Farewell Poker

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I’ve been noting the possibility of this day for quite a while, and it’s finally here. I am saying farewell to online poker, likely for quite a while, but also likely, not forever.

I expected the day to come sometime in January, having gone through a very long drought of cashing in a tournament. Then, as I was about to run out of money in my account, I cashed on back-to-back days, coming fourth then eighth, adding enough money to last another two months. Since I didn’t cash again (though came very close a number of times), and the two months have now passed, it’s over.

I have a small amount in a secondary account, and could play some very low-stakes tourneys if the itch really hit me, but I don’t intend to do even that.

It was a fantastic run. I played my first ever online poker game on September 1, 2004. The last time I deposited money in my account was April 2005, so that money has lasted a very long time, and given me untold pleasure (yes, I still love online poker).

So, if I love it, and can afford it, why am I giving it up?

I have had to hop from site to site to site over the short number of years, as the US frightens online operators into dropping US citizens. Along the way, I have enjoyed the sites less and less, and the schedule of tournaments hasn’t matched my interest as much either.

Still, I was reasonably happy with my main site for the past two years. Until they changed their software and schedule so dramatically that I cut back to one tourney a day for the past six months (on the days that I played at all).

To add insult to injury, while I was draining my account, I got a note from them telling me that I wasn’t playing enough, and my status was being downgraded. Nice. In a down economy, rather than trying a carrot approach to entice me to play more, they chose the stick. Well, it worked, they won’t have to worry about downgrading me any further. 😉

Given my obsessive personality, I am sure it won’t take long for some other activity to fill the void. I already have a good idea of what that will be, but this isn’t the right post to announce it…

Poker, thanks for the ride, see you down the road! 🙂

December 2008 Poker

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December was no different than November. Good results in Omaha (though not many tournaments in general), and a total wipeout in the big Sunday Hold’Em tourneys, accounting for a terrible economic showing. Bottom line for the month: -$694.60.

In one of the big tourneys, they paid the top 135 spots. I finished 137th. I probably could have squeeked in if I just folded two more times, but I decided to play like I should, not like I was tempted to. It didn’t work out.

Anyway, another bad economic month, but another satisfying round of Omaha tourneys (though still a very light playing schedule).

For the year, a complete economic wipeout: -$2,128.26.

Horrible, obviously, on every level. That said, I was playing with previous winnings, and still have enough left in the account to play a bit more (a lot more if I would avoid paying full-freight in the big Sunday tourneys).

As much as I love playing online poker, and I really do, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m secretly looking forward to running out of money in the account, so I can obsess about other pursuits that I don’t make enough time for, given the siren song that poker sings to me. 🙂

Giving Thanks

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Lois and I are truly thankful every day of our lives. We’ve been blessed in so many ways, we couldn’t accurately count. Near the top of any list of blessings for us, you would find our wonderful godchildren. In 2008, we were extra-blessed, when Laura got married, and moved to NYC with her husband. They now live in the same building we do, so we get to see them more often than we ever used to!

Unfortunately, while Laura came north, David went south. He is doing his first year of medical residency at UAB (University of Alabama Birmingham). It was his first choice, and he loves it, but we miss him. We hadn’t seen him since Laura’s wedding on July 5th. For us, that’s an unusually long stretch not to see one of them.

We’ve now corrected that, and were rewarded (blessed) with a near-perfect long weekend!

On Tuesday afternoon, we drove from Zope to Durham and spent the night in a Hampton Inn there. The next morning we picked up a very good friend of David’s (and for a long time, ours too, once David introduced us) and we headed to Birmingham, AL. The drive was going along fine, including a successful detour off of I85 to avoid a horrible accident, until we hit Atlanta (mid-afternoon). We were stuck in traffic for nearly two hours, for what should have been a 15-20 minute drive-by. All things considered, not that bad.

