Friday, January 28, 2005

"I can't come up with one post. I don't know how you do it."
Dann, from my home game

The surgery went well. I now have two metal screws inserted into my right shoulder which makes me wonder how I'm going to get thru airport metal detectors. Am I given some kind of special note from my doctor? Are the screws too small to set off the alarm?

Anyway, I'm gobbling Vicoden like candy and mastering the art of typing one-handed.

Worst of all, so as to not re-injure anything, I'm forced to 'sleep' in a recliner with this giant immobilizer thingy strapped onto my shoulder and arm. Last night was the first time I managed to sleep for more than two hours at a stretch.

A cocktail of Guinness & Vicoden will knock your ass out, trust me.

There's a ton to blog about, but alas, it shall have to wait. I'm still officially on the disabled list. I'll still likely be looking for a blogger table tonight, though.

So for now, Guest Post #2, by my old friend, Rick the FilmGeek. Hope you enjoy.

Unedited from email:


Unlike just about everyone who reads, writes for, links to or from or joins Party Poker using Bonus Code Iggy through this blog, I’m not a poker fanatic. I suppose that makes me a heretic to most of Iggy’s readers. I’m more of a dabbler. I’ve played online poker, but I don't spend five hours a day grinding it out on Party, Empire or Pacific. Sklansky and Malmuth, Carson, Warren and McManus are the authors of the only poker books in my library. I’ve played in exactly four no-limit tournaments, and won one — a $20 entry-fee tourney held in the palatial Cincinnati estate of a rich college kid with a bunch of rich college kid friends who didn’t know when to fold.

Oh the humanity.

What I am, however, is a veteran of the Home Game, to which Iggy has alluded on many a post. The Home Game is nearing its five-year anniversary. Its humble origins hearken back to a modest six-player dealer’s choice game hosted by Huggy Bear, another veteran of the Vegas years, when Iggy, Huggy, G-Money, Drew and I ignited huge, irreplaceable chunks of our lives in a holocaust of gambling, dope, psychedelics, Jack Daniels, beer and other drugs too life-damaging to recount here. When we started the game, we were gathered together as friends mostly to celebrate the remarkable fact that we were all still alive. We had all lived lives of wretched excess and moral turpitude, and a couple of us had actually stared into the Abyss. But so far, at least, none of us had shuffled off this mortal coil.

We played draw, seven-card, Night Baseball, Chase the Bitch— you name it. One night— it was, I think, our second or third session — we had what seemed to us a particularly crazy night of poker. Every man-jack at the table was betting and raising. If you raised with rockets, you got reraised. It seemed like every pot scooped was won with a boat beating two high pair. There was much cheering, trash talking and swilling of beer.

Finally, after about two hours of wild swings, it was my deal. I called Jacks or better. I looked down at my cards and saw that I had dealt myself a boat — jacks over aces. Jesus. Even then, as a rank novice, I knew that you didn’t see too many full houses in draw poker. I could feel my face turning red. Iggy bet. Two other players called. I raised. Iggy reraised. The callers bailed. Now it was just Iggy and me. I hadn’t yet learned to fear him, so I capped.

"How many?" I asked.

"I’m good," said Iggy.

Hrrmm. I had dealt myself a fucking boat, and he was good?

"I’m good too," I said.

"Really?" Iggy regarded me from behind his fortress of empty Budweiser cans and butt-filled ashtrays. He’s a little person (he actually prefers to be called a dwarf; "I am what I am," he says), so it was hard to read him. But I knew he had a hand. He knew I had one, too.

He bet. I raised, he reraised, and I capped it again. Iggy called me.

"Whaddya got?" Iggy said.

"A boat," I said, flopping my cards over as if it mattered. "Jacks over aces."

Behind a choking cloud of smoke from his Vantage Ultra-Lite, Iggy smiled. "Aces over jacks!" he said, flopping over his own hand. Sure enough, he showed the boat. The table burst into an uproar of "No ways!" and "Holy shits!" and drunken laughter. Iggy laughed as he started to scoop the pot. "Good hand," he said to me.

And then something dawned on me. It was as if millions of long dormant synapses in my brain suddenly thrummed with electricity, and I could think again.

