February 28, 2014
Personal Statement on Harassment, FOGcon Safety, and Personal History

I am working on the committee for FOGcon 4, being held in Walnut Creek, California on the weekend of March 7-9 of this year. As I have done since FOGcon's inception, I am running the department called Safety, whose volunteers are intended to be among the first responders to problems that arise for convention attendees. Among the potential problems I might have to deal with is an attendee experiencing unwanted attention or contact from someone else. Debbie Notkin and I together wrote the convention's harassment policy.

On February 9, the convention received an email that reported a statement I made at a panel at last year's WisCon, in which I said I been a harasser in the past. The email's author said that they thought that because I had disclosed this, it was inappropriate for me to run Safety at FOGcon, that harassment victims would be uncomfortable reporting an incident to me, and that I should step down or be removed from this job.

The facts detailed in the email are true. I did disclose my identification as someone who has harassed at conventions.

This is a challenging statement for me to write. As an able-bodied, white, college-educated cis man born to parents who were property-owning professionals, and as someone who has participated in SF fandom for four decades, I carry a lot of privilege, in many dimensions. It is hard for me to write about this while trying to avoid being defensive about my past bad behavior or inappropriately defending against attacks on my privilege.

My harassment behavior was more than thirty years ago, when I was eighteen years old or a little older. I made unwelcome passes at people, followed them around, and made lewd innuendoes in their presence.

I brought this up at the panel at last year's Wiscon to state my opposition to "zero-tolerance" harassment policies at conventions. I think there is a continuum of possible behaviors ranging from subtle microaggressions at one end to violent attack at the other without a bright line where we can agree that what is on one side is intolerable and on the other acceptable. I also personally believe that zero-tolerance policies are an obstacle to official reporting of troublesome behavior, because the social consequences of following through on a report are so high that the temptation is to sweep the issue under the rug or otherwise ignore it. I can elaborate on this, but that would be beyond the scope of this statement.

People are complicated and multidimensional. Nobody is any single thing; we wear multiple hats and play different roles in different contexts. I am not simply a harasser then, now, and forever. I am also (among many other things) a survivor of childhood trauma and sexual abuse. And I have myself been the target of unwanted sexual attention, at conventions. To deal with the long-term effects of my childhood experience I have worked a lot on myself, in therapy and elsewhere. It has been through that work that I have gained enough self-awareness that I can name my earlier behavior as harassment. Without that work, I don't think re-evaluating my behavior would ever have crossed my mind.

As a harassment target, I would personally much rather report a new incident to a person who had done similar work of self-examination and was open about whatever their history might be. But everyone is different. My triggers are not another survivor's triggers, my fears are not their fears, and my comfort zone isn't theirs.

I cannot tell you what you should be comfortable with: that is yours and yours alone to judge. If you aren't comfortable reporting a harassment incident to me in my capacity as Safety leader at FOGcon, I think I understand that, and I'm confident that you are likely to find someone you would be comfortable with.

And if you are sufficiently uncomfortable with me in the role of safety coordinator, I will understand that too. I will be sad if you choose to stay away from FOGcon as a result, but I respect your choice to find your comfort and safety zones.

FOGcon Committee official statement on this issue

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Posted by abostick at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)
February 16, 2013
Barry Greenstein Warns About Cheating in Open-Face Chinese Poker iPhone App


Open-face Chinese poker with a stacked deck
Image source: Barry Greenstein

An iPhone app for playing Open-face Chinese poker has a major security vulnerablility that allows players to cheat. That's the warning given by professional high-stakes poker player Barry Greenstein in a blog post on Pokerstars.com.

Open-face Chinese poker has been rapidly gaining popularity among high-stakes gamblers. It's a complicated card game to play, and playing on an app simplifies it. (It's also easy enough to play with others on one's iPhone in a cardroom while waiting around for a game to start.) So people who play games for money are playing games for money over their iPhones.

Greenstein writes about playing against a particular high-stakes player. In the classic hustle pattern, they start playing for (by Greenstein's standards) cheap and the hustler losing. Then the hustler asked to kick the stakes up. At the high stakes Greenstein lost significantly ... and noticed:

Now, it's not that he beat me, but it's how he beat me. It seemed like after being in trouble he kept getting saved on the river over and over and over. Even though it was believable that he was a better player than I was, I decided I wanted to start keeping track of when he needed to get outs in these situations. When he had to get an out on the river to beat me, I wanted to see what his percentage was.

I started keeping track, and the next 14 times it came up, he hit seven times. Now that's not every time, but it was enough that after that I quit.

I have a nephew who is a programmer and I called him up. I told him I thought I was being cheated, and asked him if he could figure out if there was any way you could see if a person could download this app and perhaps change the cards or do whatever, because I suspected there might be something going on here.

My nephew downloaded the app and once he had a chance to start looking at it he called me back within 30 minutes. He said anyone who's a programmer who knows how to hook up an iPad to another computer could easily cheat using the app.

He said he could see all the cards and do whatever he wanted. I asked him if he could give me a demo, and we played a game and he sent me three kings on top, a flush in the middle, and a straight flush in the back. He explained that anyone who was a programmer or who had a friend who was a programmer could cheat me at the game, no problem....

Using a proxy server, with the current version of the app, you can see all thirteen cards of yours and your opponents when each deal is begun. Most cheaters wouldn't spend the time to change the cards as my nephew did. They would know whether their flushes and full houses were going to come in, which allows them to play efficiently like normal Chinese poker....

My nephew got in touch with the app's programmers to tell them what they have to do to fix their app. The Apple documentation actually explains how to make an app secure, but when these programmers wrote this Open-Face Chinese Poker app, they didn't know people were going to be playing for lots of money using it. And so they didn't write it in a secure way, because they thought it was just going to be a fun game that people were going to play for free. So it's not even really their fault.

