Saturday, May 27, 2006


WARNING: For those bored by random poker stories, continue no farther.

Anywho, last Saturday I qualified for the grandaddy of 'em all, the World Series of Poker, which takes place at the Rio (Harrah's) in Las Vegas at the end of July. This even has the highest purse of any event in history. This year it should approach 80 million dollars...yikes and double yikes.

The Reader's Digest version of how I got in was by way of a free-roll, meaning it didn't cost me anything to play (except some "points" I acquired playing at the website)

There were 1584 players vying for 5 trips to the WSOP. I hit a few hands late and took the chip lead ad held a pretty much commanding lead for the last couple of hours. It was a good feeling because once we got down to nine players, I basically couldn't finish out of the money barring a complete brain cramp and meltdown. I didn't have to play very courageously or make any tough decisions, it was actually very easy, which is unusual in these types of qualifiers to say the least. As a rule, it is very tense and stressful.

When it was down to 7, I had about 2 million in chips, the second place guy had 800,000 or so, and no one else had over 400,000. Thise lower stacks played scared and super-tight because they were hoping to slide into one of the btoom three spots and they all had about 200,000 chips. Once the blinds got up to 30,000 and 60,000, it was like petty theft. A smal raise had them all folding up their cards, hoping the next guy to bust out wasn't them.

Enough recap, I probably lost most of you already.


They have capped the event at a ridiculous 8,000 participants (largest field ever by a long shot) and the main event is scheduled to last about twelve days. The first "day" is broken into four. Day 1 A, 1B, 1C and 1D. I hope to play on 1D, July 31st so I don;t have to play one day, then wait for 3, if I am lucky enough to survive day 1. More than half of the players weeded out on day 1, about 60%, I believe.

With 8,000 players, about 800 or so will make "the money", so you are about 9:1 to make any cash... the bottom 100 in the money basically get their buy-in ($10,000) back.

The eventual winner will get about 10 million, and most of the final table finishers (top nine) wil become millionaires, if not immediately through prize money, through the endorsements sure to come their way.

I haven;t really mapped a strategy out yet, but I plan to be tight, but aggressive, making stronger than usual moves with strong hands. There will be thousands of players making their first trip there, many of whom will be playing their first live tournament. These players are likely to be nervous and playing extra-tight. I want to capitalize on this by bullying when I can and stealing pots with re-raises.

One mark of the internet player is making a lot of raises and stabs at pots, but they don;t like to be re-raised. I also have to be aware of sharks, pros that have been there many times before and will be looking to establish control of the table. It's important to make stands when I can and let these guys know I won't be pushed around, even if it means risking my stack once or twice early. I hate having to do this, but if I don't take that chance, I will just be picked apart a little ata time, dying one hand at a time. These guys sense weakness a mile away and will rob me blind if I don't stand my grounf.

Doyle Brunson is the classic example of this type of player, commonly referred to in poker cirlces as a "lion". The lion knows the psychology of the entire table and can generally read you in just a couple of minutes, making decisions more based on your personality type than his own cards.

I have watched a lot of footage where Brunson uses re-raises to push people out of pots where he senses weakness, yet has no real hand of his own.

All I can say is yeeeee haaaaaaaa!!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Da Stenchi Code

WARNING: I amy give away parts of the movie, so stop reading if that will p*ss you off.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Well, this started as a rant on the Da Vinci Code and wound up as a ramble on spiritual discovery- be forewarned.

Many religious organizations have protested this movie out of fear that it may shake the faith of followers the world around.

I saw this flick last night, and my faith was indeed shaken. It brought into question many things which can not be accounted for.

There was a time when I believed... that Hollywood might produce a decent blockbuster on occasion, but I am not so sure anymore. The loopholes are gigantic in this film. Admittedly, I didn't read the book, so there is the great possibility that Dan Brown connected some dots there that just didn't mesh in the movie, but the lack of any compelling evidence didn't seem to deter the filmmakers in the least.

Okay, the big deal is the combination of two suppositions. Firstly, that Jesus and Mary Magdelene were married, as was allegedly suggested in the book of Phillip, which was not accepted as legitimate by the church at the counsel of Nacir in the 300s.

Secondly, that the remains of Mary Magdelene were being kept and that the DNA in the remains could be linked to a surviving heir.

The big who-gives-a-shit is obvious to me, but apparently is not deemed worthy by director Ron Howard. The end of the world as we know it is the suggestion, but even if it WERE proven to be Mary Magdelene's remains, and if if they WERE linked to a survivor, and even if hillip WAS accepted... that doesn't prove it was Jesus' child...not unless they dug up the cross somehow and checked HIS DNA against that of any supposed surviving heirs.