"Hold on a minute," I said. "Look at the cards."

"What about ‘em?" said Iggy.

"There’s five aces on the table. And five jacks."

"What? Are you shitting me?"

"Look at the fucking cards, dude."

We all looked at the cards. There was a moment of stunned silence. Then Huggy Bear picked up the opened Bicycle box that the deck had come from. He held it aloft for all of us to see. The room exploded into chaos. Beer cans went flying, spit takes were performed, poker players writhed on the floor like epileptics and rent their garments like repentant monks.

It’s true. We had been playing poker for two hours with a Pinochle deck.

Now, the moral of this story is not, “Don’t smoke and drink so much so quickly that you don’t even realize you’re playing poker with a motherfucking Pinochle deck.” The moral of this story is that, even though we were playing with a Pinochle deck, and even though I had dealt myself a jacks-over-aces full house, Iggy still had the better hand.

That was my first lesson in playing Iggy at poker. If you’re going up against him, you better have the fucking nuts.


Five years later, our home game is still going strong. We now play strictly no limit Two-Card Chicken. New regs have joined the fun, regs like T-Dub, Dann, Fuzz and The Sheriff, to name a few. We listen to good music, drink and smoke ourselves into comas and spend the evening taking each other to the cleaners. All of the Founding Fathers are still there — Iggy, who discovered his calling; Huggy, who has never lost his reputation as the poker Rock of Gibraltar; G-Money, who plays on permanent tilt but has become arguably the craftiest player at the table; and me. My style of play hasn’t changed much since the early days. I’m not as weak-tight as I used to be, but I can still be pushed off a hand with a scare-card bet. I fold when I should come over the top, and my calls are looser than a minister’s daughter. But man, do I have a good time. I wouldn’t trade the Home Game for all the dreams of avarice.

The best poker advice I ever got actually came from Drew, a friend who is a very infrequent player and will play any two cards to win. One night he came over but was broke; I bought his way in and he proceeded to clean up. Afterwards I asked him how he had done it.

"I stopped thinking of the chips as money," he said, "and started thinking of them as ammunition."

There’s the rub, isn’t it? If you want to succeed at the poker table, then don’t hoard your ammunition. Put your helmet on, grab your cock, leap out of the trench and start firing. It’s death or glory. If poker teaches us anything, it’s that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"I paid for a box of corn flakes with expected value the other day and got
arrested for shoplifting."

Gary Carson

Nothing says fun like a January wedding in Minnesota.

I'm just thankful to be back home despite my impending shoulder surgery tommorrow. I spoke to an acquaintance this evening who had the same exact procedure as I'll be receiving in a few hours.

Him: "Yeah, it was a hundred times more painful than my open heart surgery."

Me: "Fucking great."

Because it's likely that I will be unable to post for a while, I wanted to jump on here and remind you to sign up for the World Poker Bloggers Tour tournament on PokerStars.

The tournament is listed under the Private tab.
Open to all bloggers and readers of said blogs.
Again, the bloggers are still undefeated.

Feb 2nd, 9pm EST
$20 buyin, NL tournament
Password: thehammer

Consider using my link if you don't have an existing PokerStars account. There aren't any bonus codes at Stars, sadly.

Speaking of which, will SOMEBODY PLEASE SIGN UP WITH BONUS CODE IGGY ON PARTY POKER? Yeesh, don't make me grovel more than I already do.

So in good faith for my faithful readers, I wanted to post a few links. Lord knows I feel guilty when I don't have any new content for you on a Monday. I wish I had to time to wax poetic on poker right now but I'm sober pressed for time.

First off, showing the incredible power of the poker bloggers and our Hammer meme, please go check out the Full Tilt Poker commercials available for download. They have an excellent one of Chris "Jesus" Ferguson bluffing and showing The Hammer. Gotta love it! There's also commercials featuring Howard Lederer & Phil Ivey.
Full Tilt Poker & The Hammer

A hoist of the Guinness to Ephro for shooting me the link.

This eBay poker auction by AlCanHang is so freaking funny I can't stand it. Gawdamn, Al rules.

