Monday, July 31, 2006

Missed signs

Mrs. Jones wanted to see a chick flick tonight at the local multiplex. I went willingly. I'm the strong yet sensitive type, after all. But how was I supposed to know that the sign for "Women" was not for the movie she wanted us to see? No big deal. My lawyer says he'll have everything straightened out in a few days.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


There hasn't been much to report poker-wise over the last week. (Contrary to my earlier braggadocious post, I limited myself to four buy-ins in the DADI. There's only so many bad beats my fragile psyche could endure. The eventual winner, brdweb, sent me packing within the first 20 minutes with a vicious 2-outer on the river.)

I spent the previous three days rubbing elbows with the moneyed set during a member-guest at my buddy's country club. After golf, we gathered in the cigar room, drank Grey Goose, compared notes on Bengladeshi sweat shops and traded a few insider tips. I woke up this morning with a wee hangover. It must have been the olives.

After initially considered the medicinal value of inserting bamboo skewers through my frontal lobe, I opted for an alternative course of treatment: A $3 buy-in tournament on Titan.

I enjoyed a smooth yet unspectacular ride to the final table. I got some chips early and moved up steadily. Near the money, I won a nice-sized pot from a shorter stack when I tried to re-steal with Kh-Jh. He called my all-in with pocket 8s and I rivered Broadway. I did get slightly unlucky near the end while three-handed. The slightly bigger stack (and eventual winner) opened for 60K and I pushed 171K all-in with pocket kings. The small stack shoved his last 64K and the original raiser folded. Small stack had A-8 and got his ace on the flop, reducing me to around 100K.

With blinds at 15K/7.5K, I busted a few hands later when I pushed my last 85K with A-4 and got called by A-10.

It might be chump change, but it's not a bad return on a $3 investment. I'll take all the final tables I can get.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


In preparation for tonight's DADI8 Rebuy in July tournament, I've emptied the 401K, the kids' college funds and as well as the living room sofa and have dumped all of that money (a grand total of $46.83) into my Stars account. That's right: I'm going Negreanu on your asses, folks.

The sky's the limit on the number of rebuys I plan to take. And to complete the Negreanu Queer-Eye makeover, I went out and got me a cutesey dog with a cutesy name, a cutesy wife with a cutsey name, a cutesy personal assistant (with a non-cutesy name -- Chad!) to wipe my cutsey ass. Look out ugly broggers, the hacker will be one cutesy mofo tonight.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Something in the water

I'm no Supermodel but I did manage to wade through 1,877 other players tonight/this morning to finish eighth in an $11 tournament on Stars.

I flamed out in semi-sloppy fashion. Sitting on 220K in the SB (10K/20K/400), I pushed all-in with jacks after an UTG raise. He had aces. Three hearts on the flop gave me hope for an ugly flush, but no further help arrived and that was that. Bad play? Meh. Don't think so. I'd have pushed on the raggedy board had I just called preflop.

The hand of the night came with about 24 players left. I got to see the flop with pocket 3s. The flop came 3-5-10. I led out and a much bigger stack put me all-in. I insta-called and he showed 5-10. A 5 came on the turn and ... a precious 3 floated in on the river. DQB! DQB! That's the most vicious Riverstars suck/resuck I've seen to date. Nice to be on the resuck end of the equation.

As you might be able to discern from my previous post, I've been running poorly as of late. Cash games have been crashing violently against my bankroll, causing major erosion. (I did manage to finish 81st in Friday night's $20K guaranteed on Full Tilt. Woooooot! But that was it.)

Making a final table in a big-ass MTT was not a bad way to end what had been an unproductive poker weekend.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A post of biblical proportions

Poker sucks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Name droppings

Two from the money and on the shortstack in last night's WWdN, I dropped the hammer from the button hoping I had fold equity with Big Money sitting on 2.5 million chips in the big blind. He had the temerity to call -- with K-freakin'-9. What in God's name was that? What could he have been thinking? Needless to say, the hammer was mercilessly cracked and I slinked away in search of the Sun. High, I'm Poker Jones. I'm a low-limit (rakeback) junkie.

That sordid bad-beat story, however, is not the driving force behind this missive. Rather, sitting on my porch this evening, pondering the fate of squirrels, I realized that I have never explained publicly the meaning behind my poker screen name hacker59, which is in use on most of the sites where I have accounts. (I'm NealCassady on a couple of others.)

Hacker59 has nothing to do with computers. Technology-wise, I've achieved the status of Luddite First Class. So, after eliminating (A), the only answer can be (B) golf. Good answer. The 59 was added because "hacker" alone was not available on That-slutty-10th-grade-girl-who' Fifty-nine, of course, is the ultimate score in golf, save Tiger Wood's Swedish swimsuit model trophy bride.

