Thursday, September 10, 2009

A nice game from the Oregon Open

FM Nick Raptis, one of three active chess masters in Oregon, won the top section of the 2009 Oregon Open with a score of 5 1/2 points out of 6. His only draw was in the 5th round against Steven Breckenridge

The following game was played in the final round of last weekend's Oregon Open held on the campus of Mount Hood Community College in Gresham between Washington residents Josh Sinanan and Paul Bartron.

Oregon Open 2009
Rd. 6, Gresham, OR
September 7, 2009

Josh Sinanan (2268) vs. Paul Bartron (2134)
Queen’s Gambit Accepted (D21)

1.d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3

The Queen’s Gambit Accepted has been seen fairly often in the Northwest in recent years. For example, Ricky Selzler won a crisp game with the white pieces in last year’s Washington Open: 3.e3 e5 4.Bxc4 exd4 5.Qb3 Qe7 6.a3 g6 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.0-0 d3 9.e4 Nc6 10.Nc3 Ne5 11.Nxe5 Bxe5 12.Bxf7+! Kf8 (12...Qxf7 13.Qb5+ followed by 14.Qxe5) 13.Bxg8 Rxg8 14.Bh6+ Bg7 15.Nd5 Qd8 16.Bf4 c5 (16...Be6 17.Rad1! +-) 17.Nc7 Qf6 18.Bg3 Qxb2 19.Bd6 mate, R. Selzler (2156) - Y. Rozenfeld (1960), WA Open 2008.

3...a6 4. a4 Nf6 5. Nc3 c5 6. d5 e6 7. e4 exd5 8. e5 d4 9. exf6 dxc3 10. Qxd8+ Kxd8 11.bxc3 gxf6 12.Bxc4 Be6Black has emerged from the opening a pawn ahead. His doubled f-pawns and exposed king provide White with inadequate compensation. Fritz gives Black a small edge here.

13. Be2 Bd6 14. 0-0 Nc6 15. Nd2 Be5 16. Ne4 Bf5!

The best way to maintain the advantage. The alternative 16...b6?! allows White to gain sufficient counterplay for equality after 17.f4! f5 18.Nxc5 (not 18.fxe5?! when Black will keep his pawn after 18...fxe4 19.Rf4 Re8 20.Rxe4 Bd5 21.Bg5+ Kc7 22.Re3 Nxe5 23.Bf4 f6) 18...Bxc3 (18...bxc5? 19.fxe5 gives White the edge) 19.Nxe6+ fxe6 20.Rd1+ Kc7 21.Ra3 Bg7 22.Rad3 =.

17. f4 Bxe4 18 .fxe5 Rg8 19. g3 Nxe5 20. Rxf6 Ke7 21. Rf4 Bg6

Worthy of consideration was 21...Bd3!? attempting to neutralize White’s two bishops.

22. Ba3 Rgc8 23. Rd1 f6 24. Rd5Fritz suggests 24.a5 immediately in order to hold back Black’s b-pawn from the defense of the weak pawn on c5. But after 24...Rc6 followed by 25...Rac8, Black can always break the bind with ...b5 at some point.

24...b6 25. a5 Bf7 26. Rd1 b5 27. Bf1 Rc7 28. Bg2 Rg8 29. Rdf1 Bc4 30. R1f2 Rd8 31. Be4
Tournament Director Mike Morris thanks the players for their participation.

Now Black’s edge is decisive. Trying to get fancy with 31.Rd4!? won’t help due to 31...Rxd4 32.cxd4 b4! -+.


31...Rd1+ 32.Kg2 Ra1 may have been a bit more efficient because the text allows White to keep the rook out for awhile with 32.Bc2! There’s no need to quibble, however, as Black demonstrates that he has the game well in hand.

32. h3 Rd1+ 33. Kh2 Bd3 34. Bxd3 Nxd3 35. Re2+ Kf7 36. Rf3 b437. cxb4 cxb4 38. Bb2 Nxb2

Black chooses to liquidate down to a won rook and pawn endgame, the practical choice with the end of time control approaching (move 40). 38...Rxc6!?, eliminating all counterplay, was another worthwhile approach.

39. Rxb2 Rc3 40. Rbf2 Rxf3 41. Rxf3 Rd5 42. Rb3 Rb5 0-1
Black will walk his king to c4 to escort the pawn home while freeing his rook to capture on a5 at will.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

C'mon over to our house

Photo above is our 1907 residence at 1114 Washington Street, Oregon City, OR (obviously taken in cooler weather). C'mon over this weekend and say "hello". We are #1 on the map below, at the corner of 12th and Washington.

This weekend marks the 13th Annual McLaughlin Historic District Neighborhood Block Party & Yard Sale in Oregon City, Oregon. Tash and I will be participating for the first time, with much of the proceeds from our efforts going to support The Geezer Gallery.

There are over 300 particpants this year at various sites throughout the neighborhood, including 89 different personal residences such as ours. The sale runs Friday, August 7th and Saturday, August 8th from 9 am to 4 pm. A limited number of participants will also set up on Sunday. Not us...we'll have had enough bonding with the neighbors by then. We are looking forward to it. Hopefully, the dry weather with stay with us for two more days.

The following images show the official brochure and map supplied by the annual event sponsor, Terry Stewart. Terry is a real estate broker at Oregon Realty Company in Oregon City. Click on the images below to enlarge them.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Other Side of the Story

GM Susan Polgar, former Women's World Chess Champion

As the US Chess Federation annual election approaches, petty politics dominate the scene once again. There have been mailings and Internet posts galore advocating one stance or another. I purposely distanced myself from USCF politics long ago and am content to be "an ordinary chess player" again. It's what's best for my stress level.

I don't have an opinion on any of the candidates running for election. But I DO have an opinion about one of the existing board members who has been subject to relentless political attacks in recent months: Susan Polgar. I have come to know her as a person of integrity that has always put the best interests of the game of chess and its advancement in society at the top of her agenda. As a result, I feel compelled to do my part in telling the other side of the story.

The following is reprinted from a June article on courtesy of Susan Polar's chess blog entitled "The Dirty Hidden Truth":

"How could a national organization, an organization which claims that it has no money to do many things for the benefit of chess and its members, afford to spend $500,000, $600,000, $700,000 or perhaps even more than $1,000,000 in legal fees for political purposes? How could a national organization, an organization which at one time had annual revenues over $6 million, sink this low? Finally, how can we fix the problems, to make things better, when the problems are being hidden and kept secret from the membership at large?

One of the key problems is the structure of the organization itself. It is very difficult to implement sound changes when the leadership is so far behind understanding the rapidly changing business world. If we do not understand our customers and do not offer what they want, we are doomed to fail. So many chess politicians have hung around for decades doing everything imaginable to grab and hold on to their power. Some have done this for three, four or even five decades.

Why? For some, it is very lucrative. For others, they are addicted to power. Many care more about their personal, financial and political agenda than the welfare of chess, the USCF and its members.

Many of my friends, including 3-time U.S. Champion Grandmaster Lev Alburt, have warned me about the dirty and vicious chess politics. I know that it is not easy to make positive changes. However, if no one is willing to step up to the plate and go to bat for the members, how can things get better?

... My experience on the USCF Executive Board in the past two years is like a mirror image of what GM Alburt said, except a lot worse. I am not a chess politician and I have no desire to get involved in the filthy disgusting world of chess politics. I did not want the failed status quo to continue. My sole intention was and is to help chess and the USCF.

In the past two years, instead of working with me and helping me promote chess to benefit our entire sport, some of these chess politicians have spread the most outrageous and vicious rumors and lies, trying to destroy my reputation, my employment at Texas Tech University, and my family. They even stooped so low as to use my children (who are only 8 and 10) as one of their targets.

Knowing that I am a one of the biggest advocates for scholastic chess in this country, especially for girls, some of these people spewed out the disgustingly offensive rumor that my husband and I were child abusers. They claimed that we abused my children and we even forced them to consume hot sauce. This sort of despicable thing made its way to the internet and even made its way to my employer Texas Tech University as well as to sponsors and potential sponsors. This outrageous lie was even tossed around within the USCF leadership as a way to pressure my husband and me to resign from the board even though they knew that it was false.

There were countless remarks and postings telling my husband and me to go “back to where we came from.” Some said this is the United States Chess Federation and not the United Nations Chess Federation, and a foreigner had no business running the USCF, while others were openly discussed ways to deport me back to my native Hungary although I have been an American citizen for a number of years and both my children were born in the U.S.

Ironically, the USCF and some board members have continued to deny that they have had anything to do with this despicable conduct, but their own attorney made sure to demand that I show proof that I am in the U.S. legally and if I “hot-sauced” my children in the past!? Outrageous, but true! Coincidence? You decide.

Some called me a “whore,” “bitch” and worse, with words that are not appropriate to print. They even created a public website about this. I informed the USCF and its board members, but they chose to ignore this and do nothing. Instead of investigating such vile and despicable conduct, the USCF and the board majority spent hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating us!

To support their agenda, misleading and one-sided information was published in Chess Life, the USCF website, in mailings and to the email list so I would have no opportunity to respond or correct the record...

It is a tough battle fighting "the system". But it is a fight that all USCF members must take on to save what's left of this federation. Some of the same people have chased away so many good sponsors, volunteers and even members for years by attacking and destroying them so they can keep control of this federation.

