Monday, December 12, 2011

Race Report

Twelve miles were almost complete and I was running the best half marathon of my life. That's kind of a joke - it was only my 2nd and the odds were with me for it to be my best. Then I felt them coming. Cramps. In both of my calves. Not the entire muscle, but small strands of fibres near the center of the back of my lower leg. "No, not now," I thought, "Not now."

It was 4pm on Sunday, December 4th, and I was sitting at a 2/5 NL game at the Aria casino. I'd been in Vegas for about a day and a half and had perhaps 1 beer and 2 glasses of wine. I was as relaxed as I could be before a race for which I'd trained 3 months. Our group, no, our Team had planned to meet 1 hour before the race at 4:30 to grab a shuttle to the starting line near Mandalay Bay. Otis, G-Rob, Dan, Chako and myself changed into our gear and met near the poker room exit. I was anxious, I wanted to be at the starting line now and begin to stretch. Our team didn't worry about getting there on time, that is until we had been standing in the shuttle line with about 300 other people waiting for a bus that would never come.

I don't like expending any energy before an important race. But in order to get to the starting line on time, we all realized we'd have to walk the mile and a half to get there. We left the Aria at about 4:50pm, it was going to be close, but we should have been able to arrive on time. Along the way, though, police stopped us from crossing the street so that the full marathon race leaders had a clear road. Another delay.

By the time we reached the starting gate, the mass of humanity 33,000 strong prevented us from making any headway towards our assigned starting corrals. Before our team split, Dan grouped us together and reiterated the fact that we were all very lucky just to be able to participate. That had some calming effect on me, but I was still jittery. I gave Otis a hug, wished him luck, and crammed my way into corral #4. The starting gun went off before I even got inside. I was pissed. I hadn't stretched, I hadn't checked my bag and I just realized that I put my water belt on upside down. The two bottles of fluid I was going to run with were long gone and I began to panic just a little. I turned on my GPS watch and watched in dismay as its inability to find a signal magnified my anger. How would I ever be able to prove my finishing time to anyone, let alone, myself?

As you may be aware, I'm an engineer. It's my job to solve problems. That mode of thinking took over and I made some adjustments. First, I took everything I wasn't willing to lose out of my check-in bag. And then I just tossed it to the ground. I got my iPod ready and would simply use the total elapsed song duration to determine my race time. For fluids, I'd just have to use the aid stations throughout the race. For my running pace, I'd use feel. That's one thing I'm pretty good at - determining my pace based on effort, stride and tempo. I said to myself, "Don't let this petty shit ruin your race for you." So when my corral moved to the gate and got ready to run, I did a mental reboot and hit play on my iPod as soon as the gun went off.

It's not my favorite song by any means, but ever since it randomly started my first 10k that I ever ran, I use it to start every race that's longer than 6 miles. Broken, Beat, and Scarred. Three minutes into the song, my GPS watch acquired a signal. I didn't hit start on the watch timer just yet. I'd wait until the first song was over, then I could simply add the duration of that song to my overall time. The first water station came up and I took a drink I'd not normally take. And then I just simply tried to run the race I'd trained for, all the while making sure to soak up the atmosphere of the Vegas Strip at night.

There were some minor logistical obstacles to overcome. For one, even though they group your corrals by anticipated finish time, there's nobody to enforce that rule. I must have passed several hundred people in the first few miles, even a couple of walkers. That's simply unacceptable and dangerous. If you want to walk a race, that's fine, but don't do it at the peril of the runners behind you.

The first 6 or 7 miles were easy. I was running too fast, that much was certain, but I didn't care. I would just slow down if I needed to. I absorbed myself fully into my playlist. It was carefully crafted especially for this race. It had a couple of slower, less intense songs at the mid-way point so that the end was pure extreme metal intensity. I do recall having enough energy to sing along to Firewind's Set the World on Fire during mile 8. I hope nobody heard me though.

During my training for this race, the point at which my muscles and joints would begin to rebel against my wishes would occur later and later into each run. It was at mile 9 that this point hit me during this race and I slowed down a bit. It was my slowest mile of the race and I found it a bit difficult to resume my earlier pace. But difficulty is a relative term. My trials and tribulations were nothing compared to those of my friend.

The Thursday before I left for Vegas, I got a text from Otis' brother Dr. Jeff. "Mom and I are forcing Brad to Vegas to finish what he started. Take care of him for me." I was surprised, since I thought there was no way Otis would go to Vegas. I was also excited, he was part of our team that trained hard for this moment. That he would be a part of it after all that happened was great news. I was also honored.

Thinking of Otis is all it took for me to resume my race, even as my hamstring throbbed and my ankle ached. Ignore the pain, that's all I have to do. My GPS watch went from an 8:02 pace back to about 7:45. Good enough to set my personal best. My music did the rest.

Until the cramps hit.

