Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Farewell to 2016....

Sept 16th. That's three and a half months. The period of time since I've last posted here. Very un-Monkeylike of me, I know. I actually wrote half a blog post in October...but never got back to it to finish it, and now, its just totally out of date. So this seems like an excellent time to put up one more post for what some, has been a very traumatic year. 

The Chinese calendar called 2016 The Year of The Monkey. And for me, personally...it was an exceptionally positive year. Bought a house. Paid off a car. Played very little poker. Staked some players, some successful, some not. Took lots of vacations with my girls. Went to a lot of Bama games, and even a Seahawks game. Had lots of family come and visit us, with more still on the way. And as I sit here in my hotel at the Marriot Marquis Atlanta...where the Alabama football team happens to be staying...I look out over the city from our 24th floor room, cold and dreary outside...and contemplate what today may hold, and what 2017 may provide us as well. 

As a kid growing up in the Seattle area, my first true love in sports was of the Washington Huskies football team. Thanks to Warren Moon and his heroic effort in leading underdog Washington to a win in the Rose Bowl over mighty Michigan in 1978, I've been hooked for life. I sat with my girlfriend at the time...having flown in from NYC where I was living at the time, and with a room at the famed Chateau Marmont, and in the SAME room that John Belushi overdosed and died in...we went to the Rose Bowl in 1991 versus, again...Michigan. Michigan and their Heisman poser, Desmond Howard. That day, the greatest Husky lineman of all time, Steve Emtman...owned Michigan. The Huskies crushed Michigan...and the Dawgs had their first National Title in program history. Granted, they had to (unfairly!) share it with those hated Miami Hurricanes. I can't tell you how many Husky games I attended as a teenager....a LOT! I saw the Dawgs play and beat the John Elway-led Stanford Cardinal. I saw them upset 3rd ranked USC with Marcus Allen and a cold and rainy day in Husky Stadium. I saw them win the Apple Cup when my step-brother was a backup for the WSU Cougars...and got to go in the locker room before and after the game. Simply put...I had an amazing childhood as a football fan growing up...and everything was Huskies and Seahawks!

The following year, in 1992, I had a new girlfriend. She was a model...from Mobile, who had recently graduated from Tuscaloosa, then moved to NYC to get 'discovered.' She decided we were flying to New Orleans...visiting her family in Mobile, then driving to Tuscaloosa for homecoming, and the game against South Carolina. I fell in love with the whole 'SEC-thing!' Husky football was great...but 'Bama football...and later, as I would learn years later...the SEC in general, football was a religion. A deep-seated passion. And I was hooked! It was another cold, crappy day...and we all left at halftime with Bama winning big. I followed them closely the rest of the year...all the way to the Sugar Bowl...where they upset the heavily-favored Miami Hurricanes to win the National Title. And so...a relationship was born with Alabama football! 

As most of you know...I married a girl from Alabama...and while 'the other side' of her family are 'Auburn folks' most of her family...the 'good side' I call them...are diehard 'Bama fans! Over the last decade I've lost count of the number of games we've attended...and even Carley went to her first two games this season, in Dallas vs USC and Oxford against Ole Miss. I wasn't brave enough to dare take her to Baton Rouge with me for that game! But she is ready and excited for today's huge game in the Georgia Dome. We are being joined by our good friends Robert and Kelly Harwell...and their 10-year old daughter, who hit it off right away last night when they met. Jayden even brought Carley a cute necklace for their first encounter. So sweet! 

And...so...it's happened. In the past, I've had people ask me: "Monkey, what happens if the Huskies ever play Alabama in a bowl game or for the Championship? Who will you root for?" I never thought it would actually happen. It has happened. And yeah, it feels super awkward, and not even right...but I have to be true to my Huskies. Partially I suppose because 'Bama has done SO MUCH winning this past decade that maybe they can let us have one! Honestly though? The knowledgeable football fan in me doesn't see the Washington O-line being able to handle the incredible Alabama defensive line. In the only two games where I saw Jake Browning get pressured hard...against USC and again vs Colorado...he looked dreadful. It could be more of the same today. BUT...big but here...if the UW O-Line really steps up...and gives him just DECENT protection? UW could very well pull the upset. I think the Husky defense is more than good enough to stop Alabama's offense. Guess we'll see...either way, one of my top two favorite teams of my life...is going to Tampa for the title game!!!  What I do NOT want to see? Is Washington getting destroyed and embarrassed. Anything but that. 

After the game...I suppose we will find something to eat, then find a good place to hopefully watch some fireworks and the peach drop. Tomorrow we are doing the aquarium...and if I can talk Squirrel into it...the Falcons-Saints game...where I need a Saints win...coupled with a Seahawks win...so they can clinch the 2-seed and homefield. GO SAINTS!!!!! Then of course...that 6-hour drive home!

So....poker??? Have I played? Meh...a little, not much. At the WSOP event at the IP in September...in their first event...the biggest, player-wise...I made my deepest run...finishing 8th out of 800 players. But at the final table, I made two really really bad plays, that cost me at least three more spots, and probably any chance at winning. Live and learn. Then they had a decent little event at the Scarlet Pearl that drew a pretty good turnout. After Day 1a and 1b I somehow had the chip lead coming back on Day 2. Well...pocket queens pretty much took care of that. It didn't get all in preflop either...I flatted the four-bet...then on a board of rags couldn't find a fold button...insisting in my head that I was up against AK. I wasn't. It was KK. I was crippled, and would lose a little while later, finishing with a much-hated min-cash. That was my last tourney action. I've had a couple of non-memorable cash sessions since then. Starting next week however, now that I am again welcomed to play at the Beau Rivage, I will most likely head over there for the Heater and see if I can splash around and find some luck. It will be nice to see a lot of people I haven't seen or played against in a very long time. I'm very excited about the crew they have running the place now, a bunch of guys I basically spent the last decade either playing WITH, or having deal TO me...or watching them start their careers as floor guys. I'm happy for them, and their progression in the business. They seem to be doing things right over there. Good to see. Hope they get a great turnout this coming event. 

So as this year comes to a screeching end tonight, we will be ushering out, as I mentioned from the top, a year that was pretty traumatic for a lot of people. And by that, I mean death, and Donald Trump. I spent quite a lot of time...too much, my wife would argue, debating politics on Facebook over the past 12-18 months. I'll be honest, I have NEVER in my life gotten SO involved in anything political as much as I did this election. I can honestly say...before this election, I really didn't know the TRUE difference between a conservative and a liberal. I didn't know what to even call myself. I think, now that I have a true understanding of the two...that I am a fair mixture of both, but a lot more of a right-leaning conservativeSLASHrealist. Most liberals that I've 'discovered' during this year have really opened my eyes about a lot of people I never guess I really knew as well as I think, or thought, I did. Sadly, a lot of 'them' would say the same exact thing about me. When I look at the skirmish...the 100's of years old skirmish between the Palestian's and the Jews...and see how no amount of dialogue ever seems to lead to peace, it reminds me of the frustrations of trying to have a logical conversation with a diehard liberal. It starts as being frustrating. Then I get angry. Then I get flustered AND angry...then I finally back away from the computer before destroying it!

The long list of dead celebrities this year is shocking. We literally lost some of musics most celebrated artists this year. In sports we lost one of our greatest legends in Muhammed Ali. In this latest death...Carrie Fisher dies after a heart attack, not really a surprise given the years of abuse she has put on her body with drugs, alcohol and obesity, but nonetheless, she was an amazing actress and writer...and someone's daughter, someone who was also a celebrity, and also still alive at 84. The next day, Debbie Reynolds, her mother...also died. As a father, this hit me and hit me hard. Cheryl (yes, that is Squirrel's 'real' name) and I often talk about how horribly tragic it would be to lose Carley... and how we would likely respond. I know that I would almost certainly want to die. We have no other kids, are too old to have more...and she has literally become our whole world. Losing her? I would lose my desire to live. I've had a great life. I've done all that I could have ever wanted to do. My whole life now is all about making sure Carley has a great life where she never has to struggle...while, along the way...teaching her the value of a dollar, teaching her m. anners, and respect...and teaching her valuable lessons. All while showing her the world, and giving her one great memory after another. I write to her in a book, a journal I guess. Letters from Daddy. Some day, after I'm dead and gone...she will read that book...and learn things about me she never knew. About feelings I had on everything, her especially...and I will hope that will round out her relationship with me and make dealing with my death a lot easier for her. I meet so many people who I hear say, "I just wish I had known more about my father....." I don't want to be that father. 