If they can do this to me and my family, they will not spare anyone standing in their way. The USCF will not survive financially much longer if this trend of destruction continues. They have damaged the USCF enough. It is time to bring in professionals to fix and rebuild this federation. Please help me get the word out. Thank you!

Susan Polgar"

In the 38 years that I have been a life member of the USCF, I have never been more appalled as to the lack of knowledge of the USCF leadership concerning the meaning of "fiduciary responsibility." I echo Susan's sentiments as expressed on and reprinted above. I have personally felt the effects of the USCF negative politics, but this is not about me. I recommend that you look to Susan's blog and web site for her recommendations on the coming USCF Executive Board elections.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Quote of the day: " only hate them if you don't have one." - Boogieblast sales pitch (from the Oregonian, 6/29/09)

Not since I went to Disney World and couldn't get the tune from "It's a Small World" out of my head have I found a sound so annoying as the Vuvuzela. I never heard of it before yesterday and, based on a search on the Internet, I've obviously had my head in the sand. I'm a fan of most sports, but soccer has never been at the top of the list. Nevertheless, I turned in to the U.S.-Brazil match yesterday and initially thought my TV was failing.

Here's what I posted yesterday on my facebook page:

"wondering what's up with all the kazoos at the FIFA soccer final. Watching the US-Brazil game sounded like a beehive inside my head. Is that a South Africa thing? Hope it doesn't catch on at chess tournaments..."

Well, thanks to this morning's Oregonian sports page, I now have the answer:

"As south Africa gears up to host next year's soccer World Cup, there are plenty of doomsayers predicting the worst. If transportation shortages don't ruin the event, crime will. The beer will run out. Or the stadiums will be half empty.

But no one expected an ugly plastic trumpet to dominate the controversy.

Hatred of the "vuvuzela", the noisemaker wielded by South African soccer fans, ignited the blogosphere even before the FiFA Confederations Cup, the country's dry run for 2010.

"During the current tournament, foreign players, coaches and journalists have called for a ban on the vuvuzela.

One vuvuzela - a loud, toneless blast - sounds something like a foghorn. But a stadium full of vuvuzelas, all tooting simultaneously, is either the most exhilarating sound or a noise so irritating it borders on painful, depending on the listener.

Video clips of groups playing the vuvuzela like a melodic instrument can be found on YouTube (see example above). But a more accurate sound clip is found at, which claims to be the trumpet's original distributor..."

-- from the Oregonian, 6/29/09; original source: wire reports

Among the news reports I found on the Internet is this from "The World Cup's biggest concern is a trumpet" on The New :

"Described by one newspaper as "a unique brightly coloured elongated trumpet that makes a sound like a herd of elephants approaching", the vuvuzela has become the biggest controversy at this summer's Confederations Cup [a small tournament between continental champions that functions as a World Cup warm-up].

Fans argue that it is an essential way to express their national identity. But players and TV commentators have called for it be banned at the World Cup.

Liverpool's Xabi Alonso, playing for Spain in the current tournament, said: "They make a terrible noise and it's not a good idea to have them on sale outside the grounds. Here's a piece of advice for Fifa [football's world governing body,] - try to ban them."

The South African Association of Audiology has warned that vuvuzelas can damage hearing.

But supporters are sticking to their horns. Chris Massah Malawai, 23, watching the national team beat New Zealand, said: "This is our voice. We sing through it. It makes me feel the game."

When asked, FIFA President Sepp Blatter (that's his real name), replied:

"I always said that when we go to South Africa, it is Africa. It's not western Europe. It's noisy, it's energy, rhythm, music, dance, drums. This is Africa. We have to adapt a little."

I'll watch the World Cup with my sound muted. Enough said.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In a Blink

Recently I took a writing class with Jami Bernard and "met" Stacy Stenberg Jensen. Stacy is writing a fabulous memoir about coping after her husband became paralyzed. While perusing facebook I discovered her blog and recommend it for anyone needing cheering up during tough times, or who simply likes to read good writing.

Here is Stacy's story in her own words:

As a journalist, I have always shared the stories of people in my community. Today, I'm am writing a book In a Blink, about the challenges my late husband Jimmy and I faced following a one in a million stroke. We faced physical, emotional and financial struggles. In a Blink is our story, but many can relate to the challenges of being a caregiver and a spouse.

I write about caregiving issues at and I help my dog Eddie write about life, political and four-legged issues at I work as a freelance writer.

My husband Andy and I have been exploring Texas and its state parks since we moved to the Border Town of Del Rio, Texas. We enjoy travel and adventure. We share our home with our furry friends, who offer an assortment of adventures.

Stacy S. Jensen

Stacy has provided me with encouragement and support as I attempt to complete my own memoir. Check her out at Stacy Writes.

If you have a facebook account, please look me up. New friends will be treasured as such.

Best wishes,
Frank Niro

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Master Handicapper and Grandmaster Friend

Richard Ramaskwich shown here holding twelve $100 bills after an afternoon at the races in Wheeling, WV, during the summer of 1989.

My "Frannie the Racing Greyhound" blog is dedicated to my late friend, Richard "Bomber" Ramaskwich. My decision to start talking about him was stimulated by a poster named BarbaroFan on the greyhound handicapping forum sponsored by greybase known as H.A.W.G. I'll let the exchange of posts introduce our hero...

My first post to BarboroFan included this note about Richard: "One of my friends from Milford recently passed away. He and I visited dog tracks all over the U.S. between 1970 and 2000. I miss him very much. This blog will allow me to mine some of the memories."

Barbaro Fan wrote back: "I think I knew Richard Ramaskwich through a friend in the Sports Memorabilia business - if I remember he was a baseball card collector and one heck of a good tenpin bowler! Saw him frequently at Rayham and Lincoln. When I saw the name on the blog it rang a bell...God Bless Richard!"

My response: "You aren't referring to Billy Hedin by any chance, are you? When Billy was in high school, Richard and I stopped by his house in Marlboro to trade baseball cards. We saw him many times at BBC shows after that.

Yes, he was a fantastic bowler, as consistent on the lanes as anyone I ever met. We bowled in many leagues and tournaments together over the years. We also frequented Raynham and Lincoln (and quite a number of other puppy venues as well).

One time Richard and I bowled together in Cincinnati (Hoinke Classic), but he was so intent on getting to Tri-State Greyhound Park in West Virginia that he set a land speed record betweeen southern Ohio and Wheeling so that we could bet the afternoon double.

Richard taught me the golden, silver and bronze rules of gambling. As a result, I owe him thousands of dollars that I might have otherwise lost.

Golden Rule: Never bet money that you can't afford to lose.

Silver Rule: Gambling and alcohol do not mix.

Bronze Rule: Don't bet every race.

Thanks for the validation and, if you see Billy, tell him I hope he is well."

Barbaro Fan: "Yes I am refering to Billy Hedin, Baseball Card collector and Show promoter, and a friend of mine since High School. I was talking to him today on the phone in fact. He's been married since 1995 and lives in nearby Framingham.

If you were with Rich at the track and saw Billy, chances are that I was the other guy that was with him. I used to call Rich "PBA" out of respect to his tremendous bowling talent.

I'm laughing at that story about going to Tri-State, Rich could get excited at times about going bowling or at the track!

Feel free to use my comments on the blog...

Small world, isn't it!!!"

Richard Ramaskwich bowling at the Hoinke Classic in Cincinnati, OH, 1989

There are so many stories to tell. I'll start by saying that we met in September 1955, on the first day of second grade, and became the closest of buddies for a very long time. I have three special memories that I will share in brief and then I will leave the details and other excursions for another time.

(1) On Father's Day 1958, Richard's father was planning to take him to the Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park vs. the Detroit Tigers. At that time it wasn't necessary to purchase tickets in advance. Richard insisted that his father bring me too. It turned out to be a game for the ages as Jim Bunning pitched a no-hitter. I was 9 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday.

(2) In 1967, we attended game #2 of the World Series together. The Red Sox played the St. Louis Cardinals. Jim Lonborg pitched a 2-hitter. We were in our late teens, but we had waited our entire lives to see the Sox in the Series.

(3) We co-invested in shares of a couple of racing greyhounds. We drove to Hinsdale, NH, to see one of them called Mount Budapet break her maiden. She is the #6 dog in the photo below. It was pretty exciting to be on the "owner" side of the game for a fleeting moment. And it was pretty funny when our royalty checks came. We each got $1.80 for our share of the purse after expenses!

We got our first taste of greyhound "ownership" by purchasing shares in Mount Budapet, shown here(#6)just before winning her maiden race at Hinsdale, NH.

For more, go here.

Note: As the sixth anniversary of Richard's death approches (he passed away on June 27, 2003), I am moving this post over here to my main blog. I still miss you, old friend.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wiz Dog

Having trouble potty training your dog?

Here's a new (click here) approach.

And here's another...
doggy litter

I would think that it this approach could be successful, we would have heard about it a long time ago.

Now, only a dog would exercise on its own.

For the doggie lovers among my friends. Originally posted in my "Frannie the Racing Greyhound" blog.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Memories of my Hospital Stay

Quote of the day: “She pinned Miss Eliskas’ hand to your ass.”
“That’s…Not…Correct,” the instructor said in a professional voice while gritting her teeth.
“Now then, let’s try that again.”
I will use this space to share some of the memories from my hospital stay that lasted from December 22, 1967 to January 20, 1970.

