Monday, December 31, 2007

Young Bill Belichick

Watching the Pats-Giants tilt on Saturday night, AJ started screaming at the TV right after Moss caught the bomb to put New England up 29-28,

"You have to go for two! Go for two!"

I was simultaneously impressed that he instinctively knew the correct play and amused that I spent the next 10 minutes trying to explain to my mother why you go for two there.


AJ and I will be ringing in the New Year with candy, impromptu wresting and fried chicken. Everybody stay safe out there.

Happy New Year, Degenerates.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Jukebox Zero

"Uh oh. We're gonna lose another one."

Guitar Hero III topped AJ's letter to Santa. It was the first present he opened, knowing the contents. He expressed relatively minor excitement, compared to the frenzy of unwrapping his USC football jersey, which including a leaping, swirling dance that was a near facsimilie of his father's performance in the IP sportsbook, though this one included shouts of "John David Booty! John David Booty!"

Three days hence, he still hasn't played GHIII. I, however, have strapped on a toy guitar every night. That's not sad, is it? A 40-year-old man alone in his apartment cursing his inability to channel C.C. DeVille?

What if it is? I don't think I care.

The last video game I played with any interest was Galaga. The last game console I ever owned in my house--prior to getting AJ a Wii for his birthday--was Atari 2600. I've never played Tecmo Bowl or Mike Tyson's Punchout. Just wasn't my thing.

But this...this I can get into. The photo speaks for itself.

It's an homage. Part Slash (the smoke). Part The Edge (the knit cap). Part Homeless Person (the rest). I love the confused look on my face. Captures perfectly my befuddlement when starting to play.

I began on Easy. Get used to everything. In a vacuum, this should be right up my alley. I'm familiar with all the songs. I played in a band--okay, I was a drummer--that played dozens of live shows, including an opening slot at The Whiskey. I have rhythym.

Still took me 7 tries to master "Slow Ride." On Easy.

But it only took me 4 to conquer "Talk Dirty to Me." And the next three songs? Got 'em all on the first pass.

Check my shit out.

AJ's back tonight. He'll probably want to play NBA 08, which thoughtfully has a "Family Play" mode that allows him to pretty much score at will just by flicking his wrist. And that'll be fine. I think GHIII is a bit too difficult for him at this point and his failures will undoubtedly produce tantrums. From him.

So I hope he'll be content with watching Daddy make an ass out of himself on bang out "Mississippi Queen" at this point, instead of wanting to play himself. Will make for a calmer household and I won't have to send him to bed early so Daddy can get a turn.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


On Christmas Day, my father called me "elusive." I don't think he meant it as a compliment.

Dad was talking to my brother on the phone, while the latter was at the Christmas dinner table with all of us, the whole family, minus Dad. I didn't take the phone. I didn't call my father, either. Haven't, in fact, talked to him in months.


Christmas Eve, my mother said to me, "I hate that X is spending Christmas alone. You should invite her over for dinner."

Me: "No way."

"Why not?"

"She's not a member of this family any more."

"She's the mother of my grandchild."

"True. But that's it. She voluntarily gave up her privilege to be here. She got a new family instead."


My parents are vastly different people. I wonder how they ever came together. For Mom, family is paramount, the only thing that really matters. Dad grew up largely on his own and while he was mostly present in my childhood, physically, I mean, he wasn't really "there." More of an uninterested observer. Mom compensated for that, hovering, smothering.

My Dad bailed on me once, on all of us, in the same way he bailed on his first family. He married my Mom and his first wife, and the three sons from that union, became an afterthought, a check mailed the first of every month. They never spoke of my three half-brothers, never even informed me of their existence. I came about that knowledge another way.

I've never spoken or had any contact with any of them. I'm elusive.


Mom got Christmas presents for X. For my brother's ex-wife, too. And invited her in, with her new boyfriend, when they dropped off my niece and nephew on Christmas Eve. "I'll always love her," Mom said. "X, too."

Mom took Dad back after he had an affair when I was 12. He was gone for 8 months, mid-life crisis, driving around in a jet black Caddy and disappointing me. One Saturday afternoon during that period, he didn't show for my soccer game. For full time, I kept glancing at the sloping road, looking in vain for that black car descending toward the field. I don't remember who we played or what the score was. It didn't matter.

He came to pick up my sister one day. I was kicking a ball around the front yard with Craig Huft and Shane Fournier and I completey ignored him. Didn't say a word, a greeting, nothing. I felt ashamed. In front of my friends, there he is, my wayward father.

