Curse you Mr. Kodak and your new-fangled picture box!

I got a curious email today from someone who wanted to know what I look like. I suppose that is a fair question. I know I have posted pictures here sometime over the last couple of years, but even I can’t find the damn things (curse my lack of pre-blogger archiving!). So since I had been meaning to get a couple of photos into a digital format anyway I will force the gruesome spectacle treat you to them.

First up is a picture of me circa 1978. I am 4 years old in that picture (just turned actually). Do you like that shirt I am wearing? Isn’t it cute with the little elephants and whatnot? Yeah, that is an old bedsheet (possibly pillowcase) that my mother turned into a shirt because we were a frugal family. Mind you, this was while my parents were still together and money wasn’t that big of an issue (as far as I know), but no sense letting perfectly good, if aged, bed sheets go to waste, right? I would also like to point out the size of my ears in that picture. If memory serves (and it is funny how dead-on memory can be on matters like this) the photographer had me position my head in such a way to try to detract from the size of my ears, which I swear to god were as big when I was four as they are today. I got called dumbo a lot. Later I would use my hanging lobes (that’s hereditary) to my advantage and get the nickname changed to budha, not that it is a significant improvement, either I was the fat man or the elephant. Ahh, the joys of youth.

Ohh, you were looking for something a bit more recent? Okay, here we have a picture from 1980. That’s right, folks, two years later and I am wearing the same damn shirt! Those with a keen eye might observe that the shirt appears to be long sleeved in the 1978 photo, while it is certainly short sleeved in the 1980 photo. I honestly can’t remember, but I do know that many of our long sleeved shirts did get trimmed down to short sleeves, as boys can be particularly brutal to the elbows of dress shirts. Not that this was really a dress shirt, like I say it was a recycled bed sheet, but you get the point. In fact during my early years I remember going to yard sales with my parents and picking out odd t-shirts to buy with my allowance. Once I even bought the loudest, ugliest, Kiss: Dynasty sweater you have ever seen. The thing was a hazard orange color with a big iron-on patch on the front of it. I loved that thing, which is probably why my mother wouldn’t dare to let me out of the house with it on. And certainly not on picture day, no no, I had to wear something nice. Something so nice, in fact, that I only ever wore it on picture day. And so did both of my brothers. One of these homemade shirts, and I am not sure if it was this one, is the same one that each of us wore to school on our first day of the first grade, immortalized for all of time, wearing a horrid bedsheet turned big-collared, Saturday Night Fever-esque split-tail chaser. Thanks mom.

This is really one of my favorite photos from all of my childhood, and not only because someone had the good sense to realize that the colors that were in fashion in the 70s weren’t going to last forever, and instead opted for black & white. To my knowledge, this is the only photo of me ever taken where I do not have a huge scar on my right wrist. Sure there were other photos of me before I got said scar, but this is the only one that I can look at the wrist to prove to myself that it once was as normal as everyone elses, because honestly after walking around with the scar since I was 6 years old, I certainly can’t remember what my body looked like without it. If you really need to, you can click on that one to see it much larger, but still only half of the scanned resolution because really, who needs to look at my cute little face any closer up than that? Oh, also this was my first Student of the Month picture. This one was for the month of September in 1980. I would go on to take down that award in October of 1981, November of 1982 -notice a pattern?- then once each year it was available, but the months just got all random after the third grade, since I was changing schools so much.

Shortly after that photo, I started going through that awkward phase that all kids go through: the 80s. Hmm. Come to think of it, I guess not all kids go through that. Here is a picture of me from one of those years in the 80s, this one happens to be 1982. Again I am wearing a shirt that at one point was a bed sheet. You will also note that it is a newly made shirt, since it is still long sleeved. No doubt the next year’s school photo (which I don’t have) was in a short sleeved version of the very same shirt. My ears stand out nicely in this one as well, but at least my head is catching up to them as far as size goes. This also must have been right around the time they decided that the background profile added a lot to pictures. Yeah, nothing like catching that awkward youth from every possible angle, eh? I can almost hear the photographer yelling to get me to pose, for the front view he must have been saying, “Okay, Look like Opie Taylor”. While for the profile, he must have been saying, “Now you are smug. You are too good for this god damned photo shoot. What the fuck are you doing here? It’s beneath you!” And I gotta say, I nailed ’em both!

Then there is this gem. This would have been in 1984, and by the looks of it, it was also the very day that they put a bowl on my head and gave me the customary hairstyle of every kid that just wanted to fit in, yet never did. Around the same time, paternity tests were being filed to see if the beaver that lived in the nearby lake might have been my biological father. There is a cautionary tale in this photo as well. Because of when my birthday falls, I was always a year younger than most everyone in my grade. While Junior High coincided with the beginning of the teens for most, I would still be twelve. It didn’t matter so much by the time of graduation, since the difference was only 8 months or so at worst, but when I was younger and the kids around me were all going through puberty at about the same time I was finally filling in my big boy teeth, it made a huge difference (that is exaggerated a tad, but the point remains the same). So I was always smaller than the other boys in my class, and I was always more intelligent than them as well. That is not a good combo to have, since bigger boys like to pick on the resident class brains anyway, and when they outweigh you by forty pounds, and are six inches taller than you, there just isn’t much “standing up” to be done. Unless you happen to like getting your ass kicked, that is.

I don’t really have any recent photos. In fact the most recent one I have handy is this mugshot um, professionally photographed headshot. Yeah, I didn’t really pay for this photo, and it kind of shows. What horrible lighting. And did I even comb that mop? Could there possibly have been a more plain backdrop? All in all I am not at all happy with the way this one turned out, but I got no response to my request for a reshoot. Those damn uppity photographers! Whose idea was the maroon shirt with the blue background anyway?

That picture is about five years old and little has changed since then. I have a few more gray hairs, and there are little crows feet starting form around the edge of my eyes, but aside from that I don’t look much different at 32 than I did at 22. I also started wearing glasses last December. I don’t actually have a photo of myself with glasses on, which really isn’t that odd, I suppose, since I would guess that at best someone actually takes my picture maybe once a year, and then it is only on vacation. I am just not an interesting enough person to be photographing. Oh yeah, I don’t have any pictures, but I do have this one artist’s rendering. I am really a bit ticked about the way it came out though. I never wore those big, ugly 70s era sunglasses. The ones I was wearing were top of the line Ray Ban, and they certainly weren’t those cheek-covering monstrosities. Also, my hair was never curly like that, it was just like it was in the one with the blue backdrop, just kind of falling funny across my forehead. Other than that though, I think the artist did a pretty good job. The chin and mouth are dead on, he made my nose just a touch to narrow, but that could just be bad shading, who knows.

Well anyway, there you have it. That is what I look like.

Success of sorts

Well, it seems that pokerstars must have a guy whose full-time job requires him to do nothing but bounce around and read the websites of its players. During his daily routine he must have happened upon my site and saw that I was near walking away because I actually managed to pick up a couple of pairs, win a couple of races, and even suck out huge once in the WWDN:Not tournament last night (though with 17 players it really felt more like a SnG). As you would imagine, picking up a couple of pairs, particularly late, combined with winning my races in every case but one, took me a long way in this one.

