Tales From The Main

Snapshots of small town life - zany characters and our neverending poker game.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Quick Course on Humility

The game just never got into a groove for me last night. Sarge, Brad, Huck and I got it rolling short handed then cajoled Doctor Frank to sit in 'for just one round'. Sure enough we were punished for our evil thoughts on relieving the poor Doctor (who in reality is a wannabe medical student) of the contents of his wallet by the total annihilation of our chipstacks. Doctor F. just kept marching along which in all honesty I don't really mind. You have to exepct to lose on occasion. It is what you take away from the experience to improve your play that really matters.

I did have to run the bank and it came out nice and even which is a satisfying feeling. The biggest drag was the lack of chips in front of me to cash out into it at the end of the night. That's right. Flat busted - me and Huck. Sarge and Brad too. It was a long night.

One thing to take heed of should you ever find yourself reaching out to drag in monster pot after monster pot with your 25 offsuit hitting yet another full house on the turn; do it with a big smile on your face and be happy about it. You won - that's what you are there to do. If you didn't want to win with 25 offsuit then muck the cards and don't play themin the first playce. But if by some miracle you hit the monster board then play the hell out of them and make somebody at the table pay. Just remember that there is nothing worse than being the guy on the other side of the exchange, watching your chips get dragged, and having to listen to you apologize over and over for the beat. You won. Get over it. Just come back and play again!

I try to get better everytime I play - and I really like to use my losing sessions as labs for self improvement. Last night two things stood out. One was the cards. I know that people always blame the cards but in last night's game I did get bad cards. I'm not going to regale anyone with bad beat stories but there were a few. The truth of the matter is though you cannot control the cards you get - you can only play them. The one problem that really stood out in the way I played the cards was my inability to adjust. I was not reading the flow of the game well and adjusting my play to compensate for the new players who came and went. I also made a really bad call with top pair, twice, and lost at least $100 on those hands.

Today is pretty laid back - Carol's working on a project at the office - Bobby's and Greg are at a hockey tournament together - and there is a party tonight. I'm going as Maximus - though I'm not quite in Russell Crowe condition today. Carol was going as Cleopatra but has changed her mind at the last second. How unusual. I fell in love with the only woman in the world who has trouble making up her mind what to wear to a party.


Played From 7:00 pm to 1:00 am – 6 hours
Winnings (Net of Expenses) - $300.00
Hourly Rate -$50.00

Hours Played 81.5
Year to date net of expenses + $2276
Hourly rate + $27.92

Friday, February 24, 2006

The cards were in the air . .

. . . and the beer was being spilled on the table. Last night the Main attracted some serious characters and a few of the regulars found themselves more than a little inebriated. The big winner of the evening – at least at 2:00 am when I packed it in was Doc, who had built his $20 buy in to over $1300 and who had spilled his wine on the cards more than once in the process. It may have been an error to give up my seat when Doc so clearly was ready to see the game through to the dawn but I did have work to do today so over Doc’s protestations I booked out of there at closing time.

We had quite the crowd and our table had a waiting list until well after midnight. Luckily I had stopped in on my way home from work and bought chips and a seat so I was able to walk right in after supper to sit down and play. We had a few of the regulars, Moose, Sarge, Doc and Callin’ were all there along with Callin’s son and a couple of newbs who were clearly thinking they could run all over us and take our money. One of the newbs woke up with pocket aces twice in the first hour and had them hold up both times, managing to accumulate a three or four hundred dollar stack along the way before giving it all back. His buddy, clearly a veteran of the online game, didn’t quite figure out our rules until the end of the night despite projecting an air of smugness and superiority. Between the two of them they walked out down about $20 – which was fine. They at least played in turn and weren’t afraid to gamble a little bit when the circumstances warranted. Gary Larson dropped in toward the end of the evening and donated about a hundred and twenty before going home and then we had LSD man. For about an hour I was sitting in between Doc and LSD who were sniping at each other. Doc I can handle – he’s old and crotchety but he plays well and I can generally put him on hands. LSD was just plain annoying. He had this habit of adjusting the flop cards and persisted on giving me advice – I was tempted to give him advice on how to eat teeth with my knuckles. Luckily the copious amounts of drugs he has ingested in his life have done little to improve his card skills and after about an hour he was busted leaving behind his hundred or so.

