Saturday, July 21, 2007
From today's AP wire.
Card sharks to battle computer at poker
Poker champion Phil Laak has a good chance of winning when he sits down this week to play 2,000 hands of Texas Hold'em — against a computer.
It may be the last chance he gets. Computers have gotten a lot better at poker in recent years; they're good enough now to challenge top professionals like Laak, who won the World Poker Tour invitational in 2004.
But it's only a matter of time before the machines take a commanding lead in the war for poker supremacy. Just as they already have in backgammon, checkers and chess, computers are expected to surpass even the best human poker players within a decade. They can already beat virtually any amateur player.
"This match is extremely important, because it's the first time there's going to be a man-machine event where there's going to be a scientific component," said University of Alberta computing science professor Jonathan Schaeffer.
The Canadian university's games research group is considered the best of its kind in the world. After defeating an Alberta-designed program several years ago, Laak was so impressed that he estimated his edge at a mere 5 percent. He figures he would have lost if the researchers hadn't let him examine the programming code and practice against the machine ahead of time.
"This robot is going to do just fine," Laak predicted.
The Alberta researchers have endowed the $50,000 contest with an ingenious design, making this the first man-machine contest to eliminate the luck of the draw as much as possible.
Laak will play with a partner, fellow pro Ali Eslami. The two will be in separate rooms, and their games will be mirror images of one another, with Eslami getting the cards that the computer received in its hands against Laak, and vice versa.
That way, a lousy hand for one human player will result in a correspondingly strong hand for his partner in the other room. At the end of the tournament the chips of both humans will be added together and compared to the computer's.
The two-day contest, beginning Monday, takes place not at a casino, but at the annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence in Vancouver, British Columbia. Researchers in the field have taken an increasing interest in poker over the past few years because one of the biggest problems they face is how to deal with uncertainty and incomplete information.
"You don't have perfect information about what state the game is in, and particularly what cards your opponent has in his hand," said Dana S. Nau, a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland in College Park. "That means when an opponent does something, you can't be sure why."
As a result, it is much harder for computer programmers to teach computers to play poker than other games. In chess, checkers and backgammon, every contest starts the same way, then evolves through an enormous, but finite, number of possible states according to a consistent set of rules. With enough computing power, a computer could simply build a tree with a branch representing every possible future move in the game, then choose the one that leads most directly to victory.
That's essentially the strategy IBM's Deep Blue computer used to defeat chess champion Gary Kasparov in their famous 1997 match. No computer can calculate every single possible move in a chess game, but today's best chess programs can see an astounding 18 moves ahead.
Yet poker involves not just myriad possibilities but uncertainty, both about what cards the opponent is holding and more importantly, how he is going to play them.
"It's mandatory for you to understand how the other guy approaches the game. This is critical information in poker, and it's not true of any of these other games that we've studied in academia," said Darse Billings, a recent Alberta Ph.D. who has worked on the robot for 15 years — except for a three-year break to play poker professionally.
The game-tree approach doesn't work in poker because in many situations there is no one best move. There isn't even a best strategy. A top-notch player adapts his play over time, exploiting his opponent's behavior. He bluffs against the timid and proceeds cautiously when players who only raise on the strongest hands are betting the limit. He learns how to vary his own strategy so others can't take advantage of him.
That kind of insight is very hard to program into a computer. You can't just give the machine some rules to follow, because any reasonably competent human player will quickly intuit what the computer is going to do in various situations.
"What makes poker interesting is that there is not a magic recipe," Schaeffer said.
In fact, the simplest poker-playing programs fail because they are just a recipe, a set of rules telling the computer what to do based on the strength of its hand. A savvy opponent can soon gauge what cards the computer is holding based on how aggressively it is betting.
That's how Laak was able to defeat a program called Poker Probot in a contest two years ago in Las Vegas. As the match progressed Laak correctly intuited that the computer was playing a consistently aggressive game, and capitalized on that observation by adapting his own play.
Programmers can eliminate some of that weakness with game theory, a branch of mathematics pioneered by John von Neumann, who also helped develop the hydrogen bomb. In 1950 mathematician John Nash, whose life inspired the movie "A Brilliant Mind," showed that in certain games there is a set of strategies such that every player's return is maximized and no player would benefit from switching to a different strategy.
In the simple game "Rock, Paper, Scissors," for example, the best strategy is to randomly select each of the options an equal proportion of the time. If any player diverted from that strategy by following a pattern or favoring one option over, the others would soon notice and adapt their own play to take advantage of it.
Texas Hold 'em is a little more complicated than "Rock, Paper, Scissors," but Nash's math still applies. With game theory, computers know to vary their play so an opponent has a hard time figuring out whether they are bluffing or employing some other strategy.
But game theory has inherent limits. In Nash equilibrium terms, success doesn't mean winning — it means not losing.
"You basically compute a formula that can at least break even in the long run, no matter what your opponent does," Billings said.
That's about where the best poker programs are today. Though the best game theory-based programs can usually hold their own against world-class human poker players, they aren't good enough to win big consistently.
Squeezing that extra bit of performance out of a computer requires combining the sheer mathematical power of game theory with the ability to observe an opponent's play and adapt to it. Many legendary poker players do that by being experts of human nature. They quickly learn the tics, gestures and other "tells" that reveal exactly what another player is up to.
A computer can't detect those, but it can keep track of how an opponent plays the game. It can observe how often an opponent tries to bluff with a weak hand, and how often she folds. Then the computer can take that information and incorporate it into the calculations that guide its own game.
"The notion of forming some sort of model of what another player is like ... is a really important problem," Nau said.
Computer scientists are only just beginning to incorporate that ability into their programs; days before their contest with Laak and Eslami, the University of Alberta researchers are still trying to tweak their program's adaptive elements. Billings will say only this about what the humans have in store: "They will be guaranteed to be seeing a lot of different styles."
