Thursday, December 4, 2014

For No Good Reason

I thought it might be interesting to list every celebrity I've seen at short-range since I've been in LA.

Criterion for 'seen' is: being near enough to be able to walk up and touch them.

In roughly chronological order:

-Carol Burnett
-Barbara Streisand, James Brolin
(same restaurant same night, both people, different tables)

-Dustin Hoffman

-Warren Beatty
(restaurant, wearing blue seersucker and looking plump)

-Heidi and Spenser
(no longer celebrities, I know, but at a Mexican restaurant--we had to sign release form to go into room where they were, b/c they were still on some reality show)

-the guy who plays Toby on the office
(at a stoplight near our old apartment, walking)

-David Caruso
(at a restaurant, at the next table.  I thought he was NOT David Caruso, and kept telling my wife how much the sad broken man sitting with the woman who was clearly a prostitute at the table next to us resembled David Caruso.  She kept making "shut it" motions at me.  Until I realized--it was David Caruso!

That was fun!)

(at my park, going to walk)

-Jack Black
(at my park, dropping off kids for soccer)

-Dave Grohl
(at a Barnes and Noble, holding one of his kids on his shoulders, wearing flannel)

-Pauly Shore
(I know, he's not really a celebrity.  But he was on a Southwest flight with me).

-Gene Simmons
(at our OLD favorite Italian restaurant, with his much younger wife.  Trying to read menu in dark by light of iPhone.)

-LeAnn Rhimes--at our NEW favorite Italian restaurant.

-Harry Hamlin--also at our NEW favorite Italian restaurant.

-Hank Baskin (but without Kendra!)
at the airport flying to LA, from Santa Fe


This feels light.  I can't recall all of them right now, but none are very interesting.  But when I think of more, I'll update.  Don't worry!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 3320

Today on the radio, I heard--in a row--the following three songs: 1) Bowie and Queen doing "Under Pressure" 2) Aretha doing "Respect" 3) and "Don't Stop Believin'".

It was the most excited I've been listening to the radio in, like, ten years.  It was this what tantric sex is like?  But then I thought, no.  This is BETTER.

Also, I just want to put out as a general statement of credo: if I ever get remarried, and I'm considering someone for a future spouse, if I found out she doesn't like Journey, then that's it.  No wedding.  Also, I might report her to the Feds.  Because, probably, she's some kind of communist.  Or something.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 25

More lists.

Because you horrid people only reply to lists.

Here's the deal.  Think of a band.  Now consider two songs.
1) their most REPRESENTATIVE song.
2) their BEST song.

That's it.

Representative = if you had only one song to introduce an alien to this band, what would you play them?

BEST = if you had one song to represent the essence of their greatness...for any band..what would you choose?

Here are some examples.


Most REPRESENTATIVE SONG: Stairway to Heaven.

Helped by being long.  Encompasses the acoustic and heavy sides of the band.  Has the hippie-dippie stoned lyrics, and the rock n roll bad ass lyrics.  It's the band in one song.

BEST SONG: Going to California.  


Most Representative Song: (Don't go back to) Rockville

Best Song: Orange Crush


Most Rep Song: Where The Streets Have No Name
Best Song: One

Bruce Springsteen

Most Rep Song: Thunder Road (or some other 70s anthem)
Best Song: (Streets of) Philadelphia

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging Day 23: On Daily Routines

My wife says the posts of mine that she likes the most are the ones about our daily routine.  My mother says the same thing.  So, here's a post about daily routine.

The routine we have for waking and sleeping is that the wife goes to bed first, around 10:30, and I stay up for another few hours, reading and working.  When I stay up, I'm in the den.  (Which has a terrible reading lamp, for which reason I end up reading less than I want to in there.  But never mind that).

Before the wife goes to bed we move the Bink into the kitchen.  He has a dog bed that he sleeps in.  During the day, the bed is in the front room, the one with the window that looks out onto the street.  From there he can survey the neighborhood and alert us -- via loud and prolonged yowling, and the grabbing of his bed by the mouth, and subsequent angry shaking of said bed -- of the approach of anyone suspicious (chiefly: the mailman, neighbors, and alien cats).  Then, at night, when we watch TV with dinner, we move the Bink's bed into the TV/den room so that he's not alone in the dark of the front room.  We do this b/c we've learned that if he lies in the dark during the early evening, he's less likely to sleep through the night when he's actually put in bed.  So, really, we keep him in the den with us during TV/dinner so that he's around lights and noises, and can't fully sleep.

Anyway, around 10 the wife starts getting ready for bed.  Bink follows her and keeps watch as she brushes her teeth and lays out her clothes and drinks her twelve shots of vodka and eats her herring.  Then, when she closes the sliding door that separates the bedroom area of our house from the living room area, Bink knows it's time for him to go to bed.  He ambles into the kitchen, gets in his bed, and sleeps.  But during the time he's in the kitchen, in bed, I'm still in the den working, writing, reading, and eating the rest of the wife's picked-over bits of herring and vodka.

Then, when I finally go to bed, around 12:30, I silently creep to the kitchen and latch closed the baby gate that separates kitchen from dining room.  In doing so, I lock Bink in the kitchen.  We've tried letting him roam around the entire living quarters area at night, but inevitably, at 4 AM, he sees a cat through the back window and starts yowling and going crazy.  And that's no good.  (Whereas, in the kitchen, there are no windows set low enough to allow him access onto cats).

So, that's the routine.  Most of the time it works fine.  Though once in a while Bink, when enclosed in the kitchen by me as I creep silently toward bed, rebels.  And by rebel I mean "barks loudly throughout the night, tears all the towels down from their racks and, if he's feeling jaunty, poops on the floor."

For some odd reason, he almost never rebels if I'm the one who stays up in the den.  But once a week, I abstain for a day from caffeine and go to bed early.  On those nights, the wife stays up later in the den.  Whenever that happens--whenever she's the one who has to latch the baby gate closed on the kitchen before bed--Bink ALWAYS rebels.

The loud yowling that goes through the night can be countered, however, by means of 1) closing our bedroom door and 2) turning on my fan to high, which fan then makes a noise that sounds roughly like a Sopwith Camel lifting off for battle, and which obscures the anguished howling of the small Maltese in the kitchen.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging Day 22: Musical Lists II

Ha!  As I'd hoped, the musical lists posts has (finally) provoked some responses.  Give the people what they want, that's what I say.

A few replies to your replies....

The reason I didn't bother talking about The Stones, e.g, (as well as a lot of other bands), was because the point of the list is to treat with bands one more or less universally admires.  I think it's interesting to talk about the outliers, the duds, the one or two songs by your favorite bands that you can't stand.  It's even more interesting, to me, if those are songs that many other fans seem to admire.  I mean, it's not so hard to find some late-career B-side that doesn't do much for you; more difficult, I think, is to find a hit from the heart of their catalog that's never, ever, seemed to you worthwhile.

