Friday, December 18, 2009
I think Bruce Lee said that, or at least stole it from someone more ‘wordy’ and brought it to the mainstream (and by mainstream I mean ‘anyone who saw the film DRAGON’). Anyway, it made me look to a more contemporary version, which is: “To blog, one must first have a life worth remarking upon”. And that’s my problem right now – I’m dull as dog dirt, bland as bat bilge, rank as rat’s rectum (you get the general idea). To blog at the moment would just be inflicting my own misery on a wider audience, and Phil Hellmuth appears to already have that market cornered with his own blog.
In the glory days of poker journalism I got to travel the world, interview people I’d never interviewed before, witness things I’d never witnessed before, play in games I’d never played in before, and so on… Now, sadly, I do best part of fek-all on a daily basis.
Trying to make an interesting and witty blog out of “woke up, read my three emails, wallowed in my friends’ successes via Facebook, refreshed my email inbox just in case, played SNGs until 5pm then played Call of Duty until it was time to make dinner”… well, you can see what I mean. It’s not quite at the dullard “woke up, brushed my teeth” level I attained in my acclaimed personal diary of 1981, but it’s pretty damn close.
In an attempt to do something with my life before my legs rot and they put me in a wheelchair, I decided to investigate the local Round Table. Having seen an advert in the local paper that described it as ‘A drinking club for blokes who occasionally have to do something for charity’ I thought I might fit in quite well.
I went along to the first meeting that, though not that Masonic, certainly had a few ‘funny handshake’ moments (without, I’m sad to report, any actual funny handshakes - although I like to think that once I left they shook the crap out of each other’s hands in a ‘funny’ way). There were people who were Chairmen of this and that, one chap who had to stand up and recite the ‘Aims and Objectives’ (a kind of boy scout pledge for children over the age of 25) and a Master at Arms (I shit you not) who reviews the meeting at the end and ‘fines’ people for lapses in behaviour and protocol. It’s only fair to say it was all done very much tongue-in-cheek and with a sense of fun, but it was certainly interesting to see grown men being told off and financially penalized for shouting “fuck!” at each other.
My next encounter with The Table (for ‘tis how it’s referred to once one is ‘in the know’) was the Santa sleigh, which grinds up and down the local streets behind a Range Rover playing loud Xmas music while Santa shouts “ho ho ho!” and waves at kids fizzing with excitement in the windows. Meanwhile a gang from The Table knocks on doors and collects money for the local charities and causes they support throughout the year. I wasn’t sure how I felt about joining in with this as I’m usually the one sitting watching telly in only my socks shouting “bah humbug” when charity collectors visit. However, upon seeing the sleigh I remembered how excited I used to get as a kid when the Upminster version came down our road, and once a few old folk had merrily bunged me a couple of quid with smiles on their faces and I’d witnessed the reaction of the kids down the first street I was well into it.
The activity was, however, not without its own perils. As well as smiling elderly folk and excited young-uns, my town is not without (how shall I put this)… mentals. I’d briefly enjoyed the fantasy of having the door answered by some MILF in a see-through gown who invited me in for more than a mince pie, but the closest I got was one old women who wanted me to feel how warm her hands were (seriously). I told her “I have two pairs of gloves on – I can’t feel anything” but she simply lurched out of her doorway with surprising speed and rubbed her moist, elderly hands up and down my semi-frozen cheeks (my face, MY FACE!) until I agreed that they were indeed very nice warm hands, and could I please go now.
Another door was opened by an enormous and entirely hairless man who stood in nothing but his boxer shorts, holding and eating a plate of baked beans. “Hello!” I merrily blarted despite immediately fearing for my life. “Round Table doing the Christmas collection”. He stared at me silently and scooped another two (yes, two) huge mouthfuls of beans into his bald hole while I stood like a tit in the doorway wondering how long I had to live. “No.” he finally grumbled, “You’re alright”. I screamed off up the road as if my shins were on fire, shouting “Merry Christmas!” over my shoulder in case he was chasing me.
