Friday, April 29, 2005

Friday Thoughts

More good TV action from the British Poker Open last night. With the pros getting kicked into touch by the internet qualifiers.

Howard Lederer and Andy Bloch led the aggression early on, with Lederer knocking out Chris Ferguson and building a sizeable lead. But he was soon cut back down and ultimately it was Bloch versus two of the three qualifiers. I didn't note the name of the eventual victor, but think Comic Book Guy and you won't be far wrong.

These shorthanded winner takes all eliminators are real levellers. All the amateurs seem to be in with a shout.

The Party bonus is almost over, and I'm thinking about trying a little no limit cash gaming this weekend. Certainly there will be some form of NLH practise before Sunday's event. Which, incidentally, does seem to kick off at 1am UK time - so go easy on me.

In entertainment news, I see a few of my fellow bloggers are mourning the news of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise getting together. Personally, I can't stand Dawson's Creek - but did like Katie in Go.

I reckon they have nothing to worry about. This smacks of business rather than romance. In fact I'd go as far as to say there's as much chance of me getting it on with Penelope Cruz and Sofia Vergara simultaneously, as there is of Tom giving Katie the Big O.

It reminds me of a joke I read on scurrilous rumour site Popbitch. It went something along the lines:

Things to say to Tom Cruise at the Collateral premiere - 'You look great with a beard Tom. Why did you leave Nicole Kidman?'

Say no more!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Midweek Musings

Just a stream of consciousness today comrades. Lots to cover, but nothing in much depth.

Poker news first. With my Belkin Pre-N wireless connection finally stable (minus encryption - still working on that) I've been grinding the latest Party Poker bonus on the laptop in front of the TV. Results so far broadly neutral, but the hands are going past quickly and the bonus draws near.

I took in the Chelsea v Liverpool game last night, then went to Sky 265 for The Poker Channel live coverage of the British Poker Open qualifying tournament. Each night there's a six handed qualifier - winner goes through to the next round - with a mix of big names and internet qualifiers from a different online site. When I say live, I really do mean live. Every hand is shown in real time with interviews conducted after each elimination.

Last night's session saw Gus Hansen suck out big style on Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliott. Devilfish had QQ when Gus tried a move on him with 75s. Of course Devilfish ended up all-in and was helpless as the flop brought a 5 and the turn a 7. Ouch!! So he ended up in the losers lounge and didn't seem to be enjoying the interview - which I could easily understand!

Later Gus Hansen made the point that the constant breaks for commercials had disrupted his game, as he thrives on action. He lost heads up to an internet qualifier. Tonight Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer will be involved in the Full Tilt Poker heat.

Watching Devilfish's bad beat put my most memorable hand of the evening in perspective. I was playing a very sociable $1/2 table with some intelligent chat - a pleasant change from the usual 'fu faggot' nonsense. There had been a few interesting hands which prompted the chat - including KK v AA twice in quick succession. Soon after, I got dealt AA in the SB.

Of course I raised the limpers and they all called. The flop comes 234 and I bet out, and am immediately raised. It's then folded back to me. Channeling the spirit of Ferguson and Lederer, I type into chat 'Surely not A5s?' - then call. There's no improvement on the turn or river as I check-call down, and the villain shows A5o for the flopped wheel. Close!

'Wow' says one of the other players. Heh. I did quite enjoy that. $5 thrown away chasing a 3-outer for a chop, but it was fun. If the table hadn't been so sociable I'd have folded to the raise, but I wanted to see how close I was.

The second bloggers WSOP satellite is this Sunday. It kicks off at either midnight or 1am UK time(still struggling with EDT, EST, GMT, BST), so normally I'd have to give it a miss due to work next morning. However I have a late start on Monday so I am expecting to play. Since I didn't have a Poker Stars account, I decided to continue my tradition of signing up through other bloggers. This time Grubby got the honour. I hope to see a few of you there! I hope my avatar is approved in time.

Anyone thinking of signing up for any poker site, or even buying from Amazon, please adopt a blogger and use their link. It makes no sense to give all your rake to 'the man'. He makes enough as it is.

Also get over to Milkybarkid's blog and check out the pot sizes!

While you are still here, check out my Google Page Ranking! Wow. I am well chuffed. From zero to four overnight. Hopefully that means a few more people will start to find me through keyword searches. I've already had a couple of hits on Gametime+ and Neteller. I might need to start throwing in spurious references to Paris Hilton and Christina Aguilera again if this keeps up.

I'm not sure how my site got ranked so well. From my limited understanding of how Google works, I suspect it may be because the few referrals I've got from others tend to be from pretty high quality sites which already have good rankings. So, thanks to all who have linked me up.

