Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 8:40 PM
"But I don't eat locusts"
(alt. hed.: "It's my Blog and I can Capitalize if I want To')

I spent Memorial Day weekend in St Louis. The three of us drove 620 miles there and 620 miles back in a rented minivan. Mrs. Dr. Fro's cousin married a Mexican, so that is why she went. She told me we could go to a Cardinals game, so that is why I went. Baby went because we went.

The wedding was fun. It was also interesting. It is always interesting when a Catholic Mexican marries a Catholic Slovenian in a non-denominational ceremony with reception with a black uncle that is the DJ. Said uncle is my favorite relative. He played Kenny Roger's The Gambler at one point and said it was for me.

Uncle Dr. Fro and I have a connection. Well, we have lots of connections. That might be surprising to hear that an accountant from Dallas has much in common with a guy who owns a funeral home business, lives on top of the funeral home, owns a DJ business, owns a speaker wire installation business and is the head pastor of a church he started (and built). He also owns a time share in Vegas. That is where our connection starts. Uncle Dr. Fro has a little gamble in him. I have a lot of gamble in me. UDF told me the story of when he saved somebody's soul at a poker table. I have lost my soul at a poker table. As you can see, we have a lot to talk about.

One of UDF's quirks is his conviction to the notion that all professional sports are rigged. All of them. All the games. This is, to say the least, a bold notion, but it is one that he likes to explain to any soul who will listen almost as much as he likes to explain the Gospel of Thomas. He once made $4,800 on an NFL playoff game that was rigged. He also celebrated wildly when the Rams won the Super Bowl last decade and when the Cardinals won their World Series last year. I don't fully understand how you can be convinced that all sports are basically scripted drama and at the same time rejoice at the (surprise of the?) outcome, but he does.

During my trip to St Louis, I finished Moneyball, the best-seller about Billy Beane, the Oakland As GM, and how he managed to win more games per dollar of payroll than any other GM in Major League Baseball. It's one of those books that you finish and want to do nothing other than discuss it with others who have read it (much like my reaction after watching last week's episode of LOST). Since I have no friends and since KTl is too busy at work to talk to me, I will carry on my usual one-way conversation on this here blog.

For starters, most of Billy's ideas fall into one of three categories for me:

  1. Wow, I never thought of that, but that is genius;
  2. Yes! I have always thought of that; or
  3. Hmmm, I respectfully disagree.

Probably 95% of his ideas fall into categories #1 & #2 and mainly into #1. The short list of things on which I don't entirely agree with Mr. Beane includes his complete hatred of stealing bases. This seems to me to contradict other ideas of his such as placing a premium value on On Base Percentage and his corresponding hatred of giving up cheap outs. I think that with a man on second (as opposed to first), the likelihood of the batter walking goes up (increasing his on base percentage.) Also, on the cheap out fronts, obviously a successful stealing of second base takes away the forced double-play (i.e. takes away one of two cheap outs). So it seems to me that the value of a steal is not as simple as it was portrayed in the book. Another area with which I might disagree with Mr. Beane is his insistence that he not change his strategy for the playoffs (specifically, that he not try to manufacture runs). I am not certain that I disagree with this, but it seems quite analogous to the difference in strategy for a cash game versus the strategy in the late stages of a tournament. With the latter (and perhaps in a playoff game), the EV should not be measured the same way as in the former. It seems reasonable that taking a few extra gambles could make sense.

Other than that, I think he is genius.

If you have have not read the book (or if you haven't heard others that have read it talk about it), let me try to summarize. All the teams in MLB relied on certain conventional wisdom in deciding what makes a good baseball player (and, by extension, a good baseball team). This conventional wisdom was based on the collective experience baseball insiders, but it was never tested against empirical data. Billy, on the other hand, hired a bunch of Harvard nerds to crunch numbers to test wisdom (both conventional and unconventional) against actual data. Some wisdom was proven to be flatly wrong, while other wisdom was directionally correct, but the magnitude was off. In practice, this meant that GMs overpaid for certain traits (borne out by stats) and underpaid for other traits (e.g., on base percentage). By trading away players with more of the overvalued traits than undervalued traits for players that had the opposite composition of traits, he efficiently created a team that was outperforming other teams that had significantly higher payrolls than Oakland.

