Thursday, October 13, 2005

"When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber."
Sir Winston Churchill

I guess I need to write this up for better or worse. I've finally shut down all my tables at Party Poker. The badbeat jackpot tables are truly juicy, and Holy Shit, the jackpot just passed the $500,000 mark!

Writing this up is officially -EV.

So I'm loaded up on Guinness and finally prepared to drunkenly blog my trip to Europe. I'm gonna rip this out fast, so bear with me.

Again, I'm just making this up as I go along.
Except for this part:
Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker, damnit!!
$500,000 now available on the Badbeat Jackpot tables!

It's no fluke that I'm now number #1 on Google for:
drunken rambling blog

Time for drunken rambling. Enjoy.

Quick note: I've been having a lot of fun reading the posts about Party Poker and their divorce from the skins. Is it REALLY that big of a shock to people? I guess I'm shocked at the outrage - are folks really that naive? As a player, sure, I was bummed for obvious reasons. But I fail to see why people think this hurts Party. There are 70,000 freaking players playing there right now. I hope all the 2+2'rs boycott Party and create easier games, if that's even possible.

Hey, you want great software, excellent tourney structures and superb customer support? Go play on Poker Stars.

You want massive table/game selection and bad players?
Play on Party Poker.

I always inwardly chuckle when I hear someone say they won't play at so and so's online poker site because the software is an abortion. Or because they can't multi-table. Or get hand histories. Think about it - most good players won't suffer a site like that. There's an obvious reason why Pacific Poker's high limit games are some of the softest on the web. It's as passive as Party is aggressive, imho. And I still hunt there (and elsewhere) for that very reason. Good players avoid bad software.

It's almost always bad business to try and explain yourself in writing, on a blog, most certainly. Blogging is a menial trade and a habit worse than heroin. But when you write a blog and sign your name (nom de plume's count, damnit) below everything you write, that is the business you are in, for good or bad. And Lord knows I've been doing this for two years now.

And I am the poker BlogFather, for God's sakes.

Explain that to a busload of retired people on a guided tour.

Oh the humanity.

I have written the above pithy phrase many times before and I have found, to my horror, that it's usually apropos. It's one of those halfbright axioms that can chase you the rest of your life - like the infamous line Joe Louis stated on the eve of his fight with Billy Conn: "He can run, but he can't hide."

That is a thing to remember if you work in either poker or blogging - or both, like i do - and there is no way to duck it. You will be lashed for being right and lashed for being wrong, and it hurts both ways - but it isn't as painful when you're right.

There are times, however - and this is one of them - when even being right feels wrong.

I'll write more about this in the near future. For now I just wanna blog my vacation with my Dad. Being my first trip to Europe, it was incredible. Paradigm shifting in my world-view, to be sure. And I think that's what travel is supposed to do.

First off, allow me to state that we traveled with a tour group.
I was by far and away the youngest person, which was rather cool. I think the next closest in age was 52. I was subsequently adopted as a mascot of sorts. I made sure to be a fixture in the pubs for anyone who wanted to hang out and chat.

I decided after the first week of traveling that someone needs to create a new Survivor TV show by putting forty senior citizens on a bus traveling around Europe. You want snarky? Gossipy? Cranky? There ya go.

Plus, there was the fun factor for me of being repeatedly asked, "So what do you do for a living?"

A tricky question best avoided by answering with my old vocation: computer programmer.
But I can never take the easy road, damnit.

But it was surprisingly easy to explain poker to the elderly. After all, it's just cards - we've all done it. It sounds so EASY.

And hell, poker is both commonsensical and yet increasingly complex; and as with all great subjects, the more one learns, the more (one feels) is yet to be learned. But in my serious studying of the game, I've learned to get away from jargon and into simple principles - easily explainable to the outsider.

