Monday, September 24, 2007

No Love on the Flop

As usual, some of the links in this thing are not going to work because they are links to my now-gone website.

What the Hell Is Wrong With Me?: It was the evening before the first ever Madcity No-Limit Poker Invitational and Bert, inventor of the Bert Classic and digital photography, and Ivan, poker player deluxe and designer of this here website, met up with me to get down on some Chinese food at Joy Luck (yeah, the name is lame, but the food is tasty). Afterwards, we went to my big bro’s house to set up for the MNPI.

It didn’t take us that long to get set up, maybe an hour, and there we were, three poker players in a room full of poker chips, our pockets full of green, and with a couple of hours to kill. Can you guess what happened? That’s right, my people, we had a little three-way Hold 'Em action. Over time, Omaha has been dealt more and more at our game because there’s a lot more action, but the MNPI was going to be strictly Hold 'Em, so we decided to work on our Hold 'Em techniques.

We played until almost one in the morning, and I was up and down the whole night, but never getting that far behind or ahead. It’s the same ol’ routine: I don’t make the big moves and I only ever win when I get into showdowns (nobody folds to a guy who doesn’t bet it up) and my cards hold up at the end. I get the little pots and everybody else gets the big ones.

What’s the problem? Somewhere toward the end of February, I became gun shy, which is a horrible thing to be for a poker player. I’ve made myself into a low-variance player, and, over time, we tend to get chewed up by high-variance players. They’re all trying to kill each other with baseball bats and I get scared and fold or call when I should be swinging my bat, too.

What does this all mean? That after about four hours of action, I was down exactly $2.75. How embarrassing is that? I think that I’d rather be down $50 than $2.75 because that would mean that I was out there, in the fray, trying to take care of my goddamned business. Instead, if you look at The Not-So-Grand Total, you’ll see that, since the end of February, I’ve had nights where I’ve won or lost $8, $6.25, $10, $10, $1.50 (that one’s particularly embarrassing), $5.50, $9, and, finally, $2.75. And most of our games last at least six hours, which means that I’ve had hourly rates of winning 25 cents. Yeah, that’s gonna buy daddy the pec implants.

But Wait, It Gets Worse: After the conclusion of the MNPI, it was still pretty early, so Bert, inventor of the Bert Light and fluorescent lighting, Ivan, Jesse, and myself decided to go back to my big bro’s for some post-MNPI action. I was already out of my head because of how I had done at the MNPI (I might never get over it; thanks a lot, you bastards) but here I was playing with the three guys who had cashed at the MNPI. I proceeded to take an ass-kicking for the four hours that we played.

I was so messed up by what had happened at the MNPI, mostly having to do with me getting great hands cracked by what came down on fourth- and fifth street, that, if somebody came out betting post fourth street or post fifth street, I would fold, even if I was holding something that war really pretty. What did I see when everybody else turned over their cards at the showdown? That I had folded winning hands. It happened three times. No, that’s not accurate. I let it happen three times.

At the end of the night, I had lost $27.50, which isn’t too bad considering I was down about $45 after two hours, but there had been a period when I had actually been ahead. If I hadn't been such a coward and bet those three hands that I could have won, I would have finished with a nice little profit.

It was probably one of my worst performances ever at a poker table. In fact, Bert, inventor of the Bert Death Spiral and the meatball sub, and Jesse commented that I wasn’t playing like myself. Great, you know you're really sucking when your competitors are worried about you.

Back to the drawing board.

Poker Problem: Why does everything pretty have to die? 

Sunday, September 23, 2007

He Doth Bestride the Narrow World: The Madcity No-Limit Poker Invitational Report

The Before: Between those of us in the poker crew, we have eight sets of poker chips, most of them having been acquired right around Christmas. Once we grasped that fact, it was only a short time before the idea of hosting a poker tournament was discussed. My big bro has a big room at the back of his crib that’s mostly used for storage, and it would be perfect, we conjectured, as a location for said poker tournament.

We toyed with the poker tournament idea for months, but it took my June poker trip to Las Vegas to really get things moving. One night, at the end of a Friday-night poker game, Bert, inventor of the Bert Classic and four-wheel drive, Ivan, poker player deluxe and designer of this here site, and myself started planning and running the variables for what it would take to host a good tournament. We got the structure roughed out, picked a date, 3 July 2005, gave it a name, The Madcity No-Limit Poker Invitational, and started getting the word out. It was only a few days later that we realized that we’d have to move the MNPI to 2 July 2005 because my big bro works on Sunday, and there was no telling how late the thing would go. Once we got that sorted out, there wasn’t much left to do until the day before the MNPI.

So, that Friday, Bert, inventor of the Bert Light and rhythmic gymnastics, and Ivan met up with me to partake of some Chinese food at Joy Luck (the name is weak, but the food is decidedly not) and to discuss the rules and procedures for managing the MNPI. Afterward, we went to my big bro’s to get the tables set up and to get the chips bagged. We were playing $40 buy-in, no-limit hold 'em, so each baggie had to have twenty white 50¢ chips, twenty red $1 chips, and two blue $5 chips. It took us much less time to set up than we had anticipated, so we decided to get in a few hands, you know, to break in the room. We played until almost one in the morning, and I lost a little bit.

I should have gone to bed at that point, but I needed to write an e-mail to Sonya C., fellow writer/art nerd and former Husky. She’s gonna meet up with me in Seattle for part of "The Pacific Northwest Museum Tour,” and I needed to run some stuff by her. Writing that e-mail took me until 3:30 in the morning. The plan was to wake up at 9:45 and get ready for the MNPI. I can function, barely, on six hours of sleep if I mega-dose on caffeine (caffeine: hell, yeah), so I wasn’t too worried about the late hour.

How was this plan wrecked? My cellie rings at eight in the morning, and it’s Ivan. Do I want to have breakfast? Breakfast? Dude, it’s eight in the morning. My taste buds don’t even turn on until noon. I try to go back to sleep, but it’s too late.

I’m pretty sure that this was a part of Ivan’s plan all along. Everybody who was going to play in the Madcity No-Limit Poker Invitational probably got a phone call form Ivan at some ungodly hour inviting them to breakfast.

The During: Just prior to the MNPI, I, as MNPI co-director, host, and sponsor, went over the structure of the tournament. Cards were in the air at 12:30 and everything seemed to go pretty well.

There were two tables, so I was only seeing half of the action. Next year, I’ll hire a young reporter to work the floor and do minute-by-minute updates on my website, but that wasn’t in this year’s budget.

Once we were down to the final table, though, it was much easier to describe the action. With a total of six re-buys (I was the first one to go down to felt and have to re-buy), the entire prize pool had swelled to $640, all of which was in play. That's right, no cut for the house. Players got eliminated slowly, and there weren’t any major moves of chips from one player to another.

At this point, we were down to five: Ivan, Jesse, Bert, Ivan’s father, and me. I had about $135 in chips, which, with six players, put me in decent position. Then, however, I got a cold run of cards just as we were going into the seventh round. The seventh-round blinds were $4 for the small, $8 for the big, along with a two-dollar ante for everybody else. What did that mean? Because I wasn’t catching cards, I was getting chewed up by the blinds. By the time the came back around to me, it was costing me $18 just to fold my crummy cards. Couple that with the fact that we were down to five players meant that the small and big blinds were coming around pretty quickly. Add all of that up, combine it with three beatdowns I took when I had really strong hands (two from Ivan and one from his dad), and my$135 in chips was cut down to about $60 without my having misplayed a hand.

It was while I was on this losing steak that there was a hand that involved the movement of a lot of chips, and that probably set up everything that followed. Bert, inventor of the Bert Death Spiral and low-fat cottage cheese, battled with Ivan. The betting after the flop put them both in the pot for at least fifty dollars. After fourth street, Bert checked it and Ivan made it fifty to go. At this point, Bert had already put roughly a third of the chips that he had had in front of him into the pot. Now, he would have to call with approximately another third, leaving him with around fifty dollars for any post-fifth street action. It was a huge decision. If Bert called and lost, he would be wounded and out in the open. He could only really call if he had a nearly unbeatable hand, which was exactly why Ivan had made his aggressive bet. Bert laid his hand down, which, though it was the smart play, still had to hurt, especially since he had put a third of his chips into the pot pre-fold and he was now down to about ninety.

Shortly after that hand, we went into the eighth round ($5 small blind, $10 big blind, a $3 ante), Ivan’s dad got knocked out, we were down to four, and it had turned into a knife fight in a phone booth.2 Those of you who have been in a phone-booth knife fight know that it’s intense, that it’s incredibly brutal, that you don’t really have the room to make big moves but that the small moves that you can make have the potential to be lethal, either for the person who’s being attacked or for the attacker because his attack failed, was countered, or left him exposed. Only three players would get paid off; one slight mistake and you would finish barely out of the money. It was stressful and it was terrifying, but it was a whole hell of a lot of fun..

After the Bert vs. Ivan hand, Ivan had quite clearly become chip leader, it wasn’t even close, and it was going to be really hard to mount any kind of attack on him. Ivan was like Godzilla now, and we were the tiny creatures underfoot that were trying to fight each other for the scarce food that was available while at the same time trying not to attract Godzilla’s attention and get stepped on. What am I saying? Jesse, Bert, and I had to try to cut each other’s throats (we’re friends, sure, but this was business) because, since we were all down to around fifty in chips each and Ivan had about five-hundred, there was no way to mount an attack on Ivan (at this point, it was pretty much a given that, unless something really improbable happened, Ivan was going to win the MNPI), and one of us lesser creatures needed to die for the other two to cash.