I had a couple of key hands – one where I was dealt big slick on the button. Moose raised ten in front of me and I popped it 10 more on top. Sarge smooth called the twenty and Moose called the 10. The flop came Ah Jc 9c. Moose bet out $60. Now at this point Moose had been unusually quiet. Normally he likes to be in pots but for some reason he was a little subdued this evening. I was pretty confident he would have checked a set and I was 50/50 on whether he would have bet so aggressively on AJ or A9 so I bumped him back another 60 making it 120 to Sarge. Now Sarge is generally a winner at this game but just hadn’t gotten it going this evening and was stuck around $500 already. He reluctantly laid his hand down but gave me a look that told me he thought Moose was on a draw. Moose almost instantly saw my $60 and reraised me another $100. I had $103 left at that point. Decision time. If he had AJ or A9 I was meat. Ax of clubs was most likely and in that case I was a favorite – I made Moose sweat for a minute then called and thank the lord he turned over Ac 8c. Turn and River brought bricks and my TPTK held up for a nice $500 pot.

All in all the evening was a success though I don’t think I was on my A game at all. The cards didn’t really run that hot for me; AK twice, couple of low pocket pairs but no sets, hit two flushes that I got paid on. The big thing today was avoiding my normal donk play once I built my stack. I am also quite proud of my discipline for getting up and leaving - I’m working on a big deal here in ‘real’ life and need my wits about me today.

The end result of the night – up $410.00 net of a fairly generous purchase of several drinks for Callin’ and Moose (for saving my seat) and a $20 tip for our hottie waitress. Oh – I’m also proud of my restraint in the indulgence department – only two beers all night and white meat chicken fingers instead of wings! Take that bathroom scale!

Played From 7:00 pm to 2:00 am – 7 hours
Winnings (Net of Expenses) + $410.00
Hourly Rate +$58.57

Hours Played 75.5Year to date net of expenses + $2576
Hourly rate + $34.11

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What comes around goes around

Several weeks ago I mentioned a job opening with my company to an acquaintance of mine and today I noticed that he is in the office interviewing for the job. Considering that about a year ago I helped him land a six-figure job with another company perhaps I should rethink my own occupation and look into becoming a career consultant. I seem to have a knack for understanding people’s motivations and talents and then matching them up with organizational requirements – especially at the senior management level – and my network of executive contacts is pretty good. I’m friendly with more than a couple of Fortune 1000 CEO’s and have cordial relationships with a couple of billionaires (I’m also very close friends with guys who struggle to meet their rent payments and very close with one guy who is currently sleeping on his Mom’s couch!) I have a deal in flight at work and if it crashes and burns I will probably find myself out on the street. Might be something to think about . . .

Today is one of those days that just seems a little grey around the edges. I’m really looking forward to hitting the Main tonight for a little poker with the boys though I have to watch out for the lifestyle issues that come with it. Over the course of a six or seven hour session it can be far too easy to quaff half a dozen pints and I have noticed my weight starting to creep up on me. My six pack abs have turned into a keg over the past three months and even some of my friends have commented. Time to take action!

On a positive note there was a text from Huckleberry waiting for me this morning. His date last night went really well. They ended up back at her place and by all accounts things got a little hot and heavy. Things are looking good for another date with this one and even better, he has a new date tonight with the girl he met on Monday. I swear Huck is like a man who has wandered for forty years in the desert suddenly stumbling into an oasis full of beautiful women. His confidence has skyrocketed and he is really in this virtuous circle. I just hope that he deals well with the inevitable setbacks that are part of everybody’s daily life as that was his downfall in the past. He would take each negative episode and obsess over it rather than focusing and building on each positive development.

On that note I will end today’s missive with my philosophy – life is full of setbacks; learn to look at them as opportunities in disguise!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How to Design a Perfect Family Life - First, Break One Family. . .

Last weekend, Jan, who is 10, called me on my Blackberry to ask if she could go to a friend’s house to play. I was getting ready to tell her to hang on while I gave her friend’s parents a call when she put me on hold, flash-conferenced her friend into my call and organized the whole thing. Seems like only yesterday that I had to help her dial the phone.

I am often asked how I manage my life with so many kids. In reality it isn’t that difficult. Both Carol and I have responsible (if difficult and at times frustrating ex-spouses) which does make a world of difference. We also have a somewhat unique method of sharing our time with the kids that I thought I would take a moment and share with the world. It works for us – perhaps it might work for you.