Not to say I didn't get some raised eyebrows, I most certainly did, but to be fair nearly everyone was pretty interested and asked questions. I found it fascinating how intellectually curious most of the retirees were - probably indicative of the typical person taking this tour rather than, say, a cruise or something equally banal.

It was a unique group of traveling companions, for sure. Two sets of sisters who each had a sibling aboard who had beaten cancer and promised each other this trip when they were well. An ex-Jesuit. A college professor. A network cameraman. A pizza chain magnate. A postman and his cop wife. Wealthy real estate folks. An Ear-Nose & Throat doctor and his Belgian wife who loved to sneak cigarettes after he went to bed. An alert 90 year old Alaskan newspaper woman with her 60 year old friend. A 50 year old Druid woman traveling solo after being diagnosed with MS. Her ex-husband paid for the trip. A wonderfully gracious Korean-American couple with their Indian friend. It was a fascinating cross-section of Americana.

And our tour guide was truly brilliant with the exception of playing traditional music sometimes.

Sometimes, I felt like my Irish ears were bleeding.

Anyway, I'm gonna write up my trip itinerary below in case anyone is interested. But I know you came for Guinness and Poker so I'll only relate my stories about that.

Obviously because of the superb pubs and beer, heading to Ireland, Scotland & England was akin to my being a pilgrim - heading to Mecca - the Holy Land.

And I indulged, Oh yes I did. And those 7AM wakeup calls were BRUTAL.

In Waterford, I chose to avoid the group Pub Tour and just do my own thing. Which meant heading to a local pub. I somehow ended up drinking heavily with two gypsies who I quickly met when forced to go outside to smoke. These gypsies are usually called Travelers or Pikers or Pikeys in the film, Snatch. They were heavily coked up, tatooed and the one feller had a hard crust of bloody scabs across both sets of knuckles and all over his face. There was definitely an undertone of violence in the air, but thankfully not focused at me. Who the hell wants to pound on a Little Person, anyway?

Our two other drinking companions were a retired English 60's rock musician and a huge fellow who was just released from prison after 9 years for murder (hit a neighbor in the head with a shovel in a nasty fight when he was young and stupid).

Think this was a fascinating evening?
Hell, I wanted some local colour but this was beyond the pale.

Did I mention they were coked up to boot? What a crew we all must have looked, far gone in wanton abuse, but who am I to make judgements? We all have weird friends. Some call from jail at four in the morning and others write ominous emails and blog posts.

The kind and gentle pub regular, the retired 60's rock musician, took my elbow and told me to be careful. I chuckled, bought everyone a drink and told him not to worry. I have a trapeze artists sense of these things, a higher and finer touch.

But I really enjoyed talking to the bloody Gypsy brawler and he enjoyed having an insatiable ear tuned in on his vibration. He had endured a very rough life but was more proud than bitter. He loved history and music and fighting. A true Renaissance Man.

I learned a lot from this rowdy crew, I think. I learned that the Irish prison system is far, far softer than the USA. I also learned that prison rape (also referred to as buggery) is not tolerated in Ireland and other prisoners will whip a rapist like a stray dog.

I learned within rural Southern Ireland lies the last vestiges of peasant Europe.
The Old Ways are dying.

I learned why the Irish stayed neutral during WW2.

There are no Mexican restaurants in Ireland.

I learned a shitload about the Gypsies. Sadly, I'll only pass along the boring stuff like they speak their own language, in addition to English & Irish. They feel very persecuted and victims of racism. And I should watch the documentary, Southpaw, about an Irish Traveler boxer.

"Don't judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes. Some folks need to learn that the Hard Way." the battle-scarred Gypsy told me at the end of one rant.

There was something almost like a smile on his face when he uttered these words . . .the rueful smile of a good loser, perhaps? Or maybe something else. The crazy, half-controlled flicker of a laugh on the face of a man who is just beginning to think he might survive this incredible life. He had the dazed, still hyper-tense look of a man who knows he went all the way out to the edge, with no grip at all for a while, and suddenly feels his balance coming back.