So, the Stones.  I'm sort of generally indifferent to them, is the thing.  Sure, I have songs of theirs I like--maybe a few I love (maybe?)--but in general they don't do much for me.  To me the Beetles/Stones debate is not even a contest--I think the Stones may go down in history as the most overrated band in rock music.  Similarly, Elton John.  I like a few of his songs, but generally I find his work saccharine and inane.  (His lyrics, especially, gall me).  So there's no point in me listing songs of his I don't like, because he's not an artist of whom I consider myself "a fan."  That's the key issue here--being a fan.  Which label, is, I know, nebulous to the point of nonsense.  But, I use it nonetheless.

Though I could, if pushed, come up with criteria for fandom, as I define it.  You own all of their albums, you've seen them live in concert, you can recite most or all of their lyrics by heart, you have detailed and complex opinions about their catalog, you will always follow a link on the internet if it has to do with this band, etc.

There are other bands that I really admire that, when I thought about it, I couldn't identify songs of theirs that I considered were duds.  Like, U2.  There's no song of theirs I can think of that really offends me--and that's always offended me, from the get-go.  (Again: 'grown sick of' doesn't count.  Because there are TON of U2 songs I'm sick of.  All of Joshua Tree, to start. But did I love--or at least like--them once?  I did.)

So that's the thing.

JWM--what's the REM song you don't like?  Are there any? (Again: has to be a hit.  Not track 9 from Up).

Dez, I don't know Springsteen well enough to know if the song of his you listed was really a hit/big deal.  Presumably it was?  I realize, of course, that with non-top 40 artists 'hit' is a vague term.  But, you know.  We do our best.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 21: Musical Lists

So I was thinking last week that if I had to name my least-favorite Bowie song, what would it be?  But then, that seems too easy: you could pick one of the tracks from the second half of Tonight, say ("Borneo" jumps to mind) and you'd easily find some pretty substandard songs.

So, a more interesting question is: what's my least favorite popular Bowie song?  "Popular" means, in this case, a song that's frequently on the radio, which any halfway educated musical fan would know, and which is generally liked and admired by the public at large.  Basically: a song by an artist you like that a lot of other people like, but you don't.  And--that you've never liked.  I.e.: it's not a song you've gotten burned out on, or outgrew (e.g."Stairway to Heaven").  It's song you've always disliked--from the first time you heard it.  It's the worst good song the artist has ever done.

And then I started thinking this idea of 'worst good' could extend to other bands.  I mean, for any band we like, there's probably one or two or their hits, songs that many people other like, that I have never ever cared for.  Right?  So then I started assembling a list.  And here it is: my 'worst good' songs by some of my favorite artists.

Oh--also: the songs have to be artists you generally otherwise admire.  You can't pick a band whose work you generally dislike or don't really get into.  (So, I'm not listing songs by The Rolling Stones or REM, e.g.)

David Bowie: "Fashion."  Probably the only Bowie song where, if I hear it on the radio, I'm switching stations.  Unless it's near the bridge ('listen to me/don't listen to me...").  I dig the bridge.

Led Zeppelin: "Kashmir."  There's some interview where Robert Plant talks about this song represents, for him, the essence of Led Zeppelin.  Bleh.  For me it represents the essence of badness.

The Beetles: "Hey Jude."  Not only do I like the song, I don't like the story of how the song was written.  Maybe if it didn't have that endless outro (Na na na na na......) I'd like it more.  But probably not.

The Police: "Can't Stand Losing You."

Neil Young: "A Man Needs a Maid."  Maybe this isn't a big enough hit to count?

Bob Dylan: "Idiot Wind."  Dylan's tricky because he doesn't really have a lot of hits, but this is a well-known song from a well known album.  So.  I'm counting it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 20

A few days ago my wife, going outside to start her car in the morning (she parks on the street) found it making a horrible and upsetting noise.  Something was obviously horribly wrong, and she didn't know what.  She knew, though, that she couldn't drive it and so she came back inside and called AAA, to have it towed.

It turns out that the reason it was making such disgusting noises was that its catalytic converter had been stolen.  This apparently is a very common crime; catalytic converters have platinum in them (we learned) which can resell for upwards of 500$.  It turns out my wife knows half a dozen people who've also had THEIR c converters stolen--one of them from the parking lot of their work, during lunch.

Our insurance paid for it be replaced (minus the deductible) and it turned out to be not a big deal.  From now on we're going to have my wife park in our driveway.  Also I've attached a series of poison darts to the underside of her car; if anyone tries to mess with it, they'll taste the wrath of justice.  But there you go.  Life in the city.  The criminal element.  Rust never sleeps.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 19

Nas's Illmatic has grown on me.  I'm starting to get what makes it so celebrated.

Elizabeth Bowen--does anyone read her anymore?  She's great!

The most lasting impression I took away form the recent profile of Donald Antrim in the Sunday Times magazine was of Johnathan Franzen and how perpetually irritating and horrible he is.  Even though the piece was about how much he'd tried to help out Antrim!  I guess that reflects on me, doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 18

I've watched most of "You're the Worst" on demand in the last two days.  It's a new series that just finished its first season on FX.  It's about two misanthropic, generally selfish and unpleasant people who get together for a one-night stand and then gradually, despite their best efforts to the contrary, grow attached to one another.  The male hero is a sharp-tongued British writer; the female lead is a blasé and brittle LA publicist.  The whole thing's set in LA's uber-hip Silverlake district, which allows it to do some funny riffs on Los Angeles culture (such as it is).  It's nothing fantastic, but it holds my interest.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 17

I finished a mystery novel last night (Deadheads by the guy I've been reading on and off--Reginald Hill. Who's great, btw) in which, at the end, the criminal who'd been murdering everybody WAS NOT CAUGHT.  He got away!  I was surprised to discover how angry I felt, putting it down.  I mean, I know it's fiction. I know that Patrick Alderman doesn't exist; that he didn't really get away with anything.  But, somehow, it infuriated me.   Was it because of the character's skating free of justice, or because I felt tricked and used, somehow, by the writer?   A lot of great writing is about defeating or surprising readerly expectations.  But in this case, having my expectation so was not enjoyable at all.

I wonder if he got angry letters after the book came out. He must have. I'm angry still.

I heard "Slit Skirts" by Pete Townshend on the radio today.  It took me back to high school, when I used to listen to two of his solo albums constantly.  And how well the song holds up!  Although now, now longer a teen-ager, I find its deep sadness and loneliness affects me in a way it never did in high school.  But, I'm going to revisit those albums, I think. "Can't pretend that growing older never hurts."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 16

Very brief post.  Courtesy of my brother, I learn that the famed Carl, of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, does a weekly football pick for ESPN.  Here's a link to the first two predictions.  The first one (Vikings) is my favorite so far.

I'm reading Isaac Babel right now every night before bed.  As a consequence my dreams are uneasy phantasmagoric montages involving pillaging Russian soldiers, pogroms, and Stalinist collectivization trials.  Well, not really.  But I feel like they should be.