We got to Birmingham at a reasonable hour nonetheless, and after checking out David’s apartment, headed for a wonderful meal at La Mesa Cantina and Grill. It’s a different type of Mexican Restaurant. The place is gorgeous (including the bathrooms). You can check out the photo gallery and the menu if you might ever find your way there. I had three soft tacos, two with fried oysters and one with grilled skirt steak. They were excellent, but the oysters were truly outstanding. Next time, I’d probably go for three of them!

David Wes Le Mesa

David and Wes at Le Mesa

After some coffee and catching up at David’s, Lois and I headed to the local Embassy Suites to check in, leaving Wes and David to catch up (and play NCAA Football on the PS3).

Epic Battle

Epic NCAA Battle

I have chronicled my WiFi woes at the hotel in two separate posts, here and here. Without that experience, I would have described this weekend as perfect as opposed to near-perfect. 😉

On Thanksgiving day we headed to David’s mid-morning and relaxed there for a while. We then headed out for lunch and a movie. Amazingly, there were no places open for lunch near the movie theater, which was at a giant outdoor mall called The Summit. We even drove around a bit in the surrounding neighborhood, and every single place (other than McDonalds) was closed.

We decided to be pragmatic and we bought prepared food at Brunos (a supermarket near the theater) and ate it at a table that they provide expressly for this purpose). No one would confuse our lunch for a gourmet meal, but we all enjoyed it nonetheless, and it ended up being very convenient.

Brunos Lunch

Brunos Lunch

We headed over to the movie early, which gave us enough time to split a large buttered popcorn (which was indeed gourmet!) 😉 between the three guys.



We saw Four Christmases. Most of it was laugh-out-loud funny, with a few way-too-stupid scenes thrown in to ensure that it wasn’t a great movie… Seriously though, if you like comedies, there are definitely a ton of laughs. Both Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon do a great job, and the majority of the supporting cast is excellent as well. Wes and I were repeating lines from the movie for days, so it definitely hit the funny bone.

In addition to the humor, there are a few reasonably deep family/life insights, most of which are delivered cleverly or at least in an interesting way, so there is even a bit of redeeming value to the movie. 🙂

We returned to David’s and relaxed the rest of the afternoon, and mentally prepared for the big Thanksgiving meal. Finally the time arrived, and we headed back to our hotel for the event. In the lobby of the Embassy Suites is a Ruth’s Chris. We’ve all had many great meals at various Ruth’s Chris restaurants over the years, so we had no doubt that this one wouldn’t disappoint. We were right.

We could have ordered a traditional TG Turkey dinner, but the boys all went for steak. No surprise, as we had been talking about it for a few days beforehand. We also shared an exceptional bottle of Ridge Zinfandel (2006). Don’t get me started about how great most bottles of any Ridge wine are. It’s one of my all-time favorite wine makers.

Ruth's Chris Thanksgiving

Ruth's Chris Thanksgiving Dinner

We skipped dessert there and headed back to David’s, where we had coffee and some cheesecake that we bought earlier at Bruno’s. It was fantastic.

The next morning (Friday), David left early for an overnight on call shift. That’s 30+ consecutive hours in the hospital, usually with little-to-no sleep. We don’t understand the point, but it’s a regular part of his life/schedule, so it’s just a fact of life at this point.

We decided to take the opportunity to create an adventure for the rest of us, which I’ve documented separately. The only thing wrong with Friday was that David didn’t get to enjoy it with us, and that we didn’t get to enjoy David’s company. Otherwise, a perfect day!

On Saturday, we headed to David’s mid-morning to hang with Wes. After a few hours, David called to say that he was headed home. Lois and I went out to bring lunch back in. The plan was Chick-Fil-A (which I’ve never had the pleasure of), but rather than go to the one Wes directed me to, I allowed the GPS to pick a closer one, which ended up being closed. We brought back Quiznos instead, which served the purpose just fine.

