Yesterday around 4:30 I was getting ready to go out for some poker, when an email hit my inbox from http://www.houseseats.com/, announcing "last-minute" free ticket availability for Barry Manilow at the Hilton, 8:00 pm.
OK, time for a confession. I'm a straight male who likes Barry Manilow. Not crazy Fanilow level or anything, but I'm a sucker for a good love song or schmaltzy sad one, and Barry fills the bill.
So I speed-dialed my best friend, and, bless her heart, she was willing to sit through it with me, even though her musical taste runs more to the Beastie Boys, The Cure, and Linkin Park. So I nabbed the tickets and off we went.
The seats weren't quite as primo as the ones for Blue Man Group the previous night, but they were perfectly fine: about four rows from the back of the main floor, toward the far right, in what had once been Elvis Presley's theater. Paying full price would have been $137.50 apiece. (That's the second-cheapest price level. They run from $104.50 to $247.50.)
I can't add this to my list of best-ever Vegas shows, but it was certainly good enough that I'm glad I went. My complaints: (1) They started about 10 minutes late. (2) It was fairly short, about 1 1/4 hours. (3) They passed out chemical glow sticks, which just encouraged people to do that stupid slow arm-waving thing. (4) Some idiots in the audience always felt compelled to sing along, apparently on the assumption that everybody had come to hear them sing, rather than Barry Manilow. (5) It was much too amplified. (It's been said that if you think the music is too loud, you're too old. You can imagine, then, what it says about you if you find Barry Manilow too loud.) (6) I had a hard time seeing over the head of the guy in front of me--had to keep bobbing and weaving. (7) Even though the show is ostensibly meant to focus on Manilow's hits (the previous iteration of his Hilton show, "Music and Passion," featured on the poker chip shown above, is no more; this one is called "Ultimate Manilow: The Hits"), he did ultra-shortened and medley versions of many of my favorites in order to cram them in and get them out of the way to make room for pimping his soon-to-be-released album of other people's 1980s hits, as well as his other "decades" collections.
Perhaps most peculiar is that my friend and I both independently concluded that he was lip-syncing at least part of the time. There were spots in which he seemed out of phase with what we were hearing. Once I caught him whispering something to a fan in the first row while his singing voice finished the last second or two of a phrase over the speakers. This was all pretty mystifying, because for most of the show it was perfectly obvious that he was not lip-syncing. For example, he hit an off note once, garbled the lyrics of "American Bandstand" in one place, I heard his voice crack once, and at one point he paused a song to respond to something shouted from the audience--not things you would pre-record. His speaking voice sounded unusually raspy, so perhaps he has a cold or is developing a vocal cord problem, can't sustain an entire show, and thus has some voice rests built in, in the form of recorded music. I don't know. It was kind of weird.
In spite of the above nit-picking, I had a good time. It tugged at every sappy, soft-hearted, nostalgic bone in my body to hear "Weekend in New England," "Somewhere in the Night," "Trying to Get the Feeling Again," "Mandy" (done in an interesting manner: with Barry singing and playing the piano in parallel with the projected videotape of a 1975 television performance of the same song), "Looks Like We Made It," and my all-time choke-me-up favorite, "Even Now." Manilow is the king of wistfulness. If those last three songs can't reach something deep inside you that still pines for a lost love and wonders what might have been, well, you're lacking one of the emotions that make us human. Carrying an old torch is simultaneously happy and painful, and nobody can stoke those flames more effectively than Barry.
Two good shows in two days--excellent value from my houseseats.com subscription, I'd say. But enough of it for now. I need to get back to earning and to the main subject of this blog, which will soon return to being about poker.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Our local public radio station, KNPR, has a daily show about current events, mostly local, called "State of Nevada." Today one segment was about the recent announcement of final UIGEA regulations. Prof. I. Nelson Rose of Whittier Law School was the main guest. You can listen online and/or download an MP3 of the 22-minute segment, and see a decent collection of related links here.
Unfortunately, there was little detail--nothing like his recent article. But if nothing else, it's amusing to hear his description of the UIGEA: "piece of garbage" (at about 3:13).
