Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Minnie's Soda

Quote of the Day: “Not everyone can write the truth of his experience. Hell, not everyone can even face the truth of his experience.” – John Vorhaus
My friend of old Tom Derderian and I regularly attended weekly track meets at the Fargo Navy Building in South Boston. We took an hour bus trip to the Greyhound terminal in Boston. From there it was a half hour or more by way of subway, including a transfer at South Station. After the race we retraced our steps. In retrospect, it seems unreasonable to invest more than four hours (plus money) to get to an 11-minute race on what was essentially an oval railroad bed without the tracks. We could have done that at home, and given each other a medal for first and second place with the bus fare. Ah, but we were young.

We occupied our time en route by inventing a word game we referred to as the “back-of-the-bus” game. We made the word bus rhyme with “puss” or “wuss”. The object of the game was to make sentences and paragraphs out of names of places. It was based loosely on an old song (remember: What did Della wear, boys? And where did Mary land? Where has Aura gone? Get the idea?). Eventually we were able to carry on an entire dialog using only cities and states. “That’s a real Tall-a-hassee, cowboy. Yes, but he needs a new Seattle.” Etc. etc. Sounds juvenile, I know. Ah, but we were young.

Later, we enhanced the challenge by limiting the words to cities and places in Massachusetts. Try making sentences with words like Worcester, Gloucester, Billerica, Newburyport, Woburn and
Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg!
Hint: it rhymes with something about having fun with your dog. The name officially means: "the fishing place at the boundaries and neutral meeting grounds", according to the Nipmuck Indian tribe. Over time it morphed in local folklore to mean: “You fish on your side; I’ll fish on my side; and nobody fishes in the middle.”

By the way, here’s something I found on the site linked above (with my annotations):
How to properly pronounce some local communities: Worcester = Woostah (we pronounced it WISS-tah in Wisstah county – FN), Gloucester = Glawstah, Woburn = Wooban (actually, it’s WOO-bin…I lived there – FN), Revere = Re-vayuh (try Ree-VEE-yah – FN), Quincy = Quinzee, Medford = Meffa, Danvers = Davvus, Swampscott = Swarmskit, Billerica = Bill Rikka, Leominster = Lemon Stah.

In any case, it was an enjoyable game and good mental exercise to complement our physical training. I highly recommend it as a way to pass time and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. I ask you to trust me on that one.

For many years, whenever I heard reference to the Twin Cities, a mental image of Mickey Mouse’s girlfriend holding a can of pop came to mind. If the baseball team was involved, I thought of Mr. Minoso
coming up to pinch hit against the Twins with a beverage in his hand. Those images went away in 2000 when I attended the U.S. Open Chess Tournament in St. Paul. It was my first visit to Minnesota, and it literally changed my life. St. Paul 2000 was a major junction on my Safari into the Black and White Jungle. I’ll save the details for the book.

I was all set to make my return to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in October 2005 when I agreed to participate in Mike’s (Idoru99 on PSO) home poker tournament held annually in connection with the Canterbury Fall Poker Classic. But I only made it as far as Cleveland. An 18-wheeler kicked up a wayward stone that passed through the windshield of my car, forcing me to turnaround and head home.

I was determined to make it to Mike’s event in 2006. So I did two things differently: (1) I headed from west to east avoiding Cleveland, and (2) I took the train. The train ride itself was uneventful. However, my body received a shock upon arrival. Snowflakes as big as quarters (no exaggeration) were falling as I departed the station in St. Paul. I didn’t bring a jacket. I didn’t think of it actually, as it was 72 degrees when I left Seattle.

I had a little bit of trouble getting to sleep the first night in town thanks to the roving PSO welcome wagon (a/k/a NewJane and JoyBell) who came knocking on my hotel room door sometime after midnight. After battling the Minnesota snow and 15-degree wind chill, their smiling faces and personal warmth were appreciated…no matter the hour.

I have two poker mentors: Aaron Hendricks in Minneapolis and Dave Roemer in Chicago. I visited with Dave (Hitman on PSO)on a trip to Chicago earlier in the year and found his one-on-one advice to be extremely helpful. So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend time with Aaron (a/k/a as thehazyone on PSO).

