Tag Archives: poker

After School Special: Booze Lotto Parenting

World's greatest mom.

World’s greatest mom.

Sure, you love kids, so you gleefully punched out one, two or even octo-quantities of them. (Hint: Almost as many as a nine-round ammo clip.) But then, like a baby chick a few days after Easter Sunday, they stick around and are always underfoot, demanding attention and care.

What then?

It’s not like you can make a chicken-and-egg scrambled omelet with them and viola! Problem deliciously solved! (Although an amazing number of parents do find a way to carry out filicide but that’s decidedly outside the scope of this post.)

Like the vast majority of my blog posts, it all started when I decided to set foot out of my house…

Looking for some dinner my wife and I drove into the parking lot of the divey Chinese restaurant. The lot was amazingly full. What gives? The food must be awesome here, eh?

But when we walked into the dining area, only two tables were occupied. Huh?

That’s when I slapped my head and yelled, “D’oh!” I almost forgot I live in Oregon. That’s where they have a state-run lottery and run a continuous stream of commercials urging the citizenry to go out and gamble because doing so accomplishes “good things.” (Like increasing revenue into state coffers.)

Sure, they simultaneously run anti-gambling ads but that’s only because they like a mixed-up, dazed and confused populace. Let’s blast ’em with a hot mix of pro-gambling and anti-gambling messages … at the same time, they seem to be saying whilst rubbing their hands together in glee. That’ll learn ’em a lesson!

Indeed. What’s not good for the individual is apparently good for the state.
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Royally Flushed

Last night was the Texas Hold’em home game. I will now regale some highlights of the evening.

I don’t like to brag, of course, but I seem to have been constructed for the purpose of playing poker. A coworker from a job 12 years ago once told me I had the “shifty eye.” I took that as a compliment. I also love maths and probabilities.

The other good thing about poker is that it is the only sport that I can watch on TV and go out and replicate myself. I use the word “sport” loosely but it must be true since they show it on ESPN.

I don’t like to brag or anything, but I rule the home game. I’ve placed in the money something like eight times in a row. That isn’t chance or luck. It’s skill.

“In the money” is nice but the #1 spot itself has proven elusive. I think I’ve only claimed that title a single time in the home game.

Last night I was on a mission. And the poker gods themselves were looking down to enforce some poker karma.

Pokerize ’em!
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Fantastical, farcical fables of fetal fatality freedoms

This is my neighbor Joe. He's not too good at poker. He went all-in with 7-2 offsuit.

This post was once just a twinkle in my eye. Then I conceived a subject, a germane approach fertilized, and, long story short, this post was birthed nine minutes later.

WordPress was the midwife.

Of course, in my dictionary, “fertilize” generally means “throw poop on it,” but hopefully you still get the idea.

“Daddy, where do babies come from?”

“Good question. But, technically speaking, there is no such thing as a ‘baby.’ You see, son, the North Carolina House of Representatives tells us that at the exact moment of fertilization a ‘human being’ has been created.”

“Ferthil-a-shay-shun?”

[laughing] “Yes, son. Fertilization. That’s just a fancy word for mommy and daddy getting together, each of them adding a special ingredient, and making a new person. Like you! You know how chocolate and peanut butter got together to make a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? It’s a lot like that.”

“Gross!”

Indeed, Timmy. Indeed.

Freedom. In America, seemingly above all else, we prize our cherished freedom. And rightly so. But probably at the very moment pilgrims landed in this country, they did something peculiar. They started making laws to control the freedoms of each other.

“There are nine of us and one of you. We voted and decided that thing you do is now prohibited.” Ah, democracy.

Our history is replete with this sort of thing. Freedoms legislated away like oral sex, anal sex, “sodomy,” adultery, nudity, women owning property, women being allowed to vote, black people being free persons, black people being allowed to vote, black people owning guns, etc.

A quintessential example of this? In the original version of the Constitution of the United States, you only had to read four short paragraphs before encountering racism.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Thankfully that sentence was modified by the 14th Amendment.

So anyway, this sort of thing is nothing new.

On my morning commute, I sometimes like to listen to religious programming. There’s a morning talk show, I don’t know the name, where I’ll sometimes pause. (That same station at night is more fire and brimstone and doesn’t hold the same sway.)

This week they were talking about how “life begins at conception” and the fight they hope to bring to the Supreme Court. They talked about how an effort was underway in North Carolina to legally say that a human being exists at the moment of conception. They also said that if you had an opinion different than that you were “anti-life.”

You know, some people don’t like to be called “homophobes” just because they take a position against homosexuality. Yet here we have religious folk flinging the “anti-life” label simply because you disagree with them on what is, in all actuality, a very very fine point. I find that a skosh hypocritical.

The proposed North Carolina law that was passed by their House of Representatives takes a quite reasonable position. It would criminalize “death or injury” of a “fetus” at “any” stage of development. Take the morning after pill? You’re guilty of murder, pal. You just killed a “human being.”