Behind door number three was an old lady who I’d seen sitting (presumably dead) in her chair through the front window as I tried to get up the snow-covered ramp that lead to the door without sliding down it like some extra out of Indiana Jones. I now know access ramps are the 2-7 of charity collecting. Houses covered entirely in flashing Xmas decorations are three-of-a-kind, and any house with kids’ bikes and toys outside is the jackpot. I got to the top of the treacherous slope feeling like I’d just completed an ice level in Zelda, and reluctantly pressed the bell. The Tablers had told me to give ample time for old folks or people who lived in the back of their houses (why DO people do that?) to answer. However, after about three minutes I was starting to worry about the police finding her dead broken body clutching a 10p piece in the hallway ALL BECAUSE OF ME!
I could see her chair was empty, knew she must be on her way, and had to wait. After five more minutes she opened the door. “Round Table!” I beamed trying to make it worth the epic two-room trek she’d been on. “Oh,” she said, “I thought you were my carer. Have you got my dinner?” Oh. Fuck. “No, sorry – I’m collecting for the Round Table”. “Oh,” She said, “I thought you were my carer. Have you got my dinner?” Oh. Fuck. Again. What to do? I did have a Snickers bar in my pocket, but to be honest that was already earmarked as my 9pm treat. I opted for the only decent thing a modern chap could do; I ran away. Obviously I didn’t LOOK like I was running away (just in case someone saw me sliding back down the ramp and later shopped me to the body-collecting cops) but I certainly ‘left’ without collecting any money or resolving her problem. One can only hope her ‘carer’ was mere minutes behind and had more than one Snickers bar.
Staying on the ‘ruining old people’s evenings’ front, I also witnessed an old man break the world record for most time taken between opening a front door and opening a porch door. Having stared at me long enough to ascertain I wasn’t a mass murderer, I told him we were doing the Christmas collection, to which he said “you’re a bit late aren’t you?” He looked quite surprised when I told him it was only December 16th, but he handed over £2 anyway. Exactly what month he thought it was (or indeed what year) I can only imagine, but I certainly didn’t wait to watch him clamber slowly back into his house; I was due down the Indian restaurant in two hours.
The avoiders were good. Some would simply stare at you from the comfort of their sofas as if deaf and blind (even thought they were watching telly) while others would dive out of the front room and lie prone on the carpet in the hallway with the lights out. I took to opening the letter box, making eye contact with their frozen bodies and whispering “have a nice Christmas”.
Others would say things like “No, you’re alright” or “don’t worry” before closing the door, while the more creative would say “I don’t have any change” and then pat their trouser pockets. I told one person that if he patted his pockets before saying he had no change it would be much more convincing. I thought he might be insulted, but he looked genuinely grateful for the tip. I’m sure next year will be even less expensive for him thanks to that nugget.
One of the last excuses of the night was particularly involved, with a women turning on all the lights in the house, pulling up her trouser leg, and showing me an ENORMOUS scar (that sadly was not visible to the human eye) that accompanied a story about being off work, hospital bills, £200 a month, etc etc. It was only when she patted her pockets and said she had no change I believed her.
Anyway, that’s my poker blog. Sorry there was no actual poker, but it’s the thought that counts eh! For the record we made just under £400 for 2.5 hours walking, and I had the Chicken Shashlik with pilau rice and sag aloo. The Snickers bar remains uneaten in my coat pocket, and I check the local papers every day to see if my carer-less old friend has been found dead yet. Nothing yet... nothing yet...
Friday, August 21, 2009
I looked at Nick who did that thing you do with mates where you roll your eyes at each other without actually moving your eyes just in case the subject of your rollage catches you (she was a big girl, and neither of us were brave enough to risk being seen disputing her magical powers – you know, just in case she put a voodoo hex on us or something).
“Oh. Really?” Nick ventured, “What star sign am I?”
Kim (for t’was her name) stared at Nick for several seconds (no doubt tuning into his aura, or some other bollocks) and then announced: “Cancer”
“Nope” Nick replied (probably as relieved as I was that she’d got it wrong) at which point Kim span round to me (almost catching me rolling my eyes – phew!) and asked, “Are you… a Gemini?” I stared at her blankly, accidentally encouraging another attempt: “Libra?”
“Sadly neither,” I told her, “But do keep trying. I’m sure you’ll get there eventually.”