It also happens to match the year of my birth.

Yep. Verging on Golden Buckeye Card status. Forty-fuckin'-seven.

I don't feel old. Much. There did come a time this spring during a Group tournament at JC's when I looked around and realized with some apprehension that I was the second-oldest person in the room. A melancholy moment. Christ, I don't feel old. Much.

But I realize I'm doddering compared with the online poker crowd and it's average age of 15. (I would tend to think that bloggers skew slightly older, perhaps in the 20 to 22 range. They know a lot of big words and cool stuff.)

So when you see me next in a game somewhere, please be kind. Throw me a pot or two. We old-timers can use all the help we can get.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A quickie

I joined a mere 7,376 other players on Stars today looking for a seat to the WSOP main event. With 234 spots at stake, I figured my odds were pretty good. Brace yourself: I didn't win one, finishing 2,648th.

It took me about 2 1/2 hours to bust out and managed to last that long because the cards were so crappy that I rarely got the opportunity to put chips at risk. I won a so-so pot with jacks early on and got to steal blinds with aces once and kings another time.

Only two interesting hands. Right before the first break, I opened from the button for 200 (4x BB) with Ah-4h and the blinds came along. The flop provided two hearts. The blinds checked and I bet 400. The guy to my immediate left, who had me well covered, went all-in. The other blind folded and I was left to ponder. I've got about 2,100 chips and 600 in the pot. It's early, but I need chips (i.e., freakin' momentum.) I've got a ton of outs (including an inside straight draw), which can mean only one thing: fold. It's too early to gamble, right? I've been in this situation enough to know that the cards will come eventually. Patience usually pays. Not this time.

The other hand was my last. In the big blind (150/300/10) with around 2,400 chips, I see a flop with the UTG limper. I've got As-7s. The flop comes 7 high with two spades. I push. Limper ponders and finally calls. With pocket jacks. No help for me and I'm done. Oddly played, but he got my chips.

Sooooo ... it wasn't my day. No big deal. But, for what it's worth, I felt comfortable in that setting, ready and willing to play my normal game. That's good to know.

(And I did turn a $43 profit during that time, finishing second in a 5-table $5.50. The contrast in skill levels between the players in those two tournaments was remarkable.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Mookie presciently made James Elmer "Poker" Jones (Sept 17, 1898-Sept. 9, 1965) a co-honoree for tonight's Mookie tournament. I dropped in on Mookie's table and joked that the dead guy would last longer than me.

I think he did.

Eleven hands into it, someone named Marxst1 opens for 60 UTG. I call with pocket jacks and three others join the fun. Flop comes Jd-5h-Kd. Marxst1 bets 80, I raise to 240 and everyone folds around to Marxst1, who calls. The flop is the 7h. Marxst1 leads for 220 and I push my remaining 850. He calls. With pocket aces. Cracking sounds begin reverberating off the hallowed halls of the Poker Jones Harmonic Institute when the ace of clubs pops up on the river, an ugly zit on what was supposed to be my poker prom night.

The music has faded to silence. My tux hangs forlornly in the closet of my consciousness. A cheap boutaineer chills quietly in the Frigidaire of my soul.

Rest in peace, Mark "Poker" Jones. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Math deficient

Warning. Semi-bad beat story to follow:

We’re down to 5 in the Vegas-shortened MATH tonight. I’ve got 4K and decide to just call jeciimd's min-raise while holding pocket 7s from from the small blind. Jeciimd might be one of the most famous bloggers in the world, but I don’t think I’ve read his work. Of course, I don't get out much. He’s the chip leader with around 7,900 and has been min-raising a bit, so I'm no quite certain what it means in this instance. Mowenumdown, my apparently conjoined poker twin, given how much we’ve played together lately, calls from the big blind.

The flop is 6s-7h-9s. I lead for 400, hoping to get raised. Mow folds and jeciimd raises to 800. I reraise another 1,000 and he calls. The 5d arrives on the turn. I push my last 1,700 and he calls … with A-8. The river fails to pair the board and I'm done.

I collect my thoughts and comment in chat about the possibility of a donkey move having just been made but wonder who might have made it.

Was it me? Did I misplay this hand? He’s calling another 1,000 into a pot of 3,425 with an OESD. Does he have pot odds? Only if he plans to see the river. Implied odds? Of course. You can have implied odds that Uma Thurman will make you her love slave, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Apparently, I should have bet bigger. My first instinct was to shove. I’m just not sure it would have done any good.

What’s really pissing me off is how well I played up to that point. No cards? No problem. And while you can never be certain, I sense that I made a couple of decent laydowns along the way. I’ve gotten much better at shaking off the losses and bad beats that are poker, but for some reason this one has left a giant welt across my psyche.


