Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Shit Envelope

To begin, today, I would like to thank my #1 referral this week, the Google search for "Jamie Gold Sued." The Tao of Poker was a distant second.

Showcase always thinks he's dying. He's a borderline hypochondriac. And he's Jewish. A couple of months ago, he found this tiny lump on his back, below his shoulder and demanded, nearly every day that I feel it for him.

"It's bigger today, isn't it?"
"Yeah. It's swollen because you keep poking at it. Chill the fuck out."

Showcase wouldn't stop touching it and became convinced he had back cancer. He even went and saw a doctor about it, who told him that it was absolutely nothing. I had a great "I told you so" moment when he walked in the door that particular afternoon.

Over the last few days, Showcase had been complaining of stomach problems. I told him it was probably indigestion from the Jack in the Box "Outlaw Burger" he'd eaten for lunch that day. But it hurt again the next day. And the next.

By Saturday, Showcase was convinced he had stomach cancer and, over Rosh Hashanah dinner, obtained the phone number of a Beverly Hills specialist from his equally Jewish hypochondriac friend Marissa. He got himself an appointment for Tuesday.

Well, Showcase saw that doctor yesterday. He came home with a smirk and a bottle of Nexium.

"So, what's the verdict? Acid reflux? You have Ashlee Simpson disease?"
"Probably. But they have to do some tests to rule out other things."
"What sort of test?"

That is a question I never should have asked.

For three days, Showcase has to take his own stool sample, and mail it back to the doctor in an envelope. An envelope. He has to take a shit, then take this white plastic thing and stick it in the shit to get a sample. Then he takes the shit stick and puts it into a compartment of this envelope. After three days, he sticks a stamp on the thing and goes to the post office.

How is this sanitary? And who opens those envelopes?

I have $10 on an ulcer. And can no longer walk into my bathroom without thinking of the shit envelope in the left-side drawer.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Finding the Swing

I really wanted to like the pilot of NBC's Studio 60 . After all, Aaron Sorkin is pretty much my favorite living screenwriter. I was just nuts about The West Wing and he was always a guy whose career I followed back when I was a suit on Wilshire Boulevard. In my freshman year in the business I worked on the Warner lot as The West Wing shot its first season. Guys in blue suits with Secret Service earpieces joined the army of ER extras in bloody scrubs along with the assorted assistants I'd stand in line with at the studio commissary every day at lunch. The show shot in a building right next to the commissary and the enormous brown barn-like doors to the stage always seemed to be open. No one was famous yet, no one had won any Emmys, and I had a friend who was an assistant at John Wells Productions so I got to come on set a few times. Watching even a tiny piece of that show get made was such a thrilling thing to experience as an utterly green 22-year old.

When Sorkin famously left that series four seasons in, every development executive in town including myself salivated at the thought of him being back on the writing market (though he certainly worked his way through the singles scene at Hollywood's upper eschelons as well). I read most of what he put out in those post West Wing years, including his terrific draft of Charlie Wilson's War and an overlong, disappointingly dry spec screenplay called The Farnsworth Invention, which he later rewrote as a play after it was bought and then thrown in turnaround by New Line if my memory serves me correctly. And one Hollywood mogul's wife based a character in her best-selling dishy chick-lit novel on Sorkin. It's about a Hollywood wife whose producer husband leaves her for a younger woman. Then there's the number of other P.R. black eyes that have haunted Sorkin through the years. Public drug habit. Divorce. Getting pinched by the cops for 'shrooms on his way to Vegas.

Whatever. I say to hell with publicists, to hell with the blow and the pot and the airport drug arrests. I can certainly live with that kind of stuff and I frequently thank my higher power that I haven't been "Sorkined" at airport security at some point in my short life. Aaron Sorkin is a fantastic writer. And as a fan of fantastic writing, I really wanted to like his pilot.

But I didn't like the pilot.

Something about it was off. Pace? Tone? I couldn't feel the characters in that deep, instantaneous way that I always want to whenever I watch TV or a film. It tried too hard. Showcase thought the cinematography and design aesthetic was too "noir" for a TV comedy about a TV comedy and I tended to agree. (Though I secretly think Showcase was just bitter about not getting called back for the part in the Studio 60 that went to Stephen Corddry. I can't tell you how many times I had to rehearse that 'Bernadette from the Bernadette blog' scene with him.)