As with the last time this general subject was discussed on this show, there's a caller who says that she once had a problem with compulsive gambling, and therefore she thinks online gaming should be outlawed. This is not unlike a reformed alcoholic deciding that all booze should be banned. It's apparently inconceivable to such people that anybody might be able to indulge in these things in a reasonable, enjoyable, controlled, nondestructive, noncompulsive, socially acceptable manner. The selfishness and myopia of human beings, and their endless urge to control what other people do, never cease to astonish me. Idiots.
Friday, November 14, 2008
51 days ago I did post #900. You would think that at that point, reaching 1000 would seem like nothing at all. But it actually still felt like a nearly unachievable milepost--how could I think of another hundred things to write? But somehow they come, like a dripping faucet. Sometimes up to nine in a day (I think that's my record), sometimes several days in between. And to get to post #1100, I don't really have to think of a hundred things to say right now; one will do.
I cannot possibly express my surprise, delight, and gratitude that so many people still find it worth the time to visit here every day or two to see what I've had to say. I'm overwhelmed every time I think about it. I shall try to continue looking for amusing and/or interesting stories from my own poker experiences, as well as provide a slightly off-kilter, unconventional point of view on whatever is happening in the larger poker universe.
Please keep reading. Please keep submitting comments, suggestions, questions, critiques, etc. Please keep checking out the sponsors. Your doing those things makes this rewarding for me.
I've been a subscriber to http://www.showtickets4locals.com/ for a long time, but I recently also joined http://www.houseseats.com/. The former is free; the latter costs $89 per year. However, it offers a lot more tickets to the premium, high-end shows--things like Barry Manilow at the Hilton and Le Reve at the Wynn. Last night was the first time I've used it to nab some primo tickets: the Blue Man Group at the Venetian. Row 12, on the aisle--two superb seats that normally would cost $132 each.
It's a show I've wanted to see for years, and finally got the chance. It's every bit as good as people say. Describing it seems kind of pointless. Let's see: They show a bunch of signs. They throw marshmallows at each other (and at the audience; I caught one, as evidenced above). They beat on drums that splash colored water in the air. They dine on Twinkies with an audience member. They play with the orange hand lights used to guide jets into their gates. They make tuned drums out of PVC pipe. They stream scads of rolled paper over the audience. They munch loudly on Cap'n Crunch cereal. They teach you rock and roll dance moves. They play around with color perception and the "persistence of vision" phenomenon. They wear TVs on their heads. They never say a word. See? It all sounds really stupid. But it's actually ingenius and creative and and interesting and unprecedented and fabulous. So you just have to go see it for yourself. There is no show like it anywhere.
BMG joins the tippy-top of the best shows I've seen since living in Vegas: Penn & Teller, Ka, Elton John's Red Piano, Spamalot, and Blue Man Group--all absolutely first-rate. (And come to think of it, what a variety! Not one of those shows is even remotely similar to any of the others.)
Plan on seeing BMG next time you're in Vegas (or any of their other venues--see link below). Hey, you might even get a souvenir marshmallow.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Poker’s golden era of growth was highlighted here by the $7-million
refurbishment of the poker area at the Bellagio hotel and casino in 2005. But
now poker rooms around Las Vegas are contracting; the one at the Las Vegas
Hilton was replaced last year by 36 Wheel of Fortune slot machines, and the one
at the Excalibur was replaced with dealerless electronic poker tables.
Hmmm. I detect a bit of unbalanced reporting there. How is it legitimate to use as evidence of a poker decline the number of rooms in Vegas that have closed without simultaneously mentioning the number that have opened?
Yeah, the Hilton closed its poker room a year ago, and at about the same time the Stardust was imploded. But since those events, we have had the opening of poker rooms at Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon, the Hard Rock, the Eastside Cannery, Rampart (though it closed again almost as quickly as it opened), Aliante Station, and we have the M Resort set to open in about March.