Being cheat-resistant was not in the app's design spec. The game designers did not anticipate that users would be playing the app for money. But users are playing for money, significant enough money to make cheating attractive.

I had been thinking recently about rebooting As I Please. And I wrote this news item up as a comment on this week's "Friday Squid Blogging" post on Bruce Schneier's blog. By the time I was finished, I realized what I wrote was worthy of a blog post on its own, and was ready for the tweaking needed for publication

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Posted by abostick at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)
April 21, 2011
All the Cool Kids Are Doing It: My WisCon 35 Program Schedule

Join the Mod Squad: Enhance Your Moderation Skills
Ever go to a panel and spend your time thinking, "With a good moderator, this would be a much better panel?" You won't become a hippie if you attend this panel, but we will review several ways to be that good moderator, offer tips and tricks, and generally work on improving WisCon's already high standards for panel moderation. We strongly encourage you to attend this panel if you are moderating at WisCon, especially if it's your first time. It's also a great experience if you ever have, or think you ever will, be a panel moderator anywhere.
Assembly, Fri, 4:00–5:15 pm
M: Alan Bostick. Ann Crimmins, Christopher Davis, Beverly Friend, Elise Matthesen


If Someone You Know Has Been Affected by Slacktivism, Please Post This as Your Status
Retweeting, changing your userpic, uploading a video ... is this just a substitute for actual activism? Is this "slacktivism" helpful or hurtful? Are some methods better than others? Does it depend on the cause? Does it matter who started the meme? How do we counter slacktivism or move beyond it to effect real change?
Conference 5, Sat, 4:00–5:15 pm
M: Alan Bostick. Andy Best, E. Cabell Hankinson Gathman, Rosemary / Sophy, Xakara


"The Personal is Political" Revisited
The title of Carol Hanishch's 1969 essay "The personal is political" became one of the best-known slogans of the feminist movement. Women were challenged to see their life circumstances not as individual situations of choice, but within a broader context of gendered oppression and societal structural inequalities. The panelists will look at the intersections between the personal and political in their activist work, and will examine the meaning and relevance of the slogan today.
Capitol A, Sun, 10:00–11:15 am
M: Susan Marie Groppi. Susan Simensky Bietila, Alan Bostick, Karen Ireland-Phillips, Pamela K. Taylor


Your Fandom is OK!
It's important to remember that just because you don't like a particular fandom, you don't have the right to put down those who do. (We're looking at you, Twilight haters!) Everyone's fandom is OK! In this panel, we'll discuss why this is true, and what we can do to encourage better understanding among all members of fandom.
Conference 4, Sun, 1:00–2:15 pm
M: Trisha J. Wooldridge. Molly Aplet, Alan Bostick, Caroline Pruett, Xakara

(WisCon 35 will be held at the Concourse Hotel, Madison, Wisconsin, on May 26-30, 2011)

Posted by abostick at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)
February 08, 2010
I'm Going to Haiti to Do Earthquake Relief Work
HODR, Hands On Disaster Response

I am leaving this coming Sunday, February 14, to travel to Haiti. I shall be working with the volunteer deployment of Hands On Disaster Response in Leyogann, roughly twenty miles west of Port-au-Prince. I shall be arriving in Haiti on Monday, February 15 and to remain there for four weeks.

I would like your help. I am out of pocket $750 for my plane tickets, and would welcome any contribution you would be willing to make to cover my airfare. I am not a 501(c)3 organization, and these donations are not tax-deductible. If you want a tax deduction, I would recommend giving directly to Hands On Disaster Response, Partners in Health, or Doctors Without Borders (Mιdecins Sans Frontiθres). Any donations I receive in excess of my airfare will be divided equally between these three organizations.

Wish me luck!

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Posted by abostick at 01:19 PM | Comments (2)
November 26, 2009
Poetry Does Not Exist
Nothing to look at here
Nothing to look at here. Move along
A friend told some of us that she would love any help in recovering her faith in poetry that anyone can offer. Here is my response:

I will not try to restore your faith in poetry. Poetry does not exist.

There is no such thing as poetry. There is no poetry in the feeling of sunlight on your face when the rain clouds have passed. There is no poetry in seeing someone you once loved dearly walking along the other side of the street. There is no poetry in the hot rasp in your throat while you take your first drag of your first cigarette of the day. If you walk along Ocean Beach at sunset, you will find sand and sea water and a young man tossing a frisbee to his dog, but you will find absolutely no poetry, no matter how hard you look.

Poetry is an imaginary monster we use to frighten children into being good. If you turn off of Guererro onto 23rd Street and walk uphill towards Dolores, poetry is not sneaking along unseen behind you, and will most certainly not leap upon you when you pass through the darkest stretch of the block. Poetry is not hiding in your closet, neither is it concealed under your bed or camouflaged by a pile of dirty laundry, waiting to strike.

There is no such thing as poetry. The people who insist otherwise are either deliberately lying or deluding themselves. The self-deluders no doubt also believe in such preposterous notions as "justice," "beauty," "basic human decency," or "art."

Posted by abostick at 01:28 PM | Comments (1)
April 29, 2009
Obama the Poker Player: Weak-Tight?
President Barack Obama
Weak-Tight?
image source:
www.whitehouse.gov
When President Barack Obama was an Illinois state legislature, he was a regular player in a private poker game with other legislators. Ron Powell, blogging at TPM Cafe, presents this profile of Obama as a poker player:
By the accounts of his poker buddies, Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers and even the lobbyists, Obama is careful and focused. He's not easily distracted and doesn't give away his intentions unless it's to his advantage. He's not prone to taking risky chances, preferring to play it safe. He's is seriously competitive. They say that when he plays, he plays to win.

