Monday, July 30, 2007

Trip Report: London Theatreland

No poker this weekend, as I'd whisked K off to London for her 30th birthday treat.

We eschewed the budget airlines and perils of the Stansted or Gatwick Express, or the bus from Luton, in favour of BA flights from Glasgow direct to London City Airport in Docklands.

The early afternoon flight had been subbed out by BA to Titan Airways, and their cosy BAE-146 was only about a quarter full.

The sparsely populated aircraft, and a friendly and attentive crew - complete with requisite attractive blonde stewardess - lent the flight a pleasingly indulgent feel, reminiscent of the 'Catch Me If You Can' era.

It wasn't enough to completely relax K however, and her fingerprints on my tightly squeezed thumb bore witness to a few bumps and jolts as we climbed through the clouds to our cruising altitude.

Dermot Desmond - prime shareholder in Celtic - recently sold London City for about £500 million after buying it for £25 million just a decade previously.

Which bears testimony to the remarkable growth of what is a brilliantly convenient arrival point into London.

Departing from the plane, we boarded a small bus to whisk us the short distance to the arrival hall. There was a very short delay, as a member of the ground crew collected an unaccompanied minor from the plane.

The 'minor' in question was a dusky girl who looked like she had Mediterranean or Middle Eastern roots.

Almost as tall as me, and dressed in designer jeans and tummy skimming top, she ambled across the taxiway, laconically chewing on her gum. Painted nails, makeup, and jewellery completed the image.

Minor and staff member boarded the bus alongside K and I, which gave me the opportunity to do some snooping at the clipboard clasped by the ground crew.

I mentally shuddered, and filed the info away for later discussion, as we were rapidly deposited at the arrivals hall. Our bags already waiting on the belt.

A 200 yard walk took us to the Docklands Light Railway station, located within the airport grounds, where a £4 ticket was enough to transport us into the centre of London, and onwards on the tube system.

Having left Glasgow at 12.30pm, we were checked into our hotel near Tottenham Court Road, by 3.00pm.

As the DLR train clunked it's way through the East End - taking us past the Millennium Dome (now renamed the O2 Dome) - my thoughts strayed to one of my favourite movies, The Long Good Friday, and I wondered what Harold Shand would make of the new landscape of Docklands. It probably matches his vision rather well.

I quizzed K about the unaccompanied minor. What age did she reckon she had been? 'Sixteen?', speculated K. My own guess had been fourteen. The clipboard told a different story. Twelve!

Is it really only ten years until we can 'look forward' to the you're not wearing that/going there/staying out that late type debates that the outward persona of our fellow traveller hinted at? My mind is still boggling!

We spent the remainder of Friday and most of Saturday pottering around the sights, shops, and bars of Soho and Covent Garden. Doing the usual touristy stuff.

The 'main event' of the weekend was K's choice of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, starring reality TV show winner Lee Mead.

Two good seats having been procured as a side benefit of booking flights with BA, we found ourselves sitting behind a couple who appeared to be the proud parents of one of the kid's chorus, judging by their frenzied waving prior to curtain up.

She was glamorously dressed and had hair somewhat bigger than that you wish to be seated behind in an old fashioned theatre, but I was willing to forgive her that, given the obvious excitement and pride she was emanating.

He was a sort of cross between Pierce Brosnan and Frankie Dettori. I could see how they ended up with a kid on the stage!

I'm not so passionate as K about musicals, but I was converted by a previous trip to see Chicago at the same theatre, and generally enjoy them.

My mindset is more from the 'here we are now entertain us' school of audience participation, but I have to say I was blown away by the first half of the show. K agreed the second half dragged slightly, and the ensemble numbers could have done with some tighter editing, but on the whole it really was an amazing show.

Of course it always helps when there's some eye candy on display, and while K was ooohing over the loin cloth clad Lee (a man who has definitely been on the protein shakes recently) I was admiring the female narrator, whose stunning voice was matched by her looks. Happy days.

Afterwards we retired to the Nelly Gwynne pub directly next door to the theatre. Football on the TV, a brilliant heavily early 90's oriented jukebox, friendly bar staff, and reasonably priced (by London standards) booze, made for a great way to round off the night. So we stayed for quite a while.

The pub is under threat from property developers. Sign up to Save The Nell. Even if the steps to the cellar toilet are a challenge of Everest proportions after a few pints.

Role reversal moment of the weekend. Me enthusing about musicals. K avidly watching the darts on TV. That's what drink does to you!

Sunday was very much a lazy day, which ended with return flights from City Airport - a flight option I'd definitely recommend for visiting London. The only blot on their copybook being a scandalous £3.80 charge for a pint of Becks.

