Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Run Good... Against Spaceman at Least

I'm relaxing on the balcony of my London flat, eating Thai noodle salad and waiting for Pauly to arrive from Amsterdam, after his flight was unfortunately delayed. Both of us are playing in tonight's six-handed Grand Finale of the Poker Listings Run-Good Challenge. Earlier this week, I duked it out with Spaceman heads-up to see which one of us would advance to the final, as we were both tied in points from our preliminary event performances.

I jumped out to an early lead in the HU match, courtesy of flopping two pair with junk hands on two separate occasions. From there I switched into small-ball mode, not wanting to get too out of line with marginal hands as I know Spaceman plays a very aggressive, often tricky game. It wasn't too hard to keep playing small pots when I couldn't flop a pair or even a draw, and my lead eroded a bit before I doubled up Spaceman when his A-8 of hearts made a flush on the turn against my K-Q. I ground up my stack a bit more before I shoved over the top of his opening raise with A-7 and he made a great call with A-9. We were back to where we started yet again. I managed to suck out spectacularly when I shoved with K-5 and Spaceman called with A-K, rivering a 5 in dramatic fashion to double up. The final hand came when I pushed with A-6 and Spaceman, called with J-T, having only 5 BB or so and despite him picking up half the deck in outs on the turn, I ran good and survived to advance to the final.

It was a challenging match for sure and Spaceman played great. It was also probably the longest $1 HU SNG in history, clocking in at 83 hands.

The Grand Finale kicks off at 11 a.m. PDT/2 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. GMT on Poker Stars. I'm also delighted to see that poker blogging women make up half the field, as I'm joined by two tough Texans in Amy Calistri and Michele Lewis. Rounding out the field are Poker Listings' strategy guru Dan Skolovy, Short-Stacked Shamus and the one and only Dr. Pauly. A $3,000+ prize pool will be divided among the six of us. Come rail and see if I can run good!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jed Bartlet Meets Barack Obama: Aaron Sorkin on the 2008 Election

This is, quite possibly, the best thing I've read on the current state of American politics. Written by my favorite living screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, it appeared in Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times. In it, The West Wing's President Jed Bartlet gives Obama a little advice.

Aaron Sorkin Conjures a Meeting of Obama and Bartlet

The meat of it:

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

OBAMA Good to get that off your chest?

BARTLET Am I keeping you from something?

OBAMA Well, it’s not as if I didn’t know all of that and it took you like 20 minutes to say.

BARTLET I know, I have a problem, but admitting it is the first step.

OBAMA What’s the second step?

BARTLET I don’t care.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Can I Run Good?

Over the last few weeks I've been participating in a very cool tournament series, sponsored by those wacky Canucks at Poker Listings. I was one of twelve invited bloggers to participate in their Run-Good Challenge, a series of four freeroll tournaments on Poker Stars where the top three walk away with free money.

Uh, yeah. Sign me up. Change= always looking for free money.

In the first week's installment, I played on about 90 minutes of sleep after staying up all night to cover a WCOOP Event. Naturally, I was Gigli, but Pauly came in second to the runnin' really good Dan Skolovy of Poker Listings, who took it down. Only poor Dan can't claim any of the prize money, so his $600 first prize was rolled over into the next event's prize pool.

I did better the second week, playing from Barcelona. I finished third, good for an extra $160 in my Stars account. Unfortunately, I knocked out Pauly on the bubble. He hated me there for a good three hours. I picked up a few points too-- at least now I didn't look like a total retard.

Third time wasn't exactly the charm, as I went out I believe in 10th when I tried a stop-n-go against Shamus, shoving on a queen-high raggedy flop with A-K. He called with Q-J and I was out.

The top 6 in points advance to next week's Grand Finale, which is conveniently (for me) held on one of my days off from covering the WSOP-Europe. I was sure I was out of the running until I saw that Spaceman (who similarly slept through Event #1 due to WCOOP vampire hours) didn't finish in the money in Event #3, leaving us tied for the last spot. We're gonna have to duke it out mano-a-mano in a heads-up SNG on Stars later this week to break the tie.

The other blogging luminaries advancing to the final include Short-Stacked Shamus, Dan Skolovy, Pauly, Amy Calistri, and everyone's favorite cougar, Michele Lewis who advanced to the final despite being temporarily displaced from her home by Hurricane Ike.

And... either myself or Spaceman. I'm comin' for ya Tennessee boy...

Thanks so much to the Listings guys for putting this on. There will be future editions, I'm told so stay tuned.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Pauly!

It's Pauly's birthday today! Go stop by the Tao of Poker or Coventry and send him some love!

I'm so sad to be 3,000 miles away from him today, but I know that he and Derek have awesome plans-- catching the next-to-last game to be played in Yankee Stadium. I definitely wish I could be there instead of stuck inside a casino.

Happy birthday, love. I'll see you soon :)

Friday, September 19, 2008

25 Days

The Santa Maria del Mar church, Barcelona, Spain.

It's been a long time. Twenty-five days. Longer than it's ever been in this space.

I didn't fall off the face of the earth. I didn't disappear. I went to a music festival in San Francisco and a Radiohead show in Chula Vista. I covered the WCOOP on PokerStars and the fifth-season opener of the EPT in Barcelona. I flew up to London yesterday to cover the WSOP-Europe and moved into a sunny flat in Soho with Gloria, PokerNews' new on-air personality. I picked up groceries this morning at Sainsbury's. I am eating a baguette dressed with proscuitto and cheese and drinking a real Diet Coke, not that Coke Light shit they have on mainland Europe.

