Do The Right Thing

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In my last post, titled Make The Time, I mentioned that we spent a fair amount of time riffing on obvious blog titles. I decided to steal one of them for this post, even though the subject will have nothing to do with the example given in the last post.

That’s one of the points of the obvious blog titles, that they stand alone in people’s minds, until you associate a specific piece of content to a title.

I listen to one podcast religiously, The Business from KCRW. I’ve blogged about that podcast before. I discovered it when a friend of mine dropped me a link to their episode on Wicked (our favorite Broadway show). I loved that particular episode, and subscribed to the podcast through iTunes, and have been a fan ever since. (In gathering the links above, I see that they’ve changed the host of the show. Since I’m behind in listening to the most current episodes, I have yet to hear a show with the new host…)

I normally listen to two episodes at a time, when I exercise on my long walks. That takes care of the first hour (each episode is 29 minutes long). If I’m walking longer, I switch to music after the first hour.

The other day I was doing exactly that, and before and after the actual episode, they appealed for listeners to become members of KCRW, in order to financially support the podcast. Since this is the only podcast that I really listen to consistently, and I derive a lot of pleasure from it (in addition to gaining some useful information), I decided to become a member.

Even though I live in NY, never listen to the station, don’t listen to any of their other podcasts, and never stream their shows on the web, I decided to donate $50 (which seemed on the generous side to me for listening to this one podcast, though you may disagree). When I signed up on the site, I had a lot of technical difficulties completing my donation. I almost gave up (cursing in the process). In the end, I decided that I was committed to Do The Right Thing, and I persevered until I was successful.

At the $50 level, I was offered a list of goodies to choose from. I actually felt guilty picking anything, because that would mean that part of my donation would go to my gift. But, one of the choices was a cool KCRW T-Shirt, and I’m a T-Shirt freak. I also rationalized that I would be advertising for them whenever I wore it.

I was glad that they added another $5 for shipping, so I was slicing less into the actual profit (the T-Shirts never cost much to manufacture, even when they sell for a lot, or so I tell myself…). 🙂

I now feel better that I am supporting their effort to continue this wonderful series of interviews and analysis.

On to one more example of Do The Right Thing.

I have a fair bit of Delta SkyMiles, that I’ve had for over 10 years. We don’t fly much any more, but perhaps one day we will, likely for some big-time vacation (that we will have waited 15 years to take!).

Delta recently changed their expiration policy (I can’t blame them whatsoever), and all of my miles were set to expire on 4/30/2009. They were very good about informing me of the upcoming expiration, multiple times, starting in December 2008.

There are quite a number of things you can do to extend your expiration date by two years. The most obvious one is to fly on Delta. That wasn’t likely to happen. So, I searched the list of other things I could do.

By far the cheapest thing to do would have been to order one magazine, paying for it with SkyMiles. If you pick a monthly, you can get away with only using 500 miles. We don’t have any interest in adding to the amount of snail mail we get, so this would have been purely to roll the miles.

But, I continued to look down the list, and saw that you can also donate miles to a number of charities. We looked through the list, and decided to make a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network. It was substantially more miles than it would have cost to just order a magazine, but we felt much better about doing it.

After completing the transaction, the website informed me that the transaction might take 4-6 weeks to complete. I was worried that there was a chance that it wouldn’t get credited before 4/30/2009, and somehow, I’d lose the rest of my SkyMiles, and possibly even not get this donation completed.

So, purely as an extra safety precaution, I decided to order a magazine as well. While going through the ordering forms, I realized that I could send a magazine subscription as a gift to someone else (something that wasn’t obvious until you were deep in the process). We decided to send a subscription to Golf Digest to our godson (this is the first he’ll be hearing about this, and it won’t start for another month or so). 🙂

So, in trying to protect our miles, and also our donation to the Children’s Miracle Network, we were rewarded with the ability to give our godson a gift that we hope he will enjoy. Doing the Right Thing ended up enlarging the circle of rewards. A day later, the Delta site showed both deductions from my SkyMiles account, and also showed my new expiration date as 4/30/2011.

Success all around!

Poker and Charity, a Great Combo

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We have really great friends (I’ve mentioned them a few times in past blogs) that live in Northern New Jersey, about 30 minutes from our house, across the Hudson River.

Both the husband and wife are very dedicated volunteers for the town’s ambulance service. They spend most of their spare time either on call, or working on the ambulance, etc. They studied real hard for a long time in order to be the best that they can be at this, and we’re extremely proud of how they give back to their community and make a real difference in the lives of their neighbors!

