Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Welcome to Whathefuckistan

It’s Spring Break in Oregon, which means I am dealing with thousands of misbehaving tourists who seem to have left their morals and common sense at home.  I also have little time to fool around with the blog, let alone play some online poker, which now looks like it’s in more danger than ever thanks to a new bill sponsored by Lindsey Graham (R-Adelson).  It also has some support from Democrats as well as the usual gang of GOPers.  Could make it through both houses, and a veto could happen, but…

How did it get to this point?

Here’s my short and sweet take - money.

We’ve known for years that we have the best Congress money can buy.  We joke about it and then watch as the courts decide corporations are people and spending limits are unconstitutional and the rich get richer and so on…and now, ONE MAN is in a position to create the next Republican Presidential Candidate by spending millions of dollars (and he has billions, so this is essentially pocket change) so that ONE ISSUE can go his way.

An issue that is NOT a major one.  NOT one that affects hunger, oil, employment, the environment…anything that might constitute a necessity to live and liberty.

No…ONE ISSUE.  A ban on an activity that millions of Americans enjoy.  To prohibit an activity…not because it’s wrong, or dangerous, or harmful.

But because it would negatively affect his profits.

Welcome to Whathefuckistan, where the world is upside down.

More after Spring Break (where the decline in morals is very evident, thank you).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mike Q Wins, Even Though It Was 1 Against 2

On Tuesday, PPA MN State Director Mike Qualley was on The John Williams Show in a short debate with Anne Meeks, founder and CEO of The Freedom Foundation of MN, on the merits of licensing online poker. 

If you heard the debate live or listened to the podcast (available here the debate starts at 11:40, and iTunes here; select the 5pm hour of 3-18-14), you know who “won.”  Yes, I am biased, but I can explain why I feel this way in a few quick sentences:
  • Mike came with facts, presented them ably, answered all the questions and charges, and made his case.
  • Meeks made the usual canards about gambling (all gambling is bad, ergo we don’t need more gambling, because bad.  Repeat) and responded like a small child, calling poker players “stupid.” She also had many facts wrong (poker is a game of chance where the house always wins).
  • John Williams.  The host of the debate on WCCO.
Now, I don’t really know where Williams stands regarding online poker.  Or what his political stance is - conservative, or liberal, or somewhere in between?  I do know that he hosts a four-hour talk show and as a media person, he has a certain obligation…one that runs counter to a fair, educational, and rational debate.

He has to be entertaining.  He has to “make the numbers” (have an audience) for the selling of commercials.  That’s his role.  To do so, he presents “entertainment” dressed up as “information.”  If it sells, great; if not, let’s move on to the next segment.

I was in radio for almost 20-odd years (some odder than others) and I’ve been on all sides of this coin (talent, management, sales, and research).  Williams wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about the subject, and as several FB posters have noted, he continually cut Mike off to toss it to Meeks for a response.  That was his “obligation” to seem fair. 

Also, he had to be nice to Meeks to continue access.  Media folks know that access is vital, and if you want certain folks to be on your show (Meeks and others from her Freedom Foundation are no strangers to WCCO radio) you don’t piss ‘em off.

From what I hear Williams was “surprised” to see the text voting go heavily FOR online poker.  Not sure why he was surprised - Mike made points, clarified misconceptions, and scored body blows.  Meeks even made Mike’s points about the need for regulation and oversight when she whined about the potential for offshore sites abusing players.

Make no mistake, Mike Qualley won this debate.  As I write this, another debate on the same subject is happening at the iGaming North America Conference in Las Vegas, and it seems the “other side” is losing the argument again, as they resort to innuendo, screeds, and name-calling. 

“…you have the PPA and all their creepy Twitter followers." 

PPA supporters are “creepy?”  Really?  That’s the best you got?  This argument would be over if it wasn’t for the millions of dollars our opposition will toss at this issue.  Remain vigilant (and creepy) and support your right to play online poker!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Driving (Me) Crazy

No matter where you live, if there is one thing that bonds us together as Americans, it’s commuting.  No one likes it.  If you’re in a metro area, your commute could be anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes or more, daily.  It can be worse this time of year – snow, cold, bitter conditions make it feel longer.  It’s all a tremendous waste of time, energy, money, you name it. 