Sounds simple, huh?

Although the baseball specifics of the book were wonderful fun, the real takeaway was quite a bit broader. It was also the exact same takeaway from Freakenomics. (I do suggest your re-read the linked post). What I learned (again) was how people hold onto ideas even in the face of blatant evidence in contradiction of those ideas, and I learned (again) the reasons why they do this. Every once in a while, somebody comes along and says, "Hey, this conventional wisdom is a bunch of hogwash, and I can prove it to you. There is a much, much better way of doing things, and I would love to explain to you just how." When that guy says that, the response is overwhelming. Unfortunately, it is overwhelmingly aghast at the idea that what we have held as Truth for so long is in fact false. So, behavior continues to be based on false ideas.

When Freakenomics came out, there was a serious backlash. There was one idea in particular that explained why crime rates have dropped in America (I won't spoil it for you by telling you what the idea is) that generated some emotional reactions among "experts".

When Moneyball came out, it made a lot of people in the Establishment look very stupid. The Establishment reacted by blasting the book and Billy Beane. One member of the Establishment, Joe Morgan, was particularly vocal. Interestingly, though he was one of the book's biggest critics, he never actually read the book. (This is not too different from Michael Moore's biggest critics who have never read his books nor watched his movies. Accordingly, their criticism usually makes no sense because they criticise things that Michael Moore never actually said. I suggest that if you want to criticise MM, that you actual watch/read the subject of criticism first. In all likelihood, you will still have criticism, but at least it will be informed criticism.)

So that is just how it is. People freak out when the Truth comes out because the truth hurts. We all have different reasons for hanging onto conventional wisdom. It is comforting. After all, we have been making decisions our whole life based on conventional wisdom, so if we find out that conventional wisdom is in fact false, then we have wasted our lives. The Establishment always benefits from the status quo, so they are always vocal in shooting down ideas that challenge the status quo. But just because everybody calls the lone voice of truth an idiot does not make him one.

I'll get a little religious on you here and point out an easy example. Jesus was the ultimate anti-Establishment hippie. He disagreed with just about everything that everyone was doing. The Establishment was pissed. Fellow Judeans weren't too happy that he made them feel very bad about how they were living their lives. So how did they react? I'll spoil this book for you, because if you haven't read the book yet, you probably never will.... they killed him. They killed him in a really bad way. Not all people would say that he was telling the Truth, but I can find a few hundred million people in the world today that would say he was.

How about MLK? I love this example because, unlike with my previous one, it is extremely hard to find somebody today that actually thinks his ideas such as getting rid of racial segregation are bad ideas. Maybe if you live in a swamp in Louisiana you might disagree with me, but assuming you have most of your teeth, you probably are anti-segregation. Well 40 years ago, that was a radical idea, and people didn't take too kindly to Dr. King. And again, yes, they responded by killing him.

I don't mean to suggest that Billy Beane is Dr. King or Jesus, but I am trying to paint a picture of how people react when truth confronts conventional wisdom.

Of course, I would never say that every time somebody says something contrary to what everyone believes and generates a lot of controversy that they are necessarily a prophet. If that were true, then Michael Moore would be a prophet. I suppose that Rush Limbaugh would be too. A lot of times, people strike a nerve because what they say is unbelievably stupid. But I think that it is worth listening to anyone that is striking a nerve in the event that they are onto something.

I have 3 more examples, all of which revolve around UT football. However, I will save those for another post or perhaps a drunken conversation later, because I have a lot of points to make and I have already taken to long to get to them.

I was thinking about how this could all possibly relate to poker, and I have convinced myself that it very much does. There is conventional wisdom in poker.

Prior to Super System, there were just a bunch of individuals with their own ideas, most of which were probably stupid. Doyle Brunson changed all of that by co-writing a book that not only explained how to play poker well, it made a pretty good case for why playing poker Doyle's way made sense. Of course the ultimate proof was simply that Doyle wrote it, and Doyle was quite successful at poker.