Beep. Beep. Beep. That’s what I heard as I awoke in my new surroundings. It wasn’t the beep of an alarm clock. There seemed to be shopping carts going by, followed by other kinds of beeps. And people moaning. The room was dimly lit, like the after hour corridors of elementary school. I couldn’t change positions and every move caused a sharp pain below my waist. The odor was unlike anything I experienced before. It smelled as if someone poured rubbing alcohol into the kitty’s litter box.

A female voice startled me. “Welcome back to the world, young man. Happy New Year.” I could see the name Hannah on the plastic tag pinned to her white uniform. “I’m your nurse. They call me the rear admiral,” she said. “If you don’t know why, you’ll soon find out.”
“Where am I?”
“In Hartford Hospital. You were brought here ten days ago, just before Christmas. This is the Intensive Care Unit,” she said.
There were strings hanging from a bar – a Zimmer frame she called it – attached to my legs. My rear end was literally in a sling.
“You have three fractures of your pelvis,” Hannah said. “We’re going to have fun putting you on a bed pan.”
“Are my legs OK?”
“I better let your doctor discuss that with you. I’ll call him now. Dr. Raycroft asked us to let him know as soon as you woke up.”

A few hours later a kind-looking man in his late thirties walked into my room. Actually it was more like a cubicle. Three of the walls were made of glass that started a few feet above the floor and went to the ceiling. The man wore black thick-rimmed glasses and a white coat with his name embroidered on the pocket. Hannah stood behind holding a clipboard.

“I’m the person who put you back together after they scraped you out of the ditch. You’re a very lucky boy,” he said.
“Lucky?” I said. “I’m in a hospital, tied to this bed. How is that lucky?”
“If Dr. Rooney hadn’t been pulling into his driveway a moment after you were struck by that car, you would have bled to death on the side of the road. He took his shirt off and tore it into strips for tourniquets before he reached you”
“The last thing I saw was my legs curled under me like pretzels,” I said. “I don’t recall any doctor or tourniquets.”
“We gave you four pints of blood and, after nine hours of surgery, we’re not nearly done yet. At least you don’t have any injuries above you waist that we need to worry about.”

He put me back together, Dr. John Raycroft

“Will I be able to run again?” I asked.
“It’s hard to tell. First we have to see if we can get rid of the infection and save your legs. I wouldn’t count on breaking any world records. Maybe you will discover some new dreams,” he said. “I’ll be back tomorrow to see how you’re doing.”
“Go ahead and transfer him to the orthopedic unit,” he told Hannah.
“Say thank you to Dr. Rooney for me, will you?” I said.
“I already have,” he replied.
“Your friend Rick Bayko will be happy to hear that you are being transferred,” Hannah said. “He has been calling every day. We told him that only family could visit you.”
“Was my family here?”
“Your Uncle Johnny came the first night. Nobody else.”

My first visitors were three Connecticut runners. Charlie Dyson was the president of the Hartford Track Club. Amby Burfoot, who lived 15 miles down the road on the campus of Wesleyan University, won the Philadelphia Marathon where I finished 12th. Amby considered me a maniac because I ran three 26-mile marathons in one week, but he appreciated my dedication to running. In that sense, we were kindred spirits. Jim Coucill, who I hadn’t met previously, walked with a cane. He was struck by a car while running in 1965. Charlie and Amby felt that Jim could give me some encouragement.
“We brought you some back issues of Track & Field News,” Charlie said. “A little light reading to keep your mind occupied.”

Rick Bayko made the three hour trip from Newburyport and stopped in Milford to pick up my mother. Rick was clearly anxious when he entered the room. “Les Balcom and Fred Brown have decided to reserve number #1 from each of the weekly club races for you,” he said as he gave me a handful of numbers with my name written on them.
“Where are the pins?” I asked.
“What, are you gonna pin them to the hair on your chest?” he answered.
It was the first time I laughed out loud in the hospital. For a few seconds, it made everything hurt more. But I was glad to see Rick.

“I’ve got bad news,” he said. “I’ve been drafted.”
“What do you mean, drafted?”
“I’m going into the army. I got my draft notice. I’ll be going to Viet Nam for sure and probably come home in a box.”
“No, you can’t,” I said. “You have to run for both of us.” I gave him the blood stained sweatshirt I was wearing the day of my accident.

All the while my mom sat in a chair next to my bed somberly peering out the window. Obviously having difficulty dealing with the situation, she spoke only a few words. I didn’t know what to say either, except, “Mom, it hurts a lot.” She kissed my forehead on the way out and said, “I love you. Come home soon.”

The 8th floor orthopedics unit was well lit with a lot more activity than the intensive care area. Most of the rooms had four beds with windows overlooking the city. My roommates, like me, were all in traction. Robbie Glass was in the bed between me and the window. A car forced him and his motorcycle off Interstate 91 and took off. Fortunately a state trooper was a quarter mile behind and witnessed the incident. He was able to call for help and apprehend the jerks that caused Robbie to break both legs. The 17-year-old son of an architect, Robbie was from a well-to-do family. It was easy tell by the way he spoke and the way his parents dressed.

Across from Robbie was Ron, who got a flat tire on New Year’s eve. When he opened his trunk to remove the spare tire, another car rear-ended him, trapping his legs between the two cars. Ron was 25 and married to the world’s best baker of toll house cookies.

Next to Ron and across from me was Jeff. He was admitted from the emergency room the same day I transferred from ICU. Jeff was a couple years older than the rest of us and, initially, was heavily medicated and not very alert. His Harley Davidson hit a patch of black ice and spun out, giving him an unexpected vacation at Hartford Hospital.

The traction apparatus consisted of long bars about six feet above the floor that extended from the backboard to the foot of the bed. Attached was a trapeze so that I could pull myself up while the nurses made the bed. In addition, there were a variety of poles, side bars, pulleys and strings. Robbie discovered that the diameter of the bars was the correct size for a roll of toilet paper, so he hung a roll above his head. That made it easier to maneuver on the bedpan. Eventually we all followed his example.

It didn’t take long for us to figure out that if we arranged it so we were all due our pain medications around the same time we would get better service. Once in awhile we yelled loudly for the nurses simultaneously but, usually, that wasn’t necessary. Most often it was sufficient for all four of us to press our call buttons. It was a good system for us and efficient for the staff. But it also meant we were all high on narcotics at the same time.

The housekeeper assigned to our ward was an elderly Italian lady named Philomena. She was particularly fond of me because I was an Italian boy. She tried to talk to me in Italian. But I was honest and told her that I was only familiar with the swear words and, for some strange reason, the word for cucumber.

My special friend in the hospital, Philomena, the housekeeper

Philomena mopped the floors, dusted, emptied our trash buckets and took great pride in her work. She asked if there was anything special she could do for me. I requested a couple of extra rolls of toilet paper for each of us. That way, I argued, we wouldn’t have to bother the nurses for replacements.

The next dose of demerol came on schedule. Robbie, Ron, Jeff and I mounted a fresh roll of toilet paper on our traction bars. Robbie yelled “GO” and the race was on to see who could unravel the entire roll fastest. It was a tie between me and Ron, so we reloaded and decided to do it again as a team race: Ron and Jeff versus Robbie and me. Our team won and I retired undefeated in toilet paper races.

Philomena walked into the room and went hysterical. “Mamma Mia Madonna. What you boys do!” she cried. She ran down the hall to the nurses station mumbling to herself in Italian. She came back a few minutes later with Mrs. Hanson, the head nurse, at her side. Mrs. Hanson had the reputation befitting a drill sergeant. Usually we only saw her on the daily rounds with the interns and residents. We figured we were about to get a major scolding and, worse, maybe separated as roommates.

Mrs. Hanson sternly surveyed the piles of unrolled toilet paper on each of our beds. She wanted to be supportive of Philomena, but she couldn’t hold back the laughter. “I guess you boys are feeling better,” she said. She turned around and walked out, still laughing as she headed toward her desk.

After a half dozen more operations for skin grafting, to lengthen tendons and re-set bones, Dr. Raycroft brought up the inevitable. “We need your consent to amputate your left leg,” he said. “It’s been ten weeks and the x-rays don’t show any healing. I’m afraid that the infection may spread. We have to remove necrotic tissue and some pieces of bone, so it may be best to take the whole thing.”
“Go ahead and hack the damn thing off if it’ll get rid of this pain,” I said. “It’s not doing me any good the way it is now. Do whatever you think is best.”

On March 4th they wheeled me to the operating room for my amputation. When I woke up in the recovery room I was startled. Not only did my left leg hurt more than ever, I had a new pain in my right hip.

“A miracle happened,” Dr. Raycroft said. “When we took your leg out of the cast, we tried to manipulate the bones and found there was healing. I couldn’t make it budge. A few days ago there was no healing at all showing on the x-ray.

I took a piece of bone from your iliac crest and put it in your leg at the site of the wound. Then Dr. Babcock, the plastic surgeon, elevated a six by four inch flap from behind your right calf, still attached like the cover of a book, and connected it to your left shin to improve the flow of blood to the area. We’ll leave it that way for six to eight weeks. In the meantime you will have to get used to that full body cast you’ve got on. It’s a 1968 model, designed just for you.”
“Wow,” I said. “But it still hurts like crazy. Can you increase my demerol from 100 to 150 milligrams?”
“Sure,” he said. “Whatever you need.”