He taught me the Irish slang term, "Cracking" which means having a Great Time. Which we did.

They told me English rugby is a sissy sport compared to Gaelic football.

They taught me about Richard Power (the Irish Highwayman and namesake of one of them) and Cromwell and Joyce.

The ex-con insisted that the Irish are the whitest-white people in the world, something I had never before pondered. When I brought up the Swedes he insisted that they tan, whereas the Irish go from white - to red - back to white - again.

I didn't argue the point, obviously.

I had joked before the trip that I would tell folks that I was Canadian and not American but that certainly wasn't needed. I was treated extremely well.

Except by the French. Every fucking French person I met was a complete fucking asshole. I'm not joking.

We ended up befriending the pub owner (Danny O'Sullivan, nonetheless) and at closing time he went and locked the doors, poured us all a pint of bitters and pulled out a giant ashtray from behind the bar. After-hours Bliss!!! Smoking is not allowed indoors in Ireland so this was a real treat.

I ended up staggering around my hotel hallway, unable to find my room, around 4 AM. My Dad finally heard me knocking on random doors and let me in. He was not amused but was a good sport about his incorrigable son.

The next night in Dublin was crazy. My Dad and I went pub crawling and found a packed one showing the Chelsea - Liverpool match. More bliss.

I took a chance the next day and called Mike Lacey, the Irish blogger and player, from Ante's Up. Both Pauly and Otis had told me Mike was a very cool guy. Turns out they were right. Mike tells me he's running a poker tournament that evening in his hometown of Drogheda. Lucky me.

I cabbed it over to the station and took a train up the gorgeous Irish coastline to play some poker and drink Guinness. I gave my seat up to a woman and had to stand for most of the trip. Mike graciously picked me up and we headed to the hotel were the tourney was to be held.

And damn, a top-notch operation it was. Tourney software running on a big projection screen, tables all numbered and setup, chips counted and ready to go for the 90 players he was expecting that evening.

Mike now has over 500 members signed up and I was the first American to join.

I am officially the Jackie Robinson of Irish poker.

I can't explain the Irish sense of humour, generosity of spirit and prodigious drinking abilities. It's all true and I'm honoured to have experienced it in this fashion. I didn't expect to last long in the tourney because, quite frankly, I was ripped to the tits. I never had to pay for a beer and was referred to as, "That Damn Yank" pretty much all evening. Hilarious.

But I somehow stumbled and stole my way to the final table before making a retarded move with something like Q5o. But I still got an envelope full of Euro's for finishing in the money, damnit.

Mike (and his conspirator Brian) was an incredible host, and by sheer chance, had just won a seat to the EPT in London so he drove me back to Dublin in the morning hours as he flew out in the AM. Thanks again, Mike, if you're reading this.

As much as I loved Ireland, I think my single favorite city was Edinburgh, Scotland. If you've ever been to Scotland, you prolly understand what I'm talking about.

My second evening there, I called Div, the lone Scottish poker blogger at Poker, Pique and Parenthood. I'm a regular reader of his blog so I already knew we'd get along swimmingly, which we did. Div came over from Glasgow and we met at the bar around 5.30PM. Basically we didn't move for the next 8 or 9 hours as we gabbed and drank non-stop beer until closing time. Great conversation. Big tab. A perfect evening for me.

The funny thing was late in the evening when Div pulled out a deck of cards and mini poker chips and laid them on the table. Uh oh, the gauntlet was thrown. We played a few hands of no-limit before I realized I was FAR too drunk to play heads-up nolimit. He took the first match easily.

I challenged him to a best of 5 (with him up 1-0) of limit hold-em with the loser paying for our now rather substantial bar tab. He graciously accepted and it took me quite a while to whittle him down and sweep the series. But to be fair, I play a ton of limit poker whereas Div never does.