Maybe we are in a poker decline. I don't claim to know. I'm not even sure exactly how it could be measured objectively. (Does the state Gaming Commission collect stats on poker revenue separately from casinos' other gambling income? I have a vague memory of seeing such numbers once, but I could be mistaken.) My point is only on the bias of a reporter to point to one room closing and one converting to electronic tables without informing readers of contrary evidence: the subsequent opening of six other poker rooms. Eastside Cannery alone has about the number of tables that the Hilton did. Combine all six, and there is a large net increase in poker tables in the valley. But you wouldn't know that from reading the New York Times.
There is much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth in the poker world today over the last-minute publication of UIGEA regulations. You can read such pessimistic assessments so many places that I need not point you to them. I wish to point you to the interesting opinion of I. Nelson Rose, who says, basically, that it's all much ado over nothing, that the regulations change little, and life will for the most part go on as before. See his analysis here. (Thanks to this note at Pokerati for the link.)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The last time I wrote about ESPN's "Poker Fact" series, I thought it might be the final one of the year, but they surprised me by adding one more last night during the broadcast of the final table. They sure went out in style, screwing up the last fact about as badly as imaginable.
The claim: “An Ace has been dealt on the winning hand of the Main Event 7 times.”
I have two main sources to check: The Championship Table at the World Series of Poker by Dana Smith, Tom McEvoy, and Ralph Wheeler (2nd edition, 2004), and All In: The (Almost) Entirely True Story of the World Series of Poker by Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback (2005). I used YouTube videos for the last few years not covered in these two books. I used the first book as the primary source, and only consulted the second where the first is lacking complete information. This is potentially problematic, because I have previously found that Smith/McEvoy/Wheeler have not been entirely accurate in their hand histories. But it's the best I can do, given limited time to research the matter.
There are two years for which the information is incomplete or in dispute. I'll put those aside for the moment. For the other years, here are the number of aces dealt to the players and to the board, written as players/board:
1979: 2 (pocket aces)/0
1982: 2 (1 each)/0
1986: 2 (1 each)/0
1997: 2 (1 each)/1
2000: 2 (1 each)/0
2001: 2 (pocket aces)/0
Just as a fun side fact, it should be noted that both times a player was dealt pocket aces, he lost both the hand and the championship! In 1979, Hal Fowler cracked Bobby Hoff's aces with 6-7 offsuit, and in 2001 Carlos Mortensen cracked Dewey Tomko's aces with suited K-Q. Obviously, if you're heads up for the WSOP Main Event bracelet and get dealt pocket aces, you should just fold.
So the number of years in which at least one ace was dealt face down to at least one player is 17. The number of years in which at least one ace was placed on the board is 7. The number of years in which one or both of those things happened is 20.
This data is complicated by the years for which the information is muddled. For 1974 we apparently have no record of what the final hand was. For 1975, my two sources are utterly discordant. Smith/McEvoy/Wheeler say that the hole cards were 9s/9c and Ac-Kd. They say that "The board cards for the last hand are unknown." Grotenstein and Reback say that the hole cards were pocket jacks (suits unspecified) and Jc-9c, with a final board of 7h-6c-2c-9s-10h. Neither book tells us the source(s) of the information. As you can see, if the first is correct, it makes 8 years in which an ace fell on the board. If the second book is correct, it does not change the numbers given above. I have no way to resolve the discrepancy.
I have to address the wording of ESPN's "fact." An ace being "dealt" is ambiguous. It could mean either dealt to a player as a down card or "dealt" onto the board as a community card, or both. It's just not clear exactly what the assertion is here. It is further ambiguous in what is meant by "7 times." That could mean that the event in question happened in 7 different years, or that over the years, a total of 7 aces have been dealt. I'm going to assume they meant the former.
But even with that assumption, the only way the "fact" is correct is if "dealt" means "put on the board and not given to a player," and if Grotenstein/Reback are right about the disputed 1975 final hand not containing an ace anywhere. But that's perhaps the least natural reading of the word "dealt." Why would it mean a community card but not a hole card? That just doesn't make sense.
During the 2008 WSOP broadcasts, ESPN gave us a total of 13 "poker facts." I scored 8 of them as wrong, 5 right--not a particularly impressive record of accuracy.
Sorry, ESPN, but you blew your last chance to redeem your reputation as a reliable source of poker facts.