But something happened when I watched the second episode. I fell a little bit in love with the show.

Not quite the love at first sight I felt for the first season of West Wing, but a different kind of love. Slower. Below the surface at first. Then surprising as each layer is pulled off. Amanda Peet and Sarah Paulson still suck and are totally miscast, but this week's installment got me totally more invested in the characters and the world. The real story kicked into motion. It's great to see Matthew Perry actually acting. And the noir thing bothered me less. But most of all, that lilting, stacatto dialogue of Sorkin's that I so love is back en force. It's clear that the backstage-at-a-TV-show material is personal to him. And he found his swing this week.

Thank God. I was just about to be totally disappointed.

* * * * *

I'm finding my own swing right now, as I continue to craft my feature script. Working more intensely and every single day will do that. When I was writing it more sporadically back in the spring, it was so difficult for me to jump back into my characters' voices after putting the piece down for a few days here, a week there. But committing to be here, at my desk, in the early mornings and the late nights just willing myself to get these pages out has made all the difference. I know these characters so well now I can think with their brains. I know what music I have to listen to while writing their dialogue. And the details just come naturally. That's when I'm writing my best.

Preparing for my own process has also made all the difference. You have no idea how much aggregate time I save each week just by having a steady supply of coffee, Diet Coke, Honey Nut Cheerios and marijuana in my apartment.

I used to always think I had to "feel it" to be able to write well. My best stuff is still the stuff I write the quickest and the most effortlessly. But there's a lot to be said for just showing up to batting practice every day. If I whiff a few, it's not the end of the world. Just stay in the box. Keep swinging. Another ball will come off the mound. Maybe a better one. In writing my stare is too often a thousand yards out, worrying about the end result. If I'll live up to all the expectations. Most of all, my own-- for those expectations are far more punishing than anyone else's. Parents, friends, Showcase, Charlie, Hollywood, whatever. I think in the last couple of weeks, I've been able to cast aside those expectations better than I ever have before.

The resulting bi-product? A lot of pages that I like a lot. A lot a lot.

But I still have quite a way to go...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

How I Played Like Shit for a Cruise

I just made a pathetic showing in the WSOP Invitational. 13 of us who contributed to the site during the WSOP were invited to slug it out on the Party Poker felt for a freeroll. The seriously awesome prize? A luxury cruise for two. Seeing as those are probably the best odds I will ever see when it comes to winning a trip for myself by playing poker, I was totally psyched... that is until I lasted less than 30 minutes into the tournament.

I picked up A-A early and won a small pot on the K-7-Q flop against Michalski. I picked up one set of blinds with K-Q. Then I found 9-9 in EP and raised to 175 with 30-60 blinds. The SB and BB both called. Flop was J-3-2 with two diamonds. I have no diamond. The SB checks and the BB min-bets 60 into the 425 chip pot. I raise to 300, the SB folds and the BB calls. I put the BB on a diamond draw. Turn is the 3h. I fire 750 and the BB calls again. Now I'm worried about a jack. The river is perhaps the worst card in the deck for me... the Ace of diamonds. Thankfully, the BB just decides to min-bet another 60 and I call it off. BB had K8 of diamonds and my stack is already sliced in half thanks to some unfortunate luck.

I made two pair against Michalski and got back up to 2400 of my 3000 starting chips, but I wouldn't hang on to them for long.

J-J in EP, I raise to 300. Michalski calls on the button and the BB calls. Flop is 7-7-3, no suits. I like this flop for my jacks. The only thing I'm really worried about is a 7, because a bigger pair would have likely re-raised. The BB leads with a min-bet of 100. BB has something (medium pair? Draw?) , but I have to see where I stand. I raise to 425. Michalski folds and the BB re-pops it to 650. That sends alarm bells off in my head. What hands containing a 7 would call from the BB. Really just A-7. Mayyyybe 7-8 suited. I have to call 325 more into the pot which now stands at 2125. So I do. Turn is a 10. The BB min-bets 100 again. I cannot fold for 100 so I call. The river is a 3. The BB min-bets 100 one more time. And one more time I cannot fold for 100 so I call. BB had 7-8. More stack goes poof for me. (Is it insane to just fold there on the flop when I've put him on a 7?)

