Friday, May 26, 2006

Vegas Quickie

This will be a quick update as I'm writing while my brother takes a short nap. He still hasn't figured out how to sleep in Vegas, which admittedly takes a lot of practice. This is my brother, making sure I have a safe photograph for blog viewing. The fu manchu with the "soul patch" is recent facial attire. Jen (and most women) are voting no. Even he calls it the "barbed wire fence for women." I think the goal was something Hachem-esque and it does seem to be helping his table image. He specifically added the "soul patch" to try to get some distance from the look of Vito's lover in the Sopranos. I think it's still too close for comfort.

Wednesday night, we headed over to the Venetian to meet up with Jen, John and Jen's uncle John. We stopped by the poker room because my brother hadn't seen it yet. He was encouraged to see they were spreading some stud (with a lower rake than the Mirage). I was pleased on a different front; Tom McEvoy was there. I saw Tom just briefly when the room opened and really haven't spent any quality time with him since the WSOP last year.

I've been in Vegas about six times in the last five months. I'm constantly surprised at how fast this city changes. Michael Craig stayed at the Boardwalk in December. Today, this is all that is left; a clown facade, awaiting execution.

Every time we walk by the Aladdin, another piece is gone.

I accept change. But I also know that I am a person that needs a sense of history. Vegas should have gotten the lead in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

I promise more updates soon. I will also try to get a picture of my brother's current collection of "escort" cards.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Back to Vegas

Every year my brother and I carve out a week in Vegas to participate in that futile, but oh so invigorating, exercise of low-limit poker. And today is launch day.

We'll be staying at the Monte Carlo, which is one of our mainstays; not too much tourist flow, decent pool (bathing suit photo op?), and centrally located to where my brother will be trying to scare up low limit stud action. Perhaps "action" isn't the right word for Vegas stud games. My brother will come to the same conclusion he comes to every trip to vegas lately; the people left playing stud have been playing it longer than he's been alive. But that realization will be part of our annual ritual.

Our other rituals are drinking bellinis at Bertolini's at Caesar's Forum, checking out the lion action at the MGM, obligatory Bellagio fountain stops, and scoring enough comps for the Monte Carlo breakfast buffet (there is something oddly special about their bacon).

I stayed at the Palms during one of my Magical Mystery Tour stops with Michael Craig, but my brother has never been. So we'll probably spend one day doing the Palms. I suspect we won't play much poker over there, but we will be exploring drunken pai gow and video poker.

There are some people we hope to see out in Vegas. Jen and John will be there for a couple of days - but I know they have a packed schedule. We are planning to kidnap BJ for a photo journalist's tour of downtown and possibly Red Rock Canyon. And I know that the LasVegasVegas folks have had a tough week this week. My thoughts are with you guys. But I'm hoping that I'll we'll be able to work out a visit while I'm there.

I just downloaded skype and bought a headset. Technology permitting I'll be skyping in for the radio show on Thursday night. I don't want to miss this as Nolan Dalla will be our guest. His book about Stu Ungar is a must read. But besides that, Nolan has one of the best insights on the changing landscape of poker. He's also a longhorn.

So the next post will be from that city of sin. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Snap Out of It! and Bubble Aid

Loretta Castorini: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two months since my last confession.

Priest: What sins have you to confess?

Loretta Castorini: Twice I took the name of the Lord in vain, once I slept with the brother of my fiancee, and once I bounced a check at the liquor store, but that was really an accident.

Priest: Then it's not a sin. But... what was that second thing you said, Loretta?

I was getting my Iggy ubber post fix yesterday, when I came across the thread he found about yet another multiple account incident. Following the thread I couldn't help thinking of Moonstruck. The poster's argument went something like this:

Poster: The online site has wonderful customer support because they investigated my suspicion that I had been cheated.

Poster: The online site verified that I was indeed cheated and also discovered that the players had been using multiple accounts to cheat me.

Poster: They paid me the money I was cheated out of and I'm happy.

What was that second thing, Loretta?

Snap out of it! You were cheated. The multi-billion dollar site only detected it after you suffered a three digit loss, were savvy enough to suspect it, and were motivated enough to report it. I know that multiple accounts are hard to detect. I know that sites have collusion algorithms. And I appreciate that this site investigated the allegation of cheating and made good on it. But that doesn't cut it for me. It seems to me that the sites are still dependent on the cheated for the bulk of their detection. It seems to me that we are doing all the work to try to win money and pay the rake. Am I the only one who doesn't think it's also my job to protect online poker's integrity? When are there going to be industry-wide blacklists? Can't this industry do more to protect me? Our gracious poster may settle for being cheated. I'm not that gracious.

I know we all are having this online love affair with online poker. But it should be like any other relationship. If you find yourself constantly being cheated on, it doesn't really matter how many times the other person apologizes. Even if the sex is great, they are still a cheater. Eventually you're going to opt out. Today's rant is officially over.

I was listening to my new Pandora station last night while playing the $10 Omaha hi/lo MTT on PokerStars. (OK. Yeah. I still haven't bitch slapped myself out of playing online) With a short stack and still 15 to go for the money, LA Carpool's latin influenced remake of Steely Dan's "Do it Again" popped up. Coincidently, the original rendition inspired my article about my bubble finish in the Omaha hi/lo at the Mid-America Poker Classic back in 2004. I am the consummate bubble girl. I even bubbled in the WSOP media event last year. Was I going to "Go back, Jack, do it again?"