At some point, Div realized he had missed the last train to Glasgow so he ended up sleeping on our hotel room floor. Too freaking funny, and again, kudos to my Dad for not blinking an eye at the situation.

Sadly, the poor guy had to get up at like 5AM or some ungodly hour to get back home and go to work. Thanks again, Div, I truly had a blast.

One last note: in the course of our conversation I had Div explain all the intracicies of sports in the UK. These folks take their sports REAL fucking serious and it's quite confusing to the stupid American.

And here's a huge compliment I drunkenly remember him giving us.

He had just regaled me with some wonderful stories of a trip his wife and he made to the USA, hitting all the hotspots. Halfway across the country, they had gone to a baseball game in Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Now, of course, our Scottish hero knows nothing about American baseball (although he knows more than I do about cricket, but that's neither here nor there) so when the entire beer-fueled stadium stands up in the 7th inning to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" he is astounded.

Says he, "It was amazing - it was just as cool as all the soccer chants over here."

Now THAT'S a serious compliment, folks.

After leaving Scotland, we had a scenic journey south, hitting some fascinating cities. I was truly taken aback by the Lake District. I want to go back and spend a month there, at least.

And that brings me to the finale - poker with Pinky from the Fish and Chips poker blog on my last night in London.

I'm deeply and profoundly retarded, btw. I was in London 3 days and didn't realize until talking to Pinky that The Vic was a 5 minute walk from my hotel. Actually, that's probably a good thing.

Pinky gave me directions from the Tube to the Gutshot, a popular poker club. Sadly, the Tube was down for repairs so I had to bus it. I somehow changed to the correct bus and even got off at the right stop. But had no idea where to go. Thank God for the kind English - always happy to help a lost tourist. I asked about a dozen folks for directions through side streets before giving up and calling Pinky's cell phone.

I finally arrived and look way, way up into Pinky's smiling face. Pinky actually reminded me somewhat of Hank - very big and very smart, an unusual combination. Usually the big guys have a brain about the size of a legume, not unlike the dinosaurs.

Pinky graciously bought me a beer and we commenced to drinking and chatting. We decided not to play the 5 pound rebuy tournament and just signed up for a cash game, so we could sit at the same table. It was a 50 pound pot-limit game with 50.1 blinds, if I remember correctly. I went broke with aces and that was about it for action with me, as I was card dead. Pinky was mixing it up with big slick left and right.

The play was actually better than I expected. I would have to say the average player at this table was better than the ones I play with at my boat. Of course, my perceptions are slightly cloudy due to all the Guinness Pinky and I were consuming at this point.

Couple of interesting fellows at the table. One was the UK director of something for Paradise Poker. A nice kid but he went broke pretty quick. John was employed by Gutshot and was a pretty cool guy - very, very talkative at the table - but in a good way. He was a fun, playful player who liked to appear loose but he clearly knew what he was doing. And then there was the other American at the table - the MadYank - as they call him. He sat to my right and was immensily entertaining. I almost choked on my beer when he told me he was a nuclear scientist in the States before moving across the pond. I couldn't tell if half the things he said were true or not, cause he was in somewhat of a caustic mood. He also claimed to be a Tourney Director and ran tourneys over there, sometimes. He also bitched incessantly about the USA.

And then, in a wonderful twist of irony, he became the Ugly American in all its glory.

An ugly flush scare card had came on the river. And the MadYank had potted it, I believe. As the last guy was in the process of mucking his cards, the dealer said, "Any diamonds, anyone?"

Now I know that's wrong. Bad form, as they like to say over there.

But the MadYank exploded, yelling and pointing harshly, "That's fucking WRONG - you don't fucking do THAT!" over and over at the dealer. I was appalled. After he was done screaming and belittling the poor dealer, I picked up my beer and told the MadYank that if he truly was a tournament director, he oughta know better and have some fucking empathy for the guys in the box. Geezus. I headed upstairs for a smoke and refill.

