Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Public Service Announcement for the Fucking Clowns

TLB and I have, as we have alluded to before, become enthusiastic poker players. I started playing Texas Hold 'Em a few years ago with my brothers, but only those couple times of year that we saw each other. TLB learned how to play when we started going to a weekly game at our friend MSF's house. A half dozen or so of us would get together, throw in $5, and play a little tournament once a week.

Our mentor was a great guy named Phil, a tall, goateed, long-haired man who is like Gandalf the Gray crossed with Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. His son Erik and Erik's wife Kate also played with us, and the three of them were light years ahead of us when TLB and I started playing. They took us under their wings in our weekly matches and helped transform our games from joker poker to somewhat more respectable amateur status.

One of the best parts of the weekly game was Phil and Erik's banter. Calling it trash talking would be like calling Raymond Chandler's novels detective stories. They would jab and spar with each other with enthusiasm and creativity that only a father-son team coule bring. One time, they were heads up against each other, and Erik won the hand in a manner Phil found, shall we say, dubious.

"You fucking clown!" Phil yelled with good natured annoyance.

That phrase has stuck with TLB and I, and we almost always use it when we see poker moves of a dubious nature. Like tonight.

I had, until recently, avoided the siren song of online poker. But having read Dan Harrington's Harrington on Hold 'Em over vacation, I've been eager to practice my lessons in cheapo $1 and $5 tournaments. I also am, most of the time, a gracious poker loser. Luck is part of the game. Sometimes you do the right thing and lose. I realize I have a lot to learn and try to take each loss as a learning experience.

What I can't stand is when someone does something abyssmally stupid and gets away with it -- the poker equivalent of Bush getting elected twice. Tonight, I was playing in a tourney and trying out some new betting strategies. Mostly I was playing tight, waiting for good hands, looking for key moments to beef up my stack and maybe win a little more than my $5 buy in.

At one point, we had a new person come to our table who had twice as many chips as I did. Right away, I got pocket queens -- a very good hand, and in late position, meaning I got to see what everyone was doing before I had to act. A lot of people just called, and I raised like I should. Everyone folded except Mr. Big Stack. This concerned me, because he had enough chips to seem competent and there were a couple hands (aces and kings) that could kill me.

The flop came a seven and two tens, all mixed, meaning the flush was not a real threat. Mr. BS checked, which I thought meant he either had the third 10 and was trapping me, or he didn't hit his cards. I bet about 1/3 of the pot. If he just called, chances are my queens and tens were better than his hand, and I might get more chips out of him.

He re-raised.


The thrill of Hold 'Em tournaments comes from these moments. If I just called, I'd be hurting badly and likely get knocked out of the tournament anyway. If I re-reaised again, all in, he might fold a lot of chips to me, or lose a lot if I had a better hand. At this point, given his chips and the ballsy re-raise, I figured he had another ten. But queens and tens seemed pretty good to me, too. Like Leslie Nielson once said, "This is our hill, and these are our beans." I was going to defend my beans. Besides, I wanted to see if I was right.

I re-raised all in. Mr. BS called and turned over...ace nine.

Ace nine! He was, in a word, fucked. He needed an ace to beat me, three possible cards out of the forty-five unaccounted for. I was shocked. What the hell was he doing? How did he get all those chips making dumb moves like that? It was like invading a country that's not making nukes right next to the one that is. Finally, I thought, my studies would pay off.

The next card was an eight. A big smile crept across my face. The last card, the river card, surfaced. An ace.

The agony of Hold 'Em tournaments is watching someone play Russian roulette, get the chamber with the bullet, pull the trigger, and have the bullet bounce off the metal plate in their skull and ricochet into yours.

I sat there, speechless for a moment, as my virtual chips slid over to his table, and my virtual chair went dark. Then I felt it welling up inside me, pulsing, vibrating, ripping my insides apart.


Taking a moment to gain my composure, I thought back on the lessons of poker -- what Phil, Erik, Kate, MSF, and Dan Harrington had taught me. That sometimes, the fucking clowns will have their days. They will dance their little clown dances and pull aces out of their butts like the tail end of a trick handkerchief. But most times, they will be trapped inside a VW bug with the other fucking clowns, heading toward a cliff where they will plunge to their deaths because no one can reach the brake.

Of course, losing a $5 poker tourney is not the end of the world. There are much worse things that could happen. And next time, when Mr. BS tries that again, odds are I'll be the one scooping up the virtual chips.

Not to get allegorical or anything, but I thought how this situation resembled the current state of political affairs. The jokers in charge keep going all in, daring anyone to challenge them, even when they're holding nothing. They've gotten away with it for a long time, but now people are starting to call and even raise against them, chipping away at their seemingly insurmountable leads. I bet that in two of the next three Novembers, the more solid hands will hold up, and the get tears painted on their smiling, smirking, ridiculous faces. When it happens, all I'll say is cry me an ace on the river, you fucking clowns.


Anonymous said...