We worked out a deal where I would sponsor Aaron in a Canterbury Park no limt hold’em tournament in exchange for him "shadowing" me during a multi-table tournament on Bugsy’s. There must’ve been a Hawthorne effect, because I won the $200 real money first prize without help from him other than general advice about observing the other players, aggressiveness and table image (and his previous online mentor program lessons, of course).

In addition, we played a multi-table PSO tournament (from separate locations) later in the evening in which I finished second and Aaron finished fourth. I wasn't totally satisfied, however, as I entered the heads-up match with a four to one chip advantage and failed to take the top prize. Nevertheless, I gained confidence that I was playing my "A-game" heading into the weekend.

My ride to Mike’s place was courtesy of Jane (NewJane), who got news of a new grandchild on the way to the tournament, and Gioia (Joybell). We went by way of Mall of America, the largest fully enclosed retail and entertainment complex in the United States, where I got my exercise for the week. That place is massive!

We arrived just in time for the 30-player tournament. I was greeted by "long-time" friends who, with few exceptions, I had previously met only online. Among them were Leon (Sailor Moe) and his lovely bride Pat (Pattyroo), shown in the photo below:

Pattyroo had a great tournament, finishing second to Bounder, who is known as one of the strongest players in PSO. I was seated at a tough table, with Bill (expatcr) on my left, Michael (themills) next to him, Larry (bhat) a few spots behond him, and host Mike (Idoru99) across from me. To say I was intimidated is an understatement. These are all players whom I have come to respect very much. My early exit was therefore not unexpected.

By the way, for those on PSO (like me) who miss themills, I spoke with Michael for several minutes. He said he didn't renew his PSO membership because he was too busy playing cash games but will be back soon, especially with the new legislation mucking up the cash-in-and-out works.

The following three photos are but a few that were provided by Indoru99. The complete set can be viewed by clicking this link. Wait a few seconds for the album to load. Thank you Mike!

That's my back in the red stiped shirt on the right (above) on Table 3, with Bill (expatcr) to my immediate left and Michael (themills) next to him. Larry (bhat) is tucked in the corner with the cowboy hat and sunglasses. A lot of players traveled great distances for this event, including themills from Michigan, expatcr from Florida, ChessSafari from Washington, Joybell from California, NewJane from North Dakota, Sailor Moe & Pattyroo from Illinois and bhat from Wyoming.

After we were eliminated in the 30-player event, a sit-'n-go sprung up with Sailor Moe, Joybell, Oceanpup, themills, ChessSafari and a few non-PSOers. I sure enjoyed that...seeing the smiling faces instead of the drab PSO avatar/ovals. And when it got to the heads-up between themills and me, I didn't want it to end. NewJane was dealing and said "Why don't you guys just chop. You're even in chips, and neither of you is doing anything!" Oh ya, good idea. Then we all sat around and kept talking anyway. PSO group therapy at its finest!!

As mentioned, bhat and the Costa Rican Bandit (expatcr) were at the tournament, which has come to be known as the “2006 Fall Classic Warm-up”. My real disappointment of the night was not hearing Larry sing "Rawhide" (well that, and the fact that the battery died on my camera after only three photos). "Who me? I can't sing," he said. "I just like the words, so I type them in the chat box sometimes to keep me occupied." “Yeah, that, and to haunt your opponents," I thought to myself.

I remember circa. 2003 sitting at a table with bhat and rudie (Arlene Sims, now a dealer at the Hollywood casino in Tunica MS). Larry started off with Rawhide and Arlene responded by typing words to different songs. I couldn't resist so I chimed in, "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily..."

In the photo below is Bounder, winner of the 2006 Fall Classic Warm-up No Limit Hold'Em tournament

Note that two other photos from this event were posted in my November 28 blog.

PSO ambassador NewJane, also a new grandma, shows off her book. She willingly autographed copies for any of the participants who wanted a copy. Tournament host Mike (Idoru99) is in the background with the baseball cap.