A heap of poker books have come out since then, but they all are basically the same. Sure, some focus on some areas more than others (e.g., I learned more about post-flop play from Dan Harrington and more about O/8 from Hellmuth than from other books), but there are not a lot of disagreements between the books. Sure, authors tout how their advice differs from the other's, but they all really just put a lot of meat on this basic bone structure:

  1. Play tight but aggressive.
  2. Only play quality hole cards.
  3. Fold or raise. Calling is for pusses.
  4. Choose your bluffs wisely.
  5. Call on draws when you have the pot (or implied) odds.
  6. Adjust all decisions based on position.
  7. Stick to 1-6, but vary your play just enough to keep your opponents from knowing that you are largely sticking to 1-6.

I am going to suggest something heretical here: This not the best possible poker advice. At a minimum, it is incomplete.

Shots ring out over the Memphis sky.

I think that Mr. Brunson and his fellow writers are genius. I just think that you shouldn't follow their advice. I am going to offer 5 reasons why I think that poker strategy books could do with an overhaul from the conventional thinking that hasn't changed much since Doyle wrote his book:

  1. Most books still start from fundamental advice for limit poker (which until 2003 was the only kind of poker most places offered) and then adjust the advice for no limit.
  2. All of this conventional wisdom was gleaned from people's perception of poker, but it was not tested against empirical evidence. With the extraordinary amount of data now available from online poker sites, conventional wisdom can now be properly put to the test.
  3. The advice is given by people who have a direct interest in giving advice that seems sound (so as to sell books) but is not actually entirely sound (so as to make their opponents actually get better. Conspiracy Theory Alert!
  4. The advice, while sound for the types of opponents the authors faced, was never sound for the opponents we face. Do you think that your brother in law in your weekly home game plays like Layne Flack? If so, read Super System and act accordingly. If not, sell your copy of Super System for $20 on Ebay, and use the money to see a movie with your wife. Afterwards, you will have made you wife happy, put $4 change in your pocket and gotten rid of advice that does you absolutely no good against your brother in law.
  5. The advice, while it may have made sense at one point in time, no longer does. This is because everybody has read the books and now plays "by the book." Basic game theory would say that you need to adjust your strategy to the the one that dominates they way people now play.

It is getting late, and I am getting tired. The Astros are also testing my patience by competing with the Rangers for the worst record in baseball. So, I won't elaborate on these five points tonight. I am still trying to figure out exactly what I think about them. I have something to say about 1, 2, 4 and 5, but 3 is really a brain fart speculation. I don't think there is an actual conspiracy out there to keep us lemmings stupid, but I do think that it is easier to sell books with advice that is easy to swallow and exciting to imagine as true than it is to sell books with tough pills to swallow.

I do know that I am not the bringer of the truth. I have neither the requisite experience nor the intellect to tell you why the books are wrong (or, at a minimum, incomplete). I am more like John the Baptist. My job is to prepare the way. (for the record, that is not my biggest delusion of grandeur; when I was four, I thought I was the Messiah). I just want people to see that there might be a different way of looking at things, a different way to make money at poker. Hopefully, after being well-prepared to receive the truth, we can recognize the truth when we hear/read it. I suspect it will, like all truth, come from an unlikely source.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 1:45 PM
I have been meaning to post this one for a while, but I keep forgetting.

We went to the Mavs-Golden State Game #2. At the beginning, the announcer said, "We you please stand to honor God and our country, as we sing the Star Spangled Banner?" To this date, I have no idea how singing the Star Spangled Banner honors God. But I guess I was the only one, because everyone else in the AAC screamed and clapped loudly. OK, I get it: this crowd loves their country, and they definitely love God.

When the anthem was over, the strippers dancers come out. They are wearing almost nothing and they basically alternate between spreading their legs and pelvic thrusting. Everyone (the country- and God-lovers) claps and yells wildly.

Does this juxtaposition of events make anyone else laugh?

If you can't picture the dancers, it was a lot like this.

Speaking of the Mavs, what time is their game tonight?