Two years ago, the ambulance corps started holding Texas Hold’Em Poker Tournaments as a way to raise funds. Our friends know that I’m a poker nut, and invited me to the first one. Of course, being the giving kind of person that I am, I had to accept. 😉

The tourney is held at the local American Legion building, and while completely loose and fun (with great deli food served as well), it’s also run reasonably professionally, and is an all-around blast. The one quirk is that they use an unusual (in fact, I’ve never heard of it before or after other than here) method of determining the final table.

The norm is that when there are 10 players (or how ever many a particular final table holds) left, that’s your final table. This tourney consolidates tables like all others, but only until there are five tables left. When that happens, each table plays until there are only two players left, and those two players have made the final table. If you make it, you wait until all of the rest of the tables whittle their way down to two, at which point the final table is seated.

This is unusual, because you can have one chip left with three people at your table, and if the other two go all-in, and the bigger stack wins, you are in the final table. That could happen, even while the other four tables are still full! I’ve contrived the above example a bit, but you get the point, it’s not necessarily fair, and definitely colors the strategy that one should use to make the final table. Since all players who make the final table get paid, it’s worth paying attention to this fact.

So, my first time out, I made it to the final five tables, and then made it to the final three at my table, at a point when there were only two tables left, with three players each. I was doing OK in terms of chip count, but was in third. I was the big blind, when I was dealt J3o. The button folded, and the small blind just called. The flop came J62 rainbow. Small blind checked, and I bet, he called. Turn brought a 9. Small blind checked, and I went all-in. He called. He had J6o, so he flopped two pair. I was drawing nearly dead. Only a 9 on the river would have given me a split, with no possibility of a win. No 9, and I was out, in 12th. So, I missed the money by two players.

In any event, I had a complete blast, and was looking forward to the next time around. That came a year later. This time, I again made it to the final five tables, and to the final three players at my table. This time, we were the last table left, so I was either making the final table, or I would finish in 11th, one better than last time, but out of the money again.

I was dealt JJ in the big blind. The small blind just called. I went all-in. He had me covered, but just barely, so if I won, I would be virtually guaranteed to make the final table. He had T7o. One of the stupidest calls in the history of poker, but hey, he was entitled to make that call. Flop came 256 rainbow, so I was crushing him. (Pre-flop, I was an 85% favorite to win. After the flop, I improved to a 93.6% favorite!)

The turn brought a 10. Now he had five outs (the remaining two 10’s, and the remaining three sevens). That dropped me to an 88.6% favorite. Of course, the river brought one of the two 10’s, and I was out, in eleventh! Ouch.

Again though, I had a blast. The next tourney was held six months later rather than a year later. Unfortunately, we had an unchangeable trip scheduled to Zope then, so I missed it.

Last night they held the fourth incarnation, and I was able to attend again. Before getting into some of the details, I need to digress for a minute. What? Hadar digress and be wordier than necessary to tell a simple tale? Please, say it ain’t so! Sorry, deal with it! 🙂

Back to the first night, early on, people were pointing to a guy in a green baseball cap, with reddish hair and a beard, and whispering that he was a semi-pro poker player. He was the guy who knocked me out when I had the J3 and he had the J6 from the above story. Indeed, he went on to win the tournament that night.

When I played in the second one, I didn’t end up at his table, but again, he made the final table, and I can’t recall for sure (because I left after I got knocked out), but I believe that my friends said he won again!

I missed the third one, but I think he made the final table again, not sure whether he won or not, but I’m reasonably sure he won at least two of the three, and definitely made the final table all three times. I only played with him that one time, but he’s definitely good. He mixes up his styles very well, so he’s extremely hard to read, and he’s generally very quiet at the table, generally playing very professionally.

You can start off with a little patience in these tourneys and try to get a sense of the playing styles at your table, but you can’t be patient for long. The tournament structure is very much the equivalent of a Turbo tournament online, in that the blinds escalate rapidly and dramatically. If they didn’t, people wouldn’t get out until the next day, which isn’t the purpose of a fund-raising event.

I started off slowly, but quickly got a read on the others, most of whom completely overplayed every single pair. Two people built up reasonably big stacks quickly at our table, while I hovered around even. The last hand before the break saw all but one player limp in to my big blind. I had TT and I raised to four times the big blind. Given how tight I had been playing, everyone folded, which was a great way to end the first session, and I was up 1/3 from my original chip count.

A few hands into the second session, I caught AA in the big blind. There were three limpers. Again I raised. This time, the original chip leader (who overplayed his pairs) called. The flop came 27J rainbow. By this time, he had frittered away his big chip lead, and I had more chips than him. I put him all-in, and he hesitated, but he had to call given the pot odds. He had AT, so I was crushing him. Of course, to spice it up, the turn brought a 10, so he could have caught a miracle 10 on the river to cripple me. He didn’t, and I had a very nice stack, and knocked out a player.