I adjusted my stride hoping they'd go away. I ran with more of a flat footed step hoping to minimize the strain on my calves. It seemed to work, until I had to move laterally to pass someone; then they'd begin again. I knew I'd need sustenance, so I forced down another package of something called Gu that I'd picked up at an aid station. "Please be enough to stop the cramps," I begged. I'm not sure how quickly I could digest and process that something called Gu, but perhaps psychologically I convinced myself that it helped.

It didn't, the cramps came back midway through mile 13 and I was really thinking I'd have to walk. I turned towards the crowd for some reason. I can't really explain why I did just then. I'd not looked at the crowd the entire race prior to then. One head stool tall and over those people around him. "Hey, I know him." It was Drizz. I turned and pointed to him, music still blaring through my headphones. A group of about 15-20 bloggers saw me and began to cheer. Amazing. Truly an amazing feeling that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I'm not exaggerating. Fuck the cramps, I'm running through them. Powered by that simple gesture of friends watching and cheering, I crossed the finish line. Not knowing that the chip time was being recorded for me throughout the race, I calculated my finish time by adding song #1 of my playlist to my GPS timer. It came out to roughly 1:41, a personal best by 7 minutes.

To everyone who was there for me throughout the weekend, thank you very much. The race was part of a weekend that redefined what's important to me.

I think the best thing you can do for someone is simply be there when you're needed. You don't have to do much, most people don't need a lot of support. Small, little things matter. A cheer, a hug, a few minutes of converstation, a big bag of Stella....

Any support that's freely and willingly given to a friend is magnified a thousand-fold by its recipient. Trust me.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Exercise - Some Thoughts

I was honored last weekend to be part of a group of runners who dedicated their time and effort to complete the Las Vegas half marathon with me. Many of these folks were running the longest they'd ever run before on that day and they all finished. One of the more common topics of conversation that I overheard afterwards was how being there to cheer on others had motivated them to either resume or begin training themselves. That's outstanding.

So, if I may be so bold, let me relay a few tips to those of you considering beginning a training program, be it running or simply a general fitness routine. Many people start them, and as we all know, not as many people continue with them.



Consistency - This is the absolute, number one thing to remember. Be consistent. Try your best to make working out not something you feel you have to do, but something you want to do. Make it a part of your lifestyle, just like having breakfast. Yes, it takes time and effort; but you don't have to workout every day. Start out slow and get used to the extra things you'll need to do to make working out easier, i.e. the extra laundry you'll need to do, the extra packing you'll need to do each morning before you go to work.

(Tip: If you work out after work, DO NOT go home first. If you think you'll head home after work and then go back out to the gym, you'll highly likely not make it. Go straight from work to the gym, and then go home.)

Plan is a plan - Find someone to help with your plan. A co-worker who works out, a trainer at the gym, hell, you can even email me if you want and I'll answer as best as I can. But remember this - it's just a "plan." You may have to deviate from it at times, so don't EVER get discouraged because you either missed a short-term workout goal, regressed in your training a step, or flat-out missed a work out. Make concessions in your plan so that you'll have a back up. Shorten your workout if you need to, a shorter one is better than none at all. Switch off-days if you need to. If you have to miss a workout, make it up on one of your rest days. Even if you flat out miss a week or longer due to travel, do NOT give up. Understand that it's a small step backwards, but you're still on a plan to move forward.

Coming Back from a break - To me, this is the NUMBER 1 cause for people to fall off the work out wagon. Look, you'll get sick. You'll have unexpected travel. You will miss a workout, even several, through no fault of your own. You need to find the mental discipline to resume your program after a break. It's very mentally discouraging to make good progress by being consistent for months at a time and then see it diminish because you're missing workouts. So what? Get back to the gym as soon as you can. It's difficult, I know. Just don't quit.

Enjoy - You should really at some point look forward to working out. It shouldn't suck. If it did, who would ever do it? Find something to make it fun. Honestly, healthy, physically fit people are fun to look at in tight clothing. I'm a male pig, and seeing a nice young woman in tight workout clothes is a motivator to me. I'm sorry. It's because I'm a pig. I understand that. If you're lucky enough to have a friend as a workout partner, that can make things enjoyable too. When GRob and Otis began doing long runs on Saturdays with me these past few months, it made a mundane run very much something to look forward to.

Compare you to you - Lastly, don't ever compare yourself to someone else. You're not them. You don't have their genetics, you don't respond to training like they do, you don't process foods the same way they do, you're not their age, you're simply not them. Everyone can find someone more fit than they are. I can find tons of guys stronger, faster (Dan), more lean, more proportional, more everything. Don't let that keep you from working out. Keep a log if you can, and in a year, compare yourself to what you were doing a year prior. You'll be amazed at YOUR progress. You get to keep it and nobody can take it away from you. Think about that.