The last time I paid a comparable price for a drink, an extra £20 was enough to persuade an Eastern European Cameron Diaz (circa Something About Mary) lookalike to gyrate her scantily clad body within inches of my nose. No such services are on offer at LCY.

The flight back was busier, yet still only about 65% full I'd reckon. The check-in staff obviously had a sense of humour - depositing us in a full row with a third person, while the row two behind remained empty. Grrr.

All in all, a very nice weekend, made all the merrier by the absence of a toddler to drag us from our bed at an ungodly hour.

By Sunday evening we were both eagerly anticipating seeing her, and were greeted by a joyous explosion of bouncing, smiling and waving, as we made our way up the path to the house. All of which abated within a few minutes, as a comforting normality was resumed and a return to early mornings and work beckoned.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Farce Of The UIGEA

Swaggart has been caught with his trousers round his knees
After damning me and you to hell for eternity
Sex and power and money is the prayer of these priests
They bribe their way past heaven's gates and steal a set of keys
               - James, God Only Knows

For reasons soon to become clear, I've been rejigging my poker finances.

Until now, my bankroll has resided solely in Neteller, and been swapped between sites as necessary. With a US dollar Neteller account, and playing on sites where the games are US dollar based, I've built my bankroll up as a separate entity from the remainder of my finances.

Thus I've avoided any sort of foreign exchange conversion losses, which can be an additional layer of rake for UK or European players who routinely swap between dollars and their home currency.

Good for bankroll management, good for discipline, but not much use if I want to utilise the money for any other purposes.

So, with an impending need to temporarily withdraw a chunk of the cash, I was looking for options.

After some Googling, a Citibank US Dollar Current Account seemed just the ticket.

I could send some of my Neteller cash to this account, and have fee free access to it by US Dollar cheque and debit card. Excellent!

Being naturally cautious in financial matters, I thought it best to drop Neteller an email to make sure this would be OK. Their response in full...

"Thank you for you E-mail. We continue to encounter difficulties if processing funds in US dollars, we would strongly advise not to use a Citibank US dollar bank account to deposit or withdraw as there is a high possibility we may encounter difficulties in processing the funds appropriately."

So lets clarify this situation...

- I'm a UK citizen
- with money held by a company based in Europe and quoted on the UK stock exchange
- mostly playing poker on the UK skins of networks who don't accept US players
- wishing to transfer my winnings to the UK branch of a US institution (new business)
- so that I can spend some of the money on a trip to the US (more business for the US)

Yet it seems the UIGEA prevents me doing so.

Or does it? Well, it seems not.

One of the sites I play on allows fee free withdrawals direct to a nominated bank account, and they reckon it's doable.

If it's that easy for me, how difficult is it going to be for any of these mythical drug dealers and terrorists who are allegedly laundering their cash via the online poker world?

All of which makes me wonder what the point of this whole debacle is, other than to enable a few self serving, duplicitous, snakes-in-the-grass, to slither a little closer to the summit of Capitol Hill.

Respect The Overlay

A quick bit of pimpage. For a while the buzz in the UK poker world was the big overlays Mansion were offering on their $100k guarantee.

Now that tournament is deceased, another $100k guarantee with a juicy overlay is very welcome.

The Everest Sunday tourney at 16:30GMT is averaging an overlay of about $20k at present.

Not to be sniffed at for a $100+9 direct buy-in, or satellites from $11+1.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Random Saturday Night Thoughts

JK Rowling should write more Harry Potter books.

K and I made a deal this week that she would do one of my housekeeping jobs, and in return I'd take care of E all Saturday. Thus enabling her to immerse herself in the final tome.

The result, I had a great time chasing the toddler around the local soft play area for most of the morning. Energy expended, she slept for hours this afternoon, and with K still ploughing her way through the book, I was free to hit the cash games for a few hours - and win. Everyone's happy! Thanks JK.

Thank the lord for Penelope and Monica Cruz!

I saw Mean Girls for the first time recently. Surprisingly funny it was too - until the wheels came off in the last 20 minutes as it descended into a schmaltz fest.

Previously I'd only actually known Lindsay Lohan for being a drunken cokehead, so it was interesting to see she actually has talent.

As a thirty six year old guy, there is a certain uneasiness that comes from watching a movie set in a school and thinking damn those girls look good. Mind you, Lindsay is seeing Calum Best so she obviously has an affinity for dodgy guys. So no harm done.

It's nice to have some more mature figures to populate my lustful imagination with. To quote from the article I linked to - 'together they have a combined sexual voltage that could overload the national grid'. Yes indeed - and to make things even better, Penelope is making a movie with Scarlett Johansson. Yum, yum!

Div kills two birds with one stone!