I folded nearly every hand for the first forty-five minutes or so, as I was hanging on just above average in FTP 20k about that time, as well as watching Iak and Smokkee at their respective tables. With so many windows open, I had made up my mind to only play premium hands, something that I really should do anyway, and I almost did too. At Smokkee’s table in the 20k, I saw him lose nearly his entire stack (think it was about 6k at the time) when he got in preflop with A-K and some Uberdonk called him with a 39o. A frikking 39o. The poker gods like to reward bad calls though, so there were two 3s on the flop. I had been plugging along in it, not getting all in unless I had the nuts, but as half the field was gone the play was getting more aggressive and I found myself in a position where I was hoping to bust our resident short stack, then things went all screwy.

I picked up 10s UTG and raised it to 4x (blinds at 100/200) thinking I would be able to induce shorty to push at me, and to hopefully isolate him along the way. Unfortunately, we picked up two callers along the way so by the time he raised, as I expected he would, the pot was big enough that a couple other guys were actually getting pretty good odds to call. By the time it got back to me, the pot was at 6500, 800 of which was mine. I had about 3k left, and calling was going to cost me 2500. Now I have never read any of those fancy books, but seeing that pot at 6500, knowing that the first pusher was the short stack, and the second push was getting favorable odds to call it, I thought about this one for as long as I could. I knew that my 10s were going to be ahead preflop, and if they held up I would be sitting on nearly 10k in chips. I crossed my fingers and made the call figuring that I would need a bit of luck, but knowing that with half the field gone I was running out of opportunities to go from 3k to 10k. I assumed I would probably be facing A-J and K-Q, you know, every possible overcard. I was actually up against A-7 and A-J, but of course the flop had an ace in it and I never improved. I managed to double up once more before eventually busting when I pushed A-9o UTG and got called by 10-J s00ted and A-Q. I figure if I didn’t play that hand with the 10s, I could probably have hung around for at least another half an hour, but I likely wouldn’t have picked up anything better than that along the way anyway. You have to win your races if you hope to make it deep in one of those things, someday I will win a few at the right time.

I think folding so much for the first hour of the Not might have worked to my advantage; I wasn’t sitting out since I wanted to be able to play aces if I happened to pick them up, so I had voluntarily folded nearly every hand through the first break. When I actually started playing some hands over there, I was getting far more respect than I deserved. I only made one pure bluff and that was on one of the scariest boards, with an Ace and a King in it. I was holding a Jack and a rag after having been in the BB to get into it, but thought a minbet on the flop looked weak and made my first push of the night. I was sweating that one something awful. Thankfully chip preservation seemed to override his bullshit meter, and he let me have the pot. I made note of how long it took him to lay it down; I got the feeling he was calling me next time, regardless of what he was holding.

When it was down to six players, I noted to Guin that I was in perfect position to bubble. And I really was, first and second had about 3x my stack, while fifth and sixth had less than half, barring anything screwy, it was looking like a bubble or a lucky 3rd for me. Then I made my one horrible read of the night. Nomad1539 was UTG and low on chips and pushed. I had him covered by about 1k with only the blinds left to come. I had picked up A-Jo, and figured I was probably ahead to a desperate push (but why so desperate from UTG? He certainly had enough chips to post a few more blinds) so, after a long pause, I made the call. His cards: A-K diamonds. How’s that for a read, eh? Down to 944 in chips and getting pretty damn desperate.

So I did what desperate people do: I pushed damn near every hand that came to me unraised. Some chips had traded places leaving two guys about tied for the lead at around 7500 in chips, but there were also three guys with between 25 and 3500. Since one of the big stacks was to my right, I stayed out of anything that he got into, and pushed into anything that he didn’t call or raise. The guys after me certainly didn’t want to risk calling my 944 chips when they were jockeying for position and if they lose, they are going to be squarely in last place themselves. I pushed twice and got no callers, chipping myself up to 1244 after having to pay a set of blinds. I noted to Guin in the Girlie Chat that someone was going to call the next one, and the third push is always a monster. The third push was indeed a monster: A-K. I was in the small blind and pushed when it came to me unraised, unfortunately LOK1 had picked up a real monster in the big blind, and called me with kings. I typed “gg” in the chat, ready to leave the table, when the flop came out with not one, but two aces. I’m all for sucking out from time to time, but man that was pretty brutal.

With 2000 in chips, I would pick up 77 two hands later. I raised 3x and got a taker. The flop had my 7, but it also had 3 spades in it. I pushed them in again and managed to double once more, getting me up to 4700 in chips and certainly back in this thing. This is the type of thing that usually happens to everyone I ever play against, not me. But who am I to doubt the Poker Gods when they decide to throw me a bone?

I’ll spare you all a lot of the details from the rest of the game. I’ll just say that I had the cards to back up almost every one of my raises, and after having won three called all-ins in a row, people were kind of staying away from me anyway. I was at about 2500 in chips when it got to three handed, while both opponents had over 11000. I got lucky again when I had a K-9 suck out against Budohorseman‘s A-6. From there my cards caught fire and there was really no looking back.

All in all it took two pretty huge suckouts, and a nice rush of cards short handed, but I managed to take this one down. More than that, I am happy with the way I played. The only glaring mistake I made was when I called with A-J to what I thought was a desperation push, but when looking back on it there was no reason for him to be pushing out of desperation in that position. The suckouts were a product of being short and having to play any ace or king, last night they went my may, many nights they don’t. As they say, that’s poker. This win has given me enough cash to enter a few more events and who knows, maybe I can do well in a larger field with bigger payouts somewhere down the line. Stranger things have happened.


I played in both the The Mookie & second chance tournaments yesterday. Meh, I have done worse. I finished 16th of the 40something in the regular event, on a hand that I knew I shouldn’t be playing, and honestly only did play to finish myself off before the second event started. I was sitting on a very short stack anyway, and with the blinds at their current levels I was not long for the tournament. Although I had been managing to steal the blinds, even from the short stack, so maybe I could have picked a better spot. I ended up pushing from EP with an A-7o, and the next two guys immediately pushed their stacks in as well. Woo-Hoo, over 4:1 on my money, if no one has anything better than an A-7o, which everyone did.

The second chance event is only a 5 dollar buy-in, and with only 16 players, I was far more in my element. I don’t do all that well in large MTTs, particularly when the blinds get above 1000/2000 as I am just to scared to try to make pure steals when the stakes are so high. I really seem to play my best when the field is two or three tables, so I approached this one with high hopes, even though the field consisted of the very same people. Now there is some faulty logic!

Early in the tournament I had an A-Ko in early position and limped into it. Gary raised it a bit more than 4x from the button which the big blind and I both called. The flop came out K-J-9 with two hearts. I checked it with TPTK, wanting to see where I stood. Gary immediately bet 2/3 the pot and jeciimd raised his bet a bit over 3x. I haven’t played with jeciimd enough to really know what his/her bet meant, however I have been at the table with Gary quite a bit. In my experience, he is not the type to make that kind of a bet if the flop hasn’t hit him. True, people do things when they are on the button that they don’t normally do, but the 2/3 pot bet looks like he wants a couple of people in it with him. Certainly not something I would expect to see if he was playing on top pair with a weak kicker, and definitely not something he would do if he had worse. I don’t even speculate about what Jeciimd might be holding, but laid down the TPTK because I think Gary has to have either JJ or KJ to be making that bet (99 is a possibility too, I suppose, but that never really came into my thinking). Would Gary have made the 4x pf raise with K-J? I don’t think he would have with a limper already in it (this all in speculation, of course). Gary reraised all-in and Jeciimd called it. Gary did indeed have pocket jacks, and Jeciimd was playing it on a nut flush draw. The turn and river were both aces, giving Gary a boat of Jacks over Aces and Jeciimd 3 aces. I would have won that hand if I would have stayed in it, but that is irrelevant. I made a good read there and was able to lay down the TPTK (which I am usually married to), which in itself shows a huge improvement in my game over the last couple of months.