I've also been using Blog Explosion to drive some more traffic this way. Probably 95% of these browsers skip straight through, but it's a relatively pain free way to snare one or two new readers. I just keep a session running while I play, and click to a new link each time there's a lull in the poker action.

I do find a lot of insane, objectionable or just abjectly dull sites, but there are some gems to be found. Perhaps enough material for a later post.

Speaking of stuff I found on the net - NEVER play poker against this girl! When I saw this story I thought it had to be a spoof but it seems not.

Away from poker, my job continues to depress me. Each hour of each day is a life sapping experience. Sitting at 9am counting the minutes until 5pm is soul destroying. It's too late for a total change of career - not due to age or lack of willingness to learn, but the financial realities of owning a family size house, and having a kid on the way and a wife about to embark on maternity leave.

Perhaps a more interesting opportunity within the IT world will come my way. Here's hoping.

At the moment I am reading Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure. Gorman seems to be a very personable guy, and he has certainly found a pleasant niche for himself. Randomly traveling the world to meet new people joined only by a tenuous Google search connection sounds like fun to me. Getting paid to do it is a work of genius.

If only I'd thought of searching for, and meeting, 'francophile namesakes', 'bushranger doublespeak', 'acehigh lawnmowers' and co. first! If you don't know what I'm talking about, buy the book. It's a good read.

I've always enjoyed traveling and seeing new places. One of my big regrets from school is not learning a few foreign languages - though I always take a phrase book when I go abroad.

It's a shame my hormones didn't kick in a bit earlier since the French teacher was lovely and some extra testosterone in my system might have swayed the class choices in a different direction. Away from the corduroy and elbow patches of Modern Studies, towards the slender legs and alluring perfume of French.

Alas I was a rather intense child, and the exotic delights of France, and the French teacher, seemed less important than working out how to get rid of the Thatcher witch.

You just don't get the right careers advice at school. No 'Scrap physics and chemistry or you'll end up doing electrical engineering with 198 guys and one ugly girl who by the end of the first semester looks like Claudia Schiffer to your ravenous eyes', or 'Do marketing at uni. Loads of hot chicks and an overpaid, underworked career of travel and cocaine'.

Instead you get 'ah yes Div, with your grades you are ideally qualified to train as a computer programmer'. They just forget to add '...and work in a desert of femininity where your job will be shipped to India the second the cost justifies it.'

Still on the hormone subject, my new found wireless freedom let me catch an episode of Desperate Housewives - which Mrs Div enjoys very much. It was a pleasant relief to find some very fanciable females on TV who were actually the same age, if not older, than myself. I found myself appraising Eva Longoria the way Homer appraises an ice cold keg of Duff. The show was pretty funny too.

I'm still quite happy checking out the latest pop princesses, but it can be a bit disconcerting to discover they are the same age as my friend's daughter. Yet not as disconcerting as thinking 'hmm Britney is definitely looking a bit past it now' then realising she is still ten years younger than me.

Yikes! With that thought I'll bid you adieu for now. Back to the tables....

Monday, April 25, 2005

Pass The Co-Codamol

My head REALLY hurts today. But it was worth it.

90 minutes of frenzied action, nine hours of boisterous drinking, and the league is (almost) back in Paradise. Mostly thanks to Craig Bellamy and Stilian Petrov. No thanks to Stuart Dougal - as I expected. If only all my predictions could be so accurate.

I'm always happier moaning about referees after we have won, since it negates the sour grapes accusations. Today is the ideal opportunity. For the second week in a row Celtic were denied a clear penalty. For the umpteenth time, Rangers got away with kicking the crap out of our key players.

Last time at Ibrox the red mist came down and the bait was taken. This time, Celtic answered back in the best possible way, with two great goals, a dominant performance, and ultimate victory.

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping in the trees, and today the world feels a better place - despite the vice around my cranium.

The world of Scottish journalism also afforded me a chuckle, when they awarded the Sports Journalist of the Year prize to Keith Jackson. Yes, the same Keith Jackson who was duped into running a 4-month old internet hoax, perpetrated by a schoolkid, as an exclusive headline story. If he is the best, what does that tell you about the rest?

Bloglines was buzzing this morning. In my befuddled state I was initially surprised by this, but soon realised the reason. A blogger is on his was to the WSOP. Fantastic.

I've already ploughed through the writeups and they really whetted my appetite. If there's another tournament next Sunday I might manage to squeeze in, since I've got a late start on Monday morning. We shall see.

Not much poker news to report. I've had no time to play since my live action last Thursday. That sucks.

It's been a poor month for me so far. I've got a few days left to redeem myself and see if I can drag the bankroll back into profit. Lots of sanding, and maybe some painting, to do this week, but I'll try to set aside some table time.