Even here in rural Seaside, commuting can have its issues.  Sure, my commute to work is about a mile, and I usually walk in the summer (10-12 minutes, depending on “traffic”).  But going elsewhere can be a pain.  Because both the spousal unit and I have unusual eye issues, we wind up driving to Portland for eye care.   Actually, we do most of our medical visits there (it’s a long story).  There is medical here…even a hospital…but…well, it’s a long story, and not this one.  We make maybe 10-15 trips a year to Portland for various medical issues (and for the car, as the dealer is there, and…some other stuff…again, long story).  That’s a 2-hour journey – it’s about 70-85 miles, depending on where in metro PDX we go, but there’s no super highway to take to get there.  In fact, there’s only ONE road – US26, a two-lane highway that goes through the Coastal Mountain range and into the Willamette Valley where Portland and the ‘burbs are (it eventually goes to 4-lanes once you get into the metro area).  Hence, doing 55 MPH is a pipe-dream for the length of the journey.

Compare this to where you live.  For my friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan, this is like driving to Lansing for medical care.  But not via the highway – take US23 to M36 west, then take M52 north and M43 west.  Then add a few hills.  BIG hills.

And, of course, back here in Oregon, mountain snow can be a concern this time of year.  That wasn’t the case Tuesday, but we did have problems of another sort that you in your metro area will never encounter.

We left Seaside at 9am for an 11:20 eye doctor appointment.  We like to leave early just in case there is a slow traffic once we reach Portland (fairly normal for the morning commute).  Normally we leave at about 8:30, but the appointment was scheduled later than normal, so we figured we could leave a half-hour later and still get there in plenty of time.

About a half-hour into our journey, on a clear, mostly sunny day (a bit of fog is all), we saw a temporary road sign that said, “Wreck Ahead.”  We were about two miles shy of the Quartz Creek Bridge, a notoriously dangerous spot on the road, as cold mornings will leave a thin sheet of ice on the roadway. A few hundred yards later we slowed to a crawl and then stopped behind a line of cars.  It was impossible to see how long the line was because this was well up into the mountain range and we were twisting and turning so the most we could see was maybe 20 cars…but we assumed a longer line (it was much, much longer), and we had no idea where exactly the wreck was.

Soon, an ambulance came by and then a sheriffs’ car, a fire truck, another ambulance, and state police.  We sat…and waited…and waited…and waited.  At 10:00am, we saw a couple of cars turning around, heading back the way we came.  Then a few more.  Finally we saw a guy who “seemed to know” and we asked what the deal was.  He said there was a wreck (no, really?) and that the highway was closed. 

“For how long?” we asked. 
“They said two to four hours, at least.”

Nuts.  OK, that’s not exactly what we said, but we turned around and headed for a way around the accident.

Now, where you live, when the highway shuts down because of an accident, you can turn on the radio and hear the traffic ‘copter tell you to take an alternate route.  This means you take an earlier exit, get on a side road, drive a few miles (maybe hit a couple of traffic lights), and then get back on the highway and on your way.

Here’s what we had to do:  backtrack about four miles to an intersection where we took THE ONLY OTHER ROAD north for about 11 miles to catch THE ONLY OTHER ROAD going east for about 14 miles so that we could take THE ONLY OTHER ROAD going south for about 17 miles so that we could get back on US 26 and head to Portland.

And when I say “road” I mean a former lumber road that somehow got paved (mostly) and somehow got designated a state highway instead of “goat trail.”  No shoulders, switchback city, crossing and re-crossing the Nehalem River about 30 times, and did I mention no shoulders?  And no guard rail, either.

If you look at the second map you’ll see the roads we took to get around the closure; the first map being our normal route (The "X" is the accident - duh).  And please note that ALL the roads ARE shown.  There ARE NO OTHER ROADS.  Those empty spaces on the map where you think roads should be (and would be where you live) are filled with things we call “trees,” “rivers,” and “mountains.”