A short while later, I was in a hand with an A-5 spades. The flop came out 4-6-7 diamonds and Waffles led out with a bet that was about 2/3 the pot (he had raised 4x pf). I have a bit of a reputation as a flush donkey (hell I was in this hand with an A-5 for that very reason, just not in the right suit), and decided to see if I could use that to my advantage. I waited for a few seconds before putting in a min-raise. Hoy loves to do that when he is trying to look weak, I did that hoping that the weak=strong logic would make Waffles lay down what was surely a better hand. Hoy said in the chat “min raise alert!!”, and after some thinking, Waffles laid them down. This wasn’t a pure bluff, since I was sitting on an OESD, but with him potentially holding the Ace of diamonds, I sure didn’t want him to call there.

After the hand, I found that Hoy at least had bought my ruse (too bad it was Waffles that was in the hand). The chat looked like this:

shadowtwin: yeah, I am incapable of raising without the nuts.
hoyazo: ha
hoyazo: that minraise smelled fishy man.
shadowtwin: no really. would I lie?

I wouldn’t last long in the tournament though, because I did something pretty damn stupid. I have spent a lot of time thinking about my play since then, even chatted with Waffles, Hoy and Iak about it. This is a hand where I really should have known that I was beat, but I went ahead and donked myself out of it anyway. The thing is, I should never have been in the position I was in the first place.

A thing about me that you will learn if you sit at my table for any amount of time at all is that I like to see a flop with A-x suited. A-4, A-7, I don’t care, I like to see a flop. I am certainly not going to raise with that crap (possibly short-handed I would, but that is different), usually don’t even call a raise with it, but I like to see the flop with it if I can do so on the cheap. I have played enough to know that this is just about the most dangerous hand to be seeing flops with, at least for me. If I happen to hit top pair, I have to lay it down more often than not. If someone bets at an ace high flop, they probably have an ace also, and when I am taking a cheap flop to see if the flush hits, I usually don’t have a kicker that I should be calling with. I play this hand quite a bit, and I have rules about what I will stay in the post flop with. One of two conditions has to be met, or I will fold to any bet. Either 1) there have to be two cards in the same suit as my A-x, or 2) I have to pair the Ace and the kicker, and even if I pair the kicker it is probably going to get folded to any significant bet since it is likely to be bottom pair.

That was exactly what my intention was last night when I had an A-3 diamonds in middle position. I wanted to limp in with it, then fold if I didn’t hit; as always with that hand, my number one priority is to not go broke. Waffles raised it up to 4x from the button, and I thought about it for a bit before making the call. As I say, I don’t usually call a raise with this hand, but I do take a stab on occasion. In this particular case, I was respecting his raise and putting him on a range of exactly ten hands. I figured he had either A-K, A-Q, or a pair from 7s up. My reasoning on putting him on a good hand in a steal position is that I hope think that most of the bloggers have played with me enough to know that I will usually limp with anything short of pocket queens, kings or aces. So going into this flop, I actually thought to myself “fold if the diamonds don’t hit”.

The flop came down A-A-7. I checked it over to him fully expecting him to put in a bet, which I really was planning to fold to. Instead, he checked it as well. The turn brought a king, again I checked it to him, again expecting him to bet at me. Again he checked it as well. The river was a five, and I had somehow convinced myself that his lack of a bet on the turn meant that he wasn’t holding an ace. I bet just over half my stack into it, he immediately re-raised all-in and I called. He flipped over A-7 sending my lowly 3 aces home with his boat. Now that was a well played hand. Not many people are going to be able to check to the river with a flopped boat.

So, why is it that I decided on the river to completely ignore the rules I set for myself when playing this hand? Obviously, Waffles just outplayed me on this one. When I actually busted, I just stared at the screen in disbelief for a second, then I started looking at it logically. I had made the mistake of pot-committing myself when I made the bet on the river, so really I was going to have to call his push anyway, but the question is, what hand did I think I was trying to beat? By my own read, I had put him on a range of only 10 hands (of course he didn’t have one of the ten, but that hardly matters). Of those ten, the AA wasn’t possible, the KK and 77 beat me, as do the A-K and A-Q. By my own read, I have only a 50/50 shot at winning this hand after all the cards are down. But when I put in the bet on the river, I put him in a position where the only way he could call me is if he had me beat. He can’t call it unless he has a pocket pair of kings, fives or sevens, all of which make a boat, or an Ace, in which case the only way I win is if his kicker is lower than a 3 (well I guess we would split if he has a 2,3,4 or 6). See that? I made a big bet and pot-committed myself on a hand that I can only win if he folds.

I would like to think that if I had made a small bet and he re-raised me, I would have laid it down, but the truth is I wouldn’t have. The fact is that my bet there shows that I really didn’t think it through. I put him on a range of hands before the flop, then his play convinced me to absolutely disregard my read (which was wrong, but I still should have stuck to). As strange as it is, I really enjoyed losing that way. Too many times I lose to coin flips or plays that I know are marginal at best, when this one went down, I had managed to convince myself that I really had the best hand, and I just didn’t. It forced me to actually look at the way it was played, and realize that what I did was foolish. As if I had been hypnotized by the pair of aces on the flop, forcing me to completely disregard the hard rules that I always stick to when I play my A-x suited hands.

I am sure that most people would say I shouldn’t have been in this hand at all, and you would probably be right. But even by my own rules I shouldn’t have been in it. There weren’t two diamonds on the flop and I didn’t pair my kicker, the fact that there happened to be not one but two aces on the flop shouldn’t have any difference at all. I should have checked every street and folded to any bet, just as I would have done if the flop had come up A-K-Q, regardless of how many aces there are, a three is not a playable kicker. I hope that losing this hand, and being forced to look at the way I played it, will make me think about it then next time I end up in this situation playing A-x suited (which I will do, it’s just one of my things). If I can learn from this, and lay it down the next time I am in this situation, I will look back at this as one of the best hands I ever played. Winning hands is great, but it rarely improves my play. I would rather improve my game by losing a hand any day of the week

Cliff Burton

Cliff Burton was really the first bass player that I knew by name. While most other bass players seemed to fade into the background and only seemed to be noticed when they made a mistake, Cliff was able to not only keep the beat and carry a tune, but many of his bass lines were actually at the forefront of Metallica’s songs. The song Orion springs immediately to mind (alas I can’t find a version of Cliff playing it). Then there are some of his solos that mimic the guitar so well that you can hardly believe he can get the sound out of a bass. While Metallica was becoming an underground phenomenon in the early to mid 80s, Cliff was leading the charge with solos and writing credits on nearly every memorable Metallica song.

It was twenty years ago today that Cliff Burton died in a bus accident in Sweden. This happened only months after Metallica had released the Master of Puppets album, which set a bar for the genre that I think has yet to be matched. Cliff wasn’t around to see Metallica’s meteoric rise to fame, but much of his music made the trek along with them. When the …And Justice For All album was released a couple of years later, the band paid tribute to him with the song To live is to Die.

With the release of …And Justice For All, Metallica finally got into the video generation with their video for the song One, which received a grammy nomination the following year. The video brought mainstream airplay on both MTV and national radio stations, which would lead to Metallica producing more radio-friendly songs on all their forthcoming albums. For that reason alone, many fans cite the release of the video for One as the end of the “Old Metallica”. If you have never seen the full video for One, go watch it, it is one of the best videos ever made.