The decorating is all geared towards the ever closer arrival of the first baby Div. I managed to attend Mrs Div's most recent midwife appointment, so got to hear the heartbeat for the first time. Another moment to treasure. I'm getting awfully sentimental in my old age. Cooing over other peoples kids, and generally taking a more benign view of the world at large. Time to get back on the tables and brutalise some fish. There's a lot of stuff still to be paid for!

My sentimentality even extended to the photographs of Courtney Cox and David Arquette's christening of their child Coco. I received these the day the story broke, and actually felt quite guilty when I looked at them. There's a very 'real' feeling to them. No way are they fakes. Jennifer Aniston still looked VERY nice though.

One final snippet. The company who own Empire Poker are now planning a float, as are the company behind 888/Pacific Poker. Valuations of £500m($900m) and £800m($1450m) are being put on the businesses. Serious money!!

Friday, April 22, 2005

B&M Poker Is Rigged!!!


First the good news. I finally managed to suck out on someone on a 2/4 Party Poker Bad Beat Jackpot table - unfortunately not by rivering higher quads.

The play went like this. I limp in MP with 66. No raise. Six players to the flop. The flop comes AA5. Hmmm. Checked to me. I check. Player to my left bets. Everyone else folds.

I wonder if he really does have an Ace. Decide if he did, he wouldn't bet out. Maybe he has a 5, in which case my 66 is good? I raise. He calls.

This, I don't like. Until the turn brings a 6. Wahey. Full house. Since my raise must have disguised my 66, I bet. He raises, I reraise, he calls. River is a blank. Bet, raise, reraise, call.

He flips AKo for trip Aces - and he is NOT happy, and goes off into a rant about how this would never have happened in No Limit, damn fish would never have got past the flop with 66, etc. I smile, feeling quite content.

Of course I could point out that limping with AK is hardly solid play. Nor is passing the chance to reraise me on the flop - the one time in the hand when he was actually ahead - but I did hit a 2 outer, and it feels good. The boot is on the other foot for a change.

There's something quite satisfying about sucking out on a Party player every so often. The fact he actually went off on one made it even more pleasurable. Because of my playing style, I'm often the victim, but rarely get the chance to do it to someone else.

Mainly playing solid cards means it's not often that someone goes into a flop ahead of me. I can recall a few times I've raised with hands like QQ, been reraised, hit a set on the flop and beat someone's KK or AA, but that's luck, rather than bad play. Hardly the same as the waves of opponents cold calling a raise with 92s that flops two pair, or rivers trip 2s, that I have to endure.

It's similar to the perverse pleasure derived from winning a football game you don't deserve to win. Of course the most satisfying victory is always the stylish thrashing by a convincing margin, but there's a mischievously satisfying thrill in the flukey 1-0 with a deflected last minute winner, or dodgy penalty. The undeserved victory, especially against a team I REALLY don't like, brings a unique sense of glee.

The profit from that hand covered my costs for my first ever foray into live tournament play. The weekly £5($9) Pot Limit Hold Em event at the Gala Riverboat Casino in Glasgow.

To set the scene, Glasgow has several casinos - though none on the mega scale of the Vegas resorts. The Riverboat is probably the most popular. The poker room is tucked away at the back. Six tables, each laid out for ten players. A bit dingier than the main gaming hall, with very rickety tables that sway with the players. Authentically recreating the feel of a Mississippi cruiser bobbing on the waves.

The room was busy. Each table was eleven handed, with a player occupying the dealer position. Yep, the tournament was self dealt.

The structure was not what I'm used to online. A £5 buy in for 1000 chips. Blinds 50/100 fixed for the first 105 minutes, then incrementing quite rapidly thereafter.

Unlimited rebuys are available to anyone dropping below 500 chips during this time period, plus an add on before the blinds escalated.

Only the first three places are officially paid.

There were a range of players from grizzled veterans down to student types who barely looked old enough to be there. Guys who were visibly shaking as they threw their chips in.

The action was mega loose. Lots of really strange raising and calling. Very little positional awareness. LOADS of rebuying from practically the first hand of the tournament onwards.

I never really got going. Seated in the 8s I was pleased that the 9s drew the button, as it gave me an orbit of the table to assess the game, before I had to put any chips in the pot. With the blinds high in comparison to starting chips, and the loose aggressive play, with mostly pot sized raises, I quickly decided I was going to wait for a decent hand then get all my chips in to try to double through. Not my preferred style of play.

I folded through the blinds once, before as the big blind approached for the second time, I found pocket nines, with a limper in the 7s. I made a pot size raise, and got a smooth call from the 9s, folds from the blinds, and a call from the 7s. Please send undercards Mr Dealer!

The flop came A96. Fantastic! I was sure at least one of these guys would have an A, and would call, so when the 7s checked I had no hesitation in shoving all my chips in the middle. No need to go for a check-raise or slowplay I figured.

