Monday, August 31, 2009

Misadventures in babysitting

On Saturday night, I decided to withdraw some funds from my other bank account -- the 4/8 LHE with full kill game that runs at a local casino downtown. Seeing as how I'm on hiatus from online play, I've been trying to play at least a few hours per week when I can stand to be indoors during the summer. My results have been very good overall -- the game plays like 8/16, and I'm putting up a nice 7BB/hr winrate for 2009, and averaging 8 or 9 winning sessions for every ten I play -- and I'm sure I'll put in even more hours when the summer weather turns to the typical Vancouver autumn rain.

My planned withdrawal went as planned -- I cashed out with four more racks than I started with, which is good work for a relatively short session of about four hours -- but I also witnessed some entertaining shenanigans during the course of the evening which were definitely worthy of a blog post.

As I've mentioned before, this casino happens to spread the biggest public game in the city, a full-ring 5/5 PLO with a max 200 BB buyin. I have kept a close eye on this game throughout the summer with the goal of taking a shot or two or four when the time is ripe.

So as I'm waiting near the door for my seat to come open at my regular game, I wander over to see how the PLO game is doing. Who should I happen to spot in the one seat but a minor Canadian poker celebrity. He didn't have a million dollars in front of him, unlike here, and he wasn't facing Phil Ivey, but it seemed as if he was in the midst of booking a solid winning session against a lineup that wasn't exactly a murderer's row of poker talent.

Soon afterwards I got called to my game, which I was thankful for as the list behind me had swelled to 30+ names deep due to a large 105K bad beat jackpot. This was a causal factor which would lead to quite the fiasco later on. Little did I know that something unusual was about to occur...

Now, it just so happens that the 4/8 kill game I play is located at the front of this rather dingy poker room. Once you walk up a couple of steps into a small foyer, you immediately take a 90-degree turn into the poker room. On your left is a railing and a small elevated area containing four or five tables for the "big game", the 5/5 PLO, and a few 2/5 NL games. Immediately in front of you and to your right is the 4/8 kill game I was seated at, and rows of 1/2 NL and some additional 4/8 LHE tables towards the back, with the cage located at the back right corner of the room. I happened to be seated in the five seat, which gave me a direct view of the entrance.

Poker players being the degenerates that they are, often congregate outside the front entrance to smoke while they are waiting to play. And this night, there were a lot of impatient and desperate gamblers looking for a shot at the big jackpot. So, about three hours later two seats opened up at my table, including the seat to my immediate right. As I am listening to the floor call two fresh names to come sit down at my table, my expectation is that these seats will be filled promptly and the game will proceed with a full complement of ATMs (oops! I mean to say respected fellow players).

Then I see something bizarre out of the corner of my eye.

Now, I wouldn't be exaggerating much if I claimed to be legally blind. I am quite near-sighted and have had to wear glasses since the sixth grade. So it was a near-miracle that I spotted a twenty-something dark-skinned guy peer through the front glass doors of the room, identify the empty seat on my right, and execute a mad sprinting dash over to sit down in it, pulling out about half a rack of chips from his coat pocket as he sat down. It took him about five seconds to pull off this stunt, and as I began to gape at him I realized he'd just done a fair impersonation of a shifty running back scuttling and bobbing and weaving away from would-be tacklers on a football field. Which is not something you expect to see in a poker room.

Of course, the proverbial fecal matter hit the fan about two minutes later once the players who had been called found their way over and discovered one of their rightful seats had been usurped. By a rude sprinter who refused to vacate "his" seat and began haranguing the dealer about the "dumb" rules of the poker room.

Our resident NFL running back exhibited a fine command of invective and strongly reeked of liquor as the promptly summoned floorman stood over him, quite properly directed the dealer not to deal him any cards, and told him in no uncertain terms that he'd have to get up and wait for his proper turn in line for one of the seats in the regular 4/8 LHE game. Since, as it turned out, he wasn't even on the list for the kill game. This guy clearly wasn't playing with a full deck, and I was almost sorry to see him go.

Once he was out of sight, however, he soon went clean out of my mind as I turned my attention back to enlarging my withdrawal. However, not 30 minutes later the climax of this little drama came to pass. This incident, you see, was merely the prologue.

You see, our desperate drunken football player had eventually been called to a seat in the regular 4/8 game. And wouldn't you know it but he soon went off on a full-blown tirade, demanding to be awarded a pot he had no right to at the top of his voice. Some chips were flung, a full baker's dozen floor people materialized at the scene, and in short order he was ejected from the casino cursing all the while as the staff attempted to babysit him until a taxi arrived. And on his way out, he assaulted the shift supervisor (who had called him a cab and had tried to defuse the situation as best he could) with a few sharp elbows to the chest worthy of a professional NHL pest looking to instigate a fight. I went to a poker room and a hockey game broke out ...