And so here comes 2017. A new year. A new start for a lot of people. A time to make all those new year's resolutions. A time to usher in a new administration in Washington. Will The Donald do the job he promised? Will he drain the swamp? We he bring back jobs? Strengthen our military? Build that damn wall? Will he EVER be able to do enough to satisfy the Hillarista's even a little bit? I don't know the answers. I wasn't Trump's biggest supporter. I took issue with a lot of things he does and says. Still do. But to me? He wasn't Hillary Clinton, who I regard as one of the worst human beings on the planet. The worst, and most corrupt, careless and reckless politicians of all time. She felt we owed her the presidency. She has no respect for 'average' Americans...and at the end of the day enough Americans saw through her act to keep her from her ultimate goal. It is a night (Nov 8th) that will be forever etched in my memory. A lot of really good pinot noir was consumed on that night. I've never been so fired up about an elections results. Hey...in 2007, I voted for Obama. I bought the dog and pony show. The big hope and change BS. I did. I admit it. And it didn't take long to be disappointed, as the curtain was ripped open and the show exposed. I read a LOT of books...about his administration, about the Clintons...about the Bush years. I informed myself. And I knew that a Clinton in back in the White House was going to be VERY bad for America. And thank god...for once, my fellow Americans DIDN'T let me down.

And so...as we head into a new year...I am hopeful for great things to transpire in the new year. A recovering economy, a stronger infrastructure (roads and bridges), more jobs, better education, better relationships with our foreign adversaries, while also garnering more respect, and a little fear. A real, no BS effort at protecting our borders and toughening up our immigration laws. A diminished emphasis put on political correctness...THAT would be REALLY nice to see!!! Perhaps we can even get a president in office who doesn't seem hell bent on dividing the races and driving a wedge between us at every opportunity. Sorry...but my glass is resoundingly half FULL...and my glasses are in fact rose-tinted! And if I'm wrong? Or if my expectations are NOT met? Well...it will just be another disappointing president. Nothing new. But the worst thing about it, will be having to listen to what has easily become the most annoying and loathed group of people I ever thought could exist...LIBERALS. If liberals were a race? You could truly call me a racist!

With that...I must conclude this. We are set to meet our friends in 20 minutes. So I will wish you ALL a very safe, and happy New Year!!! May all your teams win! May all your champagne be cold! May all your hangovers be cured by Excedrin Migraine! And may all your first dates be deals that get closed! 


Friday, September 16, 2016


I've wanted to write numerous times. As most events typically are...this has been another one filled with episodes and characters more than worthy of my writing about. But with so much going on around me...and these start times (11am!) being such a handicap, football season, etc etc...I've been left with very little time for anything, let alone posting a blog. And on top of it all...I have played and advanced to EVERY dinner break and beyond this week...despite failing to cash EVERY single time. As some of you know, the event got off to a great start, well, sort of. I burned my first buy in for the $365 3-day event...but bagged up the 6th highest stack ($300,000) in my 2nd attempt. Ended up making the Final Table (out of 800 total players) but bowed out 8th when I played a hand about as bad as it could have possibly been played. I collected $5500 for that effort, which has basically been used for every failed attempt since Sunday. 

Last night was about the worst...even worse than BUBBLING the Omaha, BUBBLING the nightly (twice) and busting out 10 or less from the money in 11am tourneys THREE times this week! Last night...sitting slightly below average with 37k...blinds at 800/1600....this gal limped in, a gal who had been giving me fits, and who is most closely identified as a cross-hybrid of Krazy Kerri Simmons and Claudia 'The Claw' Crawford...in her demeanor, appearance, and style of play.  She limps in...and this guy...who people have been calling Jon Cena....yeah, he's gigantic, and quite muscular. He makes it 7800 to go. And as it folds around to me in the SB....I look down and see two aces. Holy cow! That moment we all fantasize about. So now I'm thinking...."Damn, how should I play this? Flat? And try to get them both in there? Raise to about 18k..and look ridiculously strong, and risk having them both fold and only winning a pot of about 10k that won't help me that much? I really need a double up. All of this took maybe 30-45 seconds...I shoved all in. Hoping it would look weak and allow him to put me on AK or JJ. She folded, and he took the bait....calling my all in. I was hoping to win and be sitting comfortably at 80+k...with the money only about 12 away.

As soon as I turned over my AA...he obnoxiously says "Oh! Of course...I knew you had AA...with your little act! Reward me dealer! Give me an queen!!!" I struggle to see what act he was referring to. I can only assume he just didn't understand the situation, or poker for that matter. At any rate, it was a little annoying. Even more annoying, was when the dealer plopped a fucking queen on the turn. He went berserk. I noticed that it gave  me a flush draw though...and as a 2 of diamonds hit the river, I felt vindicated...and was like (to myself)..."Ha! In your face, asshole!!!" But right then...the guy to my right hollers out "Wait! He has a full house!!!" Huh? Oh fuck. I look at the board, and sure enough...that deuce paired the board. I wanted to puke.

It was 7. I went back to the back table and tried to mellow out...but was clearly rattled by this one. Finally I painfully bought into the 7pm tourney. Had my aces hold up in THAT one...against JJ. Big whooop! But as they all seem to have gone this week, I would eventually get it all in versus AQ when we were getting close to the final table. Jack high flop looked good. But a ten on the turn and a king of the river punched me out. Then went to try the $250 Mega satellite.  The same dealer who knocked me out of the Nooner with my aces...then showed up and finished me off in the Mega as well. In her defense...I don't think I feel nearly as bad as she does. She's a nice gal, and a great dealer...she just really wrecked me yesterday. I hope I wasn't too hard on her. 

The Main starts today, in about 20 minutes. I just wanted to give you guys something...as I head in for this event. If I bag...great! Me and Squirrel and Carley are then going to drive up to Oxford for the big Bama game tomorrow. We will party in The Grove for the first time ever...and hopefully see our team end this two-year run of defeats to the Rebels. We will then come home after the game...and I will prepare for a Day 2 run in the Main. If I do NOT bag chips today? So be it. That will be the end of my Main Event...as I will not be playing in the 2nd flight. So yeah, today is big. I really want to see what I feel has been my exceptional play this week be rewarded by having my hands hold up like they were doing in the first event...and I make it back to the final table. I love winning. I hate losing. It's not about money anymore. I have plenty of that. There is no stress involved with poker. Not HAVING to win to survive. Now, it's just all about winning and losing. And like I said...I HATE LOSING! And really hate losing ugly. And this week has been ugly. Time to turn this shit around. 

And yeah...I have a LOT of funny stories from this week. Sorry I hadn't had time to share them all with you. Some of you caught some of them on my Facebook. Good luck to all of you playing today and tomorrow. Hope you stay out of my way!!!!!


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

And Then the Vultures Converge!

Before I get started...I would like to congratulate a good poker buddy of mine. Over the past 10 years we have played together, been road-trip roomies, and grinded away in the world of poker circuit tournaments. We live about 2 miles from each other, but are seemingly (at times) worlds apart. I watched him run deep this summer in the Main Event, rooting with all of our other Biloxi friends, for him to make a final table appearance. He would bust short of a HUGE score. Well? That huge score, the one that has evaded him for so long (trust me, I can relate!!!!) came, finally...yesterday in South Florida! At the Hard Rock's $5m guarantee in Hollywood, Tim Burt did an ICM chop that netted him $460,000! They played it out, for the title and whatever their bling was for winning, and Jason Koon emerged the winner. But with the money settled, there really wasn't much left to play for...similar to my situation back in 2010, when me, Kai Landry and Mark Rose did a three-way chop in the Beau Rivage's Main Event...leading to my biggest (to date, still) score of my poker career. ($110,000) Tim has definitely logged the hours, and paid his 'poker dues!' I could not be happier for him! Way to go TIM!!!! Hopefully I will see him 'back home' for the IP and Beau Rivage events in a couple weeks. But who knows...with all that newfound money burning a hole in his pockets..he might skip us and go for greener pastures. I wouldn't fault him for that, certainly. 
Tim and his 'better half' Sandra...who happens to be the sister of poker pro Natasha Barbour...who is now married (I think!!!) to poker great Jason Mercier! Nice inner circle!

So...a follow up to the Louisiana situation. Been getting a lot of pictures texted to me from friends' homes after the flood waters have receded. NOT a pretty picture. The water line that has been stained on the sides of their homes are testament to the harsh reality of what was going on just a few days ago in their world. Now comes the really hard part. The clean up. If you've never been in a home that has been flooded? Count yourself as lucky. It's awful. A muddy, nasty slime covers everything. The walls are soaked through and through. Any furniture that is there is ruined. The smell is god-awful. The feeling you are hit with when walking in the front door is one of complete hopelessness. I remember all too well, walking into homes after Hurricane Ivan when I lived in Pensacola, then a year later in Biloxi after Katrina swept through. For the people who had flood insurance, you could at least find solace in the fact that eventually (insurance companies are notoriously slow to pay, especially after a disaster) they would get a check that would help them to rebuilt their home and their lives. For the huge number of people without flood insurance? You had to hope they could get help from FEMA, or through donations. But either way...they are still left standing there, looking and smelling what has become of their home. There is no other word to describe it other than devastating. 