To my delight, both players called. Since they still had chips the cards stayed hidden. The turn, as I recall, was an 8, and the river a T. No flush but four to a straight on the board. Dammit. As the dealer said, 'Lets see who has the 7!?'

I was already mentally prepared for the rebuy, but imagine my surprise when the 7s flipped TT for the rivered set, and the 9s flipped AA for the flopped set!!! Mine was the worst of THREE sets. So I 'improved' from worst hand pre-flop to 2nd worst on the flop, and regressed to worst on the river. Unbelievable. 'REBUY!!'

I was pretty crestfallen by that turn of events, but still felt my strategy was worth pursuing.

Another round of folding through the blinds, and one piece of decent play that turned bad. In the BB holding AJo I was faced by a raise from one of the guys who seemed more solid, and who had accumulated a reasonable stack.

I knew if I called him I'd be all in on the flop, and I figured he was holding something decent, so I passed and saw him called by another player who ended up all in. Cards were flipped and the raiser showed QQ.

Just as I was congratulating myself on my good play, the dealer threw down an Ace high flop. Aaarrgghh.

On the next orbit, as the big blind approached again, I found AQo UTG. A pot size raise saw the entire table fold to me. So, some of them were paying attention after all! At least that bought me a free orbit.

As the end of the rebuy period approached, I was sitting with about 800 chips and would be first to post the higher big blind. Meanwhile the 2s had accumulated well over 10,000 chips. I didn't see any point taking the add on just to play as a 7/1 shortstack with blinds rising quickly, so I decided to try to double through if I got any sort of hand and quit if I missed.

On the final hand of the rebuy period I found ATo UTG. Not great but still some of my best hole cards of the evening. My pot size raise was reraised by the big stack 2s and called by the 4s. I reraised all in and both called. The 2s flipped KQ, the 4s QT, putting me in front and slightly diminishing their outs.

It didn't stop the dealer finding another Q and no A - sending me out and leaving the 2s with a chip mountain. Oh well, at least I got the chips in while I was ahead.

Speaking to one of the other players later, he said the final table usually do a deal to make sure they all get some cash. He finished 8th a few weeks ago and got £100. His friend won it recently and got £900!!!

There are so many rebuys the cash grows quickly. I reckon most people spent at least £20, some a fair bit more. One guy at our table burnt through his cash so quickly he was tapping his friend for a loan after about 80 minutes.

I'd definitely go again, though not every week. The action was a bit weird, with the blinds too high to start with. I think my tactics were ok, but will need to read up a bit more on how to play pot limit tournaments.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bad Beat Bonus Brutality

So the Party Poker Bad Beat Bonus is over $400,000 and rising. We all know what that means. Hordes of frenzied fish!!!

Only one problem. I seem to have mislaid my net! I can't catch a thing, and I'm spending plenty on bait. Really, it's so bad if I didn't laugh I would cry. My luck has to change soon.

The humour isn't just in the cards; some of the chat is beyond satire.

One fishy character with a VPIP of 41% was berating another for his loose play. Amazingly, he was actually justified - relatively speaking. The target of his ire was running at a truly oceanic 63% VPIP. Even that doesn't compare with my record sighting to date - a gargantuan 84% More a whale than a fish!

It's so bad, I've almost given up note taking, for fear of wearing out the M O R N keys. Though I did take note of one maniac who tried a bluff raise on the river - in a 2/4 limit game with a juicy pot.

Could I take a cent off these creatures of the deep? Not a chance!

If I had more free time, I'd be online until the bonus is hit. The law of averages says there is gold in them there tables. You just gotta keep digging for long enough. Poker, Pique, and Parenthood - where metaphors collide.

I'd been plotting a new feature for the blog, for which the first couple of entries were already prepared. So, let me introduce item 1 in a recurring (until I run out of ideas or the copyright lawyers catch up with me) feature.

Music To Play Poker By - Part 1

The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again

I could have gone for something more appropriate to my current online rut. Boys Don't Cry by The Cure perhaps, or some nice uplifting Radiohead, but I decided to stick with this.

Why? Well, for starters it fits in with my Modish musical tastes. It's also got a deliciously evocative title for a poker tune.

The primordial wail Roger Daltrey emits is broadly comparable to some of the roars of rage and anguish I've been emitting recently. It's one of the benefits of online poker that you can tell your opponent exactly what you think of his play, without him ever knowing. Similar behaviour in a B&M establishment might lead to a punch on the nose. Though if I came face-to-face with some of the morons I've lost to recently, I'd want them to start something. Boy do they need some sense knocked into them.

When my cowboys have just been taken down by some idiot who cold calls two bets with any ace and chases it all the way to the river, I feel much better after expressing myself, usually with something along the lines 'youfeckingmoronyouhaven'tgotafeckingcluenowonderbushgotreelected

The second the words have left my mouth, I feel liberated and ready for the next hand. Face-to-face, all I can do is sigh and mournfully shake my head. A model of decorum am I.