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Posted by Dr Fro 12:40 PM
From: Swan, K
Sent: Friday, May 18, 2007 09:46 AM Central Standard Time
To: Junell
Subject: Poker Tourney/Cash Game

We are having a poker tourney on Saturday, June 2nd around 2pm and are looking for 30-40 players. I wanted to see if youwanted to email your poker buddies to see how many would be interestedin playing. It will probably be $100 buy in with one $50 rebuy and one$50 add-on. We will have a couple of cash games going after the first10 people get knocked out as well. We will have the game in theWashington/Memorial area (Houston). I wanted to see if you could make it and if you wanted to invite some ofyour poker buddies? Let me what you think?


K Swan

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Posted by Dr Fro 12:37 PM
Graham sent us this link, which completely sucks. I actually thought that this would be the bill to pass. Oh well, we are making progress.

"When it was apparent that the bill would not come up for discussion or vote, Menendez told a Dallas ESPN Radio broadcast, "I'm very disappointed. A lot of my colleagues are afraid that this voting for legalizing poker might hurt them in their next election. In particular, my Republican friends are the ones that are afraid of their primary voters."

A novel idea to getting around the current laws is being tested at NPC. A buddy of mine met these people who tried to sell him a franchise in Texas. He passed on the opportunity because the franche fees were too high.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 9:58 AM
Me talk pretty one day...


I have always found it interesting how in such an unapologetic way, people use certain phrases synonymously, such as:

Mexican = immigrant = school went downhill = kids aren't interested in college

Or perhaps:

White = going to college = not a criminal = the cause for a school being good

It is funny, but not "ha-ha", that people think this way. My experience with the white kids at Lee was that they were, overwhelmingly terribble students and general menaces to society (including yours truly), so I don't know why the departure of white kids is considered the cause of the school's demise.

And while we are on the subject of LHS, Prebble McLaughlin keeps us up to date on where they are now.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Posted by Johnnymac 11:34 AM
A few days ago, I received an email about this silly gasoline boycott that is all over the news today. I won't point out who sent me this email except to say that that person is fucking ignorant about most other things, too.

I am not going to get on a riff about this thing, except to point out that anyone who thinks that the oil companies somehow have some sort of malevolent fault in all of this, like all of the people I keep hearing being interviewed on the radio, are people who should have paid more attention in high school economics.

And if you are so inclined that you would like to challenge me on this - that you think you can convince me that gasoline costs $3/gallon just because Exxon is greedy - bring it on and I'll shoot down your fucking ignorance, too.

It is what it is, and despite the hysteria, the world oil market, all the way down to your local gas station, is actually one of the most competitive markets there is and that there ever has been. If you don't like it, don't drive your minivan so fucking much.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Posted by Johnnymac 12:09 PM
"What do you mean you called two bets with AQ?"

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 12:40 PM
I am now officially super hot again:

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 6:46 AM

Will the idiot on the goalpost please get down?

Trivia: I knew the idiot.

From the inception of the program through 1962, UT was very good. From 1963-1970, nobody was better. We won 3 national championships, 2 in convincing fashion. From 1970-1983 were good. Some ups and downs, but still good. On January 4, 1984, something terrible happened: a punt slipped through our hands along with a National Championship. That sent us in a tailspin. From 1984-1989, the Longhorns gave the impression that they would never be competitive again. We had 3 losing seasons, and it seemed like it was going to get worse. There were a lot of reasons why, but the fact that many of the teams we played every year were cheating certainly leveled (or tilted to their favor) the playing field.

On November 10, 1990, the undefeated, third-ranked UH Cougars came to town. For those of you too young to remember, UH was a big deal back then, primarily because Jack Pardee had invented the run-and-shoot offense. Andre Ware ran it so well that he won a Heisman. Pardee got a job with the Oilers. UT entered the game #5 and 9-1. They also had the best defense in the country.

I was a senior in high school. My parents were UH season ticket holders. I grew up going to UH games, but I had already signed my letter of intent to UT. (pause) Mr., Mrs. and Dr. Fro along with Shannon Young (whose lineage and letter of intent were similar to mine) drove to Austin for the game. It was a night game on national television at a place that had been on the fringe of the football universe for the past six years. It was intense.