You can tell just how wiped David gets after being on call. He needed a slightly larger shot of caffeine than Wes did. 😉

Extra Caffeine

Extra Caffeine

Right after lunch, David napped while Wes and I watched college football and caught up with emails. I created a mini-panic when I tried to fix what felt like a flaky WiFi router in David’s apartment. We had no Internet connectivity for nearly an hour. Eventually, I got it all working again, and it seemed less flaky, but there were moments when I was wishing to have flaky back. 🙁

When David woke up, we watched more football. We didn’t want to go to dinner until the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs Auburn – Roll Tide!) was over, because we were headed to Dreamland BBQ, which we assumed would be a mob scene during the game. We had an excellent meal there (with yet another round of extraordinary service!). Also, since the menu is limited (but exactly what we were interested in), they are constantly cooking all of the available items, so it’s as lightning as fast food, but clearly as good as cooked to order.

On Sunday, we headed to David’s mid-morning again (broken record). We watched the first half of an amateur movie on DVD called The Pinecone Priority. The movie is pretty poorly executed, but it has some extremely clever lines and concepts in it. Wes is one of the stars, so we were happy to watch it, even though it was over-the-top campy… If you watch the teaser/trailer (linked above), you won’t get a sense of how the movie itself is poorly executed, but you’ll see another form of poor execution. Most of the trailer is black. At exactly the 1:24 mark, you can barely see one scene. Wes is the guy on the left in that scene.

Here’s a better picture of Wes, taken by Lois, while Wes was on the TV. This time, he’s on the right. 😉

Pinecone Priority

The Pinecone Priority

We headed for PF Changs for lunch (back at The Summit). All of us count it among our favorite restaurants. The meal was exquisite, including our first taste of the Kung Pao Scallops. David and I split an order of Moo Shoo Pork, which simply couldn’t have been any better. We then did a little shopping, including picking up a Blue Ray DVD of Tropic Thunder to watch later on.

We relaxed back at David’s the rest of the afternoon and finished up watching The Pinecone Priority, and then David, Wes and Lois headed to an evening church service. I stayed at the apartment and played (and lost) in my weekly big poker tournamet (I already reported about the crushing loss I took in November…). They brought back pizza for dinner. I called the order in to Dave’s Pizza while they were still in church. The timing worked out perfectly.

We then watched Tropic Thunder. This movie is way over the top, and was definitely not a hit with the entire crowd. That said, it had some pretty funny scenes and lines in it, and the concept was quite clever, if overdone in the delivery. It seems that no one associated with this movie ever heard of the word subtlety. Given that I am a sucker for most forms of comedy (even reasonably bad ones), I likely enjoyed it more than the rest of them, but honestly, even I don’t recommend this one to anyone. 😉

After coffee and one last slice of the heavenly cheesecake, Lois and I headed back for one last night at the Embassy Suites. In the morning, we headed over for one last hug from David, and headed on the long trek back to Fredericksburg (and Zope). We dropped Wes at Durham, after stopping in the Hampton Inn where we stayed a week ago. I had accidentaly left my Treo charger in the room, and they were kind enough to hold it for me. We had to drive back through Durham anyway, so it wasn’t as inconvenient as it could have been.

We made it back to the hotel at 8:30pm, which was almost exactly 12 hours after we left Birmingham. We had essentially zero traffic the entire way, which was extraordinary, and another thing we give thanks for on this weekend.

We couldn’t be more thankful for this wonderful visit, regardless of whether it was Thanksgiving proper or not. We’re already counting the days until we find our way back to Birmingham (and Atlanta). 🙂

And, just because Lois loves this one… 😉

Ernie Tea Cup

Ernie's Tea Cup

November 2008 Poker

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Ugh. That says it all. I played very little this month. I was really busy so it wasn’t a lack of desire. Unfortunately, I got to play in four of the five Sunday tournaments, and lost all four. That alone accounts for 98.56% of my loss this month. It’s a big number, and put a big dent in the account.

Total for the month is a loss of $872.58! Ouch!