His friends say that Obama would study the odds carefully. If he had strong cards, he'd play. If he didn't, he would fold rather than bet good money on the chance the right card would show up when he needed it. That reputation meant that he often succeeded when he decided to bluff.

Some of the participants in the games described Obama as a careful player who manages risk and has excellent control regarding behaviors that could give away the strength of his hand. He is what poker players might describe as a "Rock". Republican players often teased him about being his being a conservative only when assessing the strength of his opponents in the game and the relative strength of his bankroll.

It's phrased in the most complimentary way possible. (Aside to Ron Powell: "rock" is not a compliment.) A less positive and more frank way to put it, though, is that Obama is weak-tight or, at best, a TAGfish — a player who is tight and aggressive, but is nonetheless easily exploited by better players. If Obama is weak-tight or a TAGfish, he is good enough to beat a home game, but he very likely isn't ready for prime time.

Sad to say, I think I've noticed some of his weak-tight tendencies in dealing with congressional Republicans....

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Posted by abostick at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)
April 27, 2009
Joan Rivers Lashes Out at Annie Duke on "Celebrity Apprentice"
Here is a YouTube video of Joan Rivers venting bile on the reality TV show Celebrity Apprentice. Donald Trump fires Rivers' daughter Melissa, apparently due to the machinations of famous-name poker player Annie Duke and a co-conspirator.

Joan Rivers says to Duke, about 2:30 into the clip:

Your people... you give money with blood on it! I've met your people in Vegas for 40 years! None of them have last names. None of 'em. They have cash bowls full of... you're a poker player. A poker player. That's beyond white trash! Poker players are trash, darling! Trash!

(via private joker)

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Posted by abostick at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)
July 24, 2008
I Always Cry at Superhero Movies

This age wanted heroes. It got us instead. — Tony Kushner

I always cry at superhero movies
Our hero, bitten by a radio-
Active wombat learns the sudden truth:
Her wombat powers are not just a fluke.
The crisis of the moment means that she
Must act, and no one else can do it.
She didn't choose her powers; they chose her.
What were they thinking when they chose her, though?
Those all-too-human shoulders are too frail
To bear the burden of the superhero.
I know that shocking moment all too well.
The desperate, drastic need for someone's help
But no one else is stepping up to act.
"I volunteer!" I didn't say that, did I?
Shit, I guess I'm doing something stupid
Theater-goers cheer when Wombat Girl
Suits up to fight the threat against the city.
The camera doesn't show the queasy gut,
The hands that slightly shake while zipping up
The hero's wombat suit, but I know better.
My diaphragm quivers. Down my cheeks slide tears.

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Posted by abostick at 07:38 PM | Comments (1)
July 06, 2008
Thomas M. Disch 1940-2008
Thomas M. Disch
Thomas M. Disch 1940-2008
image source: Strange Horizons
Thomas M. Disch was found dead in his apartment in New York City, apparently a suicide. Quoth Ellen Datlow:
I've just found out that Tom Disch committed suicide in his apartment on July 4th. He was found by a friend who lives a few blocks away.

I'm shocked, saddened, but not very surprised. Tom had been depressed for several years and was especially hit by the death of his longtime partner Charles Naylor. He also was very worried about being evicted from the rent controlled apartment he lived in for decades.

Disch was one of science fiction's Greatest Generation, the cohort of writers that included Ursula Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, Roger Zelazny, and Joanna Russ, who had been cultivated by editor Cele Goldsmith during her tenure as editor of Amazing Stories. Among his novels are 334, Camp Concentration, The Genocides, On Wings of Song, and The M.D.; and many of his stories are collected in Fundamental Disch.

I met him only once, twenty-six years ago, when he was guest of honor at Norwescon, just outside Seattle, in 1982. I remember Dick Lupoff interviewing him on the first night of the convention, and the chemistry between the two was phenomenal, making the interview a masterpiece of comedy. I was convulsed with laughter (and perhaps I should wonder what they thought of me).

NB: Ellen Datlow gives Disch's date of death as July 4; Wikipedia currently lists it without citation as July 2.

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Posted by abostick at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)
June 27, 2008
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Thirteen and Fourteen
WSOP Stud/8 Tournament
WSOP Stud/8 Tournament
Originally uploaded by abostick59
I got up before noon on Wednesday, after about ten hours of sleep. I have found the recipe for getting sleep on Las Vegas gambling expeditions: Get away from the casinos! After getting my daily writing done, I headed out for the Rio. My intention that day was to play satellites, in hopes of winning a bunch of tournament entry chips with which to buy into Thursday's $1500 stud/8 tournament.

It didn't work out that way. The line was long to get into satellites. I played a $325 satellite and was first to bust out — in an early hand I hadn't had a handle on how small the starting stack size was, and crippled myself by betting half the pot on a continuation bet when I should have just pushed in. After that it was a matter of time before I either doubled up or busted out, and I busted out.

I waited in the line again for another $325 satellite. This one worked out better. I held out for 9th place, after the fourth increase in blinds.

While in the satellite area I ran into Walter Browne, who props at the Oaks. I bought a piece of his WSOP tournament action, but he hasn't been doing so well this year. (Last year he cashed three times, including a second place). He tells me he's been doing great in satellites, however.

I'd had it with satellites, however, so I went across the hall to the Amazon Room to see what was going on in cash games.

There were no seats in the stud/8 game, but there were seats open in a 75-150 mixed game, with hold'em, Omaha/8, and stud/8 in the mix. I sat down and put money on the table. The lineup was one I could hold my own against in the Omaha rounds and do very well in the stud/8 and hold'em rounds; but I was eager to get to the stud/8 game. (Yuval Bronshtein was in the stud/8 game. At one point I went to him and told him, "I don't know how you are in flop games, but if you are any good, it's raining soup in this mix game." He didn't move over, though.) After about two hours I was called to the stud/8 game, having booked a modest win of three big bets in the mixed game.