PPPS - I am color blind and cannot see subtle differences between tournament chips of different values

That's far funnier than Rate my Poker Face, in my humble opinion.

I finally received my copy of Richard Marcus's book, American Roulette. Can't wait to get all doped up on meds and read it the next few days.

Speaking of which, I found two stellar articles about cheating. The first one is with Richard himself....go read American Roulette: Interview with International Casino Cheat Richard Marcus
The true story of a 25-year run ripping-off the world's casinos

The second is entitled Cheating Vegas
The art of casino cheating comes in many disguises...

I confess, I enjoy Norman Chad, the ESPN poker colour man. Anyone who bashes Phil Helmuth as often as he does is OK in my book. But I fully understand that many folks don't care for him. Hence, this website:
Fire Chad Norman.

This is an interesting followup story about online hackers attempting to extort money from online gambling sites, especially with the looming SuperBowl. Gotta love Wired Magazine for writing this up: Gambling Sites Hedging Bets

Super Bowl Sunday is two weeks away, so online gambling venues are
getting ready. Not just for the usual rush of punters, but to also fend
off denial-of-service extortion schemes.

An interesting article on what it takes to become a professional gambler in the eyes of the IRS. Guess what - It ain't easy.
Don't bet against the IRS
Hurdles are high for status as professional gambler

Yowza, did anyone else see this? Annie Duke with a new TV show and movie based on her life? I've got a feeling that Annie's show is going to make "Tilt" look like a David Mamet play.

If you have actually watched and didn't care for Tilt, you will likely enjoy this web page. Lotsa folks thought it was better than the actual show. Sadly, being a cable-less loser, I can't weigh in.
Tilt recap with pictures.

K, time to wrap this up. I hate to say this, but this might be my worst post ever. I'm never, ever, ever posting sober again. Damn surgery.

Two Danny tidbits and I'm on hiatus. I'll hopefully be back soon....thanks a ton for reading. And don't forget....next Wednesday is the Blogger tourney.

Daniel Negreanu to play at Wynn resort exclusively when it opens:

It's now official. I've recently been hired by Steve Wynn to be the Poker Ambassador for the new poker room set to open on April 28th, 2005.

The building is a 50 story tower with more than 2700 rooms and suites. Rooms start at 630 sq. ft. and have floor to ceiling windows with views of the property's golf course, mountain, lake, or the Las Vegas Strip.

As for the poker room, it will we a 27 table room conveniently located near the self park garage. I had a chance to take a tour of the property recently and I was truly blown away. Steve Wynn has outdone himself once again.

Once the property opens up on April 28th I'll be playing cash games exclusively at the Wynn Resorts.

Take care,
Daniel Negreanu

Aww, screw it, I'm reposting this article about Danny from the Toronto Sun cause I'm a big fan.


Poker stud
Daniel Negreanu is a star. He's loved by fans, feared by competitors. Last year, he won $4.5M playing Texas Hold'em poker. Not bad for a skinny Toronto kid

Luck doesn't come to you. You go and find it.

Daniel Negreanu slips into the Atlantic City resort like he owns the joint. Hustling through the polished revolving door of Harrahs Casino, the Canadian-born high-stakes poker player carries all the luggage he'll really need this business trip -- $100,000 in cash stuffed not so neatly in a plain brown envelope, tucked clumsily under one arm.

The small fortune -- 20 stacks of $100 bills -- could just as easily be his lunch, the way he's now lugging it to work.

It's midnight in this New Jersey gambling town -- once the fight capital of the U.S., now a sorry contender to the brighter lights of Vegas. In Atlantic City, a pretty girl will bring you a drink in a plastic cup right to where you're gambling. In Vegas -- where Negreanu lives -- a prettier girl will bring your drink to you in a proper glass.

But there is the same chance of a fortune or a fall here.

For the next 14 hours, the Toronto-reared gambler, arguably the best young poker player in the world, will reign supreme, and be cut off at the knees, in this east coast den.

Almost a decade ago, as a young gambler in the Finch and Leslie area, Negreanu knew he'd never "work" a day in his life. So this -- in unprecedented access to his calibre of player -- is as close to an average day on the job as it gets.

