Friday, July 31, 2009

Henderson, NV.


OK, so moving 12 miles away from where I have spend the last two months is not a big move; but it is the first step on what now looks to be a five month or longer extension of my undomiciled existence. For the next week I am house & dog sitting at the Henderson house where I previously lived from late '06 until just about a year ago. My extended stay that the Extended Stay near the Rio is officially over, which means my WSOP '09 is also complete. I will be somewhere in the midwest come november nine final table time, so for me--done is done.



I am going to play some tournaments around town this week, I will spare you the details of those events. I am working on a short story that will use my various post-wsop stopovers as location hooks. I was considering serializing the first few chapters here but like others of my kin, I still see books as viable commodities for a few more years.

So just a brief geographic update today--a week in Henderson and then off to Sonoma and points beyond.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Writing, Rewriting, Editing & Recycling



The aspect of writing that I like the least is editing. Tinkering with the story I like, sometimes obsessively. Looking for the better word or phrase is often gratifying and can chew up hours and hours of writing time. What I hate is the actual editing; you know the commas and run-on sentences. I mean that type of work is well . . . work! I was fortunate working on the Matusow book that I had Amy Calistri as a writing partner. She not only doesn't hate editing, I think somewhere deep down she might actually enjoy it. A sick and perverse delight I know, but people are strange.

As part of my writing practice, I often do what I dislike, which means I take old pieces and reedit them, often to the point of a rewrite. In theory the read is improved and my style going forward needs less editing and I somehow become inoculated to the necessity of doing more rewrites. So today I am launching a new and somewhat infrequent series on my little blog here. I am revisiting some of my better, more timely, less dated, somewhat interesting older posts and giving them a fresh edit. I promise not to overdo it. No more than two a month or thereabouts. Some will obviously have some poker content and for this I apologize to those who abhor cards, card games, gambling and the associated degenerate scum of the earth.

I begin with a poker rant from early '07 aimed at the then newly excreted Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. This was originally posted 30 January 2007 under the header: Hell No, We Won't Fold! 

Recycled Post #1



Godwin's Law is a powerful observation about the state of Internet conversation. An observational adage formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990, the law states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis, Fascists or Hitler approaches one." Anyone with even a passing familiarity with internet forums and newsgroups knows that when such forums are unmoderated they tend at one time or another to be populated and overrun by idiots, morons and pear-shaped fourteen year old boys. Any statement that can be perceived to limit the freedoms of any one to do any thing at any time will lead to a charge that the author of said idea is a Nazi or indeed Hitler himself.
Godwin's Law does not dispute whether, in any particular instance, that a reference or comparison to Hitler or the Nazis might be apt. It is precisely because such a reference or comparison may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued, that overuse of the Hitler/Nazi comparison should be avoided, as it robs the valid comparisons of their impact. I would add that in reality, that is in thoughtful, grounded reality; there are seldom discussions on the internet where the content under debate will actually rise to the level of the Third Reich. For instance, in our case, despite Joan Rivers' venom; poker never has a discussion or dispute where fascism in any form is an appropriate analogy. None, never, nope, not poker, it is a game after all, just a game. Fools, incompetents, money-grubbing individuals and corporations, cheats, players, scammers and crooks but really no nazis.

In it's earliest form Godwin's Law referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions, the law is now applied to any threaded online discussion, electronic mailing lists, message boards, chat rooms and more recently blog comment pages. Invoking Nazism and Hitler in any form is tantamount to crying Wolf! and abandoning any other thoughtful position on the subject in question. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Call the thought police!