Luckily Kim didn’t have time to magically guess her way around the rest of the zodiac as we were dealt the first hand of the charity tournament we were at The Empire to play. I was chuffed to see QQ but was in reasonably early position so made it 225 from the 25/50 blinds. I know it kinda gives away that I like my hand but not enough to go nine-ways to the flop, but considering I was sitting with a psychic and three people asking if a flush was better than a yahtzee I thought I’d give it a whirl.
Kim called, and then Nick went all-in. Now Nick is a far superior poker player to me, but even I knew immediately it was AA or KK. With a tear in my eye I released my queens back into the sea, but Kim (and let’s not forget she has ‘The Gift’) called, turning over that power-house of all-in calling hands: A-10o.
Nick looked absolutely chuffed to bits when the ace arrived on the board, and even happier when she pumped her fat little fist into his personal space with a massive “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!”
Now I know that it’s EXACTLY this sort of over-celebration that gives Nick a warm feeling deep inside, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy to give all his chips to a mental woman after only one hand. Nick gave me a look similar in many ways to the rolling-your-eyes-without-rolling-your-eyes one, only this one said, ‘you get the spades, I’ll kill her’.
Nick immediately went for a re-buy (he is so generous when it comes to kids’ charities!) while Kim assured us all that she “knew” the A-10o would win. I wouldn’t say that Nick was steaming, but some local gypsies did hang their carpets over him to give them a good clean.
Pay-back was clearly quite high on Nick’s agenda (just under drinking the open bar dry and consuming his body weight in free deserts) and sure enough he somehow managed to side-step the mystical powers of Kim and get her to double him up with AJ against his AK. Even in defeat Kim couldn’t help herself. “I knew he had me beat”. Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure.
Strangely Kim didn’t manage to utilise her awesome powers to make a comeback, and shortly thereafter shuffled off no doubt to see if her ‘Gift’ stretched to guessing what numbers the roulette table would deliver. I managed to maintain the habit of a lifetime and bust out of the tourney with 88 like the clown I am, while Nick eventually fell foul to a bloke who constantly asked what the blinds were, how many chips did everyone have left, and “what is it to me?” Believe it or not, he was the gimp who won the bloody thing. God I hate poker.
Anyway, the evening got MUCH better for us as we headed off to a local ‘club’… but it’s not that kind of blog, so you’ll have to imagine the rest (and don’t forget to imagine LOTS of glitter and some really good high-heeled shoes while you’re at it).
Friday, July 31, 2009
Ok - not much of a blog post I know, but I URGE you (see, the title was pretty acurate eh!) to watch High Stakes Poker Season 5 if you haven't alredy done so. I downloaded it from Mininova (which MAY be illigal - not sure) but i'm sure there is a legit way to find it. Watching Durrrr is a pleasure, and THE best answer to any player who ever types "card dead" into the chat box.
Anyway, a real blog entry VERY soon. Honest.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
‘The Kids’ might think Red Bull is the only way to go, but Jesse reminds me why coffee remains the number one stimulant in the world as he asks/shouts his question at me with trademark enthusiasm: “Matt, what’s Feldman’s thinking!? Is it a complete steal or does he think he’s ahead!?”
I haven’t got the heart to tell Jesse I have absolutely no idea. The last time the camera was on Andrew Feldman was about ten minutes ago and the poor kid was face-down unconscious in a pile of chips with drool hanging out the side of his mouth. For all I know Andrew might think he’s at home asleep and is just dreaming about re-raising Juha Hellpi with 10-6 offsuit. I offer up a mostly-useless “Who knows Jesse, who knows…” and reach for another handful of Beechams capsules. Thanks to an untimely bout of man-flu I’m struggling to stay focused, and have to admit I’ve exceeded the recommended dose. What am I doing here…
It’s the 1st of October 2008 and Jesse May – the voice of poker – has just asked me a question. We’re on a short break while some fresh players buy-in and some knackered players cash out. Outside the door I can hear Roland De Wolfe snoring, and can honestly say I’ve never been so jealous of a man lying on a concrete floor outside a toilet. “Matt,” Jesse asks, “what do you think to an old-school, American sports-style poker call-in Radio show?” I stare at him blankly while my brain attempts to have an opinion about anything. Jesse takes this as a sign of encouragement. “You know; talk to the biggest names in the world, take a bunch of calls from players grinding it out online, chew over the latest news, gossip, tourney results… it’d be amazing don’t ya think!?” Actually, it does sound pretty good...
