Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My Official Prune Juice Glass

Well, it's official. I have moved on from youth. Being that I recently turned 40, it may have happened a while back, but as they say, you are always the last to know.

This morning I was about to pour myself a glass of prune juice, an act in and of itself indicative of a changing of the guard, when I realized I didn't have my favorite glass out.

My brother-in-law's brother gave me these nice cider glasses when I visited Germany earlier in the year. The glasses are nice, but I had yet to find a practical use for them. They are just a tad small for a cold coke, and I am a guy that likes a glass of orange juice in a 16 oz. beer stein (probably revenge for all those insulting shot-glass sized OJs I had as a kid.)

About a month or so back, I concluded that a jolt of prune juice a few times per week would be beneficial to my... system. At first, I resisted, feeling that prune juice is strictly for the elderly. When my body chattered back to me, I relented.

What I didn't expect was to find myself glaring at a glass at 8am on a Tuesday morning thinking, "Hey, THAT isn't my prune juice glass!"

So, whatever delusions of youth I may have clung to shattered with that moment. It isn't so bad ater all. I still have my hair, all my teeth, and you know, this stuff isn't half bad. And let's face it- it really moves the mail.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Good Old Logan

For years I have been the designated "airport" guy in my family and with friends. I took great pride in the old days in my ability to navigate in and out of Logan Airport in Boston with ease while most people had conniptions, if I am spelling conniptions correctly, negotiating one of the worlds most difficult airports.

Things got markedly easier when the added the direct-access tunnel to Logan off of the Mass Pike. Sometimes I would go down through Cambridge (for going through Cambridge out of anything but neccesity read: silly) just to jump on the Pike and get the easy in and out now offfered.

All this has changed...dramatically. With the tragic accident that killed a Boston woman and caused the shutdown of the new tunnel into Logan, things have switched back to the nightmarish, exit-from-the-pike-take-expressway-to-the-Callahan-tunnel technique of getting to Logan from all points west.

I am seemingly unaffected by this, as I can simply jet down rte 93 (expressay) and take the still-open airport exit.

Last night, I was baptised into the "new" difficulties arising from the tunnel closing.

I got to the airport exactly on time, three minutes early actually, to pick up my pal Tommy, whop was flying in from Denver via Cleveland. You can't wait for arriving passengers anymore and there is no short term parking, so you have to do drive-bys until you see the guy waiting out there. I glanced at the clock in my car, noticing that his plane would not land for three mintes, and it would take him another 5-10 to get out there, and thought I would make a lopp around the airport and come back- big mistake.

As I started my loop, I accidentally took the "airport exit" ramp instead of "parking" (which loops you around). Thus began an odyssey through which no man should be forced to journey. I made this dough-headed blunder once before, but the results were nowhere near as nightmarish.

I mumbled *&$% as I exited the airport and scraped through my change for the $3 it was going to cost me to leave, and come back. As I emerged in South Boston (Southie) I realized that all the re-entries to the airport had been changed. I followed signs "to airport" most of which were not lit and were dull. Eventually, I was re-routed through Southie, still eyeing signs "to airport" and was led to some beat up access road with about a million cars on it. Once the sitting period ended, we were whisked through red lights, traffic cops with flashlights wavingwavingwaving...let's go let's GO! the flashlights said.

"Where the &^$% are the airport signs?" I wondered.

There weren't any...nothing, nada. Are they leading us ALL to the airport? Why would anyone be on this access road if not for that purpose?" I glanced at the clock, my friend landed ten minutes ago, he would be on the curb by now.

Whsikwhiskwhisk... we whipped through red lights in a long line.

Rte 92 South appeared on the first sign I have seen since Junior High.

"SOUTH??? That can't be good, why south?"

As I entered the highway, I knew I was $%^&ed. Now to put this into perspective for you, to show you what Massachusetts signage and highways systems do to people, I began to scream at the top of my lungs at the moon (who was completely innocent in al of this), MUTHA&#$@# This from a man that had his vehicle struck and didn't blink, didn't swear, wasn't angry. I have a weird pseudo-zen guru-like reaction to catastrophe. I don't get rattled, as a rule. Cancer calls, accidents, Red Sox implosions... nothing gets to me... except Massachusetts roadways and the ludicrous joke that is our siganage (or lach thereof) system. Call it my spiritual achille's heel.