Metallica would release their “Black” album in 1991 to much mainstream success and critical acclaim. But in doing so, they were perceived to have “sold out” by releasing what others wanted them to instead of what had gotten them to where they were. For me, this was driven home when Lars responded to the question “Many fans say that you have sold out. Has Metallica sold out?” with the response, “Yeah, we have sold out every stadium and record store in the country.”

I have often wondered if Cliff hadn’t died in that crash if Metallica would have gone on to release albums as powerful as the first three, or if they would still have gone down the path to pop rock. Of course there is no way we will ever know.

If you have a spare moment, I urge you to dust off an old Metallica song today, and just listen to it and wonder about what may have been. If you don’t care for instrumentals, you could always just play Fade to Black, because really, you can’t go wrong with old Metallica. Rest in Peace, Cliff.

Did I accidentally kill the poker God’s son or something?

It seems that my online poker career has almost reached its end. Through an unfortunately timed funk in the hands I have been dealt of late, my bankroll on both of the poker sites that I regularly play has dwindled down to almost nothing. I had never bought into either of them for more than 50 dollars, so it’s no great loss, it just happened that after my last relative score on each of the sites, I have experienced the worst run of luck imaginable.

I learned early on that you don’t actually need to be dealt premium cards to do well in Hold ‘Em, and that has worked to my advantage over the last month. During one stretch of my recent run, I was dealt two pocket pairs in 100 hands, and they were both under 9. I went for about three weeks without getting dealt a pair of faces, which was really only about ten tournaments, so it’s not that bad.

During this run, I only competed in one blogger event, which was the Mookie a couple of weeks ago, and managed to make it to 17th IIRC out of 40 something players. Which I think is pretty commendable, considering the utter garbage I was being forced to play. You can get by with playing the garbage for a while, especially if you don’t play a lot of hands, but eventually someone is going to have a hand when you are making a move and not having cards to back up your betting for, oh, say three weeks or so is going to strip away any shred of table image you may have had.

Over the course of this run, I have also found out just how bad the people playing in your average SnG are -at least the token games, which are the most I was willing to risk with that kind of luck-. I played in about ten of the token events, and out of those I only failed to make it to the “money” once -and even that was a bubble finish. I won a token in all but two of the rest, the other two taking down the 14 dollar boobie prize, which was probably better considering my current situation; it’s not as if I am going to be making a serious run at the 20k right now anyway.

Yesterday I managed to bubble out of the token event (as mentioned previously), when I was dealt kings. slb was there watching me, and after I pushed from the short stack he noted that I should have just waited for one of the other short stacks to blind out (there were three of us painfully low on chips). He was probably right. In that game I needed only to get to fifth, and with both of the other short stacks likely to blind out before it got to me on the next orbit, I probably could have laid them down and made my way to a token. Of course that would be playing like a pussy, I mean c’mon, you can’t fold kings pre-flop when it comes to you unraised. At any rate, I got two callers, and the flop had an ace in it, of course. Not only that, but another guy pushed on the flop as well. What did they have? Why Aces up, of course. I pushed with kings, got two callers, and both of them paired their ace and their kickers (which were a 6 and a 9). I know I am not the only one that has ever lost when he pushed with kings preflop from the short stack, but that is just a microcosm of the way my luck has been going lately -I am actually a bit surprised that the turn and river didn’t come 6 & 9 to give them boat over boat to knock me out.

Then there are the times when I actually do get a hand, and I just play it completely wrong. I have tried to back away from just checking, as I have found that things go my way far more frequently when I am the aggressor, but I still haven’t found the right combination of betting and timing to get people out of pots that they have no business being in in the first place. Take the following hand, for example (just gonna paste the history here):

Seat 1: Furley (1,485)
Seat 2: s_c_i (1,470)
Seat 3: Bordon (1,500)
Seat 4: gatorfansteve (1,500)
Seat 5: shadowtwin (1,500)
Seat 6: NoChatJustPlay (1,545)
Seat 7: mfpd44 (1,500)
Seat 8: nyc1980 (1,500)
Seat 9: Tunabomber (1,500)
s_c_i posts the small blind of 15
Bordon posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #1
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to shadowtwin [5c 5d]
gatorfansteve calls 30
shadowtwin calls 30 –just going to limp with the low pocket pair, likely a fold on the flop
NoChatJustPlay calls 30
mfpd44 folds
nyc1980 folds
Tunabomber folds
Furley calls 30
s_c_i folds
Bordon checks
*** FLOP *** [9d 5h 8d]
Bordon checks
gatorfansteve checks
shadowtwin bets 150 –flopped set, so I bet the pot. I don’t like the diamonds.
NoChatJustPlay raises to 300 I put him on top pair or a draw
Furley folds
Bordon folds
gatorfansteve folds
shadowtwin raises to 600 –So I doubled his bet to try to chase him off
NoChatJustPlay calls 300
*** TURN *** [9d 5h 8d] [Jd]
shadowtwin bets 450 –The third diamond scares me, but I still think I am ahead
NoChatJustPlay calls 450 –It took him a long time to make the call. I think if I would have pushed he would have folded
*** RIVER *** [9d 5h 8d Jd] [Th]
shadowtwin checks –Since he called the bet on the turn, I am still afraid of the flush, but possibly a low enough flush that he isn’t sure he will win. Now I also have to worry about the straight. The range of hands that I put him on at this point means that if I bet, he can only call if he has me beat. I check and hope for the best
NoChatJustPlay checks
*** SHOW DOWN ***
shadowtwin shows [5c 5d] (three of a kind, Fives)
NoChatJustPlay shows [Jh Qd] (a straight, Queen high)he called off half his stack on the flop with nothing but a gutshot straight draw and 2 to a flush. And won.
NoChatJustPlay wins the pot (2,265) with a straight, Queen high
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 2,265 | Rake 0
Board: [9d 5h 8d Jd Th]
Seat 1: Furley (button) folded on the Flop
Seat 2: s_c_i (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 3: Bordon (big blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 4: gatorfansteve folded on the Flop
Seat 5: shadowtwin showed [5c 5d] and lost with three of a kind, Fives
Seat 6: NoChatJustPlay showed [Jh Qd] and won (2,265) with a straight, Queen high
Seat 7: mfpd44 didn’t bet (folded)
Seat 8: nyc1980 didn’t bet (folded)
Seat 9: Tunabomber didn’t bet (folded)

So, how do I play that hand and get him to actually lay it down? I led out on the flop with a pot-sized bet, which was actually 5x the BB at this point, he raised and I raised him right back. He is putting half (well nearly half) of his stack in the middle with absolutely nothing. Should I have just shoved on the flop and taken down the huge 150 chip pot? Should I have pushed on the turn? I get the feeling he would have called it; he called a bigger bet with absolutely nothing, now he has top pair. So my flopped set went from being ahead on the flop and turn to losing me nearly all of my chips on the river. The only silver lining is that I managed to take my 350 chips (or close) and go on to finish 6th, so I at least got another shot and a couple of bucks out of it.

See, if I can’t win in hands where I actually have them dominated pre-flop, on the flop, and on the turn, I don’t hold out much hope that I can go very far when I am behind at all those points. And unless my luck (or skill) turns around in a hurry, I am not going to have a bankroll at either site anymore, and I sincerely doubt that I will transfer any more money into them.

If it’s too loud, you’re too old!

Yep, it’s official, I’m too old.