Why do I bring up Mr. Godwin and his intriguing law? Well sports fans because not since Nixon and his tin soldiers were coming has the federal government done so much to invade our private lives. Methinks it's the fear that some damn liberal democrat will take over in just two years that has pushed the feds at every level to use all their tinker toy illegally invasive procedures, under the guise of terrorism and the obscenely named "Patriots Act" to save our country, our children and our way of life from........ wait for it....... yes.... say it! say it! ........POKER!!! (See you can easily replace the Nazis with some plain olde hyperbole without completely turning your argument into a pointless screed.)
You know how everytime someone gets busted by the cops for jaywalking or operating a lawnmower before 7 AM they scream: "Don't you have something better to do, like catch murderers and rapists?" Well, yes they do. These non-nazis are going to go into rec. rooms and basements throughout the country and bust online poker players. (Now see if I had said 'neo-nazis then I would have been trying an intellectual end-run around Godwin's law.)
OK, then let me ask. Is there something else our governmental representatives might be doing with our tax money and our federal employees, say the matter of ... oh let's see, actual terrorism or Iraq or maybe our crumbling infrastructure, failing educational system and oh yes some minor economic problems? NO! let's instead deprive millions of Americans from enjoying themselves; oh and by the way let's put about 25,000 American citizens out of work. (OK, so I was one of those put out of work, but really my motivations here are pure, honest and true. I don't think the right-wing republicans are fascist, nazis or even evil. I do think they are meddling, bible-thumping, authoritarian pricks, but not Nazis!)

There is a lesson here that one would have thought we all would have learned once or twice before: Prohibition does not work. Never has, never will. This is not about Homeland Security or money laundering or even about protecting the kids; this is about uptight, morally superior elected officials telling us how we should spend our leisure time, how we should spend or not spend our earnings and how we should think about life, god, sin and what is right. Which is why many of us called the country we once respected--Amerika.

You remember those days, some called it the 60s. I really hate to say this but the last couple of years of the Bush administration is going to feel like that again. Welcome back my friends to the reactionary show that never ends. And to think Richard Nixon loved poker.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

100 Things About Me (2009)



As some but not all of my readers know bloggers often "out" themselves with a list: "100 Things About Me". I recommend this exercise to everyone, even if you only share the results with your cat. This is actually my re-updated one hundred things, which I have now taken to revising annually or thereabouts. For regular readers, there has been about an 18.6% update this year, mostly for clarity, humor, sarcasm and pity.
1. Vagabondage: 2009 will go down as the only time in my life that I have not had a home of my own for the entire year.
2. I got my first passport to study in Germany in 1968.
3. I used my second passport to go to Chile & Antarctica in 1980.
4. Third passport took me to Singapore & Bali in 1997.
5. I was using my fourth passport in Australia in January 2007, where I wrote the first draft of this list. 

6. I grew up in a rural village of 1200 in Michigan near Ann Arbor. 


7. I have lived with four women in my life; this total does not include lesbians, my mother or my sister. 


8. Only one relationship ever mutually got anywhere near the conversation that begins: “4½ yellow gold with….”


9. I got my undergraduate degree in political science from Kalamazoo College in 1969.
10. I received a Ph.D. in East-West Psychology in 1999 from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. 


11. I was Jane Fonda’s bodyguard for a day (1973). 


12. I once grew my hair for two years, it never reached my collar. 


13. My first book was published in May of 2009. I hope to have number two out in 2010.
14. The title of my novel is: “All My Friends are Nearly Normal”, that has been the title for fifteen years.
15. The title of the book I am actively writing is: “Grey Angel.”
16. I went to a Catholic grade school. The school, church, rectory, convent, playground and the big field were on the same block as our house.
17. I skipped from the 4th to the 5th grade in the middle of the year. 


18. I rang the “Angelus Bells” at the church three times a day for five years, got paid $20 a month.
19. I do not have a tattoo or any piercings and only three major scars.
20. I don’t wear jewelry, cologne, boxers or chartreuse. 


21. 99.3% of my clothes are cotton. 


22. A Google search for me will find a lot of papers presented to the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness.
23. My academic friends think that same Google search finds a lot of strange poker references. 


24. The most important feature of a car is head room; come to think of it, that may be the most important feature of life.
25. I have been told I have really great hands. I have not been told that often enough in the past year.
26. I was mesmerized twice during an Easter weekend in Paris in 1968. Just to clarify based on comments from previous years; this is not a sexual memory. 