My wife had both our guest room, and Carley's room all ready for our out-of-town guests to arrive. But yesterday, when I spoke with Bridget she told me they were just getting out of Charlotte...and wouldn't be in our area until late at night...and that they were just going to drive through to Baton Rouge. So that was kind of a disappointment, as I was hoping to get involved with her and do something to help out. I exchanged messages with Wild Bill yesterday, and learned that he had been in contact with a few casinos about holding a poker tourney to benefit the victims of the flooding disaster. My only advice to him: Make it happen QUICK! Because our society has turned into a 'what's hot NOW' kind of world. Today's tragedy is easily replaced by tomorrow's big news story. The attention span for most people now when it comes to one single incident, is paltry. So he is working on that...and hopefully, we can make it happen. And I know Bill enough to know that he will find the absolute BEST charities to donate the proceeds to. So I will keep y'all posted on what I hear on that end. 

So...what would a natural disaster be without the scum of the Earth rearing it's ugly head? It's happening again, predictably. Yesterday, the reports started pouring in of people's homes being looted in the wake of the flooding. One of Cheryl's friends had it happen to them. Anxiously returning to their home, only to find they had been robbed. Unbelievable. I mean...I guess the kind of people who partake in this kind of bullshit have zero concern or beliefs in karma. Nor have they had the sense of right and wrong instilled in them by their parents. I mean...is this what it's come to? Are we turning into a fiefdom? The 'Haves' versus the 'Have Nots?' I spent time on message boards, angrily berating those insensitive people who were suggesting that Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas like Denham Springs, Prairieville, Hammond, etc...being hit with these epic floods was a form of biblical punishment for the events this summer in Baton Rouge...where innocent police were gunned down...and rioting took place. How anyone could draw a parallel to these two events is kind of mind-boggling. But in these times of racial strife, cue the ignorant to do just that. 

So imagine how silly I feel...defending these people...ALL of them, and then BOOM! There they go...proving that maybe I'm wrong about them. We saw those communities pulling together...with what seemed like everyone with a boat putting it in the water, rounding up a buddy or two...and going on a rescue mission or ten. I think we all saw the video on Facebook...where the young Asian guy hopped out of his boat, and saved a woman (and her dog!!) from drowning in a sinking car. That's just one example of what was going on over there. If that doesn't give you faith in your fellow man...shit...what would!!!??? You want to think that people, at the very core of their being, are good people. Right? I read a story yesterday...I think (not sure) that this one happened in Georgia. Two young black men had their car break down, I think maybe it was in the ditch, stuck in the mud. An older white man stopped, got out...and volunteered to help the boys. How did they reward him? By shooting him dead! Then robbing him. Explain THAT one. Try to convince yourself that those two young men at their core, are good people. Is it even possible?

I conducted a bit of a social experiment this summer. I recommend to everyone that they try it. It's really kind of an eye-opener. With all the racial discord going on...it's easy to draw a line in the sand and pick sides. But what does that accomplish? Nothing really, except widening the divide. I think it's fair to say that all of us who are white have a number of black friends, and all of you who are black have a number of white friends. Fair? So my point in that? Is that we aren't predisposed to just SHUN the opposite race. I prefer to think that the kind of people who ARE like that? Is a very, very small number. Hopefully less than 5% of the population. Every once in awhile, I will encounter someone (often times a fellow poker player) who through casual conversation I come to realize is a raging racist. And it makes me feel very awkward and uncomfortable. And then while feeling those things, I'm making a mental note to myself: 'Avoid future social arrangements with this person!' 

I can't think of a time in my lifetime where there has been so much disdain between the races. I'll admit it, I'm not too proud...I drank the Kool-Aid back in 2007. I voted for Obama. I believed in him, in his fancy (yet empty) speeches promising all this hope and change. As a black man, or at least a partial black man...I was totally convinced that he would foster an era of cooperation between the races. It would be great. He would inspire his fellow African-Americans...lead them out of poverty, instill in them a desire to pick themselves up and pursue the American dream. Well, as I'm sure most of us can agree...none of that has happened. Instead, the poor have gotten poorer, there are more people on welfare, there are more people in prison than any time in our nation's history. And where race is concerned? Any chance our president has had to try and heal, to bring both sides together, he has squandered. He has endorsed what in actuality is a terrorist organization, the Black Lives Matter agitators, going so far as inviting them to the White House and "praising the work they have done." Are you kidding me? Rumors are rampant that the dark, evil billionaire George Soros has financially spearheaded the efforts of BLM. Just recently, Barack was observed, photographed even...visiting Soros' son Alex in his NYC penthouse apartment. If you just spend a tiny little time connecting the dots of all the deeds of this administration through the past 8 years, its not hard to see what is going on. 

Do they...and by 'they' I mean the people who wish to control all facets of our nation...the 'power brokers' if you may...have 'they' made it their mission to MAKE the two sides, white and black, go to war with one another? What would the reasoning be behind that? What good would a divided nation offer to those who want to hold all the power? It's pretty frightening. And almost ALL economic-based.

So...back to my social experiment that I conducted this summer. It started while I was in Vegas. And I think it hit me when I was just chilling out at the pool at Venetian one day. I was alone...and just walking around in the pool...observing all the various cultures of people. Literally people from all over the world. White. Black. Yellow. Everyone. Almost all of them appearing to be happy. People who were polite with each other. Friendly conversations. I was guilty of it too. A couple pina colada's in me...I spent the afternoon conversing with couples from all over. And it hit me. Wow! What if I just walk around with a pleasant look on my face all day. And if I should happen to encounter a black person...smile at them! Or say hello! Hold a door. Allow them to pass in front of you when walking through the crowded casino. Then watch their reaction. Maybe they will respond by doing the same, or something similar. Maybe they will raise their eyebrows...because they are surprised. 

I did this, and have been doing it all summer. It really is pretty amazing. We were eating at the buffet at Mandalay Bay when Cheryl and Carley were in Vegas. And this was after the 12 cops got gunned down in Dallas. Very tense times. They went to the bathroom...and seated right behind us was a family, a black family...two young children. I turned when the kids said something cute, and smiled. And then...we just started talking. We talked about Dallas. And all the other 'crap' that has been going on. We talked as parents. Then as just 'people.' We had so much in common. They were so nice. When the girls came back to the table, and saw us talking, Squirrel was quick to engage them in conversation as well. It was nice. It gave me hope. 

We have been getting the road behind us widened for over a year now. Literally, over our fence...we see them and their tractors every day almost. Carley loves tractors. Well, she has a heart of gold. Lately, she has been very concerned about all the kids who don't have mommy's or daddy's, and who might not have pets to love on....or who even lack toys. She wants to help all those little babies and kids. It's so cute, and makes me so proud of her.  I truly think she is going to grow up to be a GREAT human being. Well, she has been very concerned about these construction workers...as it's typically 90+ degrees out there and VERY humid. So one day, she wanted to take them all a Gatorade, something we always have an abundant supply of! I said 'Of course, Carley...what a great idea!!!' In fairness, she was kind of borrowing this idea from an earlier episode this summer...when she and I were in the driveway when the garbage people showed up. The guy on the back of the truck was pouring sweat....and Carley tells him..."Wait! Wait!! I go get you 'BaybaBade" as she calls it. He looked confused...but she ran to the fridge we have in the garage, pulled out two orange Gatorades...and came back with them. The look on his face...wow. You'd have thought she brought him a bucket of gold. Again...I was left feeling so proud of her. Yes, the garbage man was black. And yes, 4 of the 5 construction workers were black too. And when she handed them a Gatorade over the fence, we got almost the same reaction. 

It wasn't the last time we saw those guys either. Carley likes to go out and check on them...and they always acknowledge her. One of them...comes over and asks her "how are you doing today, young lady?" And she just beams. I wonder to myself: Are these guys thankful for the cold drink, or are they more surprised that we, as white people...care about them? Obviously, Carley doesn't see color. She doesn't understand the difference, as it relates to how people treat one another. That's another thing about kids that I simply love. They don't discriminate. At all. They are so simple. They haven't 'learned to hate' yet. And isn't that what it's all about? When people are conditioned to hate...when they are taught how to hate...it never leaves some people. They never overcome it. It's just a stain on their soul. I don't know if we can be saved as a country...from all the hate. It's hard. Maybe the hardest challenge ever. I do know...I do remember...a day, back in September of 2001...when EVERYONE in the USA came together as ONE. While it was a tragic, horrible, gut-wrenching day...it was also a day, a week...that made me so proud to be an American. I miss that feeling. Everyone had a US flag on their car, or their house, even on their clothing.  We were ALL Americans...united against a common enemy. It was kind of beautiful. It's that week that makes me think that all things are truly possible. I think the time I felt that way...before 9/11...was twice. In 1991..on the eve of the first Gulf War...when Whitney Houston sang the Star Spangled Banner before the Super Bowl, and in 1980 in Lake Placid when the USA hockey team upset the heavily favored Russians...at a time when they were the USSR, and the evil empire of the world. HOCKEY! A game played predominantly by whites!!! Didn't matter, did it!?? Are you old enough to remember that moment, and how it made us all feel?