With something like 700 left and 100-200 blinds, I moved all-in three or four hands later with Qc-Qs. When April called on the button I knew I was dead, and her K-Q flopped a K to take me out in 11th place of 13.

Thankfully, my completely shitty play and worse luck will prevent the fist-fight that would have inevitably ensued between Showcase and Pauly over who I'd take along on the trip. Ah, the YouTube video that will never be...

Congrats to Tim "Poker Shrink" Lavalli who took it all down! If you haven't checked out his articles on Harrah's $2 million mistake at the WSOP Main Event, then get thee to Poker News.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Birthday, A Homeless Man, and a Trail of Bread Crumbs

Today, please join me sparking a freshie in honor of one of New York City and the blogosphere's finest writers. I think I can safely speak for all of your friends when I say that we're better for knowing you (even though you are one of the worst proposition bettors in the western world) and that your words touch us and make us laugh every day. Happy 34th, Dr. Pauly. I hope it's a good one!

Otis left this weirdo comment yesterday and for hours I went around just thinking that he had seriously lost his mind after watching something like 467 hours of WCOOP tournaments this week for the Pokerstars blog. That is, until I read through my own Bloglines folder and noticed his post on Up for Poker about his budding poker novel (awesome?). He left pieces of the intro, trail-of-breadcrumbs style in various bloggers' comments. Pretty clever for a redneck, that Otis. Anyway, the story kicks ass and I suggest you go follow the yellow brick road and read it for yourself. It begins here.

So I'm pulling out of a driveway on Fairfax today, trying to make a right turn without getting killed by the steady stream of oncoming traffic. Between the parked cars, the left-lane gridlock, the assholes trying to zip around the gridlock, and the big-ass Metro Bus stopped on the corner, I couldn't see shit. So I was waiting it out until the light changed. That is, until the face of a deranged homeless man appeared TWO INCHES FROM MY CAR WINDOW, which was rolled down.

"Why don't you just drive, bitch? Huh! Just go! Huh!" screamed the homeless man. He was literally about to come through my window. Here, in the middle of Fairfax Avenue, in rush hour traffic.

"THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU CRAZY MAN, BACK THE FUCK OFF!" I barked in reply. My icy blue eyes bore into his and my hand reflexively locked the door. The driver's side window was notoriously sticky and getting that up would require two hands and a lot more time than I had to get this freak away from me. Yes, everything is broken in my car. Even the things that crank up the windows and the right-side speakers.

Thankfully the light changed and I was able to pull away unscathed. The homeless man quickly lost interest in me as I sat in traffic a quarter-block away and he decided instead to harass some people at the Metro Bus stop.

Lunatics are just drawn to me, I suppose.

Cocaine in a Can, Baby!

It doesn't contain real cocaine (damn).

But it is a drink. And it is in a can.

And it is called Cocaine.

It is...Cocaine in a Can, baby!!!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Grinding it Out

With a somewhat rehabilitated bankroll thanks to $22 SNGs on Full Tilt, I played a few tournaments this weekend, including the latest WPBT Circuit Event where I finished 5th of 19, just missing the money. Congrats to Bad Blood for taking it all down. I cashed two other tournaments on Full Tilt (but no final tables) and just missed the money in one of the huge-field Stars Crazy Re-buys. I also bubbled not one, but two $8.80 turbo super satellites to the WCOOP Razz event because that's what I do when I'm high and playing poker in the middle of the night.

I also re-deposited on Poker Stars to get in on the reload bonus going on now (20% up to $120). I like the Stars bonuses because they're fairly easy to clear even at low limits and you get a nice chunk of time to do it. By hitting and running at $2-4 LHE all weekend, I'm up over $400 and I'm 2/3 through the bonus.

For the first time ever, I'm participating in a football pool, the Doctor's annual"Pauly's Pub" extravaganza. It's fun, a bunch of bloggers are participating, and just like bloggers, we all made up incredibly clever names for our teams like the "Reno Keno Crayon-Eaters" and "I Don't Roll on Shabbas."