It certainly seemed that way. When we went hand-for-hand, I was UTG with less than half a BB. I couldn't help bemoaning my fate. I chatted, "I sense a bubble finish pending." The SB limped? to face the BB heads-up. It left the SB with less than a bet left. The BB came to my rescue and reraised the SB. The SB called and lost and I made the money. The BB said, "You can thank me now." And I did.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

50 Things Redux

I have been working on the second 50 things about me lately, but for continuity I thought I'd repost the first 50. This will also buy me a little time while I work on the poker blogger questionnaire developed by tripjax, which has made for some thoughtful and humorous posts across the poker blogisphere.

The first "about me" post I came across was on Boy Genius' blog. And I noticed that Pauly had also logged in with one. In an effort to prove that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, while also demonstrating that I have no original ideas of my own, I made a similar post in my old blog. Many bloggers do a list of 100 things. This was my first 50. I suspect the next 50 will be more uninteresting, more damning, or both.

1. I have one tattoo.

2. I managed both the men's swimming and wrestling teams in college. George Stephanopoulos was on the wrestling team that I managed. He spent the better part of the year on the bench.

3. I have a chapter published in a book entitled Inequality and Industrial Change: A Global View.

4. I am eligible for Irish citizenship, although I wasn't born there.

5. I have three piercings; all relegated to the ears, as anything else seemed like a really bad accident waiting to happen.

6. Yes. They are real.

7. I got my undergraduate degree in engineering, motivated in part by the fact it only required one English course.

8. I have been an "unnamed source" in Barron's

9. I was part of an expert witness team that secured over $100 million settlement for a telecommunications patent holder.

10. I used to play keyboards in bands named "Guido and the Scum Puppies" and "Rosetta Stone: A Legend Written in Rock."

11. I once spent a night in an Athens whorehouse.

12. I am obsessed with titles. I can't write an article without spending an inordinately long time coming up with a title first. If I ever write a book, it will be a book of just titles.

13. The title for my memoirs (which I will never write) is currently, Poker Dreams and ARIMA Nightmares. The focus of the work would be how I used my poker obsession to forestall completing my Ph.D. dissertation. I am still not wholly satisfied with the title and may spend the next year coming up with a new one.

14. On a really humid day, I can get my hair to look like a brunette Marge Simpson.

15. I once had a decent ass. But after spending a month writing in the mountains of New Mexico, I came home without it, and haven't seen it since.

16. I am mildly dyslexic and can not spell.

17. I am not supposed to drink beer anymore, as apparently Celiac disease was the underlying cause of my asslessness. When I cheat, I am an amber girl.

18. I have really small hands. My ring finger is just under a size 3.75.

19. I have really small feet. I had to buy my last pair of hiking boots in the kid's section.

20. I buy most of my clothes at second hand stores.

21. A google search for me can sometimes identify links to fetish sites because I once wrote an article called Poker Voyeurism and wrote another article where I mentioned golden showers.

22. I once sold a car to an illegal immigrant from Venezuela named Ivan for $1. It was the best offer I could get. The car I drive now is 12 years old and I think it has a few good years left.

23. The drummer from Tesla once peed at my house.

24. I wrote and instructed investment courses for online investment sites. The singer for the band Spoon was one of my editors.

25. I once told a guy he looked familiar. He was the mayor of Austin. His staff nearly peed themselves laughing.

26. I was a road manager for a band for two weeks once, just to get a free trip to Paris.

27. I got my high school letter in golf, and haven't golfed since.

28. I was once interviewed by FOX Memphis after I had consumed 7 cranberry and vodkas.

29. I can call the bubble before a tournament and deliver like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield.

30. I am quoted in Tales from the Tiltboys.

31. Diane Swonk, the former chief economist for Bank One and financial talking head, publicly called me an idiot for investing in gold. I made 45% on my investment. At the same meeting, Swonk claimed the US economy wasn't in a recession, with the catchy phrase, "I've seen a recession, baby, and this ain't it." It turns out that at the moment she uttered that phrase, the economy was in recession.

32. I once had a job evaluation where under "strengths" my boss had written "Amy is willing to call napalm in on her own location if it means taking out the enemy." He told me later that it was the highest compliment he ever paid anyone.

33. I have served on the Board of Directors of the SIMS Foundation, a non-profit organization providing low-cost mental health services to Austin musicians.

34. I have served on the Board of Trustees of the Society of Women Engineers, entrusted with managing over $5 million of their trust fund investments.

35. I had one internet stalker with a confirmed psychiatric history.

36. I don't believe in the natural rate of unemployment.

37. I forget to eat during poker tournaments, sometimes for days at a time.

38. My father's golf foursome had at least two members that belonged to the communist party.

39. My maternal grandfather was a member of the Sinn Fein

40. I am not a social conservative. This would have been a near genetic impossibility as no recessive gene for it has been seen in my family for generations.

41. I tend to be a fiscal conservative. This translates to both economic policy and personal practice.

42. I think that The Simpsons and South Park are brilliant commentaries on American culture.

43. I smoke, drink and cuss (I quit smoking once for 10 years). I told my kindergarten teacher to put her ass in a sling. I had no idea what that meant, but it got the desired effect. I was hooked after that.

44. For the first two years I played poker, I had a reoccurring dream. It was nothing but poker hands. No plot. No opponents. Just hands and boards. Hundreds of them each night.

45. My favorite place to hang out in Austin is Chuy's on North Lamar. Good cheap tex-mex and frozen margs with salt to die for. (The Chuy's downtown was where the Bush twins were busted for underage drinking)

46. I was once stopped by four policemen on bicycles. It was St Patty's day at 2:00am. I was wearing a green felt hat with a feather. I was also driving the wrong way down a one way street (I was aware of this, but I thought no one was looking). When they pulled me over, I thought I was toast. But they just wanted to remove the barricade I was dragging from my car.…oops. Once disengaged they let me on my way. Austin is my kind of town.

