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Views: 883
Date Posted: Oct. 28, 12:44pm, 1 Comment


The following is a possibly accurate historical narrative from the archives of the Wild Dog.


Woke up feeling too ugly to puke, so I biked down to some schoolyard backboards to shoot hoops.  The action stopped the moment I walked through the tall mesh wire fence.   Like they'd never seen an old white guy before.

Raised my hand. "Next," I said.

They were a man short.   So, we went a little three-on-three. Half-court, of course.  Played this studly dude, muscles, mid-twenties, about my height, played him to a standstill.    I mean, his muscles had muscles, and, well, I am being surprisingly humble here, I shut him down.  I ruled.

Poked him - his name was Johnny Joe - in the back of the head with a wild elbow early and that seemed to clear some space.   I need my space.    Apologized right away.

I actually threw an alley-oop for an assist.   To be honest, it was a little below the rim. Stuffed a shot.   Swished a long jumper.  Boxed out the leapers for a bound.   A soaring tap-in. Forced turnovers.   Et cetera.  Unselfish.   Made the extra pass.   Combine some good luck and pesky in-your-chest defense and you get a small taste of my all-around incredible performance.   I play D like a junkyard dog.

 As you can well imagine, this was all very exciting.   I was unconscious.   In a zone. Tripping really.   Like, oh wow, man, did I just throw up a 20-footer in a gnarly cross-wind or what?   Please, dear God...   Breeze caught the ball, which took an erratic s-route heading toward the hoop.   Like a long putt.

Is it short?  Good!!   Yes.  All net, too.

"Nice shot." Couldn't tell if he was being facetious.

"Thanks," I said.


 I hadn't actually played against anybody worth a damn in a couple of years.   Probably more.  I'm fifty, weak back, bad knees, one kidney and no health insurance.   I used to be a fine athlete.  Today I play basketball like it was in slow motion.   Don't exactly explode to the hole. When I was fast, I was slow, to tell you the truth.

I practice hoops as The Way.   Akido in the sun.  Just a series of movements, smooth and flowing, more like a dance than anything else.  Mostly by myself.  Tossing the ball through the net, working on my cross-over dribble, stretching.   I've got a hoop just nine-feet high above the landlord's garage door, where I like to work on my power moves and reverse slam dunks.  

This one morning, I don't know what came over me, I turned up the speed.   Not that I really moved faster, just I always seemed to know right where to be.   Found my body perfectly trained to do whatever I wanted.  Ran a confidence games on these kids.   Started accidentally to talk a little trash.   Just poking a little fun.  You know me, I can get a little competitive.

So, I says to the guy, "Hey, Johnny Joe, a little quiet today, aren't you?"   I could tell he was getting flustered.   All that brawn and, the best part, not a mean bone in his body.

"Can't get the ball the way you're covering me," he mumbled.  Oh, yeah: made me feel good.

At about that instant, I stuck my hand into the passing lane and stole the ball.  We won by two. I couldn't help but notice how cordial everybody was.  Most places I've been, Portland's Willamette Athletic Club being the worst in a non-fatal way, there's dirty, unnecessarily rough action, cheating, arguments, nasty language and, not infrequently, fisticuffs among combatants who seem to think forty minutes of lunch hour rat ball is the mother of all games.   Mostly divorced divorce attorneys arguing like the contest is important and they'd bet their peckers on the outcome.   Not what I call 'play.'

These ghetto guys, young blacks, had been actually sharing in the game.  A pass, a rebound, a steal, a basket, a mistake, an effort, virtually anything the players did was greeted with high fives and supportive words.  Good natured jokes.   They were enjoying life.   I patted butt and decided to quit before they figured out my last two remaining moves.  Before my luck ran out.