Around Negreanu, as he walks through Harrahs, women with battleship-grey hair, and unhappy looking men with big buckles holding back bigger bellies, straddle banks of slot machines. Cigarette smoke forms storm clouds around them.

The silver slots -- flashing lights and annoying sounds -- constantly feed from the players' casino debit cards, rather than old time coin drops. Many of the plastic cards are attached to strings around the gamblers' necks -- umbilical cords from human host to suckling machine.

Negreanu doesn't see the slot players or smell their smoke.

You know how you spot a real poker player in a crowded casino? The way they walk. Tourists and others wearing cheap watches search for luck as they move in zig-zags, from contraption to craps to their next losing proposition.

The poker player cuts a sharp line to where he wants to go.

This is what Negreanu is heading straight towards -- within hours, after paying a $10,000 buy-in entrance fee, he'll sit down and play in a World Series of Poker tour event. More than $2.5 million dangles before him. Again.

Hundreds of the best players, as well as mere mortals who've luckily won online or satellite qualifying matches, are here. But only a few gamblers create the kind of ripples the slight-framed Canadian causes when he walks in.

Here, he is a rock star, stopped every other step by someone with a playing card or autograph book for him to sign.

Men offer respect. Women have offered much more.

"Keith Richards is getting old," Negreanu reasons. "Poker players are the new celebrities."

Thanks to round-the-clock TV coverage and online casino sites, the top, no-limit, Texas Hold'em poker players are worshipped as kings and queens. But there's more than glory waiting on the green felt table.

Last year, Negreanu, 30, who cut his teeth at charity casinos and illegal "rounder" games in Toronto while a teenager, won more than $4.5 million in tournament pots.

Last fall, he won the Borgata Poker Open in Atlantic City, earning more than $1.1 million, and another $1.8 million at the Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio in his backyard of Las Vegas. A good salary for a kid who was more interested in hustling billiards and cards than school work at Vanier and A.Y. Jackson high schools. If you could earn a PhD in poker, Negreanu would be a doctor who, on this night, is gladly making another house call.

"They say Canadians are nice. It plays to my benefit," he smiles.

Wildly patriotic, he wears NHL hockey jerseys while playing big matches. Doesn't smoke. Drinks water or tea. And lambastes America's obesity woes -- his mom brings him veggie sandwiches while he plays.

He is Michael J. Fox clever -- the Canadian in the room who seems to get the joke when others don't.

He routinely brings that sharp humour to the tables, where fellow players take themselves so seriously. One sunglassed star, Chris Ferguson, fashions his long locks -- and even autograph -- after "Jesus."

But there are some, still licking wounds, who would argue Negreanu has an all-Canadian gentle nature.

Describing his play time in Las Vegas, during an online interview with Askmen.com four years ago, a cockier Negreanu said: "I usually play in the high-limit section, and sometimes those games don't even start until 9 p.m., so I'll get down there by 8:30 p.m. to survey the poker room, look for a juicy game with lots of tourists, or even better, a game with a couple of drunks at the table. Some nights, a game like that doesn't materialize. Then it's just five or six professionals sitting around waiting for meat."

He's been criticized as being too opinionated when it comes to the politics of the game, and how it's marketed.

Maturity and a new sense of God, he says, is smoothing out a rough, angry side, as well as his judgmental nature.

Right now, he seems too tired for strong opinion.

He's arrived from a tournament in the Bahamas with a quick stopover in Grand Rapids, Mich., to visit with his nanny girlfriend -- a woman whose family is so conservative, they don't dance and are shocked at the phrase "dumb ass." The man, whose last regular job was a single day spent as a telemarketer, won her parents over with a good pitch.

"I try to explain, that what I do is no more of a gamble than the man who opens a restaurant or the businessman who deals in the stock market," he told them, adding: "I'm just better at it."

No selling job was needed a half-hour ago at the nearby Borgata -- the newest casino in the east-coast town. It is gold, completely circled from top to bottom in eerie neon.

An overjoyed casino official there was only too pleased to cash his cheque for $100,000. The man didn't blink when Negreanu asked for it all in cash.