27. There were seventeen academic awards for boys given out my senior year in high school. I won seventeen. 


28. I write under several pseudonyms. 


29. I won $4800 in my first ever major poker tournament. That remains my second biggest win ever. 


30. The first live poker tournament I ever played was raided by the Ohio State Police. 


31. I have worked as a media writer at the World Series of Poker for four years: ’06 (Gold), ’07 (Yang), ’08 (Eastgate) and ’09 (TBD).
32. I once received a job evaluation that read: “No idea what Tim does; we prefer not to ask. Overall rating: Excellent, perhaps.”


33. I ran several political campaigns in the 70’s; none of my candidates won but none of them ever served time in prison either. 


34. I have voted in every presidential election I was eligible for. I have never voted for a winning presidential candidate.
35. I have only voted for one democrat and no republicans for president; no, not Obama -- George McGovern.
36. The 1972 election was the last time I drank the kool-aid.
37. I have a lengthy rant/tirade on third party voting, which no one is required to hear more than once; during any future renditions you may leave the room or shout me down or feed me chocolate.
38. The last presidential speech I heard was Richard Nixon’s resignation. I enjoyed it way too much. (OK, I did see the election eve Obama tearjerker, but that was pre-presidential).
39. I don’t believe in the Cartesian mind/body split. 


40. I do believe in Karma and Reincarnation, well at least this time around. 


41. From the age of twelve to twenty-six, I had the key to a pharmacy in my pocket. 


42. My father was a small business owner, pharmacist, village councilman and volunteer fire chief. 


43. I have a deeply repressed attraction to redheads. 


44. I have about six dozen favorite quotes. Among them: "Before you love, learn to walk through snow leaving no footprints."


45. I think that The Simpsons is “a brilliant commentary on American culture” and so is the woman who first said that to me.
46. When anyone says their family is dysfunctional, I ask if they have ever seen The Osbournes. 


47. There always seems to be one current reality show that I am addicted to. The list includes: Intervention, The Osbournes, Family Jewels, and currently The Girls Next Door.
48. I have many qualities that resemble a hibernating bear. 


49. I have had several “families” over the years; the one in L.A. will always be the best, but we lost our center. 


50. I have never been arrested. At a 1971 anti-war rally, a young officer considered it until his partner said: “…that guy outweighs you by fifty pounds and I'm not helping you if he resists.”