Still have enough money to play all of the tourneys that I want, but I’m at a point where I can imagine running out of money in the account, and I’ve already decided that might not be a bad thing. I will most definitely not put money back in, at least not for a long while.

Given that I haven’t put any new money into the account since 2005, I have no complaints. I have enjoyed a long run (that isn’t over yet), full of enjoyment, without having to reach into my pocket in a long time.

Until next month. 🙂

October 2008 Poker

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Wow. I was so excited and absorbed with our surprise trip to Cobleskill yesterday that I completely forgot to report on my poker results for October. While I was playing the big weekly tourney this evening, I realized that, and now that I’ve lost that one (part of next month’s report), I can now report on last month.

Bottom line: a loss of $488.75. Not so great. That said, it was actually a pretty good month. I made money playing Omaha (Hi), and cashed consistently. I lost all of my big weekly entries, which dragged me down. I played very little this month, so a few losses in the big one overwhelmed good results in general.

No complaints. I actually thoroughly enjoyed myself this month, regardless of the economic result. Even in the ones that I lost, I didn’t have lasting feelings of frustration, which is a nice improvement. 🙂

See ya next month…

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our sixth time attending the CMA Song Writers Series at Joe’s Pub. Tonight will be our seventh. 😉

We’ve enjoyed every single rendition, including last night. As I’ve written before, the performance abilities of the multitude of writers can be quite varied. Some are quite raw, while a few are close to professional-level performers. Last time, we missed a real professional, Josh Turner, who only appeared in the 9:30pm show, while we attended the 6:30 one.

Last night, we didn’t miss out. Joining the regularly scheduled writers was Craig Morgan, a superstar in his own right (both as a writer and as a performer). Just this past week, he was inducted as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry!

Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

CMA Song Writers 20081029

CMA Song Writers 20081029

Mike Rogers is the head of Craig Morgan’s band, playing a number of instruments (normally). Last night, he was there to play guitar with Craig (though he took some incredible leads when supporting some of the others on the stage as well). Mike’s guitar playing is star quality (after all, that’s what he does for a living, as he’s not the typical songwriter that appears in these shows). In addition, his harmonies with Craig were simply outstanding.

Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers

Craig Morgan was in town doing the Today Show on NBC in the morning. Lucky for all of us, since he would normally be a solo headliner in a much larger venue than Joe’s Pub. His voice is silky smooth, with tremendous range. He’s delightful interacting with the crowd, and there was zero sense of a swelled head, given his recent induction into the Grand Ole Opry, or his otherwise considerable stardom compared to the rest of the people he shared the stage with.

Oh, and did I mention, he’s a great songwriter, and therefore fully deserves to share the stage purely as a songwriter? I already mentioned Mike Rogers above, but the fact that Craig brought Mike along made for a super-professional performance whenever it was Craig’s turn. The two of them sing beautifully together, and Mike is a superb guitarist.

Craig Morgan

Craig Morgan

Bob DiPiero held court in the middle, as he always does. He’s a natural, and always has the crowd (and the rest of the writers) in stiches throughout the show. Since he’s at every show, some of the schtick is a little repetitious. That said, it’s delivered perfectly, and the crowd eats it up every time, so we enjoy it over and over as well.

Likewise, while Bob has a large repertoire to select from, he has a handful of mega-hits, and he plays the same five songs at every show. Again, it’s possibe that he would be skinned alive by the crowd if he didn’t play them, so I completely understand. We too tap and clap along each time, because they are great songs.

Bob DiPiero

Bob DiPiero

Hillary Lindsey was the one female on stage last night. She defines the enigma that is the music business to us. Her songwriting is incredible, both alone and in collaboration with others. While her guitar playing is weak (but acceptable), her voice is as good as it gets, and her performance (sharing the true emotion of various parts of the songs) was as good as it gets as well. So, why is she not a superstar performer in her own right?