Even so, Laak and Eslami are top-notch players with a deep understanding of poker's mathematical fundamentals. They should be able to keep up with the computer — this time.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Losers - Part 5 and a half - "Danger is our business."
"All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers,
queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will
come and wash all this scum off the streets." -- Robert Deniro, Taxi
Before we post part 06, let's reach into the reader mailbag (don't worry,
we would never use your name or enough text to make you identifiable) and
see what people are saying about this report so far:
"Can you tell me where that after hours place is?"
"Any chance that strip place where you can touch the girls is in the NYC
"Where is that after hours place with the strippers?"
"Are the girls hot at that place? Where is it?"
"I think you guys are just a bunch of immature drunks who have no idea how
to deal with women."
*** Manbeast replys ***
What was your first clue honey? Hey, are you any good looking? What are
*** End Manbeast ***
There you have it, feel the love! For our inquisitive readers, I would be
happy to give you the location of the after hours joint except for one
small thing: The rumor is that the person who gets the place busted will
have his tongue removed with a reciprocating saw. I'd just as soon have
that not be me.
But since we seem to have found a demographic niche with the degenerate
crowd, we will throw you a bone. Here's the scoop on an NYC sex club we
visited 3 or 4 years ago. Things may have changed, but this is the way it
On the annual trip to the hunting cabin Spaulding insists we detour though
New York City. He claims to know of a "sex club." A place where people
go to have encounters with strangers, apparently.
Call me skeptical, but I just don't think women who want to have brief,
meaningless sex with strangers need to go anyplace special to find it.
They could stand up in any bar, restaurant, office, grocery store,
synagogue, etc. and say, "Hey, I want brief meaningless sex. Any takers?"
Being trampled to death would be the major risk.
But Spaulding is a man on a mission. He says this place is the real deal.
So we're off to the City That Never Sleeps.
Welcome to New York City: Come for the metropolitan sophistication, stay
for the sexual depravity.
We roll into the Big Apple around 2300. Manbeast is driving, Spaulding is
navigating (he's been to this place before). Unfortunately, Spaulding is
trying to use visual landmarks to navigate. It's dark, and NYC is a
rather big place. So Spaulding is peering out the van window, squinting
like a Chinese short order cook, giving directions. We immediately become
lost in a nasty looking area. Not that it matters, but the street are
littered with people, all representatives of a major race other than ours.
People seem to be staring at us. "Maybe they think we're trying to buy
crack," someone hypothesizes. Spaulding yells out the window, "Attention
negroes! We are not trying to buy crack. However, if you have a little
marahootchie, maybe we could talk busine....." Manbeast punches the gas
and we get out of there in a hurry.
So at about 0130, we're at the entrance to "The Vault," a New York city
underground sex club. There's a guy outside, on the sidewalk, a Billy
Idol clone in leather, who explains the rules. Cover is $40. This is a
safe-sex club. No oral or anal penetration without a condom. No
interrupting another act. No booze, no drugs. (Spaulding: "No booze!
What the fuck is wrong with you boyscouts?") They search us briefly,
knicking my CQC7, then we go down the steps, below NYC street level, below
the steaming man holes, the pimps, the drug dealers, and down into . . .
*** Snow White *** I hope the C.H.U.D.s don't get us. ***
[Cue music - chorus of "The Freaks Come Out at Night"]
Inside now. Holy crap, this is weirder than any porn movie I've ever
seen. At first, it's intimidating. It's dark and dingy, and there is
bondage equipment all over. Cages, chains hanging from the ceiling.
Weird chairs designed for weird bondage. Various clusters of freaks are
huddled around "acts" going on, watching with an incredible intensity.
The first act we see involves two oriental guys. One is humped over a
sawhorse like thing with his pants down. The other guy is holding, uh, -
this is about to get rather indelicate - holding his sphincter open with a
forceps like device, and shining a real bright flashlight up there.
*** SW *** Where are the C.H.U.D.s when you need them? ***
"Looking for your watch?" Manbeast asks. Only he and I guffaw. No one
else is amused, and several people call for our removal from the club for
interrupting a 'scene.' A bouncer comes over. You can just tell he's so
sick and tired of dealing with stupid newbies who don't know the protocol
for underground sex clubs. Sigh. We're warned not to do that again. OK,
OK, OK. Rules, rules, rules. This place is more uptight than a John
Birch Society meeting.
So we hang back and observe for a while.
There are quite a few people in here. I observe that 90 percent plus are
guys. We strike up conversations with some obvious regulars. Some guy is
explaining the secret dress code. "A plain white t-shirt means you?re a
twink looking for a bear (or something), see? A blue handkerchief in your
back right pocket means (something else, also gay), ting tang walla walla
bing bang." Manbeast: "What if you're a hetero male trawling for tuna??
Answer: "No code for that." Manbeast: "That speaks volumes."
Presently, there is a leather bikini wearing blond, probably the best
looking girl in the place, whipping some fat loser, both of them enclosed
in a cage.
There are maybe 2 more girls who are there with boyfriends, and they are
obvious non-regulars who came to gawk at the freaks. There is a trio of
thin asian girls in short skirts wandering around, but something about
them Just Doesn't Look Right. There's a really chubby leather-nut girl
at the 'bar.' (The bar doesn't serve booze. Somehow, Spaulding got his
flask inside, of course.) Maybe another 2 more girls are in the place,
but they're bone ugly.
*** Manbeast says ***
Manbeast's hints for the aesthetically challenged, #1: Ladies, if you've
got a belly that fails the Louisville Slugger test, DON'T wear an outfit
that exposes your mid-drift, especially in conjunction with tight pants
push your blubber up, squeezie-like, over the waistband.