Which brings us up to this moment, but says virtually nothing of the last 25 days.

Pauly went back to New York right before Labor Day. I immediately flew into home-decorator mode the moment he left, finding myself in the aisles of the Burbank IKEA before his flight even took off. For weeks I'd been mulling over what to get him for his birthday. It's really a difficult task buying for him-- he's not so much the man that has everything, but the man that wants nothing (though the Bose noise-cancelling headphones were a definite hit last year). If you've read his blogs over the last few months you'll know that he's been in a frustrating place creatively, and that if he had one wish in the world, it would be to be able to go into a room that was his, close the door, and write.

So that's exactly what I decided to give him.

Until now, Showcase's old room housed nothing but a futon for overnight guests, a plastic set of drawers, and a portable putting green. Now it's Pauly's west coast office.

I assembled all the furniture myself, too. The desk was a breeze compared to hanging those curtains, which took three attempts and two different drill bits. I had to rush to get it done before leaving for Europe, but was thrilled with the results. I think he was too.

I test-drove the office while blogging the WCOOP over the next three nights. Though I kept vampire hours of the 8 p.m.-6 a.m. variety, it kind of helped put me on European time in advance of getting here. Also, it was one of the most drama-free assignments I've had in poker. Blogging a tournament where there are no railtards to trip over? And there are hand histories? I'll take that any day. It was also kind of fascinating to watch the entire final table of a $10,000 online event. These guys three-bet like I smoke weed.

I flew to Barcelona without incident. No screaming infants or foul-smelling seatmates. The hotel was modern and clean and close to the casino. TV only got five channels, though and one was Al-Jazeera. I knew my way around from last year and knew what to expect so I came into the gig pretty relaxed. That is, until I approached the casino on the first day. I saw Gloria, walking in a daze, her Blackberry to her ear, looking quite distressed. She had been robbed, her backpack stolen right off the back of her chair while eating in a nearby cafe. Laptop, money, passport-- gone. And even worse, the staff at the restaurant wouldn't do a thing to help her. As much as we tried negotiating with casino management, Glo couldn't even get inside without a passport per Spanish law, leaving her to take a taxi across town and begin dealing with the red tape at the U.S. Consulate. Fortunately for her, she got hooked up with a new passport right away, but it certainly left me shaken. That night, I locked my passport, all but one credit card, and all but 50 Euros in my hotel safe.

There were more than 20 robberies around the Casino Barcelona during the EPT, ultimately necessitating a press release warning the players and media. Guess the local thieves figured that was the place to be that week. While crime was flourishing outside, the conditions inside the casino had improved drastically from last year's disaster (wherein, your heroine was knocked off a chair by unruly drunken railbirds). Access was improved, there was more of a barrier between the rail and the media, and they opened the casino early for the tournament players and media so no one was getting shoved around in line by the anxious cash game players wanting to get their name in the queue as quickly as possible.

I had three days in Barcelona after the tournament, but was wary of hitting up certain areas of town, like La Rambla with all the theft going on. Turns out it was good I avoided that street, as a full-fledged riot broke out there my last night in town. I did hit up Barceloneta beach, as well as the Gracia area on the west side of the city, home to a lot of cool shops as well as the Parc Guell, designed by Gaudi. The architecture at the park's entrance is astounding and the steep climb up to it affords a truly magnificent view of the city.

I also re-visited my favorite place we ate last year, Celler de Tapas in El Born. I got those incredible prawns again, along with squid, Mallorcan sausage, and lots of other stuff my beloved would never eat.

Mainly, though I walked and thought. Sometimes with my iPod on like the locals, most of the time just listening to others around me converse in rapid-fire Spanish and trying to understand what I could. I contemplated my future. I thought about the kind of writer I wanted to become. I read most of this book Pauly had given me before he left-- The Artist's Way. It's kind of a self-help book for artists and is pretty damn brilliant if you can get past the God stuff. And if you're into God, well then it's totally for you. One of the things the book gets you in the habit of doing is writing three pages every morning before you do anything. It's supposed to be a brain dump, to get everything out of your head so you can focus on making your art, whatever that may be, for the rest of the day. You're supposed to do it longhand, but that's not for me, so I arrived at the equivalent of 1,000-1,200 words on the computer. None of it is meant to be read by anyone but you.

The more I wrote this shit out, the more I got into it, the more things I started to figure out by doing it, the less I wanted to put anything out there on the blog. I liked writing just for myself. I liked not having any expectations. I liked the silence. I had to take a break so I could do this again, and do it better than I have before.

"It's rough having a secret identity" I said to one of my colleagues.

It was cheeky and off-the-cuff, but the statement stung with truth. Putting your life out there on a blog is easy if no one knows who you are. Once those walls come down, it's much more difficult to remain honest. People fake it, people exaggerate, people write what they want others to hear. That's something I've never done, nor ever want to do here. I've built walls and moats and more walls still around this space when it comes to my family and some of them continue to find new ways of leaping over them. So it's harder for me to write about stuff like tripping on liquid acid in Golden Gate Park knowing my mother's going to read it and give me a troubled look the next time I see her. You'll have to wait for the Truckin' story on that one.

The Artist's Way lists twenty commonly held negative beliefs. "I can't be a successful artist because..."

2. I will hurt my friends and family
6. I don't have good enough ideas.
20. If I haven't become a fully functioning artist yet, I never will.

The good news, is I have put seventeen of those twenty to rest.

Still working on those last three.

It's good to be back. And if you stuck around, thanks.