There's also the chance to get out of your seat and air guitar those trademarked Pete Townsend windmills, without fear of witness. Unless, that is, you play poker with a webcam on. In which case, you probably want to be watched you sicko! Online poker is a pretty unhealthy pastime, so a bit of air guitar aerobics should get the blood pumping. More soon.

Away from the PC, I'm aiming to head along to a B&M establishment for some Hold Em tournament action tomorrow. It's a very low buy in, so should be some light hearted fun. We shall see. Casino poker on a school night - depravity here I come!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Domestic Doings

This work and family responsibilities stuff sure gets in the way of my poker playing and blogging!

Until last night, I'd hardly played at all since the middle of last week. I did manage to work off the sign up bonus for Empire, showing a small card playing profit by the end of 500 hands, which I then mostly frittered away on Full Tilt through a combination of cold decking and missed draws.

The brutal bad beats which are commonplace on Party Poker are more of a rarity on Full Tilt, so it's left to the dealer, rather than opponents, to torture me with death by a thousand low cards.

I then entered the Empire $500 freeroll, and some very good cards early on put me in a strong position, before my QQ all-in pre-flop against a short stack 88 fell victim to a flopped set. That set me back quite a bit, but I recovered to make the final 20.

The most erratic player at the table then called my quarter-stack raise with JJ. The flop came Kx3 and was checked to me. Sensing weakness I plunged all-in, and waited anxiously as he pondered the bet. With ONE SECOND left on the clock, he called the bet and showed A3o for bottom pair - just as the turn card showed an ace. Oh well. $4.25 reward for my efforts.

I was pretty annoyed with the beat, but quite pleased that despite my focus on limit grinding, I haven't forgotten how to play No Limit. Both my big chip losses came when I had all my chips in whilst ahead, and that's all you can ask for.

More good news came from my initial Poker Tracker Guide investigations. Until now I've used the player rating guidelines which are referred to on 2+2. These have me labeled as a rock, which is no bad thing for a grinder, but I did feel might be an underestimation of how aggressively I play.

After the swings of the past month, it was a nice confidence boost to see my rock become a moneybag when I applied the new rules as defined by Iggy and Hank. Changing an icon doesn't change the damage to my bankroll, but it's nice to have validation that I'm in a bad luck, rather than bad play, downswing.

I look forward to making more use of the guide when I have the time. How many times must I say it? You really should be using Poker Tracker if you are serious about online play.

Offline, I did manage to catch some of the qualifiers for the Party Poker UK Open on The Poker Channel. I've seen some complaints about some of the recent US programs becoming all-in frenzies, so it was nice to sit and watch 45 minutes of cagey heads up play. A bit more cerebral and considered than some of the more muscular action we are growing used to.

The commentating was fine, but at some points they did talk over the player banter. This seemed a missed opportunity to me. It would have been interesting to hear what was being said, especially once it went heads up and the psychology really came into play.

The Poker Channel is carrying the Full Tilt adverts, which can be downloaded from their website. They look good on the PC monitor, and mighty impressive on a widescreen TV. Very professional.

Away from poker, I missed the weekend thriller between Celtic and Aberdeen, to take Mrs Div away on a final short break before she gives birth. We usually like to make use of the budget airlines to head off to sunnier climes, but in her current condition she didn't like the idea of being on an aircraft. So we got out to see some of the Scottish countryside.

The weather wasn't great, but we did have a very relaxing time, including afternoon tea at Gleneagles. How civilised. Throw in a trip to St Andrews and it almost became a golfing themed tour.

Civility takes a back seat this weekend, as it's the final game of the season between Celtic and Rangers. This time, it really does matter! Neither team is playing well, so it could be a war of nerves. Expect blood, guts, thunder and not much football. Stuart Dougal is the referee. Florence or Zebedee would be a better choice.

Europeans get the game on Sky TV. Americans and Canadians should rally to the forces of light, and get down to your local Celtic Supporters Association to see the game. 1350 East Tropicana Ave for the Vegas crew.

I'll settle for a draw, but won't be making any bets. Way too unpredictable, this one!

On the Blogroll, I've added 50 outs. My first German blogger. He deserves a break after his recent Vegas beating, and I'm sure the much treasured membership of my Blogroll is just the boost he needs.

I'm still struggling with the setup on my Belkin Pre-N router. The range is great but I keep getting dropped connections - no good when playing poker - and when I enable encryption I totally lose connectivity.

Several calls to the Belkin helpdesk have yielded a range of 'solutions' incorporating channel switching, reinstallation of the wireless card on my laptop, removal of my firewall, and deinstallation of my anti virus software - with no success. Any suggestions out there? Invite the hackers into my home? Buy Netgear?