Mowenumdown just took down the MATH after coming back from a big deficit. Nice work, sir.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Geographic differences

As I type this, bloggers are getting mad drunk and putting tourists on tilt in Vegas while I play a $6+1 3-table tournament on Absolute. Yippee. (Just flopped a set of 3s on a K-3-K board with a bunch of callers from early position. Everyone checks. Queen on the flop. A pot-sized bet, I call, late position pushes, original bettor calls all-in and I call all-in, knowing I’m ahead but not feeling too good about it. A queen sashays in on the river. The guy with K-7 wins and I’m fricasseed. Noice.

At the request of the honorable Mookie,  I will provide an abridged version of the Pantera tour bus story.  Should anyone remember (or care), I will tell it in lavish detail at the next blogger ho-down, an event I will be loath to miss.

Here goes: I was not a Pantera fan before I met Phil Anselmo, the lead singer. I’m really not a fan today. I’ve never been into heavy metal. Led Zeppelin is the greatest rock band of all time and we’ll just leave it at that. But a good friend living in L.A. had become good friends with Phil. When he arrived in town on Phil’s bus the day before a show here, I hooked up with them. Strangeness ensued.

I must now take a prudent and, for the genuinely curious, unsatisfying chronological leap. “Nearly setting fire” to the bus might be a slight exaggeration. I guess there was a fair amount of smoke, but I don’t believe any flames erupted. Details are hazy. My next moment of consciousness saw me crawling out of a sleeping berth at dawn and discovering that the bus had just crossed into Michigan, barreling toward Kalamazoo.  I caught a very expensive 45-minute flight home that afternoon.

I attended another Pantera concert about a year later. The highlight of that show saw me wading into a roiling mosh pit holding a plastic cup full of $40-a-bottle Zinfadel cadged from Phil’s dressing room. I knew then what Sir Edmund Hilary must have felt when he climbed that hill: Damn, I’ve arrived.

Dispensing with all attempts at modesty, let me say this: A great number of people have since trekked to the Himalayas and climbed Everest. I think I can confidently state that no one else has since stood in a heavy-metal mosh pit holding a glass of quality red wine. That's rareified air indeed.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Everyone has their limits

Prior to that nasty encounter with Iak, the only other poker blogger I’d met previously is one of the true titans of the poker blogging industry, the inestimable and irascible Matt Maroon of The Poker Chronicles.

Poker Chronicles was the first poker blog I'd ever stumbled across. Intrigued, I spent several hours poring over the entire archive, getting a fascinating glimpse into Matt's journey as a professional online player. I then spent time watching him run over people at the $10/20 limit tables on Party while putting many of his victims on serious tilt with his vicious barbs. Not my style, but it worked well for him.

Circumstances led to us having lunch. As outspoken and cruel as he could be online, he proved to be exceedingly polite and pleasant in person. His gracious link in the beginning days of this blog brought me much of my first traffic.

As foolhardy as this might be, however, especially given the poker pedigree Matt possesses and I do not, I'm going to recklessly climb out onto a thin (and what I hope to be non-didactic) limb and disagree with the subject of his last post.

Matt began by posing the question: “Which game is more complex, limit or no limit hold ‘em?” As expected, he voted for his bread-and-butter/Lexus/condominium game, limit, and used a clever analogy that compared 8-ball vs. straight pool. In 8-ball, he wrote, a player assigned to solids has seven balls to choose from (NL). Lots of (easy) choices. But in straight pool, he argued, you can only pocket one specific ball at a time, which brings more strategy into play (limit).

Again, clever. But I don’t think it quite works. In either pool game, you have options, concerns about position and consideration of future plays. I will grant you that straight pool (or 9-ball) is harder, but I will also argue that THOSE games provide a much better comparison to NL in the poker. No-limit is more complicated, IMHO.

The decision trees for NL vs. limit are similar. Both games value (and reward) aggressiveness. But my experience (40K hands of $1/2 6-max) at limit has shown me that NL demands far more creativity. Given the fixed bet/raise amounts in limit, there is much more to consider in determining optimum bet amounts in NL, whether its to protect a hand or to build a pot. Bluffing in NL is endemic. Few NL games that I’ve played, even at the $50, $100 or $200 levels where I roll, are push-monkey fests. And, unlike limit, a good, tricky NL player can pick up a ton of chips with no cards at all. To me, that demands abundant creativity.

Most importantly, but not quite on point, NL is considerably more fun to play. I don't earn my living at poker as Matt does. I get to pick up some pocket change and feed my insatiable Poker Jones. I'm sure the games are extremely interesting at the limits Matt plays at, but I can't ever see me going there.

Finally, Doyle Brunson calls no-limit hold 'em the “Cadillac of poker.” I'm too much of a mindless sychophant to disagree with the great Texas Dolly.