Klinger got sacked right and left. Manny Hazard was marginalized, and we shut down Chuck Witherspoon (whose jersey read "C. Spoon", a play on words to suggest "see spoon run" and also a practical measure because his full name didn't fit. Hey, this is the school that put Hakeem Olajuwon's first name on his jersey and misspelled it.)

UT was led by a kid from my high school, Peter Gardere. He was the only guy to come out of Lee High School to make a name for himself in sports. He was my idol. He threw to the Cash twins (half of which would catch a pass from Joe Montana in 1992 to bump the Oilers from the playoffs) all season long. And then there was Butch Hadnot, who (though not as talented) had a style that reminded everyone of a kid out of Tyler that played for us in the 70's.

We won.

I also smoked a cigarette with Shannon and got into a bar on 6th street that night. I was looking forward to college.

So, here it is...whatever it takes:

This is the most interesting video. Storming the field and climbing goal posts is the great tradition of schools that suck ass at football. We Longhorns have seen it many times (a record number of times in 1997), however, we have seen it only once by our students. It happened that night in November. The TV announcer said we were better than that. I think he missed the point. We weren't better than that. We sucked ass for 6 years, and being a suckass program, it was only appropriate that we act like a suckass program.

Rumor has it that Mr. Gardere stood on a table at Wiley's that night and asked "Who wants to go home with the quarterback of the University of Texas Longhorns?" He got several takers.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 10:11 PM
"I drank 12 mo'..."

It was 17 years ago, but it feels like yesterday. JPW named this video after a song, "Forty when Yo Nekked" that was actually written about a year after the video was made. The song was written in Galveston by one of the greatest bands of all time. The video was taken in Houston by an artistic genius.

Jazzy was interviewed under the same tree where I first kissed a very young Ashley S.
I reckon Ashley is happy that it was I there and not Jazzy.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 8:41 PM

As the alcohol has slowly left my body and my average hours of sleep per night have increased, I now realize that I left out some more Vegas details:

1) I spotted a marked card at Bally's. It was the Ace of diamonds and it was faded on half of the card. Four times I spotted it in an opponent's hand, twice it was factored into a fold, once of which it proved to save me some money. I considered telling the dealer, but heck, maybe somebody spotted it before me and used it against me already. Anyway, I know sounds about as likely as me telling you that I made a fold because of the way my opponent ate his oreo, but 'tis true.

2) Vegas has noticeably relaxed its policy (or shall I say its enforement of policy) around cell phones. Except at Mandalay Bay, everywhere else tended to let poker players alone if they got a call. Maybe if they were tangled up in a hand, they would say something, but I even saw some (short) conversations on cell phones by players still involved in hands.

3) Walking from the Wynn to Bally's, we crossed through that wierd tourist area (in between Harrah's and O'Shea's). I bought two 12 oz. beers for $6 each. About 10 steps later, CCM "paid me back" by buying two more beers - this time 24 oz. for $4 each. Next time you are in LV, get your random "roadie" from the liquor store nearest O'Shea's.

4) There were a lot of, um, professionals in town for the fight. I am not talking about poker professionals.

5) A guy in my $2-$5 game at the Wynn lost about $1,500 on KK to opponent's AA. Thirty minutes later, he did it again, to a different opponent. How do you not release KK when, after about 5 raises, someone raises a grand into a pot worth hundreds? How?

I am sure more will trickle in over the course of this week. Here is a pick of me at the Wynn (second from the right!)

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Posted by Johnnymac 1:56 PM
It took a little bit of effort to find the actual article, but the WSJ article that Fro links to below is fairly interesting. After some discussion about crunching reams of online hands data to "prove" the skill element of poker playing, Howard Lederer and his skank sister both have some very compelling quotes on the subject of why It Ain't Gambling:

First the skank:
In the absence for now of any scientific proof, Pro. Nesson urged the group to come up with more legalistic arguments. Ms. Duke has won more than $3 million in tournament prize money (JMG: she's still a skank). One sure sign that poker is a skill, she says, is that unlike roulette or the lottery or betting on football, "you can purposely lose at poker if you choose." To lose requires skill, she says -- or at least an ability to affect the outcome.

