Friday, February 29, 2008


The $5 nightly HORSE tournament on Full Tilt has become something of an obsession for me (ask Chad). I first played it for fun. Nothing else. And I played it like I was having fun, loose and carefree.

Of all the tournaments I play regularly, this one has the most smack talk. It's hilarious. Doesn't help that FT re-arranges the hole cards in the stud games, something people haven't figured out yet, so every loss turns into accusations of chasing and catching. When players talk about how awful others are, I usually type in something like, "Yeah, usually it's only pros in these $5 events." Which amuses me. Endlessly.

But along the way, I realized I had an edge in this format and became obsessed with beating it. I tightened up and made a couple runs. But not good enough. I hadn't moneyed, bubbling once, in about 12 tries. I've not written about the suckouts here, but good lord. Like losing a Razz hand to a guy showing 6655 when I had a made 7 on
5th. Yummy. Or the time I bubbled when I ran aces up into trips not once, not twice, but three times in the span of Stud and Stud8 rotations. Lovely.

Well, I didn't exactly "beat it," but close enough.

Smaller field than usual (usually gets about 170 runners) and I did blow a 3-1 chip advantage heads-up (though I got him all-in twice with the lead only to be run down, once on 7th). Still, I think I'm not obsessed any more.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Just when I thought I was out, y'all pull me back in. I decided a couple weeks ago to go on hiatus from the poker. Got a lot of good shit going on offline (as you may have noticed by my lack of posts; in fact, I've received two e-mails this week lamenting my sudden demise, but I assure you reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated). I'll tell you one thing, though. If I do ever hang it up, my last post WILL be that pic of The Rooster.

But Al and Co. have done it again and how could I not participate with all that swag. Hell, I even played The Mookie last night to regain a feel for blogger fields and tournament. My AA was cracked (in runner-runner full house style) by KQ and AJ was out-flopped by A4. Yep, now I remember. Par for the course.

But the dream remains. The liver? To be determined.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rock Bottom

I had to borrow a buy-in from this guy to play Saturdays With Dr. Pauly.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Love Letter

I look for you every morning. In my mind's eye. I see you in your writer chair. Or maybe sloughing, on your too-soft bed, dreaming away the idea of another workday. The opposite, that flurry of yours, whirring arms and legs of activity. Doesn't matter really where you are or what you're doing. As long as I know your face, see it clearly.

They ask me about you and, for a while, I demured. Some desire to keep you for myself, I said. Private. Where I can hold you and learn for myself. No outside influence. No flinging us wide open for commentary by the vox populi. It was more than that, though I could not recognize it at the time. Protection.

I've failed in love before. Spectacularly. Crash, burn, raging fires, critical wounds. Only natural that I'd be guarded. You know what I'm talking about. All that scar tissue. Closes us off, hardens those once gaping disappointments and steels us against the folly of love, the surrender of self, the daunting spectre of trust. The kids, too. Raises the stakes.

So what I told them was nothing. Not to be disingenuous, but because I didn't know why I was so drawn to you. Why. I had to find out.


Self-preservation works two ways. My poor heart, of course. Broken and kicked and pissed on. Obvious one. More important though, the rest of me. This life of mine, rituals I've cemented in my days and nights. Superficial stuff. Coping mechanisms and denial, what I think of me. Really think, those Not Pretty insecurities that gurgle beneath the cheery veneer.

If I let you see all of me, will you stay? You'll be the first.

It was difficult for us. Stops, starts and then what seemed the end. I wondered what I did wrong, where I'd failed. I wanted to shut it down before I leaked any more. Summon the sentrys and pull up the drawbridge and wallow again in the status quo, the careful barriers I've built around my doubt. And then, at the last minute, one final speculative note.

It was a turning point for us and, since then, we've poured forth, sometimes in a rush, others in a trickle, but always something meaningful. And I began to grasp what I couldn't earlier. Why.


The list is easy to start. Your guileless smile, intellectual tenacity, commitment to your son and your craft. You inspire my words. Inflame my fantasies. Melt my cynicism. I could love you for those alone.

You've given me so much more, though. A gift that I didn't know I needed; or did, but couldn't admit. You've aroused in me energies long dormant. Not just from my two years in the post-divorce wilderness. I was aimless long before that--ten years, twenty--sated by the comfort of a bed and a paycheck, by soggy, spirited nights and the escape of frivilous laughter. A static life of scattered satisfaction and an absence of fervor. A fatal equilibrium that I routinely ignored by directing my mind in purposeless pursuit.