The problem for Jesse, Bert, and me was that Ivan wouldn’t let the three of us battle amongst each other for the blinds. Remember, at this point, the big and little blinds per hand added up to fifteen dollars, so for a player down to fifty-something chips, winning the blinds would be a big boost to one’s stacks and could put some distance between you and third and fourth place. Ivan, though, just needs to use some classic poker strategy in order to let us hang ourselves. Nearly every time one Jesse, Bert, or I made a move at the blinds by raising, Ivan would come over the top with a raise that would put the original bettor all-in. All of a sudden, playing a hand that wasn’t absolutely unbeatable could cost you all of your chips and leave you out of the money.

Bad Beat of the Night: Of the night? No, of the year. On my last hand, I was the $10 big blind. We were playing four-handed, I had pocket eights (medium pairs are pretty strong when playing four-handed), and so I made it twenty to go. Bert folds, Ivan calls, and Jesse folds. Since Ivan didn’t bet it up, I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t have a pocket pair himself, so I think that I’m in pretty good position.

The flop comes J-6-4 rainbow, I've got two of the cards covered, and I think that it probably didn’t help him. I figure that he’ll check it to me, I’ll bet the ten (in tournament poker, the minimum bet has to match the big blind or the previous bet), he’ll fold, and I’ll end up with about a $70 stack. I still wouldn’t be a threat to Ivan, but I’d be in second place and in much better position to finish in the money.

Instead of checking, Ivan bets $20. What the hell is he holding? I still don’t put him on a pocket pair because he would have re-raised and put me all-in pre-flop, the board is no good for a flush or straight draws, so I figure that maybe he thinks that all I’m holding is overcards that he has beat. Maybe he has me on K-Q and he’s holding A-Q or even A-K. Maybe he's got nothing and he thinks that he can bluff me out. If I call, I’ll be down to $6 for any post-fourth street betting, so I couldn’t just call; I’d have to go all in. What are the odds of my 8-8 beating A-Q? I’m a 55.7% favorite. What about A-K? Against that, I’m still a 55.7% favorite. I don’t really have a choice, so I go all-in.

If I win the hand, there’s a good chance that I’ll finish in the money because I would have put some distance between my self and Jesse and Bert. If I lose, I get to watch Ivan, Jesse, and Bert battle it out for he money I barely missed out on. What does Ivan turn over? J-6. He’s flopped top two pair, and I’m in deep, deep trouble.

Pre-flop and with the cards each of us is holding, I was a 71.4% favorite. You would think that Ivan would see that if I’m betting twenty of my forty-six in chips, that I’m either holding a pair or at least two high singles or at least something better that J-6. In fact, if I run a simulation of Ivan holding J-6 and me holding J-7 (that is, if I’m barely better), I’d still be a 63.6% favorite, almost two-to-one. If I barely have both of his cards beat (if I’m holding Q-7), then I’m a 63.6% favorite. If I’ve got only his top card beat (if I’m holding Q-6), then he’s dead to sixes and I’m a 74.1% favorite. If he only catches a six on the flop, I’m a 72.9% favorite. Hell, even if I’d had the weakest possible pair, 2-2, I’d still have been a 52.2% favorite to win it at the showdown. What does all of this mean? That my hand was strongest pre-flop, and that I should have gotten all my money in then. Even if he’d been holding big slick (A-K), I would have been a 55.2% favorite with my pocket eights. After the flop, only the two remaining eights helped me and I had become a ten-to-one underdog. The board bricks out and my pocket eights get cracked by J-6 when Ivan makes top two pair.

My Mistake: I should have gone all in pre-flop for my $46 and tried to make Ivan’s decision a little tougher. He may still have called (at this point, $46 represented less that nine percent of his chips), but the possibility of him calling becomes much less likely. Strategically speaking, it’s surprising that Ivan called my pre-flop bet of $26 considering what he was holding, so maybe a $46 bet wouldn’t have changed his play.

I finish in fourth place, one place out of the money. Before the invitational had started, I had joked that the fourth place finisher would get a copy of my book (I’ve got a big-ass box of author’s copies back at my crib), since it’s apparent that nobody is ever going to pay for a damn copy. I called it the Bitch Prize.

So, after planning and purchasing and moving stuff and being sleep-deprived (thanks a lot, Ivan) and keeping the Madcity No-Limit Poker Invitational running smoothly and getting knocked out on a painful-as-hell hand, what did I get? A copy of my own goddamned book. I went to my computer case that was sitting in the living room, pulled out a copy (is it lame that I carry a few copies around with me?), went back to the Madcity No-Limit Poker Invitational floor and awarded myself my free copy of my book that I had already gotten for free to begin with. On so many levels, that's just screwed up and pathetic.

More hands are dealt. Winners win. Losers lose. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Who cares?

Madcity No-Limit Poker Invitational Final Results:
First Place, $320: Ivan
Second Place, $192: Jesse
Third Place, $128: Bert
Bitch Prize, Book Already in His Possession: Blas Manuel De Luna

The After: After the distribution of the prizes, we decide to go eat at Fergie’s 50’s Diner, It’s gonna be on Ivan (you’re goddamned right), and as I got out of Jesse’s truck I said that I was going to order two steak and lobsters (I’m not trying to get all up in your bidness, but don’t eat lobsters; it’s cruel how they get all boiled to death; it's just cold), and that I was going to throw one of the plates out onto the street. What did I really order? The turkey dinner. I needed comfort food to help me recover from my mind-numbing, heart-breaking, soul-destroying fourth-place finish, and what’s more comforting than a turkey dinner? Well, the turkey tasted like it came out of one of those little plastic bags that you throw in boiling water; the stuffing was watery, like the cook had just grabbed a handful of stuffing mix from the box, eyeballed the amount of water that he would need for the aforementioned fistful of stuffing mix, threw the hastily made concoction in a microwave-safe bowl, stirred it up with his index finger, and hoped for the best; the less said about the cranberry sauce, the better (here’s a hint, though, to all you restaurant owners out there: don’t try to make your profit on the cranberry sauce; if you have to serve cranberry sauce that came out of a can, upgrade to a brand that vaguely looks like, smells like, and tastes like cranberries); and, in conclusion, the dinner roll was less than adequate.

I thought about it, though, and what the hell was I thinking ordering a dinner plate at what is essentially a burger/sandwich/breakfast joint? It wasn’t like they were gonna have a roast turkey waiting just for me. The truth is that I eat at the 50’s Diner all the time, about three times a week, and it’s really good diner food.

Because I’m always thinking about my loyal readers (all three of them), I was going to get a picture of my food to link to this entry, but I was so bummed out that I was barely functioning. I kept leaning my head against the wall and saying, “I'm so depressed.” Seriously, even today, eight whole days later, I’m still beyond depressed. Whatever’s between really depressed and stepping into traffic, that’s where I’m at.

The Best Part of the Whole Experience?: My new ice chest. That thing is awesome. On Wednesday, there was still ice in that bastard from Saturday morning. How tough is that? As of Thursday morning, though, the ice has melted, reminding me again that death comes to claim us all. We are the ice cubes and the ice chest is the sad and relentless world of loss. Sorry if that got bleak for a second. I’m a bleak person, that’s my thing. What isn’t bleak? Ice cold drinks out of my bad-ass ice chest, that's what. Igloo rules, no doubt.

1Sponsorship Ain’t Cheap: one folding table, square, beige: $35 one ice chestA, rectangular, silvery, with a white lid: $20 snacks & drinks, various shapes and colors: $34 a chill environment, no discernable shape or color, unless one wants to go metaphorical: that part, thank Jesus, didn’t cost me a dime.

ABack to the ice chest one more time. In general, I have no idea how much stuff costs. I was broke-ass for forever (It turns out that there’s no green in the poetry biz; who knew?) and I’ve never been into the acquisition of stuff anyway (fight the power), so I’m constantly surprised by how little I have to pay for stuff that I need. For example, I thought that a folding table was going to run me something like seventy bucks. Come on, a table that folds? That’s sweet. I was way, way off. The ice chest? Something that keeps your drinks secure and cold as a Republican in a homeless shelter (in your face, Republican bitches)? I was thinking in the neighborhood of at least fifty dollars, which seemed reasonable to me. Twenty dollars, my friend, twenty dollars. Since the purchase of said ice chest, I’ll sometimes get up from my worktable (these posts don’t write themselves), just to go and look at it.

2I Demand Recognition: As far as I know, I created, and thus hold the copyright to, the saying, “It was like a knife fight in a phone booth.”B If you use it (what, you can’t come up with your own material?), I want attribution, goddamn it.

BOkay, this is embarrassing, but I just Googled "knife fight in a phone booth" and found out that that very phrase appears as the title of an article in Salon. The article came out in March, 2003, and, while I think that I was using that phrase before then, the context of article makes it pretty clear that the phrase has been out there for a while. Also, I read Salon daily, and I must have seen the article, even if I have no specific recall of having read it. Furthermore, I'm a language geek, and I tend to remember cool phrases that I have either read or heard. In the face of all this evidence, I can no longer demand recognition as the creator of the above-mentioned phrase. However, could you at least acknowledge that you encountered the phrase on my website? That would be the cool thing to do. You're cool, aren't you?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Las Vegas Poker Journal: Special World Series of Poker Report

All of the links in this are dead, for starters. Some updates: I never did play in a satellite that year because I chickened out. And, according to one of my poker buddies I was momentarily on national television.