A couple of quick notes. I finished third in last night’s WWdN The Not despite holding a 22K to something like 8K and 7K lead at one point. The explanation for the collapse is simple. I was tired and made one very stupid play. Rested and alert, it would not have happened. Period.

Congratulations to Mookie for surviving two hellaciously bad beats from mowenumdown and taking down the tournament. And nice job, mow, who was my heads-up opponent the night before in the eponymous Mookie. (And in the department of weird coincidences, mow and I were seated at our first table in the Stars $3 rebuy tonight. I left after three rebuys, about 10 minutes before the break.)

Finally, fuck you bloggers living the high life in Vegas. I hope you puke your guts out. And I hope you have a fantastic freakin’ time doing it. Wish I were there projectile vomiting alongside you.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Days of Iakaris

I received a call Tuesday morning from Iakaris inviting me to a 4th of July/Belated Obscure Canadian Holiday cookout at his place. I politely declined, explaining that I had another party to attend that afternoon. Not true. When he called, I was sitting in my underwear, bonus whoring two $25 NL tables at Far East Poker. Not surprisingly, I was losing my ass.

No, poor Hacker had nowhere to go at that point but down. I had just seen my safe and secure life disintegrate in the span of a 12-hour encounter with Iak. Yet even the meager crumbs that remained held enough value to make a second bout with Dr. Sybarite seem ill-advised.

"No, problem," Iakaris said, his voice preternaturally calm, a distinct departure from his manic state of a few days before. "I know it's last minute and all. Don't know what I was thinking. Although, I have to admit it was Melinda's idea. A couple of her friends are in for the weekend and she thought it would be nice if you could drop by."

Melinda. The mere mention of her name took my breath away. Melinda. Perfection personified. That needy, child-like voice. That charming high-pitched giggle. That slim, tight body capable of turning The Gap into haute couture. Those sexily vacuous eyes.

"I know you're busy, old man," Iak continued. "I'll pass your regrets on to Melinda. Maybe another time."

"Wait!" I blurted. "Look, um, you know, I could stop by for a few minutes on my way to the other party. Maybe for a quick drink."

"Absolutely," Iak said, roaring his approval. "We won't keep you long. And I know Melinda will be pleased as punch to see you."

Iak. If you only knew. Where the beautiful Melinda is concerned, the pleasure is distinctly mine.

Now if I could only remember why. The soupy of fog of Saturday night had stubbornly refused to lift. But somehow, the image of that raven-haired goddess bore through the confusing miasma, burnishing my brain with desire.

I admit that I remember a few things. The limo ride, illegal substances, a club, another limo ride, more illegal substances. Melinda joining us in the limo. Melinda and I alone in the limo. The frames then dissolved into darkness until the mid-morning sun coaxed me awake on the dew-drenched front lawn of my suburban home.

By mid-afternoon Sunday, I had managed to shower, dress and motor toward my destiny. The directions Iak gave me had me turning down a narrow private road flanked by tall hedgerows. At the end of the lane stood a gatehouse and beyond that a magnificent mansion surrounded by an expanse of lush, perfectly manicured lawn. A large burly man stepped out of the gatehouse and peered suspiciously into my car.

“Can I help you,” he asked, the accent once again markedly Russian.

I gave him my name and he checked the contents of the clipboard in his hand. Frowning, he opened the gate. I pulled my beat-up ’94 Corolla behind a line of vehicles with a value that exceeded the annual GNP of some third-world countries. Leonid, the chauffeur, stood at the front of the line polishing Iak’s limo. I got out and greeted him, extending my hand. He eyed me for a second and continued buffing without comment.

“Should I go around back?” I asked

Leonid again failed to respond. Fuck him. I walked around the house on a lawn that rivaled a fairway at the finest country club. The back of the house proved to be the front, the lawn sloping gently toward the lake. Several dozen peole stood beneath a large canopy. Iak stood stood among a crowd of swells that seemed to be laughing at something he had said.

I approached. It did not seem to be the same Iak. Instead of the poor-white-trashwear from poker night, he wore a finely tailored black silk shirt and trousers, his full head of hair stylishly combed. As the laughter subsided, he turned and noticed me.

“Mark! Glad you could make it. Come here, old man. Let me introduce you.”

A strong sense memory emerged: I've arrived at the seventh-grade dance in a horrifically out-of-date coat and tie my mother insisted I wear and spend the rest of the night unsuccessfully dodging the cruel barbs of my classmates.

In this instance, given the quick but studied glances of the other partygoers, I felt so underdressed that I might as well have been naked. Iak embraced me as if I were a long-lost brother.

“Here, my friends, is a man chiseled smartly from the salt of the earth. A true mensch,” Iak said proudly.

He introduced me to some of the beautiful people, their names obscured by my harried attempts to form an exit strategy. A waiter appeared with a tray of bubbling champagne flutes. Iak grabbed a glass for me.