If you decide to do something with respect to working out, start today. Don't wait for January 1st. Do it today. There's nothing stopping you. And if you choose to do something, consider how lucky you are to be able to. Dan's advice to us runners this year is the best advice I've ever had. "Consider how lucky we all are to be able to run today." There are millions of people who can't.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

John Arch

Can a single song make you a legend? In some instances, yes. As long as you define legend within a particular community.

Perhaps some of you have heard of the band Fates Warning. Back in the mid-eighties, they were the definition of progressive metal. They were Dream Theater before there was Dream Theater. With one EP and two full length albums, aptly titled The Spectre Within and Awaken the Guardian, they had solidified themselves within a niche and they had no equal.

Their vocalist was extremely talented and also extremely unique. You either loved his style or you didn't. I fell into the former category and the song that sealed it for me was the one that sealed it for many others too. The track Guardian from Awaken the Guardian remains a song that will forever have a place in my heart and soul as sheer metal genius. Here it is:



Inexplicable, at least to me, Fates Warning changed vocalists after Awaken the Guardian. Not that I disliked John Arch's replacement, it was still with some disappointment that I'd not hear more sweeping, melodic vocals from him. Ray Alder proved to be excellent in his own right, but the distinctive timbre of John Arch was gone.

As a reference, here's the first single from Fates Warning's No Exit album featuring Ray on vocals. It's good, but it's different.



Fast forward 25 years. After an EP called Twist of Fate in 2003, John Arch has once again rejoined most of the members of early Fates Warning and released Sympathetic Resonance with Jim Matheos. I immediately purchased it upon hearing the familiar vocals. It's like John Arch never left.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Prevail

I'd just run 4.7 miles out of 6.2. I was giving the race 100% of my effort. But I knew there was a hill coming. It was the hill I had run down to start the race and the return trip was certainly going to be difficult. Still, I put my head down and pushed forward.

I saw some lights. It was an intersection that looked just like the place where the race began. The start of the race, the end of the hill. I couldn't see my race watch, this was a night race, so I had no idea how long I'd been running back up the hill.

I approached a street light, it was bright enough to illuminate my watch so I could see the numbers. I looked down expecting to see 6.0 miles and mentally prepared myself for the last 0.2 miles of downhill sprinting towards the finish line.

My watch said 5.5 miles.

Not 6.0.

It was crushing. Pain tightened in my left side. Stitches, they call them side stitches. It's like a cramp, but not really. They do hurt though. I was slightly demoralized knowing I had another half mile to go up the hill.

Another street light came. 5.72 miles on the watch. I had a half mile to go and I wanted to beat my previous time. It was at this point I knew I was going to need some help.

I unlocked my iPod nano. I skipped directly to this song on the playlist. I then lost myself in a sea of effort, pain, drive, and focus. If you've ever been to that place in your mind, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I simply can't explain it. I crossed the finish line at 46:00 even, propelled by the crushing sounds coming through my headphones.

Everyone ends up dead. It's just a matter of when.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Anger Phase of Denial

It's all over the major poker news sites, but in case you hadn't heard, the Alderney Gaming Commission suspended the license agreement they had with Full Tilt Poker and as such, Full Tilt Poker is no longer operating. Whether they choose to reopen with another license or reopen without one at all is still unclear at this time.

My real reason for posting this is to ask a question. Who knew this was going to happen and when did they know it? This applies to BOTH the events of today and to those of Black Friday when the USDOJ forced Full Tilt, Pokerstars and UB/AP to close their doors to the American public.

In my opinion, there are pieces of data that when added up together, point to the conclusion that there were some people that knew in advance that there was trouble ahead.

My hypothesis is this:

Even though the documents were sealed, someone had inside knowledge up to a year in advance that the 3 major sites would eventually get shut down for US-based players. As such, several short-term money grabs were put into place for this eventuality. After all, if your long-term business model becomes unviable, then get as much out in the short-term as you can.

- Both Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth do NOT have their contracts renewed with UB.com prior to Black Friday. Coincidence? Maybe.
- Full Tilt Poker introduces Rush Poker. While certainly fun to play (I put in my hours), Rush Poker is simply an accelerated rake extraction device for the cash game players.
- Full Tilt Poker introduces Multi-Entry tournament options. The notion of having multiple accounts to enter MTT's multiple times becomes a non-issue and Full Tilt earns far more on a per tournament basis than before. Again, this is an accelerated rake extraction device.
- More subtely, but still concerning to me, the electronics section of the Full Tilt store was out of stock for months on their top-tier items. To me, this was concerning because they had no motivation or priority to renew the Apple line of iPods and MacBooks once Apple issued updates.
- After Black Friday, a user on 2+2 named Deuc3s posted the following text:
"Full Tilt will announce its to default on american payements (sic) on 29th of June. Shortly after that they are to close." This again could be coincidence, some fear monger getting lucky with a guess, but the date was exactly correct. This user claimed to be a former employee.