That’s not farcical at all, is it?

Kill a sperm? That’s okay. Kill an ovum? Still okay. But at the very moment those two things are joined to form a zygote a “human being” now exists and “killing” is off the table.

Curious, and being a fan of Texas Holdem, I invited a few zygotes to my house the other night for a poker game. Aside from a weird tendency to go “all-in” too often, I found them decent human beings, although, to be honest, they were extremely boring and completely lacking in personality and the social graces.

I understand abortion is a serious issue. In fact, my opinion on the issue has changed somewhat radically over the years. It has become much more conservative over time. When I was young and stupid I was pretty cavalier about it. Now that I’m old and stupid, my standards have changed dramatically.

I can’t define my position exactly, but let’s just say that I support a woman’s right to choose. It’s her body and her choice. But, in my opinion, that moment of choice is extremely narrow.

Clearly it is wrong to kill a newborn baby. Just as clearly, in my view, a “human being” is not created at the moment of conception.

Somewhere, between those two extremes, lies the real moment when a human life comes into being. I have no idea when that moment might be. Perhaps it’s a heart beat. Perhaps it’s brainwaves. Perhaps it’s a fingerprint. I really don’t know, nor do I know if anyone really knows.

Something tells me it might have something to do with the ability to feel and, perhaps, experience pain. Not hurting others is a big part of my philosophy so that resonates with me. A zygote can’t feel pain. But somewhere in the development of a fetus that ability does exist.

That’s why I believe we should err on the side of caution. Make abortion laws have a tight window. Very tight. But criminalizing abortion all the way to the moment of conception? I believe that is wrong. It impinges on the freedom of the individual in favor of a human being that doesn’t yet exist.

Debate on fiercely contested issues isn’t always a logical thing. You ask for the moon. I’ll ask for the stars. Neither side will get what they ask, so invariably we end up somewhere in the middle. I believe that trying to criminalize abortion all the way to the moment of conception is a tactic. One that is designed to move where that eventual compromise will exist.

We should intelligently debate this issue. And we should fight to make reasonable laws that are based on common sense. Not go after illogical extremes as political strategies.

This is my “F” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”

Home game poker drama

Ah. A friendly game of poker at home. Such a fun relaxing way to spend an evening.

We get together with friends about once every two months for a friendly little game of poker. We meet at 6pm for a potluck dinner then by 7pm it’s game on. There are usually about 6 to 9 people playing.

The game is structured as a mini-tournament. The game is Texas Holdem no limit. Each player starts with $1,500 in chips and the blinds start at $5/$10 and escalate slowly every 15 minutes. The blinds grow slowly to $10/$20 then $15/$30, $20/40, $25/50 and so on.

The “no limit” variation was adopted at my insistence. Bluffing is almost impossible when you can only make a minimum raise and everyone would call and invariably someone would suck out. Argh. And the games could go past midnight. Argh.

With our blind structure and no limit in effect the games typically last 3 to 4 hours. That’s much more doable for us. Our routine is pretty consistent now. Break for a snack at 9pm then finish no later than 11pm.

It’s a friendly game but to keep it interesting we all chip in $20. The prize pool last night was $140. We award that to the top three finishers. Third place gets their money back, second place gets $50 and first gets $70. Personally I’d rather go $80, $40 and $20 but I got outvoted. We almost never make it to an official winner since when it gets late the people still in the game start offering deals to each other. “If we quit now I’ll split the pot with you 60/40″ and stuff like that. If the offer is accepted we can all go home. If not, we keep playing. If we keep playing, usually the final two (if they have approx. the same amount of chips) will say, “one more hand to determine the winner.” If agreed, there is no betting. All cards are dealt face up. It’s basically a coin flip to end the game so we can call it night.

The tournament structure means that anyone can be knocked out on any hand. Some people go home if they get knocked out. Some stick around and graciously assume the duties of dealer. For those that don’t go home,  however, they can get a little bored and pouty because they are out of the game.

The players include my wife and myself, another married couple, our aunt, a friend of ours and her daughter. Occasionally we’ll have random guests, like our friend’s husband, a tag-along friend or someone’s kid.

The married couple is where the action is at. I’m going to call them the Johnson’s. (Not their real name.) They both enjoy gambling a little too much. The formation of this little group was basically their idea. Mrs. Johnson can be a little bitchy. Mr. Johnson is a hardcore gambler and has been his whole life. He loves poker and considers himself quite good. He deals poker at a local club a few times a week for part-time money. He’s a great guy to have around when the chips and pots get all confusing and stuff.

He’s also pretty silly at the poker table. Flashing his cards, making comments, acting out of turn, etc. He thinks he’s the best so he gets pretty grumpy if he gets knocked out. I imagine it’s hard for him to get beat by us amateur idiots. He also doesn’t seem to do well after the dessert break. He gets all tired and cranky. Sometimes he’ll stick around and deal for us and sometimes he’ll stomp out of the room.