“I made sure I had plenty of Cristal on hand today, given how much you like it,” Iak said laughing.

Cristal? I’ve read enough of the Post’s Page 6 to know that the hip-hop scene drinks this stuff like water, but at $400 a bottle, there's no way it had ever passed my lips. Or had it? Each passing second sent me spinning faster down the vortex of Iak’s rabbit hole. He continued his story, allowing me to stand quietly, sip champagne and collec my thoughts. The story completed, he turned and quietly suggested that I find Melinda inside the house.

“She’s probably in the conservatory,” Iak said, his voice amiable, his expression inscrutable. “She’s very much looking forward to seeing you.”

I nodded numbly and walked toward the house. In the mystery my life had become, the character of Melinda represented a beguiling enigma. Why her? Why me? What the hell happened that night?

I entered through a door that brought me into a kitchen the size of my home. A half-dozen chefs in pristine whites and tocques stood before various burners and cutting boards. Waiters bustled to and fro. I continued through a swinging door that led to the dining room. A table the length of a small runway had been set for several dozen diners. An even longer Oriental rug ran beneath it. How could Iak afford this? Who is this Gatsby? But more importantly, where is my Daisy?

I entered a long hallway, the walls lined with oils and tapestries. A door at the end of the hall leaked weak daylight. I rapped my knuckles against the heavy oak surface.

“Who is it?”

“Melinda? It’s Mark.”

The door swung open and she stood before me. My memory had indeed failed me. Melinda was far more beautiful than any image my brain could have held. She wore tight pink capris and a pink sweater that clung lusciously to her small breasts. Before I could speak, she reached up and kissed me hard on the mouth.

“Nice to see you, Hacker,” she said, taking my hand and leading me inside the room. Ceiling-high bookshelves lined two walls. An impressive array of servers, console lights blinking, lined another.

She pressed against me, her voice a whisper. “What do you think?” she asked.

My mind raced. I felt the words forming and knew they should never be uttered. Not here. Not now. Melinda had rendered me helpless and out of control. “I think I love you, Melinda.”

She took a step back and giggled. “Not me, silly. What do you think of our little set-up here.”

Oh, God. She’s talking about the computers. There can be no recovery from this asinine moment in Hacker History. The only appropriate response seemed to be firing a bullet into my encephaletic brain. Instead, I said, “They’re ... okay. What are they for?”

“They’re running bots,” she said. “Hundreds of lovely profit-pulling poker bots. And pretty soon a special pay site starring me! Melinda!!”

It all became clear. Iak’s large lifestyle. The presence of Melinda. Global warming. Iak commanded an army of freakin’ bots.

Melinda slid next to me again and smiled. “You love me?”

I nodded dumbly. “I like girls, too, you know.”

I told her I did not object. That's when her body melted against mine, signalling my arrival in heaven. “Maybe I love you, too, Hacker.”

Love, lust and all of their wingmates swooped down in a carnal nosedive. Tumescent glory emerged.

Not good. The hard-on, you see, was not mine. It belonged to Melinda.

“Surprise,” she said smiling, her mouth seeking mine.

I stepped back. “What is going on here?”

“Oh, darling. What’s the matter? Don't let a little plumbing stand between us. I love you. You love me. I'm all yours. Forever. But please, please, please, Mark, just remember one thing. It's so very important. In the end, I’ll always belong to Iak.”

I turned and raced through the door and out of the hellish House of Iak. I found my car and headed home. Once safely inside, I took off my pants, uncorked a Bud and fired up two $25 tables on Far East Poker.

My life might be changed forever, but the work is never done.


Despite this Hoyastic screen shot, the evening did not start out well. The lights on the DSL modem blinked ugly orange and my attempts to turn them green fell miserably short. I called the kind folks at DSL Inc. for help, and after working through the interminable automated menu, I was finally connected to a woman working at a call center in sub-Saharan Africa. She had me try numerous computer tricks to get the puppy up and running, but when she told me to remove my pants and run down the street screaming “I am a computer donk!” I grew suspicious.

After all of her attempts to connect me to the unreal world also failed, she devised a masterful plan. “Let me do a systems check,” she said. When she came back on the phone several minutes later, she informed me of a previously unknown network outage in the area and assured me that service would be restored sometime after 10 p.m.

After 10 p.m.? Are you kidding? Don’t you know what day this is? At precisely 10 p.m. EST every freakin’ Wednesday my broggerly brothers and sisters gather for The Mookie, one of the best bodacious online tournaments in existence. I simmered and stewed, considering how I might be able to at least get signed up in time, but conceded the fact I might be screwed.

Sometimes the luckbox is with you. DSL Inc. restored my service shortly before 9. I was in, baby!