47. My favorite pizza is from D D's in Poughkeepsie NY where I once lived. Years after I moved, I saw a guy at an IBM location in Austin who looked familiar. It turned out it was my D D's pizza delivery guy.

48. A sausage egg McMuffin is about the only fast food I will eat. And to me it is as close to perfection as breakfast gets.

49. I read a wide range of books. But I have had to limit my fiction reading as some books, while brilliantly written, haunt me for long periods of time. Three books that still haunt me are Kamala Markadaya's Nectar in a Sieve, Tim O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods, and Keri Hume's The Bone People.

50. I don't care if something is good or bad as much as I care that it is fair.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Navigation, Cheerleaders, and Pandora's Box

I'm still obsessing somewhat with my blog stats. This week's obsession is keyword searches. For those that searched rather than linked, most found the blog with "Sabina Gadecki." And less found it with variations of "Aimlessly Chasing Amy." One enterprising searcher found it with "Amy's Cleavage." And the one that still confounds me is the person who came here looking for "fondling breasts with implants." Hey buddy, I'm working with original factory equipment here! Maybe a repost from my old blog about the 50 things about me is in order. (no cross-link provided to the mothership out of principle. I promise a repost over the weekend)

And while we're still on navigation, both Mexico and Poland have now made their appearance on the international stats front.

Some great comments on the game show rant. I was especially glad to see BJ Nemeth weigh in. BJ practically invented online poker tournament reporting and set a benchmark that few can match, but all should aspire. You should read his entire comment but I'll pick out a few gems:

"I think the WPT hostess serves an important role, that of the cheerleader. Perhaps this is why Shana was more successful; she came across as someone who was rooting for the players, while Courtney wanted to be a pretty journalist.

I disagree that the idea of a hostess is holding poker back from other mainstream sports. If poker has any problem in this area, it's the "poker media," which has yet to fully mature. (It's not even close.) As big as poker is right now, the poker media is lagging far behind. And you can't blame Shana/Courtney/Sabina for that. "

(Btw - BJ scored a great interview and pics of Sabina)

and cj noted:

"Interesting that you compare the WPT "sideline" reporter with other sports. Two years ago, Playboy model Lisa Guerrero was the MNF sideline reporter."

OK. I confess that my gender and sexual preference put me at somewhat of a disadvantage. I acknowledge that the cheerleader/hostess plays a marketing role for the important sports demographic that I am not. To me they are peripheral diversions from the event I want to watch. Perhaps there are those out there that live for the occasional cheerleader crotch shot. I tend to focus on play.

I don't "blame" the hostesses. I welcome anyone's dedication to our game. But I do find fault with media outlets that focus more on marketing than content. And this isn't a WPT bash by any means. I wish that everyone that covers poker (industry print media, televised media, online sites, and the conventional mainstream press) would give some thought on raising the bar for content and coverage. And so this isn't all bash and no praise, I do think there has been some quality programming of our game. I, like BJ, particularly like the job being done on "High Stakes Poker." And I also really enjoy "Learn From the Pros."

I see that has challenged me to "New Rules" for poker media. I love that idea and hope that BJ will agree to partner up on that effort. He and I have had a running discussion about this for the better part of the last year. We could have a blast - and maybe make a point or two along the way.

I've been playing around with the software on Pandora (see also the Music Genome Project) lately. I like playing poker with music in the background, but I like to pick my music based on the table dynamics and my mood. So I'm trying to set up music stations that have particular table dynamics as their theme. This may suck up more time than it's worth (hence the image of Pandora and her box), but I will share my experimental findings as I progress.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Game Show Rant, WWdN, and Andy Bloch

The WPT's replacement of Courtney Friel for Sabina Gadecki has me wondering why. Not why one or the other. But why either. Why must we continue with this game show paradigm rather than the sports paradigm? Why do we continue with Vanna White instead of a knowledgeable sideline interviewer?

In football you have your play-by-play and color commentators. You also have an aspiring sports reporter covering the sidelines. The "sideliners" are knowledgeable about the game and are obviously working the fluff beat to sharpen their chops and resume until they can break into one of the top spots...not trying to parlay it into a Playboy spread.

If we want to have poker treated like a major sport, we have to cover it like a major sport - instead of covering like the Wheel of Fortune with cards.

I actually thought Shana Hiatt did as good a job as one could do with the game show model. She bonded with the players and came to understand the tournament environment - that connection came across in her interviews. But in this game show paradigm, I think Shana will stand out as an anomaly and not the norm. I wish Sabina the best and hope she comes to love and respect this game as much as we do. But the real problem is not with the spokesmodel, it's with the model itself. That concludes today's rant.

Taking up Hoyaza's suggestion, I played the WWdN (Wil Wheaton dot Net) tourney on PokerStars last night. I didn't bubble. I finished one off the bubble (ha!). But it was good advice none the less. I got to bond with some of my favorite bloggers - some who I have bonded with over drinks in person and some that I have only come to know from their blogs. Players either at my table or lurking the table were Maudie, Gracie, Mookie, Derek, Pauly, G-Rob and Hoyaza. I had a great time and will definitely play more WWdNs in the future. I think this is one more way to meet bloggers - and give them my money.

I've also decided to take my brother's advice and join him for a little low-limit Vegas action next week. I've been to Vegas a lot this year, but really haven't played much. So I think I'll do as my wise brother suggests - get into some cash games and low buy-in tournaments. If the look, feel, and sound of white chips can't dash my malaise, I don't know what will.