The forced-move stud/8 game was a good one, and I did well in it. I had a good handle on who was trouble and who was soft. Eventually, though, I was moved to the main game, and that was no good at all: only one soft player and all the rest were the old familiar gang of local regulars. I didn't stay very long there. I quit at 1:00 AM, booking enough of a win to end the day as much ahead as the satellites had put me behind.

Thursday was the day of the $1500 stud/8 tournament, the second tournament that I had planned to play at the WSOP. I got yet another good night's sleep, and stayed in for the better part of the afternoon. I headed over at about 3:30 PM to buy my entry and hang out.

The best way to hang out, I thought, was to sit down in a game. I was tempted by a 50-100 limit hold'em, and found it to play just like mid-limit hold'em everywhere these days. I played until about 4:30, and booked a $22 win.

There was anticipation and excitement in the air, like there is before the start of just about every tournament. The race was about to be on! The halls were crowded with tournament entrants waiting for the chance to take their seats, talking with each other, wishing each other luck, sizing each other up.

And the tournament began. I got off to a good start, with rolled up nines in an early hand holding up to scoop and give me an early lead for the table. But in the second round I had the misfortune to run into five premium starting hands in a row — literally one after another — and was scooped by someone else. I turned 3500 in tournament chips into 470 in very short order. I was in desperate straights at the break, having to play the short-stack game. I'm good at the short-stack game, but I wish I didn't have to play it quite so often. And even if you're good, the odds are against you. I busted out shortly into the third round.

I went straight to cash games, and was seated right away in the stud/8 game. Maybe I was a little tilted, but I was unable to make more than a couple of hands hold up, against obviously weak competition. I toughed it out, knowing how streaky the game can be, waiting for a good streak to make up for my bad ones, but the good streak never came.

At length, down more than one and a half buy-ins for the game, I gave up. I had the notion that, in the time I'd been in Las Vegas, every time I'd sat down at a no-limit hold'em game I had doubled up my chips in short order before going a game I had wanted to play more. So why not play no-limit hold'em in earnest?

I put my name on some lists and was soon called over to a $5-and-$10-blind no-limit hold'em game. Sure enough, not long after I sat down, my pocket eights flopped a set and rivered a full house, and I stacked someone off for $900.

Despite that, this was kind of a tough table to play. About half the players were good, and all of the good ones and some of the bad ones were posting Mississippi straddles on the dealer button. This means that (in a 5-10 game) the button posts $20, and gets last action before the flop. The action begins with the player in the small blind (rather than the player in front of the big blind). It gives the button a huge advantage, and is absolutely terrible for the players in the blinds. I posted Mississippi straddles almost every time it was my button.

While waiting for hands I leaked chips pretty fast, because it was an action game; but my good hands were good indeed. I called a raise in the big blind in an unstraddled pot with A-8 suited in clubs, along with two other callers. The flop came K-8-7 with two spades. I checked; the raiser bet about half the pot and got a caller. That looked like a continuation bet to me, and I thought that my pair of eights just might be good. I decided to call and take a card off. The turn card was a red ace, giving me top and middle pair. I bet $200, about half the pot. The initial raiser said, "Spiked your ace, huh?" and mucked. The player after him raised four hundred more. I went into the tank for a little while. What hands beat me? Sets, and AK. AA and KK were very unlikely, given the action; that left 77 and 88. Meanwhile I currently beat everything else the guy could have. And given the flush draw on the board, if the villain held a set I would likely have heard more from him on the flop — if he was playing right. Oh, well... if he had a set, he had me. I pushed all my money into the middle. Now it was his turn to go into the tank — and, seeing that, I now knew my hand was good. Eventually he called, all-in. The river card was a blank. I showed my hand, and he mucked with a look of disgust on his face. Even though I had him covered, there was already enough in the pot from other players to have doubled me up.

That's what the game was like: leaking chips in the face of fast preflop action, and winning significant pots to keep me in profit. I looked up one player when he was bluffing. I stole a few pots shamelessly.

When the dust settled, I had won enough in the hold'em game to make up for the beating I had taken in the stud/8 game. I was down for the day, but only for my tournament buy-in.

Why haven't I been playing more no-limit hold'em? (The answer is that I don't think I'm very good at it. Clearly, I'm good enough for this crowd.)

The game got short, with only good players left, so I picked up with my win. I headed back to the stud/8 game, not to play but just to see what was up. Chris Grigorian, who seems to like me (the feeling is mutual) was very complimentary to me: "You were tilting, and you got up. That is the sign of a good player." Maybe. Better players don't tilt in the first place.

2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Zero
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day One
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Two
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Three
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Four
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Five
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Six
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Seven
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Eight
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Nine and Ten
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Eleven and Twelve

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Posted by abostick at 04:06 PM | Comments (2)
June 25, 2008
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Eleven and Twelve
Bellagio Poker Room
Bellagio Poker Room
Originally uploaded by abostick59
I started slowly on Monday, and was slow to finish my writing and get out. I didn't walk over to the Rio until after 8:00 PM.

The Amazon Room was hopping. It was the day of the Seniors' $1K no-limit hold'em event, and more than 2,200 people had played, the only event of the day due to its size. Hundreds of players still remained in the tournament, and the cash area was jammed. I got on the list for my old standby, the stud/8 game. There was also a huge list for the 20-40 mix game, and I added my name; but it wasn't likely to go down any time soon, as all the lower-limit tables were being used.

There was an empty seat in a 75-150 mixed game, with stud/8, razz, and stud high being the games in the mix. The players didn't look too formidable, so I sat down.