But Mom took him back when his girlfriend kicked him out. For us. Certainly not for her. I now know how she must have felt. Know that ache of betrayal and how you can't fix it, can only hope it disappears. Family. Mom wanted a family, as broken and irretrievable as it might be.


"Would you take her back?" my Mom asked me. We sat in the garage smoking cigarettes.

"Never," I said. Positive.

"What about AJ?"

"What good would it do AJ if his Dad is miserable?" I asked, a preface to a rapid-fire accounting of all the reasons why I find the idea preposterous. Impossible. The cheating is the least of it, as far as I'm concerned. "I couldn't live my life waiting to be walked out on again, Mom."


My parents finally did get divorced. Spent 16 more checkered years together. I know my Dad had at least one more affair. Found a postcard in his office desk when I worked for him one summer in high school. "I love you," it said. Some woman.

I never really got over him leaving. Even now. Respect was lost. It takes no courage to run. Stand and fucking fight. That ideal ingrained in me from then. Why I still don't understand what X did. A foreign concept.

I treated my father with barely disguised contempt. Night after night, he'd sit in his easy chair, mutely reclined, watching the TV as life whirred around him, a life in which he didn't participate except on a surface level. Even when my sister, at age 14, called my mother a "fucking bitch," he remained silent and rooted. When I walked behind his chair, I'd slap him on his expanding forehead, a schoolyard taunt, a challenge.

When my parents divorced, I felt relieved. Long time coming. The tension around them had become palpable. Best for both of them. Except Dad floundered. Called me crying on a couple occasions. Which I didn't understand. Nor welcome.

He moved away, first to Vegas, then up north, where he got married again in short order. Then I got it. He can't be alone.


I'm always angry when I get off the phone with my Dad. His self-absorbtion. Why I haven't called. Well...that and others. He forgot AJ's birthday this year. Came to L.A. last summer for his wife's granddaughter's college graduation, but didn't swing by to see his own grandkids.

My siblings tolerate this behavior. I don't. "Kenny doesn't take their shit," my Mom said on Christmas Eve. It was definitely a compliment.


I know why that is. I recognize too much of my father in me. Understand his motivation because I've felt it myself. Flight. Chuck everything and start over. We all have that urge from time to time, right? Clean slate, somewhere else. Embrace something new and reduce the past to a check on the first of the month. It's my identification with that impulse which arouses such distaste. If I were unaware of how hurtful such an event can be, I might be sorely tempted.

I've wanted to leave behind everything that happened with X. Would be happy if I never had to see her face or hear her voice again.

But I'm also my mother's son. As such, I could never abandon AJ. As quickly as those thoughts of escape enter my head, they are gone, because my life gained all meaning when he was born. Family is paramount. Nothing will ever be more important than being AJ's father.


My mother still lists my father as beneficiary on one of her life insurance policies. She welcomes her one-time daughters-in-law into her home. She has a capacity for forgiveness that I can barely comprehend.

"It's not what she did to me," I told her in the garage. "It's what she's done to AJ."

She nodded and we went inside to join the rest of the family.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hear That, Ladies?

The Joe Speaker Of Paradise.

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I blame 140+ lbs. of Fury.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

You Either Get It or You Don't

Ah, The Mook. A good ride for me, to be sure. I only got my money in behind once (the last time) and I won every race (six of them, I think) to that point, flopping sets twice. Pause to reflect on that. I. Won. Every. Race. Another 8,000 of those in a row and I'll be statistically normal. I also got AA v. KK and JJ v. TT.

Fear the Cap.

Alas, all was not well. Some people play such fucking bad poker that I can't hold my tongue any longer. Furthermore, all those people are ugly.

It started early. A raised in Level Two with AA. This moron calls me with suited connectors, 98 I think. And then he/she chased their gutshot/pair draw all the way. I stacked 'em, but because of my intellectual superiority and smashing good looks, I could not countenance the play regardless. So, naturally, I let loose on 'em in chat, insulting not only the play, but lineage, musical taste and fashion sense.

That felt good. In fact, it made me feel wonderful about myself, by which I mean even more wonderful than my massive narcissism usually dicates.

Next, I re-raise this dumb fuck with JJ and it pushes with tens. TENS! AGAINST ME! Hilarious. Me, unassailably perfect in all ways. My jacks held up and I launched into a diatribe, though it was mostly aimed at it's spouse, who has a problem with eating boogers. HA! Score one for me.

Down to four tables, and I'm surrounded by mouth-breathers, this one in particular. Whomever this person is, they would not shut their effing trap, so I shut it for 'em. I am I. Do not question me. I am infallable. Also, I have a bigger stack and cock and bank account than you. You wanna play heads up for mortgages? Anytime.