16 June 2005

After playing for eleven hours at the Excalibur, I decided to head over to the Rio, where the World Series of Poker is being held this year. It used to be held at Binion’s, but they got bought out. It was pretty late, and I parked in completely the wrong parking structure. It turns out that the World Series wasn’t being held in the casino proper, but in the convention center attached to the Rio through a long-ass hallway that took over ten minutes to make my way through. It was around midnight, and the first place I stopped at was the Official World Series of Poker Store, where I bought a few T-shirts for me and my big bro; official programs for me and the entire poker crew, and a roll of souvenir chips. Then I walked down the hall in front of the room where the WSOP was being played. It was what you would expect: people selling various poker-related stuff, and a very tired and depressed-looking girl in a yellow bikini peddling cigars. Then I went through the double doors into where the games were being played. The room was much bigger than I thought it would be. In fact the place was huge, though, because it was so late, it was pretty empty.

I wasn’t sure if I could walk around freely and I didn’t want to get kicked out, which would have made me feel like a complete loser, and that’s what trying to write literature is for. Finally, I got up the courage to walk around a little bit, and the place I headed for was in the back, where a TV set-up was located.

There was an empty table, though much nicer than the ones being used everywhere else in the room. What I was looking at was the Final Table, the one used when the game has been reduced to the final ten players, or it used to be ten (the number of players that can be held by a casino-style poker table), but now, for the sake of television, it only holds eight players. There was a million dollars in $100 bills stacked on the table, though I later found out that only the outside bills were real; the rest was just paper, which wasn’t the case when the WSOP was run by the Binions. Mini-bleachers had been set up and there were people sitting in them, but nothing was going on. What was happening? It turned out that the game was on a break. When the break ended, I saw T.J. Cloutier come out from somewhere in the room and sit at one end of the table, to the left of the dealer. Another guy, Steve Zoine sat down at the other end, and that was it. There were no other players. I was witnessing the heads-up action of the $5,000 buy-in No Limit Hold ‘Em event.

Wow, goddamn, wow. I couldn’t believe my luck. Here was Cloutier, a man who, along with Tom McEvoy, wrote a book I carry around with me in my computer case so that I can work on my game whenever I have a spare moment. Zoine, I had never heard of, though it turns out that he has an interesting story. He’s an East Coaster, and this was his first serious poker tournament and he had made it to the final table at the WSOP, which is an amazing feat. Not only that, but he had also studied the Cloutier and McEvoy book.

I’m kind of standing around like a smiling idiot, holding my souvenir bags. I’m totally in the shot, by the way; look for me on ESPN in the fall, 10 October 2005, when the final table of the $5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold ‘Em event will be televised; I’m the one wearing all black who looks completely out of place and completely happy.

So, I’m there no more than a few minutes when the game starts back up. The dealer deals out what I later found out was hand 169 and there’s immediate action. Cloutier who’s holding A-5, studies Zoine and thinks long and hard. He sees something that I don’t because he goes all in with his roughly 1.2 million in chips. Cloutier has Zoine covered because Zoine has about $800,000 in chips. Now it’s Zoine’s turn to think because if he calls and loses, that’s it, he’s done. Zoine, however, takes no time to think. He calls and turns over unsuited A-K, Big Slick, the best non-paired starter hand that you can get dealt to you.

Cloutier looks as if somebody just stabbed his momma. If Cloutier loses the hand, he’ll be down to $400,000 in chips to battle against Zoine’s 1.6 million. Now Cloutier is an amazing player, but this Zoine guy is also pretty good and, with his potentially having a 4-to-1 chip advantage, Cloutier understands that he’s pretty much screwed. At this point his only realistic chance is to catch a “5” while Zoine doesn’t catch anything. Cloutier’s odds? There are three cards in the deck at this point that can help him, and forty-five that don’t. You do the math and realize that Cloutier has a one-in-sixteen chance of catching to his five.

Cloutier looks now like he’s trying to get mentally and spiritually prepared to lose, and you can feel the energy radiating off of Zoine, who’s pretty confident that he’s about to pull off something pretty amazing.

Still, you never know what’s going to come on the flop. Maybe a five comes down and Cloutier gets lucky and wins. The flop, though, is 9-8-6, and, all of a sudden, Cloutier has more than doubled his outs. Instead of only being helped by a “5,” a “7” would now give him a straight. With seven outs now, he has a little worse than a one-in-six chance of winning the hand. Fourth street, a jack doesn’t help Cloutier, which means that it helps Zoine. Still, Cloutier isn’t drawing dead, but Zoine is almost assured of winning the hand and the WSOP $5,000 buy-in No-Limit Championship. So, what comes down on the river? A “7.” Cloutier makes his straight and wins it all.

Cloutier hit a nearly miracle flop for a gut shot straight draw and then, when he was almost dead, he got the gut shot straight on the river. Zoine looks like he wants to vomit, wet himself, cry, have a heart attack followed by a stroke, all at the same time. He has suffered a hell of a bad beat, and at the worst time, on the last hand of a WSOP event. He played it correctly and had Cloutier dead as soon as Cloutier went all in. He can take some comfort in that, which he’ll probably be able to do one day, far, far in the future, but probably only if he actually wins a WSOP event of his own. Also, the $330,000 will be of some comfort, though Cloutier comes away with $660,000.

Did Cloutier make a mistake going all-in with A-5? I’ve thought and thought about this for nearly a week, and, unless there was something there that I didn’t see or understand, it seems that Cloutier did made a mistake, a mistake that, if not for an incredible amount of luck, almost cost him a WSOP championship and an extra $330,000. He must have thought that Zoine was also holding two singles, and neither of them an ace. He bet a lot on a hunch. Then, as we’re all snapping pictures of Cloutier behind the stacks of fake money, who comes by to give him some props? Tom McEvoy, Cloutier's co-author of the book I have back in my hotel room. I took a picture of him, though he didn’t look too happy about it. He was even unhappier a few minutes later when I saw him get knocked out of the $1,500 Shoot Out No-Limit event. Then, I saw Kathy Liebert win her table when her pocket 4’s turned into a set on the flop and the guy she was playing heads-up made top pair to his jack and, also holding a king, went all in. She called, and he got no help on the turn or the river. She ended up placing seventh.

I had so much fun at the WSOP that I went back the next day to see if I could run across any more famous poker players. I did see this lovely Chinese Canadian poker player that I’d once seen on TV. She was in the hallway outside, where I saw her walk toward a bench and then sit down with a bottled drink and some pre-packaged burrito- or pita-type thing. Weird.

Then, as I was walking around, there came an announcement that they were looking for one last player to fill out a $125 buy-in satellite. There are two ways to get into the main WSOP events: pay the $10,000 entry fee with money you had with you, or try to earn the money at the satellite tables. This is how it works: you play at a satellite, and, if you win, you get most of your buy-in back ($120 out of $125), plus $500 in buy-in chips. Buy-in chips aren’t actual money in the sense that you can’t spend it on a T-shirt or a tattoo, but you can use it to buy into other satellites, either at $125 or at a higher buy-in ($325, $525, $725), until you accumulate enough cash to play at the main events. Now, there was no way that I could stick around even if I won at a satellite. I was checked out of my hotel and my laptop was in the trunk of my ride, slowly baking in the Las Vegas heat. Still, I really wanted to play, even if I lost all my chips in five minutes, just so that I could say that I played at the World Series of Poker. What stopped me? I could not figure out where the hell the announcement was coming from. Inside the actual tournament area were two places that looked like staging areas, but I couldn’t find anybody holding a microphone. Then the announcement stopped coming over the P.A. system, which meant that they’d already found a player. Damn. However, some of my poker homies are going back in about three weeks, and I’m going to try to play in a satellite then.

Las Vegas Poker Journal, Part Five

17 June 2005, Day Five:

It’s Gotta Be a World Record: It’s my last day in Las Vegas, and I've got a seven-hour drive ahead of me, so I’m only going to play for four hours, from 12:30 to 4:30. I’m expecting a chill session, especially since I don’t want to play like an idiot and end my three-day winning streak. You know how it is: you're up big—for the day, the week, the trip, whatever—and it’s close to the end, and so you start playing way too loosely, getting into hands you should have stayed out of. or staying in hands when the flop was unkind. I’ll admit that this is what I do. I’m up huge, feel like I’m playing with “found money,” and I give it all away. This happened to me on 20 February 2005, in the middle of my incredible two-month winning streak, when, in the first two hours of that game I was up about $140. I was catching cards and playing them pretty well, but then the cards stopped coming. I should have been smart and mucked nearly all of my hands, waiting for good cards to come, but, damn it, I was up huge. What happened? I ended up winning only $23. It was and is the worst that I have ever felt at a poker table.

So, I told myself to play smart, it’s better, at least today, to be cautious and fold when I’m not sure I’m going to get paid off at the showdown.

What happened to the plan? Homeboy Who Burned Through Seventy in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades happened. Homeboy Who Burned Through Sixty in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades cut through seventy dollars in about twenty-five minutes. I’m not exaggerating, it was the poorest display of poker that I have ever seen. To top it off, like me, he was a Chicano, so I was, beyond being filled with awe (if that’s the right word) and gratitude that somebody could suck so badly at poker, I was filled with ethnic shame. Homeboy Who Burned Through Seventy in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades, you're letting our people down. This guy played pocket 7’s and 8’s when there were overcards on the board. There was no way his cards were ever going to hold up, but Homeboy Who Burned Through Sixty in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades actually attacked with them, and he would go all the way to the showdown, where we would all be dumbfounded by what he thought could win. If you're holding a low pocket pair, even if it’s deuces, you see a flop because you might make a set. If your set doesn’t come, you check when it comes to you or you bail as soon as somebody makes a bet.