*** End Manbeast ***
Next thing I know Spaulding is in the cage getting whipped. He's not a
good actor though, and the soft cat-o-nine-tails is clearly only tickling
him. The bikini girl has his shirt off. Spaulding drops his pants and
underwear, too, and asks to be lashed on a more intimate area of his body.
"Sorry peewee, I don't do that." A pile of homos swarm the cage as soon
as Spaulding exposes himself. It's like throwing a Big Mac into the
audience at the Rosie O'Donnel show.
We deduce that bikini-girl is a shill. She looks great, and will whip
anyone who asks (on the back -- no where else -- and it's a 'play' whip),
but you can't touch her and she is not interested in any private
So Spaulding has gone off trolling for sluttier girls. Manbeast, Snow
White and I are just taking it all in, sitting at the 'bar.' There's an
open bowl of popcorn on the bar. Manbeast offers me $50 to eat a handful,
but I decline.
That's when the JDLR asian chicks saunter over and start talking to us.
As they are talking to us, they keep reaching towards our crotches,
telling us what they have in mind. The Manbeast says something like,
"Even though you've trowelled on 5 pounds of Mary Kay comsmetics, I can
still tell you have to shave. Your face, that is." They take the hint
and slink away, searching for dumber pastures. Manbeast looks at me and
asks, "Do you think anyone is fucking stupid enough, drunk enough, or
horny enough to fall for that?"
"Helloooooo," says Spaulding, coming up behind us. "This place is fucking
great!" Manbeast and I explain to him that the only girl in the place who
(a) is really a girl and (b) isn't a shill and (c) is under his 222 pound
limit was the gawker who was wrapped around her boyfriend who has now
left. Spaulding doesn't care, and wants to stay. We tell him we're out
of there in 30 minutes, with or without him. "OK."
Manbeast, Snow White and I take one more lap around the place, learn what
"tea-bagging", "felching," and the dreaded "tossed salad" are (trust me,
you don't want to know), then retire to the bar for another few minutes.
We strike up a conversation with the chubby leather-nut girl, who is
reading a book and looking bored. God knows why she was there. Reading a
novel in a sex club at 0300. She was really nice and normal to talk to,
adding to the weirdness of her being there under those circumstances.
Time to go and here comes Spaulding with this big, dopey grin on his face.
He's all excited. "I got a handjob." "From who?" "Those asian girls.
They can really squeeze the weasel!"
"Uh, did they show you their tits?"
"No, but I was holding the one's ass. She wouldn't let
me touch her tits though. She said she was shy."
[Variable] "Twenty bucks if I can tell him."
[Snow White] "Sixty."
***Manbeast says*** To summarize, 'The Vault' is where New York City
faggots go to meet and greet and spooge on the floor. Male homos, that
is. Hell, if there was any carpet chomping I'd happily pay the cover.
But there's not. If you're gay, and male, I recommend it. It's
fagtacular. If you're hetero, forget it. Save that 40 bucks for the
strip club or poker table.
I must concur with my esteemed colleague on this one. It's shocking when
you first go in, but you quickly figure out everything is fake, including
the women. And I'm not overly enamored by the idea of having to dodge
puddles of jism.
We'll leave you with the question that has stumped scholars and wise men
for millenia: If you engage in a sex act with another man, but you
genuinely thought it was a woman, is that gay?
Now off to the cabin.
On the drive to the cabin we made up several helpful cadence call style
mnemonics for Spaulding, and sang them a few thousand times. Here are
Adam's apple bigger than a pea?
Trust me friend just let it be.
Jutting jaw that's kind of square?
Just get your ass right out of there.
Fingers look a little thick?
That's because she's got a dick.
Sound off, one two ...
Spaulding eventually drifts off to sleep in the back seat.
d r e a m s e q u e n c e
(Spaulding, wearing a gold bracelet and flanked by two beautiful cocktail
waitresses, is being interviewed by Dick Van Patten)
DVP: The world's finest poker players showed up today, to do battle with
what's turned out to the toughest field to hit the World Series of Poker
since 1996. Hello everybody I'm Dick Van Patten, and I'd like you to meet
this young man. His name: Spaulding. And Spaulding, congratulations to
you. Spaulding, things looked kind of rough out there today.
Spaulding: Well Dick, I did battle for some humongous pots. But like I
told the guy from Pokerpages, danger is my business.
DVP: A lot of people thought that maybe Chris "Jesus" Ferguson or Johnny
"The Oriental Express" Chan would take the title.
Spaulding: Those guys are fags!
DVP: That's fantastic. Let me ask you a question, when you get out
there, do you ever get scared?
Spaulding: To me, putting all my chips in is a way of looking at my
opponent and saying, "Hey bud, let's party." Hey, where'd you get that
DVP: The network gave it to me.
e n d d r e a m s e q u e n c e
--- To be continued ---
Next time: The real Part 06
I guess I missed this announcement yesterday.
NETELLER Announces Settlement of US Situation
Wednesday, 18 July 2007 - NETELLER Plc (LSE: NLR), the independent global online payments business, today announces that the Company has entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (“DPA”) with the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (“USAO”). The DPA represents the resolution of the USAO’s investigation into the Company.
Pursuant to the DPA, the Company has consented to the filing of a criminal information relating to transactions between Internet gambling merchants and persons located in the United States. The USAO has agreed to defer the prosecution of any federal charges and, as a consequence, the Company will not be convicted of any federal crime, as long as the Company fulfils the set conditions of the DPA during the two year term of the agreement. At the conclusion of the two year term, the criminal information will be dismissed. The key terms of the DPA are set out in more detail later in this announcement. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has approved the deferral of the prosecution. As part of the DPA, the Company has also agreed to forfeit US$ 136 million to the United States. This amount includes the approximately US$ 60 million that the USAO has previously seized.
