode, from the WSOP a few years back, with the famed "He called me with jack high!" utterance from a reportedly drunk Powers on one storied hand.

Anyhow, some railbird now reports that Ellix is again homeless and living under an L.A. overpass, and takes to working McManus over for this. (Whether it's true or not I have no freakin' idea.) The following is an example, before McManus stopped responding to the trolls:

pokerscience (Observer): i saw him sleeping
under a bridge in los angeles
Jim McManus: me and ellix smoked a peace pipe
thre years ago
pokerscience (Observer): ellix powers sleeps under
the 405 - 10 intersection in los angeles

After this, the pokerscience dude got progressively nastier and started actively rooting for someone at the table to take McManus down. Like if it's true about Powers, it's somehow McManus's fault? I expect this stuff when I sweat these tables, but I gotta admit, it'd be nice if just once the collective rail on Full Tilt could show a bit of class and maturity. Why the site doesn't stifle these morons remains beyond my understanding.

As for McManus, he took an ugly beat to go out around 40th, if memory serves. He got all the money in with A-Q versus someone who made a move on him with A-4, then watched the board come 10-2-J-J-4. Ugly.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Busy Not Playing

Any full-time writer working in a niche market can tell you what happens as you work more and more within that area: Your time for actually participating in the activity that drew in drains away in an inexorable manner. Such is the way it is with me and actually playing poker at the moment, due to these extra responsibilities I can't quite publicize yet. Then toss in a weekend drive up to my parents' home in north central Wisconsin for Easter, and playing poker just hasn't been in the mix.

I snuck in three tourneys last Wednesday evening. Two SNGs, where I took a fourth and a fourth, and an 11-player private tourney where I took another fourth. So that was enough poker for the night anyway.

Tonight I finally had a moment to try again, and things are at least a little better. Tried one of those $15+1 turbo SNG thingies on Bodog that I was crushing a couple of months back but had gotten away from recently. They changed the format about the time the NETeller fracas occurred, I went on a bit of a cold run, and just didn't get to play things much for a while. Tonight, I finally won one of the things after six or eight tries without much success.

And I'm finishing up another small semi-private tourney, too. Wednesdays on Bodog the Kick Ass Poker league normally runs, with buy-ins alternating between $10 and $20. (Psssst: If you wanna play, the secret password is 'lefty.') Tonight, I came back from dead cards and an ugly beat in the middle to catch a couple of big hands and run to the money, and we're still battling for 1st and 2nd as I write.

But as for the poker world? I have just literally tons of stuff going on. The odds on me making at least a cameo appearance at the summer blogger fest are improving, though I'm very unlikely to make an all-out-drunk, blow-the-weekend affair out of the matter. We'll see on that one.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Speaking with Tongue

I should have a major good news announcement in a few weeks. On the other side, I'll also have to head off to the oral surgeon in a few weeks to have him slice out a piece of my tongue... one of those things were I had an old filling with a sharp edge that originally cut into some soft tissue, and over the years it's built up enough of a cyst to become bothersome.

Yes, I know, yucch. Oh, bad news, I won't be able to talk for a couple of days near the end of the month.

Oh, wait, that's good news.... :-)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Speaking in Tongues

You know that American-based e-wallet, now connected to a major online auction service, that pulled out of the online gambling market several years back? Well, for various and sundry reasons, I still possess a debit card drawn on that partiular business.

I was searching for a way to fund a poker account where I had a bit of a bad run lately, and that poker site uses a third-party intermediary not totally connected with the gambling industry. The process is to fund the intermediary account, then transfer that over to a poker account. Several sites now use variations on this method.

Anyhow, I decided to try using that debit card, just to see what would happen. I never have more than a few dollars in there, so it seemed like the prudent thing to do.

Worked like a charm.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

My Favorite Poker Blogs, Early 2007

Times change, as do opinions. Let's rip off Yahoo's "Doing the Nines" concept, and go with one peripheral commenter's view on what that person --- me --- views as the best poker blogs, right now, today. The views are totally independent and totally mine; some of the people mentioned are friends and/or colleagues of mine, but that does not play into how I put together the list. Some sites I would have included previously have recently slipped into self-indulgence and indifference, while some other, newer sites have hit their stride. The list includes a heavy skew toward the sites I find to be the best reads, which admittedly, probably gives short shrift toward some of the best strategy-based blogs on the Web. Not all the sites listed are always about poker, but each remains, at its core, poker-based.

My stuff's not eligible to be included, just because I make the rules. Despite that, I can dodge tildes, baby.

And now, in reverse-alphabetical order, just because those tailenders seldom get their due:

sippinwhiskeyandpoker --- TenMile's softly stated posts aren't always about poker, but they are invariably enchanting or heart-warming or provide a valuable insight into something the rest of us overlook. An underappreciated read.

Quest of a Closet Poker Player --- I value honest, no-pretense writing, which is why I'd rather enjoy the latest C.C. missive than those of a lot of blogs with higher Bloglines numbers. I wish I were as honest a writer as C.C. I'm not, though I do try my best.

Pokerati --- Dan Michalski's Austin- Dallas-based effort continues to add collaborators and grow an audience, but the very best of the posts come from Michalski himself. Sez me. Pokerati's scope of topics open for discussion outclasses 'most every other blog, and the site manages to hop from one spot to the next and stay fair and levelheaded, a not-easy task to achieve.

Mean Gene --- Here's another veteran blogger still churning out quality content. When Gene tackles an issue, you're not only going to get the argument, you're going to get the reason for the argument.

Lou Krieger's Poker Blog --- Another topic- and news-oriented blog from one of the industry's most respected writers. Lou remains relevant because he offers a steady, low-key outlook on the poker world. Lou's depth of knowledge of the poker world is something that his posts only hint at; the man knows his stuff.

Hard-Boiled Poker --- Short-Stacked Shamus's posts are always high quality. Shamus is one of the few writers who tries to deep-think his way through the happenings of the poker world, and his smooth writing style adds weight to his opinions, which are invariably well-researched.

Guinness and Poker --- Yeah, it's really named Party Poker Blog, but it's still just Iggy. Iggy's bullshit detector continues to work just fine, and his ubers, though scarcer of late, remain legendary. Iggy's at his very best when he does the "deep scour," sifing through sources far and wide for the tidbits the rest of us might miss. And those whacked-out photos....

Calistri's Corner --- The best of the womens' poker blogs, by one of the best poker writers in the biz, man or woman.

Bill's Poker Blog --- After a stretch where I probably wouldn't have put it near the top, Bill Rini's blog has made a 2007 resurgence. Bill is among the most topical writer/reporters in the industry, and also among the most knowledgable. Ignore what he says at your personal and financial peril.

Bonus Entry? An e-mail I received today from Tim Lavalli sez that the Party Poker-sponsored is undergoing a rebirth. That was a great site in its previous existence, so here's hoping the fire can be relit.

Honorable Mention --- The rest of you. Just for trying.