I don’t know the answer to these kinds of mysteries. Carrie Underwood (who is an extraordinary performer) doesn’t play an instrument on stage. She simply has a stunning voice. So does Hillary. Carrie is gorgeous (that doesn’t hurt when you want to draw a crowd). Hillary is extremely attractive as well, and clearly didn’t have (or need!) a team of stylists and makeup artists to prepare her for this show. Perhaps she’s simply not interested in being a full-time performer. I wish I knew the answers to these types of questions…

She added wonderful harmonies to songs that the other writers sang, making her overall contribution to last night’s show outstanding!

Hillary Lindsey Brett James

Hillary Lindsey Brett James

Brett James sat on the far-right of the stage. He too has an excellent voice, plays the guitar reasonably well, and has a terrific stage presence. He too is a prolific songwriter with a number of top hits to his credit. He too writes well alone and in collaboration. What was particularly interesting is that he specifically collaborates with Hillary Lindsey, many times, for many years.

They co-wrote Jesus Take The Wheel, Carrie Underwood’s first smash hit! On his Wikipedia page, you can see a number of other great songs he’s written (or co-written), including Blessed (with Hillary Lindsey) and Who I Am (with Jessica Andrews, who made the song a #1 hit).

What made last night a treat, is that since Hillary and Brett co-wrote a number of the songs each performed, they were able to sing stunning harmonies on them as well (Jesus Take The Wheel was but one example).

Brett James

Brett James

So, while we’ve truly enjoyed every show, and are looking forward to tonight’s performance as well, last night was definitely special, in particular due to Craig Morgan and Hillary Lindsey! Thanks to all five performers for making last night very memorable!

They were on stage for just under two hours including a rousing one-song encore. After the show, Lois sprinted to the back to tell Hillary how much she enjoyed and was moved by her performance (and songs in general). She snapped this photo of Hillary while waiting patiently, and then indeed got to share her thoughts directly with Hillary.

Hillary Lindsey

Hillary Lindsey

September 2008 Poker

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Since I won’t be playing tonight, I can safely report this month’s results. Also, since I intend to keep this very short, I’ll start with the bottom line, then a few highlights.

Bottom line: Profit of $642.25.

Not bad. 🙂

I finally cashed again in the big Sunday Hold’Em tourney. It had been quite a while. I also won that seat, so the profit margin was pretty good. I came in 31st out of 800+ players, which was my best placing so far, but they pay the same for 31-40, and I’ve finished 38th and 39th before, so it just tied my best cash in that tourney (not that I’m complaining).

I also cashed again this month in the big Saturday Omaha tourney (which made it three weeks in a row!). Unfortunately, even though that was my favorite tourney each week, the site discontinued it right after that win. Oh well.

So, now I typically play in one medium-sized Omaha tourney a day. I have taken some pretty bad beats there, so I’m not currently above water in that one yet, but it’s not hurting the account too badly, and I’ll catch a card one of these days and make it worth my while.

August 2008 Poker

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Well, another month with a fair amount of poker frustration. That said, it was also a very good month on some other levels, including eeking out a small profit.

Without further ado, let’s get the economics out of the way: +$140.46.

Hardly earthshaking. In fact, as reported numerous times now, since I don’t play as much, and I tend to pay full freight in the bigger tourneys, my volatility is high. It takes big wins to cover the losing entry fees. This past month saw two nice wins on consecutive Saturdays, in the weekly big Omaha Hi/Lo tourney.

Last Saturday (the 23rd) I placed 6th, and received $1,050.00 for my $162 entry fee. Then yesterday, I played in the same tourney (the only one I played in yesterday) and finished 4th, receiving $1,500.00 for my $162. So, you’d think that I would be up a ton this month with those two scores, but, you already know that this wasn’t the case…

Tonight, in my last tourney of the month, I paid full freight for the weekly big Hold’Em tourney ($215). Because of the holiday weekend, there were only 758 entrants, so the top 80 got paid. Normally, the top 100 get paid. I was low on chips, but possibly had enough to slip into the money (not all that likely). So, I shoved UTG with 77. Only the big blind called. He had AKo. An A came on the flop, and I was out in 92nd, missing the money by 12 spots…

Oh well, clearly, the two big finishes in Omaha were extremely satisfying. Finishing close in the bigger weekly Hold’Em tourneys (I came reasonably close another time this month aside from tonight) is both frustrating and enjoyable, at the same time.