I folded a few hands, then played a straight draw that got open-ended on fourth street and got there on sixth. My opponent had an open pair on his board, and donked me on the river. I said aloud, "Did you fill up?" and called. He had aces up; my straight was good. During the play of that hand I was called over to the stud/8 game. "Yeah, I know, hit and run." I was nearly $800 to the good in that game, from that one hand.

The stud/8 game was another matter. There were a couple of weak players in the game, including one rocket scientist who had been at my table on the first day of the $5K tournament. But I wasn't able to take good advantage of them. I fell behind in the game, but never so far behind as to be net down for the night. Chris Grigorian joined the game. He is an excellent player whose table talk can confuse the unwary (after the manner of Sean Sheikhan). The rest of the players were the rocky regulars, part of the same crew of Vegas locals who, evidently, play this game (for a lower betting limit) all the time at Sam's Town. The rocket scientist kept taking my money and distributing it to the others. He won a lot of pots and half-pots, but for some strange reason his stack kept diminishing. Eventually, as evening turned to morning, he picked up and went to bed.

And eventually we all got moved from the must-move game to the main game, and I was able to get back most of my own, especially as the game got shorter. Some of the rocky regulars were there, but there was an extra soft spot. I had climbed almost back to even when the game broke. Chris Grigorian was imploring me to play him heads-up. I kept in mind what Sky Masterson had to say about ears full of cider, and declined. There were no other games going in which I wanted to play, so I returned to my hotel and went to bed.

I was up on Tuesday morning after only about four hours' sleep. Tuesday was the day that the housekeepers were slated to come through, do some cleaning, and change the sheets and towels. We had had the do-not-disturb sign up last week, so we were overdue for a cleaning. We also needed laundry done. Lynn took the car and headed out to the Clark County Library. I gathered the dirty laundry together and took it down to the hotel's laundry. Doing laundry kept me busy for an hour and a half. Lynn came back shortly afterwards.

I had a party in the evening to go to, just a few hours away. I pretty much had the choice at that point of getting my writing done or going out to play cards. I had already just taken a day off, so I opted to go out to play cards. I drove to Bellagio.

It took a long time to get a seat; the Bellagio poker room was surprisingly busy for a week day (although I suppose the WSOP brings in action). They were hosting a $1000+80 tournament that was sold out and taking signups for alternates. With Bill Chen's party starting at 6:00, I didn't feel like I had time to play in the tournament, so I stuck to cash games. I put my name down on a bunch of lists, and eventually was called to a $5-and-$10-blind no-limit hold'em game. I lost a little bit of my stack playing a bit fast, but made good when I was dealt pocket queens and doubled through a kid who thought his flush draw was golden.

I got up to take a walk, checked the mid-limit brush's clipboard, and saw that it looked like my name was on the top of the list for $15-$30 limit hold'em. I decided that I didn't want to miss that seat, so I picked up my chips from the no-limit table and waited by the mid-limit podium. But it turned out that the mid-limit brush had called my name a long time ago. She had been shouting, not using the PA system. So I was without a seat. The brush would do nothing else for me. I was at the top of the list for 30-60, so I stuck around to wait.

While I was waiting I encountered Kurt, one of the 30-60 regulars back home at the Oaks Club. It says something about Bellagio's place in the poker world that you meet a lot of the regulars in your home club when you play there.

I got my seat in the 30-60. I started out doing well, but eventually fell behind. The game was a mix of good players and not-so-good ones. I could keep my head above water with the good ones, but the not-so-good ones kept making donkey plays that came out right, like Mister Magoo. I wound up giving most (not all) of what I had won in the no-limit game to the donkeys in the 30-60.

At 6:00 I picked up my chips, up a mere $150 for the day, and cashed in. By the cage I saw that Chris Grigorian was playing in the tournament; when he wasn't in a hand I tapped his shoulder to say hello.

From Bellagio, I went to the house that Bill Chen and friends had rented for the month. I believe Bill was sharing the house with Jerrod Ankenman, Matt Hawrilenko, and Gavin Griffin. Bill was spending his time outside in the back, tending the barbecue. Gavin was behind the bar, making marguaritas and daiquiris. Various poker folk showed up, including Alan Jaffray, Jan and Peggy Stein (whom I recalled from days past at the Oaks and other Bay Area cardrooms), Sabyl Cohen, Terrence Chan, Matt Grapenthien, and some people whom I hadn't known before. I felt a little out of place, being a mid-limit grinder in the presence of some serious heavy hitters. But I've known some of these people for years, and I certainly wasn't the only mid-limit grinder present.

We ate wonderful barbecue: "Fred steaks" — which I had never heard of before but are apparently something of a Bay Area barbecue tradition — and chicken breasts, plus grilled vegetables, salad, enchiladas, guacamole (excellent, made by Gavin Griffin), and brie. I was very happy to overeat, and to break my no-feedlot-beef discipline.

We gossiped about other people we know — perhaps even you. We debated when it is right to peel on fourth street in eight-or-better stud. We put our immortal souls in serious jeopardy by watching YouTube videos of Phil Hellmuth blowing up. Some people played pool, or backgammon, or chess. Others watched television.

I was more than a bit distressed to see an episode of Family Guy close with a rape joke, and that helped me realize that I was really tired, running on just four hours of sleep. I said my goodbyes, and headed back to my hotel.

2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Zero
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day One
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Two
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Three
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Four
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Five
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Six
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Seven
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Eight
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Nine and Ten

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Posted by abostick at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)
June 23, 2008
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Nine and Ten

Bill Chen mulls one over...
Originally uploaded by waldo483
I slept for about four hours, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. I had a leisurely afternoon in my hotel suite, getting my daily writing together. It wasn't until almost 9:00 PM that I set out to go back into the fray.