Finally, I want everyone to watch this hilarious video I found at The Browser.  It'll have the most impact on people familiar with all the stories and legends surrounding the recording of Bowie's (seminal masterpiece) Low, but I feel confident predicting that everyone will enjoy it.

The reason the Visconti figure keeps talking about how he's the co-producer, btw, is because his contributions to the album, have, in fact, been mostly under appreciated over the last 30 years or so.

Man this makes me happy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 15

I don't know what to think of this whole Adrian Peterson thing.  On the one hand, the images and stories of his child-rearing methods are undoubtedly disturbing.  But on the other hand I doubt his methods--unsavory as they might seem to many people--lie so far beyond the pale of what's expected, or even common, especially within the African-American community.  Of course I have only anecdote and second-hand knowledge here, but isn't it more common, in black families, for children to be severely punished for transgressions?  And if that is so, if 'whoppings' of the severity we see depicted on TV now w/r/t Peterson, are common, then why is Peterson alone the one who's being made an example of?  Because he's an athlete?  I don't know.  Is the point to effect a widespread change in parenting disciplinary methods, across the entire US?  Or just to make an example of one person, so that we can all feel good about how enlightened WE are as parents, because we don't use corporal punishment?

I'm not suggesting, at all, that I find Peterson's methods anything more than appalling.  But I find, in this widespread condemnation, an element of smugness and superiority that's off-putting.  Too, I'm not sure what purpose it all serves.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 14

As noted previously, I'm doing a three-day on, three-day off type thing.  So we're back on!  How exciting!

Nas's Illmatic has yet to make much of an impression on me either way.   Talk Talk's album Laughing Stock--also a recommended 'top of the 90s' CD on Pitchfork--on the other hand, is slowly insinuating its way into my mind.

Having placed money on the Eagles to win the Super Bowl, I'm now very much invested in their season.  That made last night's game (a come-from-behind win against the Colts) vastly more thrilling than it would have been otherwise.  They are a fun, fun team to watch.  Shady McCoy and Darren Sproles on one team.  Come on!  A great piece appeared in ESPN The Magazine last month about Chip Kelly's innovations with the Eagles.  He's apparently super-obssessed with health and wellness; he seemingly believes he has discovered ways to keep his team healthier and in better shape throughout a season than a typical team (and indeed, last year, the Eagles suffered a surprising paucity of injuries).  Among the things he stresses: constant hydration during practice, and a rigorous insistence that all his players get lots of sleep.  (I forget the number, but he tries to make them all get a minimum of...what? nine hours a night?)  They all have monitors and devices hooked up to them all the time so he can track their sleep totals.  Crazy.  But then you see how fresh they look in the fourth quarter--both their victories this season have been come-from-behind efforts--and it all seems to work.

It's in the 100s again today but I must go play tennis.  It's like 115 on the courts, but my body is now addicted to the exercise.  Yesterday I tried to take it easy and did a light workout; as a result I didn't sleep at all well.

I'm going to read some William Trevor novels, next, I think.  I know at least one reader who can recommend some.  And would like to hear his thoughts.

I recommend strongly William Finnegan's piece on the efforts to unionize fast-food workers in the new New Yorker.  Apparently pay disparity between executives and low level workers in the fast food industry is among the greatest in the nation.  Fast food chains also enforce a variety of fairly sinister rules that make it essentially impossible for anyone working there to earn a subsistence level income.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 13

The received opinion seems to suggest that Nas's Illmatic is "the greatest" hip-hop album ever.  Obviously, that's a subjective assessment, but there is widespread consensus among hip-hop cognoscenti that Illmatic is a high point in hip-hop history.  I've seen it compared several times now to Kind of Blue.  So, that's what I'm going to to be listening to this week.  We'll see.

I also have a whole host of NFL predictions, for which I know you all hunger.  Here are a few.
1.  The Indianopolis Colts will finish 8-8 or 9-7; they will not make the playoffs.
2.  Blake Bortles will pan out; he'll be a success as an NFL quarterback.
3. The St. Louis Rams and New York Giants will finish with the league's worst records.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 12

Short and sweet, b/c I've got a lot going on...
-Just read the Pitchfork top 100 albums of the 90s, looking for music recs.  Surprised to see I had actually already listened to (and in many cases owned) 80% of them.  I'm thinking I want to give Hip Hop another try--it's never done much for me, but maybe I'm ready now?
-If you want to feel profoundly depressed about humanity (and who doesn't!) watch the new Fox show Utopia.  Horrible on every level.  I gave it a shot, and now I'll never get those hours back.
-trying out two different grilled steak recipes tonight.  We'll see.  Doing a perfect grilled steak is harder than it seems.  We ate at the Batali/Bastianich "Carnevino" in Vegas last weekend and had maybe the best steak of our lives.  So.  This will probably approach that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 11

I enjoyed the Joseph O'Neill story in the recent New Yorker.  Less so the one by Thomas McGuane.  I think I'll dig up one of O'Neill's books.  I'd never heard of him before.

Should I read something by Elizabeth Gaskell?  I never have.  Her name came up recently in a William Trevor story.  Also, Jude the Obscure.  Another novel I've never read.  But I liked Return of the Native.  Also, The Muppet Movie (little-known fact: that was based on one of Hardy's short stories).

In Vegas I made a bet that the Eagles would win the Super Bowl.  Not because I think it's likely, but because, at 20-1, I thought the bet offered good odds.  I bet 100$.  The wife bet 10$ that the Falcons would win the Super Bowl.  I wanted her to bet 20$, but she didn't want to get crazy.  That was funny.

The guy I've been taking tennis lessons from cancelled today, the morning of the lesson.  He said it was too hot.  It's 90 degrees!  Weak sauce.  I went out and hit by myself, but clearly I need a new guy.  Next week it's going to be in the 100s.  I might have to curb things a bit, then.  I've been spending two hours a day on the courts.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 10

Well since none of you wretched excuses for friends has responded to any of my prior posts in anything near the depth or wisdom I'd expected, I'm not much disposed to continue to bestow on you the ripe and succulent fruits of my intelligence.  Fruits are for winners!

But I did think of another problem I have with Breaking Bad: in the crucial "Ozymandias" episode (the antepenultimate one, I believe--in which Hank is killed by the biker nazis), there's a moment where the biker gang dudes call out, to Hank and his partner, "Gomey", something to the effect of "Show us your [DEA] badges, and we won't shoot."  Prior to that, recall, Hank has announced that he's a cop but hasn't shown any proof.  Now, possibly we're meant to understand that the bikers are lying here--that, badges or not, they're still going to shoot.  But it's very unclear that that's the case--and certainly, given the straits Hank and Gomez are in at that point--massively outnumbered, and about to die--you'd think they'd at least give it a shot, and show their badges.  But they don't.  Why not?  Another story flaw, says I.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 9

One more hand from Vegas.  I don't know if I could have played this better or not.  Like to hear some feedback.  Also about the prior post.

Game: 2/5.  We hold about 900$.  Have been at the table about an hour and have not done anything especially exciting.

We're on the button with AA.  One player limps UTG.  Cutoff makes it 25.  We call (?!).  UTG folds.