Within minutes after putting up this post, reader "NerveEnding" submitted a comment (see below) that makes me re-think the whole thing. I had just taken the phrase "winning hand" to be the equivalent of "final hand," but Nerve suggests that it means that the champion held an ace in 7 different years. Looking back on it, I think this interpretation didn't occur to me because of the strange phrasing "dealt on the winning hand," whereas if Nerve is right, it would be more natural to say something like "the winning hand has contained an ace."
But as I think about it, I'm convinced that Nerve has it right, in terms of ESPN's probable intended meaning. So I had to go back and check. As I mentioned before, in both of the years in which a player had pocket aces, he lost (1979 and 2001). There were four years in which each player had an ace in the hole (1982, 1986, 1997, and 2000), so obviously the winner had an ace. (Incidentally, the better kicker held up two times--1982 and 1986--and the lesser one sucked out the other two times.) There were 11 years in which just one player had an ace (1973, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1995, 2004, 2005, and 2007). Of those, the ace turned out to be the winning hand in three (1973, 1981, and 1987). So if you combine the four years in which both players had an ace with those three, you get seven, as ESPN reported.
This is not muddled by the possibility of the disputed 1975 hand, because even if Smith et al are correct about its details, the A-K was the losing hand.
So despite the title I already affixed to this post (I could change it, but I think it's more honest to keep it as originally written, with this corrective note), I guess I'll have to retract my conclusion and say that ESPN got this one right, though they deserve some chiding for stating their "fact" in such an ambiguous manner.
That means I also need to revise my final season score for ESPN to 6 right, 7 wrong--marginally better than before.
I drove way up north to see the opening of the Aliante Station casino tonight. It wasn't quite the madhouse that Eastside Cannery was on its opening night (probably because the gimmicky 11:11 p.m. opening was less convenient for many people), but it was still bad. Traffic horrible, parking horrible. I ended up in the parking lot of a golf course across the street. By the time I left, however, there were spots open everywhere, so I don't anticipate it being bad on typical days.
I arrived at the poker room at about 11:45, roughly 30 minutes after the doors opened, and all 12 tables were full! They wasted no time, obviously. I snapped a few photos (some with the flash, some without) before they politely asked me to stop.
If you know and like the Red Rock poker room, you'll like Aliante. They feel very similar. They are both more elegant than most places in town (excepting rooms like Wynn and Hard Rock), extremely tasteful in decor.
Random collection of observations: One of the four walls is mostly open to the main casino floor; one is glass. Smoke and noise were not problematic. I didn't see any magazine racks, but that's probably just because they hadn't yet had time to get any magazines delivered. Restrooms are very close, about 20 steps outside the poker room. Chairs were what is becoming standard: 5-wheeled office chairs, adjustable for height and back angle. There's way more room around the tables than one usually sees in poker rooms--a great bit of luxury for both players and staff. Autoshufflers are at every table. I loved the nice pumpkin-colored felt. They spread games 10-handed, which I slightly prefer over 9-handed, and there were 10 cupholders built into the rail of each table. Dealers were all good and obviously experienced; I recognized several from their previous jobs at other places in town (e.g., Gina, one of my favorite Binion's dealers). I oberved only one dealer error in my time there (just under two hours); the dealer allowed a reraise after an all-in in a situation where the original bettor should have been allowed only to call or fold, because the all-in was not a full raise--an easy mistake to make. I counted 9 big-screen televisions, maybe a little skimpy for some players' taste. There is certainly room for more of them on the back wall. Personally, I don't care much, since I pay them little attention. Beverage service was fast and friendly, though I wish they would add a water cooler to save on the number of those stupid plastic bottles we're sending to the landfills. Food service is available; I saw one guy eating a burger from Johnny Rockets. Johnny Rockets is one of my favorite burger places, and I didn't even know there was one in Aliante. Cards and chips were all new, which is a rare tactile pleasure. Massages are available; I think I overheard them quote a price of $25 for 15 minutes, which, if correct, is a little below the standard rate of $2/minute. They use "all in" and "call" plaques to help make sure everybody knows the action. They share in the linked Station Casinos bad-beat jackpot. There is also a high-hand jackpot, which I was told is for royal flushes only. There is a temporary promotion (apparently at all Station poker rooms in town): $2500 bonus for quad 8s. Stations also has a freeroll tournament promotion running for November-December. Tables have what appears to be a betting line, and the dealer told me that it is, in fact, just that. They have the same player-management system as all of the other Station properties.