The rest of the evening was a blur because I honestly hadn't eaten anything all day. I was getting downright tipsy. Pinky made a dial a shot to Al so I traded in my shot of whiskey for vodka. John and the MadYank followed us over to our table and we had a fun chat until it was time for Pinky and I to head back to our respective lives. It was my last night in Europe and I was thrilled that everything had gone so well.

It's great to meet bloggers in the flesh. It's the real payoff, connecting with like-minded people. Pinky is one damn fascinating guy - poker is just but one tiny facet in his life. Same with Mike & Div - thanks again for showing a Guinness-Fueled Goofball a great time.

And hell, I guess that's it. Let's check out the itinerary and be done with this, shall we?


GU - 15 days incl. air, or 14 days Limerick/London
Ireland, North Wales, England, and Scotland to London

Day 1 (Sat.) Board your overnight transatlantic flight.

Day 2 Arrival in Shannon, Ireland. To Limerick. (Sun.) After checking in at your hotel, time free to relax and perhaps enjoy the hotel's leisure amenities or explore the city. At 6:15 p.m. meet your traveling companions and join your tour director for a special Irish welcome: a banquet at Knappogue Castle with dinner, wine, and entertainment all included.

Day 3 Limerick-Ring of Kerry-Killarney. (Mon.) A day full of splendid scenery with a stop first for photos of the pretty thatched cottages in quaint Adare. At Killorglin on Dingle Bay, the setting for Ryan's Daughter, join the famed "Ring of Kerry" for a 100-mile panoramic drive around the island's southwestern tip. Plenty on which to focus a camera here: sparkling seascapes, mountains dotted with brightly colored farmhouses, winding lanes bordered with subtropical vegetation, and spectacular views of the Lakes of Killarney from Ladies View.

Day 4 Killarney-Waterford. (Tue.) Across the Kerry Mountains for a visit to Blarney, renowned for its castle and magical Stone of Eloquence. Time for lunch, to walk up to the castle, and to shop for traditional Irish handicrafts. In the afternoon proceed via Cork, Youghal and Dungarvan to Waterford, a stronghold founded by the Danish Vikings in 853, and visit the world-famous Waterford Crystal Factory. See Reginald's Tower on the way to your hotel. Before dinner you may want to join an optional pub tour.

Day 5 Waterford-Dublin. (Wed.) Today's northbound agenda: Enniscorthy, site of the final battle of the Great Rebellion of 1798; Ireland's oldest HANDWEAVING MILL at Avoca; views of the Wicklow Mountains; the Glendalough Visitor Center with its fascinating audiovisual show; and the ruins of St. Kevin's center of Irish Christianity. Overnight in Dublin. Tonight your tour director will suggest an optional dinner outing to a fine Dublin restaurant.

Day 6 Dublin. (Thu.) An orientation drive in the capital includes statue-lined O'Connell Street, elegant Georgian squares, and St. Patrick's Cathedral. Visit Oscar Wilde's TRINITY COLLEGE, famous for the 1,200-year-old Book of Kells and the magnificent Old Library. Afternoon at leisure for shopping and exploring the Irish capital. Tonight an optional Irish dinner and cabaret show.

Day 7 Dublin-North Wales-Chester, England. (Fri.) Across the Irish Sea from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead on the Welsh Isle of Anglesey, where a photo stop at tongue-twisting Llanfair...is a must. Follow the North Wales coast to the walled city of Chester, the historic county town on the River Dee. On your walking tour see the Roman remains, the characteristic black and white half-timbered buildings, and the two-tiered arcades called the "Rows."

Day 8 Chester-Lake District-Edinburgh, Scotland. (Sat.) Head north to the tranquil Lake District, often considered to be the finest of England’s national parks. Visit Bowness-on-Windermere and enjoy a cruise along the lake on an historic iron steamship, then drive over Kirkstone Pass. Gretna Green, where the blacksmith used to wed runaway couples is the next milestone on the way through the history-steeped Lowland Hills to Edinburgh. Tonight an optional Scottish evening with Highland dancers, bagpipers, and the Ceremony of the Haggis.