Now minutes after he's stepped out of the cab from the Borgata -- a healthy tip to a driver who can't believe his luck for a three-minute ride -- a chatty and happy Harrahs tournament official is suddenly at Negreanu's side. Just to make sure he's taken care of -- including a room when none is available in the city to anyone else.

"I don't understand this," says a puzzled reception clerk with 'trainee' on her name tag, looking at her computer. "Your reservation wasn't here a half-hour ago? Now it is."

As Negreanu heads to his miracle room on the fourth floor, fellow high-stakes players stop to chat. Or do their banking.

One exchanges two $5,000 casino chips -- common currency among players who don't like to travel far with too much money -- for $10,000 from Negreanu's brown bag lunch.

Negreanu casually stuffs the exchanged chips into his pants pocket, as if they were loose change.

A young man in sneakers and rumpled sweatshirt says a few quick words to the Canadian. Without stopping his walk, Negreanu reaches into his envelope, grabs two stacks of bills -- each wrapped tightly with a strip of paper -- and tosses another $10,000 over. The man and mad money disappear.

"In the business world, that would have taken contracts and lawyers," Negreanu says as he adjusts a ballcap.

"I would trust a gambler before I'd trust a businessman.

"You can sign a contract with a businessman, and tomorrow he can turn around and cheat you. That guy (I just handed $10,000 to) won't run away. I'll get the money back."

He once lent another poker player $30,000. Negreanu didn't even bother to find out his last name.

If the man ever vanished, all Negreanu would be able to tell the police is that he gave the money to "Al the stud player."

The cash he carries tonight is a tool of the trade. He'll use some of it for his own buy-in, as well as to back another player, along with a half-share of a third tournament contender. The rest will be stuffed in the pocket of his jeans, or left, not in a safe or in a drawer all night, but tossed on a bed in his room. It will spill out onto the comforter, next to a pair of dirty socks and TV remote.

"The best poker players have a total disregard for money," says Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, the aging Texas patriarch of high stakes poker players -- a cowboy who will sit to the left of the Canadian during this tournament.

"Money is just the way we keep playing," adds the 72-year-old gambler, who once bet a friend $1 million he could lose 100 pounds. The big Texan got smaller and much wealthier.

He has respect for the young Canadian. But within limits.

"I was playing in a tougher atmosphere when I was his age," the gruff legend notes, using his Texas Hold'em inscribed cane and a bad knee to limp down a casino hallway.

The game has changed from when Brunson started playing in dusty, southern halls. Negreanu is a poker teacher to the stars, including actor Tobey Maguire and NHL players who have time to kill these days.

Negreanu has also penned a deal with Microsoft for their XBox gaming system, and makes a bundle as a host on an online gaming site: pokermountain.com.

The makers of a vitamin supplement have shipped a package of their product to this casino, hoping -- begging -- the Canadian vegetarian will sign on with them.

"Supposed to help your short term memory," says the man who long ago memorized all the poker odds along with the digits in his wallet -- including credit card numbers.

He'll try the vitamins, as long as they contain no caffeine. He also won't drink -- Molson Dry is his preferred beverage -- the night before he plays.

Tonight -- rather this morning, as time still passes in a place without clocks -- he'll break his ritual and have four beers.

It will be 5:30 a.m. before he'll finally fall asleep in the bed beside the one his cash is lounging in. He rises six hours later -- a half-hour before trying to again win millions in one of the 40 to 50 tournaments he'll play this year.

"People say, 'Do you ever worry about losing it all ... gambling it away?' " he says, leaning back in his bed.

"I made it gambling. Do people look at Shaquille O'Neal, who makes millions at basketball, and say after three years, 'Why doesn't he give up basketball?' "

Negreanu wants a family and children, beyond his dog Mushu, whom he now longs for like a doting father.

His mom, who lives in Toronto during warmer months, is now settling into her own Vegas apartment.

He knew she could no longer stay with him the day she blew on his tea to cool it down.

It was no image for the man who is dubbed the "Canadian Al-Qaida" by a female poker player who calls out the nickname as he gets into an elevator.