Well, for some reason, my transcendant ability, natural charm and washboard abs were not getting through to these people. Honestly, I don't know from which swamp they have crawled from. But they kept trying to play poker with me. ME! Calling my raises and shit. Hilarious.

I busted a Cro-Mag to make the final table. He typed in 'nh' on his way out and I gave him a kick to help him on his way. "Of course it's a nice hand, dipshit! I am Joe Speaker! Why would you dare question me, let alone attempt to scale the poker fortress which I have lovingly built over the past years with my stellar skills and off-the-charts IQ! Why must I prove it to you people over and over by stomping you with ease and then making sure to point out your ass barely fits in a poker chair?"

Someday y'all might learn. Just quit with the shit and worship me. It will make it a lot easier on you. Whatever I say, just repeat it as gospel. "Yes, master," will suffice, as well. I am not interested in your thoughts. There is only one way to play poker and it's my way.

I finished third. Only because I wanted to. I was irrevocably titled by all you assholes. I just wanted to have sex with my supermodel girlfriends, four of whom who had taken turns blowing me and making me spaghetti during the proceedings. Again, you will never be as good as me. Remember that, tell me how awesome I am in your blogs, do not look me in the eye--EVER!--and thank your personal Diety every night for the good fortune you have to get to play poker against me on occassion.

Do these things consistently and I might let you make me spaghetti.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

All About the Knit Cap

First poker I've played since returning from Vegas. Played with my cap on the entire time. I still can't lose.

Door #2

Day 3 in Vegas. The true test of wills. How far outside your limit have you traveled? How much more damage can your body withstand? It's a day of decisions, of survival.

I awoke feeling better than I had any right to. I was alert. I got a belly laugh from the couple wearing their matching Celine Dion souvenier t-shirts, garments that were a hideous orangish-pink. The shirts were two sizes too big and billowed like top sails. I wandered around a bit, while trying to make the first decision of the day. Shower or no shower?

It was 10:30 already and I was late for football, but I figured the healing powers of hot water would sustain me a bit longer, as would the grande hot tea I snagged on the way back up to my room. I'd like to give a shout out to the Flamingo service workers. They sure know how to pour a cup of hot water. Maybe, someday in the future, they'll go the extra mile and actually put the tea bag in the cup instead of just tossing it to me unopened.

Adequately cleansed and coiffed, I headed to the IP sportsbook where the usual suspects were knee-deep. I traded my tea for Hair of the Greyhounds (a couple of them courtesy of The Fat Guy). I had played a parlay the night before, so had action going. For a bit. The Raiders at +10.5 needed another zero in front of the decimal point to have a chance at covering at Lambeau and the ticket was dead by halftime (though I got the other three games correct; ain't that the way?). I played a baby parlay on the afternoon games and also laid a hundy on the Browns at -3 1/2 at the Jets.

Miami Don has already related what happened, in awesomely detailed and ass-eating fashion, but I'm compelled to add-on, since it was the most instense five minutes in the history of roller coaster football wagering.

The odd thing is, it was a completely normal game for 55 minutes. The Browns did themselves no favors by failing to capitalize on good field position, but their 11-point lead (17-6) seemed secure because the Jets were mounting nothing at all. Then they began a drive which, halfway through, caused all of us (ALL the money was on the Browns save for Waffles and F-Train) to start thinking ominous thoughts.

"Cleveland's in the prevent. Jets are gonna score and get the two-point conversion."

The first happened. The second did not and when the pass attempt was tipped away, we celebrated. Until the Jets recovered an onside kick and moved right to the 20. Now, with three timeouts left, 1:48 on the clock and down by 5, you can make a case that the field goal attempt was reasonable. Unless you had bet on the Browns -3 1/2. When Nugent came on on 4th-and-10 from the 20, threats were made against Mangini. People called their Italian relatives. His home address became needed information.

Still, reasonable. Until the Jets tried another onside kick. Why. The. Fuck. would you give the Browns the ball further up the field when you kicked a fucking field goal banking on your defense stopping them from getting a first down--and burning all your timeouts in the process? Would you not want better field position by kicking it deep in case you DID stop them?


But us Browns bettors were happy, especially when Jurevicius returned the onside kick inside the Jet 40. "Three plays, no first down, gain 8 yeards and the Browns HAVE to try an FG only up by 2!" was the reasoning amongst the IP Dawg Pound. So far so good when it gets to 3rd-and-4.