Flop is: Ah  5c 9d.  

Cutoff bets 40.  We call.

Turn is: Kc.

Cutoff bets 65.  We raise to 150.  Cutoff folds.

Cutoff is the irritating type of player who always can explain to everybody every single strategic move made by two players in hand--and does, as soon as it's over.  (E.g.: "I knew he didn't have an ace because he'd never bet the ace there, he'd just check." OR: "You had to either be betting to push me off a chop or for value and I knew you couldn't be betting for value because I had the ace." etc etc.)  We're only played two prior hands.  In one he raised and I called pre flop, then folded when an ace hit the flop.  (I had JQ).  In the second hand I raised the button with AQ: he called me out of position and then called me down on an AQ high board before making a crying call on the river with what was clearly a bad ace.  (Before he called he said "it feels a lot like you have AQ here."  Then, after making the call he bragged about how clever he'd been to identify my hand).

Anyway, back to this hand.  I smooth called pre in order to disguise my strength, obviously.  The flop was a dream; when he bet both it and the turn, I figured he almost certainly had an Ace.  My hope was that he might have AK and the turn had given him two pair--a hand I didn't see him getting away from very cheaply against my set (especially given how I'd played it).  I guess he must have had a hand like AJ or something, in which case I wonder if I should have smooth called one more street and hoped he maybe made two pair on the river.  I didn't have any real draws to fear--very unlikely he had a backdoor straight or flush draw given the betting.  So, I don't know.  Not sure what to think.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 8

As promised, a hand I won but misplayed...

The game is 2/5 NL.  We have about 1200$ in front of us, covering the other players in the hand.  We are in MP.  A player limps in front of us.  We look down and find JQs.  We raise to 20.  The button calls and so does the original limper.

The flop comes: 4h 7s 9s.  The EP player checks.  We check.  The button checks.

Thoughts:  This check is non-standard, certainly.  Most players, with two overs and a flush draw, would bet out.  Honestly, I couldn't tell you, now, why I decided to, but in the moment it felt like the right play.  A small part was that the EP player had shown a tendency to play some aggro/tricky poker; I thought he was more than capable of check-raising a c-bet he perceived as weak.  I also think that NOT betting a flush draw actually disguises your hand.  Because everyone "knows" that "good" (by which we mean aggressive) players always bet their draws.   But if you don't bet the draw, you will sometimes find it easier to get paid off when you hit the flush.  Also, betting on a draw has value only if some of the time you can get people to fold without hitting your hand.  And in this case, with two players who'd shown themselves to be fairly 'sticky', I thought that was unlikely.  I could have bet here and it would have been fine, but I didn't.  (This street was not the reason I think I misplayed the hand, btw).

Turn comes: 8s.  EP checks.  I bet 35$.  The button calls.  EP folds.

Thoughts: Clearly, with a Q-high flush, I have to start putting money in the pot.  When the button calls, I assume he has a high spade (Ace or King, obviously) and is calling on a draw.  The button, by the way, is a man in his mid-50s.  He lives in Vegas and is clearly a regular at the Venetian Poker Room.  That said, I'd guess he's a slight loser, lifetime, playing at this level.  He hasn't shown a lot of imagination, and he shares a lot of the flaws of your standard 2/5 player; he overvalues medium-strength hands, he makes bad calls pre flop, and he bluffs in situations where it's obvious he's getting called.  He's not by any means a donkey, but neither is someone we particularly fear.

The river: 6h.  The board now reads: 4h 7s 9s 8s 6h.

I now check.  I've been watching this player for a while, and I've noticed a tendency on his part to bet any river when checked to (he's used this play to pick up a number of pots where, my guess is, he does NOT have the best hand).  So, the odds of him bluffing here aren't terrible.   Recall, too, that my assumption, based on his betting so far, was that he was on a flush draw.  If I lead out, betting into him, his missed flush draw will fold.  However, if I check (representing, maybe, that I too was on a flush draw--remember what I said earlier: everyone assumes that everyone else will always bet their flush draws) there's some chance he might try to bluff me off my missed draw.

So, as noted, I check.  He now bets 75$.  And I make what I decide later is a real mistake.  I call.

Why is this a mistake?  What should I have done?

I'll wait for the inevitable deluge of comments from my legion of rapt readers before I post more.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 7

We got back from Vegas yesterday afternoon after passing a pleasant weekend sleeping, eating out, and going to the gym.  Yes, I actually went to the gym in Vegas (the wife went twice!)  It's this new health kick I'm on.  It's gotten so I start to feel physically...wrong if I don't do some kind of workout.  I also have less desire to eat rich meals and drink good wine than I used to.  Which makes Vegas a bit of an ill fit, vacation-wise.  But we still had fun.

Another joy that's lessened for me considerably over the years: poker.  I don't know why, but sitting for hours by myself at a poker table no longer holds much excitement for me.  (It's different when I'm with friends.)  This weekend, though, I wanted to play at least six hours; that's what it takes to get a poker room rate for one night at the Venetian.  (Interesting info: they apply the poker room rate to your MOST expensive night.  Which is pretty sporting of them.)

To keep myself from playing "Bored Poker"--in which I raise every hand, pretend I'm Phil Ivey, get called down by a lot of people with middle pairs on four flush boards, and then go on tilt--I played 2/5.  I played a super-tight ABC game; I made only two bluffs the entire seven hours I played (and in one I was probably bluffing with the best hand).  I caught decent cards and ended up winning about 1500$.  And yet, in the end, it wasn't all that much fun.  I mean, yes, it's obviously fun to win (way better than losing) but, I don't know.  2/5 no longer holds much excitement for me.  If I play my game, and I don't get sucked out on, I think over the long run, I can beat that game, in the average Vegas casino.  But "my game", the game I play to win at those stakes, is pretty unimaginative; it basically involves doing what the books all say--trying to only play hands in position, folding a lot pre flop, and basically only betting big when I have a hand that's better than top pair.

And then, too, even when you win, or even when I win, I feel somewhat dissatisfied.  Because you can always play better.  You could have always won MORE.  I made a few mistakes this weekend--I played a B+ game, I'd say--that, had I not made, would have upped my win total to about 2000.

Tomorrow: an example of a hand I won, but, in the end, misplayed.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 6

I'd like to write about both True Detective and Game of Thrones but I don't have the time or energy to do so now.  The very short version is that I find/found both disappointing, but in different ways.  But I have watched them both, yes.  Yes I have.

We're leaving tomorrow for Las Vegas for Labor Day.  So the blog will be on hiatus for a few days.

I wrote earlier how I'm getting back into tennis.  As a result, I've been especially enjoying the US Open early round matches.  Last night I started imagining what I would do if a genie appeared and offered to make me exactly half as good as Roger Federer is at tennis.  Would that make me better or worse?  I'm a 4.0 on the tennis ranking scale, which is exactly in the middle.  (Novices are 1.0; pros are 7.0  Div I college players are, I think, 6.0?).   So, according to that I'm already slightly better than half as good as Federer; maybe 5/8 as good.  But of course that system is incredibly subjective and imprecise.  My gut says that I'd improve if I were made as half as good as Federer.