I’ll spare you the (exciting) details of a few more cool hands, but I ended up easily cruising to the final table this time. Of course, given the format, I had to wait over a half hour after making it, until the other tables finished.

We started with 3,500 in chips. I went to the final table with exactly 30,000 in chips. Sure enough, green cap guy was there again. He was seated immediately to my right, which was as good as I could have hoped for. He had roughly 50,000 chips. I was in the top four for sure, but perhaps even second, not really sure.

Since all but two players were unknown to me (green cap guy, and the one guy who was at my table when we both made it to the final table), I decided to start off very conservatively. As an example, I unhesitatingly folded KTc UTG. One guy played very aggressively on five of the first six hands, and won them all. It’s remotely possible that he had the goods each time, but more likely, he read that aggression works, and it certainly seemed to. The problem with over-aggression is that you only need to be wrong once, unless you have a massive chip lead.

After building his stack to easily second place (behind green cap guy, henceforth GCG), he got tangled in a hand with GCG. GCG limped, and Mr. Aggression raised. GCG thought for a minute, then moved all-in. Mr. Aggression called without hesitation, which given his hand, was a little surprising. When they turned over the cards, GCG had KK and Mr. Aggression had AT. Wow, all-in pre-flop against the chip leader, when you are calling, not betting, with AT. Clearly, he’s not a pro.

The K’s held up, and he was out, and GCG had a massive chip lead.

When we got down to three players, I was in second, but not by much over number three. I made one horrible mistake, pretty early on. I was in the small blind, with A6d. I limped (GCG limped on the button right before me.) The big blind raised to three times the BB. GCG folded, and I called. The flop brought 257 rainbow, and we both checked. The turn brought an A. I checked, and he went all-in. Of course, I knew with 100% certainty that I should fold, that he had a better A, or flopped a set, or the A gave him two pair, etc.

But, after thinking for too short a time, I decided that everything about his style and my previous tightness, could have also led him to bluff on the A, given that I limped and he raised pre-flop. So, I decided to try and take him out, and I called. Of course, he had AJ, and was crushing me. Ironically, the river was the remaining A, so I had trip A’s, and it wasn’t good enough. I was now completely crippled, with 6,000 chips left, and the blinds at 2,000 and 4,000.

I split the next hand with GCG so I had 9,000 chips when I became the big blind. I was dealt AQ and the other guy raised me, and I called. He had A9, and I won. Now I had 20,000 chips. The next hand I raised, and he re-raised all-in and I called. I had 22, and he had AQ. My deuces held up, and I had 44,000 chips. Sweet!

A few hands later, he went all-in on a complete bluff against CGC, who flopped three fours and slow played them. Now there were just two of us. GCG had a massive lead on me, but I doubled up on my first hand, giving me a fighting chance.

The tournament director, who dealt every hand at the final table, asked us if we wanted to split first and second place evenly (it was 12:45am by then, and we started at 7:45pm!). I told GCG that I would happily do whatever he wanted, because I felt it would be unfair given his chip lead for me to insist on the deal. He seemed to waver, but in the end, decided he’d like to play. I completely respect his decision!

About five hands later, I had T6c in the BB and he limped in. Flop came 346. He checked, I bet, he called. I should have immediately realized he had something, because he loves to slow play big hands. But, it was late, and I had top pair, etc… The turn was a 2, which was dangerous, because if he had a 5, I was drawing nearly dead (the best I could hope for would be a tie). He checked, and like a complete idiot, I went all-in instead of checking as well.

He insta-called. Not only did he have a 5, he had a 7 as well, so he flopped the nut straight, and I was drawing 100% dead on the turn. Tourney over, and the better player definitely won. He’s now won three out of four, or four out of four, so while he caught some lucky hands (like flopping the straight when I flopped top pair), he maximizes his opportunities, regardless of any luck!

We each put up $85. $35 of that went to the ambulance corps, and $50 was put in the prize pool (a little too generous on the part of the ambulance corps, if you ask me). In the past, they have averaged between 80-100 players, but the weather last night was awful, and a number of people bailed at the last minute (wimps!), so there were only 50 players.

First prize was $1,000, and second prize was $600. I was (obviously!) thrilled with the $600. Lois immediately asked me if I wanted to contribute back $100 to the corps, which I was thinking of doing exactly at the same moment (I told you, we are way too much alike!). We donated a $100 bill back, which they graciously tried to decline. We insisted, they relented, and all of us felt better about it!

Afterwards, Lois chatted briefly with GCG, whose name is Darren (sp?). He’s extremely nice. While he’s quiet at the table, he doesn’t have any of the bad boy persona that some others try to put on at the table. He’s a true champion and I have enormous respect for his game as well as his results!

Doing good, while having fun. It doesn’t get much better than that! 🙂