When my first marriage was in the process of disintegrating and I found myself facing the prospect of caring part time for three very small children it was an understandably scary situation. I was not at all interested in becoming a Weekend’s and Wednesday’s type of Dad, nor did I think that the traditional method of joint parenting where the Mom keeps the kids for one week then they pack up and move to Dad’s house for the next week would be an ideal situation either. My ex – for now I’ll call her Edna – and I settled on a scheme whereby the kids would stay with me every Monday and Tuesday and her every Wednesday and Thursday. We would then alternate weekends. It sounds complicated but in reality it is extremely simple and provides something the kids need more than anything – routine. For example sports teams are usually organized in such a way that games and practices fall on the same night of the week. In my world if an activity is on a Monday night then it is Dad’s responsibility - end of story. If it is a Wednesday then Mom takes care of it. Similarly if I get a request from friend’s or an assignment at work that needs my presence outside of regular hours I know without looking at a calendar that the only nights I am free from here to eternity are Wednesday and Thursday – Monday and Tuesday are family night.

When I met Carol it was interesting to find that she and her ex had adopted a slight variation on the same theme. They too split the week in half and also alternate weekends however the only difference is they switch Monday/Tuesday and Wednesday/Thursday blocks each week depending on who had the kids the previous weekend. In my situation you can go for 5 days without seeing the kids every second week while in Carol’s arrangement the longest stretch you have to face without kids is the Friday to Sunday weekend.

The real magic came when Carol and I formed our Brady Bunch. Luckily our weekends were in synch with each other so we did not have to supplicate ourselves to the exes and within a short period of time the kids all got along with each other (and by get along I mean they fight, scream, laugh and cry just like brothers and sisters do – I bet most outsiders would have a really hard time telling who was Carol’s and who was mine). From a logistical standpoint we work on a four week cycle. Two weekends in four we have all six kids at home from Friday after school until Monday morning. The other two weekends we have no kids at home – Carol and I use this time to catch up with each other, take weekend jaunts out of town, host parties and quite often dip into the lives of the kid’s for their special events. During the 16 week days in our 4 week cycle (Fridays count at weekend days) we end up with 4 days where we have all six kids at home (2 Mondays and 2 Tuesdays), 4 days with just my guys (2 Mondays and 2 Tuesdays), 4 days with just Carol’s kids (2 Wednesdays and 2 Thursdays) and 4 days with no kids at home (2 Wednesdays and 2 Thursdays).

The net result, with my glass half full attitude, is a best of both world’s situation. I look at a lot of my friend’s who have intact marriages with kids and their biggest complaint is the lack of time to spend with each other. Carol and I have lots of time to spend with each other and we take advantage of it. Not only that but we have lots of time to spend with the kids, both as a large family, as an individual parent with our ‘own’ kids, and as a two-parent unit with a small group of kids. The other thing we are able to do and which we take advantage of on a regular basis is spend one on one time with individual kids. We generally do this on one of our 4 free week days during the cycle or on one of our weekend days when the kids are not home. It gives the exes a break and gives us a chance to spend some real quality time which can range from shopping for Marcia to playing Nintendo for Bobby. The situation we have created for ourselves has the benefit of making us appreciate both our time with the kids and our time with ourselves. We find that we don't become complacent about either aspect of our lives and we tend to enjoy each minute as the precious gift it was meant to be.

I really think the children are going to grow up with a huge support network in place. They have a very large extended family – there are six kids and two parents in our household and Carol’s ex is remarried also (Edna is not). I think it was Hilary Clinton who said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” We don’t have a village but we certainly do have a small tribe.

That’s my sociology lesson for the day. I am going to try and close a deal at work today then it’s off to a friend’s house for the afternoon to watch some sports. He is the CEO of a major technology company so I can justify taking off from the office. Tonight I am taking the family out for dinner to celebrate Carol’s birthday. I left it up to the kid’s to pick a restaurant and unfortunately we are going to a local branch of an Italian chain that specializes in all you can eat pasta. Oh well. Carol and I are planning to go to Manhattan in a few weeks on an adults only eating weekend so I guess we can stomach an evening of garlic bread, chicken strips and spaghetti with meat sauce.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tomorrow is Carol’s birthday and I Got Her a Fantastic Present

For the most part I find the various electronic gadgets that fill our lives to be ill conceived and fairly useless but the trinkets being produced lately seem to be filling actual needs in our lives. For Carol’s birthday gift this year I picked up a 1Gb digital music player. It is not the fanciest one but it is small and has a few neat features – the best one being that it recharges by plugging into the USB port of any PC. I went a step further and asked Marcia and a couple of her friends to spend an evening and fill up every atom of the flash memory with music which should work out to the equivalent of about 200 LP records. The girls had a lot of fun choosing music to put on Mom’s new machine and Carol will no doubt appreciate the music during her daily lunch hour workouts. What struck me was the scale of the gift. Even ten years ago if someone was to have given me a walkman music player with 200 cassette tapes of assorted bands as a birthday gift I would have been overwhelmed. In fact it would be inconceivable gift in my middle class existence. Times certainly do change – and occasionally for the better.