Nowhere in the above do I mention anything about Pokerstars. Why? Well, from what I've seen out of that organization, they've operated with the most integrity and transparency of any online poker company. They've earned my respect and trust even though I'll no longer be able to play on that site ever again.

I'm most disappointed with Full Tilt. They were literally sitting on a gold mine and managed to fuck it up. That takes a unique combination of incompetence and greed to achieve. Worse yet is to think of what all our rake went towards. Hundreds of millions of dollars in rake went to a few dozen pros and company executives who right now don't give a rat's ass what happens to their former customers.

Tom Dwan, Durrr, based on his Twitter feed seems to be the only active and reasonable voice thus far, but even he can't do much for the player base currently holding an empty bag. If it comes to light that some of the players like Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson were making significant day to day policy decisions for that company, then I'll be even more angry than I am now.

My $4000 is gone and highly likely gone for good. I no longer care about that because there's nothing that I can do about it. What I want now is justice. I want these incompentent, greedy fools to do jail time. The worst thing you can do to me is take advantage of me. And that's exactly what has happened. Yes, I'm an adult and chose to play on Full Tilt while I could. I received rake back, I received advertising dollars and I willingly wore FTP branded hoodies and t-shirts. But that was because I trusted that my money was safe on the site.

Every last one of the Full Tilt Pros should be ashamed right now for associating themselves with a company who effectively scammed tens of thousands of poker players and enthusiasts who bought into their hype. They lived the high life, getting paid millions with not only the rake we willingly generated, but also with our deposits. I was stolen from and I'll never forget it.

I look forward to these cowards and thieves claiming ignorance, that they did not know the details and inner workings of the company's accounting practices. Sorry, I don't care and that's no excuse. I've held off from being angry for months, trying to give Full Tilt the benefit of the doubt.

That's the last thing I'll give them.

(I can't remove my FTP ad from here at work, but it will be the first thing I do when I get home.)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Running to Metal

I signed up for the Las Vegas Half Marathon on December 4th. It's a Sunday, the race is at night and it goes down the Strip. Pretty cool. Joining me will be G-Rob, Otis, Dr. Chako and Poker Peaker. It will be kick ass. Not unlike the new metal I got to download due to me signing up. It is after all, a Rock 'n Roll marathon.

My 5 free downloads were:

This riff seriously destroys:


This was Slayer's opening at Big 4:


Cool opening riff, cool video if not a little campy:


Another big 4 tune:


New In Flames coming soon:


And. And! Bonus song for the folks who need to understand the vocals. Do you hear any Blue Oyster Cult in here? I kind of do.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Never Trust A Junkie

It had been 20 days since I played a hand of online poker. But I was OK with that. Perhaps just somewhat, but OK nonetheless. I figured I'd simply increase my live poker play and as such would go to the wormhole PLO game a bit more often. But what is it they say about the best laid plans?

Evidence for the existence of wormholes has yet to be discovered. But if theoretical astro-physics is correct, apparently they are truly unstable constructs. My wormhole vanished. And by vanished, I mean shutdown by the local authorities. Unfortunately, PLO wasn't the only game that was running there. The trouble magnets known as video poker machines triggered this bust, and luckily for me, I wasn't there. Oh, I would have been. But thankfully Dr. Chako was coming to town for the mudrun and I had to stay near my house to pick him up.

"No PLO for you," said the imaginary poker Nazi, and he was right. If I were still planning on playing a PLO event at this year's WSOP, then where on Earth would I get practice?

Just one fix....

Browsing the 2+2 forums, I noticed that some US-facing sites were still in business. Was it risky to get involved with them now? You betcha. How much was I willing to risk? Well, perhaps the amount of my PokerStars check that I'm due to receive. On April 15th, I really expected my funds to simply vanish, so substituting one site's balance for another wasn't all too intimidating. And after reading more and more about it, I made a decision.

I chose Lock Poker.

I'm not an affiliate nor do I receive any benefits from sharing the following information. (edit: Actually, you can apply for an account at TheNuts.com using the bonus code BadBlood if you'd like. No worries if you don't.) I'm just doing it in case there are other readers out there who need their online fix and are willing to take a risk with a smaller site. They're on the Merge network and my hopes are that the US DOJ is too busy being involved with their current targets to take note of some of the minor sites. Again, it's a hope, and it could easily be that I've just set money on fire by depositing. But if you want to know, here's how I did it.

First, I went to TheNuts.com and signed up there. Why? Well they have a promotion going where if you sign up with them and use the bonus code THENUTSIPAD2 (verify, I'm not 100% sure that's correct, going off the top of my head), you will receive the following:

35% rakeback
a free iPad2 if you clear $1000 in rake in the first 60 days of play.

I believe this offer expires May 31st.

So I signed up, downloaded the software (Mac compatible too!), and tried to deposit.

...and utterly failed.