This time it was back to the Rio. There was a seat waiting for me in a forced-move 50-100 stud/8 game, and I took it. The game was okay but not terrific. I wanted to play more of the BOTERS (or "STROBE") mixed game, so I put my name on the list. Turnover in the mixed game was very slow. My name was second of two on the list at 9:15 PM; and I wasn't called into it until 12:35 AM. I didn't do so well this time. The table was a lot more serious, a lot less live. Variance got to me in the badugi and triple-draw rounds. (One time in triple-draw I was dealt 8-7-3-2-brick in late position, and drew one when the big blind called my raise and drew three. I caught a five on the first draw, making my hand; my opponent kept drawing. After the final draw he bet into me and I called; he had 8-6-5-3-2, notching me by one pip.) I got fed up with losing, and at 4:30 AM I left the game when it was just about to switch to razz.

I returned to the stud/8 game, hoping to recoup some of my loss. Things didn't go well at first. Cyndy Violette had joined the game after a 75-150 mixed game had broken. Not long afterwards she was joined by my nemesis from the stud/8 tournament, whose name I now know to be Yuval Bronshtein.

I was originally sitting in the #1 seat, not ideal from the point of view of visibility, but it was a good position for me to be playing, given how the other players were sitting. Yuval was sitting to my immediate left in seat 2. I took a bathroom break at one point, and came back to find an attractive young woman in a cocktail dress chatting Yuval up, giving him her phone number and making sure he got it into his PDA. Another young woman came up, also dressed for clubbing, and joined the conversation. It was a bit distracting to me, in a too-much-talk way, not a fine-looking-women way, but I tried to focus on playing my cards. The conversation ended, and the women said their goodbyes to Yuval. The one who had been talking to him longer touched her hand to my shoulder, smiled, and said goodbye to me, too.

When they were gone, a man across the table from us chuckled and said something about working girls. That made a lot of sense to me. I can see why club girls might want to check out the high-rollers throwing money at each other in the high-stakes poker games in hope of catching some rich guy's attention. But why would a club girl, focused on a handsome and stylish young man, turn some of her charm towards a hippy biker dude who had been ignoring her?

Players left the game, players joined the game. I moved to the #4 seat to get better visibility, and Cyndy moved to the #1 seat to get better position. Yuval started pushing to raise the limit. $100-$200? $75-$150?

Then came a big hand for the three of us. Cyndy and Yuval had small cards in their doors; I had an ace, with another in the hole. Cyndy completed the bring-in, and Yuval raised. I liked my aces, so I three-bet. The bring-in dropped out, Cyndy called the two extra bets, and Yuval reraised again. I was slightly afraid of Yuval having rolled up fives, but figured he would be doing the same with other card combinations too, combinations of which I was ahead. I put in the fifth bet, and the other two called. The hand went to hell from there, with both of them catching low and connected. I caught low, too, but I didn't like my hand so much. I was in a position of having to represent strength when I was very likely an equity dog, in hopes of getting one of them to fold should they catch bad. If that were to happen, the now-dead money in the pot would make it worth getting freerolled by the scary low hand of whatever opponent remained. But it was not meant to be: I couldn't get either of them out, and so was at high risk of either being chopped up by them or scooped by one of them. As it happened, Cyndy's three eights and a low scooped my aces and fives and Yuval's two smaller pair. The pot was huge, and my stack was crippled.

Yuval suggested bumping the limit to 75-150 once more. This time, I and the other players agreed. I put more cash on the table in order to have a reasonable stack for the new limit.

I was dealt another big hand — two kings in the hole with a third in the door — and again went up against Cyndy and Yuval, both catching very scary low cards. I was trapped for three bets on one of the later streets, but this time, with no low possibility, I was much more careful. My hand didn't improve on the river, and Cyndy bet and Yuval raised. If I stayed it would have cost me five bets by being jammed between them; so I folded. Cyndy had a straight six, and Yuval had a 6-5-3-2-A low. Although it was not cheap for me to see the river card, I hadescaped a brutal beating. But I was starting to feel like I wasn't allowed to win the big ones.

Some refugees from the big pot-limit Omaha game showed interest in our game. Yuval suggested bumping the limit once more, to 100-200. I reluctantly agreed, and the PLO high-rollers sat down. I put still more cash on the table, and buckled down to focus on playing aggressive ABC poker, just as I would if I weren't playing the for highest stakes I'd yet played in my life.

"Aggressive ABC poker" turned out to involve a lot of folding, sometimes completing or raising on third street and folding when I caught a bad card on fourth. Andrew Prock calls folding on fourth street "the Hammer of Thor," the real secret to beating one's opponents at eight-or-better stud. I wielded the Hammer of Thor mightily. Eventually, as the morning progressed, I built my stack up to within reach of breaking even. I was exhausted. The game was good, and I knew exactly who the live players were and how to exploit them, but I was approaching the limits of my stamina. I ordered cup after cup of coffee from the cocktail servers. I kept nodding off between hands. Yuval got back to even, and picked up and left, saying his girlfriend was waiting for him.

Then, in this damnably streaky game, I caught hold of a hot streak. In short succession I was dealt decent hands that held up, or terrible hands that I was able to turn into winners, or (one more time) rolled up kings that this time scooped a three-way pot. I came up from under water, and kept winning, getting to the point where I was ahead almost as much as I had been behind.

The noon tournament, triple-draw lowball, had just begun. I began racking up my chips. I sold some of them to other players, but what I had to take back to the cage was one of the biggest payouts in my life. I wound up coloring my chips up rather than cashing them in.

Now it was time to head back to my hotel, get some food, and get some sleep. I was reeling with the emotional impact of what I had done. Much as I hate to lose at poker, sometimes I think that winning is almost as bad, at least in terms of what it does to me physiologically. (As far as the money is concerned, winning is definitely better than losing, thank you very much.) Many people enjoy the thrill of the gamble, and to them gambling and losing is almost as rewarding as gambling and winning. Not me: gambling to me is stressful, and the aftermath of gambling to me is like the aftermath of traumatic stress.