Additionally the Company announces:
* Following this resolution, the Company will seek to publish its audited annual accounts for 2006 and have its shares restored to trading on AIM as soon as practicable thereafter.
* The Company is using its best efforts to allow withdrawal requests as soon as possible and US customers will be able to sign in to their NETELLER account to request the withdrawal of their funds by no later than 30 July 2007. The exact date upon which US customers will be able to make requests will be communicated to US customers via email and through our website.
Ron Martin, President & CEO, said “This agreement resolves the USAO’s investigation relating to the Company’s former US business activities. We believe that this settlement is in the best interests of NETELLER and its shareholders."
“Our customers, employees and shareholders have all patiently waited for this resolution. We anticipate within the next few weeks that we will have fully implemented the plan for the return of funds to our US customers and are hopeful that, by that time, we will have restored the Company’s shares to trading on AIM. We can now begin to refocus our efforts on building and strengthening the NETELLER business in the growing markets of the European and Asia Pacific regions. I look forward to sharing further information about the Company’s progress over the coming months.”
Key terms of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement
The settlement takes the form of a two year DPA with the USAO. In the DPA, NETELLER has consented to the filing with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York of a criminal information charging NETELLER with participating in a conspiracy in violation of certain US laws. If NETELLER fulfils its obligations under the DPA, the criminal information will be dismissed, following the two year term.
Specifically, the DPA contains the following main points:
* NETELLER, as detailed in the “Statement of Admitted Facts” attached to the DPA, admits that it had operated in the US an unlicensed money transmitting business and had participated in the performance of financial transactions for the purpose of promoting unlawful transactions between internet gambling merchants and persons located in the US.
* NETELLER agrees that it will pay an amount to the United States totalling US$ 136 million which is disgorgement of certain profits received by NETELLER from the activities described in the Statement of Admitted Facts. This amount includes the approximately US$ 60 million that the USAO has previously seized. NETELLER agrees that it will satisfy the remaining portion of its forfeiture obligation with a payment of US$ 40 million to be paid on or before 15 October 2007, and the remaining balance (approximately US$ 36 million) to be paid on or before 17 January 2008.
* NETELLER agrees to cooperate fully with US authorities in all matters relating to the ongoing investigations by the USAO.
* NETELLER agrees to fully implement procedures and controls to prevent illegal transactions between internet gambling merchants and persons located in the US and to continue to retain Navigant Consulting Inc., a forensic accounting firm, to monitor NETELLER’s compliance with these procedures and controls.
Distribution Plan to be implemented
As announced on 4 June, the Company has agreed to a plan for the distribution of funds to its US customers. The agreed plan details the process and mechanisms by which US customers will be able to initiate the return of their funds after the plan is implemented. NETELLER is using its best efforts to start implementing the plan as soon as possible and, in any event, by no later than 30 July 2007. The Company will communicate to US customers via email and through its website the exact date upon which such customers will be able to make requests.
Restoration of trading to AIM
As stated in the Company’s announcement of 13 July, the Company continues to make progress regarding the ongoing suspension of the Company's shares from trading on AIM. The Company is in discussions with its advisers and AIM and understands that the admission of the Company’s ordinary shares to trading on AIM has not to date been cancelled.
With today’s announcement of a resolution of the USAO investigation, the Company is now focused on finalising and publishing its audited annual accounts for 2006. The Company will endeavour to post the 2006 accounts to its shareholders as soon as practicable following which the Company anticipates that trading in the Company’s ordinary shares on AIM will be restored.
Further details will be announced as and when they become available.
Part 5 - Like they say in Law 101, "Caveat Losor, pal."
Some Important Concepts:
Hunting Camp: Through a fantastic coincidence, we are all dedicated deer
hunters. Indeed, many of us took up hunting late in life, typically about
2 years into marriage. Come deer season, we spend time at a cabin we have
up north in some prime hunting ground. Some poker usually gets
incorporated into camp. We're not big-time regular casino players like
many of you, although Snow White claims to be grinding out a nice profit
online just by playing Sklansky/Malmuth starting hands. We've been to
Atlantic City maybe 4 times. Thus you may be shocked and appalled by what
passes for poker among our group. Spaulding in particular is one of those
uber-fish that you guys luck into once in a blue moon. The liquored-up
guy who plays every hand, all the way, showing down rags whether he wins
or loses (oh, except against you - against you he's got the goods).
The Honor Code: The code is simple -- none of us has any honor. Not only
should you expect no one to help you, you should assume everyone is out to
screw you over, because they are (Holden himself refers to it the
"Anti-musketeer code"). Lying for sport is accepted in our culture, and
the dissemination of misinformation is considered a hobby.
"JFB": By the smallest possible margin. It's a Manbeast quote from one of
our frequent theological discussions. We had been discussing the concept
of Hell: Whether it existed, whether an all-loving God would ever send
one of his creations there, etc. We also discussed what sort of sins
might make one eligible for eternal damnation. Manbeast pipes up with his
philosophy: "I plan to live my life in such a way so that I don't go to
hell. *BUT JUST FUCKING BARELY*."
"Freeway spanking drunk": The gold standard of intoxication. It is the
level of drunkenness at which you no longer care about the legality or
consequences of your actions. The term was coined based on a news item
reporting some guy (amazingly, not one of us) getting soused to the gills,
wandering on to a freeway, then standing on the roadside, dressed only in
shoes, and vigorously spanking the monkey in full view of traffic. When
he was arrested he explained the whole misunderstanding with our favorite
excuse: "I only had 2 or 3 beers."
"Th'fuck?!": Spaulding's contraction for "What the fuck?" This highly
efficient phrase is generally used to denote surprise and confusion, and
asks the intuitively obvious question. Example:
Spaulding: "I'll take nine tacos."