What made it funnier/borderline tragic was that his lady was at the next table over. She was over his left shoulder and they were back to back. After he gave away his first thirty, in about ten minutes, he turned to her and, though I couldn’t tell what was being said, it was pretty clear that he was asking for some more money (wisely, I think, she was in charge of the green) and she wasn’t happy. She gave him a twenty, thank Christ, and he got back in the game. Well, that twenty lasted around seven minutes, maybe a little bit more, and soon he was down to felt (you can see the felt because you're out of chips) again. Homeboy Who Burned Through Sixty in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades turns back to his lady and asks for more money. Brother, she did not look happy at all. At this point, I did hear him say something about his having good cards. She pulls out another twenty, thank Christ again. Now, it was more tragic than funny because that twenty lasted about six minutes. This guy, Homeboy Who Burned Through Sixty in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades, just wasn’t getting it. He couldn’t make the connection between one ass-kicking and another. The poor sap turned around for one more twenty, but, mercifully and wisely, his lady cut him off. Guy From Near Chicago Who Looked Much Younger Than He Was and I were hoping that Homeboy Who Burned Through Sixty in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades’s lady would keep the green coming because her man was basically a conduit for moving money from her to us.

Okay, I’m Conflicted: For a while, though, I thought of saying to Homeboy Who Burned Through Seventy in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades that he needed to change his game. In fact, I can still remember one of the sentences that I had formulated and almost said to him: “Bro, you can’t play sevens.” The thing is, it would have been economically detrimental to me, even if I didn’t get a taste myself. What can sometimes happen is that all the people who did get a taste feel like they basically now have found money and they play much too loosely and pay out themselves. Homeboy Who Burned Through Seventy in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades just kind of rubbed me the wrong way, what with the fact that he was embarrassing La Raza and that he wore shades at the poker table (which is generally ridiculous, but especially so at a low-limit game).

Come With It, Poker Genius: As our table was coming together (when there are enough people on a waiting list, a new table will be opened up), a guy whom I’d seen around all week, Pot Odds Man Who I Punked Like a Bitch, sat down at the other end of the table (I was two positions to the left of the dealer and Pot Odds Man Who I Punked Like a Bitch was two positions to the right of said dealer). Right away, he started pontificating about poker and pot odds and position, just generally trying to sound like Mr. Poker Pro. Listen, all of that technical stuff is important, especially to me, a guy who plays a pretty strategic style, but this guy was one of those people who loves to hear himself expound. I’ll admit that I wanted to take quan from Pot Odds Man Who I Punked Like a Bitch, mostly just because I took an immediate disliking for him. That chance came about an hour into the game. I had seen Pot Odds Man Who I Punked Like a Bitch attack in late position with unsuited face cards and either bluff everybody out or win when no help came for anybody and his high unsuited face cards held up. Well, I was dealt unsuited A-Q, but I tend not to bet unless I have a made hand, so I called the blind when it came to me. Everybody else either folded or called the blind, but Pot Odds Man Who I Punked Like a Bitch made it four to go. I knew he didn’t have a made hand, and that meant that only A-K could beat me at that point, but the odds of him holding that were slim, more so because I was already holding one of the aces. I thought that maybe he had K-Q, if he was lucky, or maybe K-J. I call his raise, though I thought about raising him because he would either fold and I could win it right there, or he would call and I would make an extra $3. I decided though, to let him think that he had me beat and I was just looking for some help on the flop. The flop was all low cards, which didn’t help me but that I knew also didn’t help him. I checked it, though, and let him hang himself by his betting the $3, which I calmly called. Fourth was a low blank, I checked, he bet the max, and I called it again. At this point, the both of us are in for $10. Fifth is junk, and I know that I’ve got him beat. This time, instead of checking, I bet the $3. Pot Odds Man Who I Punked Like a Bitch will either fold and I win it right there, call so that I get an extra $3, or re-raise so that I can re-raise and get an extra $6 out of him. He calls, and I turn over my A-Q, which beats his K-J. Thank you, Pot Odds Man Who I Punked Like a Bitch, for paying out. Right after this hand, by the way, Pot Odds Man Who I Punked Like a Bitch got up from the table and didn’t come back.

You Are Lovely, But You Are Also Cool: After Homeboy Who Burned Through Seventy in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades left, a new player came in to take his spot. This guy, Gorgeous Man With the Actor Voice Who I Wanted to Dislike But Couldn’t, made me feel bad about myself at first by just being incredibly good looking. I don’t know if that even makes any sense, but it was true. I was fully expecting him to be a prick because, as good-looking as he was, he could get away with it. Also, I thought that he would be ultra-confident (why wouldn’t he be?), and that ultra-confidence would only make it harder to have to live with my usual lack of self-confidence. So, as soon as he sat down, I became shyer than I usually am, which is already pretty shy.

But, as soon as Gorgeous Man With the Actor Voice Who I Wanted to Dislike But Couldn’t sat down, he seemed really down to earth and generally pleasant. He asked about the structure of the game (which can be radically different from casino to casino) and he didn’t throw his chips around like he was a zillionaire. Also, Gorgeous Man With the Actor Voice Who I Wanted to Dislike But Couldn’t said that he was on a budget of $50 a day in gambling losses, and that made him seem more real to me, more like one of us non-incredibly-beautiful people who actually has to worry about money. What also made him seem more real was that earlier that afternoon he had walked through New York, New York, a semi-cheesy hotel on The Strip (well, most of them are cheesy, but this one sticks out), and seen a bunch of young ladies in bikinis laying out face-down in lounge chairs by the pool. Now I figured, just by looking at him, that he could see as many beautiful women and in any state of dress or undress as he could stand, but the fact that he had seen these bikini-clad girls made him happy, just like it would make most men happy. He was a regular guy, just handsome as hell.

Later on, Gorgeous Man With the Actor Voice Who I Wanted to Dislike But Couldn’t’s friend sat down to the immediate left of him. At this point I had already defeated Pot Odds Man Who I Punked Like a Bitch with my unsuited A-Q, which had gotten me respect at the table because I guess that it was a little hardcore to bet into a guy when I didn’t even have a pair, and I was on a pretty good streak. What shows up for me on the draw? A-Q. It’s a betting hand, so I make it four to go and the only ones who stay in are Gorgeous Man With the Actor Voice Who I Wanted to Dislike But Couldn’t and his buddy. The flop missed me, but I bet $3 again, trying to represent that I’ve got a made hand. They both call it and fourth comes down, another card that doesn’t help me. I bet it up, though, as if I did have a hand. Gorgeous Man With the Actor Voice Who I Wanted to Dislike But Couldn’t thinks for a little bit but he folds out. His buddy and I are now heads up, but he’s got a decision to make. I’m betting like I have something pretty, so he has to have something that is prettier than what he thinks that I've got, or he’s got to act like he does and raise. Truthfully, if he had raised, the only reasonable play I would have had would have been to fold out. I can tell he has something, otherwise he would have folded pretty quickly, so I’m hoping that he folds. He does fold, and I turn over my A-Q, just to let them know what they folded to. I didn’t turn them over to be a prick, I did it so that everybody would think that I’ll bluff and try to buy pots (which I only did in this case because I had a nice starter hand and because I thought that Gorgeous Man With the Actor Voice Who I Wanted to Dislike But Couldn’t and his friend would cave if I put pressure on them) so that I can get really paid off when I do make a hand. It turns out that both guys had made medium pairs on the flop and they both had me beat. That was when Gorgeous Man With the Actor Voice Who I Wanted to Dislike But Couldn’t said that I had “balls of steel.” Shortly thereafter, Gorgeous Man With the Actor Voice Who I Wanted to Dislike But Couldn’t and his friend, who had both lost a good bit of their stacks, got up to leave, but not before saying goodbye to the other players, which was classy. Thank you, Gorgeous Man With the Actor Voice Who I Wanted to Dislike But Couldn’t, for being classy and for commenting on the nature of my testicles.

Ah, I Have Found Another Brother: For the last day of Las Vegas Poker Trip, I sat to the immediate right of Guy From Near Chicago Who Looked Much Younger Than He Was. Guy From Near Chicago Who Looked Much Younger Than He Was had played Hold 'Em with his friends, but this was his first time playing in a casino, and it’s just a much tougher game, to which I’m sure Homeboy Who Burned Through Seventy in Twenty-Five Minutes, Though He Thought He Looked Tough in His Shades could attest. So, because Guy From Near Chicago Who Looked Much Younger Than He Was also seemed like a cool person, I was giving him some tips and strategies about how to play in certain situations. At first, Guy From Near Chicago Who Looked Much Younger Than He Was, wasn’t doing too well—over-betting hands, staying in when there was too much action in front of him for him to defend his cards, not betting when he should—but he started getting the hang of if pretty quickly. In fact, in one hand near the end, I had been dealt A-Q (again!) and bet it to $4. Everybody folded out except for Guy From Near Chicago Who Looked Much Younger Than He Was. The flop comes with a jack, and Guy From Near Chicago Who Looked Much Younger Than He Was bets $3. With A-Q, I was tempted to call because I still had overcards to the board, but my young pupil at this point was making mostly good decisions, and I didn’t think that he’d bet unless he’d picked up top pair. I folded out, but I showed my cards. I asked him if he had had the jack, and he said that he did. He had been holding a suited J-10 and I was happy for him that he had played those cards so well. When I got up to leave after four hours (I was pretty good all week about playing only as long as I had planned to play), Guy From Near Chicago Who Looked Much Younger Than He Was reached out and shook my hand. It was nice of him, and I said, “Good luck, bro.” Guy From Near Chicago Who Looked Much Younger Than He Was, may the winds of destiny fill your sails and push you toward glorious glory.