I'm leaving aside, of course, the question of how one would measure what 'half as good' means in terms of tennis.  Let's just assume that could be done.  The main question still remains: should I take the genie's offer?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 5

The newest issue of Rolling Stone (I get it for free: I have no idea why) has on its cover Willie Nelson.  This makes me think of my esteemed friend, Johannes, who bears an unholy hatred of Good Sir Willie.  I don't really know why.  But he does.  Willie Nelson and monkeys--those are two things he hates.  But why?  What has Willie ever done to him?  Or monkeys, for that matter.

I'm going to respond to comments, btw, in subsequent posts.  Of course there have been not many comments yet.  So start commenting!  Is there some topic you'd like to hear me bloviate on?  Suggest it, and away I will bloviate!

The new episode of Hard Knocks is on tonight; that's something to look forward to.  So far I think the highlight of the show is Bryan Cox.  Check that: I know he's the highlight.  In the first episode he explained to his charges (the defensive line players) that the correct way to grab the opposing play was similar to the way that a man should hold a woman's breasts.  I.e. you don't GRAB, but you sort, of...I don't know, really.  His general point was lost on me.  I think it had to do with finesse, maybe?  But anyway, it was really funny.  

I've gotten my wife into it this season, which means that when I watch I get her persecutive.  That's been fun.  

I'm not very impressed with Mike Smith, though.  He doesn't have what it takes to win a Super Bowl.  I'll say that again.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 4

Part of why I'm taking these occasional breaks is to allow all my many thousand readers to return without being deluged by 30 straight posts.  Thus giving them to absorb all the glory and brilliance these posts contain.

We finished Breaking Bad last night.  We ripped through the first few seasons, but as we got toward the end found ourselves slowing down.  Was this because we wanted to draw out our pleasure or because of how dark and difficult the last seasons became?  I think the latter.  I loved the show, but I don't think I could have taken any more of it.  I'm glad it's over.

BTW, anything I write about BB in this and future posts will assume a readership which has seen the entire series.  So: there will be spoilers.  If you haven't seen the show, you shouldn't read.

I don't place Breaking Bad in the very top tier of TV shows--it's not The Wire or The Sopranos.  It's right below that, though.  Its essential story is Macbeth: "I am too far steeped in blood..."--that should be Walter's motto.  Its brilliance and beauty is diagramming with harrowing precision the inexorable logic that leads Walt from a well-meaning naif who makes meth on weekends to a murderous monster willing to poison a child to further his own aims.  It's almost like a mathematical proof.  Once you accept the first step, the given--producing meth is an acceptable way to make money--the rest seems to follow inevitably.  At every step of Walt's journey, that is, he always seems to be doing what he has to do to preserve what he's already done.  And yet, in that preserving, he keeps being forced towards more and more heinous acts.  It's like the Martingale system for the soul.

It's probably too obvious to spell out, but his alias--Heisenberg--speaks to the bifurcation in his character which is at the heart of the show.  Heisenberg's work dealt with light, and its particle/wave duality.  Light is, somehow, at the same time both a particle and wave.  That seems impossible, and yet's it's so.  Is it therefore possible for a person to be both a devoted loving father and a ruthless and merciless drug lord?  Walt's fundamental error seems to be to think the answer is yes.

Other more random thoughts.

-aside from Bryan Cranston, the best actor on that show was Dean Norris.  Hank was absolutely crucial to that show's success.  He was a great character, and easy to overlook.

-a number of plot holes bothered me, especially toward the end.  How is it possible that Walt has administered the flower-based poison to the little boy Jesses cares for (Barack? Brack?) without the boy knowing who he is?  Similarly, how, at the end, is it possible that Walt has put riacin in Lydia's sweetener packet?  Hard to swallow (no pun intended).  Also hard to swallow, for me, was the scene at the end of the 4th season when Gus returns to his Volvo in the hospital parking lot, after Walt has rigged it with a car bomb.  Gus somehow magically senses something's wrong with the car and walks away.  I didn't buy it.  Although, to their credit, the writers did a great job of playing with this version of Gus--the idea that he was some near-divine unkillable robot--during the sequence when Walt places the bomb in the nursing home.  The moment when Gus walks out of the room, and we see him from profile, and think--somehow--that he's survived.  Fantastic!  My wife compared him in that moment to The Terminator, which I thought was very apt.  (If you don't remember the scene, they then show his other side, where the explosion has ripped all the flesh from his bones.  It's chilling.)

-I think my favorite season was the one where Jesse dates the heroin-addict girl.  I thought their entire relationship was really moving.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thirty Days: Programming Note

I'm going to do three days on, three days off of blogging, I think.  So I guess it should be called "Thirty Days of Non-Consecutive Blogging."  But it won't be.  But that's what it is.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 3

Thursday is my day off from caffeine, when I run errands, read, and don't try to do anything creative. Or even mentally taxing.  So, as is always the case, I'm a bit sleep and dispirited.  Mildly, only.

I'm getting back into tennis these last few months.  I found a guy to take lessons from and even bought a ball machine, which I haul out to the local courts once every few days.  As a result, I generally sleep better and feel happier.  Running and lifting weights alone can't compare to the workout you get running around a court for an hour in the heat hitting balls.

I've just finished rereading the first collection of William Trevor's Short Stories (The Collected Stories).  Now I'm starting on his more recent collection.  I'm also reading the mystery novels of Reginald Hill, a British writer who created the detective duo of Dalziel and Pascoe.  Good, page-turning fare.

The wife and I are three episodes away from finishing Breaking Bad.  I'll doubtless have some posts about that to come.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 2

I thought of this today and decided to post it, as per my legal requirements under the ANCIANT Thirty Days of Internet LLD offshore corporation papers.  Or something.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thirty Days of Blogging: Day 1

I'm going to post a little bit every day for the next thirty days.  Nothing large or ambitious, sadly, but little bits, at least.

I also wrote a longish rumination on the band Rush: I saw a documentary about them on one of the music stations, and it somehow affected me.  I'm not a fan of their music, especially, but there was something about the way that they portrayed themselves that I found simultaneously moving and irritating.  Neal Peart especially, with all his pompous and adolescent lyrics based on "the Individual vs Society" and "genius vs ordinariness" and all the other tropes that adolescent boys get off on--that got to me.

But that's for the future.  For now a few random thoughts about this and that.

Spoon: I bought the new album because Pitchfork keeps eulogizing their greatness.  I don't find it mind-blowing, but I do like it.  Especially the track "New York Kiss." Which is a great great name for a song, and a great idea.  That a kiss in New York as a meaning unavailable to a kiss in some other city.