So yeah...I've been doing this little experiment all summer...I might just keep on with it. Why not? It really shouldn't even BE an experiment, it should just be the way you are ALL THE TIME. Because honestly? The response I get, is 90% positive. Yeah..it's sad, the other 10%. Those people who are conditioned to hate me because I am white. Though we have never met, I've never done them wrong, I never owned a slave, and in searching on my family tree on the Ancestry.com thing I did this year...can't find anyone in my past who could have possibly owned one either (my whole family comes mostly from the Dakotas and Canada on my Dad's side...and we have a lot of Sioux Indian blood in us...if you want to compare 'human treatment' stories. On my Mom's side...no one ever lived south of New Jersey, and all came from Europe in the mid-1800's) so that's not a reason to regard me with such disdain. It's like I said...I want to believe, in my heart and head...that the number of people is very low...who simply won't budge off of their position on how they regard people of other races. Because if it IS just 5% or less? We can fix that. I think. 

Do you ever watch these people protesting on TV and ask yourself..."Hmm...I wonder if I could get that person alone, maybe in a nice, peaceful place...and have a constructive conversation with them? Would they be willing to have a meaningful debate, without all the hostility? Would they make me see their point a little? Would I make them see mine? Would we be able to actually solve anything?" Do you ever do that? I know its really easy to watch these people, mostly black, on TV and immediately discount them as 'thugs, assholes, pieces of shit, criminals, animals, etc etc etc.' I get it. It's easy. The way they appear on TV...yeah, it's real simple. And a lot of it is probably due to them being in a crowd. It's a lot easier to act like a fool when you have a bunch of you doing it. If that crowd around them vanished...they would be left standing there..."uh...hello? where did everyone go? Damn...well, okay I'm out of here!" Right? 

My sister lives in Milwaukee. What's going on there, to most, looks absolutely ridiculous and unwarranted. And I agree, it is. Black kid, stole a gun in March, along with 500 rounds of ammunition. Has been involved in numerous crimes. Gets into a car chase with a police officer. A police officer who is black. It turns into a foot chase. Black kid turns, aims gun at cop...cop fires first...kills black kid dead. Before ANY kind of investigation can even BEGIN...that night...rioting begins...with violence, and looting, and fires. (A) yes, this IS inappropriate behavior. (B) But..at the core root of this, is a long, long pattern of frustration with the police in Milwaukee. Add to that that Milwaukee is considered one of the worst places for a black person to live in the US. Its incredibly segregated. Unemployment among blacks is through the roof. So while I think the way they are reacting is counter-productive to their concerns, it IS somewhat understandable due to their degree of frustration. TRUTH: Some of them are probably a lost cause, and should most likely be locked up for a long time. Any attempts to turn them into good, law-abiding citizens might be futile. FALSE: They are all a bunch of crazy animals, a gang of thugs, worthless pieces of shit. It's just not true. I promise you...there are some good people in those crowds. There HAS to be. My heart, my head, and my social experiment tells me its true. 

In conclusion: Baton Rouge...I truly hope everyone touched by this tragedy finds some happiness in these gloomy days. That your lives are able to return to normal, at least close to normal...soon. And to the vultures who lurk amongst you...lets pray for them to find their inner-good person, and stop being such scum bags. Maybe instead of robbing you...they may surprise you, and offer to help you clean up around your house. Ya never know!!!!



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Friends, Come Hell or High Water

Sometimes, a lot actually, I sit awake at night. Tossing and turning; my mind racing. Lately, my restless leg syndrome has been driving me berserk...and I find myself having to turn to a pain killer combined with a muscle relaxer to finally get to sleep. It's during these long, restless periods of times that I often get the inspiration to write. I can't tell you how many blogs I've written 'in my head' while laying in bed at night. Over the past 8 years, 798 of them have actually found their way into actual print. There are easily another 500 that haven't. Once I fall asleep...my over-active brain turns itself into dream mode. I don't know if the amount that I dream would be considered normal, or excessive. I do think, however...that my true calling might have been as a screenwriter. Because, were I to wake up, move into the living room...and just start writing? I am fairly confident that I would have at least 3 or 4 screenplays to my credit. The trouble with that? My sensibilities tell me (especially at the age of 49) that those efforts would be futile. Back in 1997, as a just-turned 30 year old, I lived in LA for awhile...and one of my temp jobs had me working on an actual movie studio lot. I was basically a 'go-fer' for a big casting agent. I would sit and marvel at stacks upon stacks of screenplays that had been sent to this guy for him to 'check out when he had a chance.' At a time (currently) where movie-making has descended to re-making one film after another...and the industry seems to be screaming for some original work, you would never believe that such a condition exists, right? Well, it does. But I digress.

I have grown weary of the politics. I've lost friends on Facebook (big deal!) over this stupid presidential election. I've experienced tense and irksome conversations with people I consider 'good' friends. All the while, for me? Its simply become a contest between two individuals I wouldn't invite over to my home for dinner, or leave my dogs with for a weekend. Seriously! And worse? I've truly discovered what a hard-leaning leftist (liberal) is during this whole shitstorm of an election. Like I said, I've grown weary of it. Thank god for the Olympics. I really wasn't looking forward to them...at least I didn't think I was. All the negativity surrounding them, the corrupt IOC, the shit hole that is Rio, at least the non-pretty parts that the TV cameras don't let you see. The crime. The poverty. The cheating athletes. All of it. But...much to my surprise, it's been delightful. Aside from a few stories, and I'm sure there have been more...we just haven't heard about them. The IOC is going out of it's way to paint nothing but a rosy picture of Rio during August. Case in point, Swimmer Ryan Lochte and two of his teammates get robbed by a couple of 'fake' cops while riding in a taxi...report it, and immediately the IOC issues a report stating that it wasn't true. Huh? I mean...fine, paint a rosy picture, but flat out denouncing an incident involving the very athletes you should be protecting? Again...the IOC being the typical scummy IOC. At any rate...I will watch the final 9 or 10 days...then prepare for another wonderful football season! And in counting down the days...we are now at 16 before I pack up the girls and drive to Dallas to watch the USC vs Alabama game in whatever they call Jerry's World, our first trip to see that gigantic stadium! 

So...I should get to the theme of this post. I couldn't decide on a headline. Originally, I was going to go with 'Friends in Low Places' but damn...that could mean a LOT of things. Right? This one seemed a little more apropos. Some of you who have been following me and my life (thank you, sincerely) for the 8 years I've been blogging on Bill and Gene's site, have come to realize that I have a bit of a kind, caring, and generous bone in my body. I try to give whenever a friend is in need. When there is a disaster, I try to be the first to find out what I can do to help. There was a day of filling sandbags in North Mississippi during the flooding there, followed by a day volunteering at an animal shelter to help save displaced pets. There was the weekend spent in Tuscaloosa after the tornado there, donating tons of various things I'd collected from friends and from our own home. And along the way, I have spearheaded fundraising campaigns for other causes, of which I'm sure you remember. Maybe even contributed to.

Well? The events of this past weekend in the Baton Rouge area have hit me and my wife, Cheryl (or Squirrel as most of you know her) pretty hard. You can kid around and say...as an Alabama fan, that it's hard to feel sorry for Tiger fans, but unless you have the darkest of souls, you just know that is not even a sane way to think. Never has life reminded us just HOW unimportant something as trivial as sports is when something as tragic as this happens. And while the CNN's and the FOX News' of the world are focused more on this stupid presidential election, or the rioting in Milwaukee...a very real tragedy is taking place in Louisiana. And if you live down here on the Gulf Coast, it has undoubtedly touched someone...perhaps a handful, of people you know and care about. It certain has us. The sad thing about our media; and we here on the Gulf Coast certainly saw this during Hurricane Katrina, unless there is a massive body count? They barely pay it any attention. New Orleans got all the coverage because lots of people died. Meanwhile, just about everyone who lived half a mile to a mile from the water...from one side of Mississippi to the other....lost EVERYTHING. Homes. Cars. Pets. Lifelong possessions. But they lived! So I guess, in the media's eyes...they weren't 'victims.' 

Back in 2010, I won my first WSOP ring. It happened at the IP here in Biloxi. A fond memory. Ironically, we are just a couple weeks away from the WSOP returning for a circuit stop here, and I am anxiously awaiting that event. Sadly, one of the friends I would be typically excited to see, will likely not be attending this year. Why? Well...because this weekend, he lost it all. His house. Two cars. And a lifetime of memories. 

