Thursday, November 20, 2014

Off the Bench, Off to Baton Rouge...MSPT.

It's been kind of a strange month in poker...and I haven't even played a single hand, live or online. But that will all end this weekend when I traipse on up to Baton Rouge for a return engagement to that beautiful boat casino on the Mississippi River. They call it The Belle of Baton Rouge. If 'Belle' means 'pile of shit' in some other language, it's one I haven't learned yet...but it would be an accurate title. Frankly, I'm amazed that place actually floats.

I'm sorry, I've really tried to tone down my assault on all things horrible, ugly, annoying and irritating the last couple or few years...but some things are just impossible to not make mention of.

Like that salesgirl at the sports store in the mall in Biloxi the other day. After addressing me as y'all when it was clear I was all by myself (a big faux pas in Southern-speak) then struggling to comprehend what I needed her to do when the size I wanted was about 15 feet in the air on a rack. (it's called a hook on a stick!) But then when it came time to pay for my new piece of Alabama apparel, the most pressing thing in her world was needing to know the location of the hangar that the jacket came off of. Huh? The hangar? I don't know. Maybe over by where the jacket used to be located?

"Oh, okay...I was just wondering if you knew where it was cuz I'm gonna have to go find it now."

So many great comebacks were sifting through my mind. But then I realized where I was. A sad, lonely, half-leased mall in Biloxi, Mississippi, where...as I walked through the place, was overtly aware of the depressing facial expressions on the faces of those poor souls that were working there. It's like you could read their minds.

"My life sucks. This blows. I can't believe I'm working in a fucking mall...making $8.50 an hour...to stand around, bored. I'm not even making commission."

And it dawned on me how any witty or clever comment I made to this dipshit behind the counter would either be wasted, or completely miss the mark. Like taking shots at your own shadow. Pointless.

I fear I've gotten sidetracked. That seems to happen to me a lot. Oh well.

Speaking of malls, and any place you park your car...where other people are also parking their cars; have you noticed that there is a certain kind of person who backs their car into their parking space? No matter where they are? Mall, grocery store, gym, stadium, restaurant, night club, fabric store!!!!??? It could even be one of those places that have the angled parking...and they will drive down the wrong-way so that they can get that stupid back-in parking move accomplished....then when leaving, drive right back out the wrong way. You could say this drives me insane. That and the idiots and assholes that insist on walking IN through the EXIT and OUT through the ENTRANCE at places like Wal-Mart. And if there is anything worse than that...it's the pricks who give you that shitty look...as if to say, "you ARE going to step out of my way ARENT you!???" To which I have always got about 20-25 saucy one-liners to hit them with, but alas...being in the place I live...they are almost always wasted on the ignorant.

Alabama is the team I root for. On Saturday we beat the #1 ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs...and have reclaimed the #1 spot in the rankings...with a big rematch against the team who destroyed our shot at THREE National titles in a row last season...when, while sitting in Jordan-Hare with Squirrel and my sister...one of the most replayed and unlikely plays in football history transpired before our very eyes...the 'kick-six' from Auburn's Chris Davis that beat the Tide on enemy turf. Yes, we should have won. Yes, our kicker sucked. But we didn't. We lost. It was a very painful and long walk back to our car. We encountered a lot of Auburn fans...and they were mostly classy, as we were to them.

"Congratulations. You guys played a great game. Good luck the rest of the way. See you next season."

There is a thing about rooting for a team who is mostly great every season. People of other teams experience the highest of highs when they beat you. You have to appreciate that. It's more or less a show of respect. So when my team has a big game coming up...I try really hard not to talk a lot of shit leading up into the game...because eating your words is a bitch. And when we win...it just comes with a great degree of satisfaction. And it's always enjoyed the most with mutual fans. I don't understand fans who need to seek out a fan of the losing team and get in their face with some bullshit taunting. For that reason right there...I find wide receivers and defensive backs to be the most annoying position players in football. What the fuck is their deal? Their jobs are to (a) catch the football and score touchdowns and (b) stop guys from catching passes and scoring touchdowns, right? Yes every first down or touchdown by a receiver we get either the 'first down' sign or dance...and every touchdown met with a jump into the stands, a collective chest bump...and occasionally, some jawing with the defensive back. And oh...don't let the fool MISS a ball..because then he insta-leaps up demanding a flag from the zebras for pass interference. There is NO WAY he could have just dropped the ball or not caught that pass. he HAD to have been interfered with, right!???