Last night my wife and I had the opportunity to go see Godsmack in concert, along with Rob Zombie and Shinedown. Now that is a concert!

Shinedown is probably best known for the song 45 (or possibly Save Me), but they actually have two studio albums, both of which have several singles that are getting a lot of airplay on rock radio (at least on my rock radio). They are one of those bands that you don’t think you have heard of, but as the songs start playing you realize that you have heard everything that they are playing, and beyond that, it is pretty cool. Pretty mellow stuff by my standards, but still some good music. You have to give those guys some credit though, the show was supposed to start at 7:30pm, but they hit the stage and started playing at 7:00. Even starting their set a half an hour early, they managed to get at least 2/3 of the crowd on their feet -something that the opening act on a double billed show with big names rarely pulls off, at least in my experience. They didn’t have much in the way of a stage show, not that you would expect the opening band to. Just before their last song, the singer went into an A’Capella version of …Something… At which point the rest of the band left the stage. I didn’t like that -not because it sounded bad, it didn’t, it actually sounded great- because it put me in mind of the ‘too cool for the band’ attitude that eventually led to Creed breaking up. But who am I to judge? The band sounded great, and it got me pumped up for a couple of bands that I have always wanted to see live.

I have to be honest, I really expected Rob Zombie to do a show that left Godsmack unable to top it. You just kind of get that feeling that someone like Rob Zombie is going to have a freakshow type thing going on that will make it worth the price of admission to listen to the songs that they are playing on the radio every day anyway. He did have a great stage show, there were dancing girls, a huge alien mock fucking the guitarist (that was funny) and three enormous screens showing themed anime during the songs (though one of the songs featured Charles Manson and the family along with their sentences for the TateLaBianca murders -WTF was that about?) His showmanship is unquestionable, certainly second only to Marilyn Manson in all the stage shows I have ever seen -and I have seen A lot of bands.

Rob Zombie was also the most disappointing of the three bands. The band sounded worse than any other band I have ever heard live, bar none. I have been to Ozzfest, where the main stage opened at 7:00pm, but local bands were playing the second stage as early as 9:00am. Even the local bands, using nothing but their own equipment amplified through the PA, sounded better than Rob Zombie. It was as if someone took the equalizer and pushed all the sliders right the fuck to the top. All you could hear was noise. The only way you ever knew what song was playing was by the spacing or an occasional guitar riff that you could make out over the cacophony. I did enjoy the show, it just would have been a lot better if they had maybe turned down the mid-range on it so you could make out the damn songs. Seriously, the only two songs that I recognized immediately were Living Dead Girl and Dragula, and that is only because of the intros. Though I suppose I should have expected it; he does look like he is from the “the louder the better” school of rock, and they certainly pulled off loud, just not in a good way.

As for Godsmack, they can be summed up in two words:

Fucking Awesome


They actually started their show by blasting For those about to rock (we salute you) over the PA, while showing a montage of tour footage. It ultimately ended with a live backstage feed and a huge pyrotechnic display. I am not going to say that their stage show was creative or imaginative, but they did manage to keep everyone there on their feet for an hour and a half, belting out some awesome songs (of course the songs are awesome, it is Godsmack). They also seemed to understand the concept of volume a hell of a lot better than Rob Zombie did. Their show felt twice as loud. I say felt because you could actually feel not just the drums, but the rhythm and bass guitars as well. Not only that, but you could also actually hear each of the instruments -four separate instruments mixed together in such a way that they each added depth to the song, what a concept!

Godsmack also had more energy to their show than any other one I can remember seeing, the only act that even comes close is Iron Maiden. When you watch Sully running around the stage singing, then playing the guitar, then playing the drums, and you see the big smile he has on his face, you just get the feeling that he really is happy to be there. I know they all say that they are happy to be there, but he just looked like he was having so much fun that it was impossible not to enjoy it. It had the effect of making this huge venue (with the lawn seating, I can’t even guess at how many people were there) seem like it was going on in his own garage, and you were one of his buddies just hanging out. Yeah, I probably read a bit too much into it, and a good showman is supposed to make you feel that way, but he is the only one that has ever actually done that for me. I have had the opportunity to see a lot of bands that I really like in concert; Megadeth, Ozzy, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, The Scorpions, Dio, Korn and dozens more. Not one of them came into it with the same energy and attitude that Godsmack did.

I left that show a much bigger Godsmack fan than I went into it. While I am not planning to rush out and buy a Rob Zombie cd, and I already have both of Shinedown’s (it’s some pretty good stuff. Nice hard rock, but mellow enough for daily listening. I recommend it.) I certainly plan to complete the household collection of Godsmack cd’s (the wife has always been a fan, I have never had much of an opinion). If you get the chance, you really should go see them live. The stage show isn’t much to write home about, but you are certainly going to get an energy and vibe that is damn hard to find nowadays. It really is rare for a band that is as big as they are to actually enjoy (or fake it well) what they do day in and day out. Of course don’t plan on sleeping for at least a good 4 hours after the show, even if it doesn’t end until nearly midnight, because you are going to be way too amped up to even sit still for that long.

My brief career as a lead prosecutor

As I have noted here before, I lived in a lot of different places during my childhood. Not because we were a military family, but because when my parents divorced, my dad was rather a dick about it; he seemed to think that by not supporting his kids at all it would force mom to go back to him -or so much I have come to assume when looking at the situation with adult eyes. At any rate, we lived in many places that were either already condemned, or would become condemned and force us to move along. I’m not complaining about this, mind you, I think that the experiences I had all that time ago really hammered home the importance of preparing for the future -particularly, the uncertainty of it.

The huge downside to moving from place to place was the schools. Anyone who has ever been transferred to a different school in the middle of the school year knows how difficult it is to fit in with the kids, who can be brutal at that age, when they have already formed into their own little groups. It never helped matters that the teachers always found it helpful to force you to go stand in front of the class and tell them your name and a brief story about what brought you to the new school (no kidding, damn near every teacher made me do some form of this). So you quickly go from hoping to fly under the radar for a bit to being that new kid who can’t stop talking about himself. Most of the kids hate you on principle alone.

After transferring from school to school a few times, I began to learn that the kids who didn’t reject you at first were often the ones that you really wanted to stay away from. Like this one kid Bert, he was (so I found out later) a troublemaker, but he was friendly with myself and my brother on the first day at our new school (we were all of 10 and 11). A short while later, a rumor began going around (which may or may not have been truthful, but the fact that the parents believed it lends to its credibility) that Bert sexually assaulted a little girl in the town. No one saw Bert for quite a while after that, though we never really knew where he went. Of course we were at that age of grandiose speculation, so we surmised that he must be serving time in the dreaded Juvenile Hall (which sounds like a place that child superheroes would hang out, actually. You know “Later, at Juvenile Hall..”).

So after transferring to too many schools to count, I kind of gave up on making friends for while. The kids who were friendly to me right away were often of the same ilk as Bert, and the kids who weren’t were already established in their little social circles, insofar as one can have “social circles” at the age of 11. This probably has a lot to do with the way I am today actually. I have very few friends, but the friends I do have are the type that I would give a kidney to.

One of the few good friends that I had in my childhood after all the moving around started was a kid by the name of Art (and I can’t remember his last name, some friend, eh?). I met Art just as I was starting the seventh grade. The school was in Winston, Or., and was the middle school where kids from three different grammar schools would go before moving on to high school. The students there came in ready made groups, some coming from Tenmile Elementary, some from Sunny Slope, and some from Winston Elementary. I had moved to live with my father that summer, in hopes that the school hopping would stop, but it still left me as one of the kids that didn’t know anyone when middle school started. Art was the same way.