What do you say to someone who has lost everything? Are there even words? As some of you know...and I think maybe I've written about it before, if not here, certainly on Facebook...I am not a big "I'm sending thoughts and prayers your way" kind of guy. I consider that to be such a cop out statement. So empty. So cliche. I see it SO MUCH on Facebook...it's like everyone's convenient 'go to' comment...the one they think will suffice for all those painful messages. I almost never want to post a message that might possibly elicit anything of the "I'm sending thoughts and prayers to you!" I have two dogs that are getting up there in age. Jasper, my almost-12 year old lab...has been diagnosed with kidney failure. The vet is giving him a few months to live. I've put him on an incredibly expensive diet, and have him taking 6 pills daily called AminAvast...pills that cost $42 per 60! At night, I give him and our other dog Mollie (8 years old) each half a Deramax...which is prescribed for pain. Google AminAvast if you want...it really does sound like an incredible thing I have him on...and he seems still to be very happy. He's eating, is still playful, and that tail is still a-waggin! So until I see the joy completely leave his face...we will keep fighting! 

I bring up my dogs...because it's one of the toughest things us animal lovers ever have to deal with...that day we take 'the drive' to the vet, to give them their shot...that sends them on their way across the Rainbow Bridge. We sit there in that room, bawling our eyes out like kids again. Blubbering, talking to our pet...knowing that they've passed. And then, in this day and age with social media, we make some kind of post about it...since so many people were touched by our pets too. Then those messages start coming in. "In our prayers." "Sending thoughts and prayers." Ugh. Just know this: You will never get one of those from me. Ever! You will either get a very well thought out message, or I won't bother saying anything...which I do a lot, why? Because I just think, sometimes? There just aren't any words. It doesn't mean I don't care. Oh! I do! A lot! I just can't find the words, ANY words, that I think will help, or even soothe. 

Damn, did I ever get sidetracked there. So back to my 2010 ring experience. The guy I got heads up was a man I would become very good friends with. As well as his wife. They have truly carved out a place in the life of Squirrel and I. In 2007, on Christmas Eve...our friend Holly, while at work...had her home burn to the ground. Her children managed to get out. Her husband at the time...didn't. He laid in a hospital for 37 days before finally succumbing to his injuries. A couple years later, Holly met my friend Brett...they hit it off, and eventually married. Together, they have built an amazing family together. This weekend, Brett and Holly Alello lost their home to the flooding. While texting with him back and forth...I found myself again in that position of not having the proper words. I felt almost ashamed, not being able to produce something inspiring. Anything. Other than...Oh my gosh...that's terrible...I'm so sorry man. Give him credit...he's a resilient son of a gun! He's obviously really down in the dumps...but man, I can feel his positive attitude right through my phone. And knowing this is the 2nd time that Holly has lost her home? I just know he is being a rock for her. I feel richer for having people like this in my life.

I have another friend in Baton Rouge...a guy we all call 'Smoke.' He was one of the first poker players I became friends with when we met at a tournament up at the old Gold Strike in Tunica. My wife instantly fell in love with Charlie Oliver...and we have all stayed in touch over the years. He's gotten out of poker, and is now selling cars up there, has a baby girl on the way, and is about to be married. We couldn't be happier for him. Well? He was another friend who I felt compelled to check in on...and when I did, the news was horrible. He was stranded at his house...surrounded by water, with no way to get out. But he wasn't worried about himself. Ever since I've known 'Smoke' I've known that his grandmother was his absolute world. He was freaking out, because the retirement home where she is living was taking on water. He was trying desperately to get his hands on a flat-bottom boat to try and go save her. Eventually, the next day...she WAS rescued, and moved to a shelter, thank god. But after that situation was resolved, a new one popped up...as his father lost his home to the flooding. 

Cheryl and I both have sat looking at the pictures all over Facebook, reading the posts of good friends...and it just makes us weep. A lot of people losing homes...and not having flood insurance. Yes...we are ALL grateful that they were spared, and are still with us, of course we are! But can you even begin to imagine that pain and suffering that they are being forced to deal with? To live with on an EVERY SECOND basis? 

Well, yesterday, a former Minion, Class of 2015, Bridget Fredericks...got in touch with me. She is a lifelong resident of Louisiana, but recently moved to North Carolina to pursue her real estate career I think; I may be wrong about that...if so I'm sure she will tell me!!!! She had seen my post on Facebook expressing sympathy for all of those touched by the horrible flooding, and knowing of my past willingness to help out, simply asked me if I had a couch I could spare for her and a friend who are gathering up a van full of supplies to donate to those in need, and driving them down here from North Carolina. I didn't even ask Cheryl, who was at work...because I already knew what her answer would be: OF COURSE! We actually have a guest room! The dogs are in charge of both couches! So while she has been working on getting all the supplies together up there...I am trying to figure out what I can do to help out. I have a Tahoe, and it's pretty big, but it also has a trailer hitch, that I have yet to figure out. But I'm sure it's a pretty simple task. So I was thinking perhaps I could rent one of those tow-behind trailers from U-Haul and fill that sucker up with all kinds of stuff. But what exactly? And take it to where, precisely? She's working on that. I contemplated doing a drop off location for people locally in Biloxi/Gulfport/Ocean Springs who wanted to donate items...but then was like..."Hmmm..do I really want EVERYONE knowing exactly where I live!???" Maybe meet up in the big parking lot at the corner of Cedar Lake and Popp's Ferry? 

So, she'll be down here tomorrow afternoon or evening I think. Then at that time...I guess we can come up with a strategy. I know it's going to be a challenge, because they have almost all the roads and highways into Baton Rouge closed. Or they did, as of last night. If any of my readers out there have ANY helpful ideas, advice, etc...please...email me at ThePokerMonkey1@aol.com. I want to help! I have the time, I have the resources, and I have the resolve. It's times like these when we really need to pull together, to help one another...this isn't sports, or politics, or religion or anything else...this is LIFE! And these are our friends. Do whatever YOU can do to help! Just because the news media is essentially ignoring this disaster doesn't mean we have to. I will post something again tomorrow and let you know if I am going to organize something you can all chip in and help with...or if I am just going to help out individually. 

Well, my pain killer has kicked in, my legs have stopped whiggin out! And I finally crawled out of bed and put my thoughts into print. Guess I will go back to bed now and come up with the next great film that will never be seen! 



Thursday, August 4, 2016

Living Under a Microscope

So I'm sitting here fuming. I'll just preface this blog with THAT. But unlike the person who is responsible for that, I am not going to throw her name out there into a public forum, and attempt to change people's opinion of her, both as a person, and as a professional in her chosen field. I'm going to attempt to demonstrate that it is possible to NOT be a mealy-mouth, reputation-ruining asshole while at the same time sharing an experience that happened to you. And in turn, allowing those people you are sharing it with, to weigh in with their opinions. You might...MIGHT...just discover, that you were actually in the wrong! Which might then lead you to apologize to the person you dragged through the mud!

I know...you're all sitting there saying..."WHOA! WHAT HAPPENED MONKEY!!!????"

Patience. Grasshoppers. We live in a society now...where everyone is expected to be calm all the time. One of my favorite places where this is the expectation...but where they repeatedly give you reason to NOT stay calm, is the airport. I can't tell you how many times since 9/11...when all the people who work in and around the airports and airlines, suddenly became empowered with the ability to wreck your fucking life with one panicked cry for security! I can't tell you, how many times I've been on the verge of going to airport jail because some gate agent had no ability to manage stressful situations or upset passengers. My wife, the calmest, most even-keeled person I know...has had to once or twice, bump me out of the way to keep me from getting handcuffed...only to step in and nearly get herself arrested. It's simple: When you are dealing with assholes, that are also incompetent, or just ignorant, combined with a little arrogant? You are never going to win! Ever!

I saw on the news...wait, no, I read it. And it was accompanied with the headline: 'Vanilla Ice caught having total mental breakdown in Atlanta airport.' Ohhh! Pretty good click bait huh? I mean we all have our opinions of Robert Van Winkle, don't we? At least those of us born before 1990! So I read the story. Oh! Wait! This sounds like a page out of my many episodes with Delta Airlines. He was there an hour before his flight. Then he either got distracted, went to the bathroom, maybe a gift shop. That part was left out. But when he went to board his flight...ten minutes before the scheduled departure, the gate agent told him the flight had already been closed. This always pisses me off...especially when I can see the plane sitting there. But to make it worse, some dickhead had to chime in that was standing next to the counter. "Hey Dude...you have to be here 20 minutes before the time...blah blah blah" and Vanilla Ice snapped on the guy. "Hey, did I ask you? Do you work here? Why don't you mind your own fucking business, pal!!!!" Security was called, of course, because that's how gate agent's deal with upset passengers in post 9/11 situations. Everyone is considered a threat. Even passengers who are of the highest loyalty rating with their company. 