Andy Bloch will be joining Lou Krieger and I ( on Hold'em Radio tomorrow night. He's got a new blackjack DVD coming out, so of course we're going to that. As Andy was one of the early participants of rgp and now hangs with his Full Tilt buds, I'm curious about how important he feels exchanging ideas with others is to one's game. For a brutally independent game, this one seems to thrive (like most things) with collaborative knowledge. I'm also looking forward to his discussion of the WPT waiver situation. So I think it will be pretty cool.

P.S. Poland and South Africa have joined the international blog viewers.

Monday, May 15, 2006

New WPT Beauty and Fatalism

I see that broke the story that Sabina Gadecki, actress, model, former Miss Polonia and former Miss Western Massachusetts, will be replacing Courtney Friel as the hostess for the WPT. I swear, one day we will have a brunette. Pictures of Sabina's 2002 pageant win and Courtney empty handed.

I was reading Felicia's post about her recent ambivalence about winning. If Felicia is in the middle of the "outcome belief" spectrum, I have definitely slipped into the dark side. Lately I have been experiencing an almost out of body fatalism about my game. It's not tilt. It's not frustration. But appears to be as costly. Even as I go through the motions to register, I mentally anticipate with detached resignation that it will all end with a near-bubble bad beat. And it does.

When it happens, I feel nothing. Well, not completely nothing. Somewhere deep inside, satisfaction lurks. Apparently if I can't have the satisfaction of winning, I have the satisfaction of being right about losing. I don't hold much cotton with superstition. I don't think I'm cursing myself. But I am more than willing to believe that I am not playing as I would without my new fatal attraction.

My losing hand yesterday (20 from the money in a 1000 player MTT) was pocket kings. I pushed all-in with limpers already in the pot. A player behind me reraised all-in with a bigger stack. Even with that protection the BB thought and called us both. It was my KK to the reraiser's TT. The BB's AJo took us both when he flopped two jacks. And I'm OK with all that. The thing that bothered me was that I actually almost balked at pushing in with the kings to begin with. And I thought to myself, if I was reluctant to commit with kings here, where else might I have held back.

I think I need to rekindle the passion. Maybe a work-free Vegas trip with my brother Matt is in order.

On the international front, new countries weighing into the blog: Aruba, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Lithuania, Norway, Dominican Republic, Portugal, and the Philippines.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Going to the Dogs, WSOP Media, and Blogjoy

The last couple of days, I've been sick as a dog. I woke up yesterday with a sore gut and a cat coup on my hands. It seems I had run out of cat food and a feline uprising was in full swing. I grabbed my keys and ran a serpentine pattern for the door. Once safely at the store, I ended up buying a 40 lb bag of food as it offered the best price point. In my weakened condition, I felt like the bag outweighed me by 10 lbs. I dragged the bag through the front door with twelve paws at my heels. I quickly opened it to the din of expectant meows, only to realize...wait for it...that I had bought dog food. You know you're in for a bad day when you buy food for a pet that you don't own. Another round trip to the store and the coup was finally contained. The picture is of Seven-Toed Sammy, finally at rest.

I probably could have saved some keystrokes on my last entry if I had waited a few hours. Harrah's released its long awaited Media Guidelines for the 2006 WSOP. It looks like I had it pretty close to the mark thanks to the well functioning rumor mill.

Freelancers and bloggers are going to have to get pretty creative to get access. And anyone that is not one of the "Official Media Providers" will be contending with a lot of restrictions.

I see that I made the same argument as Harrah's - this model is very similar to other major sports media coverage models. But there is a problem with that line of reasoning. The poker media, itself, does not yet mirror major sports media. When the major newspapers came in for the final event last year, most of the reporters knew nothing about poker. They had to ask the bloggers who the major players were. I literally got asked who Johnny Chan was more than once. And yet these are the outlets that will easily score credentials. Some of the best real-time tournament reports in 2005 were filed by Pauly, Otis, and BJ Nemeth. To my knowledge, none of these reporters are working for the "Official Provider" of real time tournament reports.

So while the coverage and credentialing model is one that is consistent with major sports, the current state of poker journalism isn't. That's a problem.

I'm experiencing real blogjoy in my new unfettered blog. First of all, comments rock! Having a comments section in my old blog was also a no-no. So I'm totally loving that. And cc, I'm working up the courage for your suggestion. Nice rack btw.

And with the world in turmoil, it seems that poker may be the international language of peace. I know I will eventually tire of checking out my blog stats, but for now it is a source of wonderment. Thanks to all you bloggers out there, the following countries have found their way to this blog: US, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, India, Pakistan, Argentina, Venezuela, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Estonia, Gibraltar, Mauritius, and the Czech Republic. I've probably left someone out. Hopefully an international incident won't ensue.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Groping, Hoping, and Pimping

Well I've been outted. It's true. I did allow, and enjoy, the occasional grope by Pauly during last year's WSOP. There is even pictorial evidence. But I knew it was never serious. For one thing, Pauly is totally into blonds. During the WSOP he left his laptop unattended on media row and I found quite a few blond soft porn sites in his favorites. There wasn't a brunette to be found. Thanks for the shout out, darlin'. I'm sincerely hoping for more groping this year should we both end up at the big dance.