What must these guys be thinking, I wondered, as I beat one after another and they let me go by them unmolested.   I felt like some invincible movie star in an improbable sports film.  I was wearing padded black cycling shorts.  Works like Kirk Douglas' girdle.    Pads my skinny butt and pushes my already trim tummy up into my chest.  Giving me a burly yet V-shaped torso.   My long dark hair and dripping sweat held back by a bright red bandanna and a gold hoop earring glinting next to a demonically rakish salt and pepper beard.  I had a blood-stained elbow pad on my left arm and a pair of  seen-better-days 1984-issue white Italian leather Magic Johnson low-cuts on my feet.  Floppy socks.

The coup de gras of my costume is this perfectly faded black t-shirt I found laying in the dirt, outside a typically grungy cracker-class laundromat in Carrabelle, way up in the Florida Panhandle.   The Redneck Riviera.

On the front of the shirt is a screaming, bleeding skull with a huge knife slammed through it and bright red blood splashing like a bucket of gore splattered across my chest. Scrawled in the same blood-red color, above the skull, is a bold headline... KILL 'EM ALL.

LET GOD SORT 'EM OUT, below the skull.

On the road, everybody takes you at face value.   So, there I was, playing ball like Charles Barkley on a good day, looking like some crazed middle-aged outlaw biker with a lengthy prison record.

And nobody disrespected me.


On the road, 1995.

Views: 940
Date Posted: Oct. 25, 12:33pm, 1 Comment

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. - Abraham Lincoln


I am trying to make the move to PLO. I understand the increased variance. I understand sample size. Even at my advanced age, however, I wonder how anybody can make the transition when you NEVER win as a 65-35 favorite.

I do, however, understand how my opponents are enjoying the game as they get their money in bad and still win. What fun it must be for them.


The wife and I have been discussing luck all week. She survived her surgery, but has a hole in her stomach, which refuses to heal. Is luck survival? Is luck not needing the operation? Is luck no hole in her stomach?

How do we compare luck?   Do we compare vis a vis those less fortunate or those more fortunate?  Mrs. JackDog and I agree. Where health is concerned, we compare against those less fortunate. I may have a bad back, but I can walk... there are people in wheelchairs, people without legs.


This past winter, following the flu, then pneumonia, then a painful fall, I suffered a deep veinous thrombosis, basically a blood clot the length of my leg. After five days in the hospital and then many more days in my recliner, I was feeling a little miserable about feeling miserable for two months. Why me, Lord??

I understand I am lucky to have not suffered a stroke. I understand I am 'lucky' to have health insurance. But...


My roommate in the hospital has been sick for most of the last 31 years. When he wasn't sick, he was in an auto accident or getting divorced or losing his job. Michael is 51-years-old and a wonderful man. Six weeks in the hospital this time, because his latest operation was botched. He weighs 113 lbs. Later, I was at the doctor's office for blood monitoring and I met a 57-year-old man who's been sick for 10 years. He has two different forms of incurable cancer (currently in remission) and a host of other problems, the solution to one of which was castration.


Suddenly, I was feeling pretty good about myself. You might say, I was feeling rather lucky. Where poker is concerned, however, we compare against more fortunate, don't we? I may be a break-even player after years of serious dedication, but I haven't hit the big score or the long winning run or the bad beat jackpot or...?


We look at these kids - just barely old enough to get into a casino - winning pots the size of a new car. Or two. TV pros are winning prizes the size of a mansion. Or two.

Luckychewy has $127,000 in cash in his backpack, for chrissakes!!!


Every online poker community has its Bad Beat forum. Why are there no Suck Out forums? Because a Suck Out forum would be comparing us to the less fortunate.  Rare is the poker player who looks at the unlucky and tells himself how fortunate he is by comparison.


I keep telling myself I am on the verge of a major breakthrough. If I can avoid drunk-tilt and depression-tilt, luck really won't much matter. Because I am so lucky compared to the 90% of poker players who don't win. Or even break even.


And I think we should start posting our Suck Outs.