So there's that. Here's the thing: If I do something wrong, if I am a jerk...I will be the first to apologize. But if I am correct about something, and someone wants to paint me as a jerk, by CHANGING the story? Well...sorry, but that drives me absolutely insane. I had a situation out in Vegas this summer, at Venetian, where I haven't had an issue with a dealer in years. Well...Carley and Squirrel called me on Facetime. I had my headphones on, so it wasn't creating any kind of a disturbance. I was sitting in the 10-seat, so the dealer was the only one who knew I was talking on Facetime, on my iPad. The whole time I was out there, I was trying to be good about staying in touch 2 or 3, maybe 4 times a day with the girls. So I notice the dealer checking out what I'm doing. And just like I have always done throughout the years, cognizant of the rules about phone usage while in a hand...when the action would fold around to me, I would tell Cheryl I was in a hand, and flip my ipad shut...then act on my hand. Once done, I would open it back up. No big deal. Right?

A moment later, the dealer started telling me I couldn't be on it. I asked, "While I'm in the hand right?" Yes, she said. But you are still on the call even when you put it down in your lap. I asked her "Okay...so, just that we are clear, I'm talking to my 4-year old daughter, and I am putting it down whenever its my turn to act. What would you like me to do specifically, that I'm not doing?" She calls the floor. I am confused. Floor shows up...a really nice guy who unfortunately roots for the Boston Bruins...and in her explanation, she tells HIM that she told ME that I had to leave the table! Total lie. I was perfectly fine with anything she told him if it was exactly what we HAD actually discussed. But it wasn't. She lied. Bold face lie. I got a little excited. He pulled me a couple feet from the table, and very calmly asked me what happened. I told him. Another player walked over...and volunteered that what I was saying was 100% true. He apologized FOR the dealer, assured me that what I did in mid-call was what they ask us players to do, and said he would talk to the dealer about it later. Which he later came back to me and told me he had done. It was over. I felt vindicated. Again, let me stress...its not that I get a big RUSH from being declared RIGHT. I just hate being called WRONG when I'm pretty sure that I'm NOT wrong...or worse, having the dealer LIE about what took place. That makes me furious. And sorry, but I'm a bit emotional.

So...this past Saturday night...after a day of entertaining the kids, I asked Squirrel if I could go play some cash. "Sure! No drinking! And don't come home too late." You got it. Left the house. Checked the Bravo Live! app to see who had the most action. Sadly, Golden Nugget still hasnt gotten on the Bravo system so they still require a phone call. IP looked to have the most action. But for some reason, I've been wanting to support Scarlet Pearl, I think because its not owned by a corporation, and its been struggling, and I just want to try and help them out if I can. So I called, and they had a seat for me. So I went there. It was your typical 1/2 cash game in Biloxi. Lots of old-timers. Had one guy (who it turns out was really a nice fella) sitting next to me who was writing down all the hands he played. I was fascinated...especially since he was writing down the hand, with the pending action...in mid-hand. I even took a picture of just his hands, and the notebook, and shared it on my Facebook wall. It led to a pretty fun and interesting thread! 

Unfortunately, I was busy running like crap. Doesn't matter the hands. I won't make this too boring. But it was just 'one of those' sessions where nothing goes right. I finally just got into that mood you get when you're running like crap. Started clowning myself...which in turn had most of the guys at the table laughing along with me. "Hey! I flopped a set...wonder how I'll lose this one!!!" "Wow, I got 17 outs...any side wagers on if I miss again???" It just became funny after awhile. It wasn't like I was losing the mortgage payment! Oh, wait...I don't have a mortgage payment! Carley's college fund? Yeah, that works.

So, along comes a new dealer. I will refer to her as SHE. Out of respect. In one of her early hands...I am in a hand with a guy I think I have crushed. I bet $50 on the river. He raises to $100. Oh boy. I throw out a red chip and say call. She turns and looks at me. >>>???? What? I said call. I turn my cards over. She is still looking at me. I ask her again...what do you want? She tells me I have to push out the $50 extra. I explain to her that my action of throwing out a chip constitutes a call, and that me actually saying 'call' also constitutes a call. She disagrees. Meanwhile...the other guy isn't helping any by NOT turning over his cards...which if I had seen, I would have slid my other $50 out there. Not an issue. But he wasn't turning over his cards. And she was pissing me off. Show me the winning hand, and I will shove you $50 chips. Holy shit. But it was like she turned it into a Mexican stand off. Finally I just pushed out the $50. Then he shows his cards. Yeah I was beaten. Great. Whatever. Next! 

Then awhile later, in the same dealer down...and me getting creamed one hand after another...I get into a hand with a guy. It goes to the flop. I bet...he goes all in...for less. I reluctantly call, and see that I'm dead again after he turns over his cards. Okay, I could have gone runner runner...but essentially drawing dead. SHE sits there...waiting...for what? I look at her...with that..."What are you waiting for" face. "I'm waiting for you to turn over your hand." Huh? Turn over my hand? This isn't a tournament. What are you talking about? "Yes...you have to turn over your hand before I can deal another card." Is this...is she....what the....I look around...am I being Punk'd??? Is someone TRYING to get me to freak out and go ISIS in this poker room? What the hell? I look at the two players on either side of me...."Is she kidding?" They both have these perplexed looks on their faces too, followed by shrugs. Finally, I ask her "Okay, this is now the third time you have demonstrated to me that you have no idea what the rules are. Seriously...how long have you been dealing?" And you to me, swear to God, if she had said anything less than 6 months I would have acted TOTALLLLLY different. But that didn't happen. She tells me she's been dealing for 24 years. I almost fell out of my chair. Either from shock or from laughter, take your pick. 

Well that didnt sit well with her. I'd offended her. She calls the floor. Floor, who I had already had a very pleasant conversation with earlier in the night...a guy who moved down here from up north somewhere, and who really seems to 'get it' when it comes to running a good poker room. So he shows up, and I see her explaining the situation. I see him raise his eyebrows a couple times...which to me translates to him saying, "You told him WHAT??" They stopped talking. He came over to me, said I was completely right...and then asked me to try to take it easy on her. That she had been having a rough day. I said 'sure' and there was never another issue with her the rest of the night. Done, right? During the 'episode' I had posted within the 'fun thread' I had opened up on Facebook what had occurred with this dealer. Done so without naming her, taking a picture...nothing that would put either ME or HER in a bad spot.

Fast forward to today. I get a call from my wife, who had spoken to someone in the poker room...who had mentioned something about a certain post on a certain person's wall. A person I deem to be a friend. And a person who works in the local poker industry. In addition to that comment, were other comments below it...from other people in the poker community who I deemed to be friends. Basically...what this post was? That dealer...had found MY POST on MY WALL...copy/pasted it...and shared it on this person's wall...then made certain comments about it...while eliciting negative comments about me. She called my comment comical, and stated that I had grossly exaggerated what happened. Which was 100% false. I posted EXACTLY what had transpired. Didn't make one negative comment about her personally...only that she claimed that she had been a dealer for 24 years...and I found that to be absolutely impossible to believe. 

I wasted no time defending myself. I left a few comments of my own. Here is the thing about people talking shit about you. If they are true? Well, you're kind of just screwed. And have to sleep in the bed that you yourself made. Enjoy! But if they are a total lie!?? Well, I think you are obligated to defend yourself, to call out the person who is lying, and if possible, make them accountable for their actions. So, in essence that is what I did. This of course, was BEFORE my wife texted me that I "didn't have to go and make a bunch of comments on their wall!" To her, I responded with, "Sorry, too late!"

The more I read, and the more I thought about it...the more pissed off I got. Then...all of a sudden, I get a friend request on Facebook. From this dealer!!!! What the......???? Why? Did she suddenly feel remorse about how she had 'misreported' this event? Was she fearful that I might report her to her HR department? So as I was in midstream of constructing my last comment to post on her little 'hate thread' I noticed that as I went to post it...it wouldn't post. Why? Oh...because she had blocked me!!!! Imagine that! Don't like someone telling the truth? And exposing you for being a liar to make yourself not look like a fool? Simple! Block them! Delete all their comments that expose you! Isn't that such a 2016 way of dealing with your shortcomings? Scream for security! Then when they get there...just make something up! After all, its just their word against yours, right? And you are wearing a uniform, so surely you must be in the right!!!!

So...I wonder: what kind of response would I get, I wonder...if I wrote a letter to her HR department, tell them I was a customer, tipping the staff on a regular basis...a guest of the hotel already since opening. I was playing poker, had a disagreement with a dealer, made a post on MY Facebook page. Emphasize that I am not a friend of this dealer. Share with them, that she copy/pasted my OWN content...to the page of a poker community professional...who I AM friends with (which made it possible for me to see) and attempted to disparage my reputation to them with this story that she twisted around to make me out to be this raging maniac who somehow abused her? I wonder how they would treat a letter like that? Would they even care? What would you do? Is it okay to let people attack you because they think they will 100% get away with it?