Day Five Total: In four hours and one minute, I win twenty-two hands for a total of one-hundred-and-three dollars. There’s no other way to say it: this was the best that I have ever played. I made very few mistakes and I was playing so well that I started to influence the flow of the game: if I bet, a lot of the drawing hands that might have stayed in instead folded and people who had been betting earlier would check it to me in order to see what I was going to do. I’ve never been Boss Hogg at a Las Vegas poker table before, but I was on this day, and it was a nice way to leave the table, and Las Vegas.

Poker Trip Total: In forty-one hours and twenty minutes, I win ninety-six hands for a total of two-hundred-and-twenty-six dollars.

Las Vegas Poker Journal, Part Four

16 June 2005, Day Four:

It Wasn’t Good: In fact, it was bad, man, it was bad. I took a series of ass-kickings the whole night. On one hand a guy two players to my left took it to $4, pre-flop, was raised to $7, and I called it with Q-Q. The flop came with an ace and the bettor paired his ace, and so he pretty much had me beat. Even if he hadn't hit his ace I was dust because the guy who raised the bettor was holding K-K. One of my best starter hands of the night, and I was cracked before I even saw a flop.

A few hands later, I drew the suited marriage (K-Q of the same suit),bet it to $4, was called by the guy who had caught his ace, but nobody else stayed in. The flop missed me, all low cards, but, since I didn’t think he was holding a pocket pair and I was holding one of the very best non-paired starter hands, I bet it and he, without even a moment’s hesitation, called. Fourth was junk, so we both checked. Fifth also missed me, I checked and so did he. I turn over the marriage, and he turns over suited big slick (A-K of the same suit). Again, I was pretty much dead because only a queen or cards that worked to my flush could have helped me. The flop had been a rainbow, so we were both off of ourflush draws right away. Still, I was screwed. Oh yeah, here’s some poker knowledge: What do you call K-Q, the marriage, when it doesn’tpay off? The Divorce.

The same guy later beat my off-suit Kojak (K-J) with his pocket deuces when the board didn’t help either of us. Unbelievable. Not my night at all. I played for 10+ hours. I was down $40, came back up to around+$40, back close to even, but made a little bit of a run at the end. I won, though, so I don’t have too much to complain about.

A Bit of Sunshine, Metaphorically Speaking: There was one nice moment in the whole evening. When I was making a bit of a run, the guy who had been sitting to my left for a few hours said he liked how I had played. Guy Who Said He Liked How I Played said something about how I had been smart and patient by getting out of some hands, but then attacking when I could. The truth was, though, that at that point I was either getting premium hands or I was getting rags. It doesn’t take much skill to play high pocket pairs or 7-2 off-suit. It’s when you’ve got middle-to-low pairs or mediocre singles that you have to play at a pretty high level. Still, a complement is a complement, and I take them when I can get them, so, Guy Who Said He Liked How I Played, thanks for the props.

Wandering Skanks of Las Vegas: It was pretty late in the evening when the player two positions to my left made a comment about all of the groups of young ladies walking around in tiny little tops, something about why would they be in tiny tops and why would they be walking around in groups. Seriously, all these young ladies seem to do is walk around, and they don’t ever stop walking around to play any of the games.

As a joke, I called them the Wandering Skanks of Las Vegas, which got a decent laugh, but I felt like a jerk immediately afterward. There was no way for me to know if, in fact, they were skanks, and, furthermore, if they were skanks, if they were skanks of the wandering sort, other than to go up and ask them and then get my inquisitive ass kicked out of the casino.

No, I’m kidding. See? Ir eally can’t help but try to be funny. That was why I made my Wandering Skanks of Las Vegas mini-joke. I know that they’re not skanks. They were doing what young people do whenever they get together: dress up for each other and then go out to see and to be seen. And, really, plenty of people come to Las Vegas without the intention of gambling, and after you shop for a day, there isn’t anything to do. You get bored, and what do bored people do? They also walk around. So, Wandering Skanks, I apologize.

Day Four Total: In eleven hours and three minutes, I win thirty-two hands for a total of twenty-eight dollars. This was the most hands that I won on any single day, but also my lowest in terms of profit. What this means: I played way too many hands. I was probably feeling too happy because of my two previous days at the poker tables.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Las Vegas Poker Journal, Part Three

15 June 2005, Day Three:

Brutal Ass-Kicking: I call the dollar blind, a guy at the opposite end of the table makes it four to go, and everybody between him and me folds out. I have pocket jacks, and I put him on a drawing hand. I make it seven to go, hoping he’ll come off of his hand, but he calls. Now I think that maybe he’s holding a low pair. If he has a high pair, he would have re-raised, and I would have folded then. The flop comes 4-4-10. After he called my raise, I assume that, with the cards he must have been holding, the flop couldn’t have helped him. I bet the max and he calls. Fourth- and fifth-street are junk, low cards that don’t help for a straight or a flush. I bet it after each round and am in for $16. What does he turn over? A-4. He flopped trip fours and I was basically cracked the whole way. This genius bet seven dollars on A-4 before seeing a flop, and he got lucky. I can’t tell you how much that sucked.

Somos Carnales: This was the night that I sat immediately to the left of an old-school pachuco, Ese Vato From Los Angeles. I’ll tell you what I thought when Ese Vato From Los Angeles sat down next to me: “Ah, my brother. I am among my people, and it is good.” We talked about Los Angeles, his 'hood, laughed, talked poker, and gave playing tips to Tattooed Applebee’s Server Guy With Probably Too Much Gel in His Hair, this guy who eventually sat down two positions to my right. Tattooed Applebee’s Server Guy With Probably Too Much Gel in His Hair had been watching our table from behind the rail for a while before he sat down, which you see a lot of in poker rooms. They want to play, but they’re kind of scared. I wanted to make his entry to Las Vegas poker as pleasant as possible; that’s the kind of guy that I am.

I’m Sure He Doesn’t Mind: Ese Vato From Los Angeles was a great guy. We joked, talked smack about the other players, and he pointed out all the pretty girls who walked by. Then this exceedingly pretty girl (exceedingly, is what I’m saying) and her man parked themselves on the rail of the next table over. Her top was the size of a cream colored paper towel and Ese Vato From Los Angeles opined, “They’re fake,” and I said, “I’m sure the boyfriend doesn’t mind,” to which Ese Vato From Los Angeles said, “He probably paid for them,” and I, in agreement, said, “Yeah, I’m sure he didn’t mind that, either.” As we were having this discussion, Ese Vato From Los Angeles’s wife, who was playing slots about twenty feet away, caught her man’s and my analysis of the subject at hand, and Ese Vato From Los Angeles waved at his wife and said, “Hi, Honey,” and she, in bemusement, smiled and waved back. Ese Vato From Los Angeles then said to me, “She’s cool as long as I don’t touch.” Ese Vato From Los Angeles and his wife really seemed to get a kick out of each other, and they seemed like a really happy couple. Ese Vato From Los Angeles, I hope you keep kicking ass in those on-line poker tournaments.

Russian Throat Cancer Lady: For part of the night, I sat to the left of Russian Throat Cancer Lady. Every hour or so, she took a cigarette break, but countered the effects of smoking by drinking hot tea all night. The tea wasn’t working, though, because I've never heard a raspier voice in my entire life. She's got, like, one vocal cord left. Couple the raspiness with a thick Russian accent, and it was pretty hard to understand her. She would say something, I would pick out a word I could recognize, and respond to it, hopefully in a way that made sense. She would say “**@#^% *^& %$#@, $%&^ *&%^ %$; %^&$* idiot (&%&* #$^$#% lucky &@^()(@,” and I would say, “Yeah, people don’t know what they’re doing,” and she and I would nod in some half-assed form of understanding and fellowship.

Russian Throat Cancer Lady, at least at this table, was having a bad run of cards. Finally, in what seemed like desperation to me, she made a $3 pre-flop bet. I had unsuited A-Q, so I called it, and so did the guy to her left, Tattooed Applebee’s Server Guy With Probably Too Much Gel in His Hair. The flop was all rags, cards that couldn’t have helped any of us. It comes to me and, though I have the second-best non-paired starter hand, I check it. Russian Throat Cancer Lady throws in three chips, but the way she threw them in makes me think that she might just be trying to buy the pot. Tattooed Applebee’s Server Guy With Probably Too Much Gel in His Hair calls, and, after some thought, so do I. Fifth street is also a blank and I didn’t pair, so I check. Russian Throat Cancer Lady throws out another $3 and Tattooed Applebee’s Server Guy With Probably Too Much Gel in His Hair folds his hand. I’m pretty sure that she had nothing and was on a bluff the whole way, but there are now five different cards on the board and she could have paired with any of them, and I could theoretically lose to a pair of fours. I don’t really have a choice but to fold, which I do, but instead of throwing my cards face-down into the muck, I throw them face up to show her how much respect I have for her play. She throws her cards face-up, too. What did she have? A-J. I had her beat the whole way and I had been right that she was making a play. I started laughing because it was pretty funny how she had punked me. Then Tattooed Applebee’s Server Guy With Probably Too Much Gel in His Hair said that he also had had A-Q. Russian Throat Cancer Lady: respect.

Ah, We Have Bonded: Throughout the three or four hours that I played with Tattooed Applebee’s Server Guy With Probably Too Much Gel in His Hair, I gave him some tips and strategies that he started to put into effect pretty quickly. He had burned through his first forty in a hurry, but after Ese Vato From Los Angeles and I gave him some pointers, he slowed down his losses and actually started winning. Now, why did I help him? Because he was an innocent and because he wasn’t acting like a jerk. Here’s some advice: don’t wear your goddamn sunglasses when you’re playing low-limit poker. You'll look like an idiot. But Tattooed Applebee’s Server Guy With Probably Too Much Gel in His Hair was a sweet kid, and when I left, he reached out to shake my hand and I told him, “Good luck, bro.” Tattooed Applebee’s Server Guy With Probably Too Much Gel in His Hair, wherever you are, spread your wings and fly.