Every mule thinks his load is the heaviest. - Abraham Lincoln

Views: 879
Date Posted: Oct. 21, 11:34am, 2 Comments
Poker is life, life is poker.  I am convinced of that.
    The more you know about either, the better you will do at the other. 
    About life and poker, lessons are everywhere.
BAD BEATS.   Continuously refocus on what really matters - what matters most in anybody's life, which is the present moment.  People don't realize that now is all there ever is; there is no past or future except as memory or anticipation in your mind. (Eckhart TolleOprah & Friends on XM Satellite Radio.)
TABLE FOCUS.  Watch Tim Tebow any Saturday in the Fall.  Watch Tiger Woods in his red shirt on a Sunday afternoon.
VALUE BETTING.  Always getting what you ask for in a negotiation - always hearing yes and never risking no - means you never ask for enough.  Excessive caution, rather than protecting you... can actually prevent you from getting all that you're worth, all you deserve, and all that's available.... (Linda Babcock & Sara Laschever - Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want.)
TABLE MANNERS/ONLINE CHAT.  "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit." (Patrick Jane, The Mentalist.)
TILT CONTROL.  "The more you get mad, the worse you bowl.  I went right through the nose (the head pin) on that last ball, so I walked away and concentrated on calming down." (Jay Lynch before rolling a perfect game.)
TABLE SELECTION.  There are some armies that should not be fought.  There is some ground that should not be contested. (Sun Tzu.  History Channel.)
BANKROLL MANAGEMENT.  Daily physical activity lowers the risk of a multitude of ailments, from heart disease to diabetes to certain kinds of cancer, which are obviously expensive to treat, even for people who have health insurance.
    A Harvard study found medical bills are behind 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies, and more than 75 percent of bankrupt families had health insurance at the onset of the illness. 
    PLAYING YOUR A-GAME.  Studies have found exercise can improve your performance at work by boosting cognitive skills and productivity, and reducing stress and absenteeism. (Laura Rowley - Money & Happiness.)
MORE A-GAME.  "You have to have a short memory.  When you win, you want to have a short memory and move on to the next game.  And when you lose, you've got to be able to do the same." (Jim Leavitt, football coach, University of South Florida.)
READING YOUR OPPONENT.  The present moment is your life.  It's nowhere else - never, ever.  So, no matter what the situation is when you align yourself with the present moment, find something to be grateful for.  Gratitude is an essential part of being present.  When you go deeply into the present, gratitude arises spontaneously, even if it's just gratitude for breathing, gratitude for the aliveness that you feel in your body.  Gratitude is there when you acknowledge the aliveness of the present moment; that's the foundation for successful living.  Once you've made the present moment into your friend through openness and acceptance, your actions will be inspired, intelligent, and empowered, because the power of life will be flowing through you. (Echart Tolle, Oprah magazine.)
    I am alive.  I am grateful. 
Views: 440
Date Posted: Oct. 18, 2:00pm, 0 Comments
I.  My father sobs.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The old man cries as Pastor Bob recites the Twenty-Third Psalm.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
Dad weeps every time Pastor Bob prays.
He leadth me besides still water.
Tears gush over pale cheeks that glisten.
He restoreth my soul: He leadth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Dad soaketh his pillow case.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
Head bowed, I am uncomfortable holding Pastor Bob's hand.
For thou art with me; they rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
I don't even know the man.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil.
My mother's heart breaks.
My cup runneth over.
And Mother's face trickles a single, slender crystal tear, which, ever so slowly, traces fifty years' troth across a suddenly lonely landscape, looking very much like the rest of her days.  And the rest of her nights.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
I don't listen.  Can't cry.  I wish I could scream.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I scream.
II. I remember thinking, I'm too young, still too young,
to be holding my mother's hand at a time like this. I was holding my mother's hand
as we watched Dad, tubes everywhere, try to remember his own name.
Dad doesn't hear so well with his good ear and
he's partially deaf in the other.
Mom left his hearing aids at home because, she said, more than lives
can get lost at the hospital.
"It's the same name as mine," I told him, raising my voice.
Dad gave Mother, tears everywhere, this thousand-yard stare.
Like sunken cheeked Jews outside Nazi showers.
He looked right through me.
"And, who are you?," he asked.
III. Finally, it was time to go.
Mother asked my dad if it was okay to kiss him goodbye.
"No," he said.
I saw she was hurt.  I tried to lighten the mood.
"How about me?, I asked, pursing my lips into a grotesque O-shape.
"You least of all," he snarled.  I kissed my Dad on the lips.
Surprised him.
Saying goodbye the last time.  Dad and I simply puckered up,
planting sloppy smooches directly on grizzly faces like it was normal.
Like John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart swapped spit all the time, too.
"No tongues," I warned him.
Sometimes we would sit for hours without speaking and just watch Dad sleep.
"Can't imagine life without your father," Mom sighed.
Followed by another long silence.
I told my mom I liked kissing my dad.
"Me, too," she said.
The old man couldn't get away.
More wires than a home entertainment center.
Much less elusive than I remember.
Nothing left to do but kiss Dad again.
Views: 562
Date Posted: Oct. 14, 7:09pm, 3 Comments