I formulated a plan of attack before the tournament started: Pay attention, stupid.

The Mookie and other tournaments in the next week will serve as warm-ups for the Main Event 150-seat guaranteed on Stars. (I naively thought that if I were to get extremely lucky and actually win one of those seats that I could sell it for a tidy profit. I finally read the rules, which basically say, “No deal. Use it or lose it.

I started in full-aggression mode, chipping up, chipping down and chipping up again, my table image established. Two nice-sized pots with pocket aces put me in second place at the break.

Pocket kings in the second hour ran over chilldyl2002’s pocket jacks and kept me near the top of the leaderboard. Not long after, pocket aces sent xkm1245 to the rail. (Got to love it when all of your big pocket pairs hold up.)

I didn't do much of anything but fold from that point until we hit the final table, where once again The Mookie Master, surflexus, sat to my immediate left. At the bubble (five paid) George held the chip lead and would have been an easy pick to run away for his unprecedented fourth title. But the Poker Gods, as always, had something nasty to say about this. Sitting on around 4K, I doubled up against him with a flopped straight. Likely shocked that I could actually win a hand against him, he bubbled not long after.

The blinds and antes tearing huge chunks from stacks, I soon was on serious drip, destined for a tiny payday. Sitting in the big blind with only 2,200 left, mowenumdown raised, potentially putting me all-in. Argh. I’ve got Kc-4c, 1,300 chips and about 2.5-to-1 to call. A no-brainer, really. A macho man arrives on the flop to crack mow’s A-Q and my poker pulse continues beating faintly.

A few hands later, I double up-plus against Drewspop, calling his Qs-Js all-in with Ah-Kh. I make two pair on the A-K-x flop. No jack arrives for Chris, and the blood starts returning to my extremities. I chip up gradually with steals and a wickedly nice bluff against trkfix on a flop of A-A-7 flop. (Trk had earlier set a Mookie single-tournament all-in record. An interesting strategy, I guess, but damn annoying.)

Down to three (with mowenumdown and Grupper), I’m dealt J-10 in the small blind and complete. Grupper checks his option. The flop comes Jc-4s-10d. Alrighty then. I bet the minimum (1,200) and Grupper shoves his last 9,700. I’ve got him covered and call. He’s got pocket sevens and two pair is good again.

The tournament lasted only six more hands. I began heads-up with a 29K-21K chip lead over mow. In the third hand of H/U, mow raises to 3,600 from the small blind and I called with 10c-Qs. The flop comes Js-9d-2h. I check and mow leads for 4,800. I think about this (for too long) and get to wondering. My gut tells me that this flop didn’t hit grup at all. I’ve got a nice draw and plenty of folding equity. I check-raise/push and mow reluctantly folds.

That hand gave me a 35K-15K lead. Three hands later, I get pocket kings. Mow shoves with K-7, I call and win. Very cool.

I'm obviously happy to get my first Mookie/MATH/WWdN win. But I think I'm even more relieved. Now I have to take down another one. That might prove something. The over-under on that occurring should be posted soon in Vegas. The year 2010 is the expected number.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Nights of Iakaris

There is a chance that sometime soon Iakaris will create an eloquently written post about accompanying me to one of the weekly Group tournaments here in Cleveland.

If he does, don't believe a word of it.

Gentle reader, this is not some Rashomon-like attempt to provide a slightly differing point-of-view. There are no subtle shadings to be found here. Other than the fact that he and I met with the stated intention of playing poker, there can be nothing else in common between his version of Saturday night's events and mine.

Please, don't get the wrong impression. I am not here to bury Iak. After all, who is sinless in this baseless world? Certainly not me. Quite the opposite. In fact, this post shall also serve as a mini-confessional.

Blogfather, forgive me, for I have sinned. I shamelessly stole you.

After an exchange of e-mails, I finally got a call Saturday afternoon from Iak confirming that we would meet before the tournament for drinks and a bite to eat. I described myself in Iggy-like fashion as only 4-foot-10. I'm wasn't sure if he would buy it, but figured it was worth a try.

First to arrive, I sat at the bar, sipped a Budweiser and flirted with the bartender, whose ample breasts verged on becoming National Geographic specials. I remained patient as Iak's arrival stretched 30 minutes and then a full hour beyond the appointed time. I considered calling him, but instead dialed the the game's host and asked him to blind us in.

After ordering a third beer, a man walked in whom I immediately dismissed as being Iak. Large and round, maybe 5-foot-9 and a solid 250 pounds, he wore a flannel shirt despite the 90-degree heat, a tattered t-shirt emblazoned with the Candadian maple leaf, baggy shorts and sandals. His hair was wild and bushy, his face flushed and unshaven. As he walked toward me, I could hear him singing, slightly off-key ... a show tune? "Anything Goes?" Yes, that was the tune, but his version of the refrain had been changed significantly to "hookers and blow."