That was my day! Oh, and Happy 44th Birthday to my lovely wife, and our 44th president, Barack. Yeah, strange company there!


Monday, August 1, 2016

Minions Summer Camp Wrap Up Report

I know this is pretty overdue. I remember once upon a time, when I was out in Vegas on my 5-7 week summer long grinds, I tended to blog about every 3rd day, before I left my room for the day. Usually that room was in the infamous Riviera Hotel and Casino...which has been erased from the Vegas skyline. First, the crew of 'Jason Bourne' was crashing cars into it's front entrance, then, they were imploding it for a live audience, complete with firecrackers. Oh, how things change.

So I have now been home for a week and a half, and am finally getting around to putting fingertip to keypad. Something about Vegas, or really anywhere else I run off to go play poker for a week or two; when I get home I am completely drained. No energy. Body aches. No desire or motivation to do anything. I've always blamed it on breathing the casino's pure oxygen for days on end, then coming home to an environment devoid of that 'turbo boost.' But I've never been able to substantiate from any credible sources that this is anything but an old Vegas myth. So then why do I feel like such a slug when I get home?

Every time I sit down to write a blog post, I am first prompted to approve or deny the latest comments. Our resident anonymous hater managed to chime in, excited to let me know how thrilled he was that none of our Team Monkey players managed to cash for a sizable score this summer. And to of course suggest I am accountable for their inability to finish better than 90% of the field. Apparently, when you sign up as an investor with me...there is a very very tiny small print in the contract that states: "team players may accidentally get deep in the tournament, and snap off a score of $100,000 or more. Unlikely, but just in case they do...please do not hold it against me, since it was obvious your reason for signing up for this adventure, was to find a place to dump a bunch of disposable income!"
This Summer's Fantastic Team Monkey!!!!

I always wonder to myself what kind of a person sits around all rooting for bad things to happen to people? What is their motivation? What do they have to gain from it? Well..just so that the record is correct, Mr. Anonymous Loser at Life...I must correct you: You claimed we 'blew' $70k and 'only' returned $28,000 to the investors. Making everyone 'probably about $25' back. The FACT: Two players cashed, Christian Iacobellis, 910th, for $15,000 and Robert Harwell, 435th for $28,700. That is a total of $43,700. Also...we didn't 'blow' $70k. You are terrible at math. 6 players. $10,000 entry. Where I come from, that adds up to $60,000. When the 20% taxes for each player were deducted, each investor was left earning $105 (per each $200 share) per share. Hence, everyone got about half of their money back. And as of this writing, I have accounted for 93 of 116 payouts. The other 23 I am waiting to hear back from with their mailing address.
Nelly, always a very entertaining guy to have at your poker table!

Some opted to get behind my Venetian Main Event package with their returns. My plan was to win a $600 satellite and play for 100%. Well...despite a pretty good start in it, and some entertaining back and forth with Nelly before he busted...I would run into a couple of lousy coolers and end up not winning the Mega. So I was faced with a decision. Cough up $5k, and play for 100%? Or sell out 50 shares for $100 each and play for only 40%? I had already had 5 or 6 people tell me they wanted a piece of if I decided to sell a package. And one guy wanted to buy 15% for $900. So I knew that would be easy. But I also felt really good about how I have been playing. And knew 1st would be around half a million. Tough call.
Steven Chew...the eventual winner of $250k in the $1100 Venetian event. He was a massive pest for me all day, and I played one critical hand against him horribly. He would bust me shortly after that.

Earlier in the trip...I played the $1.5 guaranteed, an $1100 buy in, and only had to play it twice! Yes...there were some guys who played and busted and rebought 5 or more times! So I was in for $1300, since I managed to win one of the $200 mega's for my 2nd bullet. Out of 1587 players, I made it down to 43 before I played a hand against the eventual winner of the tourney, Steven Chew, that I wish I could have gotten back. The hand isn't important, only that I hate how I played it. Then he would end up busting me when I bluff shoved against him when he had, essentially, the nuts. I had sat watching him bluff all day and open light...so I was pretty sure I had a better hand anyway when I shoved into him. Nope. I was out 43rd for $4700...but was still left feeling pretty satisfied with my overall play.
A week full of great structures, great events, and great players. Carlos Mortensen is still a great player, and is always a total gentleman at the table.

So selling the package was, like I said, a tough call. Earlier in the week, after busting  43rd at the $1100, I walked across the street to The Wynn and played their $1600 Main Event. I had a very up and down first day...and an incredibly tough table, but still managed to bag up an average amount of chips. Then after taking a bunch of cold medicine and melatonin, I woke up at 11:53am...with a restart of noon! I was staying at Venetian! Somehow, thanks to a delayed start of 15 minutes...I made it on time. Well, my Day 2 was a disaster. I don't remember much about it now that it's been over two weeks. But lets just say I played a few hours and busted...short of making the money. When I wasn't playing tourneys I was playing cash, and doing pretty well. I had one horrible session sandwiched around 6 winning sessions...so overall my cash play for the trip was profitable. I decided to go ahead and sell a package. 20 minutes after I sent out the email, I was sold out. Then, while at the table I had to email people back telling them I was sorry, that I was sold out. Some felt they got slighted because they claimed to have asked through Facebook or other means that I hadn't seen. I felt bad, but in the long run, they were the winners!
My poker buddy...who is widely regarded as 'AquaMan'...one of poker's most notorious when it comes to tanking for long, unnecessary periods of time. 

My Day 1 couldn't have gone too much better. I had a very weird table draw. It was a 'feeder table' where they would bring in new players...then two or three orbits later come and take them to another table. I was one of only three players to start and finish at the table. They would bring by players like my arch nemesis in poker Matt Stout, who only stayed for like 8 hands. Then Jordan Cristos, the notorious tanker, and thankfully, he only stuck around for 2 orbits too. Our table finally broke with about 45 minutes left in the night...and I took 30k to my new table. By the end of the night...I would bag up 106k...which was 19th out of 130 returning players on Day 2. I literally had two hands in ONE orbit...where I fired a 3rd big bluff bet on the river...and was CALLED by ace high! I also had ace high...but with a better kicker! Twice! Both times for huge pots. Both times by British players. So I went to bed feeling very good. I didn't have to play the next day and used it to completely chill out at the pool...which was fantastic!

Went back for Day 2 and had a great table draw. I was the biggest stack, and no one at the table was very intimidating. In the first three levels I was on absolute fire. After about an hour of play Johnny Chan joined our table...giving me my 'Rounders Moment' which is always fun. After winning a couple hands in crafty fashion...and one where I bet the flop, turn and checked behind the guys river check...finally giving up with my AQ on a rag-infested board, I said to the guy "Do you have King high?" He asked "What's my kicker?" I said "KQ probably." He turns over KQ. (I had AQ) Johnny eyeballs me and say's "How good ARE you man?" I won't lie...in all the years of playing poker...and I'm not some big poker fan boy or anything...but shit, that WAS Johnny freaking Chan and he did just pay me a pretty kick ass compliment! My head did swell a little bit! Also swelling was my chip stack...which was up as high as 146k with the blinds at only 600-1200 (120bb's). Our starting field started out with 587 players and was down to almost 100. It was paying 54 spots...with that spot getting $11,700. That payout alone would guarantee each $100 share buyer of a return of $135. My first mission was to make all those guys and gals some money. Then start worrying about a good score for all of us.
The Great Johnny Chan! Handing out compliments to Senor Monkey!

I felt so good. So comfortable with my table, and confident. Then I lost three kind of rough hands in a row to dip to 115k. And then...in a stroke of shitty luck, I got that tap on the shoulder most of us players loathe. "Next big blind? You're getting moved."  Fuck!!!! And I got moved to the table from hell. Several players I had played with on Day 1. Almost all of them the internet wizard types. The German...who played super aggressive, and who would berate you if you beat him in a sizable pot. Alex Rocha...who's aces I had cracked late in Day 1...forcing him to rebuy...also showed back up at my table, vowing revenge. Playfully of course. Alex and I have always been friendly. Regardless, I knew he would stop at nothing to whack me. The table was a total shitstorm. Any time someone put in a raise, it was almost assured that they would get re-raised downstream. So I made a point of not entering a hand unless I was ready to go to war with it. 