A week later, my dad showed up unannounced. He was accompanied by Dan Ruggerio, the owner of an ambulance company in my home town. He was carrying a suitcase.
“I hope that’s not more of your bogus hundred dollar bills,” I told him.
“No, it’s to pack your things. You are moving to Milford Hospital.”
“What are you talking about?” I said. “Nobody here mentioned anything about moving. This is my home now. These people are my family. You can’t make me leave.”
“It’s all set up. The doctors have signed you out. And I already paid Mr. Ruggerio the $300. You are coming with us, like it or not.”

The ambulance was not set up for a body cast and the 90-mile trip was bumpy. A crack developed around my left ankle and, when we arrived, the plaster under my heel was blood red.

The nursing staff at Milford Hospital was cheerful and they kept me on my megadose of demerol. My brother and sisters were able to visit. So did my school friends, including my best friend since second grade, Richard Ramaskwich. He came every day after work and we played “Racinie League Baseball”, a form of fantasy league using a standard deck of cards. My mother also visited daily and my Italian aunts brought lots of food. From that perspective, at least, the move was positive.

On the other hand, Milford Hospital did not have an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. BonTempo was a general practitioner and had been our family physician since I was an infant. He worked with my father on an unwritten bartering arrangement. As far as I know, Dr. BonTempo never charged my father for treating our family and my dad never charged him for plumbing services. They both made house calls, so it worked out fine. Until now.

The red stain around my left ankle got bigger and bigger. My doctor removed the cast around my ankle and put it in a metal brace. It was excruciatingly painful. I made so much commotion that they moved me to a private room and shut the door. My father came in a found me screaming and in tears.

“Isn’t there something you can do to put him out of his misery,” he asked Dr. BonTempo. “If you don’t, I’ll get a gun and take care of it myself. I brought him into this world and I can take him out.”

The staff at the hospital took my father seriously and got a restraining order to keep him a way. As a result, my mom and dad had an argument which led to their separation. Mom didn’t drive and had hardly worked a day in her adult life, only recently beginning to commute to work with friends at Telechron in Ashland.. I was entering my fifth month in the hospital with no end in sight. At the same time, my grandmother Flaherty entered a nursing home with Parkinson’s disease. So my mother and my brother and sisters moved into my grandmother’s house.

“We can’t do anything more for you,” the doctor said. “We are sending you back to Hartford Hospital.”

The third Monday of each April is a holiday in Massachusetts. Called Patriot’s Day to commemorate the midnight ride of Paul Revere (“On the 18th of April in ’75, nary a man is still alive…”), it is the day of the annual Boston Marathon. Six months earlier, Tom Derderian, Rick Bayko and I were comparing notes on our training regimen for the 1968 race. Now Tom was in his dormitory in Amherst studying for final exams, I was about to embark from Milford to Connecticut in a body cast, and Rick was at basic training jogging while wearing combat boots in Fort Dix NJ.

Dan Ruggerio arrived with a stretcher on Patriot’s Day morning. This time the ambulance was set up better for my body cast. He was alone. There was no sign of my father. The forecast was for bright sunshine and temperatures in the high eighties. It was already blistering hot when the hospital staff slid me into the back of my transport. My first thought was about how hot it must be for the runners.

“Does this thing have a radio?” I asked.
“It’s either that or air conditioning,” Dan replied. “I can’t run both at the same time.”
“I’ll take the radio. Turn on the live coverage of the marathon please. You can put the air on during commercials if you want. But don’t open the windows; I want to be able to hear.”

Despite my partially dismantled cast and six week ordeal in Milford Hospital, the ride back didn’t feel as bumpy. Excited to be returning to my friends in Hartford, I wanted to see Dr. Raycroft. The marathon coverage blaring in the background brought me back to a place I loved.

The lead group through the halfway mark in Wellesley included Johnny Kelley the younger, marine Bill Clark, Bob Deines from Occidental College and a half dozen others. Among them was Ambrose J. Burfoot. Three Mexicans, the pre-race favorites, raced a short distance behind the pack in order to conserve energy in the heat.

Burfoot liked running in the warm weather and perceived the conditions as being to his benefit. The pace was too slow, he thought, so he threw in a surge intended to drop a few runners. To his surprise, he dropped everyone except Clark, who ran in Amby’s shadow to shield himself from the sun. On paper, Clark had the fastest leg speed, and was a clear favorite in a close finish.

Amby pushed as hard as he could up the Newton hills but his shadow remained. Once past Boston College, there were five miles to go and no more hills. Clark figured he would coast down the hills and out-sprint Amby to the line. The race was his for the taking.

Jock Semple came by on the press bus and shouted, “Give it hell on the downhill, Amby!” Suddenly, Clark’s thighs cramped up as Amby picked up the pace. “The shadow is starting to fade,” the radio reported.

The ambulance took the ramp into downtown Hartford. “Can you stop at Dunkin’ Donuts?” I asked. “I need a coffee fix. Then maybe you can drive around the block a few times so I can hear the end of the race.”

Dan honored my request and pulled the ambulance through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru. “How do you take it?” he asked looking back. “Actually, I’d prefer ice coffee with two creams and two sugars.” I could see the look on the clerk’s face out of the corner of my eye. It was as if she had seen a flying saucer.

The dense crowd of spectators made it impossible for the reporters or Amby to tell if anyone was gaining on him. His mouth was parched as he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. A side stitch caused him to slow down and bend over. He wilted in the heat of the final few miles. But so did everyone else.

As the ambulance approached the portal at Hartford Hospital, with its sirens blaring and back-up beeps signaling our arrival, I could hear the announcer, Gary Lapierre, shouting: “Amby wins. Amby wins. Amby Burfoot is the first American winner of the Boston Marathon in 11 years.”

* * *
{some scenes – too emotional to deal with yet – intentionally skipped here…advance ahead many months}
* * *

The Hartford Hospital School of Nursing, Class of ’69, dedicated their yearbook to me. All 136 members of the class took care of me at some point during their training. For several months I was the guinea pig for teaching the students how to administer medications. At least half the class gave their first shot in my buttocks.

A "shot in the arm" from one of the Hartford Hospital student nurses

One day Miss Eliskas, the nursing instructor, was demonstrating the appropriate method on my backside. “You find the upper left hand quadrant and insert the needle like this. It’s just like poking an orange,” she told her attentive audience. “Ok, Diana, now you try. Frank is the our most patient patient and won’t mind it a bit. In fact, he seems to like the attention.”

“Come on, Diana, we don’t have all day,” she said. “Look. Just stick it right here.” I could feel her spread the palm of her hand across my behind.

There was a collective gasp, followed by complete silence. I looked around the room to make eye contact with whoever would look back. Linda Bair, one of the student nurses that visited me regularly, pointed to the webbing between her thumb and forefinger and mouthed the words, “she pinned Miss Eliskas’ hand to your ass.”
“That’s…Not…Correct,” the instructor said in a professional voice while gritting her teeth. “Now then, let’s try that again.”

Later, when I was deemed sociable again, I welcomed a new roommate whose name name was Sam. He fell off a ladder and broke his back. The doctors placed him in a Stryker frame with metal tongs inserted into his skull. The tongs were connected to a bag of weights. Due to the instability of bones around his spine, he had to lay flat or risk permanent paralysis.

The woman he lived with, Priscilla, was at his side six hours a day. She would have stayed longer but hospital rules prevented “non-relatives” from staying after visiting hours. Priscilla was a pleasant lady of retirement age. One evening, after she left, Sam pressed his nurse call button. A long time went by with no response, so I slid into my wheelchair and held the bent straw to his lips while he took a sip of water.

“Priscilla and I have been together 47 years,” he said. “I was 20 when we met and she was 19. We became engaged after I left the service 38 years ago. But it was during the depression, so we decided to wait until I could land a decent job. Then my mom became ill. We decided to wait a while longer.”
“When did you finally marry?” I asked.

“We never did,” he answered. “At least not yet. My mother outsmarted us; she hung on until she was 95. By then it was too late to have children. And there seemed to be no reason to get married. We always got along quite well, so why change things?”

Now in late 1969, with his injury, things had indeed changed. A ceremony in the doctor’s conference room down the hall was hastily planned. The bride wore a beige dress and the groom was in his hospital johnny, flat on a gurney, covered from the waist down by a festive green and white blanket. It was the first time I was asked to be someone’s best man.

I proudly sat straight up in my wheelchair, to Sam’s immediate left, the rings resting on a small pillow on my lap. One of the nurses played the guitar and sang “The Wedding Song,” by Paul Stookey. Father J. performed the ceremony and, as he pronounced them man and wife, a joyful sadness hung in the air.

Father J. came back to visit a few days later. Sam was moved to a private room where they added a roll-away bed so that Priscilla could visit 24 hours. I had other company, so Father J. lingered for an uncomfortably long time, then prayed with me and left. Later I couldn’t find my glasses and thought the food service people had removed them with my lunch tray. I caused quite a fuss, but the hospital staff couldn’t find them. One of the administrators apologized and offered to buy me a new pair.