Back to the 2+2 forums I went and after some more research, I had heard that there were successful deposits if you chose the CASINO option in the Lock Software to deposit. Once successful, you could transfer from the casino to the poker room and begin playing.

So I tried that.

...and utterly failed.

I tried 3 VISA credit cards (WARNING: DON'T TRY CREDIT CARDS) and 1 VISA DEBIT card. The next day I was greeted with emails and phone calls from each card's fraud department. Fantastic. I was resolved to try the Western Union option and if that failed, simply hang my head in disgust and failure.

However, after speaking with my debit card's department, after confirming that it was me who attempted the purchase, the agent said that the charge should go through the next time I tried it. So I went home and tried one last time.

...and it worked.

However, by depositing with the Casino side, I wasn't able to enter the bonus code to entitle me to the free iPad2. A man needs goals afterall. So a quick email to support@lockpoker.com seemed to rectify the situation. Also, if you remember Rizen (Eric Lynch), he's a representative for Lock and is active over at 2+2. I PM'd him my details too just to be sure and he got back to me the next day with a reply. Outstanding.

And so off I went. By my calculations, I'll need to play about 12,000 hands of .25/.50 PLO to qualify for the iPad2. I'll be getting rakeback the whole time too, so my first $1000 in rake will yield about $850 back in my hands in either cash or, best of all, TECH GADGETS!!!

So there it is. Back online. For how long? Who knows. Will there be difficulties in the future with this endeavor? Highly likely there will be. Am I willing to take that risk right now? Well, apparently the answer is a resounding yes.

I need help.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Big 4, Quick and Dirty

Big Four Bulletized

Left G-Vegas at 5 am to get to the airport. 10 minutes into the flight, attendent says we're returning to the airport due to a "problem." 10 minutes after that, apparently they changed their mind and we continued towards Houston.

Got to LAX on time, but couldn't hook up with Al due to being in different terminals. We each took a cab to union station. For $60. "Tactical error," Al would say later.

Took another cab to JoeSpeaker's house. Nobody was home, but beer was in fridge and full bottle of SoCo was on table. Al and I immediately started drinking, listening to metal on my iPod and playing Big Deuce. This was just a tutorial however.

Speaker got home and we went to pick up StB. Since we were all hungry, we went to Hooters where I told them it was my birthday. Mistake. Had to wear a tin foil hat in the shape of an elephant. We also continued to drink.

Got to rented condo - it was outstanding. Drank more. Then at midnight local time, crashed. Missed a call from BG. Dang.

Friday, StB drove Speaker to his golf appointment. He came back with breakfast food. We ate. We drank more beer. We took a nap on a hammock next to girls in bikinis. It was sunny. It was California. Perfectly content.

Picked up Speaker from golf and had more drinks in the clubhouse. Rode dirty. Al took the day off from drinking, had to work, so the 3 of us went to Casino Agua Caliente. They had a poker room with about 10-12 tables. StB played 1/3, Speaker played the $100 donkament and I played 2/5. I drank several RBV's. Won a good amount of money and then spent it. Elsewhere.

Woke up Saturday and planned for the concert. Got a cab to take us there and walked into VIP area. The extra $100/ticket for VIP access was worth about 3 times that. Had food. Had beer. Saw Anthrax walk by. Speaker took a picture of Scott Ian's back.

We were very close to the stage and felt some pity for the huddled masses behind the VIP fence. You couldn't pay me to stand there for 8 hours. I am old.

Anthrax came on. Scott Ian appeared to appreciate every moment. StB won the prop bet when they opened with Caught in a Mosh. Their set highlight for me was Indians. "Mosh part" got the pit going right next to us. Great start.

Megadeth was next. Mustaine was less conversational than Joey Belladonna, appeared more focused on the music. Fine with me. Chris Broderick, their new guitarist, was probably the most talented guitarist among all the bands from a purely musical perspective. He simply crushed Marty Friedman's solos during Hangar 18 with effortless precision. They closed with Holy Wars / Punishment due which was downright amazing.

Slayer was next. I was convinced they'd open with War Ensemble, JoeSpeaker's pick. However, they went with new stuff and launched into War Painted Blood. My jaw dropped at their level of tightness. Jeff Hanneman was replaced by Exodus' Gary Holt and was more than up to the task. Kerry King stole the show for me. He was a machine and simply pounded out each song with a precision and speed that needed to be seen to be believed. Jeff Hanneman was however there, and played the last 2 songs and delivered during the finale, Angel of Death.

Metallica had a lot to live up to. Did they? Maybe. Kirk Hammett seemed sloppy early, especially compared to Kerry King's performance. Hetfield was solid, opening with Creeping Death to earn JoeSpeaker prop bet money. They played a decent selection of songs from most of their albums. Disappointed to hear Fuel and Nothing Else Matters, but what are you going to do. It was however, more than made up for when they did Orion in its entirety. Eight minute instrumentals at a metal concert are rare.