Art was a bit heavyset and abnormally tall for his (our) age (not freakishly tall, or even fat, but just awkward enough that the kids poked fun at him, as kids will do). It was within the first couple of days at the new school that we would meet, and even then it would be more from circumstance than genuine good nature. While I don’t remember exactly what happened, I know that Art made the cardinal mistake for a kid who was already on notice as far as “not fitting in” was concerned: he answered an unanswerable question in geography class. This was, of course, the quickest way to get everyone to shun you. It seems that kids really hate people who aren’t outright stupid, and there he is flexing his mental muscle.

When lunch came that day, Art was alone at a table in the furthest recess of the cafeteria. I would love to say that I was such a big person that I went to sit with him just to be friendly, but that is hardly how it shook out. The truth is that as I was looking for a seat at one of the more populous tables, backpacks, duffflebags, jackets and other such things began occupying the seats, as the “cool kids” pointed to Art’s lone table and told me to “go sit with the nerd”. As I say, Art and I were in pretty much the same situation as far as the ready made friends group was concerned, but I had theorized that since everyone already had someone to pick on, I would be able to sneak into the cool crowd unnoticed. No luck with that. I did learn, however, that one really shouldn’t be the only kid in the school wearing a dress shirt when it is his intention to fit in.

Art and I sat and ate lunch. I know that we introduced ourselves, but beyond that I don’t think we really shared in any conversation. The next few days at lunch, I would still try to make my way to the cool kids table, but would invariably end up again at the table with Art. After a few days, I wasn’t even trying to sit at any other tables, I would just go to that table in the back of the cafeteria and sit with him. It was just eating lunch, not as if this was going to be something that was seared into my memory, right?

One day, while eating lunch, Art saw the novel that I was reading (I think it was The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and began talking to me about it. It seemed we had something in common. While that was wonderful and everything, I was still holding out hope that I would eventually make it to the cool kids table, and sharing interests with Art wasn’t the way to get there. The thing about it was, Art and I shared not only this interest, but we also seemed to excel in the same classes (we were both in the advanced math class), and read the same magazines (if I didn’t get to the library in time, Art would already be looking at the latest issue of OMNI). I began to realize that it was foolish to think about trying to fit in with the other group when I had so much more in common with Art.

So over the course of the first few weeks of school, Art and I sat there at lunch together, but also began hanging out between classes. Of course our hanging out wasn’t in the form of slacking off and making fart sounds, we would be talking about science or the latest episode of Riptide or, a personal favorite, the miniseries V. In short, we would be geeking it up between classes. It was at this point that I realized I was never truly going to be one of the “cool kids”, my interests would never allow it. Sadly, Art would transfer to another school sometime near Christmas the following year. But for the year or so that I knew him, we became quite good friends.

One of the things that I remember most about Art was a project that we worked on for a grade in History class. Our teacher, Mr. LaFontaine, had a different way of handling our final reports, which was completely unknown to us when we wrote them. Instead of just grading us on our final reports, some of the final reports were picked out to be part of a court proceeding, which would be set up and run by the students, all of which was going to count as part of our “final”. Everyone was to be involved in the proceeding, which would include the accused, prosecution and defense councils, a jury, and the teacher would be the judge. The one thing that I don’t clearly remember is the jury; I know there was a jury, but I don’t remember if it was kids from the same class that were the jurors or if they were kids from another class. The class was given four days of class time (I think) to prepare for this all.

The court cases were all to deal with possible plagiarism (which is, of course, rampant on final reports in high school) on our final papers. The teacher had pulled a number of them that looked suspicious to him, and the people who wrote them would stand accused of it. Of course, the would be innocent until proven guilty, and would be given a defense team that would try to dispute the prosecution’s evidence. I don’t remember for sure if we were assigned to the teams or if we were able to choose, but Art and I ended up being on a prosecution team. It was our charge to prove that a beautiful and quite popular girl named Aurora actually plagiarised her final report.

Since we were UbergeeksTM, Art and I didn’t just use class time to put together our case, we were in the library after school, at lunch, even before school on a few occasions. We read through all of the books that she had listed as References in her paper and couldn’t find any sign of plagiarism. There was a great deal of paraphrasing, but that is far different that plagiarism. Hell if one couldn’t paraphrase, no paper would ever be written on the high school level. We couldn’t find any sign that she had actually plagiarised anything though, at least not in the books that she had listed as her sources…

The report was about some event in the American Revolution, so we began looking at every reference book we could find that had anything to do with that subject. If you were going to plagiarise, we surmised, you wouldn’t want to list your source right on the last page of the report. We found what would be our only evidence (at least our only compelling evidence) in a single sentence in one of the books. I don’t remember the whole sentence, but it was talking about a message being sent from one person to another, one of the books described that action as being done by “Warren via Roxbury”. That sentence used the word “via“, which was not a word that your average 11 or 12 year old is going to be throwing around. Yet, right there in her report were those three words, along with a paraphrasing of the entire sentence. The smoking gun, as it were. We had her.

We also had a problem. In the reference book, “Warren via Roxbury” was written just like that, obviously meaning that a message was sent to Warren by way of Roxbury. In her report, that was written “Warren Via Roxbury”, note the capitalization of the word “via”. It became pretty clear to me that she was paraphrasing the sentence and mistakenly thought that Warren Via Roxbury was actually someone’s name (or a royal title such as Von in Baron Von Ess). Of course it was our charge to prove that she plagiarised her report, and this was all that we had, so we had to use this as our evidence even though we believed that it was really just a simple misunderstanding.

I don’t remember much about the actual trial. I know that we made our case and that Warren via Roxbury was our key evidence. I know that I felt terrible about actually doing it, since I was almost positive that she hadn’t done it on purpose. I know also that we won our case. I can’t remember what her punishment was, though I would like to think that she just had to rewrite her paper (she went to the next grade with the rest of the class, so she obviously didn’t fail based on this). I know that after the trial, any hope of ever being even remote acquaintances of the “cool kids” was completely out of the question. Ahh, the joys of youth.

I started thinking about this this morning as I was watching some show on American Justice. You see, I felt guilty as hell about proving this girl guilty when I knew that she didn’t do it, and this was all small potatoes. I wonder how lawyers can do the same, or worse the reverse of that with a clear conscience. I mean, it is their job to provide a vigorous defense, even if they know that you are guilty as sin, even if you tell them, show them photos, take them to where the bodies are buried, they have to defend you. How can anyone actually do that?

Am I ready for some football?

I have gotten back into watching football after not having done so for the last couple of years. I have always found it entertaining, but the number of times play is stopped for commercial break is a tad out of hand at this point. I don’t want to waste my time trying to tape the game (yeah, I am one of those guys that still can’t work his VCR. Build a pc from components sure, but that VCR is some pretty advanced technology), so I would just flip to the games and watch them in passing.

The biggest reason that I gave up on watching is because I happen to be (well I was) a Dallas fan. It all started on January 3, 1983 when I watched Tony Dorsett run the ball 99 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota. It should be noted that Minnesota actually won that game 31-27, but I was all of 8 years old at the time and thought Tony Dorsett was God. Then as I began playing the game myself, Dallas continued to field some great teams. When I was in high school, Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith, and Michael Irvin were just beginning to shine, and would eventually go on to win a few championships. Of course Jay Novacek never got the credit he deserved for his contribution to the team. Without the threat of the pass to the tight end, the field would never have opened up for Irvin to make such great plays. Ditto for Daryl Johnston, who was responsible for knocking open holes for Emmitt to run through. And you knew when he got the ball, no matter what stadium they were playing in, the crowd would all chant “Moose!”. That was the team I followed.