Though I love watching college foolball, this blonde don't know jack shit about the NFL. I mean, we're so self-absorbed here in L.A. that we don't even have a team anymore. Though I've been told that things like recruiting and injuries and player stats all go into making successful picks, I just don't have the time or patience for all that that some of my degenerate friends do. So I have devised a secret and incredibly scientific system for picking my teams. It uses a complex formula incorporating (1) how fierce the team's uniforms look, (2) the position on the food chain of the animal representing the team and (3) whether or not I've actually heard of any of the players on the team. While my first week was a little rocky, I hit my groove on Sunday, picking 11 of 15 winners.

Of course I won't let you in on my secrets.

At Wil's request, I'm posting a picture of Heidi, but unfortunately, not one of her ass. She can also be found on page 6 of this week's issue of Us Weekly, in which 66% of the magazine's readership believed she wore this green and white Ya-Ya dress better than Ashlee Simpson did.

I have another week of grinding out (hopefully) another 20 pages of my screenplay. A couple hundred more on Stars would be nice too. I'm also posting every day on Pokerblog along with our all-star team of Dan Michalski, Tim "Poker Shrink" Lavalli, Amy Calistri, April Kyle, Jen Browning, Tuscaloosa Johnny, and our latest addition, Gonz, who is writing some great coverage from the WPT Borgata. Check it out.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Heidi's Ass

While waiting for my Tuscan Chicken sandwich at Subway this afternoon I stood in line behind one of those tall, blonde L.A. princesses. She had a $300 haircut and wore a ribbed cotton henley that probably ran her $125 on Robertson Blvd. She was constantly moving, shifting her weight from one impossibly long leg to the other as she gabbed to her less fashionable, less attractive friend. Every guy in the place had both eyes firmly fixed on her ass. Even I was a little bit mesmerized by it's Hollywood perfection. As I listened to her verbally vomit bimbo drivel all over the just-washed floors of the restaurant, it occured to me that her grating voice was a little too familiar. I watched the Mexican guys behind the counter assemble two six-inch subs and one footlong before realizing who she was.

Ever watch that MTV reality show "The Hills?" Well it was the girl from that show. Not the main girl with the internship at Teen Vogue, but her vapid blonde friend who quit school and got a job as an assistant to a club promoter but totally wanted to quit because she thought she would just be going to cool parties and stuff, but was shocked to find out she'd have to like, xerox shit and file. Mainly she just lay around the pool in front of the cameras at their apartment complex and went to clubs at night. I think her name is Heidi.

From the way they were speaking, I deduced that the less attractive friend was actually Heidi's less attractive roommate.

Heidi: We're not gonna eat these here, right?
Friend: I don't know.
Heidi: No, we'll take them back to the house. Then we can watch Sex and the City, right?
Friend: Sounds good.
Heidi: So I got invited to Fergie's record release party. It's tonight. But I'm really just like, not in the mood to get all cute and stuff, you know?
Friend: Totally.
Heidi: I dunno. Maybe I'll get a pedicure later and see how I feel.

What a life.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Good Cards Spell Doom

Don't you hate when your overpair hits a set on the river only to make your fish opponent's gusthot straight that he was inexplicably calling pot sized bets with and you go broke after playing perfect poker for over four fucking hours in a Stars Deep Stack Tournament, the agonizing structure of which is supposed to you know, alleviate some of that luck factor and then you find yourself yelling WHEN THE FUCK IS A GOOD CARD NOT GOING TO SPELL MY FUCKING DOOM! while your landlord chooses that moment in time to walk around the back of the building right next to your bedroom window to see if you're home so he can snake the clogged sink that he's been promising to fix for over a week now?

I wouldn't know anything about it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Transsexuals, Two Million Extra Chips, and a 180

I just stood in line behind a preoperative transsexual at Old Navy. He was very tall and built and wore gym shorts and muscle T but had your 55-year old aunt's frizzy auburn ponytail and wore fuschia lipstick. Thick gold hoop earrings finished off the look. He/she purchased a curious combination of scoop-neck henleys and boxer shorts and paid cash. Only in L.A.

As I turned out of the parking lot and prepared to make a left on La Cienega, I noticed a huge banner dangling off the Beverly Center mall. "H&M. Beverly Center. Fall 2006." I almost read-ended the SUV in front of me as I squealed in delight and speed-dialed Showcase.