My best bud Huck gave me a call last night. He’s a drone in sector 7G of this huge faceless corporation but does have the opportunity to move up a bit in the organization. Several months ago he had an interview with the director responsible for the department he is trying to get into but he blew the meeting and didn’t get the job. The company decided not to fill the position at the time so Carol and I sat down with him and reviewed where he could have improved his interview process. Long story short, yesterday he had a second shot with the guy and it looks like he will get the position. He was totally pumped and took his new found confidence out after work with him to one of his local pubs. Turns out there was a young lady enjoying a cocktail by herself in this establishment and old Huck worked up the courage to introduce himself – an hour later she left but gave Mr. H. her digits and email. I tell you he is a new man these days. It is really nice to see as I can’t think of anyone I know who is more interested in meeting someone to settle down with and raise a family. Huck has gone through a fifteen year stretch of self doubt and bad luck and is only now working his way out of the vicious circle. Way to go bud!

My final thought for today is on strategies for sanity in an insanely busy life. With six kids and interests ranging from high stakes poker to global economic theory my life can at times be described as chaotic. Carol and I have both been divorced once and are determined to make our relationship a priority in our lives. We recognized early on in our life together that making time for each other is the only way we will keep from drifting apart over time – let’s face it – it is easy to be totally excited and enthused about a new relationship but as the years progress and you become comfortable and complacent about each other’s presence the risk grows that one or both of you will drift away. Further complicating our situation is the fact that Carol is a morning person who enjoys her alone time from 6 am until the first kid starts stirring just before 7 while I rarely go to bed before midnight or 1am and have to be given an intravenous caffeine drip just to get me up a 8am. We found a common ground at 10pm in our master bathroom. Perhaps we are lucky to have a few extra bucks – I’m not going to apologize for being smart, hardworking or successful – but when we built our house we designed it with a large bathroom retreat of the master bedroom. The kids understand and respect that that part of the house is totally off limits to them. We have a big tub that we use – every night unless it is poker night! – and we sit, soak, and unwind. We talk about our day, we talk about the kids, we make plans, we read, we fool around, we drink good red wine, we have candles, music and bubbles. It really brings us closer together and is our favorite part of the day. If by chance you find yourself in a relationship that is struggling at all and you have any interest in trying to improve it I would highly suggest trying this strategy. Even if you don’t have the private retreat with candles and bubbles try just setting aside the time each day for a date – you fell in love for lots of good reasons and those reasons are probably still there – they’ve just been covered up by all the issues of daily life.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Life is Interesting (and I wouldn't have it any other way!)

Without going into detail on my personal situation (I'll save that for future posts) suffice to say that my life is anything but boring. Every day seems to bring new excitement and challenges and this past weekend was no exception.

After dragging myself out of bed on Saturday morning and gulping down a couple of cups of coffee that my angel so thoughtfully seems to magically make available for me it was time to coordinate schedules for the troop. Perhaps a little background is in order. My house is made up of me (you can call me Mike), my long suffering angel (code name Carol) and our 21st century Brady Bunch (in chronological order they would be Marcia, Greg, Peter, Jan, Cindy and Bobby). There's also a cat, some hamsters, a guinea pig and a fluctuating number of fish but to tell you the truth I tend not to pay attention to those members of the family unless their untimely death causes a younger Brady's heart to break or an unexpected vet bill leaves me in a moral quandry. About the only thing we are missing is the green shag carpets, the wood panelled station wagon and of course Alice. God I would kill to have an Alice!

The various crew comes and goes but mostly tends to hang around - we certainly own the largest refridgerator known to mankind - and they always seem to be accompanied by an extra midget or six. This weekend was typical of most. Hockey starting at 6 am followed by more hockey at 7, basketball at 10, more basketball at 12, more hockey at 2 then 3 then 4. After thawing out our respective rear ends we piled into the vehicles (hey - you try travelling anywhere in one car with six kids), and headed out to the inlaws for a family gathering. It's always a little tense showing up as we tend to take over the place but my sister in law runs a daycare so she has a big basement full of toys that keep the kids occupied for minutes at a time. I worked my magic mixing up martinis that kept my sister in law in high spirits (until she wiped out while sneaking a smoke in the garage and busted a crack in her head the size of an ostrich egg - time to cut her off!). All in all a pleasant way to spend an evening even if we did have to turn down an invite from friends to head out for a night on the town - and this invite was from friends who really know how to party. They could make the debauchery of the Roman emperor's seem like a six month work term in an Amish quilt factory.