Unfortunately those halcyon days couldn’t last forever. Michael Irvin got arrested for drug charges in 1996 (and several other times since. can they all be unfounded?), Jimmy Johnson was carrying around a gun at the airport. Elsewhere in the league, players were being arrested for murder, and I just kind of got sick of the off field crap. It is difficult to watch the game and forget about all the crap these people do off the field, especially so when the commentators are talking about it constantly. Being a gifted athlete doesn’t give them the right to do whatever the fuck they want, but they sure seem to think it does. For a guy who would have given anything to be gifted enough to play at that level, watching them so foolishly piss away chunks of their career was maddening. So I just kind of quit watching.

This year I have began following the games again. The only reason for this is that Hoyazo set up a Yahoo! Pick ’em league. I had never heard of this, but I like the concept, at least as far as the way he has it set up. During the first week, I thought that the point spread counted and made my picks accordingly. The point spread actually didn’t count, so I got hammered on that. Thankfully, the worst week will be stripped from the overall score, so I am still in pretty good shape, now that I know the rules (learn to read, dumbass). Since the point spread doesn’t matter, picking the winners is considerably easier, but you have these confidence points that come into play for your score. That is where the fun part is.

There are at least 14 games every week, and you have to assign confidence to your pick on every one of them. If there are 14 games, you get every number from 1-14 to assign to each game for the week, using each number only once. Whoever gets the highest score wins. In a 14 game week, there are 105 possible points (14+13+12+11+10+9+8+7+6+5+4+3+2+1=105), so you better be pretty confident about the games that you assign your highest numbers to. And since we are all degenerates, we have added a small wager to the season totals just to keep it interesting. It only takes me five or ten minutes to plug in my picks and numbers for the week, and it gives me a team to root for in games that I would otherwise not care about in any way.

This week, which I am considering my first week since I totally fucked up the first week when I didn’t read the damn rules, I did pretty well. I only picked 5 underdogs on the week, and Minnesota, San Francisco, and the New York Giants all came through for me -two of them in overtime. I picked Green Bay to win, just because they were at home and I didn’t think they could lose two straight at Lambeau. Of course I was only sure enough to put 2 points on it. I also picked the Jets to win, even though the Patriots were favored by a touchdown, which was probably a poor choice. The worst was Miami getting beat at home. I had picked them to win and put 11 points on it, then they went on to lose it by ten. It wasn’t really even that close, they just got it handed to them.

This gives me an excuse to watch the games, and it sure is a lot more fun when you feel like you have something on the line. Of course what I have on the line amounts to about 4 cents per game over the season, but when the game starts it sure feels like a lot more.

DMCA: The greased pig of a new generation

I stood in my living room looking at the cd tower that had been untouched for about half a decade hoping to find my …And Justice for All album (is a cd an album?). The carefully conceived alphabetization has long since vanished; 20 cd’s per shelf means that every time you buy a new cd you have to move them all over starting at the bottom -something that I think everyone eventually gives up on. I found what I was looking for on the third shelf down, it was crammed between an old Motley Crue release and Eric Johnson’s Venus Isle (which is instrumentally wonderful, and a good cd to throw in when you just need to mellow out.). I opened up the case and, to not much shock, found that the cd inside was not Justice, it was Limp Bizkit (why do I have that cd at all?). Thus the game begins.

An hour later, I was sitting in the middle of a pile of empty cd cases and oddball cd’s. Limp Bizkit’s case was holding Zamfir (I used this for music at my wedding. It played softly for about an hour while everyone was being greeted and seated). Zamfir’s case was holding Madonna’a Immaculate Collection (that one is the wife’s). Madonna’s case held Slayer’s Reign in Blood (which was cool, since I had also been looking for that one for a while). Slayer’s case was holding a Phil Collins greatest hits. The Phil Collins case was holding The Hunger’s Devil Thumbs A Ride (the only song worth listening to on that one is Vanishing Cream). The Hunger’s case was holding Pantera… And on. And on. And on.

The stereo in my living room is a throwback to the late 80’s. A Pioneer receiver that boasts some ungodly wattage spread over the sophisticated left/right speaker system. It is capable of producing some really, really loud music, which I used to think sounded great -the louder the better- but a visit to an electronics store recently taught me that a cheap surround system with a subwoofer sounds 100 times better than two speakers -no matter how many Jigawatts of power they can handle. Truth be told, I haven’t actually listened to the cumbersome stereo in the living room for years, with the exception of playing a cd while playing the guitar, and even that would be better achieved with a small boom box. In fact, I get more use out of the cd player mounted under the cabinet in my kitchen (though I usually just tune it to the satellite radio and tune it to Octane). Aside from listening to the radio, none of the stereos in the house have much use anymore (I recently found that the stereo I bought for the shelf in this room won’t play cd’s at all).

Being an avid Gamer, I try to keep both my computer and the wife’s pretty current. There are actually three pc’s in the room I am sitting in, two of them with 19 inch LCD monitors, the other with a 17 inch. Graphics cards go from the 512mb Radeon card in this machine, to the 256mb GeForce card in her machine (which is actually superior to the 512 Radeon for many reasons, and it cost a hell of a lot more), even the third pc has 128mb of GeForce goodness. There is no point in having such awesome graphics if you don’t have the sound to back them up, so they all have some spiffy sound cards in them (the third pc has the best card, but I don’t want to go through the headache of swapping cards, downloading drivers and fucking with settings for hours on end). And for the ultimate gaming experience, our pc’s have (some middle-of-the-road) subwoofer speaker systems.

You see, an mp3 played through either of our pc’s sounds far better than an actual cd played through our actual stereo. And the difference is huge. While the stereo is run through a nice ADC equalizer, no amount of tweaking can equal the sound that comes out of the subwoofer system on either of the pc’s. So when I buy a new cd (most recently Nickelback’s All the Right Reasons), I listen to it first at the pc -usually while playing poker, surfing, or playing a game. So it seems odd that until yesterday the 160gb drive on my computer didn’t have a single mp3 on it.

Years ago, I used to have a lot of mp3’s on my system. Back when Napster was in its prime, I filled up two hard drives on an old, clunky 366mhz pc, over a 56k connection, with every song that I could remember having heard. That happened in a time when it would take me like a half an hour to download a song, then I would have to get really lucky to actually get it burnt to cd -at least for that cd to actually play in a stereo. When that pc eventually crashed, all the music that was on it was gone. Between that and the litigation that Napster was involved in, I kind of got soured to the mp3 format altogether. Well, my recent frustration while looking for my Metallica (I bet they love that) cd has finally thrust me back into the mp3 world.

Boy how technology has advanced in the last six years or so. It used to take me about a half an hour to rip a cd (on that antiquated -even at the time- pc), now it takes about two minutes, sometimes a bit longer if the cd is scratched up. Ditto for burning cd’s, about half an hour, often longer, on the old system, maybe five minutes on a new one. With this newfound knowledge, I began ripping every cd I could get my hands on. Within a couple of hours, I had thirty hours of music on the machine, and the majority of that time was trying to find the discs in the first place. The problem is that I never found some of them. I have the cases in hand, and know that the discs are around here…Somewhere…but they may as well be in Jimmy Hoffa’s jacket pocket for all the luck I am having finding them.