Day 9 Edinburgh. (Sun.) A full day to enjoy this "Prince of Cities." Morning sightseeing with a local expert introduces you to the 200-year-old "New Town" and famous scientists, inventors and novelists. In the "Old Town", drive up the narrow Royal Mile to EDINBURGH CASTLE to admire Scotland's Crown Jewels, then explore HOLYROOD PALACE, the Queen's official Scottish residence. Afternoon at leisure. Later, a unique optional experience: board the formar Royal Yacht Britannia, which for the Queen was once the perfect royal residence for glittering state visits and family holidays. Tour five decks and see how the Royal Family and crew of 240 lived and worked on board. Dinner rounds off this optional evening.

Day 10 Edinburgh-York, England. (Mon.) A special treat: visit magnificent FLOORS CASTLE, the stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe. Then south past the house of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the abbey ruins at Jedburgh, into wild Northumberland National Park. Later inspect a section of Hadrian's Wall, the Roman coast-to-coast defense against marauding northern tribes. Afternoon arrival in York, England's most complete medieval city. Stand in awe in front of the great structure of York Minster, then follow your tour director through a maze of quaint streets including the narrow Shambles.

Day 11 York-Stratford-Bath. (Tue.) Leave Yorkshire and its associations with James Herriot, skirting Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest. In Stratford-upon-Avon take your pictures of Anne Hathaway's Cottage and visit SHAKESPEARE'S BIRTHPLACE. Savor vistas of the Cotswolds on your way via the market town of Moreton-in-Marsh to the elegant Georgian city of Bath.

Day 12 Bath. Mendip Hills Excursion. (Wed.) A fascinating morning excursion over the Mendip Hills to the caves and limestone cliffs of Cheddar Gorge, the cathedral city of Wells, and King Arthur's Glastonbury. Back in Bath see the amazing excavations of the ROMAN BATHS. Then plenty of time to explore this beautiful city at your own pace. This evening consider an excursion to the picture-book 13th-century village of Castle Combe.

Day 13 Bath-London. (Thu.) This morning try to figure out the prehistoric mystery of STONEHENGE. Visit picturesque Salisbury with its vast cathedral, the ultimate in Early English Gothic, before arriving this afternoon in the British capital. Perhaps an evening at the theater is just the way to get the feel of this extraordinary metropolis.

Day 14 London. (Fri.) Morning sightseeing with a professional London guide includes all the famous landmarks: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Palace and the area's splendid museums, Knightsbridge with Harrods, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben beside the River Thames, and Westminster Abbey. Highlights are a visit to ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL and the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, if held. Free time in the afternoon for independent activities or to join an optional excursion to the Tower of London with its fabulous Crown Jewels. How about ending a successful tour by taking in a dinner followed by a cruise on the River Thames?

Day 15 (Sat.) Free day. Poker with Pinky.

Day 16 (Sun.) Your homebound flight arrives the same day.

I ran out of gas trying to find decent links. But I think you can tell from the above that it was quite a busy trip. All of the food and hotels completely surpassed my expectations, as well.

A huge thanks to my Dad for taking me on this trip. This was one of those experiences that can change your life in ways you can't even imagine at the time. Plus, I was able to open my books to him and explain in-depth about poker. All is good.


Well, I hope this was semi-entertaining. Yet another Guinness-fueled, disjointed post. Classic G&P. I'll be back soon with regular content once I catch up on my reading.

Now get your ass to Party Poker and jump on the BadBeat Jackpot tables, damnit.

Link of the Day:
The PostSecret project ferrets out the darkest and most shameful secrets from people with a strong sense of composition. Love this site.

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Information on this site is intended for news and entertainment purposes only.

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