After visiting hours ended, Father J. returned and had my glasses in his hand.
“I think these are yours,” he said. “They look like mine and I picked them up by accident.”
“I’m just relieved that you found them,” I said. As he handed me the glasses, he leaned over and I gave him a hug.
“Do you know what it’s like to be gay?” he asked.
“No, and I don’t expect that I will ever find out..."

After that, Father J. never came back.
More to come...this is a chapter in my book that I have had great difficulty completing...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Great Light

Quote of the day: “I always wanted to be married to someone who was home every night in for dinner,” she said. She wanted someone like her father. Instead, I was like my own father. Absent. Clueless. - Frank Niro
The Great Light

I wasn’t the first to discover the concept. And the partners at Ernst & Ernst didn’t invent it. It was a universal truth pointed out as far back as 1897 by humorist George Ade in “The Fable of the Subordinate Who Saw a Great Light”. But the notion was clear to all involved: bust your ass for as long as possible and you might become part owner of the firm. No matter that one in fifty new employees, maybe less, made it that far. It didn’t even matter that my true aspirations where oriented toward the health care field. I still busted my tail. I did it with great sacrifice and significant risk. But I didn’t know it.

Thirty-One consecutive Saturdays went by without being home. Seventeen Sundays in a row perished the same way. Weeknights were just that, nights. I arrived home at nine o’clock, maybe ten. I was doing it for them, I told myself. It was my responsibility as bread winner to advance as far and as fast as I could professionally, wasn’t it? I went from being totally disabled and dependent on my wife for everything, to an insensitive, self-absorbed, incurable workaholic.

It’s no wonder Chris decided she couldn’t take it any more by the time Richard was a year old. Who could blame her? “I always wanted to be married to someone who was home every night in for dinner,” she said. She wanted someone like her father. Instead, I was like my own father. Absent. Clueless.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Now that I am working fevorishly on my own memoir, I am collecting the memoirs of others who have overlapping stories. Here's one by Michael J. Angovino entitled The Bookmaker.

Click here to read a review.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jane Olivor Updates

There is a new youtube video on Jane. This time it's Colors of the Wind. Watch it here.

Chariots of Fire

The Last Time I Felt Like This (Jane Olivor & Johnny Mathis)

I Believe

Annie's Song

L'Important C'est La Rose

Vincent (you may want to pause it at the beginning and give it time to load before playing)

Stay the Night

The Last Time I felt Like This

Thursday, May 7, 2009

La Vie en Rose

When I was a child, my mother listened to Edith Piaf music all day long (so it seemed). When I found this web site it gave me goosebumps...

Go here: La Vie En Rose

Make sure your computer's sound is not muted.


Friday, May 1, 2009

US & Canadian Health Care

It's been a while since the last time someone asked me a health care question. This one came today from a Canadian author on I'll share my answer:

Q. As an expert, what do you think about the differences in health care between the two countries, United States and Canada?

A. Loaded question.

Here's a loaded answer:

The problem with Americans is they think death is an option. In other words, way too much money is spent on heroic measures during the final months, weeks, and days of life (as compared to Canada). Americans are more litiginous, meaning that the lawsuits and malpractice insurance expenses drive up the costs significantly. Same for demographics (our baby boomers are aging), and for drugs, technology, et. al.

On the other hand Canada (like UK), where there is national health insurance, translates to rationing. People die waiting for procedures that are readily available in the US. The latest technological innovations are not available in every city, like the US.

Quality, measured objectively, is better in the US, which is why so many Candians who can afford it come to the US for their care.

It's a much more complicated subject than what I just described above, but those are the highlights in general terms. Even in the US, there is great variability in regions of the country and based on socio-economic factors.

To summarize, using the five canons of health care as a basis for comparison:

Availability -More health care resources per capita are available in the US.
Accessibility - Waiting times are less in the US.
Continuity - The system is more coordinated in Canada.
Quality - For most procedures, outcomes are better in the US.
Cost - Health care services are more affordable in Canada, and I'm not talking just about the patient share; the overall cost is lower for the reasons mentioned above.

I have been studying this topic for more than 40 years, have written about it, have been on radio talk shows answering questions about it, and have taught about it at the university level.

Hope this answers your question. I can give a longer version if you want.

Followup 11/27/08:

Barbara from South Carolina responded -- "Boy, that's the truth. I'm currently in nursing school and the numbers we were told were (1) 1/3 of total US healthcare costs are spent on people who are dead within a month, and (2) 1/2 of total US healthcare costs are spent on people who are dead within six months...

(Regarding quality), we should also mention that life expectancy is longer in Canada than in the US. Canada ranks 8th in average life expectancy (81.16 years) while the US ranks 46th (78.14)."


My reply:

Good point about the life expectancy, Barbara, but the difference has to do with lifestyle rather than the health care systems.

US citizens drive too fast for the traffic, have more stress, smoke more, drink more, exercise less and eat more junk food. In other words, Canadians generally take better care of their bodies.

Best wishes,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Banana Hammocks, yes or no?

I don't know why, but this struck me as funny. Thanks to John Farley of Brunswick, NJ for bringing it to my attention.

The Christmas gift for someone who has everything. Can't wait to get one for Delilah...

Warning: Don't Google this product with your search filter off; it has an altogether different design and use as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Playing for the hurricane victims



Greetings my friends,

For most of the past 30 years or so I have spent Labor Day weekend playing in chess tournaments. Both the New England Open Championship and New York State Championship have traditionally been held this weekend. Along the way I have been fortunate to occasionally win my section in each of those great tourneys. I have always looked forward to playing chess and renewing friendships in one or the other of these events. But this year I decided to do something different!

I moved to Cambridge NY from Massachusetts this past May in order to be closer to a couple of the volunteer projects that I am working on. The move pulled me further away from Foxwoods but brought me closer to Turning Stone Casino in upstate NY. Like Foxwoods, Turning Stone has modest buy-in poker tournaments nearly every day of the week. Unlike Foxwoods, it is not necessary to get there three or four hours in advance to register for a seat. I consider this to be a major attraction.

Meanwhile, during August I enrolled in thehazyone's 4-week mentoring program on PSO. I feel the program benefitted me greatly and I wasted no time planning a trip where I could test out my new bag of tricks in live play. So a few days ago, I headed out on the 2 1/2 hour drive from my new home to my new casino.

On the night I arrived I stayed in the Hotel Utica in order to have wireless Internet access. I didn't want to lose contact with PSO. I am glad I made that choice because I noticed a forum post by partaker (Dave) concerning help for the hurricane victims. Like everyone else I have been feeling powerless to have any kind of meaningful impact on the recovery process. We exchanged
private e-mails and agreed to meet yesterday at Turning Stone.

I had dinner last night with Dave and his lovely wife, Valerie. They are a delightful couple blessed with tons of energy and hearts filled with compassion. All three of us have spent most of our professional careers in the health care service industry. That gave us some common ground for discussion. Together, we came up with a plan that could potentially be of benefit to PSO-member casino workers (or their friends) who are out of a job (at least temporarily).

Essentially we will provide a network of free transportation (to and from the airport, job interviews, etc.), free places to stay, and free meals for those individuals who fly into Syracuse or Albany to interview at Turning Stone or the other nearby casinos (if necessary, even as far away as Connecticut and New Jersey). The plan is still a work in process. More details of this will be available elsewhere in the PSO forums, or you can contact partaker or ChessSafari by private message. We will also keep Tina (MrsPokerPages) and Jane (NewJane) informed so that they can better coordinate PSO's collective efforts. Additional suggestions, of course, are welcome and will be appreciated.

As you might imagine, our dinner conversion eventually switched to poker. We agreed to play in this morning's 11 am $100+$20 buy-in NLHE tourney and tomorrow's (Labor Day) $50+$10 buy-in Limit HE event. We discussed strategy and poker theory with the focal point being Dan Harrington's recent two volume work on tournament hold'em. In one of those magic moments where two people open their mouths simultaneously to say almost the exact same words, we agreed that any prize money that we each might win will be sent to PSO to be distributed to the hurricane victims together with the proceeds of the special tournament. It was the obvious thing to do given the nature of our discussions.

I admit that the thought occurred to me that it might be better to send in the entry fees and skip the tournaments. I reconciled that particular personal dilemma by deciding to play in the $100 max no-limit cash game for a few hours prior to the start of today's tournament. I decided that I would send any winnings from that game to PSO. This allowed me to play in the tournaments with a clear conscience.

I am dividing this into multiple parts (probably six) for a couple of reasons...but mostly so that I don't get bumped off the wireless Internet and lose what I have typed so far. Also, the excitement took place over the course of two days. In other words, it is more than a mouthful. Hopefully, you will enjoy the journey and the outcome as much as we did.

Part II - The Cash Game

My experiences with NLHE cash games before this week have been rather dismal. Prior to two days ago, I have never left any NLHE cash game with chips... I busted out every time . I have tried my luck in Connecticut, New Jersey, Mississippi and New York. Each time I have chalked it up to 'tuition in life'.

When I visited Turning Stone in May for the PSO Invitational I was feeling confident as a result of my finish in the prize money...over-confident as I soon realized. The first mistake I made was sitting down at the NL cash game late in the day when several players at the table had been able to build up formidable chip stacks. In the first hand that I played (AQ) I hit top pair with top kicker on the flop. As first to act I tossed in a half pot bet. The only other player who called my pre-flop raise immediately pushed all-in. "He hit a set", I thought to myself. "Nice hand," I said. So I folded (my second mistake). He turned over his 7-5 offsuit hole cards while everyone at the table but me laughed. After that I climbed into a defensive shell (my third mistake) and eventually lost my entire buy-in without seeing another showdown until the last one. I justifiably felt outclassed. It was not a pleasant feeling.