Finally thanks to those kind souls who have left comments or linked me up. It's nice to know some people appreciate my ramblings.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Whoring We Will Go

So, enough of the football/religion stuff. Back to the serious business of poker.

Until last night I'd gone poker free for over a week. Primarily due to a series of family and work related commitments. This has put me well behind my money making timetable, but was no disaster as I think I needed a break.

I broke the duck by signing up for Empire with a new pseudonym. It makes sense to mix my play up a little to incorporate more bonus whoring possibilities, and throw any avid data miners off the scent. Iggy got my Party sign up, so this time I decided to donate to Pauly. Maybe my rake will pay for a lapdance or two in Vegas.

After my downswing in the last Party Poker blitz, a gentle reintroduction at the $0.5/$1 tables was in order - with no multi-tabling.

I did manage to work off over 100 of the 500 hands required to clear the bonus, but returned a very small loss for the evening. The tone was set as early as the second hand of the evening. Dealt QQ. J high flop with two hearts. The BB had called my raise with QJs. They caught top pair and a four flush. Rivered the flush.

Not a bad beat, but not what I wanted to see after my recent experiences. Now I'm back in action, it's time to steel my nerves and play my way through the downswing to start accumulating cash again.

Away from the tables, I've added a few links to new blogs over to the right, and also restructured the links to incorporate a section on poker publications.

Since I'm based over in Europe, I wanted to introduce more of a European identity to the site. Sporting Life is as good a way as any to bring in some of that influence. The site has lots of good poker content, including excellent diaries and interviews with European pros. You can also click through to their coverage of other sports.

I've also added a link to English blogger Milkybarkid, who coincidentally is also interviewed in Sporting Life. He is not short of material to fill his blog! Check out the pic of him with Gus Hansen at the Monte Carlo EPT event, where one of them made the final table. Can you guess who?

One Scandinavian blogger also entered my radar, so he is linked up too. Since most Scandinavians speak better English than we Brits, I'm surprised I haven't found more Scandinavian blogs. Maybe they are all too busy reraising with J7s to write.

Of course, as I link up more people, it would be nice to get a few more inbound links! If you wish to link me up I'd be grateful if you linked me as "Poker, Pique and Parenthood" to help raise that Google profile.

It's a buzz to see the searches some people can reach the site on. I was pleasantly surprised to see someone found me when searching for Gametime+. A bona fide poker query hits my site!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Scotland's Secret Shame

It's been an interesting week in Scotland, with some very interesting insights into the nature of the nation delivered not by the actions of the protagonists, but rather their inaction.

To set the scene, it is necessary to note that over the years a tradition has evolved in Scottish, and indeed international, football of observing a one minute silence before kick-off to show respect for the death of significant public figures, or to acknowledge other major events. Recent examples include such tragedies as 9/11, the Asian tsunami, the Madrid train bombings, etc.

The criteria for individuals is rather flexible, and certainly allows for a degree of interpretation. The death of an ex-club captain may justify a minutes silence at the next home game for his club only. Whereas the death of a significant figure, such as a much capped internationalist, would be cause for a minute silence at all games across Scotland.

The death of non-footballing figures tends to only be marked when they are of national, or international, significance. In the UK this tends to include members of the Royal Family, such as Diana, Princess of Wales, the Queen Mother, and perhaps the occasional politician.

It was the fluidity in these arrangements and protocols which led to Celtic fans observing three separate minute silences to mark the premature death of the immensely talented ex-Rangers player Davie Cooper.

So, with the death of The Pope, it seems a no brainer that a nation which is 25% Roman Catholic, and probably 90% Christian, would have no problems with paying their respects with a minute silence.

After all, if over 4 million people, including 200 world leaders, ranging from the current and two former US Presidents, through all branches of the Christian faith, to the President of such a staunchly Muslim country as Iran, can attend the funeral in person; and nations around the world can hold their own ceremonies, encompassing all faiths, then a Christian nation, which the Pope visited in his prime, should surely embrace the opportunity for a short public display or respect?

The first opportunity came within hours of the death of The Pope. The game: Motherwell versus Rangers. A minute silence? No. Instead the nation was treated to the Rangers fans singing one of their 'football' songs, No Pope Of Rome.

"No no pope of Rome
No chapels to sadden my eyes
No nuns and no priests and no rosary beads
And every day is the twelth of July"

Classy, huh? Since Scotland is in the midst of a long overdue crackdown on bigotry and sectarianism, you'd have expected action. Arrests at the game? Outrage in the newspapers for the next few days at least? Questions in Parliament? Rangers punished by the football authorities?

Not. A. Thing. Nothing. Almost no mention at all. Quite simply, people expected it from Rangers fans, and tolerated it.