Can I believe my own eyes? 

    Is proof really proof? 
    Apparently, most people pay far less attention to data than might be wise.
    Most of us would rather base our opinions on anecdotes, hearsay, theories and advertisements. 
    Data is difficult.  Complex even. 
    And while we might be condemned to repeat history if we don't remember history, history is just so much data.  And data is no guarantee of the future.
    However, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, data is the worst way for us to form our opinions, except for all the other ways.
    Except... for... all... the... other... ways.
    Humans are emotional beings who often make judgments with the heart and/or gut, then look for evidence to verify that decision.  This filtering of data to discern "information" consistent with what we want to believe is called my-side bias.
    Players who chase a couple of outs to the river are seeing what they want to see.  Or hope, even pray, to see.  Players who make the hero call are often ignoring a mass of data suggesting a fold. 
    When confronted with evidence which is contrary to what we want to believe, we look for any scintilla of information to confirm our view.  It's just human nature.
    But it is probably bad poker.
    And I have the data to prove it.
    As many as 100% of all the hotshot instructors on all the numerous training sites make use of heads-up displays (HUDs). 
    100%.  Maybe more.
    It's irrefutable.
    So, to make a short blog even shorter, let me just say I am in the process of installing Hold'em Manager. 
    Oh, yeah, that's how I roll.  Look out!!
    To be perfectly honest,
    I can't promise I'll play any better. 
    But I will for sure
    be ignoring more data
    than ever before
    when I make that hero call.
Views: 577
Date Posted: Oct. 11, 12:46pm, 1 Comment
In the root and stem of your own psyche there is an accumulation of bad habits.  If you cannot see through them and act independently of them, you will unavoidably get bogged down along the way. - Zen master Yuansou
    I recently listened to The EightFold Path to Poker Enlightenment by Tommy Angelo.  Angelo, a long time pro who contributes to the Deuces Cracked training site, is the author of The Elements of Poker.  The video series averages over an hour per episode and includes musical interludes by Angelo, who is also an accomplished musician.  And a practicing student of Buddhist philosophy.
I'd like to share some notes.
1.  Right View.  See things as they are... Hating anything is the wrong view.  There's no room for fear... "The decisions that bother us most matter the least."... Don't criticize other players.
2. Right Thinking.  "Position dominates dominance."
3. Mindfulness. "Mindlessness is our normal state of mind." Observe your own thoughts; witness what you think.  The breath is the link between the mind and the body.  Mindful breathing is the key....
    Poker constantly pulls us into the past.  Focus on your breathing, which is the now.
    Sit up.  Breathe.  Let it go.
4.  Reciprocality.  No decision occurs in isolation.  Sending less info = more profit; receiving more info = more profit. 
    "Playing good is not inherently profitable; playing differently is where the money comes from."
5. Quitting.  Practice taking breaks.  Walk away from the table for no particular reason, other than proving to yourself you can do it.... Quitting is a poker skill... knowing how and when to quit is part of being a successful poker player.  "It's never wrong not to play." 
    When you know you are a good quitter, it reduces your fear of a big loss and allows you to play more confidently.
6. Right Speech.  Ignore the seduction of anonymity online.  Remember, one person knows who you are, you know.  Practice mum poker.
7. Right Action.  Don't focus simply on table selection, remember table rejection.  Move if the game gets less fishy. 
    Emphasize having tight, passive players on your left, so you can be the last to act in as many hands as possible.  Practice firstlessness, the act of not be first.  Defend the button.
    The best thing you can do is sit up straight and be conscious of your breathing.
8. Tiltlessness.  "Running bad is just an idea."  Don't blame people for anything.  Ever.  And don't blame yourself. 
    Here's how you handle a bad beat: 'The card came. And he won.' 
    Sit up.  Breathe.  Let it go.
    If your objective is to increase your profitability, you must increase your mindfulness.  Put your effort into focusing over and over by stilling yourself.  Be aware of your mindfulness.
Watch.  Listen.  Breathe.  Win.
Views: 603
Date Posted: Oct. 7, 3:06pm, 0 Comments
I was watching WPT champ Nam Le - a young man - play at the same table as 11-time-bracelet-winner Phil Hellmuth, a more experienced, older man.  Nam Le took his bad beats in stride, expressionless, while the Poker Brat seemed shocked - shocked!, I tell you - every time something happened which he did not predict.   Nam Le was not exactly surprised, while Hellmuth acted like Columbus discovering America.  Stuff happens.