Media coverage for the WSOP is going to be different this year. There were some media issues last year that only stood to worsen if left unaddressed this year. For one thing, the WSOP issued a gagjillion media passes last year. For the preliminary events, there were few problems as only a core of twenty or so reporters and bloggers dedicated themselves to the 14 hours a day required to handle the early events. We all shared the limited space at the final table and small media room with ease and grace. When the media hoards came in for the final event, it bordered on inane. The small media room looked like an overbooked student hostel. People littered the floor, sleeping head to foot. One corner took on the unmistakable smell of urine. If you turned your back, you likely had your lunch, internet feed and chair swiped. The media newcomers clogged the aisles on the tournament floor. Players from broken tables couldn't get to their new tables as the poker media neophytes wouldn't let them pass. And at least one ESPN crew member considered sticking his boom up reporters' backsides to get them to move. Media with no need to be inside the rope, as they were not reporting hands or chip counts, felt the only way to demonstrate their importance was to strut their stuff between the tables. So needless to say, change was warranted.

This year Harrah's has decided to sell exclusive media rights to a few media outlets. Bluff Magazine will get the exclusive radio broadcast rights. Card Player apparently will get the exclusive real time internet reporting rights. Image Masters will get an exclusive for still photography. It is believed that few people outside of these outlets will have "inside the rope" privileges. Harrah's will likely be allowing other media outlets access to the WSOP media room where it is believed that monitors will be available for final table viewing. The problem is, what can the other media do with that? Apparently they can't provide any real time coverage as that would breach the exclusive contracts in place. Even Bluff allegedly can't provide a streaming radio feed over the internet as that infringes on CardPlayer's turf. In turn, I have heard CardPlayer can't post the real time tournament coverage on their own website, as that would infringe on an agreement between Harrah's and AOL.

In general, the concept for this year's WSOP is not unlike other major sports events. There are usually exclusive rights for radio and television, with a more open credentialing system for print media. But even so, I'm hoping that Harrah's and the exclusive rights holders allow some flexibility and creativity of interpretation. I'd like to think that other media outlets can request and receive specific photos, chip counts, etc. from the exclusive rights holders. I'd also like to think that the many online sites that send qualifiers (which have become the WSOP's bread and butter) will have some opportunities to provide real time updates about their qualifiers. And the whole issue of what bloggers can and can't do needs to be flushed out. If I want to offer readers a play by play of a final table, at what point am I safely past the "real time" exclusive; five minutes, an hour, or only after an event has completed. If I just want to report on a specific hand, story or issue during event, can I do that while the event is in play? What about podcasts?

I like the idea that no one will be peeing on my laptop at this year's WSOP. And the media credentialing last year was clearly problematic during the final event. I understand why Harrah's has chosen this model. But all that being said, I loved the choices people had when they wanted to follow the WSOP last year. Any time you take competition out of an equation, quality and options generally suffer. There were a lot of hard working and experienced bloggers, internet reporters, photographers, video teams, and radio folk that successfully helped promote Harrah's and the WSOP last year. I'm hoping that doesn't get lost on those exclusive rights holders that are hiring this year. And I'm hoping that doesn't get lost on Harrah's, either, as they navigate these new media waters.

I also wanted to pimp tonight's show on Hold'em Radio. Our guest tonight will be Michael Craig, author of The Professor, The Banker, and The Suicide King. Michael was one of the speakers at the blogger's convention in December. And I think quite a few of you stuck it to Michael in the 2/4 game at the Imperial Palace. We'll be discussing all things Beal and more. The show airs at 8:00pm CST.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Carson, the Blog Labyrinth, and Water

Yesterday, I had a pleasant surprise. I noticed that Gary Carson has re-entered the blogisphere. Many will know Gary from his books, The Complete Book of Hold'em Poker and The Complete Book of Casino Poker. Others may know Gary for his famously informative and caustically witty posts on rgp. There are so many Carson posts that I treasure, this is just one that I picked out of the archives:

"Go back in the archives a few years and look up a debate about a call on the flop with pocket fours and a board of 893 (or something like that) and a family pot. Me, Sklansky, Mason, Abdul, were among those on the right side of the debate, Danny Boy and Badger on the wrong side. It's the 44 thread but covered more than one thread. Mason also made an article out of it for either CardPlayer or Poker Digest and I made a chapter in my hold'em book from it, and it was also a long thread on 2+2.

It's a historic thread because it's the one where Danny got all insulted by me asking him if he actually played poker (he'd had his picture in cardplayer and I didn't know it, so he was pretty insulted) and started challenging me to a duel.

Of course it's also historic because Mason and I actually agreed about something.

But, it's an example of where you're just flat out wrong.

Gary Carson"

Welcome back Gary!

The Labyrinth Over the Herd
Many diehard rgpers are looking for other alternatives. While the popularization of poker was good for many things, it has taken its toll on the rgp usenet group. Once the non-stop poker shop for thoughtful, and sometimes flaming, debate, it is awash with spam, site and affiliate pimps, and the clueless. There are still some gems in there, but it is getting harder and harder to sort through the rubble to find them. Instead of having a killfile option (which is harder to keep current than the Bush administration) they should have a livefile option. At this point, it would be a much shorter list.

I think that's one of the benefits of the poker blogging community. While we occupy separate internet space, we are figuratively and literally linked. Debate and discussion occurs like a progressive dinner party; a different course at a different house. On the surface, it seems like a fragmented approach, but it works as a collaborative labyrinth of thought. Poker bloggers share some cultural biases, but since one of them is independent freedom of expression, we are moderately protected from group think and herd mentality. After all, can you imagine Felicia Lee going along with the crowd if she suspected they were wrong? It would never happen. And since there is a developed sense of community, most flame throwers are kept in check.