Last Hand of the Night: I had suited A-3, flopped a straight draw, made the straight when I caught a 5 on fourth, and won, which was a nice way to leave the table.

Day Three Total: In ten hours and five minutes, I win twenty-eight hands for a total of forty-six dollars.

Las Vegas Poker Journal, Part Two

14 June 2005, Day Two:

Everybody is My Bro: Today I decided that, since we were all in the game (of poker and of life) together, I was going to call everybody “bro,” you know, as a way to assert my kinship with my fellow man. Also, I thought that it would be cool to be thought of the guy who was cool enough to go around calling complete strangers “bro.” It’s lame, I know, but I’ve never been cool (I’m a poet, after all, which is about as uncool as you can get), and maybe I could be cool when I was playing poker in Las Vegas. Okay, how many times did I use “cool” in this paragraph?

Here are some actual sentences that I uttered over my five days in Las Vegas:

“Can I get some ketchup, bro?” To the guy who gave me my order at McDonald’s, where I must have eaten a total of eight meals.

“You can’t show him your cards, bro, he’s still got a live hand.” To the nitwit who showed everybody, including players still in the hand, the cards that he was folding.

“Bro, there’s gonna be a free buffet in the back,” To the guy from Illinois who I thought was about twenty-three but who was actually just a little bit younger than I am. I can’t remember how food came up in the conversation.

“You don’t have to be a jerk, bro.” To the guy at the table who said I was covering my cards with my hands, which only showed that he wasn’t paying attention, because what he saw was my looking at my cards when it was my turn to act. See, I’m even down with people who act like belligerent dipshits.

Back in the Day: There’s a precedent for this stupid idea of calling everybody “bro.” Back in 1992, I had, for the most part, given up on people. Somehow, I found most of them to be disappointing. Not that I was so special. I wasn’t that happy about myself, either. I saw that I was becoming/had become too cynical, so I decided to call everybody, even if I was being critical of that person, “brother.” A sentence I remember uttering at the time was, “Brother Perot seems to have lost his mind.” I felt really in touch with humankind, but that shit wore off after a while.

Free Drinks Make Men Act Like Jerks: This was my fourth trip to Las Vegas in the past few years, and each time I’d noticed that everybody called the cocktail waitresses “baby,” “doll,” “honey,” or some other such endearment. It always bothered my feminist tendencies, but I decided that I would try this out myself to see if it would also make me feel suave or hipstery or something. So when I got the coke and the bottle of water that I had asked for (I’m one of those weenies who doesn’t ever drink), I said to the waitress, “Thanks, Sweetie,” and immediately felt like an idiot and sort of ridiculous. It’s just not me.

I’m Dead Inside: Early on in the game, it became pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to get too much action when I bet or raised; all I would get were a bunch of folds and I would come away with a small pot. I figured out that I must somehow have been giving away the quality of my cards through some unintentional action on my part. In the biz, they’re called “tells” because they, well, tell observant players what you're likely to be holding. So, after the deal, I would try to empty myself out and try to not react at all when I quickly looked at my hole cards. I would also say to myself, “I’m dead inside,” which isn’t completely true. I mean, the world kicks your ass so much that it feels like you're dead inside, but it’s not actually true. I repeated my new, little saying for the rest of my time at the poker tables, and it actually worked. Try it.

Also, I'm a Poet: When I lived in Madcity, my writer buddies and I would sometimes go to the Art Institute to look at the pretty pictures. It's lame, and I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I would always wear this T-shirt I picked up when I lived in Seattle. I figured that it would be an easy way to meet the ladies because it gave me two ins. First, some woman could say to me, "Oh, you're from Seattle?" and I could say, "Why, yes, yes I am. Let us drink some coffee, or another beverage of your choice, and talk about the Emerald City." Or, some other woman could say, "You're into poetry? I love poetry," and I could say, "I, too, love poetry. Perhaps, over coffee, or even a light afternoon snack, I could recite some of my poems for you?" It was all planned out. Too bad it never occurred to me at the time that it would be impossible for anyone to read the front of my T-shirt since I would be facing the various works of art. What I should have done was turn my back on the works of art and adopt a pensive air, as if said works were having a profound effect on me. That way, I would have had three ins. "Are you okay," some concerned woman would have asked, and I would have responded, "It's just that this painting really got to me," to which she would have said, "You're sensitive, aren't you," and I could have sealed the deal by saying, "Why don't we discuss my sensitivity at The Cafe? I will buy you a Pepsi and a chicken sandwich." That line is pure gold.

Why, you're thinking, is he mentioning a T-shirt? Because, inquisitive reader, I wore it for my second day in Las Vegas, the thinking being that I might look like dead money if I wore a poetry T-shirt to play poker, and I had the best day, Las Vegas poker-wise, that I had ever had up to that point. I'm going to start looking for T-shirts that might make me look like an even bigger wuss. Tampa Interpretive Dance Team: if it exists and they sell T-shirts, I want one. New Haven Astronomy Club? Ditto.

Day Two Total: I played for ten hours and ten minutes and won fourteen hands for a total of fifty-seven dollars.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Las Vegas Poker Journal, Part One

Once I had gotten my website going, I had thought that I would write a day-by-day Poker Journal of all of my future trips to Las Vegas. When this first five-part series took over twenty hours to write, I let that idea go. This trip, then, in the summer of 2005, is the only one about which I wrote.

Las Vegas for five days. Forty-one hours of poker. Free food. Freeway driving at two in the morning. Watching Cloutier play in the $5,000 buy-in no-limit at the World Series of Poker and win it all. What did he win? $600,000. The whole experience was great, and the homies and I are going back in about three weeks. For now, though:

13 June 2005, the First Day:
You know how you make travel plans and those plans always begin with getting an “early start?” Has that ever really worked out? I told myself that I’d pack and Mapquest and plan by Sunday evening and then be on the road by 7:30 Monday morning. “Sunday evening” became 1:00 a.m. and 7:30 became 9:13, so that’s already ninety minutes that I’ve lost. I tell myself that I’ll make up time on the road. I’m one of those people who hates making stops and who actually times them for efficiency, but I got stuck waiting in line at the Tehachapi AM-PM and lost ten minutes there. And then there was Barstow, where the 58 connects to the 15. Road work? One lane all the way through Barstow? It took me over an hour to go a few miles, taking away sixty minutes of poker action. Screw Barstow, man, screw the hell out of it.

I got into a game at 6:00 p.m., and right away ran into some cheaters, a husband and wife team. This was their scam: they both showed up with a rack of blue (one-hundred one-dollar chips), sat next to each other across from the dealer, gave most of their racks away in about a half hour, so that we’d all think that they were dead money and bet into them, then all of a sudden started winning. They were sitting right next to each other and instead of lifting up their cards from a corner, official poker-style, they’d lift them off the table and turn them over pretty far so that they could see each other’s cards. I was two positions to the left of the dealer, and there was this cool guy from Africa with a great accent sitting to my right. After about ninety minutes, both cheaters were up pretty huge, which is never a pattern you see. Players who lose a lot early will tend to lose all night, even if they do slow their losing down. Big losers tend to be first-time players, and they play too many hands because they don’t yet have an understanding of what a really good hand looks like (it’s not a pair of 4s), or they’re hoping to catch a card to go with their J-5. The learning curve can take four or five hours, or a few days, but there’s no way it happens in an hour and especially not for two people, and especially not to the point that they both start killing. Never happens.

So, their wild fluctuation in chips made me nervous, and Guy From Africa With a Great Accent was a little suspicious too. We started talking about how there might be something going on. Finally, after the dealer told them to protect their cards, that is look at them in a way that doesn’t allow anybody else to get a peek, we knew that something was up, as they say . Our suspicions thus confirmed, Guy From Africa With a Great Accent says to the dealer, “They’re together, and they’re looking at each other’s cards.” Right away, the woman, who offers no protestations of innocence, offers to switch places with Guy From Africa With a Great Accent. (BTW, don’t think that I’m being a jerk because I didn’t get this guy’s name; I played for a little over forty-one hours, and I never heard one name being exchanged.). They switch, but it’s pretty clear to me that they’re still cheating. She’s now acting two plays ahead of him, and they keep looking at each other before either takes an action. Then I notice that whenever it’s the wife’s turn to act, the husband has a stack of chips in his hand that he either does or does not tap, sending her some kind of message. At this point, I decide to not hide my suspicions, and I look directly from him to her, back and forth, when it’s her turn to act. I also make sure that he sees that I’m looking at the chips in his hand. If they weren’t cheating, he would have kept playing with his chips, but he stopped. Then, after a few hours, they were both broke. Yeah, there was some nefarious stuff going on, but Guy From Africa With a Great Accent and I put them in check.

How did I do? Not too badly, considering the drive and fending off the poker chicanery. I won a few hands, but not enough. My two best hands were when I caught a 4 on the river to make a straight to the 5, splitting a $95 pot with the guy to my right, who had made the same sraight on the turn. He acted like a jerk about the fact that I caught at the end, but I explained to him that it only cost me $3 to try to win a $92 pot, a 30.67-to-1 payoff, when the odds of my catching a 4 were one in 11.5, which meant that the pot odds were way in my favor, and I had to try to catch a four. He knew his poker, so he seemed to agree, but there's no way to feel okay about somebody taking $47.50 from you.