All I will say is, at the moment that ensued, I would have totally made out with Jamaal Lewis. What actually happend when he spun away from three defenders inside the 5 and scored was I blacked out. I came to in the hallway. Apparently, there was jumping and shouting and spinning. Balletic. Graceful. Drunken.

It wasn't over, but let's all thank the Lord for Mangina. First and ten on the 20, down two scores, and he kicks the FG, giving up 30 yards and the ball. Idiotic. THEN he kicks it deep. Hilarious.

My theory? Mangina was trying to get fired before having to face the Pats the next week.

Don called it a Slump Buster. I have to believe this is true. But I am also going to credit my scarf and knit cap. I haven't lost yet since buying them.

Now came Decision #2. The most crucial I would make all weekend. Nap and attempt to rally (no sure thing) or charge ahead, throwing caution and future liver function to the wind? I chose Door #2, behind which were Newcastles and Pai-Gow.

A LOT of fucking Newcastle. We waited way too long for our first round of cocktails at the All Blogger Pai Gow table (G & G, drizz, Betty, maigrey), but when she finally arrived, redbirds were offered as a carrot for a swifter response. We got it. To the point where we were forced to slam what we had left when she returned with more. drizz got confused, drinks were switched, drizz lost his voice and was reduced to mumbling incoherently. Our first dealer was No Fun, but toward the end of her down, she started handing out money, making us think her replacement, Ann (Ann? Was it Ann?), was brought on to close. Not so. Ann helped make the shouts of "PAI-GOW!" a frequent and rythmic chant. I regained my Bonus Heater and hit four in a row. Again, I got dealt back-to-back boats, including a Hammer Gow (77722), and both times I had $25 and $5 out there. I'm really good at Pai-Gow. Lots of people got paid twice. My oh-so-slow squeezing of the cards became a table-wide phenomenon. In fact, we may have hit on a new Pai-Gow tactic. drizz would watch me reveal my hand before even starting on his own, doubling the time it took to play a single round, increasing the Push Gow aspects of the game. If a push is a win because it buys you more drinking time, a slow reveal does the same.

I'll be copyrighting that move shortly.

I was thinking it was at this point that I got a huge laugh out of Tripjax, but, now that I think about it, it probably happened on Saturday night. I was playing Pai-Gow when he and his wife walked by. He for the right phrase fucked-up. He stopped to slur chat and the Mrs. kept walking. She got a table away before turning around and saying, with patient exasperation, "C'mon, (Trip)." He smiled and stumbled after her with the most hilarious look on his face.

Maybe you had to be there, but if you'd been around Trip for any of the previous 4 hours, you'd know the face I'm talking about.

I took $175 off the Pai-Gow table. They did finally bring in a cooler and Heather's behind-the-scenes machinations finally took effect. The IP opened up a $5 craps table. Just for us!

Our Pai-Gow crew, plus Irish Jim, ringed one end of the table. A bunch of jackasses ringed the other end. The fairer half of G & G was attempting to learn the rules of the game, an exceptionally difficult task when the people doing the explaining are hammered. Truly, we made no sense. But we were winning. I hit three 2-way yo's. THREE! Statisically unusual, but the dealers were lovin' us. By the time Jim let the dice go to the other end of the table, I was up more than a hundy. By the time they got back to maigs, I was down $40. Those people suck.

We ran through our group one more time and we couldn't reverse the cooling effect. I colored up down $125, but still up $50 on the session! Winner! Tired, hungry winner.

I figured that was it for my gambling exploits. I found bed to be excellent. I slept until 10:30 when the housekeeper interrogated me. Made it in time for my flight and did something I never do.

I stopped for no reason and stared. Just stared at it. It seemed to be beckoning me. Hard to describe, but it wasn't a random thing. So I sat down and put $20 into the machine, the one on the end, the one that spoke. A few pulls--the first I've made on a slot maching in 10 years--and it comes up 777, two different colors. That's $25. A few more and it comes up the same. $25 more. Fifteen more pulls, a couple minor wins, and it comes up 777, all white. That's $100.

Cash out.

I scratched my head. First removing my knit cap. My lucky knit cap.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Top Slut

Awash in love and admiration for the Noodle Bar, Falstaf and I made the arduous trek to the sportsbook bar (distance: 10 yards) where I announced to the assembled masses that my payout (refund) from the tourney would be used solely and entirely to buy booze.

I'm a giver.