Substituting Texas Springs for the Carribean
I never did make it to the Bahamas. By the time Paradise cooked up the plan, we had very few days of lead time to pull it off. But I appreciated the thought and we're working with some alternate plans for our little meet and greet. Of course the silver lining is that the dreaded bathing suit shop is behind me for the season. And since I now have the suit, I can hit some of my favorite Texas water holes. I know most of you think of Texas as some dry dustbowl, but there are just some beautiful spots for a dip.

Hamilton Pool was formed when a dome collapsed over an underground river, leaving this lovely pool and grotto. It's about 30 miles from Austin, but definitely worth the drive.

And if I want to dip in town, Barton Springs is a city favorite. It is located Within Zilker Park and the "pool" is about three acres in size and is fed from underground springs. It's an average 68 degrees year round, which makes it icily refreshing on those 100 degree summer days, and seemingly toasty warm in the winter.

Postscrpit: Gracie and I Both Learn about Boobs
Gracie at sheverb had a revelation this week; she realized that boobs were big blog sellers. She noted that her post on manatees got far fewer comments than her post on boobs. But my latest boob experiment was a veritable failure. Apparently they have to be women's boobs. Live and learn.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Vegas Birthday and Book Learnin'

A lot has happened between my old and new blogs. And some of my posts will be to recreate my blogging void.

One of the things that allowed me to leave the mothership was an offer from Michael Craig to help him out with a book project. Along with interesting work and better pay, Michael promised me adventure - or what we started calling the Magical Mystery Tour(MMT). Every book related trip was sprinkled with surreal encounters, side trips, and wonderment. Usually I got no more than six hours notice that an MMT was in play. Working for Michael, I always had a bag packed and enough gas in the green monster to get me to the airport. And except for this particular trip, I always booked one way to Vegas. I never knew how long I was staying or what city I would be returning from.

This trip was a little bit of an anomaly. I had booked the trip a whopping week in advance in hopes that an MMT would materialize. It was the middle of April, my favorite month in Vegas. It was also during the WPT Championship at the Bellagio. And it was my birthday.

This was a nostalgia fueled trip for me. I was at the filming of the very first WPT Championship, back when the WSOP was also in Spring. I had stayed at the Golden Nugget downtown and spent my mornings writing from the Starbucks patio. I hadn't been published in poker at that point, it was still a couple of months before my first article would appear in Canadian Poker Player. But all the seeds were sown for my poker writing "career" on that trip. And this year, for many reasons, I needed to relive that experience; go back to where it all started.

My favorite couple, Jen Leo and John Caufield (OK - yeah it's Caldwell. Note to self:no blogging before first coffee), were going to be in Vegas. When I heard they were staying at the Nugget, I knew this trip was meant to be. Michael Craig realized he couldn't fight fate and declared an official MMT stop. Game on. I didn't tell anyone it was my birthday. I had already gotten what I wanted; a springtime trip to Vegas with some of my favorite peeps and the promise of magic and mystery. (pictures of Jen at the blogger convention in December 2005)

On the morning of my birthday, I met up with John and Jen for breakfast at the Carson Street Cafe. It was at the Carson Street Cafe, now years ago, where Lou Krieger first encouraged me to try to publish. So the nostalgia vibe was already in full swing. As breakfast with Jen and John was coming to a close, the waitress brought out a huge blueberry muffin with a candle stuck in the middle. Wtf? John tried to convince me that he figured out it was my birthday because I picked 4 and 17 as my keno numbers. He has a good poker face and I almost believed him, but Jen had too much mischief in her eyes. Apparently my brother had emailed Jen that morning. Squealer:)

I headed over to the Wynn to meet up with Michael. Ever since the Beal games in February, Michael's main hang was the Wynn. When I walked in, he already had "the office" set up; a printer, two laptops, files, and his working snacks (Cheezits and Rolos). After a bit, Chris Ferguson stopped by to review part of the book draft. Like all trips with Michael, this wasn't all work and no play. Chris stayed around for hours, talking about the NBC Heads-up, the start of Full Tilt, the WPT waiver situation, and the art of building chip castles.

Michael had Chris sign one of his BARGE poker chips (the one with his winning chip castle on it) for a friend's baby that had been born that day. OK. I played the birthday card. I couldn't help myself;it is the coolest chip castle. So Chris signed a chip for me. He also grabbed the first papers he could put his hands on, which apparently was a draft of his article for All-In Magazine about heads-up play he happened to have with him, and inscribed, "Happy Birthday Amy, Chris Ferguson. P.S. "Jesus Loves ya." For all my time in the field, I have no player autographs. I have very few pictures of me with pros. I'm generally not into that. But these cool mementos will remind me of that lazy afternoon with Chris' big frame sprawled out on the loveseat, Michael at the desk, me at the table - shootin' the shit about poker.

After Chris left, Michael decided that it had been too long since his last trip to the Gamblers Book Club. Again a blast from the past. The first time I went to GBC, arguably the best bookstore for poker players and gamblers alike, was with Lou Krieger on my original adventure. I have of course been back there since, as chatting with manager Howard Schwartz alone is worth the journey. He knows what's coming and going on the poker book front and he can, and will, tell a thousand stories. The store is moving from its old haunt in a few months, so I'm glad I got this last opportunity to walk the floor of the old location. For my birthday. Michael took me past the brimming shelves. Every book that he recommended that I didn't own, he bought for me.

Not bad for a "work day"...