Admittedly, there were a couple hands I wished I had played different. But it's always easy to second-guess yourself AFTER the hands have been played. I had opted for a strategy of getting into pots cheap, or as cheap as I could...and hitting a flop, then maximizing the value of those pots in order to survive and maintain. Again...my first goal was to make the money. Then...after that, I would take the training wheels off. But I had to get there first. So...this guy, very quiet, and playing very few hands...and sitting on about 24k with the blinds at 1000-2000...LIMPS under the gun! Huh? Nothing screams aces more than THAT right??? I look down at 44. Oh hell yes...I will take a shot at two-outing this guy! Three other players call...creating a 10k pot now. Well...the big blind, Javier Zarco (not actually Javier!)...who had already drawn my ire...with his mopey, non-expressive face, and his desire to constantly 3, 4 and 5 bet to show what a bully he was...goes and makes it 10k to go. I roll my eyes..and right on cue...the limping for 2k...shoves all in for 24k. No one calls. Not even dipshit with his 300k stack (gotten through a series of ridiculous gifts) would call the extra 14k. I was so pissed.
Javier...the Douche Canoe
The 'REAL' Javier Zarco!!! On the right

So I get down to about 67k and pick up QQ. I raise to 5200. No one calls. Except
Droopy Dog. Flop comes J-3-5...two diamonds. He checks. I bet 6500. He shrugs...and calls. What's he got? A jack? A flush draw? Man I hate people who chase flush draws. The turn in the 10 of spades. Not much to fear out there. He checks again. This time I bet  11k. Yes...I now have 22,700 of my 67,000 in this pot. The river is a 7 of hearts. He gives me this dumb look...grabs four blue chips...worth 20k and just nonchalantly does that stupid robotic drop of the chips on the table.

I got a message from a reader, informing me that who I have identified as Javier Zarco is NOT Javier. Javier is the guy who I have posted a picture of below, after the fact. He, though coming off as a Euro, maybe Spanish? Is actually listed as being from Lake Charles...which I assume is Louisiana's Lake Charles. Not sure. He was a very good player. Pain in the ass. But very talented. He also min-cashed the Main at Venetian. As for who Droopy Dog is with the incessant habit of holding his hoodie in front of his face that seems to be so popular in poker lately? I guess it shall remain a mystery as to who he is. Or if he cashed.                                               

It feels like a 'go away please' bet from a guy who has a lot of chips to use to push people around. Like a guy who missed his flush draw. I can't see just flatting 20k. Call, be wrong...and be left with 25k? Or shove and have him either fold...or have him call with something like AJ or KJ and get a FULL double up. I shove all in. He repeats that "hhmmph, why not" stupid shrug of his....and calls. He turns over J7. I feel like I've been kicked in the gut. Rivered a second pair. That's it. I'm done. Out. 92nd. No money. But the worst...was as I was getting up...he tells me "Nice bluff on the river!" I won' lie...I wanted to strangle him. I said nothing instead. Told everyone else good luck. And went out to the area where the slots are...and roamed around aimlessly for a few minutes trying to get my bearings back. 
We had a great time at Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef Aquarium

Carley had a real connection with this clown!

Only WE know just creepy those Vegas street performers really are! Shhhhh! No one tell Carley! She really, truly though that was her beloved Olaf!!!!

Then I played a $300 bounty tourney that had started at 4pm. I played bad. Really bad. I burned off two buy ins before realizing I needed to quit with the poker for the day/night. I then retreated to my room and basically slept away an entire day. I spent the following day at the pool...trying to put a nice positive touch on my end of the trip before going home. All in all it was a good trip. The girls came out for 4 days...and we had a great time while they were there. Saw a lot of my GOOD poker friends while there. Got to play a good amount of poker...and I confess, I really kind of got that itch back from playing in competitive tourney with really, really skilled players at the table. I am all about, and have always been about...competing against the best in the trade, whether it be sports, or poker. It gives me a rush. It invigorates me. Whether I win or lose...its still a feeling I enjoy. Playing in big buy ins, with really good players...that's what I thoroughly enjoy. Now...things will change mightily next month, when I tee it up at the IP and maybe the Beau Rivage, to play these two local events...a lot of low buy in events ($300-$400) with a lot of extremely below average (even bad) players. Those are the ones that can get really, super frustrating. 
I have always loved staying at the Venetian, but on this trip I really loved my room and the great view of the pool!

Against good players...you are playing poker. You get deep and it's mostly a lot of good players who are just sitting around coolering each other. And yeah its brutal, but you can take it. It's much more acceptable to lose like that...than to lose to some dumbass who can't ever tell from your betting patterns when he is smoked, but keeps calling like a 17 year old kid on Friday night, getting rejected over and over by the cheerleader. Then sometimes...they hit that magic 1 or 2-outer to derail you. They are suddenly, in their mind, the next Phil Ivey...letting all their friends know about their 'awesome suckout.' Meanwhile, you just played 14 hours...only to run your KK into Q10 guy...with his flopped 10 making him think he was good on every street...until that river brought him another 10...fucking you, and turning him into a genius. Poker...it's a bitch. 

But I will be there. Might even have to repeat my move of a few years ago...bringing in my office chair to use that week. Hey, I plan to play deep, a LOT. And I would like to be comfortable. Hoping the IP has that lit-up 'Disco Stage' again. Always love making that final table! Hoping, that since it's a WSOP circuit stop...and there are so many more players now chasing rings and National Championship points...that they will draw a lot better than they usually do. And as for the Beau? I haven't even seen their event show up on the Cardplayer tournament schedule yet...so I'm not really sure what is going on with that event. All that starts in September. We got one more month to wade through. 

August is the worst. Waiting for football season to start. Being forced to whet our appetites with crummy preseason games. Yuck. I bought us 3 tickets to the Bama-USC game in Dallas on Sept 3rd. Never been to Jerry's World. Should be a cool experience. This is the season where I am finally going to start taking Carley to football games. I bought 3 tickets to the Ole Miss game too, in Oxford. Only one problem, the $1600 Main Event at IP falls that weekend. Flight A is on Friday and B is on Saturday. I'm going to have to play on Friday and bag chips...so I will have Saturday off, to attend that game. Then come back for Day 2 on Sunday. That's the plan!

I would be getting excited about the upcoming Olympics in Rio...if it weren't for the fact that we are most likely about to see the biggest disaster in the history of the Games. The IOC, and their corruption, has really screwed up this event. Putting it in cities that clearly should NOT have them awarded to them. They aren't even close to being ready for the games. And Rio is a total dump. I guess I will watch to see if Michael Phelps can add to his amazing medal count over four Olympics...and of course, women's beach volleyball! Outside of that...not much to see there.

It was a great summer. I am very proud of what our 6 players did in Vegas. 5 of them making it out of Day 1. Another 3 making it to Day 3. Two making the money. The whole investment team was great! The level of support was simply amazing. Our Facebook group page was blowing up the whole time. Lots of Twitter updates. The players themselves did a fantastic job of keeping everyone in the loop. It always makes me happy when people tell me they can't wait to do it again next summer! Yeah..its a lot of work doing this. I spent almost an entire day at the post office in Vegas sending out all the hats, t-shirts and hoodies that had been ordered. And have spent many many hours getting everyone's return on investment sent to them this whole past week. But I take pride in getting people paid out as quick as I can. I do the same thing with my sports pools. I find the quicker I pay them...the fewer of them pay me late or not at all. 

I can't envision NOT being back in the Summer of 2017 to do it all over again. We had 4 in 2014. Then 5 in 2015. And finally, 6 in 2016 this summer. And I know we could have easily sold enough shares to send a 7th. But I figured we would wait and shoot for 7 in 2017...maintain that pattern! 
Carley loves all animals...but REALLY loves her 'GiGi'

A few months ago, I caught Jasper, my lab who will be 12 in January...throwing up blood in the kitchen one morning. I got a sample and took it and him to the vet. Found out he had early onset of kidney failure. We put him on some expensive meds and I changed his food to something much much better. Instead of spending about $45 a month on their food, I've basically tripled that. With zero regret! I love my dogs! Well once I was in Vegas and the girls were home, Squirrel said Jasper was being very irritable and not himself. I came home...and took him back to the vet, where they did more blood work. What they discovered was very depressing. Despite all these great meds, his condition has taken a turn for the worst. The vet told me we will be lucky if he makes it another three months. This will be the first test in Carley's life, and dealing with loss of a loved one. I am going to aggressively up his meds, and hope I can extend his quality of life for a while longer. It's such a tough spot...and I've been here now with 3 other dogs...where you have to decide when their suffering exceeds their desire to still be here, being your best buddy. Anyone that has a dog knows this pain. We've all agonized over it. 4200 days of being my best buddy. That's a tough pill to swallow, knowing I'm going to have to eventually give 'the word' to my vet to send him off to the Rainbow Bridge. Then I have to worry about Mollie, our 8 year old lab-pit mix mutt. Will she die of a broken heart? Jasper is the only 'pal' she's ever known. It sucks. I'm trying to fill a big bucket list of stuff for Jasper before his day gets here. One thing I want to do is take him over to the dog beach in Pensacola, and let him play all day in the sand and ocean. He will be so happy. 

Well...this seems like a good place to wrap up this blog post. Squirrel is off in Gulf Shores with a gaggle of her girl friends for her birthday...and Carley is home with me...bombing me with "Daddy look! Daddy, come here!!! Daddy, can I have _____" non-stop!!! Seriously shocked she let me sit down long enough to write this whole blog post in one sitting!!!!