Apathetic Clerk: "OK."
Spaulding: "Can I get some hot sauce for those?"
Apathetic Clerk: "We don't have sauce."
Spaulding: "Th'fuck?!" (Asking, in effect, can you explain how a
place that sells tacos doesn't have taco sauce?)
"Always Play Along": Pranking, spreading misinformation, and simple
deception being the glue that holds our subculture together, we very
regularly find ourselves in strange situations where we don't know what is
going on, nor why. The code tells you to always play along - someone's
getting nailed and you'll find out about it later, just don't blow it.
Failure to play along is considered unforgivable, and immediately marks
you as a target for a punitive operation.
Culture of Paranoia - The end result of the code is that we all live in a
state of near total paranoia. Snow White has a monitored alarm system on
his house. Not for fear of burglars, but for fear of black bag jobs by
his friends. He had it installed shortly after the Christmas Card
COINTELPRO. The story there is that somebody got his hands on my address
book. Same somebody had a rather compromising photo of me and an exotic
dancer wearing an elf hat, high heels, and nothing else. All my friends
and relatives got an interesting Christmas card from me that year.
Anyway, the wise loser searches his home after friends visit, and keeps
sensitive information behind a locked door, minimum. This may not be
enough, however. One loser, nameless because he still doesn't know about
it, was the victim of a simple but devastatingly effective ELINT
operation. A portable scanner, voice activated digital recorder, and
male-to-male cable (You can get the necessary equipment used (i.e. pawned)
for about $125) were employed to eavesdrop on his cordless phone
conversations 24 x 7, with no equipment needed inside his apartment. Many
a prank was born based on that information. If you're wondering, this is
perfectly legal. Choosing a cordless means choosing to broadcast your
conversations, albeit over a limited area. If you don't want third party
listeners, don't broadcast your conversation. Or get one of the newer
phones, almost all of which are digital, encrypted, or spread spectrum (or
something) and cannot be routinely scanned. Anyway, these are the
measures that we no-life losers will resort to just to nail a fellow
loser. That's why paranoia runs rampant.
*** Snow White says ***
The burgler alarm seems extreme - and it really is more so for protection
from intruders than friends, but if it does double duty so be it. You
see, in this group we have to be paranoid like the casinos: There may be
no scam going down at this moment, but at the minimum you KNOW somebody is
thinking about it, and watching for holes in the system. The least you
can do is not make it easy for them.
*** End Snow White ***
Dreamland - Manbeast's house, which has become the nearly official venue
for the home game. His finished basement is complete with a poker table,
pool table, pinball machine, 20 foot bar, a dart board, big screen TV, and
more. It's huge. We put out a buffet table every game. Sounds pretty
sweet, yes? Well, it gets better. [Cue music: One in a Million Girl
(She's a Beauty), The Plasmatics] Manbeast lives less than 2 miles from a
small time strip joint. Used to be that we'd break around 11, hit the
club until 12 (closing time - don't know why it closes so early), then the
die-hard players would reconvene at Manbeast's house. Now we don't even
go down to the club. Before a game night Manbeast, who is very much a
regular, buys a few six-packs from the owner, and recruits one or two
girls who know us to drop by Dreamland after closing time. It's good
extra money for them. Nothing untoward goes on, as far as you know.
Anyway, Darrel Ticehurst take note, we now have absolutely no problem
filling the game, and no one leaves early. We generally have to turn
Example of the honor code in action:
Flashback to Spaulding's married days...
(All those squiggly lines are supposed to represent your screen getting
blurry, as in a TV flashback. If you don't see the effect, start drinking
and you will eventually.)
We're out for a night of libations and gentlemanly camaraderie.
Meaning we're going to get drunk and hit some strip clubs.
Spaulding's wife forbids him from going to strip clubs. So he told her we
were going to a poker game.
We are at one of Spaulding's favorite places in the world. It's an
unmarked, warehouse-like building containing a "private club," which is an
after hours bar on one floor, and a strip club on another. Although it is
nominlly a private club, anyone can get in if they know how. By now you
should have figured out this isn't exactly legal. They must juice the
local machine though, because the place has never been busted since we
started going there in 1989. And it's obvious something is going on,
because there's a bank across the street and everyone parks there. Two in
the morning and a closed bank has an overflowing parking lot, yet no one
asks any questions. Obviously we're dealing with OC here.
It's a long ride to visit this place, and we have much classier ones
locally, but Spaulding insists we go here because the action is decidedly
more down and dirty. Being losers, we have to take action where we can
get it. Anyway, about the place: The bar is free to get in to, but to go
upstairs is $25. There is a small stage, but unlike most clubs no one
sits near the stage. The girls each do a set on stage, and then work
their way around the room going guy-to-guy. They dance in front of, and
up against, you for a minute or so, and you give them a couple bucks. The
also offer what we came for: lap dances plus groping. A good, grinding
lap dance is $20 for two songs. A $20 tip on top of that always suffices
to allow ones hands to wander.
Spaulding is freeway spanking drunk. One dancer, "Cheyenne," is almost as
drunk as Spaulding, and she is *making out* with some guys as she works
the room. Most of us pass on the making out part, but not Spaulding. He
tips her a $50 and soon they're going at it. He is all over her and vice
versa. They're humping so hard I think there was actual
bluejeans-separated insertion. By the time they're done mauling each
other, Spaulding's got a face and neck full of lipstick, and a few stray
bite marks. Naturally, he is totally unaware of it. By the end of the
night, more than one dancer has left lipstick on him.
It's a long ride home and by the time we get to his house, Spaulding is
out cold. As we roll up I remind the team about the lipstick all over his
face. Remember Spaulding's wife? She's probably already hammering up a
cross because of the late hour. If she sees the lipstick, well, let's
just say you better hide the cutlery.