There are so many manipulated facts in this movie that I can't fathom why any church segement would give a shit about it. If you aren't clever enough to realize this is fictional, you are in trouble anyway, likely to be tempted away from faith by the gay Tele-tubby or Howard Stern.

I was skimming channels yesterday and passed by some show on the Catholic channel that presented an historian illustrating historical evidence to refute the Da Vinci Code as fictional.

Why go to the trouble of proving that fiction is fictional? Am I missing something? Are there actually people that BELIEVE the Da Vinci Code is REAL?

To me, it seems like getting all up-in-arms about this only draws attention and lends credence to theories that have never been accepted as fact in the first place. This film is so implausible and so lame that it's more likely to be converted to homosexuality by the purple Tele-tubby than it is to be diverted from Christianity by this piece of crap.

The notion that someone would die to protect this lie is inane to me. One of the things that leads me to believe Jesus was in fact divine is the willing death of all his deciples- the same deciples that abandoned Him when he was being murdered. Why would those guys defend His name and refuse to deny Him even to their own deaths when they chickened out when he was alive, had He ot actually come back as He said He would?

That doesn't make sense to me.

Think about it simplistically for a second.

I'm Jesus... I tell you I am going to die, then come back. You kind of blow it off. I get arrested and you run like a punk. I DON'T come back, I am NOT resurrected... why the hell are you going to claim me as your Lord now? Why would you claim me even as you are tortured and murdered?

The short answer is that you wouldn't...

The best thing any religious person ever did for me was to trust in God's power and leave me to my own thoughts.

I had serious questions about His existence, so I asked my boyhood minister "who is this Jesus guy? and "Is He God, or what?"

The minster said to me, "Why don't you ask Him yourself?" and left it at that. I couldnl't believe he trusted Gid enough to reveal Himself to me, that he wasn't going to try to manipulate me into believing what he thought was the truth.

He said, "Ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you, ask Him if he's real. Ask God to show himself, and He will."

Mind you, I had already had a vital spiritual experience that had altered my state f mind, consciousness and had saved and changed my entire life, but I still had absolutely no conecption of what Power had caused this.

I started with prayers like, "Who are you?" and "Jesus, are you real or what?"

All I can say is that my faith grew from that into a... well, a knowing.

When you KNOW, you don't really worry so much whether everyone else believes what you believe, it somehow becomes unimportant.

I am not smarter than anyone else, I only "know" because I was near death and desperate and willing to open my mind. Experiences came to me that revolutionaized my thinking and belief system.

There are people that simply have it more together than I ever did. These people can get through life without this type of vital experience. The fact that I needed it just to function doesn't make me better than the next guy.

I guess the point is that I don't understand why people of real faith get unnverved by a horrible movie based in fiction. If faith is vital and real, it just can't be shaken by the beilef, or un-belief of another.

Instead of protesting bad movies that don't make sense anyway, go help someone. Make a sandwich for a homeless guy- give him a cold can of Coke with it. I am really going out on a limb here, speaking for Christ... but my guess is that if He were here today in human form, He would be making the sandwich and handing it out, not holding a sandwich board.

Friday, May 19, 2006


So I checked out this obscure flick the other day at the Kendall Sq cinema and was pleasantly surprised...nay, shocked I should say, pleasantly shocked.

I had gone to the theater the week before and saw a poster for the movie, "Brick". It described the film as a detective-type flick. Well... I love this stuff, so I looked it up on the internet and found it had received some acclaim.

Call me a cynic, but I was encouraged by the fact that I had yet to see one commercial for it, one trailer and zero buzz. (Usually a little buzz is positive with regard to independent flicks, but I was nonetheless pleased to have heard zilch.)

It was described as "minimalist" which I always love. While the flm is not the best quality and there are, of course, zero effects, my experience has shown that it means the film makers have to focus on execution on the part of the actors, and quality of content and story.

What these guys did was amazing, in my book. First if all, the camera work, while not flashy, was terrific. Some of the angles reminded of some of the stuff Kubrick did in The Shining.

What the film is, basically, is a noir flick set in a California high school. (I know it sounds ludicrous, but rust me on this one.) The main character (played brilliantly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a total departure from Thrid Rock from the Sun) is what Bogie would be today if he were a high school kid working on finding out who killed the ex-girlfriend he was still madly in love with.