"Imagine a speck of dust next to planet a billion times the size of the earth," writes Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan. "The speck of dust represents the odds in favor of your being born; the huge planet would be the odds against it. So, stop sweating the small stuff. Don't be like an ingrate who got a castle as a present and worried about the mildew in the bathroom. Stop looking for the gift horse in the mouth -- remember that you are a Black Swan."


What the hell is a black swan?, you ask.


The black swan is a highly improbable event, unpredictable, with an immense impact.  Such an event is typically explained afterwards as being more predictable than it really was. Before Australia was discovered, all swans were assumed to be white. When a black swan was first seen in that country, previous assumptions about swan color proved baseless. The lesson is this: just because we have not observed something happen in the past does not mean it might not happen tomorrow.  Or even the next hand.


And bad beats, for example, can hardly be described as something that hasn't happened before.  So, why act so surprised?


"Experts, [Taleb] argues, "are certainly flawed—overconfident, narrow-minded, overly committed to a particular picture of the world. But the fundamental reason for their failure is that they are playing an impossible game. The future—or at least those parts of it that really matter— is, by its nature, genuinely unpredictable. We can’t read the tea leaves because they don’t exist."


Overconfident?  Narrow-minded??  Paging Mr. Hellmuth.


As a species, we seem to desire predictability.  Life is best lived in stable, understandable patterns.  We don't easily accept change and we detest - in particular - unexpected change.  But since we cannot control the future, we really should not be so surprised if some surprising event occurs. Predicting predictability - when we cannot know - leads to tilt.  And tilt leads to a diminishing bankroll.  Not to mention suffering.  Why do that to yourself???


What does the Black Swan have to say about longevity in poker?  About going busto??

How many times have you sat there trying to put your opponent on a hand you could beat?  How many opponents have you seen do just that???   A small pair puts the opponent on over-cards or AQ puts him on AJ.   We see this phenomenon all the time.  “...Things in the real world are far messier than in recorded history or in memory," says Taleb. ”But we find it hard to live with such messiness, so we tend to look for causes and patterns that do not exist." This is the narrative fallacy, the belief that, after the event, every outcome, even a surprising one, has a cause which might have been predictable.


We are chronic explainers: once an event has occurred, we hurry to create an explanation that makes it look predictable. The site is rigged...the Doom Switch...the withdrawal curse...crazy Scandanavians. There must be a reason.