Clearly, the ONLY decent thing to do is wipe off the lipstick.
Rhetorically, I ask the group "should we wipe off the lipstick or let him
hang?" The vedict: "Let him hang." So sayeth the losers, so shall it be.
Variable: Who wants to deal with the not-so-little Mrs.?
Manbeast: There's just no way I'm going to deal with Large Marge. She
already hates me - ever since I said her bloomers were big enough to
shammy shine a 747 with.
Snow White: I would have to answer all her questions honestly. I don't
think anyone wants that.
Variable: Well, what are we going to do with him?
Snow White: Dump him on the lawn. It's the only way.
We'll just say he got out of the car under his own power;
we don't know what happened after that.
Variable: Oh, that's cold.
Manbeast: OK, no problem. You tell her. If you get caught in the
crossfire, can I have your car?
Variable: I say we dump him on the lawn. It's the only way.
[Cue music: Peter Gunn]
So we coast up in stealth mode (headlights out) and stop a good 20 yards
short of Spaulding's house. We carried him - no easy task - to the dead
center of his professionally maintained lawn. In the dim glow of the
nearby streetlights the quiet, suburban night has an eerie quality to it.
We laid him in the cool dew, on his back. Manbeast grabs an empty JD
bottle and puts it on Spaulding's chest, positioning Spaulding's hand to
clutch it. Shithouse decided that the bikini top he had lifted as a
souvenir would look good in Spaulding's pocket, so he tucked it halfway
in. Snow White pours a little beer on him, saying "Into your hands we
commend his spirit."
Manbeast: Let's get the fuck out of here.
Shithouse: Wait, I have to take a whiz.
Manbeast: Fucking hold it!
Shithouse: Fine, I'll just use an empty bottle in your back seat.
Manbeast: Go here, we'll wait!
In the still of predawn hours, every sound seems amplified ten-fold.
Shithouse taking a whiz sounds like a rainstorm to me. I'm worried that
we're going to wake someone. Just then, a shrill siren pierces the night.
My heart stops. I whirl to look for the police car that I know is there.
But there is none. Someone had leaned up against (or collapsed on top of)
Marge's new BMW, which was left parked in the driveway so that the
neighbors could admire it. It's anti-theft system functioned flawlessly.
Goddamn German efficiency. We must have looked like the 4 stooges making
our exit, scrambling into the car while this siren blared around us, our
tires screeching as bedroom lights started blinking on all around us.
Spaulding slept, baby-like, through the whole commotion.
End flashback to Spaulding's married days...
Pranks - Pranks are an extension of the honor code and an integral part of
our lives. There's a guy who believes to this day that he helped us bury
a body. It's a great story, maybe we'll get to it.
The less sophisticated members of the group pull pranks that are really
little more than petty vandalism, or weak and uncreative fizzles. For
instance, Gary the Bastard would consider it humorous to subscribe
someone to Playgirl at their office. Very funny. Like anyone's going to
believe a person would subscribe to porn - gay or otherwise - at their
office. Manbeast, by comparison, would pull the fag-jacket COINTELPRO.
That is, he'd get a really gay magazine, like "Colt," (I just know. Shut
up.) and dummy it up with shrink-wrap and a mailing label. A paper
insert would cover most of the magazine cover, but he'd leave the title
and enough of the photo visible to remove any doubt about the magazine's
orientation. He?d address it to you, as a subscriber. Then he'd put it
in your neighbor's mail box.
Manbeast bought a high quality digital camera, scanner, and printer for
the sole purpose (although he denies it) of forging documents for use in
pranks. For example, when Gary the Bastard's dog died, he took it to his
vet for burial in his pet cemetery (yeah, right - Fluffy is in a landfill
in Newark.) Anyway, Manbeast dummies up a "death certiciate," ostensibly
from the vet, and mails it to Gary the Bastard. Under "cause of death,"
he fills in "It is my professional opinion that somebody bored this dog to
One of our favorites was a non-elaborate prank was played by Spaulding,
who is generally not known for "good ones." As always, it's a rather long
[Cue music: We Got the Beat, The GoGos)
Highschool. Friday night. We're riding around the boonies in Manbeast'
car, blaring music, drinking Millers, smashing the empties off of speed
limit signs, etc. Suddenly Spaulding announces "I have to take a shit."
Manbeast offers to stop, but Spaulding thinks he can make if we head
straight for the Cineplex (2 screens! Hey, this is the early 80s). As we
go, every minute or so Spaulding is groaning as he tries to hold back the
inevitable flow. Before we get to the Cineplex, a muffled splattering
sound fills the car. "Oh fuck, I think a made some trouser chili!"
He did. A family sized serving, too.
We stop and Spaulding gingerly removes his undergarment, placing it in a
Burger King bag found on Manbeast's car floor. He won't throw them away:
"My mom counts my underwear." Somehow, I think that factors into the
person he is today. He cleans up with some leaves and carries on,
Sometime later we arrive at the theatre. It is the gathering place for
most of our class on weekends, so everyone who is anyone is there. On
this fateful evening, there is a very special date. The quarterback of
the football team ("Lou"), superstud and Heathers-style obnoxious jerk, is
here with his babe-of-the-week, a very cute college freshman. They were
going to see the late show together. As the movie is playing, we're
outside drinking and socializing. Spaulding mentions how richly Lou
deserves to be pranked. Manbeast, ever the instigator, says "Why don't
you spread the 'chili' on his car seat?" The door was unlocked, saving
Manbeast the trouble of employing his talents with a coat hanger.
Spaulding set the trap, while Manbeast took the bulb out of the cars
interior light. By the time the happy couple came out to the car
*everyone* was in on the, eh, joke. Lou sat down, got this lemon puss
look on his face, and peeled out of the parking lot. The following Monday
as Lou walked into homeroom, Manbeast called out the now immortal line,
"Hey Lou, your girlfriend told me she had a shitty time on Friday."