As they did in Europe, they did Am I Evil with musicians from all 4 bands on stage, then closed with Seek and Destroy. We cabbed it back to the condo and made a late night Taco Bell run. I am living with that decision still today.

Overall, the weekend was just about perfect. Al, Speaker and StB - you guys were fantastic to hang out with all weekend. It honestly couldn't have gone better. Well, except for the drive from Indio to LAX on Sunday. I'll call that my tactical error for the weekend. Thanks again to you 3 for everything, I wouldn't change a thing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Good Mourning

Before I get any personal ranting and whining done, I'd like to first off say that my plight pales in comparison to a lot of other really good people. There are so many talented friends out there whose future is uncertain. I'd like to express to them that I wish them to best of luck as we all ride out the waves of uncertainty that follow from this past Black Friday. It may take a while, but my bet is that these folks will eventually land on their feet and be back up and running in a better spot than they have been the last few years. The transition will probably be painful, but the hard work and dedication that those folks have employed in the past will only translate into success in the future.

****

I was in the parking lot at Trader Joe's. My parents were in town and I had just taken them for Thai food at my favorite local spot (Sweet Basil) and we were picking up some odds and ends to snack on. I got a Google Chat message from Otis' friend T, which was vague. He doesn't play poker, but sent me a link to Pokerstars with the words Uh-oh. My phone (HTC Thunderbot, FTW!) browsed to the page immediately and found no problem. I asked him some more questions and he mentioned that the site had been taken down by the FBI. Off to 2+2 I went for the ugly confirmation.

Domain name seizures had happened before, so I didn't necessarily panic immediately. As the day wore on, more and more information came to light. With the .com domains hijacked, none of the Full Tilt client software's functionality NOT related to actual game play worked. No Iron Man status page, no Full Tilt store (not that there was anything good in there electronic-wise of late), no ability to transfer (sorry Drizz), nothing except an ability to sit at a table and play.

I realized making a withdrawal request was meaningless, so I took perhaps some equally meaningless screenshots of my account balance while I still could. How badly was I hit? A decent amount, probably about $4500 in cash and close to $900 in player point equity. Can I live without it if worst comes to worst? Yes, but I sure as hell don't want to. It is after all entirely my money and there is nothing I did illegally to acquire it. One thing I do know is that I'm not the person with the most at stake. There are others with much larger online balances to worry about. Will we ever get our balances back? Tom Dwan and Phil Galfond think so, having publicly stated their willingness to pay $1 million each if Tilt and Stars don't. As confidence inspiring as that is, it's still no guarantee. I think our most hopeful option is a Netteller-like payback time frame, 6-12 months of our money being in limbo and then a grace period where the players get their money back risk free. The alternative is that it vanishes forever.

****

Since my parents were in town, the pain of not being able to play online was somewhat minimized. But as reality sunk in, so did the withdrawal symptoms. What on Earth was I going to do with all this free time that I just acquired? I wasn't exactly sure. Most of my tech gadgets and buying decisions were centered around the ability to play online poker where ever and when ever I wanted to. Netbook, check. Ability to tether to my phone, check. Now what do I do with those things? I'm at a loss.

I'll obviously up my live play a bit. I had retired on Monday nights due to sleep deprivation and being over-tired for my weekday workouts. But now, with no online play to compensate for foregoing a live game, I'll find a way to struggle through. I'll also host more. In fact, I'm trying to host a game tonight as I type this. And if that doesn't go? Well, the PLO game I've blogged about runs on Monday's too. I have a sickness.

****

When all the dust clears, I feel that online poker will come back to the U.S. albeit in a slightly different form. It may take a year or more to do so, but there's too much money available for it not to happen. Dear Harrah's, get your shit together. You now have access to hundreds of thousands of players with no viable alternative option. I think we all knew that with Stars and Tilt offering services to American players, no U.S. company was going to invest a lot of money in developing a site knowing full well they'd be playing an unwinnable catch up game with respect to player base and marketing. Now, not only is the playing field leveled, it's stacked entirely in their favor. So much so that they can take their sweet time in providing the next alternative.

I just wish they'd hurry the hell up before my mouse-clicking finger withers with a sad, all too pathetic form of atrophy.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