51. I have only three addictions: chocolate, oxygen and that other one. These seem to be giving way to new candidates. Updates on next year’s list.
52. Apocalypse Now is my favorite movie but not the director’s cut. I wrote a post: Movies of My Life that may intrigue movie buffs.
53. Catch-22 was once my favorite book. These days my favorite changes often.
54. Annie Lennox is my favorite female singer.
55. I adore cats of all sizes and I am fond of manatees.
56. In the last three years I have discovered the answer to several of life’s questions. However, I have found that an equal number of previously ‘known’ answers to other ‘big’ questions, no longer feel true.
57. Three of the most remarkable women I have ever met all live in Texas.
58. The other three I met in San Francisco.
59. I have lived in Michigan, Massachusetts, Germany, several L.A. South Bay suburbs, San Francisco, Las Vegas and whatever the next place turns out to be.
60. I am the middle child of five; I am typical of a middle child. I am an Aquarius, double Capricorn.
61. I have many more conservative friends than I used to, but most of them tend to not know about my previous life and not to want to know.
62. I read Tarot. Those new friends tend to need to ignore this revelation.
63. I have some limited shamanic abilities. Ditto.
64. The best vacation of my life was in Bali. The second was Key West. The third she keeps refusing to show up.
65. I would like to see New Zealand and much more of Canada; plus there are many parts of the U.S. I want to visit once again.
66. Favorite Band: Genesis before Peter Gabriel left.
67. Favorite Music: Nessun Dorma from Turandot.
68. Sam, Gisele, Geniver, Truman, Wally, Armistead, Honey, Rascal
69. I discovered I was buddhist in Singapore.
70. I write about poker much better than I play poker.
71. The most important part of a movie is the dialogue.
72. After the writing comes the music, except Koyaanisqatsi.
73. I am fascinated by images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
74. I prefer Charlie Rose to Bill Moyers, most of the time.
75. “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” is empirically, if painfully, true.
76. I do not watch nor follow team sports. I do watch the Super Bowl commercials.
77. I don't play any musical instruments and can't carry a tune. Prose is my vehicle.
78. I eat the M&Ms by color, dark to light.
79. Omnivore with predilections for turkey, avocado, asparagus, barbeque and the aforementioned cocoa in all non-white forms.
80. I have never participated in sports where your legs randomly go in opposite directions.
81. I was employed for several years as a benevolent demi-god in a virtual reality world. It was typecasting.
82. No matter what some relatives say, I am paternally Italian. But I honestly believe that U.S. American is a genetic country of origin by now and I am an americanus.
83. My mother’s maiden name was Gillespie, which has got to make me part Irish. I never use Gillespie for Internet password protection.
84. Is my favorite number but not my lucky number.
85. Grey is my favorite color; followed closely by gray.
86. I have made love in hell. I am referring to Hell, Michigan not a previous marriage, of which I have none.
87. Until I was 35 everyone thought I was older than I was.
88. After I was 35 everyone thinks I am younger than I am, even now.
89. I lived in Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach but I never, ever lay on a sunny beach.
90. 1984 was the first book I ever stayed up all night to read.
91. About the only pastime that keeps me from writing is reading.
92. My favorite job is the one I have now; teaching is a close second and working with my dad in the pharmacy made both of those possible.
93. I lived with a woman named Faith. I got hit by a car driven by a woman named Hope. I was asked to have coffee with a hooker named Charity and she really did want to have coffee.
94. I will eat a hot dog, sausage or link no matter how many snouts and lips are in it. Prefer the links be barbeque, the sausage in an omelette and only the occasional weenie.
95. I will eat almost anything chocolate and will ford any stream to find locate and devour it.
96. I once camped for a weekend with seven gay men, six lesbians, and four newborn kittens.
97. I currently have three goals: Not just a woman, not just book, just a synchronous life.
98. I have two lingering regrets in my life. Both involve relationships I screwed up. One when I was too young, the other I couldn't break thru the shimmering walls of her past.
99. I have one prejudice; I abhor voluntary stupidity.
100. I will listen to almost any thoughtful position, unless it violates the limits referenced in 99, 98, 97 and 36.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kill the Button Straddle!


[Content Disclosure: 100% Poker Rant]

I don't exactly know who was the idiot that came up with the button straddle but we have got to put a bullet in this brainless play. The button straddle is anti-poker, it is all about luck not skill, it creates an advantage for some players and disadvantages others and it re-penalizes the players who are already in jeopardy in the blinds.

If you want to play a game with an uneven advantage there are plenty of craps tables and blackjack games for you out in the casino. Hell, play Wheel of Fortune if that is how you want to redistribute your cash but stay the hell away from poker with your lame ass gimmick bets. The button straddle is no better than floor approved angle-shooting and it has to stop!

(end of rant, beginning of rational arguments on this dumb ass issue)

In most poker games, played with blinds, one or twice each round you are put at a disadvantage by having to post a small or big blind before seeing your cards. We all know that the games stagnate without blinds, so we accept them as part of the game because the blind burden shifts equally around the table among the players. To compensate for paying a blind bet, you get to act after all the other players in the pre-flop betting round. Now comes some incredibly perverse idea that a player on the button can straddle (double the big blind) and force the small and big blinds to act first. Suddenly the blinds are triple-disadvantaged by having to put up a forced bet and then having to act first and act behind a nutso raiser who will get another opportunity to raise again behind them.

