Thursday, February 10, 2005

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Alright, let's get this thing back a rollin', shall we?

I played poker last night. I didn't lose. This should be on the breaking news page. I didn't win much, but I went to bed with more in my account than when I logged into Party Poker. I consider it a great victory, on par with Pvt. John Winger's almost single-handed defeat of the Czechs back in '81.

I finished third in a $20 SnG and I had to work extra hard to do it. No hands to ponder during the first couple levels, but it was clear the table was pretty tight, save for one bully. He was throwing his chips around pretty liberally and chipped up with blinds and limpers. I was simultaneously playing on a $25 NL table with much the same result. I don't think I'm going to do this any more. Here's why:

I finally get a playable hand--The Sisters--on the $25 NL table. I make it $2 to go one off the button. Two callers. Flop comes with 10-high. It's checked to me. I bet half the pot and take it down. While all this is happening, I get JJ in the SnG. I'm first to act in MP and I call? I didn't mean to call. But it wasn't that I hit the wrong button. I just spaced.

Much to my good fortune, no other players behind me, though SB completes. Flop comes with a king, but it's checked to me. I bet half the pot and take it down. Strange, eh? Nothing to do for 20 minutes on either table and I get almost the exact hands on both at the same time, with eerily similar results.


I fold another 10 hands or so in the SnG. We're down to seven and I get KsQs. First to act and one off the button, I minimum raise. Only the BB calls. Flop misses me completely, but--again--it's checked to me and I drag the pot with a T100 bet. Tight-weak group we have here. Except for the bully, who's pushed his way up to chip leader at around T2000. And he's out in 7th within the next two hands. Got caught on a steal and couldn't give it up, then lost with 99 to AKo.

I'm back around my starting chip count when I get respect again, raising with pocket 7s. Button calls. Only one scare card on the flop (a king) and I bet out, getting a fold. That kinda stuff never happens at Party. Okay, rarely.

The very next hand, I make a play I don't make very often. And I mean that in a good way. I guess because the table was so tight, I didn't think twice about folding my pocket 8s with a 3x raise directly in front of me. This is quite a breakthrough for me. Last week, this hand puts me out of the tournament.

The raiser gets re-raised all-in and calls. They show Ks and 10s, respectively. I pat myself on the back repeatedly.

Next hand, I haughtily fold KJo. "My starting hand club has become exclusive!"

Unless, of course, I'm in on a flop at the $25 NL table when it's my turn to act in the next SnG hand. In which case, I'll call UTG with Q7o. An instance of complete brain dead-ness. I guess I thought I was the BB and went looking for the check button in the middle there. Whatever. Miraculously, I get to see a flop, but it bricks and I just gave away T100 because I'm an idiot.

Now I'm forced by the cards to sit on my hands for some time. I make one steal attempt, but the BB calls and bets out on the flop, so I muck. I'm all the way down to T495 with six players still in and blinds set to go up to 150/300 the next hand. Mercifully, I find A9o on the button. Thankfully, I'm first in and push. SB folds and BB takes his entire time bank to call. All I can say for his decision is a) thank you and b) well, he DID have two live cards. Those cards being 8 and 5 off-suit. I made aces full of kings.

Which sets up the very next hand and what I like to call my Karnac Play of the Day. Folded to me and my 55. And my first instinct is I don't want to play them. Not a great hand six-handed. At minimum, a caller/re-raiser has two overcards. I've only got 900 chips and a minimum raise takes 600, so it'd have to be all-in. But, and here's where I make my first cogent thought about it, I couldn't call a re-raise with my 55, so I'm just gonna toss it.

An all-in right behind me, a call from the BB. Pocket sevens and pocket tens. Both make sets. Down to 5.

I lose my big blind the next orbit, but steal it right back. I fold until my next BB and I get to see a flop with J9o. God Bless that flop which comes jack high and my bet wins it. I'm now barely in 3rd chip position, but still just more than 4x the BB.

I happily fold my A8o to a raise and re-raise the very next hand. A9o makes a straight to suck out on a set of jacks. That's now the third hand of the tourney I'd have gone out on if I had played a trifle more loosely ("trifle more loosely" being my euphemism for the crappy way I played quite a few hands last week).

I manage a steal, but am still the short stack on the bubble. I fold twice, taking me into the money when pocket 9s gets corrupted by two bigger pairs on the board, giving KQ the pot and me third place. I'm forced to push straightaway with A4s and take show money when KQo pairs the latter.

And I'm elated. Well, maybe elated is too strong a word. Satisfied, I guess. I zero back in on my $25 NL table, find myself up $15 (that table also turned out to be tight-weak and I stole some pots post-flop) and quickly take the money and run.