Of the books that Michael gave me, so far I have read Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers by Katy Lederer, The Man with the $100,000 Breasts by Michael Klonik, and I'm almost done with Fast Company by Jon Bradshaw. Each book brought something to the table as far as my own introspective assessment about writing in general and poker specifically. Poker Face was Katy Lederer's own journey; exploring, living, and then leaving, poker. A lot of food for thought in that book. $100,000 Breasts served to remind me of all the strange and interesting characters in this gambling world; funny, disturbing, brilliant, degenerate and surreal. When the author first meets Brian Zembic, the man who got breast implants on a $100,000 bet, he was living in someone's bathroom. He was going to collect $14,000 if he could live in the bathroom for 30 days:

Rows of $100 bills are taped to the mirror to remind Brian what he's earning each day he serves his self-imposed sentence but he confesses his resolve is weakening. "Joey, one of the guys who made the wager with me, he owns the apartment and he's been sending people over here to take a dump," Brian tells me, reclining on the floor. "It's brutal."

While Fast Company offers great profiles of some of the world's most famous and infamous gamblers, it is the writing that is blowing me away. Unfortunately the popularity of poker has yet to set particularly high benchmarks for writing. When Canadian Poker Player lost Dave Scharf as editor, I felt that poker lost one of its only advocates for improving the quality of poker journalism. Fast Company reminds me that I need to read more outside of poker. And if I continue to write, I need to set better benchmarks and standards for myself.

Friday, May 05, 2006

WPT, WMDs, I Dream of Liz, and Angst

Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

And I am overwhelmed by the kindness of my friends.

Thanks to Up For Poker for the shout out and link up. UFP bloggers, CJ, G-Rob and Otis, make for consistently great reads; covering the spectrum from thought provoking to pants peeing material. I had the distinct pleasure of bonding with Otis during last year's WSOP. At my age, anyone I'm inclined to meet reminds me of someone I've met in the past. Otis defies categorization. Pauly and I spent one entire WSOP cocktail hour discussing and trying to dissect "the Otis factor." When you first meet Otis, you think he's straight as an arrow. And then all of a sudden you come across something delightfully twisted and warmly warped. In old television terms, he's sort of a cross between Ward Cleaver and Dennis the Menace; decidedly responsible and knowing with an overriding bent for eye twinkling mischief.

And ditto for LasVegasVegas. First, I love that picture you took of me at the WSOP last year. It definitely looks like you caught me in the act. I look guilty as hell and I'm holding my digital voice recorder. My guess is that I was trying to pick up a conversation at the next table. I met Joe and Joe in Las Vegas last February. I was a big fan of their blog and used the excuse of filming Vegas Virgins to meet up with the boyz. I don't know if they remember it, but one of the things we talked about was the difficulties I might encounter being a "corporate" blogger. Hmmm. The LasVegasVegas family became my family away from home during the WSOP. I couldn't have survived it without them; just great people.

And a bunch of additional link-ups noted and greatly appreciated.

Not particularly great news for the World Poker Tour this week. They reported earning a profit of $0.17 a diluted share. However this also included a realized gain from their investment in the company PokerTek. If you look at their earnings from operations, they lost $0.053 a diluted share (at least by my calculations). Most analysts were projecting a loss in the range of $0.02 - $0.04. In the investment world, they missed their mark. They also announced that the Travel Channel would not be picking up their option for airing the second season of the Professional Poker Tour, putting that future revenue at risk. On top of that, Steve Lipscomb announced that WPTOnline is going to have to transition to a new platform which may take a few months just to identify, let alone implement. But the company is debt free. And if they are lucky, the potential revenue effects related to the WPTOnline transition could be a temporary delay and not a loss in the aggregate.

I know the government was unable to turn up any WMDs in Iraq. But if they are seriously interested in purging the world of WMDs they can start at US retail stores. I was at Victoria's Secret yesterday, on the bathing suit mission from hell. I was the only customer with three sales people, but wasn't able to be waited on. It seems that one person was the underwear fluffer. Her job was to excite people by fondling panties; she was not actually allowed to interact with customers. A second person was crouched down, hiding behind the cash register. If she had a smaller ass, I wouldn't have noticed her. The third "salesperson" was walking around the store spraying a cloying, sickly sweet fragrance into the air. This stuff is worse than poison gas. I stumbled out of there gagging, with tears streaming down my face. Two more retail outlets I hit were similarly gassed.

Alert the media. I paid retail! I know it's shocking, but on the bathing suit front, you have few options. By the time you've invested any time in this exercise of humiliation, you're willing to drain your bank account for any suit that doesn't either look like it could take you through a full pregnancy term or one that works like a Playdough Fun Factory, extruding your extremities in places and shapes you didn't know possible. I ended up with one that made me look like pre-menopausal Monroe; halter top, boobs, and cellulite. And with my "mission accomplished" moment behind me, the Bahamas trip is still not a "go." I will probably know one way or another today.

I suspect that Liz Lieu doesn't break down crying in too many fitting rooms. This is a picture of Liz taken at the Venetian poker room opening. All I can think of is "I Dream of Jeanie." The rumor is that Liz will be heading back to the Venetian for a series of three $200,000 heads-up matches against online player Erik123.

On a closing note, I've been thinking a lot about all the poker writers out there; the tournament reporters, magazine writers, and bloggers. It seems that many are going through a period of introspective assessment and, in some cases, angst. Like the general public, most poker writers and bloggers didn't predict poker's mainstream explosion. Few writers predicted that their lives and livelihood would become so intertwined in the game. I suspect this collective identity crisis was long overdue. This is something I'd like to explore in the near future. If any bloggers out there have thoughts on the issue - blog away and leave a link in the comments.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Well-Connected Slacker

First of all, let me thank Iggy at Guinness and Poker, Dan at Pokerati, and Haley over at Kick Ass Poker for giving me a shout out. I've already spewed my gratitude and debt to Iggy in an earlier post; which will be unending. I've known Dan every since we ended up at the same table of a media event in Tunica years ago. Although I didn't last long in the tournament, my friendship with Dan has endured. Pokerati hosts a number of fun and irreverent Dallas bloggers and is one of the best blogs covering the poker legislative landscape. And if I recall, that media event table was also where I met Jay Greenspan, who is starting up a new site PokerScribes, fostering poker writers, new and old. And well I've just recently "met" Haley during a chat session during the show at Hold'em Radio. Thanks guys.