Look, why not just put the jokers back in the deck instead of letting the morons play with the button! This is a stupid way to play a game of skill. You all remember that the poker community is making an argument before the governments of the U.S. and several other nations that poker is a game of skill. Well, the button straddle is not skill. If you want to play a home game then GO HOME!

(OK, so the rant really wasn't over)

Seriously folks, make your feelings known to each and every poker room manager and floor staff person you encounter. In fact, when it's your big blind, hold the chips in your hand until the dealer tosses out the first card; if someone puts up a button straddle announce you are sitting out the hand and will come in after the button. Then call for the floor and make your objection loudly while seated at the table. If you did that and the guy on your left refused to post a big blind and the next guy and the next... how long before your poker room banned the button straddle?

You see the issue is that not every player is disadvantaged or advantaged equally. I object to the button straddle universally. But I am only disadvantaged if the players one and two to my right actually make the bet. When it happens in other positions I actually may gain an advantage. It's like a random kill game. If I'm under-the-gun, I benefit because now I act third not first. If I'm in the cut-off seat, marginal hands that may have played for one bet have folded, which is sometimes a plus and other times a negative to my game, depending on what I am holding. Randomness has been introduced into a game that already has a definable amount of variation. Skill/knowledge has been diminished and luck has been increased; is that what a good poker player wants in the game?

The primary question simply is ... why?

Why add a gimmick to a game of poker?
Why add a gimmick that does not treat all players equally?
Why let the drunk moron on the button buy an advantage?
Why not just put the joker back in the deck? or let each player buy an extra card or follow the queen?

The answer is: because we are playing poker not bingo. We all know the rules and fairness is a constant but not with this stupid pet trick. So make your feelings clear to your poker room staff. Make it each and every time to take a seat. Be willing to get up and leave if they don't get the message. I have asked around for the past several weeks at over a dozen poker rooms and it appears to me that about 75% of the players don't like the button straddle. So why is it allowed? Whose game is this anyway?


Monday, July 20, 2009

Transitions


[Content Disclosure: from poker to not...]

Weeks and weeks of visits to the Rio leave a mark. Sort of a cross between the pillow impressions after a long morning sleep and the welts from a lash. It really depends on how you approach the World Series of Poker. My green felt blemishes are vanishing quickly this year. 

"He had come to suspect early on that Scott Crane was the major local signpost to the castle of randomness--but only tonight, when Crane had mentioned having been a professional poker player, had he found any reason to be confident. Gambling was the place where statistics and profound human consequences met most nakedly, after all, and cards, even more than dice or the numbers on a roulette wheel, seems able to define and perhaps even dictate a player's . . . luck."

That quotation comes from Last Call by Tim Powers. The book was lent to me by one of my poker buddies, who himself has become substantially more thought-provoking of late. From the dust jacket blurb:

". . . troubling nightmares about a strange poker game he once attended on a houseboat on Lake Mead are drawing him back to the magical city. Because the mythic game did not end that night in 1969. And the price of his winnings was his soul. And now a pot far more strange and perilous than he ever could imagine depends on the turning of a card."

An intriguing transition indeed, from the world of poker and the books of poker to my next project tinged with dark forces and twists of fate, all wrapped up in an impending chautauqua in a cube. 

More on all of this over the next several months and many states; geographically, psychologically, spiritually and literally. Off we go into the mild, grey mists of tomorrow.

Oh and happy b-day Janet.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Picking Up After the Series


[Content Disclosure: Reorientation]

The World Series of Poker is on hiatus for four months, so it is time to reenter the non-poker world. The final few of my poker buddies board the airplane today and Las Vegas returns to semi-normal. There has been a fair amount of poker playing the last week or so and lots of lunches, dinners and drinks. We managed sushi, german, steampots full of ocean bounty, barbeque, french and I was on the limited dining plan. One more tournament to go, I landed a seat in the the Binion's freeroll tomorrow from a final table chop sometime this past week. 