Subsequently Aaron and other PSO members have helped me appreciate the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between NL tournaments and cash games. I was determined on this visit to leave the NL cash game table with chips!

On the first day here this week I was able to hold my own by playing super-tight. I played only pairs 77 and above, AK and AQ. I threw all my blinds away unless they married the flop. I managed to hit a few sets and accomplished my first objective: I left the table with chips...more than I started with. But it was a pretty boring grind.

This morning I arrived at the cash game table just as they were opening it up for play. Everyone started with the same $100 max buy-in so at least it was a level playing field. My strategy was to open up my play more and play my 'usual' game while giving special consideration to the following five (sometimes conflicting) factors:

1. I would not chase with nemesis
2. I would not be led allin when the board pairs w/o a full house (my most common tournament bust-out scenario)
3. I would not pursue a flop when three suited cards hit the board if there is any kind of action
4. I would not be bullied. In other words: I would be aggressive, not timid
5. I would steal some pots when the situation seemed right

Overall, I was determined to win some money for the hurricane victims. I kept that in the front of my mind.

It didn't take very long for reality to set in. I was dealt AQ in the big blind. UTG+1 raised the $2BB to $12. Everyone folded to me. I called, making the pot $25. The flop was K-8-T rainbow. I bet $12 and he raised to $30. I called (implied odds, I reasoned). Now the pot was $85.

The turn was nice...a Jack, giving me the nut straight. I decided to check raise. I checked and he....checked behind me. Damn...I gave him a free card. Now the self-doubt started rolling back in. But the nuts is the nuts! The river was my worst nightmare, an eight. So now we had a board of K-8-T-J-8.

I bet $35 and he raised me all in. Three fourths of my stack was gone in that one hand. Remembering my own caution about the paired board, I said "I fold", but turned over my nut straight. The rest of the table looked at me like I was an idiot....until my opponent did us all a favor by turning over his pocket kings. Whew...still some chips left.

A few hands later I got pocket aces in middle position. Two EP players limped so I moved all in. They both called and I tripled up. A half dozen hands later came the hand that would define my session. I was dealt 53s in late position. When I read Sklansky's The Theory of Poker I adopted a single randomized (so to speak) pre-flop hand that I have almost always thereafter played (and acted) as though I was holding pocket aces. It is random in the sense that I never know when it might come up. Its primary purpose is deception. Its secondary purpose is an opportunity for advertising. Its tertiary purpose is an occasional steal. Often it is an investment that goes without any short term reward. But I am convinced that my game is better because of this little wrinkle.

So, in my 'usual' game, I play this unique hand in a unique way. My challenge today was to see if I had the courage to do it here. UTG and two middle position players limped in. I raised 5xBB to make it $12 to go. The blinds folded and UTG re-raised to $24. The other limpers folded and I made it obvious that I was counting the other player's stack. I had him covered...only slightly....but I could put him all in. He knew that I knew that. I did what I would have done with aces: I re-raised 1.5 the amount he brought it to, making it $60 to go. He tried to stare me down but I looked around the room as though I was more interested in finding a hot cup of coffee. Finally he folded with a sigh. I showed my 53.

After that, I got more respect than I can ever remember. Each time I raised pre-flop, everyone folded...for about an hour. Then I was dealt pocket tens on the button. A limper and a raiser came in ahead of me. I flat called the raise, hoping for some action for a change. The initial limper folded so we were heads up. The flop was T-8-5. He checked. I bet half pot. He called. The turn was a 4. He checked. Once again I bet half pot with my set. He called again. The river brought another 5. He checked and I moved all in. He called and everyone saw my full house. For the rest of the session, I won every time I threw in a bet.

Finally it came time for the tournament to start. I cashed out with a $250 profit. I folded five fifty dollar bills and stuck them in my wallet behind a photo of my daughters. I was pleased with the knowledge that I had something set aside for the hurricane victims. No matter what happens in the tournaments, the trip will not be a total failure!

BTW, self-centered person that I am, I forgot to mention that Dave went home after dinner last night and won the the PSOC NLHE tournament (against some really tough opposition)! He showed up this morning really psyched...

Next...Dave & I play in the NLHE tournament

Part III - ChessSafari and partaker accumulate chips before the break

Dave and I were pleased to find out that we were assigned to different starting tables. The 77 entrants were separated into 7 tables of 11 players. The total prize fund of $7,700 was spread among the top ten finishers with approximately $2,400 going to first place. Everyone at the final table gets at least their entry fee back. Starting chips were 2,500 plus a voluntary 300 add-on for anyone who wished put $5 in the dealers' tip box prior to the start of the event. 75 players took advantage of the add on so we began with 215,000 chips in play. Initial blinds were $25/$50. Rounds were 15 mins. The only break was scheduled after Round VI ($300/$600). No antes until Round XI. Our first goal was to accumulate some chips and survive until the break. We wished each other good luck and sat down to play.

I started on the button with pp8. Everyone folded to me and I raised 2xBB to $150. Small blind folded and the big blind decided to defend. If this had been an Internet tourney I wouldn't have been involved in the first pot. There are just so many people who seem to want to double up right away or get out. I have no desire to be their first victim. But it was safe here. Or was it?

The flop came A-9-8. My opponent checked and I casually threw in a half pot bet. He called without hesitation. The turn was another 9. Once again my opponent checked and I bet half the pot. This time he started counting out his chips. I thought to myself, "Oh no, here we go. If he has a nine in the hole my set of eights are dead. Wait a minute, no they're not... I have a boat!"

So I started counting out my chips to mirror him. He paused; so did I. He started counting again and I did the same. Finally he released his hand saying, "I guess you probably have my kicker beat." I answered, "Yeah, I probably do," as I mucked my hand and stacked my chips. So much for the first hand of the tournament.

I looked over at Dave's table just in time to notice all of his chips in the middle. It was looking like this might be a short day for both of us. Nevertheless, we came to play. Dave had raised 2xBB in early position with JJ. A player to his left moved all in. Everyone folded. Dave looked at his opponent long enough to believe he was making a move on him. So he took a deep breath and called. The guy flipped over KQs. The board brought no harm and Dave had quickly doubled up.

A few hands later Dave was on the button with T9s. Multiple limpers, including him, entered the pot for the minimum. The flop was 789 with two of Dave's suit. As last to act he fired in a big raise which put an immediate halt to all the speculation. He took down a nice pot without a fight. On his next big blind, Dave was dealt 42 and checked his option after no one raised pre-flop. He flopped the nuts with A-3-5 giving his nice stack another boost. From there he was able to coast to the break. Mission accomplished.

My next confrontation didn't come until Level III ($75/$150). I was dealt KJ in the small blind. A couple of people called so I threw in the extra $75 to see the flop. The big blind (with about half as many chips as me) raised to $300. I called. The flop was K-J-4. I bet $450, he raised to nine, I raised all in, and he called. He showed A-K. I managed to avoid an ace on the turn and river.

I made a few FTA raises pre-flop and took down some blinds uncontested. Had pocket aces twice and they held up, each time with plenty of action. My chip stack climbed above 10,000 and I was feeling confident. Then my luck changed. Twice in ten minutes I flopped a set and lost to a flush. Then I got AK and a short stack behind me went all in. His AQ survived the initial domination when QQ6 hit the board. Yikes. Down to 5,100 chips with the blinds increasing to 300/600.

Luckily, last hand before the break I caught pocket queens. I showed strength with a big raise. I picked up the blinds and caught a couple of limpers with their pants down. So we head into the break...

36 players remaining
Average chip stack: 5,972
partaker: 8,800 chips (Q = 1.5; M = 7.3)
ChessSafari: 7,300 chips (Q - 1.2; M= 6.1)
where Q = ratio relative to average stack,
and M = no. of orbits each stack can make it around the table given the existing blinds & antes per orbit
next level: 400/800 (level VII)
We are both due for the BB next hand

Part IV - Conclusion to Day 1...lessons learned & suggestions

During the break Dave and I took a walk and had a quick bite to eat. It wasn't quick enough, however, as we arrived back in the playing room about one minute too late...just in time to witness our hole cards being folded and our big blinds converted to dead money. Since 800 chips was close to 10% of each of our stacks, this was a pretty dumb mistake. In my own case the hand was won by trips, so I'm confident that I would not have won the hand anyway. But still...that's Lesson 1!

The M's and Q's at the end of part III were listed to help make a point about this particular tournament structure in comparison to the valuable tournament practice available on PSO. There is no doubt in my mind or David's that all the play on PSO is tremendously helpful in preparation for live tournaments...with certain limitations. Today's final stages, we agreed, highlighted one of those limitations. That's Lesson 2.

For those who haven't yet had a chance to read Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie's work, specifically Volume II: The Endgame (which we HIGHLY recommend to anyone who is serious about live tournament poker), a little explanation about M's and Q's:

In the chapter about inflection points, Harrington discusses the Strong Force (M), the Weak Force (Q) and the Zone System. Please note the following, in Harrington's own exact words:

"Be advised that playing correctly around inflection points is the most important single skill of no-limit hold 'em tournaments."