Conversely, a DB makes a play and in an act created I think to sell the back judge or ref that no pass interference occurred, they immediately go into their arms waving like an umpire in baseball signalling that the runner is safe. And when that happens, you will also occasionally see the douche getting in the face of the receiver who probably just dropped the ball, when the DB had nothing to do with breaking up the play at all. I always root for that guy to get burned on the very next play. I pretty much hate receivers and defensive backs.

Whooops...side-tracked again. There was meant to be a central theme in all this. And I think it occurred when we were attempting to pull out of the mall, with Carley in her car seat acting like a monkey with rabies...which is kind of how she's been acting the last month or so. It's making me and the Squirrel a mental wreck. Anyway...I was turned around trying to calm her down...when I look through my back window and see that a car has stopped right behind us. I look a little closer and notice a Miss St flag attached to the back window. Then, all of a sudden, the girl driving the car...who could have been your average worker at the Town Hall, or maybe a school teacher...suddenly flips me off and has this look of sheer anger on her face. I'm like....what the fuck!???

Then I realize I hadn't removed our flags from the 4-Runner that we put up on game day...and it was Monday. The flags that said 'Alabama' on them. I see...this girl was so upset about her team losing...that two days later, she found someone to take her anger out on. Fascinating. I no longer feel sorry for Mississippi State. In fact...I think I might have to root for Ole Miss now in the Egg Bowl!

So I came across an interesting little snippet via Poker News the other day...one in which Daniel Colman was being critiqued by the poker world for comments he made about Phil Hellmuth. Well, if you know anything about me...you know that Hellmuth is one guy I've always wished would sit down at my table so I could 'let er rip.' Unfortunately, I've never been that lucky. Sucks for me. If you didn't see the story...here is a link to it.


It's funny...but the more I hear and read about this kid, the more I like him. I really identify with a lot of the things he has had to say about, well, poker in general, and the people who play the game. I've been soured to the game obviously the past few years due to the 'jam job' I've experienced by 'that guy' at Ceasar's/WSOP who seems to have made it his life mission to make my life hell. I've made enough friends who either deal or work as floor people to know just how fucked up the inside of poker is, sadly. The politics in poker are almost as bad or worse than those in Washington, DC. And as far as his comments about Hellmuth go? I could NOT agree with him more. And I've not only been in that situation before, but have seen that situation transpire, where I'm like...who the fuck is this guy to think he needs to stroll in and make like he's the man, like he's passing the torch or welcoming someone to 'the cool kids club?' 

Sorry...but nobody...I mean N-O-B-O-D-Y who has ever spent more than ten minutes with Phil Hellmuth (which, btw I have...albeit not at a poker table..but at an outside/pool bar down in Aruba one year when I was with Jeff Madsen, Chad Brown and Jason Young. We were watching a very tight college football game between USC and Oregon late in the season) and come away thinking he was the member of ANY cool kids club. Do I think he is a good poker player? Sure. Obviously. He's earned the right to be considered that. But to me...life is a hell of a lot more fucking important than having someone scratch the words 'here lies a great poker player' on your headstone. And as far as I can see...that is the ONLY thing that guy can expect to have on his. When my good friend Chad succumbed finally to cancer on July 1st this year...I don't think anyone even mentioned  what a good poker player Chad was. At least not any one who really KNEW Chad.