Fashion-conscious east coasters know what I'm talking about. H&M has some fabulous stuff at insanely low prices. Whenever I go to New York, I'm guaranteed to bring back at least two full bags of stuff back on the plane with me, and I'll have spent like $200. It's about fuckin' time they set up shop out here.

* * * * *
I urge all of you to check out Amy Calistri and Tim Lavalli's stellar three-part article "Two Million Questions: Will Poker Answer?" over on Poker News. These two just spent the last three weeks intensely investigating how two million extra chips were added to the final chip count in this year's WSOP Main Event and they come to a very compelling, specific conclusion. Tournament poker's security and quality-control procedures have grown obsolete in the face of super-sized fields and Tim and Amy have shown a lot of guts in explaining why.

Two Million Questions: Will Poker Answer? (Part I)
Two Million Questions: Will Poker Answer? (Part II)
Two Million Questions: Will Poker Answer? (Part III)

* * * * *

I'm off the poker schneid thanks to one of those Stars 180-player SNGs. I managed to make the final table in one last night, though I exited in a disappointing sixth when A8 flopped an 8 against my AK after getting the money in pre-flop. The $180.00 was nice, as was the knowledge that the players in these are still frighteningly bad.

Might try another tonight.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to School

Sorry about that little hiatus, friends.

Well it's been 2 weeks. Where the fuck have I been? I only have about 20 minutes to tell you.

I covered the WPT Legends of Poker and Ladies Night IV at the Bicycle Casino last week for my new gig at Pokerblog. All of my articles can be found here. My favorites of the pieces I did that week are my WPT Ladies Night IV Preview and the one I wrote about witnessing a High-Stakes Chinese Poker side game with Layne Flack, Phil Hellmuth, and Gavin Smith. Special thanks to Wil for linking up my coverage on Card Squad.

Spaceman came to town to cover Legends for Bluff, and Pauly jetted to L.A. for a vacation after his long weekend in Colorado seeing Galactic with the Joker and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot. We spent a lot of the week relaxing up at Zuma Beach in Malibu. Showcase, meanwhile, met a new woman and I'm thrilled to report that she's absolutely lovely. Instead of picking her up drunk off her ass in a sushi restaurant, this time he met his girl at an obnoxious bar on Sunset Blvd. that he'd have never gone to had he not been hanging out with a new friend with great drugs. She was there entertaining an out of town friend and the rest is history. Only drawback? She lives in the valley.

The universe continues to send me signs that I should not play poker. They come in the form of having me lose set over set on the VERY FIRST HAND of a Full Tilt tournament (that was today) and bubble untold numbers of SNGs with dominating hands (that was last week). Not dominat-ED. Dominat-ING. It's like being a little kid who reaches up to the countertop to take a cookie off a plate only to have her hand slapped away. It stings and I'm hungry.

Last night I watched a lot of the WSOP coverage and spotted a lot of friends lurking in the background including Pauly, Tuscaloosa Johnny, Jen Browning, Dan Michalski (I think it was your pink shirt), Mad Harper, and Spaceman. The real stars of the show, however were Ryan and C.J. Ryan busted a world champion in Chris Ferguson and looked totally classy and sportsmanlike in the process, while C.J. got more airtime than world champion Tom McEvoy as he sweated day 2 chipleader Dimitri Nobles. My heart jumped as I heard Nobles call "C.J.!" and give him a totally manly bump-hug alongside the T.V. featured table after his A-8 brutally sucked out his opponent's K-K. One great luckbox deserves another.

The next six weeks will be full of intense writing for me. In addition to Pokerblog, I have a few pieces due for freelance clients, but more importantly, I've carved this six weeks into my schedule in between trips and big poker events to get as much work done on my screenplay as humanly possible. Perhaps even finish the first draft. It's what I'm trying for. So it's probably not a bad idea to play less poker. I have the next two days to sort of re-organize my life and my apartment and watch a few movies I need to watch to get myself re-absorbed in the tone of the piece. It's almost like getting ready to go back to school.

On the same note, I sent a "hey what's up" email to Charlie yesterday with that same subject line and his reply this morning started with the line "DEAR LORD! I thought you were going back to school!!!"

So maybe it's a lousy metaphor. But my 20 minutes are up.