My only reaction is : "Amen!". (That's Lesson 3)

M is the ratio of your stack to the current total of blinds and antes. It is the number or times (orbits) your stack can make it around the table at the given level. It is the number of rounds you can survive before being blinded off.

Q is the ratio of your stack to the average number of chips left in play for each remaining player.

Both are important, but M is more important than Q.

Knowing your own M, as well as the approximate value of M for each of the other stacks at your table is critically important.

There are five playing zones, according to Harrington, in a NLHE tournament. He defines them as follows:

Green Zone - you have M equal or greater than 20
Yellow Zone - M is between 10 and 20
Orange Zone - M is between 6 and 10
Red Zone - M is 1 to 5
Dead Zone - M less than 1

Loosely defined (the book gives much more detail, of course) these Zones mean:

Green - All styles are open to you
Yellow - You lose the ability to play conservative poker
Orange - You lose the ability to make certain moves
Red - You've lost any ability to make a bet other than all-in
Dead - You appear to be alive but you are not

Harrington adds, "Another way of looking at M is to see it as a measure of just how likely you are to get a better hand in a better situation, with a reasonable amount of money left."

So, believe it or not, these concepts were the entire focus of our 31 minute lunch period discussion. The reason was simple: The blind structure in our present tournament had already put the majority of remaining players in the Orange Zone and would soon move us and others at our tables into the Red Zone. It was both a factor to be aware of, and a catalyst for the final phase of the tournament becoming a virtual crap shoot.

Four tables left. Dave now has 7,600 chips; I have 5,700.

Now another challenge associated with this kind of tournament showed itself. There were 32 players left who were distributed 9-9-8 & 6. My table had the six players and the blinds hit us again before the other tables. I asked why and was told that we were the next table to break and would be combined with the other three tables as soon as two more players busted out. I had 23o in the big blind and QTs in the small blind. I saw both flops. They missed me completely...down to 4,100. Dave still had 7,600.

Two players went down and, finally, I was sent to a new table. But, omg, I'm right back in the big blind! The seats were chosen randomly...but there's got to be a better way. For the first six rounds I never had the blinds more than once. Now I got them three times in the same round. That shouldn't be allowed to happen. To make matters worse (psychologically, at least), the guy UTG at my old table, who was scheduled to be the BB, moved to the same new table as me...on the button. The swing caused by the luck of the draw seemed blatantly unfair. Oh well, I wasn't going to let it put me 'On Tilt'. But it sure eroded my ammunition for further action.

Meanwhile, Dave passed through another set of blinds without a hand and had 6,400 chips remaining. It seemed like someone was moving in on every hand at all three tables. On the button, he was dealt Big Slick. One limper, with more than 10,000 chips, called with QT. Dave raised to 2,400. The flop came K5Q. His opponent checked. Dave moved all in and mistakingly flashed his cards in the process. His agitated opponent called the TD who ruled it an obvious accident. No harm done. The turn was a Ten. The river was a rag and, as if struck by a bolt of lightning, Dave was eliminated in 28th place by his opponent's two pair.

I was left with 2,500 chips and the blinds had moved up to 500/1000. My M was now a measly 1.6. I had to take a stand as soon as I got anything ace, a king, two paints, a small pair; something with a shot at taking down a pot. I would prefer to be first to act so I have a chance to raise and pick up a set of blinds. One hand before my BB, I got my wish: pocket tens. I moved all in. One player went all in with 99 but only had 200 chips left. The small blind folded and the big blind called with cheese. The tens held up and I was breathing again with 5,700 chips...still in the Red Zone but not yet dead.

The problem with getting that hand UTG was that I immediately confronted the blinds again. A big stack went all in on my bb and I was dealt 97s in the sb and called. No help...back down to 3,700.

A few minutes later we were combined into two tables. As I walked by Dave he said, "you're in my old seat." I saw two open 2 and seat 8. Seat eight was UTG so I instinctively headed for the other. As soon as I sat down, another player was tapping on my shoulder. "You're in my seat." When I got to the right place, Dave was already in a chair behind with a big smile. "Damn, I'm in the blinds again," I said to no one in particular.

At this point the average chip stack was 10,750 which was not hopeless in relation to the absolute size of my stack, but frightening compared to the rapidly accelerating blinds. Uneventfully, the blinds went by, leaving me with 2,200. In theory, I had a little more than one orbit to live. Practically speaking, it was one more hand. Could I have hunkered down and survived into the money? Possibly, but probably not. In any event, I really wanted to play to win.

One by one, I counted down the hands (and the players) as we went around the table. 19 players left, then 18, then 17. UTG+3 my cards were 74. UTG+2 it's J6. The blinds went up to 600/1,200. UTG+1 it's 92s. "Any two suited cards...I'm desperate...should I do it? Nope, I'll be patient." Five players entered the pot. The flop was 229. I could've quintupled up! Expletive deleted.

UTG and I was dealt A5. "I'm all in." Both blinds called and there was 6,600 in the pot. Flop was 9-6-8. They both checked...the cooperation play was in effect. Turn was an ace...there's hope. King on the river. Big Blind bet and small blind folded. My opponent showed his A8 and my tournament was over...out in 16th place.

"Oh well," I muttered to Dave, "there's always tomorrow." "Yes there is," he said as he extended his hand. "You played great."
"So did you, buddy."

As for our suggestions:

1) We feel that there is no tournament structure at PSO that prepares us for the kind of accelerated structure like the one we played today. For example, in order to be comparable, the rounds would need to be 10 minutes (roughly one orbit each). To be specific, with 2,500 starting chips they would need to be:

Level / Blinds / Antes
I 25/50 ---
(for 5,000 starting chips, multiply blinds & antes by 2; for 10,000 chips multiply by 4, etc.)
II 50/100 ---
III 75/150 ---
IV 100/200 ---
V 200/400 ---
VI 300/600 ---
VII 400/800 ---
VIII 500/1000 ---
IX 600/1200 ---
X 800/1600 ---
XI 1,000/2,000 100
XII 1,500/3,000 200

We respectfully request that a similar structure be put in place on PSO to prepare for this kind of accelerated format. Thanks.

2) We recommend that every PSO member who can afford it dedicate a portion of whatever prize they win at their next live tournament to help the victims of hurricane Katrina.

Part V - The Limit tournament - in the money...finally!!

Once again, Dave and I were pleased to find out that we were assigned to different starting tables. The 78 entrants were separated into 8 tables. The total prize fund of $3,900 was spread among the top ten finishers with approximately $1,400 going to first place. Everyone at the final table gets at least their entry fee back. Starting chips were 2,500 plus a voluntary 300 add-on for anyone who wished put $5 in the dealers' tip box prior to the start of the event. 75 players took advantage of the add on so we began with 217,500 chips in play. Initial blinds were $25/$50. Rounds were 15 mins. There were two scheduled breaks...after Level IV ($100/$200) and Level X ($800/$1,600). No antes in Limit. Like yesterday, our first goal was to accumulate some chips and survive until the breaks. We wished each other good luck and sat down to play.

Despite the similar structures, there were some significant differences today. First of all, the lower entry fee seemed to bring (superficially at least) some weaker competition. Secondly, the relative importance of Harrington's Q vs M seemed inverted. In other words, chip stack compared to the average was paramount. Thirdly, the all in weapon was neutralized. Good cards that are played strongly should prevail. Fourthly, most players would still be playing after the first break. The bust outs became more frequent AFTER the break. Finally, there were many more showdowns and far fewer successful bluffs. Still, at certain tables, pre-flop raises were the norm rather than the exception. Unlike the ring games I have encountered, though, I rarely saw the action capped pre-flop.

My starting table was extraordinary. I decided to play tight while the blinds were low and observe the play of the others. I was in seat three. I recognized the player in seat 10 as a very strong player who I chopped prize money with at a previous final table in July. Seats six, seven, eight and nine were all women who I never met before. But their ages seemed to go up gradually from 50s to 60s to 70s to 80s. The woman in seat nine seemed to be right out of the movie, Driving Miss Daisy. I heard the dealer address her as Cookie. No doubt, Cookie (who I later learned is 83) has played before. In the first six hands, every single pot was pushed to someone in seats six through nine.

On hand #7, I was dealt 33 in the big blind. Cookie raised and the action came around to me. I said, "I'd like to play this hand but I'm not sure I can survive Murderer's Row down there." The guy in seat 5 (who I will refer to as 'Mr. Politically Incorrect') responded, "You mean Estrogen Alley don't you?"

"Actually, no, I'm afraid of them," I said. "Ah, don't worry, they're all hard of hearing," was his light-hearted retort. To which Cookie prompltly answered, "Do you have a death wish or something?". I never laughed so hard at a poker table in my entire life. In any case, I called...and lost after a short tussle to Cookie's pocket rockets. Seven in a row and counting...

Mr. Politically Incorrect leaned over to the woman in seat six and said, "You will protect me if she jumps out of her seat won't you?" "Sir," she replied, "if she comes after you, all the people in this room won't be able to protect you." Hearing the commotion, the tournament director came over to make sure things were under control. "Pete, get me out of this hellhole," spouted Cookie....her big stack looking pretty impressive.