2011 WSOP Plans

In case anyone was wondering (I know most of you were biting your nails in anticipation), I will once again be making my way to Las Vegas this summer to try my luck at the small buy-in PLO tournament currently scheduled for June 13th. Interestingly, Day 1 of this tournament is on a Monday, which will likely mean that I'll make my travel plans such that I arrive in Vegas on a Saturday and leave on a Thursday. That departure date is obviously planning for success. It's also a pipe-dream, but that's what us low-limit grinders do. Dream about pipes. Maybe not. I have tried to play as much PLO this year as I could, both live and online. As I've mentioned previously, I had a good amount of success at the $25 buy-in tables, the bulk of that play occurring on the Rush Poker tables over at Full Tilt, which, needless to say is one of the best online poker sites currently available. Oddly, there are very few $50 Rush PLO players, so when I moved up, I jumped into the $100 Rush games. I've had some winning sessions, but through a combination of bad luck and bad play (what else is there?), the swings of PLO at the $100 level were too much for my bankroll. So lately, I've focused on the normal ring $50 buy-in tables. Grind, grind away. With respect to live play, well, you've hopefully read the post 2 below this one. That game is somewhat of an anomoly, playing completely different to 6-handed online play. Stylistically, one doesn't necessarily support the other, however there are some concepts that can be applied across the board. Other games I've played, there has been some mixing in of PLO and PLO8, usually every 3rd orbit. This turns out to be a good mix and it's one that I'll employ at my next home game this Friday (new suited speed cloth FTW!). So if you'll be at the 2011 WSOP around the same time, let me know. I'd love to drown my bust-out sorrows at the Rio with you, maybe even hit quad Aces again to dull some of the pain. More information about the 2011 WSOP can be found here: http://www.bestonlinepokersites.com/wsop/2011-wsop/

Monday, April 04, 2011

Metal Monday

Riff of the year, 2010:


Live from the same band (just posting this because I'm getting geared up for the Big 4 concert and this gets me in the mood to drink and crush).

Friday, March 04, 2011

Search For The Grail

A friend recently told me I'm a natural pessimist. He's right of course. Rather than look forward to something with great anticipation, I tuck it away in a neutral spot in my brain so that if whatever it is turns out to be fun, I'll be pleasantly surprised. I don't get let down that way. You'd think, anyway.

Over the past few weeks, I'd been told by The Mark about a live PLO game. When you're The Mark, you always hear about new games. It's your job. Playing, recruiting players, it's all the same package deal. "What are the stakes?" I asked. "5/5," he said, "But how could live players be any good?" It was tough for me to answer that question since I had no other information about the game. So I tucked it away between Reverse and Drive and figured if the time was ever right to play in the game, I'd let The Mark know.

Last Sunday, I told him I could play.

****

We met after work at an old stomping ground. No longer Azia's, the scene of Mastadon 2010 was still basically the same. The new owner appeared to have purchased everything from the previous one. Same utensils, same glassware, perhaps even the same chefs since the menu wasn't much different. A new smiling face greeted me as I sat at the bar next to The Mark, already knee deep in 4-tabling Rush Poker on Full Tilt.

"Hello, I'm Ashley," she said. She smiled, poured me a beer, and immediately earned a spot as one of my new favorite bartenders. It had nothing to do with her skin tight leggings or low-cut, revealing top. Nothing at all. I'm a sucker in case you didn't know. I have it tattooed on my forehead, but only a select few people can see it.

I opened my netbook, logged onto Full Tilt as well, and began the simple quest of obtaining enough points to qualify for Iron Man. Rush PLO, $100 buy-in. Get it in good, get it out bad. Standard. Mike Myers found his way to the new place and sat down to my right. He may have been some form of good luck to me as a flopped King's full held up against someone overplaying AA. I was profitable, got my points, and began to relax. Winning, or shall we say, not losing credit card roulette almost made me think I was going to enjoy myself tonight. Ha. Not so fast said the pessimist.

****

It was growing late, and The Mark was still trying to earn enough qualifying points on Full Tilt as well. I had doubts of ever getting to this supposed juicy PLO game. The Mark had never been, and couldn't even say with full confidence where the game was. I asked him to call whoever he knew at the game to see if there were seats. I wasn't about to drive 30 minutes and sit around. He was assured there would be seats for us. The dreaded "House Players" would get up and allow us to sit when we got there. Again, doubt grew. But I didn't care too much. I was up online and if worst came to worst, there were other places I could spend my money on a Thursday night.

****

When we pulled into the driveway, after twice stopping and turning around, it reminded me of the old Spring Hotel setup. Except that when we rolled around the final bend in the dirt road, we were greated with what appeared to be a wooden loft, nearly luxurious in nature, with wide and high front steps leading up into the game. I had absolutely no idea what town I was even in. It was like I drove through a wormhole that took me from the back woods of South Carolina into an Aspen-like ski town in Colorado. The only thing missing was the snow. We were greeted by the host and as I looked around, it appeared that The Mark and myself dropped the average age of the room by about 10 years.

****

When you play live poker, you wonder about other games. How many games are there truly in town? Is there a mystical game somewhere, filled with endless supplies of money and hopeless players, ripe for the taking? Professional players in Vegas will drive to LA to play with whales. So I guess it's not much of a stretch for me me drive 40 minutes from my house for this game. It was THAT good.

****

A poker hand. What good is a blog post without a poker hand?