The drive home turned out to be one of those experiences that you feel will probably prove pivotal in life. Marcia, who is fifteen, manouvered the seating to manage to get driven home by me and have the rest of the bunch in the other vehicle. Turned out, surprise surprise, that she wanted to talk. Parents out there please take note. Your teenagers do want to talk to you they just don't want to be judged by you. By the time they are fifteen you can influence them you can't control them (you can control them to a certain degree but they will resent the hell out of it and you will probably end up pushing them into decisions they wouldn't have made without your clumsy do gooder intentions - anyway moralizing over). So it turns out Marcia has a boy, has starting experimenting with drinking and has even smoked pot once. Wow. As if we didn't know. She wanted to know what I thought and how she could handle a friend who was pushing her to drink more and cut school. For the record Marcia is on the honor role, plays on a couple of varsity teams, has a part time job, a pretty good circle of friends that we see a lot of and gets a bit of leeway to make mistakes. When things do go outside the lines, and they have on occasion, we tend to take it in stride but there are always consequences. (She hates that part - at least publicly - but secretly I really think she appreciates the fact that there are consequences to going too far)

But I digress. I just think it was really cool to have an open conversation. I didn't condone her drinking or smoking and while I am happy she is showing an interest in dating we talked a lot about the complications that having sex could bring into her life at this time. The upshot of the whole thing was that both her Mom and I understand that she is smart enough to sneak around any rules that we put in place for her, and that soon enough she is going to be old enough to be independent and on her own anyway, but what we are trying to accomplish is give her the tools to make responsible, mature decisions regardless of what is happening around her. I firmly believe that sticking your head in the sand and thinking that fifteen year olds aren't experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol will lead you down the path to being responsible for a drugged out, dropped out, single parent. It can be uncomfortable to talk about true - but it is more uncomfortable for them - after all it is newer to them - so get over it and talk to your kids. You might just be surprised at how well they take it.

Sunday was . . . more hockey. Told you life was exciting. This time it was Bobby the six year old's first tournament - held in a little town where the hockey rink really is the center of the universe. There is something comical about watching the little kids play though for the life of me I can't figure out why they hire referees. After all was said and done the coaches awarded him the hard hat - the smile on his face was about a mile wide and something magical to see. (For those of you not in hockey the hard hat goes to the hardest working player and at the six year old level where they don't even keep score it is the best award you can get - you even get to write your name and jersey number in marker on it!)

Sunday night was family dinner night - Carol whipped up a ham and fixings - which is really my responsibility but I've been falling short in that department lately. Sorry babe. I rushed out in time to play a game of soccer, 2-1 for the good guys, and after the mandatory pints after the game and a quick pit stop at the Main for some wings and a chat with the boys (no game on the go - dang) it was time to call it a weekend.

This week has a bit of action upcoming - Carol's birthday, a big deal closing at work (fingers crossed), a mid-week mid-afternoon party at a buddy's house and there should be a big poker game Thursday. The weekend has a bit of promise too - we've been invited to a party with a lot of the movers and shakers in town and my best bud, the Huckleberry Houndog, has planned to hit town too. Should be more than a few stories for the next blog.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A quiet Friday Night

I had to beg and cajole a bit to be let out on Friday - I may have even promised a big win with the prospect of a whale or two showing up at the old watering hole but alas, it wasn't to be. Apart from Old Moose, Sarge, Doc, Angus Young and Soundman Stu we didn't have much of a game. By the end of the night we were lucky to have five hundred in the bank and Doc was both the donator and recipient of the bulk of it. A couple of players dropped in to donate and run and Soundman Stu and Angus did make their usual deposits but all in all it was an unusually laid back evening.

I am starting to realize the major leak in my play. I seem to have little trouble accumulating a significant stack but a big issue with holding onto it. Whenever I have a big pile of blacks in front of me I just can't seem to resist the temptation to get drawn into pots when the little voice in the back of my head is screaming that I am beat. Three times last night I threw away over sixty dollars on top pair when it was obvious that I was beat - and once I was just blind to a straight that totally decimated my top two pair for two and a quarter. Still I did walk out a winner - total invested was only eighty and after my bar tab and a healthy tip I went home with a hunnert and forty one.


Played from 9:30pm to 1:00am - 3.5hours
Net of expenses - $61
Hourly rate - $17.43

Hours Played 68.5
Year to date net of expenses + $2166
Hourly rate - $31.62