Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back on the H.O.R.S.E.

(Author's note: My opinions as expressed here are mine alone and -- just in case y'all were wondering -- should never be construed as being those of my employer.)

I'm back in the saddle, metaphorically speaking, having returned from five days in the southern Missouri Ozarks where I did not very damn much. Physical exertion on the one day of the trip my party went for a hike consisted of the two-foot climb up to the highest point in Missouri from the adjacent parking lot, followed by a fairly rugged 3.5-mile hike down to the nearby Mina Sauk Falls, which was more of a trickle in the summer heat. The falls was deserted except for us, as one might expect, proof that most people really don't want to work to view scenic attractions.

But this is a poker blog, most of the time, and so that topic comes up now. I was more or less beginning my vacation a week ago Tuesday night, and since NBC was in the midst of showing Olympic coverage which they'd already aired twice previously, I decided to channel surf, and stumbled upon ESPN's coverage of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event from the 2008 WSOP. I was usually working quite diligently during the overnight hours, and so watched very little of any final tables. In fact, I snuck back there into the ESPN feature area only once -- during the final stages of this event.

There was a small area behind the two tiers of "live reporting" seats where a handful of people with appropriate passes came and went, even during the wee hours. While Gene and Change and Logan and Pauly and a couple of other folks you'd recognize typed away up in front, I was just happy for an odd break in the schedule that let me wander in to watch for a bit. Gene was 100% correct in that the way it was shown on TV was somewhat different than the way it was viewed by the writers there, because the players' conversation does not carry even that few feet over to the reporting area. It's a dead zone for sound, likely designed that way.

As it was, it was a fine place to have a quiet chat with others who wandered by -- the usual suspects such as Gary Wise and Lance Bradley, off-duty tournament directors and WSOP officials and among the others, a WSOP dealer named Rich who may or may not have worked the start of the final table here. He didn't work the late stages, I know that much. The reason Rich warrants a mention is that the guy plays in the same home games in NW suburban Chicago that I frequent, a fact which I found hilarious and mentioned to TD Steve Frezer, then standing on my opposite side... who then promptly signed Rich up for his budding dealers list for WSOP-C Hammond in October. I travel 1,800 miles, sneak into a semi-private area to watch a bit of the H.O.R.S.E. final, and I'm standing next to a guy I play cards with. It's all about connections, dinja know?

What Gene said about "negative energy," though, was evident even to me. I walked in just before the scene where Scotty Nguyen waves his duck-taped beer bottle in the air, begging for service, the sight of which had me braying most loudly. I wondered why, knowing Scotty, that they didn't have a raft of his favored Coronas (or Michelob Ultras, I guess, per Mean Gene) already pre-taped for the occasion. Something else that struck me early on was the raw beauty of the Chip Reese Memorial trophy, positioned up on the presentation platform between and behind Nguyen and DeMichele. Photos don't do it justice.

The play, though, was odd, and that's seen plenty of coverage elsewhere. The aces-being-folded thing I saw and stared at and just wondered "What the hell?" One thing not commented on generally is that the blinds had moved up to the point that the seven-card games were "immediate danger" spots for both Lindgren and DeMichele; were they to mix it up in one of these in a hand that turned serious with multiple reraised streets, the hands would be, essentially, for their tournament lives. That doesn't change the play but adds context to what you might have read elsewhere.

Then there was the trophy presentation. Unless you were there, you've seen or heard nothing of this, but it took me back as much as anything else that I saw. There are only one or two brief glimpses of it edited in behind ESPN's closing credits, and so none of you were aware of Scotty's rambling, drunken acceptance speech. (Sorry, I saw it and I won't mince words.) I was far enough away to not be able to see if Scotty was crying or not, but he was doing things such as pointing to the sky while crying out, "Chip, I love you, man!" while weaving a bit, and such stuff that clearly wasn't suitable for airing. I concur with the general consensus that ESPN had its hands full with this one. I also think that Scotty was more blotto than most of us realized at the time. Most of that stuff seldom makes it into public sight. In this case, in retrospect, it was bound to.

The outcry over the episode and Scotty's subsequent public apology was something of a firestorm that I didn't foresee, not having really witnessed or grokked all of the buildup at the time. What I do remember hearing about the next night was Scotty touring the Amazon Room and handing out tips (or at least attempting to) to dealers at $20 a head, tournament officials, writers... hell, maybe even some of the hookers at the rail for all I know. Not me -- either accepting a tip or being a hooker at the rail, har-har-har. My first impression was that Scotty had blown off or forgotten to leave a tip in his excitement and/or drunken exhaustion from the long previous night, but I also have to wonder now if there wasn't some immediate image-repair work being attempted. I do not know... I merely wonder.