Fallacies blind us to the existence of the black swan.  The Platonic fallacy, for example, is a view of the world as safe, structured and comprehensible.  It's a human self-defense mechanism at its core.  Otherwise, we'd never be able to go out the door in the morning. 


In a nutshell, Taleb's advice is to assume that really crazy things can happen and to set yourself up, so that you can benefit from good crazy things without being hurt by bad crazy things.


"We underestimate the share of randomness," Taleb writes. "Lucky fools do not know that they may be lucky fools."


Our failure to accept the reality of black swans, James Surowiecki says Taleb suggests, actually magnifies their impact, because it deludes us into believing we understand the risks we’re taking in a given pursuit. If we were more aware of the limits of our knowledge and more cognizant of the real risks we run, we could do two things: limit our exposure to fields where potential catastrophes are possible and maximize our exposure to potential windfalls."


Is this what Hellmuth can't seem to quite grasp?  If it wasn't for the black swan, he'd win every tournament??


All might be chance. The point is, we cannot know.   The least we could do is admit it.  And deal with it.


 Cliff Notes: Put yourself in situations where favorable consequences are much larger than unfavorable ones.  And don't be surprised if things don't turn out exactly as you expected.

Views: 449
Date Posted: Oct. 4, 1:19pm, 1 Comment
Are you feeling lucky?
    First of all, I suspect most folks commonly do not understand the concept of luck.  You must realize - as a living human being -  each of us experiences luck of one sort or another every single day. Often, many, many times.
    Let me emphasize, living human beings.  Deceased humans have already run out of luck.
    Not to be indelicate, but just let's suppose your own personal lucky streak began when a certain spermatozoa of your father crashed into a certain ovum of your mother.
    There are two kinds of luck, good and bad. 
    If all you experience is bad luck, you are still lucky.
    My dictionary agrees.  Luck is defined as "chance, thought of as a force that brings either good or bad fortune." 
    An alternate definition is "the events, etc. (either favorable or unfavorable to one's interests) that it brings."     
    And luck ebbs and flows, does it not??  You can be ahead pre-flop... behind on the flop... then somehow manage to emerge victorious on the river. 
    By the way, you will invariably hear complaints from a weaker hand which flopped good, then lost on a later card.  Something to keep in mind - LIFE LESSON - you don't get paid in the middle of the hand.  It doesn't matter where you are in the middle but where you stand at the end.
    I was reminded of this ebb and flow by a story I saw recently in the St. Petersburg Times (Florida.)  A reasonably handsome Caucasian male American (2-4xGoodLuck) is drunk (no luck involved perhaps) and hurt (maybe 1xBadLuck.) 
    Somebody sees him (1xGL) and calls 911 (1xGL.) 
    Emergency Services is told the victim is near (1xGL) the fire station. 
    Two rescuers (socialism??) open the garage bay doors, turn on the emergency lights and pull out of the fire station. 
    And run over the guy (1xBadLuck, minimum) they were sent to rescue in their 10-ton (1xBL) truck.
    Apparently, nobody thought to explain just how nearby was the victim.  That is real, real lucky.
    But not good.
    Two days later authorities were still trying to figure out how that homeless drunk came to be so lucky.
    "There's just so many variables that were involved," explained the assistant fire chief, "that any other combination would not have resulted in what occurred."
    Isn't that just another way of saying LUCK?
    Turns out this particular station has multiple buildings with three separate addresses.  The complex has nine different garage bays facing two different streets.  So, the victim was about 8-1 not to get hit by an exiting rescue vehicle.
    He's as likely to get runover as you are to hit a set on the river. 
    If you only play one hand all day.
    Let's call the victim Ted Allen Lenox.  Because that's his name. 
    Ted Allen Lenox survived, though he's still not feeling too perky.
    To add insult to injury, police actually took the trouble - how does it matter? - to administer a blood-alcohol test to Ten.  Turns out he blew - painfully, I'm guessing - 0.46.  Nearly six times the 0.08 level at which a driver is considered legally impaired.   
    Lucky for him he wasn't driving.
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