And speaking of losing close friends this year...dammit if I didn't just lose another one. And in kind of weird twist of fate...the last time I ever got to play baseball with Chad...this guy was there. On a day when we might have had 10 people at our game in the blazing heat of Arizona...along came this buddy of mine...a poker dealer and player who was living in the Phoenix area and who I loved hanging out with. I would NEVER ask a friend to come watch me play baseball or poker. But he always came to sweat me at a final table if he was around. And here he was at my baseball game.  He met all the guys on the team...that was one of the greatest bunch of guys I ever played with...and a lot of them, when finding out what happened to this guy, remembered him from that brief encounter.

A couple weeks ago...the night after Halloween in fact...my buddy Tony Dick left a strip club...with a girl on the back. Tony had been drinking. And he wasn't wearing a damn helmet. He'd had that Harley Davidson for only 3 months. I warned him every time we talked or texted each other...to PLEASE be careful...that its the bad drivers who would get you. He knew. He agreed. He promised to be careful. Tony was one of those guys who just kind of marched to his own beat. No one could really tell him what to do or how to live his life. I suppose it was because he was this way that I liked him so much. And it was because he was this way that he is no longer with us. I guess I'll kick his ass when I get to see him in the next life. He left that club...swerved for some reason...hit a curb, and was thrown from his bike. He landed on his head. The passenger, a girl (of course) was fine. Thankfully. He never regained consciousness and was taken off life-support a couple days later. 

I woke up on Sunday to a text message from my good friend Jennifer Gay...who was also very instrumental in rallying the poker world (players and dealers) to award Chad with a ceremonial WSOP bracelet, which we finally got to him in his hospital bed mere moments before he passed away...just in case any of you erroneously thought that was some kind of heroic act by the fine folks at the WSOP...it wasn't. In fact, I have it on pretty good authority that they were pretty miffed at how it all unfolded...feeling they were pressured to do it. You know what? Good!

Anyway...Jenn's text read:  "I'm sure you heard about Tony Dick's accident?" My heart sank. And I responded: "Please tell me he didn't crash on that fucking motorcycle. No..I haven't  heard anything." Then she told me the rest...and my circle of friends got a little smaller. 

So back to this Dan Colman business. Poker isn't that big of a deal. The players who play aren't that big of a fucking deal. It's a game. It's been around a long time. And it will be around when the players, dealers, floor staff and office grunts have long since come and gone and been replaced by other guys and gals in their place. His points of view are really pretty spot on in most of the things he has said. And now that there are SO many damn tournaments all over the world...who really remembers who wins these things? Other than the winners themselves, and the dorks who can spout off all the winners, the hands they played..and what they had for dinner after their big win! I mean...does anyone really aspire to be that Fruit Loop, anyway? I sure hope not! But I know those little booger-eating morons are out there...trust me, I see them at every event. They tend to hang out together in what they think are 'posses' but which the rest of us just regard as speed bumps to swerve around.

Do I think Daniel Colman might have used a little more grace, and perhaps a little better timing for where and when he delivered his 'message' to the rest of the poker world for them to digest and attempt to make sense of? Mmmm..yeah, undoubtedly I do. But keep in mind this 'kid' who just won about $23m SINCE JULY...is only 23! For being just 23 I give him a lot of credit for what took me 10 years of playing poker to really figure out. His comments strike me as coming from someone who is incredibly insightful and mature. But yeah, his timing and all that...maybe a little immaturity at work there. Or maybe, just maybe...this is a form of shock treatment he's delivering on all of us. A guy who seriously just doesn't give a shit what others think of him. Period. And if that's the case? Hey! Great...the poker wizards can feel free, I guess, to cast him as their 'bad guy' while trumpeting the usual 'poker pros' as their knights in shining armor. Yeah...I just chuckled to myself when writing that!