It’s the 14th April 2009 and Jesse May – the voice of poker – has just asked me a question. “Do you think the mics are plugged in properly?” Yes Jesse, I think the mics are plugged in properly. Sadly, the mics are the least of my worries. I’m slightly more concerned that I somehow seem to have become the ‘Exec Producer’ of “The Poker Show with Jesse May”, have a room full of Matchroom and Boyle Poker management staring at me expecting a fully-functioning radio station, and I have absolutely no idea why none of it’s working. “Maybe the mics aren’t plugged in properly?” suggest Jesse. Again. What am I doing here…
It’s the 5th of May 2009 and Jesse May – the voice of poker – has just asked me a question. “Matt, I think this is gonna work out pretty great. What d’ya say?” We’ve just completed our second week of broadcast; have had Phil Hellmuth, Tom ‘Durrrr’ Dwan, Mike Sexton, Luke ‘FullFlush’ Schwartz, Phil Laak, John Duthie, Barney Boatman, Roland De Wolfe, Vicky Coren and master of the bedtime story, Mad Marty Wilson on the show - to name but a few. Jesse is beaming at me as we prepare to turn the studio lights out for another week. I give him a big smile in return. “I think you might be right Jesse.”
See you next Sunday…
Friday, March 27, 2009
Jennifer said: “I was storming out for what felt like forever, and then before I knew it I was standing in front of our table… again.”
Fellow poker player Liz Lieu successfully stormed out of the same rotating restaurant last March and offered: “Knowing what I know now, I would suggest finding someone who works at the restaurant to help you find the exit.”
Author's note: JUST in case it wasn't obvious, this is a work of fiction. D'uh!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
My initial concern was that only one of the ‘celebrities’ was arguably an actual celebrity (and even that was just Cheryl Baker; ever-humoured on English telly because she took her skirt off in 1981 and her thighs won a trophy). Not to worry (thought I - ever the optomist) maybe these well-known unknowns can play poker. And then the first hand arrived...
Three female ‘celebrities’ (who neither I nor the dog had ever heard of) folded their cards. The button (some ‘celebrity’) called, the small blind (some ‘celebrity’) called, and the big blind (Cheryl Baker who, disappointingly, had trousers on and not a scrap of Velcro in sight) took a deep breath and said “stick”. No... seriously: “stick”. Press record lads; I think we might have a poker genius in our midst.
The dealer dealt the flop (which no doubt confused the life out of at least half the women at the table) and the first player announced “check”. The second player now took a moment to consider her options. What to do... what to do? Perhaps check and go for a free card… Maybe take a stab at winning the pot with a well-sized bet, or perhaps… “fold”. What? Say again love... That’s right, you heard - “fold”. Oh, brilliant. No one saw that one coming (I swear the dealer nearly slapped herself on the forehead in response). Meanwhile Cheryl – clearly delighted that someone had accidentally reminded her what the correct term for ‘do nothing’ was – also announced “check”.
With the turn dealt the first player dug deep and placed some chips onto the table. Cheryl sat back, looked at the dealer and – rather than embarrass herself by saying ‘bust’ or ‘Jenga’ or something similarly stupid – said simply: “er… I want to say whatever you say when you don’t want to go on any more.” (What; like ‘please kill me’?)
“Fold?” ventured the dealer tentatively. “Yes!” exclaimed Cheryl, “that’s the one.” And thus it was that the first hand somehow came to a conclusion without anyone knocking themselves out of the tournament or bursting into flames. My god, this was going to be one hell of a game.
Or at least it would have been had not the missus – who endures more crap TV poker than any reasonable person should have to – chosen this moment to reach out and silently remove the Sky remote from my hand. Pressing ‘backup’ she exited the show, returning to the Sky Plus menu as I looked on quizzically. She then deftly hit the ‘delete’ button, saying “it’s probably for the best”. Now I remember why I married her. Smart girl.
Apart from watching televised poker approximately 365 days of the year (rough estimate. Source: Mrs Waster) then I’m generally playing poker or thinking about it. If I’m not writing about it, then I’m probably on telly blabbing about it; and if I’m not doing any of those things, well… let’s just say there better be a bloody good reason (i.e. family death, birth, marriage, or all three simultaneously). Don’t laugh – you don’t know my family.