They do a fantastic job of transposing the classic noir plot on top of a modern caper. You've got the uneasy relationship the old time detective had with the cops... that deal where he would tell them just enough to get them to do what he needed them to do, only it's with the Vice Principal, played to the hilt by Richard Roundtree (the original "Shaft"). You've got Emilie de Ravin (from "Lost") as the woman he loved who fell-in-with-the-wrong-crowd-and-got-killed-for-it. She is very convincing as the sad ex you are first introduced to as a dead body. Nora Zahetner is terrific as the beautiful debutante that can't be trusted, and Meagan Good brings to life the evil man-manipulating vamp that would have been played by Bette Davis sixty years ago. Lukas Haas is perfect as the local drug kingpin whose organization main character Brendan needs to infiltrate, replete with out-of-control muscle. And of course, the cast wouldn't be complete without the brilliantly nerdy confidant and trustworthy human encyclopedia, aptly and stereotypically called, "Brain".

Trust me, it's all there.

What I like best is the deft usage of gumshoe lingo, all created so that while it is obviously modernized and makes complete sense... well, I have heard none of these terms or words, it is just brilliant writing.

The high school Bogie is a street-smart spectacled kid flawed with too much integrity and a loyalty that constantly threatens to get him killed. His Machiavellian technique is an homage to the Bogie classics that you know director Rian Johnson has watched over and over again.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Twin Peaks had a second season?"

I was in Hollywood Video (not to be confused with Hollywood Express) looking for a series to rent. I settled on "Dead Like Me", which was actually original and quite good.

I noticed on the way out that they still have't gotten the second season to Twin Peaks in yet, and it came out last July. I asked the young girl at the counter when she thought they would be getting it in, and she sadly stated that she doubted they would be getting it in at all. The manager steps from behind her and says, "Twin Peaks had a second season?"

My question is this... why is this woman even alowed IN a video store, let alone running one?

"There was a second season to Twin Peaks?" Are you shitting me?

It's bad enough they aren't carrying it, yet have TWO copies of last year's "OC", but to employ someone complete unaware of Twin Peaks in a video store, well it just feels wrong to me.

Fortunately, I was there, and went to town on said manager.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Having Fun on Stage

It just hasn't been happening. Maybe I'm not a polsihed pro, but it's just no good if Iam not having fun up there. I have had a few tough gigs of late where pretty much no one could have broken the room.

I decided a couple of weeks ago that I am not going anywhere that I don;t think is going to be fun. I am taking less serious gigs and doing more off-the-cuff nonsense like Dan Hirshon's room on Monday Night at Sally O'Brien's. He calls the show "Will Joke for Food".

After my recent beating at the elderly-laced Melha Shrine show and previous outings at another club where the crowds have been quiet, I have had to re-assess what the hell I am doing. I went to the show Monday Night knowing it would be a loud bar with the Red Sox/Yankees game blaring in the back and precious few people paying attention. I also knew that some of my best comedy buddies in town would be there, and that we would be having quite a few laughs- mostly at ourselves.

It was the perfect gig for me, one where it is abslutely impossible to take yourself too seriously. How can you take "Will Joke for Food" with anything but a grain of salt?

The place was loud,and several patrons were more than obnoxious, but it was a good time. Any time I get to hang with Hirshon, Shane Mauss, Sweeney, Jj and comany is always a good time, for me anyway.

Last night I was on at the Comedu Studio in Harvard Sq.

Wednesday nights are unpredictable there. Sometimes you can hear crickets, other times it is full. There are always several comedy chums around though.

Last night I planned to use the stage time to "practice being myself" on stage.

This is a euphemism I use when I want to justify going in without a planned set or any preperation. Strangely, it usually works. I like to do this when I am feeling a tad burned out.

I wound up sitting on a stool, displaying my "relaxed" look. Torn jeans with the good ol' Doc Martens. I just chatted about the recent gigs, including the one where I was heckled by the elderly folks, and it scored big. It was one of the best short sets I've done recently... it just cracks me up what a little relaxation can do. I try to go with the mindset of just being myself instead of being funny, and letting the funny come naturally.

I was told after the set by friend Dot, however, that she did not like the torn jeans, because my knee stuck and made me look too skinny. I knew this was an issue. It was my plan to have the "meaty" part of my knee sticking out through the hole, but as it happened, I got careless on stage and forgot to make sure this was the look I was presenting.

There were some cute women in the audience, too, that I am certain would have found me irresistable had I only adhered to the meaty-knee-flesh-through-the-hole plan.


The only real minor bummer was that in telling the old people/bad show story, I used a punchline of yelling "I like pudding" which has apparently been used before. Dot told me Mary Beth Cowan has a joke with an old lady saying "I like pudding" non-sequitur, and Harrison Stebbins came up to me after my set and mentioned that he has it in a joke as well, though the usage is not similar.

I need to check with a veteran to see if "I like pudding" is just a stock old-peron senile line that is public domain, or whether or not I need to change it. It would be a shame because it really is the perfect line in this particular joke.

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