This delightful excursion took a little more than an hour (slowed further by driving through the towns of Jewell, Mist, and Vernonia…and when I say “town” I mean it in the same way I refer to the “road” – as in, “that’s what they call it, but…not really”).  We made it to the doctor’s office only about a half-hour late, and as luck would have it, they were behind, so we wound up getting there at about the “right” time. 

And it was a nice day for a drive.


UPDATE:  On the way home we wound up in a gridlock traffic jam coming from lunch to the highway to get back to Seaside.  We travelled four miles in 40 minutes up OR 217 to the exit ramp before finally merging into US 26 and (mostly) regular traffic.  So we got the “best” of both worlds.  Thank goodness it was a nice day.

UPDATE 2:  Once we got home (finally) we checked online to see what the wreck was all about.  Yup, it was a bad one – it happened at 9am, about a half-hour before we got there – 11 cars and a tanker trailer, one truck caught fire, three injured, one critical.  They re-opened the highway about four hours later.

UPDATE 3:  Late last night the cause of the accident was still under investigation, but they had learned that (a) a truck crossed the center line and started the chain reaction, and (b) alcohol may have been involved.  At 9am in the morning?  Kee-ripes.

UPDATE 4:  I did mention that we normally leave a half-hour earlier, didn’t I?  That would have meant that we would have reached the Quartz Creek Bridge at about…9am.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Niches and Growth

As hard as it is to admit, I must do so now:  I am NOT an expert in all forms of poker.  Hell, I’m not an expert in most forms of poker.  But I do have a niche.

Most players are like me, but from my experience, few are ______ to admit it.  That blank space could be completed with a variety of words, such as,
  • “few are stupid enough to admit it” or
  • “few are smart enough to admit it” or
  • “few are aware enough to admit it” or even
  • “few are scared enough to admit it.”
That’s a lot of emotion for one aspect of one’s game.  I prefer to think I’m smart enough to admit I can’t play cash games as well as tournaments, and split-pot games are not my forte, but I seem to do very well with 7-card stud (even the few times I’ve played hi/lo).  While my live casino experience is very limited (closest casino in 40 years of playing is where I live right now - 2 1/2 hours away - no wonder I’m dying for online poker to return), I did well and I’ve always liked playing home poker games (and again, did well), so the jury is out on this one.

What’s your niche?  I know some players who prefer cash games, some who prefer tournaments, some who ONLY play Hold ‘em, some who loathe Hold ‘em, some who are lucky enough to live near a card room and practically live there, and others who actually considering moving to Mexico shortly after Black Friday. 

What’s more telling though, is how some players react when you ask them about their niche.  Some get all defensive - one cash player goes out of his way to mock and deride tournament players.  Truth is, his tournament experience can be summed up in one word - suckola.  So I guess this is his way of dealing with it.  Some know they are weak at PLO or Stud and just politely decline to be involved, and if they do get involved in HORSE they play very, very cautiously in their weaker games.

Still others know their weaknesses and try to improve (while remaining cautious about betting the farm if they do get involved).  This is by far the best way to play, and I’m about at this point in my poker development (after 40 years?) where I am coming out of my shell and trying to get better on my weak games and trying to improve in other areas of my game.

I gotta stop multi-tasking, for example.  I KNOW that distractions are, well…distracting, and I do not play my best when I’m doing something else while playing poker.  I stopped answering emails, doing payroll, and even writing this blog, and just last night I unplugged the headphones.  I like jazz, and it’ll have to wait…for now.

I am also starting to play the “other games” and I’m expanding my poker library, reading about strategy for Omaha and getting online in the forums for the new games like Badugi.  Thank goodness for play money (well spent when learning a new game).

And may I humbly suggest you do the same.  Here’s why - by learning other poker variations, it just might make your niche game better.  Here’s another reason - I believe that at some point more tournaments and more games in general will go the HORSE route.  Perhaps someday even the WSOP Main Event will move from Hold ‘em to HORSE.  And the final reason is this - if everyone plays nothing but Hold ‘em, you better be very, very good at Hold ‘em, or else they’ll be eating your lunch.  If your niche is their niche, perhaps you need another niche.