He stopped just a few feet from me and looked around the dingy bar, eyebrows furrowed and slightly agitated. "Fucker," he muttered to himself. "Where is that fidget fucker?"

No, not possible. How could this guy be the suave and urbane Iakaris? Before I could get his attention, the man bellowed, "Where the fuck is that donkey, Hacker?" startling the pathetic drunks and the elderly pensioners splurging on $4.99 liver-and-onion Saturday night specials.

"Whoa, dude. That's me. I'm Hacker," I blurted, hoping to quiet him.

"Shit! You're Hacker?" his expression switching to glee, volume undiminished. "You're not a goddamn fidget!"

He shifted onto the bar stool next to me and asked Ms. National Geographic Special to pour him a Dewar's. "Just put in a water glass, baby. I'm parched. And get my ol' buddy Hacker here something. Fuck it, make it a round for the whole goddamn bar." The drunks' faces pinched greedily at the announcement of free alcohol.

I spent a moment collecting my thoughts, attempting to reconcile the expected vision of Iak and the reality of the individual next to me. Night and day. He pulled a pack of Newports from his shirt pocket, lit one and inhaled deeply.

This guy is a doctor? He seemed more like a guy stopping for a boilermaker after his shift at the local sewage-treatment plant. But then I noticed his hands. They were small and delicate for a man of his size, nails manicured. A surgeon's hands. But the eyes? They belonged to a madman. A prodigiously fucked-up madman.

"So how the hell are ya, Hacker," Iak said slapping me on the back much harder than necessary.

I gathered courage to speak. "I'm fine," I said, the words not matching the sentiment. "Uh ... we shoould probably finish these drinks and get going. The tournament started a half-hour ago and we're being blinded in."

"I'm late? No shit? Sorry about that, old man. Apologies, apologies. Forgot the time. Had business to, er, take care of. Let's go then, let's go. Time's a wasting."

He bounced off the stool with surprising grace and barrelled toward the door at full speed, ignoring my entreaties about the unpaid tab. I followed him outside. Parked in front of the bar was a limo and behind it, a police car, lights awhirl. A giant of a man, perhaps 6 1/2-feet tall and dressed in chauffeur's livery, stood talking quietly with the officer.

Iak walked over to them and said something quietly before reaching into his shorts and pulling out an impressive wad of cash. With the speed of a magician, he peeled off several bills, folded them and tucked the against the cop's palm. Ms. National Geographic Special then flung open the bar door and yelled, "Hey, asshole, you owe me $67 for the drinks." Laughing, Iak repeated the sleight of hand with the cop, gave him a wink and walked over to the angry bar wench.

"Dear woman, never my intent to ignore my obligations. Not at all, not at all. Profuse apologies. Sincere, heart-wrenching apologies. Let me make this right, please."

He pulled two more bills from the wad and, in nearly one motion, got them into her palm while kissing the back of her hand. "Keep the change, my dear. For all my troubles, all my troubles, lass." Ms. NGS uttered a confused thanks and staggered back into the bar. Iak cackled at the chaos he had created.. "Time is wasting, Hacker. To the game! To the game!"

The chauffeur opened the door and Iak ushered me inside the plush bowels of the limo. This seemed all too strange. Iak. The Cop. A limo. Life seemed completely out of kilter. But at least we were finally headed for the game. Poker is, after all, the great healer.

On our way, Iak talked at a frenetic pace, failing to complete one thought before cliff diving into another. When I finally got the chance to ask him about the circumstances of him leaving his job, he begged off, muttering something about how it was a "complete misunderstanding" and that his lawyers were dealing with it. I didn't press further

Iak's mood lightened when reached into the console and pulled out a gallon-size Ziploc bag half-filled with pills of various shapes and colors.

"You need some treatment tonight, I have the cure for what ails you, eh," he said, shaking the bag. My face gave me away. "Don't worry, Hack. I'm a doctor, for God's sake. Do no harm and all of that Hippocratic bullshit."

He unsealed the bag, peered inside and picked out two small purple pills, smiling sheepishly. "Never know when you're gonna need some quality assurance."

His constant chatter was interrupted several times by calls received on what appeared to be a dozen cheap cell phones in a shoe box on the seat. The conversations seemed to be in Russian, save the last one, which was in Spanish. I had retained enough vocabulary from my high school to recognize words like "Federal Express," and "kilo."

A curious thing about all of this telephony. After each call, he would toss the cell into the driver's compartment. It sounded as if the driver, whom Iak addressed as Leonid, would smash each phone with a blunt object.