All of which is anathema to you. If we do not challenge ourselves, how can we hope to accomplish anything of value? You pointed at me and forced me to confront these truths even though I didn't want you to see them. Ripped open the scars until I bled and life pumped forth. You loved me in spite of my dawdling spirit, that snuffed spark I lost long ago, so long that I don't even know why it went out.

Yet, somehow, you saw it, cajoled it to a flicker, to where I could feel it, my body on fire with it.


The flame is undeniable in you. Passion laid bare until you're sick, exhausted, with it. It's what really brought me to you. All those traits I admire, the ones that I lack. My yin. Who reaches out and pulls me closer, attraction to attachment to alliance. Making us both stronger, revealing more of each other, of ourselves.

I love you. Thank you.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

How I Did It: Bullet Points Version

* Arrive home and log-in to Full Tilt. Tourney been underway for 17 minutes already. I hadn't won any hands in my absence.

* Notice there are more than 5300 people in this muzzachunkin' thing. Assume a large percentage of them are morons. Resolve to find morons and abuse them like a West Baltimore crackpipe.

* Win first big hand at 20/40 level by sniffing out a bluff. A poorly-conceived one. On flop of Q98, I was check-called by the SB. I had J9s. When a Q fell on the turn, he led into me, which made NO sense and I put him on a naked J or T. And here's where I made a play I make rarely. I just called, setting up a possible further bluff on the river. It was a ten. Yahtzee! He bet the pot and I put him all in (he had but T500 behind). He had 75o.

* Hang around the T6000 mark for the rest of the first hour, winning and losing small pots.

* Jozy Altidore scores a World Class goal.

* Go completely card dead in Hour Two and am down to T4000 before I start picking up some hands. Am up to T5000 when I re-raise shortie UTG from the SB, holding TT. He calls. I check the flop, he pot commits himself and I bust him with a flopped boat (T22) v. his AQ. Scurvy and Otis pop up on the rail and I am both honored by their presence and glad I could show them how to properly play a flopped boat.

* Make a move in Hour Three when I simply smooth call an LP raise with AA in the SB. Greed, baby. Check-push a pretty benign flop (Q74 rainbow) and he calls with 6c5c. Faaaaaaaaade. Eight outs no g00t.

* Some steals with crap work; some steals with crap unsuccessful. Some weird hands. One awful player two to my left with biggish stack and he's giving it away at an alarming rate. I never do get a big shot at him, but for a single hand. I raise with 55. He calls on button, as does BB. Flop is 9d8d2x. I like it and prepare to c-bet when BB pushes. Nearly 6K bet, which is close to pot-sized, about half my stack. I'm pretty sure I'm ahead of him, but goddamn if the shitty big stack is not still left to act and god knows what he's holding. I reluctantly fold. Big stack calls. Kd7d for pusher (putting him statistically ahead of me); QcTC for Big Stack. Yes. QcTc. Presto would have held. Don't hate my fold. Don't want to marry it either.

* Fastest bubble in history of tournament poker pops. We played one hand-for-hand hand and 8 people busted during it. Mobneys! Bubble Boy had a handle something like el_imbicile. Who am I to argue?

* The Big Hand. Open-raise from button. I push with 88 in the BB (I have him covered by 6K). He calls with AJ and I win the race, taking me to T28K.

* Hang out around there for a while, going down to 22K, up to 33K. Feeling mighty comfy. Good mix of patience and aggression. Blinds are at 600/1200/150 and I get AA. EP raise to 5K and change, LP call, easy push for me with an M of 5-ish. EP insta-calls with JJ. Flop comes J99. I throw things.

* Realize I forgot to eat dinner and that maybe that's why five Long Hammer IPA's had such an enduring and tenacious hold on my bloodstream.

* Pass out.

* Have dream about Chris Partlow. Again. Getting weird.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Drunken Suckout Makeout Tilt

I don't like to brag, but my game's been pretty tight lately and I'm kinda drunk. A 12th in the $28K and an 8th in Midnight Madness the last couple weeks have restored in me some much-needed confidence in my tourney game.

Which is why I bought into FTOPS Event #1 tonight though my bankroll protested and flung poo at me.

I finished 344 of 5319, which was good for a cash and a boost of self-worth and I'm happy about that. Except for going out with AA v. JJ.

Because I hadn't made a wrong decision all night. I won one big hand on a race (pushing with 88 from the BB over a button raise; he had AJ. No good), but otherwise, I got my money in well ahead and extracted good value from my hands.

And I'd have been a top 50 stack if AA held.

Regardless, I'd totally make out with a good 75% of my railbirds. Thanks, gang.

On Perfection

Perfection, and the pursuit thereof, is a whore. I know.