$135 doesn't go a long way at The Venetian, but I took the orders of everyone within spitting distance and it was Game On. Waffles was the only one to refuse my offer. This may have been because he was half-on, half-off his bar stool and half-on, half-off his rocker. He slumped benignly against the bar, but his voice was strident and insistent, "I'm (gurglegurglegurgle) not (blechblech) sluuuuurrrrring."

What ever you say. Here's another Fiji.

Geno, Irish Jim, Betty, JD and his Sugar Mama, BG, drizz, Al, G & G Makeout Factory, Bam Bam and others milled about and we pounded drinks and told scatalogical stories because we're all 8 years old at heart and poo is funny. I made a football bet, bought another round and Otis and the Rooster got heads-up. When it was over, we all stood around waiting for someone to do something. Controlling this group might be like herding cats, but when someone comes up with an idea, one that appeals to all, the crowd can get moving pretty quickly.

IP, ho!

I talked with NYC up-and-comer Karol on the brisk walk over, finally donning my knit cap that I had already lost once during a break in the tourney. It had fallen out of my back pocket and I hurriedly re-traced my steps as the break ended, even going so far as to ask a bathroom attendant if he'd picked it up. It was lost, I'd assumed, before I'd ever put it on my head. Until the next break when I saw it sitting on the brush's desk in the poker room. "This is my cap," I told the brush. "Congratulations," he said, and waved me away.

So, anyway, I was warm. And starting to feel a buzz. Those greyhounds had a latent effect. They were simply lying in wait for the catalyst that was Heinekin. Two greenies and I was ready for takeoff. The Geisha Bar provided the turbulence.

I bought another round and just parked myself in the 'U' of the bar. Al was next to me, rooted to his barstool. "I can't get up," he said, over and over. "I'm afraid to fall." And in the next breath he made sure I'd be at the sportsbook bright and early. 8:30, he said. Forget you, I said.

The hookers soon showed, including one with an ornate tattoo on her lower back. It was complicated, swirly like a trellis, classy, in a whorish way, and you could only see the whole thing when she bent over and her shirt rode high enough. We couldn't figure out what the tattoo said.

"Dope Shit."
"Top Slut."
"It continues below her jeans. It says, 'Don't Shit Where You Eat.'"

The last killed us. BG is adament is said, "Pop Shit." I'm still not convinced. And would have liked to play the game longer, but I had the attention span of a gerbil at that point.

Several Newcastles (and one godawful shot) later, I felt the need to focus gamble. Pai-Gow!

We had the usual suspects, maigs, Geno, drizz, Betty. Anyone else? GCox? HellifIknow. I do remember introducing G & G Makeout Factory to my inimitable Pai-Gow style.

I squeeze the cards. Slowly. Tortoise-like. It ups the enjoyment for me. The anticipation, tension and hesitation. I like to know what cards I need before I get down to the 6th and 7th. I cajole them, beg them, curse them.

I had no idea G & G were sweating me, though there were plenty of people walking by and chatting. Not only were they sweating, they were, in Garthski's words, "Riveted.

"(Joe), I can't tell you how much we're enjoying the suspense of watching you play your cards," he said. Or something of that nature. True connoisseurs of the game, those two. I think the enjoyment for all of us was even greater because I was on a heater. Bonus Frenzy. I collected a bonus on five straight hands at one point. I revealed back-to-back boats. I collected an envy bet on somebody's quad deuces. I could not fucking lose, which I find is a common occurance for me when I'm gambling and not giving any shit at all about how things turn out. So, I took a couple hundred off the table.

Sunday would feature the ultimate Slump Buster. But I felt like I'd already turned the corner. Or would have, had I been able to feel anything.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Does My Ass Look Good in This Scarf?

I forget who said that. Mighta been Irish Jim. Mighta been Garthski. Events fuzzy at that juncture. Venetian sportsbook bar, post-tourney. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For the record, until that Saturday morning, I had never owned, let alone wore, a scarf. The events leading to its purchase were pure serendipity.

I woke headache-free, but I could feel it lurking. Like a fog, similar to the daze in which I walked around the Flamingo casino floor. I had yet to shower. It was early yet. So I wore a ball cap and found its snugness to my head something of a security blanket against the hovering pain, as if it was a bandage holding my innards in place. That spawned an idea. Bandage, plus better warmth against the Vegas chill.

I needed to find a bounty for the tourney, so perused some of the shops at the Flamingo, also looking for a knit cap. No luck on the former and all I could find of the latter had gaudy stitched dice and an excessive price. Clearly, a road trip would be in order.

The first store you see upon entering the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood is Urban Outfitters. I'm about 15 years past being able to shop at this store and even when I did, back in the day, their style didn't really suit me. But, on this day, I scored.