The game was actually 2/5/10. The winner of the previous pot was forced to straddle for $10. You could straddle any amount from any position after that. Even with those rules, there were several flops seen multi-way for the minimum $10. This was one such pot. I was the big blind with A885, suited Ace in clubs, otherwise known as a PLO MONSTER!. The flop came A84, two diamonds. Normally middle set is a bankroll buster, at least it tends to be for me online against competent players. But that's not where I was. This was about as off-line as one could get.

I led for $40. Even these folks would raise pre-flop with AA and I had a blocker in my hand to boot. I got 4 callers. Wow, I said to myself, I truly am going to go broke with middle set. Pessimism. For the win.

The turn was an off-suit Jack and since no draws were completed, I fired $175 into the pot. I got 2 callers. Toast. I'm toast, I said to myself. Good thing I brought a few bullets to reload after I butcher this hand. The pot was nearly $800 and I only had $145 left in my stack. I suppose I could check-fold to a diamond, but sheesh, even that's a horrible play. The river was another Jack, I caught an underfull. Online, I go broke every time to AJ. Every time. Still, I pushed the remainder of my chips into the pot and got called. Sigh, here it comes. It's just how I roll.

"Eights full," I said sheepishly. He looked down at his cards, messed with them a bit, and I prepared for my slow-roll. Four random cards hit the table and the best I could see was KK. No diamonds. "I was hoping for a King to hit," he said. Dumbstruck, all I could say was, "I'm surprised it didn't."

"Nice hand," The Mark said to me. It was code for "Holy Mother of Fuck is this game amazing!" He was right, it was.

****

Players went broke, rebought, and began to open straddle for $100. The Mark reloaded another G-Bar into his stack and play resumed. My stack went up and down, but I managed to cash out for a win. This was it. This was the game you heard about, whispered about even, for fear that uttering its name would cause it to vanish back into its wormhole only to appear in another random, unknown location.

If you asked me to drive you there right this second, I wouldn't be able to. It was dark, and I only got home thanks to my GPS. So how will I ever get back?

Optimism.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I try

http://twodimes.net/poker/?g=o&b=Ks+8h+7h&d=&h=5h+Th+Ah+Ad%0D%0AJs+3h+Qh+Kh%0D%0A8s+9c+Ts+8c

http://twodimes.net/poker/?g=o&b=Js+5d+8c+7c&d=&h=7h+6s+Jh+Kc%0D%0ATc+Qs+9c+7d

http://twodimes.net/poker/?g=o&b=Kh+Td+2h+Jd&d=&h=4s+7d+Ah+Ad%0D%0A4d+Tc+Ks+Kc

I really do. Sigh. I guess I'm dropping back down in limits once again. So I'll run good there when it won't matter as much. I owe you $3.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Four by Four

"Four by four by four by four!" "By four!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI5o8cJfOG4

Today is Tuesday, but because much of this happened yesterday, it's still a Metal Monday.
I got an email yesterday from a certain blogger who cc'd another certain blogger. If you threw StB into the mix, you might begin to figure out what the 3 of those guys had in common and why they'd be emailing me.

In short, I'm going. www.facebook.com/TheBig4

This concert will fill a void I've been missing, namely seeing Anthrax in concert. I saw Metallica 3 times in 1988, Megadeth once in 1987, and Slayer once in 2002. As I told those guys, I'm super excited to hang out with them in a non-gambling environment. I spend each blogger gathering locked at a poker table and missing out on the interaction between friends. Even though I tell myself not to do that each year, I fail. At least for this trip, that won't happen.

Besides, how can you take my taste in music seriously if I told you the last 3 concerts I saw were Phish, Phish, and Phish?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Gambling Tales Podcast

Hello folks.

Just in case you weren't aware (I never know how many of my readers don't follow other bloggers, so you may already know about this), the fine folks over at the Gambling Tales Podcast (http://gtpodcast.com) are putting together a freeroll over on Full Tilt Poker (bonus code BADBLOOD, ship it!).

The tournaments are Thursday's at 9pm EST, and there is a free $50 up for grabs. How do you sign up? Well, you'll need a password. What is the password? Well, I could easily give it to you, but I'm going to simply ask you to listen to the podcast and find out. It's entertaining and their two hosts, Falstaff and SpecialK, are good friends who certainly deserve some additional listeners.

You can listen to the show directly on gtpodcast.com or subscribe to it in iTunes. Maybe I'll see you there tonight.

I don't always play in freeroll tournaments, but when I do, I play in the Gambling Tales Podcast Freeroll. Stay thirsty my friends.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Metal on Metal

Not sure why, but I'm a huge fan of metal cover songs. Don't get me started on what pop songs I feel could be covered well by an uptempo thrash sound. Occasionally, I'll find a cover song of a classic old metal song done up right. Here's one:

Original - Love Bites - Judas Priest

Newer - Love Bites - Nevermore (Warrel Dane crushes at the 4:45 mark)