So, tomorrow, I am going to drive to Baton Rouge to play in the MSPT's 2nd event there at the Belle. In defense of MSPT...I really like the guy who runs their show. Brian Mileski has been really nice to me since the first time I played their event up there in February. He has emailed me often asking for ideas on how to make their tourneys more successful. I really appreciate that. And the fact that a tournament director is trying to make his product better by reaching out and asking players for input deserves a lot of respect. So, while I might not typically be that fired up to drive 2 hours to play a single event for $1100 that I could be out of in just an hour or two if things don't go right...it's a lot easier to do when I know the guy that's running the event is really counting on players like me to make the effort to get up there. So I would consider this 'giving something back' to the poker world. Maybe I'll get lucky and make the final table again...this time without having to rebuy. They have a flight A on Friday and a Flight B on Saturday...but Squirrel works on Saturday (she's off on Friday) so getting back up there for Flight B might be kind of tough. Their Day 2 is on Sunday and starts back at 10:30am...ouch...obviously not a big fan of that, but it's part of their strategy to not have to require players to be back on Monday. They try to market themselves to the 9-5 working man who only has the weekends to play poker. I guess I can understand that...whether I like it or not! It's really really tough if you are one of those Saturday 4pm players who makes it to the end of the night...at around 1 or 2am...and after bagging your chips have to be back 8 hours later. Brutal. So I'm hoping it goes like it did in February..minus my second buy in with a few minutes to spare before registration was closed! I got to take the next day off...then drove up Sunday morning...waking up along the way!!!

Fantasy Draft still hasn't kicked off yet. It has been holding freerolls every weekend for the past three weeks so at least the owner/operators are showing they appreciate everyone who has signed up so far by giving them a bunch of money to keep them inspired. I have topped 200 referrals now so I am VERY ready for things to go live...to see just HOW much can be realized from this new business. 

Squirrel and I (as well as 'The Claw' who has joined us in our new guest room) have gotten fully moved into our new home, just 2.5 miles from our old stomping grounds. There are things we like and don't like about it...but we are only here for a year most likely, then we will finally BUY our next residence. I payed my readjusted income tax for 2013 last week...will do the same for 2014 in a couple months...and we will then be fully qualified to get a mortgage. I've been doing that creditreport.com thing for the last 9 months and finally this month passed over 700 for the first time on all three of my scores! That made me quite pleased! And at the moment...we have enough in our nest egg to allow me to put down 20-25% when that time comes, and our one-year lease it up on this rental. So I guess between now and then we will just keep stashing money away for Carley's future and stuff we'll want when we get our OWN house. I'm excited. There is a chance we might move to North Alabama, to be close to Squirrel's family. Her mom is in Florence, and her brother and his three boys are in Athens...close to Huntsville. And she has relatives all over the place up there. We both agree it would be best for Carley to grow up with her family close to her. As far as me? I don't care where I live. I just want my wife to be happy, and my daughter to have the best life possible. For what I do in life, I could be living anywhere. 

Thanksgiving is next week. Not sure what we are doing. She always has to work at that damn casino. Maybe I'll whip up a turkey while she's at work and surprise her with a nice Thanksgiving feast when she comes home around 5pm. Of course...my Seahawks are playing on Thanksgiving...a huge game against SF at SF...one week after taking on the 1-loss Cardinals at home. Some huge games coming up! Then that Saturday its off to Tuscaloosa to stay with BJ McBrayer and attend the Iron Bowl. We weren't sure about leaving Carley overnight...so we experimented last night and let her stay the night with her babysitter/slash/daycare teacher Bobbie Sue..who Carley just loves. Well...it went great. And Squirrel and I got to have a 'date night' for the first time in god knows HOW long. We had a nice night...though we both really missed Carley...especially at bed time. But it went so well that we now have no qualms about leaving her with her to go see Alabama hopefully beat Auburn and clinch the SEC West title!

I have some more poker-related news to share...but this blog has gotten pretty long, and hopefully I will first have some good news to share about this weekend in Baton Rouge...and then later I will get to the 'news' that I'm not so excited about...but which is just another chapter in my life as a poker outcast.

I hope you all have a great weekend...and a safe, happy Thanksgiving next week!