My senior year in high school, our soccer team was favored to win both league (the toughest league in Northern California by a substantial margin) and North Coast Section championships. We'd accomplished the former my junior year, but lost 1-0 in the Final of the latter. We returned seven starters and started nine seniors, six of whom, including your truly, had twice won California State Championships with our club team.

We were kind of a big deal.

Through 17 games that senior season, we were undefeated, 16-0-1, with the lone blemish coming from a non-league draw with defending Central Coast Champions and regional powerhouse Bellarmine Prep. We had not even been scored on in our first seven games, had given up but a single goal in nine league games, winning all of them.

And we were a wreck. Because all anyone talked about was going undefeated. Our classmates, parents we saw at the grocery store, opponents. It was not like we hadn't handled pressure before. We had experience in dozens of high-profile games. But this was different, because anything short of a Section Title would have been, for us, failure. We'd all wanted to win it since were were ten-years-old and this was our last chance. Now, this extra burden of "perfection" had been heaped on our shoulders.

Our next game out, we drew 0-0 with our most bitter rival, Foothill, at home. We were outplayed and lucky to escape with the point. At practice the next day, tension was high and our coach, normally a mild-mannered Xs and Os guy threw one of our stars out of practice. He'd say later, "I was gonna can him."

Then we lost. To a team not nearly as talented to whom we ceded the first 30 minutes and two goals (the only game all year where we allowed more than one). We stormed back, assualted their net the entire second half, but only pulled one back. And we were devastated. Our coach reamed us on the bus home. Reamed us in the locker room. And we were unable to even raise a voice because everything seemed over.

We had four days until our next game and a funny thing happened. We could breathe again. That goal of perfection was gone and we returned our minds to the real goal. Later, our coach would talk about it in the paper, the transformation and the pressure. How we were just high school kids and dealt with "grades and girls and cars and money" and that because we were assumed to play at such a high level naturally, he was treating us by an unfair standard.

He was a smart guy.

For the rest of the season, he eased off the pedal. He made up with the star he threw out. Our practices were nothing but glorified recess. I mean, we'd been in the program nearly four years. We played soccer year-round. It's not like we needed work on fitness or tactics. So, for the last two weeks of the regular season, we fucked off.

We won our last four league games. We won the league at 12-1-1. And with the NCS tournament looming in a week, our Coach gave us four days off.


We went into the tournament loose, stormed through the early rounds (which were never much of a problem) and found ourselves in the Final against...Foothill. Our bitter legue rivals. The team who had beaten us in last year's Section Final.

This was the last game I'd ever play in high school. For the trophy I wanted most in my whole fucking life. And I knew exactly what a loss would mean. Failure. Yet...

The minute the final whistle blew in our victorious semi-final, I got this feeling. I'd always had nerves before Big Games, but never anything debilitating. I had none of that this time. I was, in a word, excited. I could not wait to get started. I knew we were gonna win. My Dad asked me for a prediction and I said, 4-0. A preposterous score, but not one I felt was bravado. I. Just. Knew.

It wasn't 4-0, though it could have been. We scored 70 seconds into the game. We hit the bar once, the post twice and their goalie stood on his effing head. But it was about the most comfortable 1-0 win in a Final that you could have. We destroyed them. Dissected them. Our goalie made one save, a lazy looper right at him. That was it.

I've been convinced, from that day, the result, our attitude, our belief, would have been different had we come into that match, that tournament, still undefeated.

Which brings us to the Patriots. It was obvious to me that they'd been feeling that extra pressure for weeks. They edged some mediocre teams, needed lucky breaks to beat Baltimore and Indy. Their talent edge carried them, as well as their ability to make the key plays, a characteristic of their team all season long. But that pressure dulled their edge. You could see it in their body language, in the way they abandoned their running game in the Super Bowl, allowing the Giant front four to pin their ears back. Illegal procedure penalties, more mistakes.

They knew that 18-0 meant fucking nothing if they didn't win #19. Their entire legacy depended on that single game. I guarantee their practices weren't light and happy. I'm certain the pressure valve wasn't eased, but tightened. They were all business, all grim faces, and all it took was one shred of doubt to topple their fantasy.

I'm not one for schadenfreude (except in the case of Jason Giambi). I even allowed, without rancor, that over the course of the season, Tom Brady had become a rightful peer of Joe Montana and anyone who knows me knows there is no higher praise I can dispense. And while I rooted for the Giants, while I'm sorely tempted to buy an 18-1 t-shirt (mostly to rile the Massholes, not out of disrespect for the team), I empathize with the Pats (though Belidouche can suck it. Long and hard).

They might deny the spectre of perfection was to blame. I know different.