Lynn was awake and working when I got back to the room; and she dropped what she was doing to make me lunch. What a sweetie! I didn't need her to wait on me; and at the same time it was great to be able to sit there and stare into space while she brought me a sandwich.

From there, it was an effort to get off the couch and into bed. I slept for a couple of hours, until it was time for a phone date I had arranged with Debbie back home. But Debbie discerned how groggy I still was, and we rescheduled for later in the evening.

I went straight back to sleep, and woke at 8:30 PM. I puttered around on the Internet until it was time for that rescheduled phone date. Afterwards, I went to bed, and slept until morning, waking to the news that Bill Chen had made it to day 2 of the triple-draw event. (He later busted out in 24th place, barely into the money; but that's today's news.)

2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Zero
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day One
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Two
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Three
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Four
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Five
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Six
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Seven
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Eight
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Eleven and Twelve

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Posted by abostick at 07:01 PM | Comments (3)
Novelty Candy with a Kinky Bent
Candy Whip Packaging
Candy Whip Packaging
Originally uploaded by abostick59
I found this in the gift and sundry shop at the Wynn casino resort in Las Vegas the other morning, looking for a candy bar to tide my appetite over until I could return to my hotel room after an all-night poker session.

It's a flogger, put together out of two strands of candy beads on strings.

Please don't put it to its apparent purpose. The candy beads would likely shatter on impact, leaving sharp edges that could break skin (and contaminate the candy with bodily fluids). Lots of sting, not much thud.

Also seen on in the same store from the same manufacturer: a candy bra ("one size fits most"), a candy waist chain, and candy handcuffs.

You can order these products online from the manufacturer, Spencer & Fleetwood Ltd., at www.rudefood.com.

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Posted by abostick at 04:31 PM | Comments (1)
June 21, 2008
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Eight

Las Vegas - Bellagio
Originally uploaded by GlobeTrotter 2000
Friday was a long day. It started out fairly lazy, but I got out to the tables later on.

I got up at 2:30 PM, and was slow to get started. I am beginning to feel the effects of my non-schedule schedule. It took me many hours to get my daily writing and blogging done, and it was a long slow process, made slower by my seeming lack of energy. I didn't get yesterday's blog post put to bed until after 9 PM, and I didn't get out to play cards until after 11.

Once again I headed out to the Strip. This time I went to Bellagio. I got seated right away in a 15-30 hold'em game, and was called after only a few minutes to a 30-60. Surprise! Two seats to my right was MitchL, a regular in the Oaks' 30-60 game and a poster to the 2+2 Mid-Limit Hold'em forum. Later on Muriel, another 30-60 regular sat down to my left.

It was a decent game, with some good soft spots. Aside from Mitch, there were a couple of other young aggressive players, but there was also a LAG in seat one whose number I had, and I took shameless advantage of him.

I took a few beats early on, losing half my stack, but I was able to work it back up above water in short order. Eventually the game got short (Mitch left before this) and broke, and we were moved to empty seats at another table — where yet another Oaks regular (a man whose name I should know but don't) was playing. "The gang's all here," I told him. "All we need now is Ms. Davis!" He laughed.

Eventually I got tired of limit hold'em, so I picked up at about 4:00 AM, more than a rack ahead. I wasn't quite ready to retire for the morning, so I headed over to the Rio to see what was going on in the Amazon Room. Not all that much was, as it turned out. The only decent game in my price range was the 75-150 Omaha/8 game, and I'm just not a good enough Omaha player to take that game on. But on the lower-limit side there was a 20-40 mix game: BOTERS (Badugi, Omaha/8, Triple-Draw 2-7, Eight-or-Better Stud, Razz, and Stud High). There was a seat open, and I couldn't resist. I've been tempted by the higher-limit mixed games, but have been feeling not quite up to speed, particularly in badugi. I have a clue or two, but only a clue or two, plus basic card sense. In the other games I range from adequate (Omaha/8) to expert (stud/8). I told the player to my left that it this particular mix could be better called "STROBE."

It turned out to be an action game with one serious live one throwing a party (for example, in one hand of razz, after a king brought it in the live one raised the bring-in with a ten in the door, with baby cards acting after him. He got hammered that hand, and many others, and he was complaining bitterly to the dealer about it. But he wasn't the only bad player at the table, just the worst. I had a major overlay in all the games except perhaps badugi, as it turned out. I quickly got ahead, and while the swings were like a couple of hundred dollars either way in a round, the trend was upwards.

I haven't been writing very much about celebrity-spotting: poker pros with name recognition are thick on the ground here, and were especially so during the stud/8 tournament. (I never mentioned, for example, spotting Jennifer Tilly walking back and forth while Sabyl Landrum, Bob Laurie, and I were hanging out during a break on the first day of the stud/8 tournament.) But after daybreak the player to my right said something about Mike Caro that I didn't quite hear. I asked him what he meant, and he said, "Over there. In the blue jacket." Sure enough, it was Mike, sitting down to play in the 75-150 Omaha/8 game. He is something of a poker hero of mine, and he was a regular on rec.gambling.poker back in the day that I was one too. So at a good point in my game (during an Omaha round) I went over to say hello.

By the time I left the game just before 10:00 AM, I was up $700. I wouldn't have stayed anywhere near so long except that I was getting hungry as I played, and the only food available anywhere near the Amazon Room was room service delivery of breakfast. So I ordered some French toast at a ridiculous markup, and waited more than an hour for it to be delivered, playing (and winning) as I waited. It took time to eat while I played as well. Finally I was finished, and I waited out the stud/8 round before picking up, cashing out, and heading back to bed.