Still, hope for Scottish football to display some decency was not yet lost. The SFA still had the chance to order a minute silence at the next round of games. Surely they wouldn't miss the opportunity to redeem the national sport?

Not so. You see, the Scottish Football Association(SFA), claim to be a 'secular organisation', and consequently refused to order any minute silence. This despite the fact UEFA, the governing body of European football, had ordered that a silence be observed at the games falling directly within their jurisdiction. So the SFA feel able to order a tribute to less significant international figures such as The Queen Mother, yet unable to intervene in relation to The Pope.

In adopting this stance the SFA unconsciously laid out, in full public view, the character of their organisation. They are resolutely of the Scottish establishment. Unionist, Protestant, conformist, outdated.

At this point, the power of the internet came into play. This weekend brings one of the biggest footballing events, the Scottish Cup semi-finals. In which Celtic will participate.

As Celtic are recognised as a team which draws a higher than average percentage of their support from the Catholic community, it is understandable their supporters would expect the opportunity to show their respect at the next public event. So, The Celtic Supporters Association took it upon themselves to organise an unofficial silence, by issuing the following statement:

"Following the death of the Holy Father, the CSA are calling on all Celtic Supporters attending the Scottish Cup Semi-Final on Sunday 10th April to observe a minute of silence in tribute and celebration of the life of a great spiritual and world leader. As spiritual leader of one billion Catholics, he is admired as a man of justice and peace throughout the World. World and Spiritual Leaders of all faiths and none have paid tributes to his life.

We are disappointed at the lack of official action from Scottish Football Authorities and therefore call upon all decent supporters present to take the lead and show how it should be done. FIFA and UEFA authorities have already consented to such tributes, as witnessed at this week's Champions League and UEFA cup-ties, with numerous other tributes taking place throughout the sporting world.

We would request that those present on Sunday wear an article of appropriate clothing perhaps a black ribbon or armband. The signal to commence the minute's silence will be the Celtic players coming together at the Huddle. At this time the Celtic support will stand in silence, regardless of any distraction or discord from anywhere within Hampden Park.

Do not react to any provocation, millions worldwide through television coverage will witness our action. Remember 'One Scotland, Many Cultures'.

We intend to further this debate with the authorities at a more appropriate time. Scotland's Shame cannot, and will not, go unchallenged."

This statement was rapidly circulated by email, online forums and newsgroups.

Suddenly the SFA were in an untenable situation. Open to worldwide ridicule for refusing to sanction a tribute which would thus be enacted purely by 'people power'. Circumventing their authority over the organisation of the game.

So, they relented. Without acknowledging the actions of others, they issued a short statement:

"The Scottish FA Board, at its meeting this morning, has decided that there will be a minute's silence before the Scottish Cup semi-finals, as an appropriate mark of respect to His Holiness Pope John Paul II, who died last Saturday. "

Note the wording. No acknowledgement of the actions of The Celtic Supporters Association.

Still we can rely on the media to grasp hold of this story of the triumph of people power over institutional inertia and bigotry - after all, 'One Scotland, Many Cultures' - and give it the prominence it deserves. Except, we can't. The story was barely covered. More media cover up.

Why is this so? Well, the simple fact is that Scotland has a problem with religious bigotry. Not on the level of Northern Ireland, or Palestine, but a problem nonetheless. This can be manifested through occasional bouts of low level violence - no religious crusades for sure - and often through a more insidious discrimination, the 'what school did they go to?' culture, which makes some trades and organisations less than open to those from the wrong background.

Whilst this problem is recognised, its true nature is rarely examined. Most press and politicians find it comfortable to label it as a football problem, tied entirely to Celtic and Rangers; rather than a societal problem which is often expressed at football games. Even then, they insist on viewing it as purely relating to Celtic and Rangers, despite the evidence of anti-Catholic sentiments expressed at other Scottish grounds.

They prefer to package it purely in terms of 'The Old Firm' - a title coined to link Celtic and Rangers inextricably together.

Sectarianism and bigotry can only be admitted on an equitable blame level. If a Celtic fan assaults a Rangers fan, it's an 'Old Firm' problem. If a group of Rangers fans attack a Celtic supporters bar, it's an 'Old Firm' problem. They find it exceptionally difficult to tolerate any reporting which assigns a greater degree of blame to either side.

This presents the media and politicians with a grave problem when events occur at which either side is not represented.

After the death of The Pope, Rangers fans singing "Fuck The Pope and The Vatican" when Celtic are not even playing on the same day, yet alone in the same stadium, is a severe inconvenience.

The solution? Ignore it. Pretend it didn't happen. After all, bigotry is an 'Old Firm' problem, is it not?

To criticise the behaviour of one side only is politically and commercially dangerous. Especially when an election campaign is underway. Easier to pretend it doesn't exist, and save their outrage and rancour for the next 'Old Firm' game.