What this all means is that Keeping Your Head in the Game will once again go back to more non-poker content and for at least the next four months a bit of a travelogue. I am going to be hitting the road, mooching off family and friends for accommodations until November or thereabouts. This will also allow me to avoid making the actual decision about where I am going to live next.

There will also be discussions about the "next" book; some of my travels will be to converse with my future potential co-authors and outline some realistic timelines for a book or two. Speaking of which, Amy has a new website up for Checking-Raising the Devil give it a look, we could use the google ranking.

As for the blog here, I will keep divulging the recesses of my mind. I admit to being addicted to such disclosures and besides . . . writers have to write every day; why not be read by someone while blathering away.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My November Nine Picks



[Content Disclosure: WSOP November Nine]

Some degenerate in the media pool decided to challenge us to pick our final nine in the main event before the start of yesterday's play. So we had 64 runners to whittle down to our own personalized November Nine. Below are my choices. A Willy Wonka Golden ticket to the first reader to discover the amazingly insightful selection criteria I used to pick my nine.



Darvin Moon
Billy Kopp
Phil Ivey
Steve Begleiter
Ludovic Lacay
Antonio Esfandiari
Tommy Vedes
Antone Saout
Ben Lamb

(Addendum: I must admit to the success of my endeavor, as the thoughtless selection of the nine chip-leaders led to my winning the media pool; however, not without a four-way, six-level tiebreaker.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

The 6,495th Player


[Content Disclosure: a wee bit of math]


Monday Prologue: (An autographed copy of Check-Raising the Devil to the first reader who correctly identifies the seminal theme of this impending post. All intelligent guesses and most wild speculations should be made in the comment section below. Decision of the judges will be semi-final. Duplicate correct or partially correct answers will participate in a run-off drawing overseen by an intelligent female poker commentator, who does not show cleavage on camera. Full post with brilliant analysis and cogent quips will go up in twenty-four hours.)

(some fine guesses were submitted but none hit the mark.)


The 6,495th Player

I am going to go with some hard facts today. Hard from the perspective that they are grounded in solid, empirical mathematical theory and "hard" in that they may shake your faith in the list that reads: Eastgate, Yang, Gold, Hachem, Raymer . . . Moss, Moss.

Here is my thesis: If a 6,495th player had been allowed to register for the main event this year, the members of the November Nine who will be determined tomorrow night would be different. And the eventual WSOP champion would be someone else, not the name we will all remember following Peter Eastgate. You see with all the skill versus luck conversation that goes on around poker, the mathematical facts are that if you add one more player or allow one less entry you drastically change how the fourteen days of the tournament play out. 

This additional player need not have been the 2,810th entry on Day 1D, nope a 874th player on Day 1B would have had the same effect with a different result. We are talking "pebble in the pond" math here. One more player means their initial table plays differently, breaks differently and players move throughout the tournament differently. One more 30,000 stack of chips is distributed throughout the Day 1 and then the Day 2 and the ripples grow. 

Surely it's easy to see if say we remove Ivan Demidov from last year's tournament. Take Sammy Farha out of the Moneymaker 2003 win, or Eric Seidel that year or David Williams or Steve Dannenmann those years. But the math tells us that it need not be a final table figure who doesn't register or a big name player who was left out in this year's Day 1D shutdown. One more or one less player in such a large field must inevitably change the tournament and the longer you play it out the greater the change.

One more entrant in Day 1C would not effect Day 1A or 1B or 1D or 2A, the effects begin immediately for 1C and then for 2B but Days 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and November each have magnified implications based on the extra runner. In fact, just a bit of extrapolation would lead us to the conclusion that one more or one less player on each of the Day 1's would mean no amount of math or analysis could lead us to any conclusion except that the November Nine would be nine completely different players than what we will see tomorrow night.

So the next time you get involved in the Luck vs. Skill argument. Remember this. Once you start playing the game, It's All Skill; but leading up the the biggest tournament in the world, it's all the luck of the draw and the ineffable math of big numbers in the registration queue.