Then her brother:
Her brother offers another proposal, which he suggests might impress a future judge. The "vast majority" of high-betting poker hands, he says, are decided after all players except the winner have folded. So if no one shows his cards, Mr. Lederer says, "can you legally argue that the outcome was determined by luck?"

It took both of them to make it there, but together they are presenting a very succinct and simple to understand inductive argument on our favorite subject here.

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Posted by Dr Fro 11:13 AM
I think it is safe to say that when the "is poker a game of skill or a game of luck?" question is discussed in the Wall Street Journal and at Harvard, it is getting some serious attention.

I mean, it is one thing for some hack like JohnnyMac to write about it on IAG.com, but it is quite another for people from an esteemed institution like Harvard to write about it.

Thanks to ARH for the link.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 11:14 AM
Please can you tell me, so I can finally see, where you go when you're gone?

When I'm gone, I go to Vegas.

I just got back from three nights in Vegas. As expected, it was a completely wheels-off event with all the usual trimmings. The first night there, which was the only night that I participated in any significant amount of non-poker gambling, we played craps from all night long. At one point we were up a ton, but the combination of the effects of 20 scotch-on-the-rocks and the dice going cold meant that I woke up on Friday hungover, tired and down a bag of sand to start out the trip. CCM was also hungover, tired and down.

At this point, I start the poker part of the trip with the expectations that, if I do quite well, I can minimize my losses, but there is no thought that I might actually come out a winner. My bankroll would not allow me to go with my original plan: the $2-$5 NL game at Bellagio. Instead, I took my tiny bankroll to the $1-$2 game at Bally's. I played there all day while the rest of the bachelor party played golf.

I never was down. I was never all-in. I just slowly but surely won money. I was up as much as $400, but I cashed out $200 in profits. Shortly before I cashed out, CCM came by. I was telling him a story:

"So I river the nut flush and bet into Tyrone, but Tyrone folded to my bet. He had the King high flush and he folded."

Tyrone, a man I have never met before, looks at me and asks if we know each other. I reply:

"No. Wait, are you telling me that you really are named Tyrone? No way. That is too funny. No, I had no idea what your name was, but I was just throwing out a stereotypical name."

He is black.

The look on his face was priceless. This is the guy that was smart enough to fold the King high flush, but he wasn't smart enough to realize that his Player's Card (with his name on it) was sitting right in front of him.

I let him in on my secret eventually.

I never did let the rest of the table into my secret related to when I told them that I bet the over on the Seattle/Yankees game, but I missed it by 1 run. The total runs scored in their Saturday game was 26.

Yes, I am full of shit when I am at the poker table, particularly at the poker table with strangers.

That night we ate at Grotto in the Golden Nugget. I hadn't been to the GN in 13 years, and I have to say that it has either not aged well or my standards were too low when I was 21. Either way, it was a dump. But it was a dump with a poker room, so I played a little $1-$2 there with some strange individuals. One chick with alcoholic-face hit quads twice in 9 hands. Not only did she win big pots, she won two jackpots. I was ramming and jamming and jawing and drinking and knocking out players right and left. By the time CCM joined the table, we were short handed. I felted so many players that we were left with just 4 players: me, CCM and two others. We eventually decided that 4-handed sucked and we packed it up to go home. In the end, I won about $900. I also told an officer in the Navy that I didn't support the troops. I don't know how finely tuned his sarcasm meter was, but it was the second time that day that I could have died.

I went to the room and went to bed (about 4:30, I think) and CCM played roulette until sunrise.

The next day we woke up and went to the Wynn (or the Golden Nugget East, as I like to call it). Alcoholic-Face wasn't there. Neither were the other strange souls that were at the GN the night before. The waitresses were absolutely smoking and the clientele was not too bad either. I sat down at the $2-$5NL game and CCM played $1-$3NL. Half of my table were pros and the other half were grisly old retirees that were on a first name basis with the entire Wynn staff. Most people had bought in for about $2,000 and one guy had a roll that he claimed held $14,000. I bought in for $300 (and once topped up for another $100). This was the only table on the trip where I kept my mouth shut. The Alpha Male had already been elected, a pro that has been living in Vegas and playing at the Wynn for 243 straight days. He was the one with the big roll. He was very good and when he wasn't annoying, he was pretty funny. Example:

"I can look into your eyes and see your soul. I know everything about you. I know you have AJ and I know you are a closet homo. I knew you had AJ when you checked the turn, but I knew you were hiding your love for men the moment you sat down."