By refusing to confront the problem, they implicitly sanction its existence. By insisting on the equitable blame approach, they earn distrust from those more sinned against than sinner. Their moral authority is nil.

That is how it is, and that is how it will continue to be, until the blinkers are removed, and the truth admitted. I am not holding my breath.

Why publish this post then? What good will it do? Well, in a week where Japan has been accused of trying to rewrite history by excising large elements from their recent past, I've been struck by just how little awareness of the Scottish situation exists, and is being recorded for posterity.

Yesterday a Rangers supporting workmate commented to me on how odd it was that the SFA had taken so long to organise a silence for the cup semi-final. An intelligent, rational adult, living in the epicentre of the happenings, he had no knowledge of the events which had unfolded. Proof in itself of the paucity of press coverage.

So, consider this my small contribution to the documentation of the history of 21st century Scotland. This is where I live, and this is how it is.

Monday, April 04, 2005

One Step Forward

Wow. Four whole days over a weekend and ALMOST no poker.

I did do lots of sensible, useful stuff. The sort of things a responsible adult and pending parent should do. Like tidying the garden, clearing debris from various DIY escapades, and generally sorting out the house.

We even did some shopping for baby clothes. That's a pretty overwhelming experience. The little baby hats barely fit over my clenched fist, and I'm no Klitschko or Lewis!

I'm always petrified when I get the chance to hold a very young baby. I'm convinced they will squirm from my grasp and land on their head. It's not quite the same as spilling someone's beer. I don't think there's a spare in the fridge.

Watching the relaxed way my pals handle their kids is very impressive to me, but they assure me it all comes naturally. I do hope so!

I also made my final slightly frivolous purchase, from Ebuyer. A Belkin Pre-N MIMO wireless router and card for my laptop. What the fancy acronyms effectively mean is it's a wireless router with much better range than previous technologies.

So, my south-facing garden is now in internet range. Here's hoping for a nice summer, and maybe I can get a poker tan! Though bear in mind this IS Scotland we are talking about, so a 'nice summer' means >10 days without rain, and possibly a glimpse of the sun. Some guys get Aruba; I get the garden.

Ebuyer must have some ultra efficient dispatchers. I ordered on Thursday, using the super saver, el cheapo delivery option, and it arrived on Friday. I'd be pretty narked if I'd paid full whack for the express delivery - unless it arrived the same day!

On the poker front, the only play I've had so far was a short 2/4 session on Full Tilt on Sunday evening. I broke my diabolical losing streak with a very minor cash gain, despite making a monumental blunder with AA. In my defence, I've had a few bad experiences with good hands, but not the nuts, trying to check-call to a showdown against two other players when I'm not 100% sure I'm ahead, but the pot is too big to let go.

What happens is one player DOES have the nuts, and the other player is either stupid, or thinks the other guy is bluffing, so keeps throwing in raises, and getting re-raised, while I fume in the middle, with my set of queens on a possible straight board, or whatever.

So, on Sunday I get AsAh (I think - fix the damn hand history guys!) in the BB. It's folded around to LP, where it's brought in for a raise, and the button re-raises! Of course I cap, and both call.

The flop comes J high, but all clubs. Damn. Not great, but still worth a bet. LP calls and the button raises. Hmmm.

Normally this is a call, then check-call to showdown, for me. Unfortunately I begin to think too hard about the likely hands the two of them could have. It's not, in my mind at least, a calling board unless you have a really strong hand and want to keep the other players in the pot. Which makes me worry about the LP call.

Since the button re-raised pre-flop that probably means KK, QQ, or maybe a set of Js. I don't put him on AKs, since if I had AcKc I'd only call on the flop, and if I had AKs of anything else, I'd be folding this one. I don't put him on anything worse than JJ since who the heck would reraise pre-flop then raise this flop with anything less than JJ? (Spot the rhetorical question!)

Probably as a residual impact from the drubbing I took last month, I convince myself LP was probably raising with something like AcJc or better, and I'm likely drawing almost dead, and unlikely to see a cheap showdown due to the raising button. I might even be behind to both of them already, and I'm worried about getting sandwiched between the nuts and an optimistic raiser. So, I fold. Miller, Malmuth and Sklansky would beat me unconscious with their book for that one!

LP calls. I can't remember the rest of the action but it wasn't too aggressive. The turn was a blank, and the Ac came on the river, which would have given me a set but put four clubs on the board. LP checks the river and only calls a bet from the button - who flips over AJo, no clubs, for a winning two pair! Bollocks. Not a single club between them. I don't know what LP had. He didn't show.

So, the button reraised pre-flop with AJo and raised with TPTK on a possible flush board with two players already in the pot. That went on the player notes - though it worked for him this time! Another lesson learned.