I also can't help but wonder about the accused lack of rules enforcement by tournament directors as seen on TV during that final. That's a topic for a future time, I think. Oddly enough, though I mentioned Steve Frezer (one of the overnight TDs) as being present there, he wasn't working that final. He'd been on some of that night's other events that concluded early, which is why both of us were in there watching in the first place. Same with TD Dennis Jones, if I remember right. But in a weird coincidence, Frezer would be involved in the situation with Phil Hellmuth some three weeks later, wherein Frezer assessed Hellmuth a one-lap penalty for continued berating of an opponent and was later overruled by WSOP higher-ups. I happened to walk by the feature area just as that Hellmuth blowup was taking place, though I only caught the tail end of the set-to. I can't offer any insight as to what was justified and what wasn't.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gone Fishin'

For real, y'all. I'll be spending the day doing some packing and other last-minute tasks, and then early tomorrow I'll be heading down to the Ozarks in southern Missouri for a few days of R&R. We'll be camping on the shores of Clearwater Lake, which looks to be a river flowage deep in the Mark Twain National Forest, and I plan on doing plenty of fishing, reading, shopping at little touristy crap shops, drinking, eating, walking, reading, and whatever else comes to mind over most of the next week. I'd thought about trying to sneak in nine holes of golf but don't feel sufficiently recovered from my surgeries as of yet for that. That part can wait for September.

What there's no plan for for the next week is poker. Online continues to be a battle during August, though every time I show up at some small live thing in the area I've been departing with winnings. Sunday was another example. I visited a good basement game in McHenry, which starts off every other weekend with a $40-buyin, one-rebuy/one-addon format. I was in for the whole $100 by the break, but held on, won a couple of key races late and walked away with a net profit of $420 after a two-way chop. It was really a net of $520 before I put $100 into an after-tourney $1/2 NL game and got my money in, $30 with a preflop reraise and my last $58 after a 9-8-6 flop, with A-A against a guy who called me both times with 6-3. Okay, he had a runner-runner flush draw, too; that's worth another out, I guess. As it was, a third six hit on the turn.

'Tis okay; I want the fool to keep sticking in his money bad like that. As for the remaining profits, it's extra vacation money, seems like.

Catch y'all on the flip side. I need a short break.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Poker is teh Suck in August

The problem with enjoying a huge run-up is that sooner or later, you know the other shoe is gonna drop. I had enjoyed a great June and July in the odd moments I had to play online, and with a double surgery on July 28th, I figured I'd have some time to play early in August.

August, though, really really sucks. To date I am being trampled by a giant, pointy-eared, gray-furred herd, though it's not like I didn't know a bad run would be coming. Still, when the poker gods turn against you, they turn against you harsh.

One highlight from yesterday had to be when I was playing three simultaneous turbo SNGs on Stars. I'd chipped up a bit in all three, but in all three I was still in need of a double-up to get into solid shape, about as the blinds were getting serious in each -- 75/150 or 100/200 across the board. In the span of 15 seconds, I managed to get all in pre-flop in all three SNGs, and was ahead in all three: A-K vs. A-J, A-K vs. A-Q, and K-K vs. A-K. Bam-bam-bam and I was on the rail in each.

Poker is at times teh shits.

Today's reminder that the game is fickle came when I finally played a PLO-8 event (out of pure frustration). I'd chipped up okay from my starting stack of 2,000, when I found A-A-Q-9 in the big blind. My expectation was that I could re-raise and isolate if the rest of the field behaved as I hoped.

It played out to perfection when a loose player in MP raised, and there was only one more caller, so I potted it. The original raiser, being an aggressive donk, four-bet it with exactly the crap I figured he'd try to isolate with, so we ended up all-in. Well, here's how the hand played out:

PokerStars Game #19594405427: Tournament #100869404, $20+$2 Omaha Hi/Lo Pot Limit - Level III (25/50) - 2008/08/13 - 18:01:26 (ET)
Table '100869404 20' 9-max Seat #3 is the button
Seat 1: minifeeder (4615 in chips)
Seat 2: chiefparkrow (2350 in chips)
Seat 3: MattyDaCobra (2315 in chips)
Seat 4: WillyWankr (3655 in chips)
Seat 5: ME (3380 in chips)
Seat 6: DMadmonks (3580 in chips)
Seat 7: res38 (2550 in chips)
Seat 8: G.C. King (2510 in chips)
Seat 9: spendypenny (2045 in chips)
WillyWankr: posts small blind 25
ME: posts big blind 50
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to ME [Ad Qc 9s As]
DMadmonks: folds
res38: folds
G.C. King: folds
spendypenny: folds
minifeeder: raises 125 to 175
chiefparkrow: calls 175
MattyDaCobra: folds
WillyWankr: folds
ME: raises 550 to 725
minifeeder: raises 1650 to 2375
chiefparkrow: folds
ME: raises 1005 to 3380 and is all-in
minifeeder: calls 1005
*** FLOP *** [Jh Th 2c]
*** TURN *** [Jh Th 2c] [3d]
*** RIVER *** [Jh Th 2c 3d] [Ah]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
ME: shows [Ad Qc 9s As] (HI: three of a kind, Aces)
minifeeder: shows [Qh Kh Jc 8c] (HI: a Royal Flush)
minifeeder collected 6960 from pot
No low hand qualified
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 6960 | Rake 0
Board [Jh Th 2c 3d Ah]
Seat 1: minifeeder showed [Qh Kh Jc 8c] and won (6960) with HI: a Royal Flush
Seat 2: chiefparkrow folded before Flop
Seat 3: MattyDaCobra (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 4: WillyWankr (small blind) folded before Flop
Seat 5: ME (big blind) showed [Ad Qc 9s As] and lost with HI: three of a kind, Aces
Seat 6: DMadmonks folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 7: res38 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 8: G.C. King folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 9: spendypenny folded before Flop (didn't bet)

I don't mind losing the hand, per se; I'm a favorite here but not hugely so. But did the poker gods have to give the donkass the royal flush on the river??

Ah, well. When things run bad they run very very very very bad. In another tournament at the same time I was graced by nearby royalty, two seats to my right:

"Hi, Oliver!"

Oliver went out when he got all the chips in ahead of yet another idiot who couldn't relinquish a draw against the odds, but rivered the needed card anyway. The same thing happened to me two laps later; if someone's missed a draw against me in the last two weeks, I don't remember it.

Then I tried to fire up Bodog tonight and received the following litany of software joy:

1) Software update ready -- please download software;
2) Software download hangs;
3) Re-start Bodog program;
4) Software update ready -- download software;
5) Software downloads and begins to install;
6) Client closes, but freezes my software in the process (I watch a pair of black kings go bye-bye in a Stars SNG);
7) Start task manager; manually terminate frozen installation process;
8) Restart Bodog program (try #3);
9) Software update ready -- please download software;
10) Software downloads and reinstalls;
11) Bodog client terminates and restarts (this is the normal way it works for this site on an upgrade);
12) Attempt to log on -- password not recognized;
13) Close and restart software -- attempt to log on -- password not recognized;
14) Close and restart software -- attempt to log on -- password not recognized;
15) Consider throwing laptop into wall;
16) Settle for rebooting laptop;

... (10 minutes later)

17) Start Bodog -- attempt to log on -- password not recognized;
18) Close and restart software -- attempt to log on...;
19) Program says "Logging on...";
20) Terminate program four minutes later after resigning myself to the fact the logon process has hung again;
21) Repeat steps 18, 19 and 20;
22) Repeat step 21;
23) Log on to online site at to verify password is okay -- it works just peachy-keen it does!
24) Repeat step 22;
25) Scream "Fucking Bodog!" loud enough for my neighbors to hear;
26) Remember it's August and I'm having a damn shitty month;
27) Resign myself to playing elsewhere for the rest of the night.

I do like Bodog lots, but I have to be honest; their software just ain't that great. This shit is an example why. Not only do I not dare run more than two Bodog tables before the software grinds to a halt, it also works very badly in conjunction with any other poker site or interactive app I'd like to enjoy at the same time. Goddam resource hog, the stuff is.

I play at Bodog in spite of their software. Good thing I like them. ;-)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Mail-strom

Maybe today I'll finally get more of my mail heading back to me and my apartment... not that that turned out to be a problem while I was off in Vegas at the WSOP.

I had arranged to have all my mail forwarded to a nearby friend's house during my trip west, and it turned out that because my trip was longer than 30 days, they insisted that I do an official change of address for the duration. Whatever; I'd live at that friend's house previously for a few months, so that part of it was no big deal.

The bigger part is, why bother? Upon my return, after seven weeks, I had received exactly six pieces of first-class mail at the new, albeit temporary address. Tons of important things were missing -- banks statements, bills, checks, all sorts of goodies. Until I made my next stop upon returning at my own apartment's mailbox, and found all that stuff crammed down inside.

Third-class mail does not get forwarded, but on the first-class mail, I estimate they actually sent less than 20% of the stuff forward. That's a new low for me in terms of experiencing first hand our postal service's incompetency. I'd file a complaint, but if they're really that bad, it's a totally wasted gesture.