--- To be continued ---
Coming in part 6 - We mature, and take Opera classes with our wives. Ha!
Just kidding, it will be more of the same drunken stupidity, of course.
This will be a bonus segment. Go ahead and check it out. Don't cost
Monday, July 16, 2007
I fully meant to do a picture dump tonight, but alas, I've ran out of
sobriety energy. Come back tomorrow.
For now, I leave with you with Part 4 of Losers, Inc. Read prior posts if you need to catch up.
Part 04 - "Soy un perdedor, I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?"
High school basketball game, circa 1982.
Manbeast, Snow White, Spaulding and I are sitting in the bleachers,
ostensibly rooting for our high school basketball team. We're really
there to ride out a buzz and look up cheerleader's skirts.
[Cue music: "Loser" - Beck, chorus.]
On the visitor's bench there was a kid who was fat, laced with zits, and
greasy haired. A real mess. And he had this big, Batman-style face
shield on, to protect a broken nose. Manbeast says, "you know if someone
on that team had to wear that freak headgear it would be that kid. He was
born to lose."
Since that moment we've overused the term "loser," a trend that continues
to this day.
We all have our own idea of what constitutes a true loser. In my opinion,
it is the ability to make a normally minor mistake at the exact moment it
will cause a catastrophe. A 'catamalsynchronism' is what I'd call it, if
they asked me to invent a word, and they should.
Bill Buckner would be a good example. If you're not familiar with that
reference, here's another example:
Junior high dance. Snow White finds himself at the refreshment table,
talking to the cutest girl in class. [Fade in music: Somebody's Baby,
Jackson Browne] We were all in love with her. He's releasing nervous
energy by fidgeting, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, and
pawing at food on the snack table. He can barely make eye contact. Snow
White was/is really shy around girls. Plus, we're at that awkward age
(under 92) where men are fearful of rejection and don't usually approach
women without a little advance scouting. So you can imagine our
slack-jawed amazement when he asked her to dance. She tosses her hair,
flashes that young Farrah Fawcett smile, and says OK. As they walk
hand-in-hand out onto the dance floor for a slow song, Snow White gets
something stuck in his windpipe. He starts turning colors and wheezing
like a Mexican vacuum cleaner. Everyone is watching. Finally, straining
like he's trying to shit a rusty bowling ball, he swallows the
obstruction. He looks around -- everyone is staring at him in stunned
silence -- so he sprints out the door and all the way home.
Now here's the thing: anyone can get food stuck in their throat. A loser
will do it at the absolutely most inopportune time.
I'll let Manbeast tell his version now.
*** Manbeast says ***
You want to know what a natural born loser is? I'll tell you. Picture a
guy who works his ass off all his life. He wasn't born with much talent,
but he overcame through sheer force of will. He finally thinks maybe he
has his shit together. He's in his 50s, finally has a few bucks set
aside, nice wife, a boy and a girl who are good teenagers. He's just
starting to think maybe life is OK after all. Then one day he comes home
from work early and finds his wife in bed with the gardener. Daughter
announces she's going to pursue a career as an interracial porn star. Son
gets kicked in the head by a horse, starts talking with a lisp and
arranging flowers. Guy goes to his doctor for some Prozac and finds out
he has cancer. Doesn't want to go through the whole wasting away thing,
so he finds the tallest building in town and jumps off it. He lands on
some guy who breaks his fall. The guy recovers, his cancer goes into
spontaneous remission, wife repents, daughter changes her mind at the last
minute, junior gets struck by lightning and suddenly remembers that he
likes pussy. Well, you know that guy he landed on, that died? That guy
was born to lose.
*** End Manbeast ***
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Part three of the Losers, Inc. series is down there somewhere.
A weekend of fishing and a frisbee dog competition. Can't get much better than that.
Had over 100 dogs competing this weekend. It's hard to describe the scene - everyone brings tents and some people grill and some people just hang out and chat and some people are ex-DeadHeads and some are young, urban hipsters and some others are members of AARP and everyone just comes together because of these silly dogs that love frisbees.
I saw some dogs perform some seriously crazy shit in the freestyle event, including a toy poodle dosey-doeing with his owner. Too damn funny - I'll hopefully get some pics to put up in the next day or so.
Our fuzzy black dog did well but it really doesn't matter. The scene here isn't competitive - it's all about having fun.
But we are fortunate here in Cincinnati to have a few pro's. As in people who do nothing but travel the world with their dogs and compete, do shows and give exhibitions.
Tracy has ten dogs, I think, and is a huge force in our local scene. I thought it was pretty damn cool to find this video of her doing some training with her dogs this past winter. I'll have to find some videos of her actually competing.
Winter Disc Dog Training, Cattle Dog Style!
Funny cause we just got a new young dog, Roxy, that's a cattle dog. Apparently they don't grow brains until they are two or so.
Just in case you're interested (hah!) in what the professional frisbee dog trainers do, here's a fine clip of Kimo and Ron, competing nationally and also practicing. Great, great stuff. Border collies rock.
This weekend, I had my choice of fishing for muskie or fishing for fish at the boat per poker and chose the former.
Easy call even if I did lose several lures and also started my engine with it completely out of the water. Not once, but twice.
My wife desperately wants to start a "Boating with Iggy" blog.
While I'm on the video kick tonight, I figure I gotta serve up a poker one. Enjoy
Mike Matusow's Blind Date With Kathy Griffin
Everything I have to say after watching the above is so fucking mean-spirited that I can't even bring myself to write it.
But it's probably just residual bitterness and bile from zero movement on NetTeller on Friday. Big surprise.