The table started laughing, but when his opponent folded and showed AJ, we were a little bit uncomfortable.

I cashed out $225 profit and we went back to change for dinner.

Dinner was at Red Square in the Mandalay Bay, and it was very good. We got out of dinner at about the same time that the fight ended. Consequently, about 10,000 (?) people who paid to watch the match on closed caption at Mandalay Bay were making their way through the casino. Half of them were black and half were Mexican. The Mexicans, draped in Mexican flags all had long faces. The brothers and sisters on the other hand were all high-fiving each other. I went to the sports book to cash in my winning ticket and noticed that the line, which wrapped around the sports book, was about 95% black. There were zero Mexicans. Isn't it interesting that in such an objective endeavour as gambling on boxing, it seems that people bet largely based on how closely the boxer's color of skin matches their own? I was wondering if somebody was observing Vegas on Saturday night if it looked like some ordered a pint of "black and tan", but drank all the tan at 10pm, leaving the half pint of Guinness.

Of the 14 guys that were on the bachelor party, 12 went to the strip club. Of the 2 that did not, one was gay, and the other one could not possibly go look at boobs when he could be playing poker instead.

I went to the poker room and asked to be on the list for $1-$2 and $2-$5. I had my name called for the small game first. When they called out my name for the big game, I decided not to move. I had no less than three reasons to stay: 1) I was winning, 2) there was a Swedish girl in a cocktail dress to my left, and 3) there was a cute 21-year old Korean to my right.

So I stayed. And I just kept winning. The BS started to flow. At one point I out did myself. And this is the one story I didn't tell CCM because I wanted him to read it on my blog. After telling people what their hand was immediately before making a big bluff and getting them to fold 4 different times, I found myself with the nut full house, heads-up against Ms. Sweden. I bet $100 to put her all in. She sweated it out for a while, and eventually said:

"I just don't know what to do. I am a terrible poker player. I should probably do the opposite of what my gut says. I am just such a terrible poker player."

I responded:

"There must be 200 guys in this room, of which 190 are straight. All 190 of them have been looking at you tonight. They have been looking at you in that dress. Of the 10 queers, I bet 5 of them checked out that girl in that dress. Anyway, and here is my point, that makes 195 guys, and not a damn one of them gives a shit if you are any good at poker."

So she called, and I won the last of her money. I cashed out with $730 in profits.

Then I had two Jager-bombs and made my way back to Bally's. It was soon going to be time to get on a plane after 24+ hours of a bender. I was looking forward to getting some sleep on the plane. I was also looking forward to telling my girls that Daddy won big in Vegas.

I won $1,995 in poker, lost $895 in non-poker, bringing the net winnings to $1,100 even. Room and flight were a combined $110 (love the points). I haven't looked at the credit card to figure out what I spent, but It was probably around$200.

Learnings on the trip: small wins during the day and big wins at night for poker. The low limit games seemed much more profitable than the big games. The non-poker gambling continues to be terribly non-profitable. Swedish girls in little cocktail dresses still aren't very good at poker. Only in Vegas could a bacon cheeseburger come with blue cheese and prosciutto ham, and there truly is no sleep for the wicked.

(3) comments

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 10:22 PM
This is not too terribly different from when I got screwed.

(1) comments

Posted by Dr Fro 10:05 PM
Next think you know, the poker bloggers are going to get locked up, too.

(0) comments

Posted by Dr Fro 9:58 PM
I don't quite know what to say about this.

Old Mike, new Christine
By Mike Penner, Times Staff Writer
April 26, 2007

During my 23 years with The Times' sports department, I have held a wide variety of roles and titles. Tennis writer. Angels beat reporter. Olympics writer. Essayist. Sports media critic. NFL columnist. Recent keeper of the Morning Briefing flame.