Our stacks, sitting at different tables, had not been damaged much by the blinds. In what could not have been more than four or five minutes, murmurs of a big hand rose from the other table. I turned just in time to see Iak stand up and tower over a timid little man called Lightning. I got up and looked. All of Iak's chips were in the middle and none were coming come. Lightning had pocket jacks, Iak the hammer. There was nothing on the board to help the good doctor.

"How can you play that shit, turd boy?" Iak screamed, spittle forming in the corners of his mouth. "I fucking push and you call with measly jacks? Don't you know who I am? How in God's name could you think those jacks were good?"

Iak turned to me, his eyes black holes of rage. "I'm gone. I don't know what kind of shithole of humanity you dragged me into, but you have utterly and completely wasted my valuable fucking time." He picked up the sad-looking 7 of spades and 2 of hearts, ripped them into tiny pieces and flung the plastic shards into the air before heading up and out of the basement and into the muggy evening gloam. I uttered a quick apology and followed, abandoning a stack that had grown impressively thanks to a set of eights.

Iak stood beside the limo, cursing the poker gods with such fervor that I feared he would be struck by one of their vengeful bolts. He calmed down when he saw me, shook his head and insisted that I join him in the limo. "Better fucking things to do in this town," he said. Against my better judgment, I agreed.

Discretion and considerable gaps in memory won't allow me to chronicle the rest of the evening's events. I woke up lying in the dew-soaked front yard of my home, the sun climbing high into the morning sky, enveloped by the scent of cheap stripper perfume, my nostrils clogged with powdery gunk. There appeared to be drops of blood on my shirt, now torn and buttonless. Fear and revulsion overwhelmed me.

Postscript: My wife has taken the kids to her mother's and has contacted a friend who also happens to be a divorce attorney. A badly dressed detective stopped by today and asked insistent questions about Iak and what happened that night. I begged off, telling him I had no answers. The detective promised to return. Soon.

I called the number Iak had given to me. A man with a thick Russian accent answered but hung up when I asked for Iak. The number has not been in service since.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Scare tactics

Continuing my hapless pursuit of cash games against the Imperialist Side, I jumped into a .50p/1 pound game on Sun Poker tonight. I left that table 45 minutes later 45 pounds poorer, knowing I could not beat the guy on my right, Mr. Post-Flop Specialist.

There's tricky and there's good. Mr. FPS was both. Sure, he got a couple of sloppy tongue kisses from the Luckbox, but even then he had sound reasons to have been in the hand pre-buss. I tried to stay with him for awhile, vainly attempting to show that not all of us Yanks are mouth-breathing wankers. But common sense finally prevailed, forcing me to collect my drool bucket and head home.

Not ready to stop the bleeding, I dropped down in class to .25p/.50p. (All of this, like 98 percent of my cash-game play, occurred at 6-max tables.) In the first couple of hands there, I bluffed the guy to my left off a decent-sized pot. Irritated, he pushed at the table hard, doing a decent imitation of Mr. FPS. Wonderful. I now have a new Aggro-Brit to tangle with and this time I'm out of position. Predictably, he began whittling away at my stack.

Slighty aggravated but in no mood to surrender, I topped off my stack with what was left in my Sun account, leaving me .25p short of the 50-pound max. Then this hand occurred:

I get As-Qs in the big blind. FPS Jr. min-raises UTG and gets three callers. Wimpishly, I just call the other .50p, thinking I have a well-hidden hand and, more importantly, knowing I'm not running too goot at the moment. The flop confirms the latter: 7d 3c 3s. Every swingin' Richard checks. Okay.

The turn is the [7d 3c 3s] 6s, a decent card for me. I check, waiting to let FPS Jr. do something. He clicks in 2 pounds worth and gets one caller before the action returns to me. I call, putting about 11 pounds in the pot.

The river is the 4s. Bingo! I check, believing that FPS Jr. won't fail me now. He bets 9 pounds and the other player calls. Big Ben is ringing off the hook as I make it 25 total. (I actually coonsidered for a microsecond just calling and avoiding the off-chance that FPS Jr. might be trapping with a boat. I could only put the other player, a rare British Bird, on some kind of straight or very-low flush given her call.)

FPS Jr. ponders my raise for a moment before pushing his last 56 pounds. Ms. B.B. then calls off her last 35 pounds. What the fuck? Who's the Benedict Arnold giving away Fort Nut Flush? Does one of these mouth-breathers have pocket 7s? Who decided it would be a good day to play 3-6 or -- gasp! -- 5s-7s? I've got 21 pounds left. The pot is huge. I waste no time in calling, ready to travel to the bottom of PCB-laden Lake Erie with the U.S.S. A-Q.

The hole cards finally revealed, we discover that FPS Jr. has Ks-9s. Ouch. Ms. B.B. has ... 2c-5h. Alrighty then. I take down a 149-pound pot, which converts into $271, the biggest of my short NL cash-game career. Noice.