Football: I've watched a shameful amount of football preview and roundtable shows this summer.  NFL Insiders on ESPN is a particular favorite.  Two thoughts: 1) Johnny Manziel will prove a disappointment; he won't make it as a starting QB.  2) Mike Smith (the Falcon coach) will never coach a team that wins a Super Bowl.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


I'm reading Paradise Lost.  Not for the first time, either.  I read it out of a sense of obligation the summer before I started grad school, in Sierra Madre, in 2000.  I had some idea that since I was going to grad school in poetry it would be expected, when I got there, that I had some sense of Milton.  In fact, Milton was referred to only one time during my entire tenure in grad school, by a student describing how a teacher had told him that he wrote like Milton. Which, I question if he did.

But anyway, Milton.  He was a poet.  He wrote, oh, Henry IV, Prometheus Bound, Ode on a Nightingale.  And, of lesser importance--a piece of juvenilia many have called it--Paradise Lost.

Anyway, my previous rencontre with Milton had been, let's say, unappealing.  (There's a much quoted Samuel Johnson line about Paradise Lost--nobody ever wished it longer--that came to me often then).  And I'd sort of accepted that Milton and I were never going to really gibe, as it were, until, somehow, in the last few weeks, returning to PL, I'm awe.  It's like the most jacked up, over-the-top parts of Shakespeare had been filtered through an incredibly convuluted syntax, and then weighted down with a metric ton of massively esoteric Classical allusions.  And yet for all that, it's amazing. It almost makes you want to become a stern judgmental Calvinist Christian.

Here's a taste.  It's in Book Two. The fallen angels are trying to find one of their number to attempt the perilous journey out of Hell, to earth....

all sat mute, [ 420 ]
Pondering the danger with deep thoughts; and each
In others count'nance read his own dismay
Astonisht: none among the choice and prime
Of those Heav'n-warring Champions could be found
So hardie as to proffer or accept [ 425 ]
Alone the dreadful voyage; till at last
Satan, whom now transcendent glory rais'd
Above his fellows, with Monarchal pride
Conscious of highest worth, unmov'd thus spake.
Progeny of Heav'n, Empyreal Thrones, [ 430 ]
With reason hath deep silence and demurr
Seis'd us, though undismaidlong is the way 
And hard, that out of Hell leads up to light;
Our prison strong, this huge convex of Fire,
Outrageous to devour, immures us round [ 435 ]
Ninefold, and gates of burning Adamant
Barr'd over us prohibit all egress.
These past, if any pass, the void profound
Of unessential Night receives him next
Wide gaping, and with utter loss of being [ 440 ]
Threatens him, plung'd in that abortive gulf.
If thence he scape into whatever world,
Or unknown Region, what remains him less
Then unknown dangers and as hard escape.
But I should ill become this Throne, O Peers, [ 445 ]
And this Imperial Sov'rantyadorn'd
With splendor, arm'd with power, if aught propos'd
And judg'd of public moment, in the shape
Of difficulty or danger could deterr
Me from attempting.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

We Get So Strange Across The Border

Watching the generally ridiculous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony last night on HBO, I saw Chris Martin introuce the venerable Peter Gabriel into the hall.  Now in my long ago youth I was quite the Peter Gabriel fan, but it's been a long long year since I really listened to his work.  But then he came up and did a few songs--a duet with Martin on "Washing of The Water", a version of "In Your Eyes"-- and I thought to myself, watching: Jesus Christ.  Peter Gabriel is no joke.  (Meatwad: "Boxy don't play")  I mean, here he is, at what, 70, and he's still up there crushing these songs.  I thought I could never again hear "In Your Eyes" and get anything out of it, but there he was, up there on stage, bopping around and just...emoting.  He has a unique ability to be vulnerable without seeming naive or fatuous.  Which is...first of all, amost impossible, but also... deeply insprisng and moving. 

I've also now acquired a new respect for Chris Martin.  His intro speech was quite impressive.  (Contrast it to the indignant and idiotic intro that Michael Stipe delivered on behalf of Nirvana.  That speech I think made me like Nirvana LESS than I had before hearing it).

So now I'm on a Peter Gabrel jag.  I've been listening all day to Peter Gabriel III ("Melt"), an album I loved in high school but somehow lost track of.  Why did I lose track, I wonder?  Partially I think it's because I associate him with a really terible person I knew in high school, and partially I think it's just, I forgot about him.  He suffers, Gabriel, from the same ubiquity that makes, for example, the Beatles start to seem unexciting.  His songs are so familiar they come to seem contemptible.  

But in case anyone doesn't already know this: Peter Gabriel is amazing.  Even leaving aside how good his voice is--and honestly, you could listen to him sing "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" and be perfectly happy--he's a top notch songwriter.  Especially powerful to me right now are the songs one rarely hears on the radio--the ones that haven't been repeated past the point of having any power.  So, for example, "Biko"; "I Don't Remember"; "Family Snapshot" (has there ever been a better song told from the vantage of an assassin?  I know--small category--but still). 

"Snapshot's" the one I'd urge you all to go revisit.  "Friends have all gone home. And there's my toy gun on the floor."  I actually started to tear up. Listening to that song. 

"I need some attention...I shoot into the light."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Poker Hands III

1) The KQ Off Hand

Recall the situation is as follows: you open for 8$ with KQo UTG (or Early Position).  Several players call and the button reraises to 22.  My play is a fold.

Gary, however, argues as follows:

The button re-raising to 22 strikes me as a pretty standard 1-3 buy-the-pot-because-no-one-has-shown-any-strength move. Even if the button gets a caller, they can shove a mountain of chips on the flop and rake the pot against anything shy of a set. And by calling the $22, we're pretty much guaranteeing at least one player behind us will call with a hand no stronger than ours. With no ace on the flop and position, I like my odds of winning the hand with a 3/4 pot sized bet.

This may just be an agree-to-disagree situation.  However, in case it's not, I would argue, against Gary's post

1) At 1-3, reraising on a bluff is rare.  Opening light is common--but reraising?  I don't see it very much.  Gary thinks it's more common, however, and so he doesn't want to fold.

Which is fine.  But if you think the button is on a steal, I think the wrong play is to call.  We're now going to be out of position on a flop that is likely not going to hit us.  Gary advocates a call followed by a lead bet into the rest of the players on any flop other than an A.  I am skeptical.  What hand can we represent, given this line?  99, maybe?  But we're basically putting our hand face-up on the table.  If the button player is savvy enough to have squeezed us pre flop why is s/he now going to fold to a donk?  I know I wouldn't: I'd call the flop and plan on betting the turn on any sign of weakness.

A better play--assuming we have the button read as being on a steal--is to 4-bet.  Making it something like 58$ here is, I think, a better tactic to use against someone we read as weak.

But, to make that play, I'd have to have a real read on the button.  Because 90% of the time, this reraise--at 1/3--is not a bluff.  It's a big hand.  And since we've only 8$ in the pot, at the time of the raise, I think it's better to save our bullets, give up the eight bucks, and live to fight another day.

2) The Pair of Fours

This came from an actual hand I played recently at 1-3.