UK energy policy is a bit of a mess at present. The highest profile problem is environmental. I could write a whole post about issues of security of supply, but for now let's stick to the headline issue.

Another problem we have relates to law and order. The prisons are full. The authorities are releasing cons prematurely because there's nowhere to keep them.

Community service doesn't work. There's talk of bringing back a form of hard labour.

Fret no more politicians, for I have the answer. Giant hamster wheels. Let's get them hooked up to generators, and get those cons jogging.

Send them home at night too shattered for any nocturnal thieving, but let's not train them to sprint too fast.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

WSOP Live Streaming For Nowt

No idea how this works, but it does...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Quelle Suprise!

So Glasgow Rangers are under investigation for corruption.

You'd expect this will come as an embarrassment to them, but it's hard to spot a red-neck through a sunbed tan. Just ask Tommy Sheridan about that!

Most will assume this has to do with dodgy transfers, but maybe it's internal affairs catching up with Andy Davis at last.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


What a week. The variance monster has been in full effect and the bankroll stats have been up and down like a whore's knickers.

The iPoker no limit games can be a pretty wild place to reside.

I met a new favourite maniac on Saturday - 87%/65% at a $100 table. At one point he'd quadrupled through and the waiting list grew. When he eventually sat out at just above even, three players left the table.

One downside of multi-tabling iPoker is the relatively short decision time can make things a bit rushed when there are odd betting patterns to be evaluated.

That said, when someone limps KK and your 77 finds a K7x flop with two diamonds, it's bye-bye stack time no matter how much time there is to think. With these players anyway.

It's been interesting experimenting with different strategies.

I forced myself to play four tables tonight in a very passive pre-flop mode - the exact opposite of my usual cash game style - and got paid a few times when I hit.

I also had to throw away a few big pairs on distinctly unfavourable flops, but it's all good learning experience.

Always nice to have more than one string to the bow, as the saying goes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Comedy iPoker - A Lesson Applied Well

Here is a funny hand from a recent session. At first it might seem I played it terribly post-flop, but there was method to my madness....

Seat 1: Iceage12122 ($89.85 in chips)
Seat 2: jimboyo ($20.81 in chips)
Seat 4: snipxx ($162.65 in chips)
Seat 5: sigge79 ($138.03 in chips)
Seat 6: VILLAIN ($142.58 in chips)
Seat 7: FRIDENISFRI ($49.40 in chips) DEALER
Seat 9: HERO ($95.00 in chips)
Seat 10: oakesee ($98.70 in chips)
HERO: Post SB $0.50
oakesee: Post BB $1.00
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HERO

Iceage12122: Fold
jimboyo: Call $1.00
snipxx: Call $1.00
sigge79: Raise $4.00
VILLAIN: Call $4.00
HERO: Raise $20.00
oakesee: Fold
jimboyo: Fold
snipxx: Fold
sigge79: Fold
VILLAIN: Call $16.50
*** FLOP ***

HERO: Check
*** TURN ***

HERO: Check
*** RIVER ***

HERO: Check
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $45.60 Rake $2.40

VILLAIN: wins $45.60

The Villain is an ex-Tribeca player I've spent many hours at the table with. He's not the worst I've ever seen, but he does struggle to put down any sort of half decent hand.

The raise from the other player pre-flop looked suspiciously small, and I didn't want to play an out-of-position pot against four or five players, so I re-popped it more than usual, hoping the other guy had KK or QQ and would move in on my apparent AK.

I was somewhat surprised when everyone folded to the Villain who took an eternity to call. Based on our previous history, I immediately put him on an upper middling pair.

When he called, if I had to stake my life on it, I'd have said he had Jacks. AA/KK/AK and probably QQ I reckon he reraises. Middle pairs down he folds. He's not the sort of loon who turns up with KQo in these situations.

All said, it's not a bad spot to get over 1/5 of my chips in pre-flop. Until the damn flop comes J high. I actually swore out loud at this point.

Any meaningfully sized bet from me here pretty much pot commits me, so checking seems the lesser of two evils.

When he checks behind and the turn brings the Q I mentally give it up, as I am convinced he has either a set or an open ended straight draw and there's no way of telling which.

The river is a laugh out loud moment. By now I'm sure he must be seriously considering I've got AK, which would mean I've backdoored my way to the nuts against what I am absolutely convinced is a set.

The thought of representing AK does cross my mind. But recall my earlier words - 'he does struggle to put down any sort of half decent hand'.

Is he 'good' enough to fold a set here? No. Is he cautious enough to take a free showdown? Yes.

In retrospect a flop bet might have taken down the pot, or at least scrambled the RNG enough to bring about a different card sequence, but based on my read I'm not unhappy with how I played it. Especially resisting the temptation to bet my 'straight' into an unfoldable set on the river.