That is why I hate Texas Hold-Em. I can't count how nmany times I have heard this story. It is hard to sympathize about a game that at the highest levels is total luck (online, where tells are few and far between) and you essentially play by this book. The only difference between players is that people that have money to burn or perhaps are playing for the house don't have to play rationally.

Jeremie Jordan said...

Oh please, you actually believe the Democrats are holding the "good cards?" Give it a rest, they are just bluffing too...

You've got the whiny thing down really well though. "Waaa...I lost only because someone else got lucky."

I am sure in some warped way, you losing in poker is Bush's fault.

Brando said...

Yeah, I know, PP, cry me a river, too. I should know better. And the losing didn't bother me as much as the nature of the losing. That's why online sucks so much compared to live poker.

Jordan, all I know is the Republicans are holding jack shit. Almost any hand is better than what they're playing: dangerous foreign policy, an open assualt on scientific education, economic mismanagement, and a fervent desire to mix politics and fundamental religion. Not too hard to beat that.

And no, Bush has no influence on my poker game. Although I imagine he goes all in with seven duece a lot.

Brando said...

And I will be the first to admit that complaining about poker beats is like complaining about fantasy football injuries -- they come with the territory and no one cares ;-)

Jeremie Jordan said...

I'll play Bush's hand any day over the ostrich with their head in sand approach of the Democrats.

The threats are real and they don't go away if we return home from Iraq with our tail between our legs.

As a side note, I do actually enjoy your blog. While we may differ on our views, I enjoy the humor [for the most part] found on this site. Hence the reason I linked to this blog from mine.

Anonymous said...

I had something close to this happen to me at Foxwoods. Luckily my friend went into the men's room at the same time another player did and they discussed what to do with the 'fucking clown' who kept yelling at me -- even though I was winning big, at his cost, in his mind. They agreed the only way to shut him up AND remove him from the table was to let AG slap him down once and for all.

It resulted in AG walking away that night with $300 free dollars and leaning over the table during a play to Mr. Red Sox hat wearer and saying, "How does it feel to not only lose your money to Foxwoods, but to a 2X year-old-girl whose has played cards about three times in her life? Too bad you cannot say that for your virginity"

I was happy to wait another two years before the Sox won a series.

teh l4m3 said...

IIRC, Jordan, the "ostrich with their head in sand" policy was the one in fact embraced by Republicans prior to 9/11 with regards to Islamic terrorism, and by Republicans during Katrina.

Then again, the Republicans seem to be enjoying enormous successes with their "sink the US treasury into the sand and wipe our asses with the Constitution..." It's just that none of us are enjoying any of the trickle-down from those successes...

Brando said...

Jordan, CJSD may be a hotbed of liberalism/dick jokes, but opposing viewpoints/more dick jokes are always welcome.

AG, funny you mention that -- there was an AG online last night at my table.

Anyway, I plan to get off my soapbox and get back to sketch writin'.

Anonymous said...

Brando, you're so nice. I would definitely put Jordon On Notice!

Kidding! I'm a nice blue girl!

I'm sorry you lost your card game. I don't know anything about card games though. Except what Kenny Rogers said once.

Better luck next time.

Anonymous said...

Brando, it wasn't the original AG. UC can vouch for a very tired AG's locacation last night who happened to cut his cupcake picture in half when he bothered a sleepy and cranky AG.

Jeremie Jordan said...


Actually you do recall incorrectly...

Clinton had 8 years to deal with the Islamic extremists; Bush had 8 months. Yeah, you're right...I guess I should place more blame on Bush.

While I will openly admit there were enormous errors on the federal level in regards to Katrina, but the local and state response was worse. And just for clarity, the vast majority of Louisiana voters are represented by Democrats. So, I would say there is plenty of blame to go around.

I know this is going to come as a big surprise but every problem in the world is not linked to Bush. I know it makes it easier for you to understand, but unfortunately it is untrue.

Brando said...

BG, my dad is a dyed in the wool Republican who hates my transformation into a liberal, but we still manage to get along just fine. A little disagreement is good for the blood.

AG, I knew that wasn't you, but I thought it would have been pretty funny. Actually, a poker game with all of you would be pretty fun.

Anonymous said...

Jordan --

Let's see, in the eight years that Clinton was President, how many Americans died in the WTC or Iraq? Does Bush even have a foreign relations plan beyond "knocking that shit off" and bomb and awe?

Last time I checked, LA was a red state regardless of what you think does or does not happen at the local level.

You're right, Bush is doing a stellar job spending money for a Daddy revenge war.

As for other problems in the world, we don't blame Bush. So give your incorrect ASSumptions a rest.

Kevin Wolf said...

I don't play poker - don't know how - but this was great fun to read.

Jordan, man, wake up.

Jeremie Jordan said...

Adorable Girlfriend,

Let's see if I have your argument summed up correctly:


Did I miss something?

Jeremie Jordan said...

What does LA being a red have to do with the fact that most of their politicians on a city and state being Democrat?

"Daddy's revenge war." It is this type of rhetoric that assures me that the Democrats will not regain the majority. Your hatred of Bush won't translate to election victories, a clear vision for the future of American will.