I get off at the next exot, on the edge od Dorchester, and notice there is no re-entry to rte 93 North, which is a nice surprise, as now I get to tour Dorchester while my friend waits at the airport wondering where the hell I am.

Speeding along the streets, listening closely for gunfire, I finally see some stuff I recognize. I figure I am cloise to Andrew Square. I amble over to Southie and find Broadway, eventually getting back on Rte 93 North. Amusingly, there is no exit directly to the airport on 93 North anymore (chuckle chuckle)

I think to myself, "Hey, self... if you get off at Government Center, the airport is RIGHT THERE. There used to be an exit to shoot right into the airport, this isn't THAT bad after all. A quick glance at the clock tells me my friend has been waiting for about twenty minutes. As I approach Government center, exit 23, there are THREE SIGNS, three, and two of them lit AND blinking which state "Government Center ONLY" and Government, NO EXIT.

I think to myself, "Damn... they really need that open, especially with the Pike exit closed... why would it be closed now?" As I pass the third sign warning me of the situation, I wonder how the hell you get to the airport.

Forty feet after I go by exit 23, a flashing signs informs me: Exit 23 or 27 to airport.

Again I cry out, this time to the ceiling of the South Boston tunnel instead of the moon, 'MUTHA&^%@#!!! thinking, geez...that would have been great to know about 60 feet ago.

I wonder why exit 27... thinking, "doesn't exit 27 take you to the Tobin Bridge, which runs your around through, Chelsea Everett and Revere?"

BINGO...that's exactly what it does. As I travel over the Tobin, gazing at the airport I know I won't get to for another fifteen minutes, I signal and steer into the middle lane to avoid a work truck with it's flashers on. Some jackass in a speeding SUV beeps at me from about a hundred yards back, forseeing that if he doesn't click off his cruise control, set at about 70 in a 40 mph zone, he will eventually collide with my vehicle.

This time, there is no shouting at the moon, or the bridge. I coolly, calmly, extend my fist through my moon roof, gently extending my middle finger to its full glory. As the guy passes, I look straight ahead, utilizing my left hand in much the same way, filling my driver's side window my a message of disapproval. I don't know if I need to tell you, but flipping the bird to SUV's in Revere isn't the brightest idea in the world.

I see the signs for AIRPORT, and in spite of the final sign for the airport being unlit, in drak green and having the arronw colored-in by some wiseacre, I make the turn.

Again, I haven't behaved this way in traffic in about ten years. Long story made painfully longer... I arrive at the airport a scant 47 minutes after I made "the loop". The hysterical thing is that I only LIVE 15 minutes from the airport.

Thanks Logan!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bust Out!

Well kids, the dream is over... for 2006.

I busted out at about 3 am last night after 14 hours (11 1/2 of actualy playing time.) It was a tough day, but I represented myself well. I was on the short stack (low on chips relative to the other chips stacks and the blinds) most of the day.

I had remarkable cards dealt to me in the first level of play (the first two hours), but took some rough beats and ran into some big hands. I had pocket kings THREE times in the first session, but lost two of those hands. Once running to AA (luckily, that guy had a shorter stack than I did) and the other time running into a guy that called my big pre-flop raise with 55, and hit a thrid 5 on the flop. I also had 10 10 three times in the first several hours and AK twice... but lost most of those hands.

My saving grace was my FOURTH, yes, FOURTH pocket KK hand. I went all-in and got called by... a guy with AA. The odds of running into AA with KK is roughly 6000:1, and I did it twice in three hours. Luckily, I hit a King on the turn and stayed alive, crippling my opponent in the process. He was a good sport about it, and his pain was probably eased by the terrible ass-beatings I had taken from lady luck.

So, from about the end of the first hour of play, I was on the short stack, and I managed to ride it out for another 11 hours, battling back from chip counts as low as 3,200 and 2,7oo to get back around sea level at 10,000.

The table I started on was in a section they chose to dismantle, and my table got broken up just before the fifth (of six) level. I was greeted with a couple of kidney punches as I tried to play hands. I raised in late position, only to be bet all-in (and forced to fold) by the designated table-bully (big stack and using chips to threaten other players.) I limped in (just called) with 77 in late position, hoping to catch a 7 on the flop for cheap. The flop was 10 10 9, a pretty good flop for me, but the chip leader bet heavily and took the pot away from me. I contemplated a call, but didn't want to gamble my entire tournament on that hand, believing there would better opportunities later.