2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Zero
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day One
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Two
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Three
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Four
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Five
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Six
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Seven
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Nine and Ten
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Eleven and Twelve

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Posted by abostick at 07:05 PM | Comments (1)
June 20, 2008
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Seven
Las Vegas Morning Alpenglow
Las Vegas Morning Alpenglow
Originally uploaded by abostick59.
Yesterday was one day by the calendar, but it almost feels like two day, because I went out twice and came back to sleep twice.

I woke up at 1:30 AM, after five hours, after more than five hours of sleep. I was thinking about getting dressed and going back to the Rio. Lynn was awake, and planning on going out to get some groceries. She offered me a ride. I accepted, so I got dressed in a hurry. We got a little bit lost trying to find the back way into the Rio convention center, but after a side trip to the Strip and back by way of Spring Mountain Road. We found the Rio's employee parking lot, and I went around the back of the Poker Kitchen tent to find the entrance of the convention area.

I got into the stud/8 game, but it wasn't very good, no action players, mostly the usual tough regulars. There was a 150-300 mixed game going, and Cyndy Violette was playing in it. In the mix was badugi, ace-to-five single-draw lowball (almost like home, except without a joker), triple-draw deuce-to-seven, and razz. I like triple-draw and lowball, can play basic razz, and can cope with badugi. Cyndy told me I should play, and that I should make adding eight-or-better stud to the mix a condition of my joining the game. That made sense ... but I felt like she was maybe being a little to encouraging. Mixed games are how pros take advantage of other pros, by giving up equity in games that aren't their best games in order to get people to play their best ones. This was not an great mix for me, even with stud/8 added. I decided to decline, and go back to the straight stud/8 game.

But that game didn't get any better, and I was struggling with a small loss. After taking another turn around the cash game area, I settled on 20-40 limit hold'em. The game was half-decent, although it had too many solid pros. Eventually the soft spots either busted out or picked up and left, leaving only the solid pros. after a round or so of blinds like this, I picked up. "All wolves and no sheep," I said. as I racked up my chips. The game broke. I cashed out a bit more ahead in the hold'em game than I had been down in the stud game, leaving me with a $78 win for the morning session. I got back to my room at about 7:30 AM, and to bed before 9.

I woke up again shortly after noon, and put myself together to run some errands. I wanted to top off my bankroll. By the time I got dressed it was after 1:00 PM. Lynn had told me there was a Bank of America not far away, at Wynn and Twain. I got confused, in this part of Las Vegas that hitherto has not been part of my stomping grounds, and headed up Valley View to Desert Inn (The Wynn is the site of the old Desert Inn, right?), and wound up being swept by the roadway over the railroad tracks and the freeway to the Strip. I opted to head north to downtown, where I knew the main Las Vegas B of A branch was located. I reloaded my bankroll and also got more walking-around money. Then I filled the car with gasoline, and then headed to the Lucky supermarket at Decatur and Spring Mountain. I was meaning to get a small box of laundry detergent and some mayonnaise for making sandwiches, and it occurred to me that I could get some other things as well: sandwich fixings, breakfast cereal, and so on.

Driving around in that part of Las Vegas, it seemed, every strip mall had its own massage studio.

Back to the room again, to get a post up about the previous day, my bustout from the tournament. Then in the late afternoon I headed back to the Rio to play cards. I got into the stud/8 game just as they were starting a second must-move game. But the room managers screwed up the feeder game pattern, having the third game feed both prior games, leaving the players in the second game feeling frustrated that they couldn't move into the main game. Some of them did, anyway. Some of the players in the main game wanted to change it to a straight high-only stud game. The floorpeople decided to start a 75-150 stud high game at another table, and that took the live players away. The three games were collapsed into two, and the floorpeople decided that the second table (to which I had been moved) was a must-move game again after all. It was a thorough clusterfuck, and no one was happy about it. I got moved to the main game, consisting of nothing but frustrated good players, and decided to bail out. I cashed out, up four stacks of green, and headed back to my hotel, to fetch the car and check out the poker action on the Strip.

After more confusion trying to get around on the streets, I made my way at length to the self-parking lot at the Venetian, and journeyed through the shopping arcade and across the casino to their poker room. Their offerings didn't seem very appealing to me: no-limit hold'em up through $10 and $20 blinds, some low limit hold'em and Omaha. There was an interest list for a 20-40 hold'em game.

I walked from there to the Wynn. The Venetian gets up my nose, by being almost nothing like the real Venice despite the architectural copies. (The Paris doesn't much resemble the real city of Paris, either, and neither does the Orleans resemble New Orleans past or present.) I would like to see someone open a casino resort called the Las Vegas Las Vegas, which would be a Vegasized version of Las Vegas itself. The main casino floor would be called the Strip; the penny slots would be Downtown, and the luxury suites would be in the Henderson Tower. It would be a gaudy fantasy of what Las Vegas never really was.

I got to the Wynn, and played more 20-40 hold'em. In this game, most (but not all) of the breaks went other players' ways rather than mine, and in this all-night session I wound up taking a dive half again as large as the win I had booked in the earlier part of the evening. I did make some nice plays, though, winning a significant pot with one bluff, and making one good call to catch someone else's bluff. Another bluff of mine was snapped off; and I made four or five bad bluff-catching river calls — and that means that both in bluffing and bluff-catching I was dramatically ahead of break-even. This softened some of the impact of the evening's loss.

The game broke in the early morning, and I headed back to home base just before sunrise. This time I remembered to get a picture of the morning alpenglow.

2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Zero
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day One
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Two
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Three
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Four
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Five
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Six
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Day Eight
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Nine and Ten
2008 World Series of Poker Diary — Days Eleven and Twelve

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Posted by abostick at 09:16 PM | Comments (0)
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