En route, I had zipped up my sweater, all the way to my chin and my still scratchy throat was bathed in the soothing wool. Hell, I thought, I'm going to get a retarded knit cap. Why don't I go all the way and get a retarded scarf, too? For healing purposes.

Funny thing. I look very handsome in a scarf. I mean, even more than usual.


I also got a bounty. Two, in fact. The first was a hideous lime green t-shirt, harkening back to my youth and bearing "Frankie Say Relax." The second was an impulse buy. And awesome.

Naturally, the jibes began the moment I arrived at The Venetian. Dario Minieri was invoked countless times. Pauly had the best line.

"Does that scarf come with a small gay Italian boy attached to it?"


It's not like one can hope to find an easy table in the blogger events, but my starting group was sick. Not only in its ability and star power, but in the myriad styles featured.

Seat 1: Maigrey
Seat 2: Dah! Dr. Jeff. Of course. Thanks, maigs.
Seat 3: Iggy
Seat 4: Brian, Friend of Falstaf (one 'f'; he shed the other)
Seat 5: Schecky
Seat 6: Scarf Boy
Seat 7: Julian
Seat 8: BadBlood
Seat 9: The Fat Guy
Seat 10: Jesus. TripJax. Sorry, bro, especially since you (and your lovely wife) provided one of my favorite moments of the weekend, which you probably don't rmember.


I lost a quarter of my stack in the first level with AdJd. It was a limped pot and the flop was Ax8d4d. You'd think that was pretty good. But those limped pots, you know. Iggy led. I called. Kx on the turn. Iggy led, I raised. He called and I knew I was behind. Blank on the river and his A8 took it.

I picked up blinds and antes from there and stole an orphan pot before getting moved. Derek (and D's write-ups of these things are always my effing favorite; go now) was there, as was Johnny Hughes and Marty. Best I can do at this juncture.

I got aggressive and punished some limpers with late position raises. I also re-raised Mr. Hughes' hijack aggression with ATo and grabbed some more chips. Which was good, since the very next hand, I risked them all. I opened from the SB for 600 (75/150 level, I believe) and Marty popped it to 3k. I checked my cards again to make sure I had what I thought I had.

Yeah, I'm a pro.

I pushed, feeling pretty confident my jacks were ahead, especially when Marty said something like, "What have I gotten myself into?" He had to call. 3K into 10K. I had him slightly covered and he groaned when I flipped my cards. He had AJ (gold!) and I faded the ace to nearly double up.

No more action there and I'm soon moved to the one seat (hate the effing one seat!), recently vacated by The Reverend, a fact I knew, but one I'd have been able to deduce regardless, as the area beneath the chair was littered with shot glasses and empty water bottles and random notes on cardboard coasters. To my left were GCox and Big Stack (KK > AA) Blinders. The Wife filled the four seat briefly, until Blinders played the Grinch role and felted her. Otis followed. byron was in the five and I countered his Red Sox jersey and the obscene luck of New Englanders by playing "Tessie" over and over again on my iPod. Derek was there again and 'round the corner over there were Alan and, drum roll please, The Rooster.

That side of the table was aggressive, as you might guess. Blinders was, as well. Since I was well-stacked for the level, I avoided confrontation and waited for big cards. Pretty obvious what I was doing. "I know what you're doing over there, Speaker", The Rooster said as I shucked another POS hand. "Just waiting."

He's cagey.

But he got trapped nonetheless. Nothing he could do when I woke up with Kings. Alan open-pushed with A3, Joaquin called with AJ and he had to call my push for a middling 5K more (24K pot, approx.). I again faded the ace (this never happens on Full Tilt) and I was a sudden contender, near the chip lead based on my quick perusal. I also got Alan's bounty, a breathylyzer, which I really should have used later that night to see what kind of number I could blow. At least twice the legal limit, perhaps more.

Oddly, though I'd been drinking greyhounds since "Shuffle up and deal" (on top of the pre-game bloodys) and we were now 5 hours into it, I felt no buzz. That's focus, people.

I dropped 7K to byron when my suck was re-sucked (all-in pre-flop: AKo v. JJ and the board ran QT8J8). I was raising more pre-flop when I could open and donning my autistic face (okay, maybe a little buzzed), a blank, thousand-yard-stare deal that may or may not bear resemblance to Krazee Eyez Killa. Otis and byron got a kick out of it one time.

What's crackin', playa?