On top of that Mr. and Mrs. Johnson will peck at each other all night long. They’ve been married 45 years and have a rhythm to their interactions. The drama ebbs and flows between them much like the tides.

At last night’s game all was well up to the dessert break. No one had been knocked out yet – everyone was still in the game. It’s always nice when that happens. After the break, though, things usually start to happen pretty fast since the blinds are getting large.

My wife was knocked out first. Then went our friend and Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. That left me, my aunt, and our friend’s daughter (who is actually quite a good player).  Aunt was the chip leader, I was a strong second, and daughter was on the short stack.

Mr. Johnson was dealing and was grumpy as hell. He hasn’t finished in the money for quite some time. So he was speed dealing and was rather impatient. You’d have some cards flung at you and he’d bark, “bet, check or fold!”. We’d be given about two seconds to make our decisions.

Daughter started to build a come back. Aunt was losing her chips. Mrs. Johnson kept bitching at Mr. Johnson to slow the hell down. You could see it was getting to him.

Finally we arrived at an important hand. Daughter had climbed to #2 in chips and aunt had dropped to #3. She had a big decision to make. Mr. Johnson was impatient. Mrs. Johnson made one last comment. FLING! He tossed the deck of cards at her and said, “Fine! You deal!” and stormed out of the room. It was the biggest incident we’ve seen between those two so far.

After things calmed down Aunt went ahead and finished the hand. She called an all-in bet from daughter and lost the hand. She was knocked out of the tournament. We all felt a little bad since we are playing for real money and that was an unfortunate way to go.

I was now the chip leader and daughter was pretty far behind me. We played a couple hands then we made a deal to split the winnings 5o-5o. I was the winner since I had the most chips when the deal was made. $60 for each of us and $20 for the aunt.

Even with the drama I still had a good time and somehow managed to kill a bottle of Pinot Noir all by myself. Oops. But I don’t think everyone had as much fun as me. (Winning does that.)

Why does there have to be the drama?

Rivering the stone cold nuts

This is the tale of a Texas Holdem “miracle card” on the river.

I had playing conservatively and pushing hard on solid hands. When I was called I generally took the pot with a strong hand, and if I lost a showdown it was generally because I had the best hand at the turn and was beaten by the river. So the players at this table could generally assume I was a pretty tight player who only moved in when I had the goods.

Unfortunately this screen shot doesn’t show the action that led up to this point. I had limped in and called weak bets all the way to the river. Both of my opponents were weakly playing the two-pair they had flopped. I called a weak bet at the turn hoping to see another diamond, thus getting a nut flush draw. That wasn’t mean to be.

Again they bet weak and I called, hoping to see a jack that wasn’t a diamond. (A jack of diamonds would mean there would be a potential flush on the board and I wouldn’t have the stone cold nuts.)

The odds of a non-diamond jack were about 6.5% in that situation. (That is three cards desired divided by the number of cards still unseen. Or 3 / 46 = 6.5%.) Bingo! I rivered that card for the stone cold nuts. An ace-high straight AKA “Broadway.” No other hand could beat me! The worst thing that could happen is someone else was holding KQ, too, and we’d split the pot.

Now these two players woke up and bet hard. Eventually they ended up all in and I had them both covered and every chip in the game was mine. Mwuhahahahaha!

It doesn’t happen often but when it does it is sweeeeeeet! 🙂

Personally I think flopping two pair can be extremely dangerous. You really need to bet it hard to get people away from their drawing hands. What you’re really hoping for is the board to pair aces or sixes and give you the full house. I’ve seen two pair on the flop end up losing way too many times. I almost consider it a jinx. I also consider it extremely dangerous to flop a straight, too. The danger is that the initial excitement of hitting something big can tie you to a losing hand. You have to be extremely careful.

Now please excuse me. I have to go count my chips. 🙂

Virtually excited

Today I realized my goal of earning $2 million in “play money” from PokerStars.net.

I’d like to thank PokerStars.net for their confidence in me. They loaned me $1,000 in play money to get started and I was able to parley that initial investment into a $2 million nest egg. They must feel so proud.

I’ll probably take a leave of absence from the blog now to go on vacation in the virtual Bahamas or sink it all in a virtual Monopoly money Ponzi scheme. Perhaps my new goal should be to become the Bernie Madoff of the virtual world?

Either way, now the people who used to diss me on ChatRoulette can point at me and say, “He’s virtually a nice guy.”

Feeling royally flushed

Drats. One of my oft-repeated laments – that I’ve never had a royal flush – was cruelly taken from me this afternoon in Texas Holdem in PokerStars.net. I only won $6,400 on the hand.

The first royal flush of my life in any sort of game happened to be in diamonds.

I’m now about $4,000 away from breaking the $2 million mark in my PokerStars.net account. I’m talking about play money, of course. 🙂