My little poker playing ban has not precluded me from staying knee-deep in my addiciton. I've been reading "Positively Fifth Street." The best possible recommendation I can give this book is that I've not slept on the train home the last 3 nights, for the first time in...oh...ever. It's just too good to put down. I feel like something of a dolt for not having read it earlier, but all the reviews played up the parallel tale of Ted Binion's murder so much that I was turned off. True crime is not my bag, baby. Which is a genetic anomaly since both my parents and wife are literally glued to Court TV 24 hours a day. "In Cold Blood?" Sure. "The Executioner's Song?" Okay. But that's where my interest ends.

Of course, the book is so well-written and the accounts of Binion's murder are expertly weaved into a more universal theme that compares/contrasts perfectly with the tournament. I'm enjoying every word of it. Perhaps more than if I read it before I started playing poker myself. The detail of the hands is excruciating. It's taken every ounce of my resolve to not let my eye wander down the page while in the midst of a hand. I literally feel his fear when he stares down Cloutier. Repeatedly.

I also picked up this book on my Sunday trip to the bookstore. Not the kind of tome that's up my standard alley, but my interest is definitely piqued. Anybody read it yet? I'd be anxious to hear what you thought.


I also watched a sometimes-riviting, sometimes-boring documentary on Sunday night: "Some Kind of Monster." Now, I'm a Metallica guy from way back. It wouldn't be stretching it to say they changed my musical life. I'd been very much a Top 40 guy
all along until a couple of my buddies introduced me to the early Judas Priest, Scorpions and Iron Maiden stuff. I liked it. It mixed well with the testosterone that had begun percolating in my teen-age body. But Metallica...well, that was a whole different animal.

We'd taken to going to our local record store and picking out "heavy metal" albums based on an imperfect system of the coolness of the band's name and how menacing they looked in the jacket photos. The first we bought was Exciter's "Heavy Metal Maniac." The second was Venom's "Black Metal." The third was Metallica's "Kill 'Em All."

By the time I heard the break in "Four Horsemen," it was over.

Has taken its toll on you
The lines that crack your face...


For the rest of the '80s, speed/thrash/heavy metal was all I listened to. Slayer, Death Angel, Vio-lence, Kreator, Possessed, Death Angel, Helloween, Celtic Frost, Sacrifice...and on and on.

Of course, Metallica continued to crank out albums, though not fast enough for any of us. Then came the "Black Album," which has its inspired moments, but is not, at its heart, the Metallica I love. Then the mediocre "Load," and the largely unlistenable "Re-Load." Then WAY too much publicity whoring by Lars culminating in the Napster money grab. Suffice to say, the Metallica star had fallen in my life.

Yet, they still have a hold on me. I actually bought St. Anger. And I even find moments in that album where their genius shines through (the opening to "Some Kind of Monster" for instance), but the production sucks and the overall tone is that of an aging band chasing a (nu-metal) trend.

Regardless of ALL THAT, I was very much looking forward to seeing the documentary. I was mildly disappointed. To be sure, there are inspired moments: a teary Dave Mustaine unburdening his weary soul, his years of torment, to an uncomfortable Lars; Lars' "fuck" speech to an unmoved James, the obvious pain of the fired Jason Newstead (and Hetfield's explanation: "My reaction to hold on to things I love is to choke them to death") and the unintentional humor of the therapist acting like an actual member of the band.

However, as a documentary, it fails. The biggest change isn't even seen onscreen. Pre-rehab James Hetfield is an angry, disheveled bastard. Post-rehab James Hetfield is thoughtful, clean, even, by his standards, verbose. But the viewer never gets to see the profound changes. He's gone. He comes back. He's different. We don't get the process, the breakthroughs, just the before and after. Furthermore, his return sparks a great deal of friction which is never really explored to its depths. We know WHY it's happening, we just never get to see any resolution. We see the band seemingly happy and with a new bassist, but the issues raised by James' return are never dealt with to any degree of finality.

Oh, and Kirk Hammett is a weepy sycophant with nothing even remotely interesting to say.

For the sake of argument, here are my top 5 Metallica songs:

1. Seek and Destroy
2. Blackened
3. The Four Horsemen
4. Master of Puppets
5. Creeping Death
5a. Eye of the Beholder

My list. I can cheat.


Hearty congratulations to anyone who made it all the way through this. I wonder if there is another human in the universe who could possibly be interested in each of the topics. I'd say it's 9/5 against.


At 2:10 PM, Blogger poker_ghost said...

You lost me when you started talking about Winger and the Czech Republic.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Julio said...

I'm with Ghost... sorry dude... you're at that rambling age. ISoP

I was planning on picking up Blink this weekend. But I won't start reading it until I am done with two other books. Did you see the link to an interview with Gladwell I posted to on the board?


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