Well, Wal-Mart has song downloads for 88 cents apiece. Maybe I could just download the songs that I liked. After all, there aren’t many albums that have more than two or three that you like, right? (Old Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera are obviously excluded from that) But my first search showed that Wal-Mart didn’t have some of the songs that I was looking for. But google did. Well, google didn’t actually have the mp3’s, but it pointed me to many, many outlets that did. And the prices, well, that is why I am typing right now.

I found a website called that has song downloads at unbelievably low prices. The songs range from ten to twenty cents each. They even have cheaper versions of the songs if you get them in lower bit-rates. The thing about it is that the price for each song seems to be based on the size of the file, not the artist or any other criteria that a record company might base it on. That, combined with the way you buy music has me a wee bit concerned about it all.

The purchases are (theoretically) on a per song basis, but there is a minimum purchase; you have to buy in for at least ten bucks. I can understand the logic of that, since if you could just go and buy a song for a dime, the record keeping would be a logistical nightmare. When you are forced to buy in for a larger amount, it will keep small, individual purchases to a minimum, which will also keep credit card fees on their end low. But if you step back and look at it, it looks a smidge different; pay them ten bucks and you can download “X” mbs of music. Looking at it from that perspective, it would seem that you are not paying for the music so much as you are paying for the bandwidth to download it, which I am pretty sure would be illegal for them to do. Realistically, I don’t see how they can offer both the music and the bandwidth for a dime (although most songs are closer to twenty cents).

Being a fairly conscious consumer, I went and read their terms of service and license agreement(otherwise known as the TOS and EULA, both of which I ordinarily ignore completely). The company is based in Russia, and claims that it pays international license fees for the music that it provides… But it goes on to say that every country has different copyright laws, and that they do not know the laws for every country. Thus it is your responsibility to find out if the music from their site is downloaded in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction you are in. That sounds just a wee bit shady, eh? That sure would seem to release them of any liability from a purely legal standpoint, and place the blame squarely on you.

I am going to continue to use the service (until I spend my initial balance at the very least), because the prices are great and I think I have found a close parallel to it: cigarettes. It’s no secret that the majority of the price of cigarettes is directly due to state and federal taxes. However, it is possible for a consumer to purchase cigarettes in foreign countries and bring them into the US without paying a penalty. That is, R.J. Reynolds sells the cigarettes to Cambodia (for instance), a nation that doesn’t require such taxes. Cambodia can then sell the cigarettes to anyone for any price they want. A US citizen can buy the cigarettes and bring them back into the states (although I think there is a limit to the amount you can bring in) for personal use. Of course the resale of the cigarettes would be highly illegal, but for personal use it is fine. There is a bit of a grey area regarding buying them over the internet or the phone, but since you can buy them legally, and they can sell them to you legally, there is little that can be done about it.

Since says that they pay the international copyright fees for the music, I have to take that at face value. As an individual, I’ve no way of getting into either their records, or the music industry records to verify it, so I simply must assume that it is true. At the same time, I do have access to google, and a quick search there shows that it is also apretty grey area. All of the articles that I have read regarding the service show that the consensus seems to be that it is legal for private use (with the RIAA, of course, disagreeing). So until it shakes out in court, I am not going to get too gung-ho about it.

I don’t want to break the law, but I also don’t want to being paying for Lars’ solid gold bathtub. If a service like this one is actually legal (even if only for Russians to use), that means that the music that we pay 15 bucks a cd for is being sold elsewhere for two bucks. To me, that makes it seem far more likely that the recording industry is breaking laws by selling the music to US citizens at seven times fair market value. As much as I hate to admit it though, I could be dead wrong on this. It is necessarily going to take some landmark lawsuit being settled in the US Supreme Court to decide whether the record company is using their monopoly to extort the US people or the users are stealing content from the record companies. And the sooner the better for all of us.

Party, my ass!

I signed up for an account on Partypoker a long time ago. This was just before I actually started learning how to play hold ’em. Which is to say that I thought I knew exactly how to play every hand in every situation, based solely on the fact that I had caught a couple of old WSOP repeats on ESPN. It didn’t go well. A couple days ago I was cleaning the PC of unnecessary programs and Partypoker was on the chopping block. Partypoker just has the most counter-intuitive interface of any poker program I have ever played (this in my opinion, of course), and with Pokerstars, Full Tilt and Poker Room still on the PC, I see no reason to keep it.

I logged into the party account to see if I had a balance, though I was relatively sure I had blanked it before I quit using it some time ago. I found that I did have a balance, but only 4 bucks. That was too small to waste the time withdrawing, and too small to get into a tournament with, so I decided to play blackjack until I had either a buy-in or wiped myself. I actually did fairly well with the blackjack and turned the 4 dollars into twenty in only a few minutes. So why didn’t I just continue to play blackjack instead of signing up for a hold ’em tournament? That is a damn good question actually.

I was plugging away in a ten dollar tournament (well, 11 dollars, but 10+1 on every other poker site), noting that the competition seemed to be every bit as bad as it was the last time I played there. In the first fifteen minutes, I saw two all-ins, both of which involved the winner having no better than second pair. It turns out that everyone else in the tournament might have been doing an elaborate hoax to bait me though (yeah, I love me a good conspiracy theory).

We’re in level two of the tournament and I haven’t paid to see a flop yet. I am on the button with pocket 4’s. There are two limpers ahead of me, and I chose not to raise with a small pair in this position. Still in level two of the tourney, if I were to put in a standard bet of 3 or 4x, it would only be about 100 chips. A lot of players who maybe aren’t very good don’t see that as indicative of a strong hand and will call it anyway -particularly on Party poker-, the small blind folded. At any rate, the flop came up Q-7-Q and it checks around to me. I assume that one of the three limpers has a Queen, so figuring that I want to find out right away, I put a pot sized bet out. I got a couple of quick folds, and the big blind called it, which tells me nothing of his hand, though I have to guess that he has either a pocket pair or the flop hit him in some way. The turn comes out another 4, giving me a boat that can only be behind to pocket 7’s or Q-7. It is checked to me again, so I put in another pot-sized bet which is again called by the blind. The river is a rag, and it is checked to me again. I bet out with about half the pot (which was getting pretty big at this point) and got instantly minraised by the blind. I can’t realistically put this guy on a hand. There is no possibility of a straight or a flush and the river was a 2 or 3 that couldn’t possibly have helped him. I am dead sure that he is trying to bluff me out of this one with the minraise, so I push ’em all in. No way he can beat my boat. Insta-call. His cards: Q-7.

In the little chat box, I typed “well played”, which he didn’t get to see, because I was already on the rail and Party doesn’t allow observers to chat. At any rate, he played this hand far better than I give anyone at party credit for being able to play. About 90% of the players at party would have pushed on the flop from first position with a made boat. 9.9% of them would have pushed on the turn. .09% of them would have pushed on the river. I happened to run into the one guy on that site who was capable of checking on every street. I did put out a bet on each one, which made that easier for him, but I have to ask, how many people do you know that could have played the river that way? Checking to me meant that he may not get any more chips out of it at all. Then when he did raise me, it was for the minimum, which he had to know I would read as weak and put him all in on. If other players make it to the river without betting that hand, I bet there are very, very few that would be capable of minraising in that position.

He had been trapping me from the flop, and I never saw it coming. I thought he may have a queen for trips, but never did it even cross my mind that he would be capable of playing a made boat that well for three streets. Well played, Sir.