Gioia (Joybell) started the Canterbury Fall Classic off right for the PSO contingent by finishing in the money in Event #1. In Event #2, the Canterbury Fall Classic $300 buy-in Limit Hold'em event, held Saturday, October 14, I was confronted with what must be every poker player's worst nightmare. I accumulated 19,000 chips early and had about three times the average stack at the 200/400 blind level. The biggest stack in the tournament (21,000) was seated at the same table. No problem; it wasn't no-limit, so my stack was safe, right?

I was dealt QQ on the button and raised. The big blind (the aforementioned big stack) called. Everyone else folded. The flop was a dream come true: Q-5-5, with two hearts. I had the nut full house!

He bet, I raised, he re-raised and I called. "Hmmm, there's a big pot brewing here," I thought. The turn was a 9 of hearts completing his flush, I assumed. He bet, I raised, he re-rasised, I re-raised and he called. Wow! The river was a harmless 3 of clubs. "Now I've got him", I convinced myself.

He bet, I raised, he re-raised, I re-raised and we continued until all my chips were in the middle and he had 2,000 left. Nearly 40,000 chips were in the pot. With an average stack in the tournament of 6,000 and half the field already eliminated, I was licking my chops.

By now you've figured out that he had pocket fives. I was behind the whole way, and drawing dead after the turn. If it had been an online tournament I would probably have blamed the random number generator. But these hands happen in live play too. The really good players can see this scenerio coming. I did not.

Fortunately, I had better luck on Sunday. Many PSO players, including thehazyone, were in Event #3: $200 NLHE, 2000 starting chips, 728 players paying only 36 spots. When I asked Jimmy S (the TD) about it, he said the organizers had not planned for such a large crowd and the highest payout structure was "400 players and above". So a lot of people, including Sailor Moe, played for 7 hours, beat 650 players and got nothing. Leon finished 48th, just short of the money. He said the reason he didn't cash was his finger was giving him fits...his puppy bit him the other day and he had to go to the ER for treatment. Ouch.

I spotted WIFarmboy in the field, who I hadn't noticed earlier, walking around with a homemade PSO nametag proudly on his shirt. I was the last man standing for PSO and went out 29th for $706. I could have coasted with 26,000 chips -- after the blinds had just passed -- to climb the ladder to 27th, worth $359 more. My strategy was to do my best and play for the win (which, by the way, was worth playing for: $46,000+).

My last hand was interesting and instructive, so I'll post it here for the poker junkies reading this.

Blinds 2,000/4,000, Antes 1,000, 9 players at my table = 15,000 per orbit. My stack = 26,000 so I have <2M and am in the "red zone" which means all-in or fold according to Harrington and others.

The table captain in middle position made it 10,000 to go first to act. He had been in every other hand for the previous half hour with the same pre-flop raise. In one case he showed down 76o and in another KTs. So I knew his raise didn't represent a premium hand.

All folded to me on the button with pocket eights. I had the three usual choices: fold, call or re-raise. If my goal had been to climb the ladder, I would've folded. The average stack at that point was 50,000 chips. At 15,000 per orbit, half the field was short stacked. And I didn't have to play a blind for seven more hands. But that was NOT my goal.

I could call 10,000 into a 25,000 pot getting 2.5 to 1 for my money and still be left with 16,000 chips if I didn't hit my set. I also considered (briefly) the stop-and-go move (call pre-flop and move all-in after any flop) because I presumed if I re-raised all-in now, his 16,000 call into a pot of 51,000 would be a no-brainer. As loose as he was, there is no hand that he would have raised to 10,000 pre-flop that wasn't worth 3.2 to 1 heads up. What the stop-and-go would have done is allowed me to bet the remaining 16,000 after the flop and, if he missed, perhaps he would fold. In other words, there's a chance I could gain some folding equity if we took a flop.

There were two problems with the stop-and-go I thought. First, he would be first to act and would probably make a continuation bet with anything because of my stack size. And, more importantly, if I just called, the small blind (4 to 1) and big blind (6 to 1) would have odds to play. With three other players in the pot I might have to hit my set to win. My preference was clearly to be heads up against the initial raiser.

So I re-raised all-in and he called with Qc Js against my 8s 8d. The flop came As 5s 3s. The turn was the 2d and the river brought the 7s. He had 13 outs to win at the river and three cards that would've resulted in a chop, so I don't consider this a bad beat. It was a coin flip pre-flop and improved to ~2 to 1 at the river. The pot was 67,000, which would have given me a stack to fight with (1.3Q). With all the short stacks getting eaten up rapidly by the blinds and antes, maybe -- well you know...