He prefers the "Mike Weir of poker."

Now, with little sleep and the bitter taste of breaking his drinking rule, it is time to ante up -- just past noon, morning for a poker player.

Armed with bottles of water and $10,000 in chips, he is now just another shark circling leather-rimmed poker tables.

ESPN television cameras focus hard as the dealing begins.

There's quiet conversation. But it's hidden under the constant and nervous clatter of fingers manipulating chips. The room sounds like it's filled with angry crickets.

Masseuses roam from table to table -- rubbing tense backs and already worried brows.

Others -- veteran players -- keep a lazy eye on a football game playing silently on nearby big screen televisions.

Many here have placed bets on that game as well.

At Negreanu's table, it's like a Saturday night with the boys.

Chips fly. Cards are dealt. And talk is of Canadian beer -- they agree it's good -- and the hockey lock-out -- the owners fault, they decide.

If Negreanu has a poker face today, it's wrinkled by constant yawns.

At a nearby table, with only a few hands down in a series of games which will run over days, an excited player jumps up -- tossing his chair back -- then yells: "That's the way it's done." As quick as that, two players both go bust.

Spectators strain against brass barriers. They can't see anything but men and a few women sitting around card tables.

But you could believe they were watching acrobats balance on electrical wires.

Ron Cameli, a 43-year-old mailman from Pennsylvania, has come, not to win big at the casino, but to score autographs. "Daniel is young and exciting and reads people well," the mailman explains of Negreanu. "He's colourful in a game that's on fire right now."

Others are not so star-struck.

Barry Greenstein last year won two major tournaments with purses of more than $1 million each. All that money he simply passed over to charities. The Chicago math and computer whiz -- in 1991, he retired at 36 years old to play poker full time -- isn't willing to concede anything to the Canadian.

"I'm not intimidated by (Negreanu)," he says.

"During a game, I'm not looking at him and he's not looking at me, thinking 'I got to pick this guy off.' Instead, we're looking at the other (lesser) players at the table, trying to take as much money as possible from them."

Negreanu -- sharing a table with eight other players -- yawns again, casually tossing thousands more into the pot. It's more than an hour since the games began. He's playing off a 3 and 2 of Diamonds.

The pot grows to $16,000. Cards are dealt. Bluffs made. And he -- as quickly as taking a drink of water -- goes broke. With his $10,000 in chips gone, he's out.

This tournament ends for him -- one of the best, and one of the first, players out the door. He pushes his chair away from the table, gathers up his empty water bottle, and leaves as if a commuter bus has suddenly pulled over to his stop.

With very little to say, he waves goodbye to millions. There is a reason they call this gambling.

"I'm just as happy to lose," he says as he makes his way through a crowd of fans -- some of whom don't realize he's done. "If I'm not going to win a tournament, I'd rather lose early and get home to my own couch and my dog."

On his way up to his room, some loud-mouth tourist he passes in the hall challenges him to a game. "Hey, Negreanu's on my floor! It's you and me, pal. It's on." The wounded shark just smiles and keeps walking.

Within a half-hour of crashing to earth, Negreanu is on his phone in his room, booking the fastest ticket out of Atlantic City. Spilled change is left on the floor. Multiple twenty-dollar bills wait on the bed for the maid.

As quickly as he can change his pants and gather what's left of his bankroll, he's exiting the same revolving door he entered hours before -- this time leaving for Las Vegas.

"I've always had a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to Atlantic City," he says, as he heads to a waiting taxi.

This match had too many players and too little time, he reasons. It just wasn't his game. His day. His pot.

He leaves beaten by the house, but in far better shape than most who walk out with him. You'd swear he owns the joint as the faithful clamour to get one more autograph.

In his backpack, he has stuffed what remains of the $100,000 -- still wrapped like a left-over sandwich. His track-pant pockets are lined with chips -- including four $25,000 tokens.

And then there's always Tunica, Miss. Within weeks, he'll slip easily through the front doors of the Horseshoe casino there.

$1.5 million sits ready to be taken by someone.

The same deal will begin there.

When your day at the office depends on the turn of a card, luck doesn't come to you. You go and find it.

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