I really need to uber things up, suffice to say, but at least this post is truly Guinness-fueled.
So let's just get to the good stuff, shall we?
Part 03 - "We'll get to the poker eventually. Like you have anything
better to do..."
Role Model: Al Bundy.
Favorite Beer: Any decent lager.
Least Favorite Beer: Any light beer.
For a mental image: Picture a prematurely balding Wookie.
6'3", 240ish. Hairy enough to suggest possible lycanthropy (except for
the top of his head). Has to start shaving at the collar line. When
shirtless, near-sighted observes frequently think he's wearing a sweater,
even from the back.
***Snow White says***
*Especially* from the back. Steroids will do that to you. He could have
20 tatoos and you'd never know.
***end Snow White***
For the record, juice was legal when we were in high school. Not that I
An Alpha among Alphas. MUST be in charge of any situation.
Tragic Flaw: Overaggression. His testosterone imbalance drives him to be
too aggressive at everything he does.
Impetuous: First to marry, first to divorce. First to remarry. First to
have 2 ex-wives. Good poker player. Aggressive, though prone to be wild,
especially when tilted.
Soundbite - "She has the kind of fiery beauty that Dylan Thomas wrote
poems about. And tits like a couple of fucking zeppelins."
So that's Manbeast
Favorite Movie: Harry Potter, we're guessing.
Favorite Beer: Budweiser, the most exotic brand he's had so far.
Least Favorite Beer: Busch, the other brand he has tried.
For a mental image: Picture the VP guy from the Bowflex commercial, but
Young pup recently added to the game. Bodybuilder. Good athlete. Wife is
a 20 year old blonde fitness athlete.
She's a total fuck bunny.
As an overall package, I concur. Boobs are a
little small, but she has a flat, sexy stomach and she's very callipygous
(put your beer down and look it up, you fucking hick).
He studies the game and is improving.
So that's Iron Mike
Todd the Attorney
Favorite Book: A movie.
Favorite Beer: Beer is for boughies.
For a mental image: Picture a handsome, brilliant young lawyer who's just
been violently struck on the forehead with a ballpeen hammer.
"reTodd." Pretty boy. Dumb as a post. Lost a game of checkers to a
labrador retriever (I'll try to tell the story later).
Despite an SAT score that would make Allen Iverson wince, reTodd got into
a prestigious school because of powerful family connections. Couldn't
find his ass with both hands and written directions. Ultimate calling
*** Manbeast says ***
One time playing stud I paired my door card, which was a King. I played
it fast, representing trips, but all I really had was the pair of Kings
and a busted flush draw. On 7th street I bet out. reTodd called. I said
"Good call, I only have the pair of kings." (which, again, were SHOWING).
Retodd says, "They're good. I didn't want to call, but the pot so big..."
*** End Manbeast ***
Quote: (Standing there, holding a 1/4 cup measuring cup.) "Dammit. I
need to measure a half a cup, and I can't find that one." I *could* tell
you his real name, but then I would definitely have to kill you. He's all
Turn Ons: Celibacy.
Favorite Beer: O'Douls. Sometimes he'll be a madman and throw in a lime
For a mental image: Picture Doris Day with a schwantz.
The Prince of Princes. Goes to church on optional days. Doesn't smoke,
barely drinks, seldom swears.
Seldom dates. He would find something wrong with Sandra Bullock in the
first 10 minutes. Something important, like, "she smoked a cigarette
once, I'm not into that."
*** End Manbeast ***
Tight, conservative, predictable.
***Snow White says***
Yes, you can predict my solid play will get the money.
Here's how to win at poker:
You don't need any fancy moves. Learn what constitutes solid starting
hands for your games of choice.
Pick your games well. Abdul himself says, "The best poker player is not
the most skilled. The best poker player picks the best games. The best
poker player has won before he sits down."
Always pay attention to who is winning and who is losing. In "Decision
Making Under Uncertainty," the authors observe that given a choice between
a sure $30,000 or a gamble where you'll get $40,000 eighty percent of the
time and $0 twenty percent of the time, most people will take the sure
$30,000 despite the higher EV ($32K) of the gambling scenario. But given
a choice between a sure loss of $30,000 or an eighty percent chance of
losing $40,000 and twenty percent chance of losing $0, most people will
choose the gambling scenario, once again despite the fact that it is the
lower EV alternative.
How does this apply to poker? Easy - it tells us that most people will
irrationally accept undue risk to try to dig out of a losing session, and
many will act irrationally risk averse to lock up a win, especially if
they are quitting soon.
Simply look for these people, and adjust your poker game accordingly.
E.g., raise and run your bluffs at people who are trying to get out
winners, value bet against losers. Be quicker to get away from medium
strength holdings against winners. Go all the way with medium strength
holdings against losers. Play less hands when a winner enters the pot,
etc. Easy, really. You just have to pay attention.
Also pay attention to your own image. No less than Yardley himself said,
in Education of a Poker Player, that you cannot bluff a man until you've
"cured" him of calling, by showing him a number of winning hands in a row.
Nothing has changed in the last half century. Humans still put more
weight on their most recent experiences. If you get a bluff picked off,
you better shift gears and play totally solid, and value bet, because
you're getting called down every time. And if you showed a guy nothing
but winners for two hours, and he thinks you could crush diamonds with
your sphincter you're so tight, then it's time for a little larceny.
***End SNow White***
Sound bite: (To a stripper) "Young lady, I am not your gynecologist."
That's Snow White.
Your humble host. Practically perfect in every way. You can call me
Variable, which is what the guys call me because, according to them, I
have no set personality, but rather I adapt depending on which group of
people I'm with. Probably true, but I would argue that everyone does that
to some extent. Except Manbeast.
--- To be continued ---
Coming in Part 04 - Origin of the species.
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