All I can say is, he's lucky criminal charges weren't pressed. I certainly wouldn't have offered my services to defend him in court.

With all the excitement over with, I got back to my profitable endeavour of making money from the less vocal, but no less desperate, LHE players who were looking for a share of the large jackpot for a little while longer before I called it a night. Please, keep chasing your inside straights against my made hands. It's a good idea ...

As I walked out the doors of the casino into the fresh night air, I smiled to myself. There's always something new to see at a poker table. For a while there, I thought I might have been about to see my first arrest, but that will have to wait its turn for a future poker session.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Poker bloggers know baseball? I didn't think so

Some Philly-centric bloggers were quick to pillory J.P. Ricciardi, the Blue Jays GM, for the simple fact that he didn't give away Roy Halladay to the Phillies. (Of course, they didn't say Mark Shapiro of the Cleveland Indians should be fired for trading them Cliff Lee for a song, either. Hmmm!) Subsequently, the Blue Jays allowed Alex Rios to be claimed on waivers by the Chicago White Sox and dealt away the aging-but-still-good Scott Rolen for prospects, which were moves that were met with derision by some demoralized Jays' fans and a lot of criticism by the media. I take a contrarian view: these were necessary moves that were mandated by corporate ownership to reduce payroll -- the Jays are still stuck with one albatross contract, the vastly ovepaid Vernon Wells -- and give them the potential means to keep Roy Halladay as a Blue Jay for life -- this would be a very good thing.

(Okay, maybe I'm being too hard on Riggs. He might not actually be on record as saying Ricciardi should be let go.)

This quote sums up the perfectly rational executive Ricciardi happens to be, and I subscribe whole-heartedly to his philosophy of building a competitive team in the tough AL East division, given the financial limitations he's forced to operate with (now if only Vernon Wells were to be claimed on waivers ...).

Q: How do you view your team after all of this dust has cleared?

A: We like our team, we really do. We like the nucleus we have in place. We think Hill and Lind are going to be stars and are on their way. We think Snider is going to be a very good player. We like our team. We have a very good catcher in Arencibia coming. We like our arms on the mound. There’s a lot of really good things happening here. What I think we’ve realized is the reality of the division. We know it, but we’ve come to realize it even more so. This is not a division you can be good in, you have to be great in it to make the playoffs [my emphasis]. We’ve been good the last three years. The ownership has been great to us. They’ve allowed us to spend some money over the last three years, and the last three years we were high 80’s in wins. We’re not good enough to win the division.

What we have to do is take a step back and start looking at ways that we can start building to get great. I think with the Cecils and the Romeros and all the young arms we have, along with the Hills and the Linds and the players we have coming we have a really good foundation and nucleus to get there. But I think we have to be smart about the fact that right now we’re not great and you have to be great to win this division.

I think it’s extremely important. You have to realize that we’re a club that had a $20 million cut in payroll this year. So with that savings going into next year, along with the Rolen savings along with the players we acquired for Rolen, we were able to hopefully utilize that money to address some of our needs. I’ll only be able to answer the question over the next five years how that money works in our favor.

Going forward, Ricciardi can either trade Halladay if he a) isn't able to sign Halladay to an extension or b) gets an offer he thinks is fair market value for the most reliably excellent pitcher in baseball. And because the Blue Jays' team strength is young pitching, they can afford to make a decision from a position of strength, not weakness.

It's nice when others do your planning for you

In this case, CK & BamBam have lined up the details for WBG golf in early December. It's time to hit the range.

Bonus: pinball conveniently nearby. I promised myself I would go back, since I had such a good experience the first time I went there with fellow bloggers, including one who posted an amazing recap of the adventure.

Now if only I can persuade my father to make the trip ... I know he'd enjoy both activities.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Motivation? A prop bet is in order

Resolution: turn back the clock and regain youthful fitness.

Additional motivation: seeing a friend and fellow blogger blow a fuse about excess weight.

Solution: a prop bet.

Objective: Shed flab;

Terms: Weigh-in either at next Winter Gathering (if both parties attend) or January 1st, 2010 (with results verified by acceptable third party);

Targets: PL needs to weigh in at 160 lbs; Riggs 220 lbs;

Stakes: If either party fails to make their target weight, they will give the other party a bottle of single malt Scotch of the other's choosing (price limit TBD).

If anyone else wants to participate, please drop me a line in the comments and I'll add you to the bet.