Down to three tables, I had a nice stack which got nicer when I busted Uncle Bracelet and Derek, beating their Big Slicks with TT and 88, respectively. The Bracelet's bounty defies description, but if you saw it, you enjoyed it. It's like the first dollar given to a business. I'll never open it. I may mount it (not a euphemism).

My Waterloo came at the final two tables. I went card dead for the first time and with an aggressive group that included Pauly, Johnny Hughes, Miami Don, BWoP and Bacon Bikini Mary, there were few opportunities to grab blinds and antes. The one time I tried, I got popped by The Doc, who was deep-stacked enough to make me lay down my JTs. By the time I got involved, I'd been squeezed down to an M of 3-ish. While I hate (hate, hate, hate) putting my tourney life on the line with AQ, I was running out of options, so I pushed with it even though Schecky had already opened. The board didn't bring anything higher than a 9 and his 66 held up to oust me and gain him the Poo Bounty.

15th place. Refund of my buy-in. My best showing (by far) in a live WPBT event. I went 2-2 on races, which is statistically fair (that never happens on Full Tilt). And I felt like I played a good tourney. Congratulations to all the top finishers (lucksacks) and huge and hearty thanks to Falstaf for his organization and The Venetian' excellent hosting of the event.

I still wasn't drunk. Exhausted, yes. I needed to decompress, so I sat outside the casino for a while, enjoying the fresh air, tattered and forlorn, swaddled in my scarfy finery. Wasn't sure I was going to last much longer and likely wouldn't have had it not been for a bolt of inspiration from Falstaf. Food. Noodle Bar. Stat.

Jasmine tea. Dumplings. Chicken noodle soup with a fucking pork chop in it, which is the dish I ordered largely based on its name: Pai Goo. The company of one of The Greats. The perfect meal at the perfect time. I was rejuvenated.

Then I went and got drunk. Sailor on Shore Leave Drunk.

(to be continued)

My scarf. My last table. Photo courtesy of Dr. Pauly

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Head Games

I talk to myself a lot. Not aloud, like the douchebags who ask me for change on the way to the office or the bigger douchebags who have a bluetooth in their ear and walk around all self-important. Really? Is anyone out there in Bloggerland impressed by someone who can talk hands-free while a blue light pulsates in their ear? Whoopee. You had an extra $79 laying around and a penchant for douchery. Congratulations.

No, I mumble to myself under my breath. Like this morning at the coffee condiment bar where a guy stood for way too long after sweetening his java. It looked like he was cleaning his fingernails with a stir stick. "Move along, sporto," is what I mumbled to myself.

I do a lot of this at the poker table, too. Part of my inner dialogue (yes, dialogue, there are more than one of me on the inside). When I arrived in Vegas on Friday morning, I found myself chanting a mantra as I walked into the IP.


I didn't feel particularly ill, but a week's worth of sputum hocking had me on guard. I didn't want to dive into the deep end too quickly. But the lights...the smells...they are Pavlovian to me and I lose all self-control. Within ten minutes, I was playing craps and drinking greyhounds with The Princess.

I was hungry, though, so that gave me an out. Heather said April was "stirring" and she might be persuaded to join us for a meal. So I called up.

"How soon can you get ready?" I said.
"Depends on how good you want me to look."
"Friday before noon at the IP...I think '7' is sufficient."

Let the record show, April can do a '7' in 30 minutes, though I bumped her up to an 8.2. Bonus points for punctuality and smelling good.

We went off to the Flamingo, site of my hotel room, and had a meal. We pioneered the "Fast Track" system. I kind of forget what that meant. But if you say, "Ricky Bobby!" April and Heather will laugh.

Roommate #1, none other than the Pai Gow Pimp himself, The Drizzle was soon scheduled to arrive, so I decided to go up to the room and wait for him. This is a service us worldly metropolitan types provide for the hayseeds visiting from flyover states. Last time drizz was allowed to wander know.

So I relax on the scratchy comforter and immediately fall into deep, uninterrupted sleep, despite the attempts by drizz, Uncle Bracelet (roommate #2) and Iggy to try and tilt me by waking me from needed slumber get ahold of me. Two hours later, I'm awake and refreshed, though my hair is completely effed up. No matter. I wait for drizz to drop his bags and then I don a hat and we head back to the IP.

My inner dialogue has fallen silent and I "ease" into the IP with a cup of Vitamin Jameson. What transpires is the usual whirlwind of seeing everyone and meeting a few new faces, including one who looks at me expectantly, making me think we've met already and I've blanked (not so), and another (male) who patted me on the ass. The poker room is teeming with bloggers and I donk off a bunch of GCox's chips at a 2/4 table, not winning a single hand while Alan slowly drains his long-standing resevoir of good will (revenge will be mine!). Pauly introduces me to Johnny Hughes, who says, "Yeah, I know who Joe Speaker is," which is kind of a rush for me, though I had to point out to Pauly that he didn't actually say he "liked" my stuff.