The key to this hand is the UTG opening raise.   Betting tells are one of the more reliable ways, I've found, to put your players on hands.  At 1-3 the usual opening range is about 8$.  Someone opening for more than that usually has a big hand.  And when they open for a lot more than that--say 14$--they usually have a big hand that they're scared to see a flop with.  Meaning: QQ.  (Or JJ, sometimes).

The (meretricious) logic of these huge opening bets goes like this: I want to make a big enough bet pre flop to chase out any bad aces or junk hands.  I'm not getting called by A10 here!  I'd rather scare everyone away.

Which is stupid on any number of levels.

But let's not worry about those levels. Instead let's exploit this play!

If you see someone at low stakes make a huge opening raise, they will often have a hand like QQ/JJ/10 10.  Given that range, I will call any flop with an A or K on it, no matter my hand.  If they then check the turn, we can usually steal the pot with a moderate bet.

Which, on this end, is exactly what I did.  Dude checked the turn, I bet, he folded QQ face up, moaning about his bad luck.

Of course, if the guy bets the turn we have to fold.  If he check calls our turn bet, we have a decision on the river.  Depending on my history with the guy--how much (if at all) he's seen me bluff at the table so far, I may fire again, or I may check.

3) AA

This was the worst hand ever.  Also, as above, a hand I played.

I played the hand as noted.  On the river, I debated between checking and betting.  In the end I bet.  Why?

Because I've read several times--and generally find it useful advice--that when you're faced with this circumstance--not knowing whether or not to bet on a river where you may or may not be ahead--the play to make is 1) figure out the maximum amount you'd be willing to call, if you had checked and your opponent had bet 2) bet that amount (or less).

In this case, I decided I would be willing to call about 75$ on that river.  So, that's how much I bet.  The guy snap called, and turned over 3-6 clubs, for a turned straight.  In retrospect, I wish I'd bet less, but oh well.

Note by the way how bad the villain's play was on this hand.  He called with a massively speculative hand, hit his flush on the turn and then...just called both turn and river?  Madness.  If he raises the turn there I would have gotten all the chips in, and he wins a huge pot.  A lesson in why low suited cards are not that great; even having made the flush, villain was afraid to bet it (presumably b/c he thought he was beat by a better flush?)  If you're going to play those junk hands, you have to be willing to bet if you hit.  Otherwise you're getting zero value from them.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Poker Responses, Hold Steady, Knausgaard

Sorry for the delay: I've been working on the pilot.  But now that's done, and so we can talk about things that really matter.

1) The Hold Steady's New Album
It's grown on me with every listen.  I agree entirely about the production; it sounds like a bad Rush album (or is that a redundancy?).  Because I listen mostly in my car, however (where the sound is already bad) I'm less bothered by it than I would be otherwise.  I certainly don't think it's a masterpiece, but it's got at least three good-great songs on it--the first track, the one about the Ambassador, and the last track.  (I don't know the titles, sorry).

2) Knausgaard
I've read the first volume of My Struggle.  I recommend it--found it rich and thought-provoking; I've already ordered volume two.  I don't know that it quite lived up to all my expectations, but that's only because the praise I've read of it has been so high.  A lot of reviewers seemed to compare it to Proust. While there are obviously a lot of similarities between the two (length, autobiographical nature, obsession with time and memory) I found myself reminded most strongly of Sebald.  The tone is elegiac and flat in the way I associate with Sebald, and there are several references to shared intellectual interests.

On the other hand, I'm reading in translation.  Maybe the tonal resemblance diminishes, if it's read in the Norwegian.

3) Poker Hands

Hand One: KQ

I had a typo when writing this originally; I meant to write KQo but instead wrote KQh.

Given KQh, and assuming we have a deep stack, I would probably call.  However, this is marginal--we're possibly going to a dangerous place.  For our call to be right over the long run we need to be in a multiway pot; that means we have to hope, in calling, at least one of the people behind us calls.  In 1-3, that probably happens enough that we can justify chasing.

But my assumption here, if I call, is that one pair is not going to be a winning hand.  Even two pair can be dangerous.  If the board comes out (Ks Qc 4d) and all the money goes in, I'm probably in bad shape.

My assumptions here are based on the observation that most 1-3 players tend not to reraise pre flop with anything but monsters.  What is the worst hand that the average 1-3 player (i.e. our button) will raise here us with?  JJ?  In my experience most 1-3 players will call JJ here more than they'll raise.  That means that our enemies range is: (QQ, KK, AA and AK).  Even AK calls here much of the time.

What we're looking for if we call is a board with lots of draws.  Something like (10h 9d 2h) for example gives us straight and flush draws.  Even a board like that might be hard to play, however; a big check raise on the flop is probably going to get called by AA or KK in the button, which means we're playing from behind.  If we check and call we are chasing a hand out of position.  At 1-3 it's possible to make money doing this, but at higher levels, against medium to strong opponents, it's not.

KQo, in other words (to go back to what I originally intended to write) is a clear fold in this spot.  If we call, what are we hoping to hit?  Q 2 4?  How often are we good on that flop?  Even if we are, our position is going to make it difficult to make any money off the hand.  If our opponents has JJ, for example, or AK, we're getting at most one street of value out of him.  It's a win-a-little/lose-a-lot proposition, and one which I would avoid.

Hand Two: A6o.

Again, my original hand said AJ, I think.  But I changed it to A6o.  (Sorry about the typos: won't happen next time).

Winning at NLH means learning to exploit your opponents' weaknesses.  One of the most common weakness at low-stakes is that people will open raise way way too many hands.  Everyone wants to be aggressive; everyone's watched poker on TV and seen pros raising 46s and faking everybody out, and so they try to imitate.  The result is that people tend to play very loose pre flop.  (A complementary failure is that they mostly play too tight after the flop.  But that's a subject for another post).

Point is, our initial raiser is a loose donk.  His opening raise therefore means nothing.  The fact that everyone after him has only called (and not reraised) means that none of them have hands of any value.  People like to "splash around" and see flops, and for eight bucks, they're happy to take a flyer on a hand like 9j off.

Now, the obvious play here with A6 is just to fold.  However, the better play, given what we know about our opponents, is to reraise, representing a big hand.  (Or, in poker parlance, to make a 'squeeze play.')  We believe we're against weak hands and we have to punish them.  We have to exploit their failure to play well pre flop.

How much should we raise?  Well, we don't necessarily want to be called--we're happy to take it down now.  At the same time, we have to allow for the chance that our opening donk really does have a hand this time--in which case he's probably going to reraise and we're going to have fold.

He's made it eight and gotten three callers.  That means there's 32 in the pot.  I would reraise to 26ish.  That's enough of a bet to drive away bad hands, but it's not so large that we've committed ourselves if he reraises.

This play could theoretically work with any two cards in our hand.  However, the fact that we have A6 actually makes it more attractive.  We have one of the deck's four aces.  That makes it less likely our opponent has a big hand, and more likely he'll fold.  (Same logic holds true if we have a hand like K4).

If we had actually had held AJ here, I still like a reraise--only in this case it means our reraise is likely to be a value bet and not a bluff (i.e.: we are probably reraising with the best hand).