Today I leave for a few weeks' vacation, and when I return, I will come back in yet another incarnation.

As Christine.

I am a transsexual sportswriter. It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words. I realize many readers and colleagues and friends will be shocked to read them.

That's OK. I understand that I am not the only one in transition as I move from Mike to Christine. Everyone who knows me and my work will be transitioning as well. That will take time. And that's all right. To borrow a piece of well-worn sports parlance, we will take it one day at a time.

Transsexualism is a complicated and widely misunderstood medical condition. It is a natural occurrence — unusual, no question, but natural.

Recent studies have shown that such physiological factors as genetics and hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can significantly affect how our brains are "wired" at birth.

As extensive therapy and testing have confirmed, my brain was wired female.

A transgender friend provided the best and simplest explanation I have heard: We are born with this, we fight it as long as we can, and in the end it wins.

I gave it as good a fight as I possibly could. I went more than 40 hard rounds with it. Eventually, though, you realize you are only fighting yourself and your happiness and your mental health — a no-win situation any way you look at it.

When you reach the point when one gender causes heartache and unbearable discomfort, and the other brings more joy and fulfillment than you ever imagined possible, it shouldn't take two tons of bricks to fall in order to know what to do.

It didn't with me.

With me, all it took was 1.99 tons.

For more years than I care to count, I was scared to death over the prospect of writing a story such as this one. It was the most frightening of all the towering mountains of fear I somehow had to confront and struggle to scale.

How do you go about sharing your most important truth, one you spent a lifetime trying to keep deeply buried, to a world that has grown familiar and comfortable with your façade?

To a world whose knowledge of transsexuals usually begins and ends with Jerry Springer's exploitation circus?

Painfully and reluctantly, I began the coming-out process a few months ago. To my everlasting amazement, friends and colleagues almost universally have been supportive and encouraging, often breaking the tension with good-natured doses of humor.

When I told my boss Randy Harvey, he leaned back in his chair, looked through his office window to scan the newsroom and mused, "Well, no one can ever say we don't have diversity on this staff."

When I told Robert, the soccer-loving lad from Wales who cuts my hair, why I wanted to start growing my hair out, he had to take a seat, blink hard a few times and ask, "Does this mean you don't like football anymore, Mike?"

No, I had to assure him, I still love soccer. I will continue to watch it. I hope to continue to coach it.

My days of playing in men's over-30 rec leagues, however, could be numbered.

When I told Eric, who has played sweeper behind my plodding stopper for more than a decade, he brightly suggested, "Well, you're still good for co-ed!"

I broke the news to Tim by beginning, "Are you familiar with the movie 'Transamerica'?" Tim nodded. "Well, welcome to my life," I said.

Tim seemed more perplexed than most as I nervously launched into my story.

Finally, he had to explain, "I thought you said 'Trainspotting.' I thought you were going to tell me you're a heroin addict."

People have asked if transitioning will affect my writing. And if so, how?

All I can say at this point is that I am now happier, more focused and more energized when I sit behind a keyboard. The wicked writer's block that used to reach up and torture me at some of the worst possible times imaginable has disappeared.

My therapist says this is what happens when a transsexual finally "integrates" and the ever-present white noise in the background dissipates.

That should come as good news to my editors: far fewer blown deadlines.

So now we all will take a short break between bylines. "Mike Penner" is out, "Christine Daniels" soon will be taking its place.

From here, it feels like a big improvement. I hope with time you will agree.

This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

(0) comments

Posted by Dr Fro 9:31 PM
Vegas, Baby! Vegas!
I will be in Vegas in 48 hours. We are going for three nights. Based on learnings from the last trip, we didn't bother booking a room for the 3rd night. Sleeping is quitting.
Anyway, if anybody has any last minute advice - places to eat, tournaments to play, etc., pls comment below.
Expect a long post after my (triumphant?) return.

(0) comments

Posted by Dr Fro 9:20 PM
You know who I really like....is this guy Andy Bernard. He has got this very likeable way about him.

(0) comments

Random thoughts from a lawyer, an accountant, a commodities trader, an ex-Marine and a WSOP Main Event money finisher that don't know as much as they wish they did...



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