Monday, July 09, 2007

We Interrupt This Transmission

So I found a clever person who hacked the new upgraded Blogger templates, so that I can have my favoured three column layout.

Which is good - because I can use Blogger widgets now.

Which is bad - because I need to rebuild a lot of the template content.

Expect a period of change with some scrambled layouts and unsual fonts...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Donkeys. Muppets. Morons. Fish.

Call them what you will. We should love them but sometimes, despite our better judgement, we just can't help but hate them.

Last night I lost some of the most ridiculous hands. I got kings, and lost; queens, and lost; kings (again), and lost.

Every time, I raised pre-flop. Every time, I bet the flop. Every time, I got sucked out on.

Donkeys. Muppets. Morons. Fish. I LOVE them!!

Two hours, $448 profit. Despite all of the above, the Poker Tracker stats stayed green, as a succession of imbeciles queued up to donate to the Div Vegas Fund.

I'm torn to pick a favourite hand of the night between the guy who decided to call a pre-flop raise with 97 and bet every street from a 755 flop - moving all-in on the river - when I was holding 55 (Quads bitches!), and the guy who played K3 on a KK2 flop like it was the mortal nuts. I had 22.

One of those nights when poker really is as much fun as it should always be.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

June Summary

I had good intentions of writing a detailed summary for June, but alas time is against me so I'll stick to the basics.

I took a bit of a kicking on PokerStars in June, despite having a few big winning sessions. These were balanced out by some equally big losing sessions, and some losses at the more 'recreational' Razz and HORSE tables.

Fortunately iPoker came to my rescue towards the end of the month and I managed to notch up a couple of hundred profit for the month.

There are still people playing $100 buy-in tables on iPoker with stats like 85%/20%.

It boggles the mind! Just be prepared to occasionally get stacked by some *sick* outdraws. It's +EV in the long term.

If you want to play on iPoker, there's no better place than BlondePoker - with their (ahem) 30% loyalty scheme paid monthly into your account.

I managed to get some good time in at the gym during my holiday then gave up all the good work as soon as I started my new job - which necessitates a slightly earlier start in the morning.

Resolution for July - work out a more productive timetable for my non-working hours...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Gerritrightupye Osama

"What's the score? I've got to get this sorted." - John Smeaton

I saw this guy on the news, and thought 'what a character'. It seems others were thinking the same.

Get over to the website and buy Glasgow's answer to Jack Bauer a pint.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Al Qaeda Amateur Hour

When I was a lad my mum would often caution me as I left the house. 'Be careful crossing the road', she'd tell me.

Wise words when spoken to an eight year old. Twenty eight years later, it gets a bit wearing when I hear those words as I depart from a visit to the parents.

This thought crossed my mind amidst the blanket coverage of the terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport, which follows close on the heels of an abortive attempt to attack the theatre district of London.

By coincidence later this month I'll be flying from Glasgow Airport with K, on a trip to...the theatre district of London. It's K's thirtieth birthday in July, and her treat is a trip to see the new version of 'Joseph'.

Our hotel is located under half a mile from the site of the intended bomb blast.

Has the events of the last few days put me off? Of course not! The only negative thought that crossed my mind has been that I might have got a better deal on the hotel if I'd booked later.

The fact is the people who stage these attacks are remorseless maniacs but also severely lacking in competence.

No doubt eventually they will get lucky and stage a more devastating attack in terms of loss of life and property destroyed. For now, the reality is we are dealing with an enemy so useless, their suicide bombers cannot even kill themselves, let alone anyone else.

Frankly they'd be a lot more dangerous if they gave up on trying to blow themselves up, and simply drove a 4x4 vehicle at high speed through the pedestrianised shopping areas of Glasgow on a Saturday afternoon.

With that in mind, I despair of the sanctimonious nonsense spouted by some people in reaction to yesterday's attack.

Terrorists thrive not only on actual damage inflicted, but on spreading fear of further attacks.

With that in mind, there's no more effective way of combating them than getting on with your business as usual.

Not ignoring them; but not letting them rule our lives either.

One of the natural reactions on some of the forums I frequent was to mock the ineptitude of the attacks. That was certainly my reaction.

Some berated that reaction on the grounds of what might have happened. People *could* have been killed or injured. Yes, but they weren't. It really is a load of sanctimonious nonsense to pretend otherwise.

If we live our lives by those rules, we might as well all become agoraphobic and lock ourselves in the cellar. At which point the terrorists have won.

Fortunately most people are more sensible than the panic merchants who promote this sort of thinking.

Reacting with humour and a degree of scepticism is the right approach, and it's one the terrorists will find extremely difficult to overcome.