Odd though it may sound, if I had AJsuited here, I would lean towards a call and not a raise.  Why?

1) AJs is a hand that will play well in a multiway pot, and can win a lot of money against loose pre flop calls.  Specifically, I can make a bigger flush than someone else who's stuck around with, say, 56s.
2) Because I probably have the best hand, I have a chance to win some money if the flop comes ace-high, or jack-high (the latter more than the former).  JQ, for example, is probably going to pay off at least two streets of value on a jack-high board.  Now, this can be dangerous too--I could very easily be up against two pair and not know it.  It's a calculated risk.
3) AJs is a hand I really want to take to a flop.  Remember, there's always a chance that my opening raiser has a real hand.  If I reraise AJs, I'm going to be forced to fold when he 4-bets.  Calling gives me a chance to try and suck out on him.

A final note: what makes this play so attractive in this spot is the fact that our opening donk has been called in so many places: i.e. that there's a lot of money in the pot.  If the donk open raises and everyone folds to us, this play becomes a lot less attractive.  The more you exploit an opponent's weakness, the more likely he is to change his play.  If we reraise him TOO MUCH, in other words, he might start tightening his opening range.  We have to pick our spots.

Assume we're still playing 1-3 and that our average opponent is mediocre to bad.  Also, assume we have full stacks.  No special reads unless otherwise noted.

1) UTG opens to 14$.  One player calls in front of us.  We hold 44 and elect to call.  The flop comes A 8 2 rainbow.  UTG bets 22$.  The player in front of us folds.  It's to us.  The obvious play is to fold.   Instead, we call.  Why?

2) We hold AcAs UTG.  We raise to 10$ and get three callers.  The flop comes down Ah 4c 8c.  We bet 22$ and get one caller.  The turn is 9c.  We bet 40$ and get called.  The river is 2h.  What do we do?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"He looked a lot like Izzy Stradlin"

The problem is, even if I were to post, what would it obtain?  I've been thinking, in reference to my readers, about poker a lot.  And Roxy Music.  And The Hold Steady (to wit: their new album).

My wife has just put up a bunch of framed photos in our hallway.  So that, in exiting the bathroom, I'm inevitably confronted with an image of my wife's Grandfather, ca 1944, wearing full military regalia, and staring into the future with hope and joy.  It's not a little disconcerting.  I want to say to him...something.  Then I think how much I loathe the Tom Brokaw "Greatest Generation" thesis--even while I value and honor anyone who went over there, to shoot at other 20 year olds.  Now I think of Randall Jarrell--"it was not dying, everybody died...."  God, that's a good poem.

I haven't much enjoyed Roxy Music, is the thing.  The later stuff I like -- some.  It reminds me--a lot--of David Sylvian.  But in a diminished, unpowerful way.  I know I'm supposed to think otherwise.  But I don't.

I've been reading A LOT about Pale Fire.  And then I read some Knausgaard.  But who has not?

And for poker, I have rediscovered a love for the game, probably because I've been fortunate, recently, to play with beloved friends.  So I started to think about sending out emails with hypothetical situations, and we could talk about the details and I could propose my thoughts.  But then, I just come off as some kind of knowledgeable one.  As some kind of expert.  I mean, I don't want to lead or know things.  I don't.  I know nothing.  I can barely read.  Or function, as an adult.

But I can play poker.  The result of many wasted hours.  So here's a scenario, for all you would-bes to think on.


You hold KQh, UTG.  (We're playing 1-3.  Because we know how futile it all is).  You raise to 8.  You get three callers.  The button then re-raises, to 22.

What do you do?

You have no especial reads on any of the players.

* * * * Scenario Two * * * *

A loose, donk-ish player open raises UTG to eight.  Three players call.  You're in the button with A6o.  What do you do?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

GOD I wish _I_ had a "porpoise grant"

I accept and acknowledge that I have posted little to not at all in the last few months.  I have been working on a TV pilot, one in which characters who have given up on meaning go forth in drunken confusion to comment with despairing erudition on a life they neither understand nor approve.  They strive only to despair elegantly.  To stuff their suffering into masks of beauty.

That said, I've also been reading more than I do usually.  Now is neither the time nor the place (well, actually it's both) for a recounting of titles, but let's say only that Moby Dick (by Edmund Welles) is one of them.

I last read the whale book in, like 2002, so I remember it only sparingly.  And I'll tell you what--which you may not believe--it's #@$#@ amazing.  I mean….it's like, this guy, Melville, he could write!  Cetology!

I'm also transcribing a lot of passages, nowadays, thanks to the Kindle, which makes transcribing so easy.  I'm coming more and more to believe that the rote copying of other people's words is the only way to learn to write.  In the past, in Austen's time, e.g, such rote copying was widely accepted as a valid learning method.  Nowadays, not so much.  But it should be.

Anyway, here's a passage I bring forth to you all.  It made me think vividly of Johannes, that criminal guitarist.  The bit at the end is the bit of note, obviously.

I mean, what crown gives a porpoise-grant?  God I want to know THAT story!
It is upon the record, that three centuries ago the tongue of the Right Whale was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and commanded large prices there.  Also, that in Henry VIIIth's time, a certain cook of the court obtained a handsome reward for inventing an admirable sauce to be eaten with barbacqued porpoises, which, you remember, are a species of whale.  Porpoises, indeed, are to this day considered fine eating.  The meat is made into balls about the size of billiard balls, and being well seasoned and spiced might be take for turtle-ball or veal-balls.  The old monks of Dunfermline were very fond of them.  They had a great porpoise grant from the crown

Monday, March 3, 2014

"A Handful of Gems Slipping From Palm to Palm"

If you love have not yet had the opportunity to read the Patrick Melrose novels of Edward St. Aubyn, hie thee now away to some literary purveyor, acquire them, and begin at once to read.  You will thank me.

A few quotes to whet your appetite.

* * *

David’s methods of education rested on the claim that childhood was a romantic myth which he was too clear-sighted to encourage.  Children were weak and ignorant miniature adults who should be given every incentive to correct their weakness and their ignorance.  Like King Chaka, the great Zulu warrior, who made his troops stamp thorn bushes into the ground to harden their feet, a training some of them may well have resented at the time, he was determined to harden the calluses of disappointment and develop the skill of detachment in his son. 

….  It was no use expecting gratitude from [his son], although one day he might realize, like one of Chaka’s men running over flinty ground on indifferent feet, how much he owed to his father’s uncompromising principles.

* * *

He longed continually for an uncontaminated solitude, and when he got it he longed for it to stop.

* * *
[on an Professor]  Nevertheless, like a masterful broom, his new book had scattered the dust long settled on the subject of Identity, and swept it into exciting new piles.

* * * 

Heroin landed purring at the base of his skull, and wrapped itself darkly around his nervous system, like a black cat curling up on its favorite cushion.  It was as soft and rich as the throat of a wood pigeon, or the splash of ceiling wax onto a page, or a handful of gems slipping from palm to palm.