In the background I could here a familiar voice. It was a player known as "Big Bird". I had played with him at Foxwoods. His style was familiar but nonetheless annoying. In the earlier rounds he is in every pot, constantly chattering and commenting on every move by each player at his table. Quite frequently he plays the lowest blind levels without looking at his cards, all the while raising the pot. But make no mistake, Big Bird knows how to play poker. At one point he responded to an opponent's jab with, "If anyone wants to chip in and give me third place money, I'll gladly leave." After person at every table got up and started taking a collection. To which Cookie responded, "He's a jackass. Let's play." Priceless! Only one problem though...he was at Dave's table.

Dave managed to stay out of Big Bird's way. Then he caught some hands. Thankfully, the cards started to come my way also. AJ suited was greeted by a JJ3 flop. AK actually got help for a change. My A5s flushed out on the river. 8,000 chips and counting... Cookie even called me a bully and folded her blind to my pre-flop raise. The first break came. 52 players left...Dave and I both had double the average chip stack. We took a walk, but skipped lunch. Predictably, we were the first ones back. Lesson learned.

We made a pact to play solid poker and stay out of trouble. One of us HAD to make the money...there was no alternative. An obstacle arrived when a big stack showed up at my table when we were down to 30 players. I referred to him as SAM for 'super aggressive maniac', but he also had a beard resembling Uncle Sam. He raised every single pot when he was first to act. I knew he couldn't have good cards every time, but I was helpless to stop him. SAM was on my left, and I didn't get cards to challenge his raises when he acted before me. Still, he did an ample job of thinning the field. That was to our benefit.

I stayed out of SAM's way until I was dealt 33 in the cutoff position. I was first to act and hadn't been in a pot for quite a while. I raised and SAM called in the big blind. The flop was 3AT. He checked and I bet. He called. It was so unusual for him to check and call that I immediately became suspicious. Next was an 8. He checked. I bet and he called again. Hmmm. The river was a T. No flushes or straights were possible. He checked and I contemplated whether I could get some chips from him with my full house. Then it occurred to me...this was one of those hands that I would only be called if Sam could beat me. And he was the type of player who might raise me with anything on a bluff. So I checked. He turned over AT for a higher full house. OMG, I dodged a bullet. Thank goodness this was Limit!

Every time I looked over at Dave's table he seemed to be in a pot. Most were small and he took them down without much of a struggle. Some pots got pretty big. But, as luck would have it, Dave had to settle for a split pot. So many of these happened that the other players started calling him 'Mr. chop-chop'. He just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Hey, I'm still in it." Great attitude! One monster pot at his table culminated with quads over two full houses. Fortunately for Dave, he wasn't in the hand.

I stayed ahead of the blinds with some small victories. But, the second break couldn't come too soon. Players were busting out, it seemed, in every hand. We needed a break. It was time to race off the black chips. This gave us a chance to evaluate our status:

partaker: 12,000 chips
ChessSafari: 7,000 chips
15 players remaining
average chip stack: 14,500
next round: Level XI ($1,000/$2,000)
prizes to the final ten finishers

Part VI - The Final Table

This break was only ten minutes. The remaining players assembled in the hallway to stretch and compare notes while the tournament director counted out the chips for the prize money. Sadly, none of the woman were left. Cookie and Mr. Politically Incorrect had busted out on the same hand in 16th and 17th places. As we opened the door to the corridor to start the break, we could hear Cookie's voice shouting, "Wait, I'll ride down on the elevator with you." It was pretty funny.

One player noticed my PSO shirt and came over. "Do you know Al Spath?" he said. "Well, yes I do," I responded. "I mean I know who he is, although I have never met him in person." The guy (whose name I didn't catch...sorry Al) who I'll refer to as Young Al said, "He taught me how to play stud and limit hold'em. He's a great guy." I answered, "Yes, I'm sure he is. I played in a few of his LHE bounty training tournaments. I can still see the chat box in my mind's eye when he said...'Chess, you've got to raise there as first to act. That way you will thin the field and pick up a few pots when you lead out after the flop'." "Yep, that's him", said Young Al as he flashed a knowing smile.

A player named George was wearing a sweatshirt from my old home town. I asked him if he was from Massachusetts and he nodded. It was a pretty friendly atmosphere...every bit as warm as the chess tournaments of my past. I was thinking how much I was enjoying my new playground in the poker world when the Casino Shift Supervisor, named Charlie, walked straight at me.

"Hey, I just wanted to thank you guys who are playing for the hurricane victims. We really appreciate it. Make sure if any of your friends come up to interview for jobs that you get the media relations people here involved. I'm sure they will be helpful. I'm not supposed to root for anyone but, today, I hope you guys finish first and second."

Then George interjected, "I'll contribute part of my prize if I win anything." "Me too," added Young Al. "We've gotta hang in there so at least one of us collects some money," I remarked to Dave. "Don't worry, I'm there" he replied. The doors opened and play resumed.

SAM picked up where he left off. He seemed on a mission to singlehandedly eliminate all the short stacks. He knocked out two players on the first hand, as one simultaneously went down on Dave's table. So now there were twelve players with 10 prizes, four of whom were committed to help the hurricane victims. I did the matter what happens now, we'll have at least $100 to send in from this tournament.

A long time seemed to pass before anyone else was knocked out. The tournament director made each table play hand for hand so that the blinds were equalized. Six players remained at each table. There was an open seat between me and SAM. Now he was two seats to my left. That made it even tougher to get in a hand. I had to act knowing that he would raise me no matter what. He stole both my blinds...I was dealt nothing to fight him with. Then I got 55 on the button. Blinds were 1,200/2,400. It was time to make my stand! He was in the big blind and everyone folded. I raised to 3,200 and all in. Small blind folded and Sam called, of course. He had AJ...a coin flip. The board came Q-6-9-4 and......a dagger ----> one of the three Jacks! Everyone else at my table booed. I put my head down on the felt. I wanted to cry. Just like that...out in 12th place. Dammit, that's poker...

Young Al got eliminated on the bubble a few hands later. It was time to redraw seats for the final table. Dave was in Seat 7 and I tucked a chair behind him, just as he did for me yesterday. He had 22,500 chips; the average stack was 21,750. Immediately, someone proposed a ten-way chop with SAM taking first prize and everyone else splitting the remainder. That would give each of the nine others $401 each. "I'll take that", said George. Dave nodded agreement. One guy in Seat 3 objected. He didn't have a particularly big stack and his friends who drove up from New Jersey with him had all been eliminated. They wanted him to take the deal so they could head home. Confidently he said. "Let's play awhile." No deal.

Guess who was eliminated in 10th place? "Happens every time!" noted Pete. He gave New Jersey Boy his $78 in chips as he and his grumbling buddies headed for the Thruway. Nine players left and Dave was dealt pocket sixes. SAM was on Dave's right and, as usual, entered the pot first for a raise. Dave re-raised and SAM capped the action. I held my breath. The flop was a sight for sore eyes: 64J, giving Dave a set. SAM bet and Dave raised all-in. SAM called. Finally, we all got to look at what kind of cards SAM had been bullying the table with. He flipped over K-3. The turn was an ace, the river a king. Dave stacked up the $38,000 pot while SAM mumbled, "I just can't push anyone off a pot anymore." duuhhhh! Way to go, Dave.

The blinds increased to 2,000/4,000 and a few players were forced to make desperation moves with their short stacks. Dave avoided the skirmishes as the field was whittled to five players. Pocket tens gave him a chance to get back in the fray. K97Q and the board looked very scary. SAM bet and Dave raised him on the turn with his pp and gut shot str8 draw. This time, SAM ran away. Dave mucked without showing. He turned around and I winked. A guy named Franco busted out in 5th place and, to our great surprise, placed three red chips on the felt next to Dave and said, "Give that to the hurricane victims for me."

Four players were left and the average stack was 54,375. Dave had 48,000 chips. His next big blind of 69o inherited a dream flop: 758, tainted only by two clubs. A player named Jeff moved all in with A7s. The turn was a queen and the river brought the three of clubs. Dave started to whisper the PSO chant for 69o and stopped abruptly when he saw that the flush had wiped out his flopped straight. Ohhhh my... Jeff was still in it. Dave's stack was now crippled.

Soon thereafter, SAM attacked and eliminated George and Dave on the same hand. George entered the pot with the higher stack and was awarded third place money. Dave finished fourth. George handed Dave $20 for the hurricane victims. As Dave was walking away, Jeff said, "Wait, I want to give you something too." SAM, with his 7 to 1 chip advantage busted Jeff out pretty quickly. Jeff tossed Dave a $100 black chip. "Add that to the hurricane fund for me".

Dave went home, kissed his wife, fed the horses, and changed the photo in his profile to reflect his new mood. Great job, my friend. All at PSO are proud of you!

Bottom Line:
Frank/ChessSafari's cash game winnings................$250
Dave/partaker's tournament winnings.....................$340
Contributions from other final table players.............$135
Total garnered for the hurricane victims..................$725

That was very satisfying. We hope you enjoyed hearing about our trip. Once again, we encourage all at PSO to take our cue and donate at least a portion of their next live tournament prize to the victims of hurricane Katrina. And let us know if you are ever in the area for any reason at all...there's some horses that need to be fed, and some chips at Turning Stone with your name on them.

Best wishes,
Frank (and Dave and Val)