And thanks to all the bloggers out there that have already linked me up. I think Al Can't Hang won the link up race, linking to the blog while it was just a twinkle in my eye. I generally resort to coffee for a productivity boost, but based on Al's efficiency, I'm beginning to wonder if SoCo isn't better fuel. Hopefully it will just take a few shots to get my own blog list updated. Thanks for your patience y'all. I swear I'm getting there. Thanks again for the leg up!

Late breaking news: I just got a call from Paradise Poker. I am apparently going to the Bahamas this week to check out their "Conquest of Paradise Island" tournament and do a meet and greet with their marketing team. The only downside is on the swimsuit front - or back really. It seems I've lost even more of my ass since last season. And there is nothing worse than baggy spandex. So I'm going to have to park my self-esteem and do the one kind of shopping we women dread.

I took a little time away from poker and writing yesterday to meet some friends for lunch down at Doc's Motorworks Bar and Grill. Doc's, a converted auto repair shop, is an eatery that holds its own in eclectic South Austin. If anyone out there knows me at all, they know that I'm cheap. That I willingly took out the green monster ('94 Mazda, the green is subliminal as there is little real paint left) with these gas prices meant only two things; these are great friends and I have missed spending quality slacker time in South Austin.

I'm probably going to cut it short today. Slacking yesterday means more prep time required today. Tonight's show on Hold'em Radio will feature guest Matt Lessinger. While I had read Matt's articles, I never had met him until the filming of the last episode of Vegas Virgins last year. Vegas Virgins was a poker reality show aired in the UK; think fear factor meets poker. I had a blast filming it, but thought at the time that we might be setting the low water mark for televised poker. I may have underestimated our ability to dive deeper. Matt has since had his book published; The Book of Bluffs : How to Bluff and Win at Poker - so I'm guessing that will be one of the major themes for tonight. And We'll probably cover some of the rgp and 2+2 feedback on the ZeeJustin interview.

Good luck to zeroth and Debonair playing at Caesar's today. Show 'em how it's done boyz.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Does Poker Need More Ass?

I've seen far too much butt crack at the tables to think that more is better. Granted, the quality of Paris Hilton's derriere rivals most of the poker fare. Recent threads suggest we'll be hearing more about heiress escapades on the felt. She purportedly lost her Bentley in a game a few weeks ago. A rumor on rgp also eludes to an alliance with Bluff Magazine. The post went on to say that Bluff would be lucky to get "someone of such stature as Ms. Hilton to work for them." 'Scuse me? Is poker so underexposed that we are hoping that any celeb will pull down their pants for us? Check the TV line-up. Underexposure is hardly our issue. If I had to pick who was riding who's gravy train here, I'd put Hilton on top (which I'm sure is where many readers would put her also). If brain surgery becomes the rage, will the AMA rejoice when Hilton takes up the scalpel? Maybe she should consider baseball. They could use a little diversion from their current steroid fueled coverage.

Poker's rising popularity was built on the alignment of two planets; the hole camera, giving us a strategic view of the professional game, and Chris Moneymaker's WSOP victory, assuring an amateur's lottery chance at the big one. Isn't it better for the game that our best players become celebrities because of their skill, than skilless celebrities getting ink for dallying with the fad du jour? I don't necessarily want to see the likes of Howard Lederer or Doyle Brunson in a thong, but they sure as hell did a lot more for this game than the Johnny and Janie cum latelys. We have had some positive celebrity involvement in the game. Toby McGuire, James Woods, and Jennifer Tilly have brought name recognition to, and coverage of, our sport. But their involvement is rooted in their love of the game, not in the love of their celebrity.

I will also admit that tits and ass sells when marketing online poker to its major demographic - either that or the online sites are developing a sideline in the skimpy bikini market. Pamela Anderson is apparently becoming a hot commodity among the online poker sites and is getting passed around like a [fill in the blank]. But what entices hormone raging, underage players to online sites isn't necessarily what's best for the continued growth and credibility of our game. And that probably sums it up for today's rant.

And speaking of online poker, I was navigating my way through a multi-table tournament pretty nicely yesterday. I was also watching Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Both activities were being pursued at the expense of working on any number of writing projects, now hanging precariously above my head. They also prevented me from putting the bathroom sink back together again after I ripped it apart in search of a wayward contact lens. (Yes, I lead a glamorous life) Just as our movie heroes engaged their improbability drive, I busted to a three outer. Ok. It was no pot of petunias - and in poker it seldom is. Don't Panic. The odds are never that overwhelmingly in your favor. Sometimes I have to remind myself that poker makes for poor procrastination fodder. My opponent's improbability drive had me back to work far quicker than I had hoped. The sink is repaired and some progress was made on the writing front.

I also spent much of the weekend reflecting on the life of John Kenneth Galbraith. Galbraith died on Saturday after an incredibly productive 97 years. Optimistically I hope that economists will revisit his many contributions, centered on the premise that economics is the study of a decidedly human condition. Too many economic programs these days stress tidy formulas, mathematical gymnastics and a theoretical individual over wisdom and the financial and economic improvement of real people. Rest in Peace.