America is still waiting for the Democrat's plan. They are great at telling us what is wrong, but they are a little short on solutions.

teh l4m3 said...


How nice of you to respond.

"Clinton had 8 years to deal with the Islamic extremists; Bush had 8 months. Yeah, you're right...I guess I should place more blame on Bush."

You misrepresent the situation. Per Paul O'Neill, the Bush administration made a conscious effort not to pursue anti-terrorism upon taking office. This is not to imply some conspiracy. Rather, there was a powerful, conscious effort on the incoming administration to distance itself from anything "Clinton"; they felt it important from a political and marketing standpoint. Alas and unfortunately, the outgoing administration made such a hullaballoo about terrorism that the Bushies felt obligated to label it a "Clinton thing" and push it to the back burner in favor of such nutball ideas as missile defense and formulating pretexts so they could go ahead with an Iraq invasion as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

Meaning this administration ignored important PDBs. Meaning this administration expended zero effort on the bin Laden problem.

And like it or not, 9/11 happened on Bush's watch. You would think that a representative of the party of "personal responsibility," such as yourself, would expect some modicum of accountability in an Oval Office occupied by a Republican.

And as for the "plenty of blame to go around" argument regarding Katrina -- an argument usually used disingenuously to obfuscate what role we have come to expect the federal government to assume in the face of something as enormous as a Category 4 or 5 hurricane -- I have a response formulated to a gentleman who, though a Republican Christian, is unlike you, not a batshit insane wingnut. It is forthcoming at my blog.

"I know this is going to come as a big surprise but every problem in the world is not linked to Bush. I know it makes it easier for you to understand, but unfortunately it is untrue."

I know it seems comforting to you to think that Bush and his junta bear no responsibility for anything that happens on their watch, and that they should suffer no consequences for their actions and inactions, but representative democracy simply shouldn't work that way.

Anonymous said...

hey AG, looks like brando's got a pet republican of his own!

and no jordan, we(and i am pretentious enough to speak for the people who think like me) don't think that all problems are related to bush. that would be overestimating our enemy. what we do think is that it is all cheney's fault.

Anonymous said...

PS brando: sucks about the poker game. at least you were smart enough to not bet your car keys ;)

Anonymous said...

A delusional one too, AIF!

You cannot argue with an idiot. It's not fair to him when you crush 'em.

Brando said...

Good points, teh. If I'm not mistaken, I think the Bush Administration's domestic security focus was initially drug traffic rather than counter terrorism -- at least, that was Ashcroft's priority.

I certainly agree that there's plenty of 9/11 blame to go around. From the training of the mujadeen during the Reagan years to the failure to get bin Laden in the Clinton, you can spread a whole host of blame around. Our government as a whole was asleep at the wheel for a couple of decades.

But the "Bush was in office only 8 months" argument does not wash. When you take over the White House, you take over the White House. There's no time out. You can't ask the terrorists to wait while you cover up the boobies of statues.

If you read the August 6, 2001 PDB, it's pretty urgent. That's not to say we could have stopped 9/11 necessarily, but if you look at the actions the government took at that stage, they didn't have the urgency that memo suggested they should have.

As for the Democrats not having a plan... what's the old saying? That insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? We've been doing the same thing in Iraq for three years, and we still have an unstable security situation. The elections are all well and good, but until the government there can support itself, they have little real, non-symbolic value. I don't see the administration proposing anything that will change that.

My last bit of soapboxing: what kills me about Iraq is that it was easy to predict what would happen. The State Department had a 13 volume study about the potential fallout of Hussein falling, and quite a lot of their predictions were correct. We also had a real-life example in Yugoslavia when a totalitarian regime fell and the various ethnic groups had a chance to kill each other. Yet every stage of Iraq planning by the White House and DoD seemed built on the premise that if you toppled Hussein, democracy would start flowing. It's that utter ignorance of the situation coupled with arrogance of their own infallibility that bothers me much more than their political affiliation. If you're going to impose your ideology on the world, you could at least try to do it competently.

Jeremie Jordan said...


Teh, thanks for the Daily Kos talking points, but I have read them before.

And Almostinfamous, you forget to list Rove. Many problems could easy be blamed on Rove.

teh l4m3 said...

"Teh, thanks for the Daily Kos talking points, but I have read them before."

w00t!!! I PWN!!! Winner, table for one please.

[blows smoke off barrels, reholsters...]

teh l4m3 said...

"That insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?"

True true. I believe another operative definition is seeing things that aren't there. Jordan's exhibiting a lot of that...

Pete Blackwell said...

You've been tagged for the Book Meme:

Jeremie Jordan said...

Teh, we will save this battle for another post on another day as this one is going nowhere.

teh l4m3 said...

I hope you realize, Jordan, that there is a corollary to Godwin's Law wherein if one, in the course of a political discussion, invokes Kos without making a substantive reply, the invoker has lost the argument.

fish said...

My only association with poker is that I went to the same snooty prep school (at the same time) as Howie Lederer (and his sister Annie).

Anonymous said...

Was that St. Paul's?