Later, I drew American Airlines, bet it up the whole way, and caught an ace on fifth to make a set that beat out top two pair on the flop. That was cool.

Day One Total: I played for a total of six hours and nineteen minutes and lost seven dollars.

A Bitch of a Week, Pokerwise/Seriously, I Never Learn

This was the first Poker Report in which I made reference to Bert's delicious barbecuing . Seriously, if he endorsed a grill, I'd buy it, even if I don't have a place to keep it or to even barbecue. It's also the first Poker Report in which I started referring to Bert as the inventor of stuff.

Last week was Memorial Day, a day I had off from work, thank Christ, and I got a call from Bert, inventor of the Bert Death Spiral and toothpaste. There’s going to be a barbecue at his house, and there’s a good chance that a poker game might break out. Barbecue and the possibility of poker? I’m there, dude, I’m there. I got there pretty quickly, 'cause I like to haul ass in my ride, but I would have gotten there even faster if I hadn't seen CHP cruisers all over the goddamn place. I get there, and, because Bert, besides inventing the Bert Classic and the automatic teller machine, can work a grill, the food was tasty.

We retire to the kitchen table (we had been outside, enjoying the lovely weather), and set up for the game. There were three of us: my big bro; Bert, inventor of the Bert Light and the internal-combustion engine; and me. What happened, transpired, went down? There’s no gentle way to say this: my big bro beat the hell out of me, almost as if we were little kids again and I had dented his Tonka truck. I lost $33.25, which isn’t a lot, but this was the most I’d lost in nearly two months, and it happened in about only two hours. Early, he out-boated me when he caught on fourth, slow-played it, and let me hang myself with my aggressive bets on fourth and fifth. Toward the end of the game, when I was on a bit of a run and looking at the possibility of getting close to even, he caught on fifth to out-boat me again. That was cold-blooded.

Bert had been way down, too, but he managed to get close to even by taking my money for the last half hour. Then I had to drive home and get ready for work the next day. Great.

3 June 2005: You know how I’ve played a few times with that one guy who gets a little carried away? Well, because my usual Friday-night game wasn’t going to happen (everybody was booked), when one of my co-workers suggested a game at his crib, I didn’t have a reason to say no. So we played again, this time with a bunch of co-workers who hadn't played with us before, and, while that one guy seemed to hold it together a lot better than he had before, he still got loud and a little mean, and, of course, I was distracted and unhappy, just like I knew I would be.

I’ve just never felt comfortable around people who’ve had a few too many; I keep waiting for the thing to get ugly, and, even if it doesn’t, its mere possibility makes me all jumpy.

I know what you're thinking: Well then, you whiny bitch, why don’t you just say that you can’t play? Excellent question.

1) I have a hard time saying no to people. Seriously, it’s sad that I don’t want to let people down.

2) I try to have faith in people and I believe in redemption, so I have to believe that it might turn out okay.

3) It’s poker, bro, it’s poker, you know?

Well, I paid out again, though not that much. I did manage to hold it together much better than I had before. I just played a lot less hands than I ordinarily would have because a lot of people were staying in, hoping to catch to their drawing hands. People trying to catch usually pay out to tactical/seasoned players, except when so many people stay in that one of them is bound to catch. There were a ton of family pots (where everybody stays in for the showdown), and there was no way I was going to stay in for those. All in all, even though I lost, I didn’t feel too bad because I kept my head straight and didn’t let the nincompoopery bother me too much.

Poker Problem: What is up with my right knee?

Books Fail Me Yet Again

This post is from early in the history of out poker game. I stopped doing the "It's biblical" bit a long time ago because everybody had stopped laughing. I'll give it a few years, and then I'll bring it back out again.

It’s pretty clear: all my fancy poker learnin’ isn’t doing it anymore. No matter what techniques and strategies I use, I’m not winning the big pots like I used to. It’s time to put the books away. New poker strategy? Get them drunk. In service of this new strategy, I first stopped at the neighborhood grocery store on the way to Friday night’s game in order to pick up some limes for the Coronas I was going to purchase at the local liquor store. I get to the liquor store, and it’s locked up tight with a little handwritten sign taped to the inside of the doors: be back in five minutes. Great, the one time that goddamn liquor store is closed in all the years I’ve driven by it is when I need to get my friends really, really drunk.

I, myself, stopped drinking because I got tired of waking up after having slept under people’s cars. SUVs have plenty of room underneath, but they let too much cold air in. True connoisseurs know that the VW Passat gives you the right balance of coverage, clearance, and wind-blocking capabilities, especially if parked near a curb. Also, you feel kind of classy waking up underneath such a well-built and aesthetically pleasing vehicle. No, actually, I’m one of those nerds who doesn’t drink or smoke. I do, though, love to snort Ajax. It’s a good buzz. That end-of-the-world burning in your throat and stomach? The burning’s just the Ajax cleaning you up all pretty inside. And, really, stomach linings are overrated. The convulsions? They’re convulsions of cleanliness, and totally worth it.

Respect to Ivan, Respect: At the start of the game, Ivan bought in for thirty, which was ten less than his usual buy-in. He burned through that in a hurry. He bought in for another twenty-two. Twenty-two? That was what he had left in his wallet. He burned through that pretty quickly, too, which was bad for him, but good for us. We were all expecting him to buy in again, but he just sat and watched for a little while. Finally, he said that he was going to leave. Leave? My man, Ivan, poker player deluxe and programmer/designer of this here site, leave? Leave he did, and we debated whether he would come back. We were all pretty sure that he would return shortly, but that seemed less and less likely the longer he was gone. We were getting ready to give up on him, but Ivan’s hardcore, and he finally returned, twenties in hand, ready to take care of business. Now, Ivan’s burned through his money on other nights, said that he was done, but always bought back in. And this is the thing: every time that he buys back in, he always makes money. Even if he ends up down for the night, he gets much closer to even than he had been when he took a break. Ivan ended up making thirty dollars, which was an eighty-dollar turn-around from when he took his little break. Respeck.

It’s Biblical: Ozzy is a really good poker player, so being heads-up against him is already bad enough. To top it off, he is also my big bro, so that makes those confrontations even more difficult. Every time that everybody else folds out and it’s him against me, I always say, “Brother against brother. It’s Biblical,” you know, to get religion and Christ involved. Which one of us is Cain and which one is Abel? Whichever one does the ass kicking, that’s my brother. A big part of poker is understanding your opponents, and on this he will always have me beat. Think about it. He’s seventeen months older than I am, so, in the sense that he had cognitive function before I did, he’s “known” me longer. For at least the first year of my life, when I was as cognizant of the world as a dish rag, he could have been studying me the whole time, eyeballing me as I crawled around like a turtle, looking for tendencies, habits, and defects in my bravery and character. It’s not fair, goddamn it, it’s not fair.

Bad Beat of the Night: We’re playing Omaha, and I’ve got some medium-highs singles. There’s a fifty-cent value bet by Jesse behind me, but we all call it. The rainbow flop (three different suits: club, spade, and heart) gives me a monster hand, the nut straight to my ten. Very few cards are going to be able to hurt me, so when Jesse bets the max, two dollars, I re-raise the max. We lose Bert, Ozzy had already left because he was double-booked, so we’re down to three: Ivan, Jesse, and yours truly. Fourth street is a low heart and doesn’t look like it was of much use to anybody, unless somebody paired it for a second pair or completed a set (three of a kind with two of your hole cards) with it. Somebody having just made a set or two pair is actually good for me, because the odds of them hitting for a boat or four of a kind are slim, and if they bet it up, I’ll pull more green from them. I bet it, Ivan calls, but Jesse folds. We’re heads up and I feel pretty good. Fifth comes down, and it’s a heart that doesn’t pair. It’s of no use to anybody at the table, I don’t think, unless somebody was on a runner runner flush draw, but with these bad-ass players and with the money it cost to catch, who would be? The thing about Omaha, though, is that you can be playing one hand and accidentally hit a better hand on fourth and fifth that you weren’t even thinking about. I had done it earlier in the evening when I made a four-flush to my king on the flop, completely missed the flush, but made a nearly unbeatable straight to my nine and got paid off pretty decently. Maybe Ivan had paid in to make one hand but had ended up making another. And, at this point in the game, Ivan had been in the middle of his comeback streak, and sometimes players on a roll will stay in pots they would ordinarily get out of. They’ve got money to play/attack with, so they’ll try to drive you off of your hands. They also have a psychological advantage. They’re up, you're down, and everybody knows it. They can get you to fold just because they’re in your head. But Ivan, it turned out, wasn’t trying to drive me out or punk me; he was just putting his money in to see what would happen, even though he had rags the whole way. What happened? Ivan, who had been on a miracle draw the whole way, hit runner runner for a flush to his king of hearts, taking the pot, and a little bit of my delicate soul.

Poker Problem: Who's gonna ride your wild horses?

(For Christ's sake, don't snort Ajax.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Pimp Hand Is Strong

Another early Poker Report. You will note that this post is full of street lingo. I must have been going through a phase.

Last night, Bert kept his pimp hand strong, and he put us in check the entire game. Every time one of us got uppity, he put the smack down with a quickness.

The night started off horribly for me. I bought in for $100 so that I wouldn’t go short-stacked if I took a few beats. Strategically and psychologically, there’s nothing worse than playing short-stacked. Most nights, even if I’m not getting paid off, a good part of the hundred will last until the end of the session. Well, after an hour last night, I was already down forty, and it kept going to hell from there. By around eleven, after two hours of play, I was down to fourteen dollars and I was getting ready to buy in again because I’m not going to bitch out and I won’t stop until the game stops, no matter what. Word.