So what’s your niche?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Popeye Philosophy, or Sunday Keyboard Ramblings

My last post (Smörgåsbord Morality) got a number of people talking, most notably my wife.  She took exception to the idea that everyone succumbs to the “pick and choose” morality (though I explained that some are pickier than others).  I explained where I deviated from the “norm” (being careful not to accuse her of the same, since I like sleeping in a bed vs. the sofa), and she eventually came around. 

She also wondered why I was making so many posts about this topic, especially as it related to the current anti-online-poker crusade of Sheldon Adelson.  I told her it made no sense that his Coalition is trying to prevent legal online when the illegal offshore stuff will continue, plus, you can (a) gamble in other forms online (horses) and (b) you can play poker (just not online).  And it makes no sense that this is a campaign to stop people from gambling being funded by a guy who makes billions from…gambling.  She finally said she agreed, and replied, “Well, yeah, really, no one likes to be told what they can and can’t do.”

Ain’t that the truth?

If we all must have a personal morality, and we do (though many fail to develop one), mine is pretty simple.  Live by the Golden Rule, the tenets of Secular Humanism, and try to be consistent.  What you do in private is your business, not mine.  The old saying about “you being free to move your arms about until an inch from my nose” is pretty much the case – play your music up to the point of disturbance and no louder, enjoy life and leave it in better condition than you found, and so on.

On the negative side, only a few things stand out.  I hate hypocrites.  That, and litter, are two of my pet peeves.  Oh, and being told what to do and what not to do, especially by those who are, at best, sanctimonious (I had to go look that up to make certain it meant what I thought it did.  Yup).

It’s no wonder that I (now) own my own business (along with my best friend and severest critic).  I can’t remember any position (er, job), that didn’t entail someone telling me what to do, or what not to do…and then, seeing them not doing what I was told to do and doing what I was told not to.  “We have to work late tonight,” said the boss who left at 4:45pm.  “Don’t use the office Xerox for personal copies,” said the boss who used it for…oh, you know the drill.

The best boss I ever had was Jack Trumpy, VP and Head Auditor back at the Ann Arbor Bank.  He and I were at opposite ends of the social/political/you-name-it spectrum, but a better man was not to be had.  Jack had two rules – One, if you made a call out in the field and were right, he’d back you 110%, but if you were wrong he’d explain why you were wrong, how it affected others, and how to correct it so it didn’t happen again.  Two, and more importantly, he would never ask you to do something he would not do himself.  And he would occasionally go out of his way to show you he meant this.

Two episodes stand out.  One, when we had a teller discrepancy of more than $1,000, he and I went through every scrap of paper (including the trash) in the entire branch.  He could have easily assigned me the trash room while he took the manager’s office, but it was important, so everyone did everything.  The other was when the back decided to enforce their “no facial hair” policy (this was the early 70s) after I grew a beard.  Jack thought it a stupid rule.  And grew a mustache. 

But back to being told what to do and what not to do.  My wife is right, no one likes that.  And it seems to me that the people who like it least are the people who spend much of their time trying to tell others what to do, or what not to do.  Is this a defense mechanism?  Projection?  Sickness?

I have great difficulty understanding why, in today’s society with our current issues of economic inequality, environmental pollution, global warming, peak oil, personal security and safety, and so on…that so many people worry about the trivial matters of behavior, that, quite frankly, are none of their fucking business.  Period.  Obviously, I include a ban of online poker in this category (especially the clown in Pennsylvania who wants criminal charges against those who play online).  And I have decided that, since I have a blog and a voice, I’ll try to use it to speak out.  To what impact this will have, I cannot say, but it’s what I can do.

I don’t like labels (forgot to mention this above).  I’ve been called Liberal but usually by those who think it means something nasty.  I like Progressive more than Liberal, but it’s not quite accurate.  I’m more Libertine than Libertarian, as I can see an important role for government, especially a government of the people (do we still have one of those).  Speaking of – didja ever notice that government is more of a problem and seems to work worse when it’s being run by people who believe that government is the problem?  Just sayin’.

So however you want to define me, this is who I am.  This is why I will fight the good fight.  Online poker.  Human rights – ALL rights.  Free speech for all, including douche bags.  And so on.

It was Popeye who famously said, “I yam what I yam and tha's all what I yam.”  So yam I.