I get cold-decked at Pai-Gow and as the hour grows later, I decide there's only one way to change my luck before heading over to the MGM.

Wardrobe change!

None other than change100, fashion guru (guru-ess?) to the stars, complimented me on the "clean lines" of my wardrobe. I was pretty satisfied with my hair, too. Alas, the old Fernando mantra, is not true. While I looked good, it was not better than feeling good, which I soon, and decidedly, did not.

I kept downing the Vitamin J while playing the Mixed Games, which were hilarious. drizz's dirty stack, ck's "copying" of his every move, Buddy's deep, heavy sighs, as he makes another call on 6th or 7th, F-Train's rotten luck. My play was uninspired but for one scoop in an O8 hand, notable for the fact that I suck at O8. I only played for about 90 minutes and cashed out $3 to the bad.

By then, I had a headache that demanded attention. Pastrami sandwich was no assistance. A long walk to the lobby for painkillers that proved fruitless. Water no g00t. Struggling, bent-over conversation back at the sportsbar failed to distract me or my throbbing cortexes.

Still, I tried to persevere. When the call went out to Storm the Castle, I humped it across the bridge like a good soldier and sat at a Pai gow table with Betty and JD. I was so miserable, I could barely work up any enthusiasm when JD's girlfriend hit a nearly $1000 jackpot at a nearby slow machine. (I'm very excited right now though! Way to go!). My malaise infected the entire group and the four of us soon cashed out ($31 to the bad) and headed back to the Flamingo. En route, I mused that I'd pay a thousand dollars for a head massage. Betty, loyal and giving as she is, offered to do it for 1% of that.

And that, friends, is when everything changed.

Attentive readers will note I had yet to win any money. I wasn't down much, $200 or so, but just had that sense of not being able to get anything going. After Betty applied her healing powers--which also cured Gracie of her insomnia, though she could not stop her own hiccup atack--my headache did not return for the rest of the weekend, and, in its stead, came lots of pretty cards.

More on that to come, as well as how I tilted an entire tournament field with a whim which became not only Wardrobe Change #2 but now has me addicted to this new item.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I've written a Vegas trip report of sorts over at Offsprung. I invite you to check it out.

We'll be back with regularly scheduled trip reports (you know, the usual type with the usual debauchery) in short order.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Year of the Rooster

This past weekend, Las Vegas hosted the Mayweather-Hatton fight, the National Finals Rodeo, a UFC tussle, a Spice Girls reunion show and some sort of International Ballroom Dancing competition. None of which created a stampede like the one from The Venetian sportsbook bar to the poker room when someone said, "It's heads-up. Otis vs. The Rooster."

Funny how people come a-runnin' when El Gallardo is involved. My WPBT weekend "began" with a call from this very character.

Since I wasn't coming in until Friday morning, I warned all the Thursday night folks that I would have my cell off, lest they have any desire toward tilty texts or phone calls. The threat was enough. At least until about 2:30 a.m. local time when I was awakened from light sleep by a ringtone.

"Eff Off, Rooster!" I shouted into the phone.

"Dude, dude, dude," he replied. A stuttering, fucked-up mess. Rooster wasn't in Vegas yet. He was in NYC, unable to access the internet and unaware of a) what time his flight left and b) what airline he was flying on.

Like any good C-lister does for an A-lister, I got out of bed, unpacked my laptop and found his information, punctuating the conversation with, "You pretty much better pack and get to the airport now."

He made it, as we all well know. I did, too, despite a week of trepidation about whether the flu I'd contracted would hinder my good time. It did, for a few short hours, but, even better, the bug gave me unexpected joy in at least three other areas. Stay tuned for information on those, but they involved the greatest $15 ever spent, a hot new fashion direction and a sublime meal, in both taste and name.

Like others, I now need to rest up and try to regenerate brain cells. Another amazing time thanks to all, so much that I'd not rue those lost cells, should they fail to rematerialize. As long as you all come to visit me when I lapse into dementia, which will look a little like my behavior at the IP sportsbook on NFL Sundays.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

AJ the Greek

After watching this morning's demolition, Aj raised a legitimate question:

"Can Purple Jesus beat the Lions all by himself?"

Also, I sat'd into the FT $750K. Cards in the air now. Wish me luck.