Even the water closet – the last sanctuary of modern man – no longer offers safe haven thanks to a magazine rack chock full of poker magazines, a pile of thicker-than-brick poker books on the end of the bath, and a word search book by the sink (don’t’ worry; the latter belongs to the missus – the dirty bitch.)
I decided that for the good of those unlucky enough to be around me on a regular basis I should perhaps take a break from poker as we entered the Xmas season (i.e. December, not back in late-September when Sainsburys put the tinsel out). Though the idea of not being in some super-loose Badugi game by 10:30am each morning was slightly freaking me out I decided to just try to let poker waft from my mind for a bit. I even went as far as agreeing to visit various naff pre-Xmas bazaars and gift fairs in local halls.
And it was there, dear friends, that I discovered that there is no escaping poker. Next post I’ll explain how I turned three innocent Xmas activities into poker games. (Remind me again Cheryl: what do you say when you don’t want to go on any more?)
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Boyle Poker had been kind enough to invite me over to Dublin for the IPO and I jumped at the chance to play in a juicy deep-structure tourney (10k starting stack, 40 min levels).
There were a number of interesting incidents to report on, including the most lacklustre blogger I’ve ever seen, who handed a piece of paper and a pen to the player on my left and asked him to write down his name along with a rough chip count… while the player was actually in a hand!
However, the specific hand I wanted to run through the analyse-o-tron occurred about six hours into the tourney with the blinds sitting at 400/800. I’d been moved to a new table with about five minutes to go before we moved up to 500/1k. I had 14k to play with, so though nowhere near dire straights (even with the imminent level jump) I was still looking forward to unravelling my new table-mates and hopefully finding a few opportunities to get ahead of the average count before the dinner break.
Whenever I get to a new table (where I know nothing about my new opponents) I tend to assume the players involved play much the way I do until they prove me wrong. As I gather more information I can then start narrowing down their hand ranges and the moves they are likely to make in any given situation. I also start giving them rude names to help later identify them in my notes and to amuse my (childish) self. On this particular occasion I was (according to my notes) joined at the table by the likes of ‘Chunky’, ‘Hat’, ‘Beardy’ and ‘Smell’, to name but a few.
With the aforementioned 400/800 blinds, the UTG player folded and a well-stacked ‘SlimBeard’ (see how I cleverly combined body type and facial hair into one easy-to-remember name) raised to 2,000 from early position. 2k seemed a pretty standard raise, but assuming he plays much as I would (because I have to start somewhere in my profiling) I’m going to say he won’t be raising with seven players behind him with any pair less than J-J (maybe 10-10?) I’m also going to say he is unlikely to be playing any connected cards less than KQ, AK or AQ (I doubt KJ or AJ would be in the early-position raising range of a player who has as many chips as he does six hours in!) Remembering that I actually know NOTHING about this player; he could also be a nut job who raises with any old cack (playing 78o ‘creatively’ for instance), but right now I’ll treat him like a poker player…
There is then an all-in raise to 4k from the short-stacked ‘Beardy’ two to my right that I have to say I’m not too worried about. I get the feeling he’d made the decision to shove regardless, and could be on a small pair, but more likely a random ace or king. Obviously he might have found aces, but with only 4k I’m not too concerned.
I am, however, faced with a decision when I look down to find AcJc on the button. With only the SB and BB standing between me and the original early position raiser I focus my attention on him rather than being too worried about the blinds. If either of them has got something big enough to fancy getting involved in all this action (which I imagine would have to be KK or AA) then good luck to them.
I then make a move which I’d like to explain (you know what’s coming don’t you!) yes, I moved all-in. Why? Well it’s not because I love Ace-Jack certainly, it’s because… well, in light of a raise from an early position player, followed by an all-in, just what kind of a hand MUST I have to warrant such a move?
Imagine you’d raised from early position, seen a player move all-in, and then seen another 14k pushed all-in behind that! My hope here is that the move looks so damn strong that the original raiser can throw away anything from speculative randoms right up to premium pairs and AK . This would leave me heads-up over a 11.2k pot containing 3.2k dead money. I then enter the 500/1k level with a 21,200 stack. Lovely!