At least the account can handle another month of playing. 🙂

July 2008 Poker

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I won’t be playing tonight, so I can safely report this month’s results now.

Given the past few months, this one was financially successful. That said, it was extremely unsatisfying financially, while simultaneously being extremely satisfying from a having a good time perspective. I guess you can’t have it all. 😉

So, the bottom line first, then a few details that I want to report just to get them off my chest (and make the above paragraph a little less opaque).

I finished the month with a profit of $359.02. Not too shabby.

Still, it was a financially frustrating month. If you read this space regularly, you know that I play a lot less than I used to (as in a ton less). That means I have much less time to play in cheaper qualifiers, so I pay a lot more to enter the bigger tournaments. That means one or two bad breaks a month and it becomes very hard to show a profit.

This month, I lost in all four attempts at the big Sunday tourney. That was an $860 hole that I dug for myself! In addition, they now have a nice Omaha Hi/Lo on Saturday afternoon (perfect time for me!) that costs $162 to enter. I entered that one twice as well, so that’s nearly $1,200 just to enter these six tournaments.

In the big Sunday one, I just missed this week. I came 109th out of 944. They paid the top 100. I likely could have drifted into the money, and gotten back $300 for my $215. Psychologically, I needed to do that (or rather, could have benefited from a cash), but I knew that playing my JJ was the right thing to do. Amazingly, after a very big stack called my all-in, another guy went all-in (bigger stack than me, but less than the stack that called me!) and he only had AK. He risked his entire tournament on a draw with one person all-in, and a bigger stack calling it.

The guy who called me had 66, so I was ahead of him, and the AK got lucky and hit, so I was out. A week ago, I came 164th out of 901, so I’m getting close, but just not getting there all the way…

That said, in the new Saturday Omaha Hi/Lo, I had very good success this past Saturday. I came in 4th out of 72 players. That was good enough for a $1,500 payday (bring the month back into the black). That was my single largest cash in online poker. That’s why I say it was a frustrating month, as I needed that large of a cash just to put me somewhat ahead for the month.

My other minor frustrations were in some qualifiers. I missed winning seats to the Omaha Hi/Lo and the Sunday tourney by one spot at least three times this month. In one, I was the overwhelming chip leader and when it came down to two people, the other person hit every flop five hands in a row, and there was nothing I could do but come second. The free seat only came to first place… On the flip side, after paying the full freight, that’s the one I made my big cash in, so I can’t complain too loudly…

Anyway, on to another month. 🙂

June 2008 Poker

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This month is simple to report on. Economically painful, but otherwise, enjoyable and almost non-existent.

I barely played this month. I’m reasonably sure it’s the lightest month since I started playing online poker in September 2004. That said, I played and lost two of the big weekly ones, paying full freight in both. I played in a few qualifiers (not the really cheap ones either) and didn’t win any seats, so that cost me too.

Bottom line was an ugly -$617.00 for the month. Over 2/3 of that came from just the two big tourney losses ($215 each) and with qualifiers, closer to 80%. I had two reasonable cashes (percentage-wise), but they didn’t come close to making up for it. In one, I put in $11 and finished 8th, and collected $39.60. In another, I put up $55 and came 9th (out of 199) and collected $170.

The one very bright spot for the month is that since I played very infrequently, I didn’t even get remotely upset (I swear!) even when my luck was horrible. I simply enjoyed playing, and took the beats in stride better than in the past, even though I have been improving in this area for a while now.

Anyway, I’m reporting now because I know for sure I won’t be playing tonight, so this is officially the end of the month for me.