Afterwards, Sailor Moe drove me back to my motel and I went over to expatcr's motel room a nightcap. Thanks to everyone on PokerSchoolOnline for your kind words and support, and especially to thehazyone and Hitman for helping me become capable of 29/728 in a live real money NLHE tournament.

I was especially pleased with Hitman's comments in the PSO forum:

"I like your play on the last hand. Normally I'd like to have folding equity when I push, but with an M this low you have to gamble, and I'd willingly take a coin flip here to double up. And this is clearly not a coin flip... since you know this guy is capable of flipping up hands as weak as 76o, you're much better than a coin flip vs. his range of hands. Push to isolate is right on. You can't execute a stop and go if you're not first to act... flat call and he'll just bet into you on the flop. And calling just invites the blinds in too. I 100% like the push with 88 in this spot.


Thank you to BOTH my mentors for their positive feedback on this trip.

Oh, one more thing. On the notion that there are no secrets anymore with the world wide web in action, I entered Saturday's tournament early and saw a long line in the upper lobby. People were registering for something or other. Being curious by nature, I asked.

There were 96 players in a National Thoroughbread Handicapping tournament. It was a qualifying event for the finals (as in BIG MONEY) in Las Vegas. So, what the heck, I entered. The entry fee was $100. In addition, each player had to put up a $200 bankroll for bets, the net of which each handicapper would keep at the end of the night, in addition to any prize money. Prizes were paid to the top ten finishers, including all expense paid trips to Las Vegas for the National Finals to the top three finishers.

The rules required the $200 bankroll to be spread accross ten races at various tracks around the country, at the discretion of each player, to be run and simulcast that afternoon. There was a mandatory wager of $20 each race ($10 to win and $10 to place on the same horse). I had 20 minutes to pick all the races because the poker tournament was ready to start. I heard one of the people in line say that the big crowd was "because of all the dead money from the poker players who have been entering satellites with entry into the handicapping tournament as prizes." It was amusing to hear non-poker players referring to "us" as dead money!

Anyway, press this link for the details of how I finished: Ahead $463, net of the entry fee. I had no idea this information was public until I started my research for today's blog. It's all right dear friends from the I.R.S., I donated all the profits from the week to charity.

Well, I gave it all to charity except for the following: I treated myself to a limo back to Delilah's farm on the final leg of my trip. I had the driver stop by the China West restaurant so I could impress my local poker buddies. "Buy a round for the bar and keep the change," I said to Jennifer, my favorite China West server. Ah, I know I'm not young anymore, but sometimes it's fun to pretend.

Strangely, the same limo with the same driver drove down the farm driveway the next evening. Instead of little old me, Wynnona Judd stepped out. But this blog is already WAY too long and that's a story for another time.

Finally, I need to give credit where credit is due. Coincidently, I found this article in this morning’s newspaper:

Minnesota deemed healthiest state, Louisiana worst
Washington (Reuters)

"Minnesota was deemed the healthiest U.S. state for the fourth year in a row, while Louisiana slumped into last place as the least healthy in annual state-by-state rankings released on Tuesday. Vermont placed second as it did in 2005 with New Hampshire, Hawaii and Connecticut rounding the five healthiest states in the report by the United Health Foundation, a nonprofit group formed by the health care company United Health Group."

I can’t help but surmise, with all the negative publicity lately about the health risks associated with soft drinks, that Minnesota residents must drink proportionatey less of various kinds of tonic and soda pop. So, does that qualify it as a “mini-soda” state? Ugh.

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin', Keep those Dogies rollin'. Dammit Larry, I can't get the song out of my head now. Sheesh. Where's my coffee? Er, I mean soda...

Look for these upcoming Safaris…a partial preview:
Saturday, December 9, Web Site Update (for Morgana)
Tuesday, December 12, Leave the Driving to Us (Guest weblog)
Friday, December 15, Blog Log
Monday, December 18, Sereda, Serfreda!
Friday, December 22, Mile 1 – Everything that Comes Before…

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