The blinds do indeed fold and I am delighted to see that SlimBeard doesn’t insta-call me, but neither does he quickly fold. He DID have a big hand (oops!) but the play has done the job of looking so strong that he is now writhing about on his chair as if his arse is on fire. I’m now sure it’s not KQ, AQ or AK, and have for some reason convinced myself he has QQ.
He now disappears up himself for about four minutes, during which time I try to throw out as many false tells as possible - looking to all intents and purposes like a man with two aces in the hole, another in his back pocket, and one up his arse for good luck.
Finally (rather disappointingly) SlimBeard groans: “I call.” followed by “Aces?” and turns over pocket kings. While delighted that my play nearly got him to fold cowboys, I turn over my AcJc (the short stack showed KJo) and though it’s by no means over for me, a flop, turn and river later nothing’s changed and I shuffle away from the table with nowt but a potential column entry to my name.
I shake SlimBeard’s hand who tells me he was VERY close to dumping his kings, but it’s small consolation. However, the experience is (I think, anyway) a great advert for an interesting move that so nearly worked.
Maybe next time eh?
Monday, January 05, 2009
I appreciate this rambling might seem particularly hypocritical considering one of my main jobs is standing on telly picking other people’s hands apart, but ultimately that’s what I’m being paid to do, so I have a good excuse. Also, these shows offer more of a skim-the-surface observation than a cut-you-open-and-remove-your-spleen examination so I don’t think it counts as serious analysis anyway.
And why am I telling you all this? Well because I’ve had a change of heart after reading Gus Hansen’s book, ‘Every Hand Revealed’. I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed this book, and I think it’s mostly down to the fact that Hansen is not only accurate enough to let you see how he plays (with the facts and details of the hands) but also articulate enough to help you understand how he thinks (via his hand analysis and reasoning laid before you in black and white).
Though I’ve always been a player who takes notes at the table (and endured much ridicule as I produce my ‘little gay book’) these notes have primarily been to assist my writing. Pouring back through my notes there are clearly far more entries the likes of: “fat bloke to my left has a head like a parsnip and a tattoo on his arm that appears to say the word ‘COCK’ in gothic text” rather than any mention of pre-flop raising, betting tendencies or hand ranges.
Hansen’s book has, however, spurred me on to take more time dissecting my notes after games to be sure that I’ve made the most of each hand delivered to my grubby paws. It’s turning out to be a process that’s well worth doing - either validating the decisions I’ve made, or uncovering some ‘iffy’ moves made in the heat of the moment - and I’d seriously advise you consider having a go. Perhaps even start a blog that no one will ever read; picking your own plays apart to see if they buckle under interrogation. Remember, it’s easy to kid other people regarding your poker prowess - because you can always find a way to make your play sound more legit than it really was - but you can’t fool yourself.
It’s the same deal regarding keeping accurate records of your results. You can chose to record the wins but ‘kinda forget’ the odd loss because ‘it was only a muck-about game’ but ultimately you MUST acknowledge the truth if you want to move forward with your game. It’s also worth remembering that a quick tickle of pokershark or some such site will soon reveal the truth anyway, so you may as well come clean. There’s nothing I like more than to copy and paste my chum’s results to them on a fortnightly basis to stop them lying to me about how well they’re doing. Needless to say I never let them know my own user name (I’m not stupid you know).
And for my last wild tangent: I once had an email from a viewer of the now-defunct Poker Night Live show who said he had taken to delivering live commentary over his own online play as he found it helped crystallise his understanding of the situation. For him, calling out the action a la: “seat two limps, seat three folds, the rock in seat four raises double the blind (as he did with kings earlier in the game), seat five folds, etc…” kept him focused on the game and less likely to drift off and miss key nuggets of information.
I guess what I am saying is, be prepared to take an interest in your games rather than just your results. Next time round I’m considering sharing some hands with you that I’ve begun analysing under the new regime. To ensure you don’t lose interest I’ll also be attacking some of the more ‘hilarious’ players that have made their way into my little gay book. My hope is that it will 1) help you understand the process of analysis, 2) make me feel better about some of the moves I’ve made, 3) make us all chuckle as I attack men with heads like parsnips.
Oh, and I promise an absolute minimum of bad beats. No, really...