There were.

My stack dwindled, but I took down a few pots with strategic all-ins, helped by my tight play, my bets seemed to have an impact greater than what my stack-size should have allowed. I battled, and found myself with 7,200 chips with 40 minutes to play in round one.

As the hour grew late, I was determined to double my stack, or go down punching trying to double-up. I didn't see the point of changing flights, staying extra days and re-arrangng my life, then limping into Day 2 with 4,000 or 5,000 chips- I needed ammunition.

A new bully joined the table. This guy was scary-looking, with a mountain-man beard, hair everywhere and a purple sun-hat with little shite flowers on it. The silly hat contrasted his manacing glare and ogre-like appearance. This guy and the other bully seemed to neutralize each other to an extent, but he certainly wasn;t afraid to bet. He and the other kid controlled the table, and it was implied that if you wanted to see a flop, you should be ready to surrender all your chips.

I waited and waited, throwing all-in twice, taking down the blinds and come over the top of a raise (with 99 and 88 respectively) to stay afloat. The all-in reraise resulted in an amusing chat between the most colorful player at the table and myself. He was a tall thin black kid with enough jewelry to open his own store. His sense of humor was the only relief in this nest of vipers. He looks at me and says, "now I want you to answer this question, and if you don't answer, I'm gonna read something into that anyway... DO you want the action? (Do you want me to call?)"

I told him the truth, "I really don't care, but I can;t get to where I need to be stealing blinds once every three rounds. I need to double."

The table seemed to get a kick out of this response, a couple of players sounded surprised, saying, "good answer."

He folded, showing Ace-Jack and said, "I feel like I just got stuck up."

To rub it in, I didn't show him my hand (99). Eventually, I told him I had nines, and he seemed satisfied. The next hand I caught 88 in the small blind. The table folded to me and I threw all-in. It was a high percentage move. The guy next to me had a short stack than I and was still chell-shocked from losing with (after misplaying) pocket aces. I showed the 88, lest the table get the idea I was randomly throwing chips around and stealing.

As the session drew to a close, I knew I just needed to hit one all-in double-up to have a shot during Day 2. I had 7,200- not enough to begin Day 2. One double up, with the blinds and antes would get me to around 18,000 or 19,000.

The mountain-man raised the 300-600 blinds to 1500. I was in late position, three players down from him. I looked at my hole cards and saw AK. I knew this hand was my tournament, and moved all-in. There was no doubt in my mind that it was the right move.

He leaned into the tabe and glared at me, as if to say, "are you kidding? Do you have any idea who I am?"

I knew he would call, given the size of his stack and his already substantial investment in the pot. He counted out my 5,700 chip raise and called, none too happy with my move. I showed AK and he flipped AQ off-suit, making me about a 70-30 favorite to double-up and stay alive in the tournament.

The flop saw three rags fall (two spades) with little help for my opponent, he needed a queen or a backdoor flush. The turn showed us a spade, and my tournament life flashed before my eyes. A spade or a quen on the river and I was done for. I have had a number of tournaments ended by running spades (running cards describe your opponent needing- and catching- two consecutive cards to beat a hand in superior position)

The entire table was pulling for me, partially because I had faught a valiant fight, playing the role of the short stack with extreme effectiveness, and partially because they didn't want to see this monstar accumulate any more chips (and power) than he already had.

The river showed a spade and I congratulated my opponent, my World Series was over.

It took a few minutes to hit me. As I walked back to my hotel, I felt good about my effort and the way I played and handled myself. I haven't seen many people play a short stack as effectively as I had, though I wished the results were different. I reminded myself that I outlasted poker greats such as Phil Hellmuth, Joe Hachem, Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim.

As I walked the long hallway out of the convention center, I felt the weight of al the work I had done to get there. Sure, it was poker, and it was fun most of the time, but the massive effort I had put on for two months landed on me like an anvil... the multiple qualifiers, the point-building to get into the qualifiers, the efforts to improve my game including reading a number of books, and mostly playing playing playing, working out different scenarios, strategies and gameplans.

The reality of how hard I would have work to get back here agin next year hit me, and as good as I had played- how much I needed to improve to get where I want to be- the final table.

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