What Is This, Some Kind of Joke?: We’re playing Omaha, about three hours in, and I pick up my hole cards to find A-A-K-K, one of the big slicks being suited. If the other big slick had been suited as well, this would be the best possible starter hand because then I’d have a shot at two different nut flushes to my aces. As it is, I’ll be drawing to one nut flush, one nut royal flush, the nut straight, two nut fours-of-a-kind, two nut boats, and two nut sets. In other words, the world is mine, and I should expect the checks to rain down. Before the flop, I bet the max, and the other four players stay in. The flop comes down, and it completely misses me: no ace, no king, no high straight draw. The only possible hands that open up are medium-to-low straights, and a flush away from my suited big slick. Still, the board doesn’t pair, and there are no made straights or flushes. There’s a possibility that my pairs are leading, so I bet when it comes to me. We drop a player and fourth comes down, again missing me by a mile, but opening up both a made flush and a made low straight. The best I can hope for now is that an ace or a king comes on fifth, and I make a set. The problem is, though, that it’s already likely that a set would get cracked with what’s already on the board, so I’d be looking for four outs out of forty-four cards, a one in eleven shot, just to make a hand that I’ll have to pay for with fourth- and a fifth-street bets and/or calls just to get my ass kicked at the showdown. When Jesse bets in front of me, I don’t have to think long and hard to know that I have to fold. I don’t even get to fifth street with the best Omaha starter hand that I’ve ever had or that I have ever seen in all of my years playing poker. At least I didn’t pay extra into the pot, but that’s barely any consolation.

Bad Beat of the Night: But my A-A-K-K beat wasn’t even a bad beat. In fact, it was a good lay down, and I got much props for cutting out early like I did. The bad beat happened early in the game, and it hurt like a mofo. I’m holding 5-7 unsuited, which isn’t much of a hand, but nobody bet it up on the draw, so I stay in for the free flop. The flop comes 5-7-2 rainbow. I have top two pair, and two shots at hitting one of the four cards that gives me a boat. It comes to me, I bet the $2, Bert calls, everybody folds, and he and I are heads up. The next card, a jack, doesn’t help me, but it doesn’t help toward a straight or a flush. Bert might have paired a jack, but I still think I’m in the lead. I check it, though, to get Bert to pay into the pot ahead of me, which he does. I come over the top with a re-raise, and Bert calls for a total of four dollars each on the round . Fifth street comes down, and, life is sweet, it’s a 5, giving me a 5-5-5-7-7 boat, nearly an unbeatable hand. This time, I come out betting the max, four dollars, Bert re-raises the max, which is starting to make me nervous, but I re-raise the max as well. I think my last play gets Bert thinking because he only calls my last bet. When I turn over my cards for the boat, I’m sure that I’ve just won this monster pot, a total of$36, until Bert turns over 7-7, making his boat 7-7-7-5-5. He had led me the whole way. When I had two pair, he already had three of a kind. If no help had come for either of us on fifth, I’m sure the showdown wouldn’t have been as expensive as it turned out to be. I still would have lost, but I wouldn’t have taken such a big hit early in the game. At the end of that hand, though, I actually saved $4 because Bert could have raised instead of just flat called. The only reason I can think of for why he didn’t was that the jack coming down on fourth may have led him to think that I was holding pocket jacks and had made the J-J-J-5-5 boat. If he had bet the last $4, I would have had to call.

After Bert beat me like a disrespectful ho, he had what every poker player wants: an early lead so that he can use his stacks as weapons and as leverage, putting everybody else on the defensive and then revealing vulnerabilities in our strategies and in our characters, vulnerabilities to be exploited mercilessly. I, on the other hand, became gun-shy and, like a nitwit, stopped betting when I should have bet, limiting the size of my pay offs and letting the other players catch free cards. I did get my head together eventually and started to make a minor comeback in the last two hours, managing to get back most of the eighty-four that I had burned through earlier in the game. By the time we called it quits at 1:45 a.m. (because I had to work the next day), I was only down $21.50.

Poker Problem: How come I never get to bestride the narrow world?

The Highest That I've Ever Been

I think that I'm hilarious. Most sensible people disagree. The below was one of the first "bits" that I posted on my website. See for yourself how deluded I am.

We've all been high at one time or another. Some of us were young when we first started. These people were rich or had connections. We hated these people. Others of us were scared to get high and managed to put it off for a long time.

The first time that I got high was in 1999. Somebody else, who shall remain anonymous, had set up the transaction, but we had to get to Los Angeles to complete the deal. We get to the place, and it's swarming with people, which made me a little nervous, but I was already plenty nervous for other reasons. Would I freak out? What were the chances that I could die? What was the food going to be like? Right at the end, there was some confusion as to whether we were at the right place, but everything worked out and the airplane took off on time.

Also, I've climbed Half Dome twice. I was pretty high then, too. And I was a little oxygen-deprived.

(If you disapprove of drug humor, I apologize.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Let's Ride the Pony, Gentlemen

One of the funniest things ever uttered at our game came from Ivan, poker player deluxe and programmer/designer/host of my now-dead website. It was so funny that we still talk about it, though he said it over two years ago.

It was Ivan’s turn to deal. After he deals, we all look at our cards in order to make our decisions for the first round of betting. Ivan, to “get the party started right,” then says, “Let’s ride the pony, gentlemen.” There was a horrible, awkward pause because this was the least, ahem, “manly” thing ever uttered at our game. A million insta-jokes ran through my mind—1) That’s not really my thing, dude. 2) I’m flattered, but that’s not really how I roll. 3) Wait a minute, I didn’t know this was going to turn into that kind of game. 4) Sorry, but I left my chaps at home. 5) If you try to touch me, I’ll kill you. —but I let it slide by.

To help out all you youngsters out there from committing this type of “party foul,” I’ve put together a list of allowable phrases to utter after the deal:

1) “Let’s do this.” Short, to the point, and it sounds really cool. A classic.

2) If you want to give a little extra flavor that phrase, you can add one word and say, “Let’s do this thing.”

3) For extra street cred, you can change the “i” in thing to an “a” and say , “Let’s do this thang.”

That’s about it, except if you really want to sound badass and sort of ridiculous, in which case you might be able to get away with, “Come with it, bitches.”

It was another mediocre evening, but on the last hand of the night I had a chance to come out a little more ahead than I did. I was holding K-8 unsuited, Bert, a truly good player, was holding K-7 unsuited, and we were heads-up. That’s right, every card but a seven helps me. Do the math: three cards help him, and forty-eight help me, which means that I’m a five-to-one favorite to the river. Life is beautiful, so goddamned lovely. The flop comes K-3-7, giving me top pair, but giving Bert top two pair. Essentially, my hand is already blown, and now every card but an “8” helps him. He’s now a huge favorite. Of course, I don’t know this, so, after Bert checks it, I make the max bet, and Bert very calmly calls it, slow-playing his monster hand. Then, miracle of miracles, an “8” hits on fourth. Bert checks, I bet the max again, and Bert, still thinking he’s slow-playing his monster, simply calls. We’re back to every card but a seven helping me. What comes down on fifth? A seven, giving him a boat. I still think I’m way ahead, but Bert makes the max bet after fifth: four dollars. I look at the board, understand that the seven helped him, so much that he’s going to come out blasting, backtrack through the hand, understand that if the last seven helped him, then so did the seven on the flop, which means that he had a seven in his hand, which means that, at the very minimum, he’s made three sevens. If this were the case, I could try to re-raise another four dollars and try to drive him off of his hand. But if he were only playing off of the seven, he would have folded earlier when I was making the max bets, so he’s probably holding a king as well . It’s looking pretty probable that he has the boat, and it’s going to cost me four dollars to find out. A better man than me probably would have laid his hand down, but the curiosity was killing me, so I called. He turns over his K-7, and I’m out about ten dollars on the last hand of the night. It hurt, but it also felt kind of good, if you know what I mean.

Poker Problem: Why must the innocent suffer?

My Book Makes a Great Gift

I had originally put up this somewhat funny post after my book had come out and nobody had bought it. How to deal with the pain? With a lot of edgy dumb jokes. Tragically, my current sales rank is seemingly permanently stuck in seven figures.

Why the hell isn’t my book selling? I stopped checking my sales rank when it sank into six digits. Now, it’s almost at seven digits. I am mortified. There’s one way to get that number up: buy my book for somebody else. You don’t even have to read it. It’s probably best that you don’t.

People for whom you could buy my book:

Atheists: there’s some quality God-doesn’t-exist stuff that will cater to their bitter, angry beliefs. Man, are they bitter.

Christians: there’s some blasphemous God-doesn’t-exist stuff that will cater to their bitter, angry beliefs and get them good and riled up.

Chicanos: I’m a Chicano, so mostly just out of ethnic loyalty. Help a brother out, you lazy Mexicans.

Other Minorities: it’s hard to tell us apart and we’re all pretty much the same anyway.

White Folks: to see how the "darkies" live.

Democrats: it will speak to them on religious/political/ethnic grounds.

Republicans: they can wave it over their heads and condemn it on religious/political/ethnic grounds. Burns real nice.

Depressives: the cover’s black, just like their broken little hearts. Also, the poems are bleak as hell, thus reinforcing their feelings about the meaninglessness of life. They can read it while listening to Joy Division and weeping gently.

People That You Hate: it will make them into depressives and you will ruin their lives.

The book also makes a great gag gift. Really, who gives a goddamn about poetry? When the recipient opens the package—What? What is this? Poetry? You bought me a book of poetry? Dude, that is hilarious!—the both of you can just laugh and laugh.