There were some glitches, not surprising for opening day. My name got put on the $1-$3 NLHE waiting list, then mysteriously disappeared without having been called. One player got sent to our table when there were no seats open. The chip runner seemed unsure of how to do fills. As I recently witnessed at Binion's, some dealers used the $2 chips only for the drop, while others put them into circulation among the players.
Overall, it's definitely one of the nicer rooms in Vegas. But the entire casino is targeted to locals, not tourists. It's also fairly difficult to get to. Not only is it a long drive for me, but there are no fast, direct routes from either downtown (where I live) or the Strip. You can either take highways with a lot of extra mileage zig-zagging to get there, or take surface streets that are more direct but slower. For those reasons, I probably won't visit the place more than a couple of times a year. If the thing were magically plopped down near the Strip, though, it could easily zoom to near the top of my list of favorite places.
Enjoy the photos. I set my dear old camera on its maximum resolution, so you can click on them for larger versions.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The guy pictured above was in a limit game (probably $4-8, but I didn't check for sure) at the table next to mine at the Venetian tonight. He had such an impressive wall of chips (all white $1 chips) that I had to snap a photo of it. He cashed out maybe half an hour later, and was carrying six racks to the cashier.
I'm not sure if he just likes sheer volume, or if he has never heard of "coloring up."
This was my table. You can see, first, the new felt that the V has in place to promote "The Real Deal" show. (BTW, I expect to snag some free tickets one of these days, and of course I'll issue a full report of the experience here.)
Second, you can see the weird card protector being used by the guy in the background (the one too immersed in reading Fast Food Nation to actually pay attention to the hand he's in). It's hard to make out, but it's a clear red plastic giraffe. Things got stranger, though. A while later, I looked up and noticed that he was now using a blue one, though otherwise identical. And within an hour, that had changed to a green one. This guy carries around at least three colored giraffes and rotates them as his card caps. Don't ask me why. Poker players are strange people.
Addendum, November 13, 2008
Sharp-eyed reader "Topset" suggests in the comments that the player with the giraffes is Kevin O'Leary. I hadn't heard of him before that I can recall, but upon seeing his photo in the Poker Pages entry on him, I can confirm Topset's hunch. That's him, all right.
He had an interesting style. His requirements for putting in a pre-flop raise were approximately these:
Being on the button
Being one off the button
Being two off the button
Being in the small blind
Being in the big blind
Having put in a straddle under the gun
Having an ace
Having a face card
Having two cards
But at least on that night, his hyperaggressive style was not working particularly well. The table adjusted to his mania, and after having accumulated a biggish stack for a while, he was in a pretty clear death spiral downward by the time I left.
Monday, November 10, 2008
I have now read three books about income tax issues for gamblers, both recreational ones and professional ones. Since these may be the only books in print on the subect, and since I may be one of the few people who has read them all, I thought it might be worthwhile to do a little comparison here. I will refer to them by their authors' names: Lewis, Johnston, and Scott/Chien. They are listed in the order in which they were published (2003, 2005, and 2007, respectively), which also matches the order in which I read them. I read Lewis shortly after moving to Vegas about two years ago, Johnston roughly a year ago, and I just read Scott/Chien last week.
Not surprisingly, the three books cover approximately the same ground, and hit the same basic points. I don't think anybody really needs to read all three. From any one of them, you will learn the most important facts and have common false beliefs dispelled. Still, each has distinct strengths and weaknesses.
Lewis is the most disorganized. About half of it is a collection of essays by various authors on taxes and gambling, many of which are conceptual (e.g., about how the authors think the system should be). These are interesting, but not especially practical. And although Lewis guides the reader through the essentials, he doesn't emphasize the traps and common errors made by both recreational and professional gamblers nearly as effectively as the other two books do; you could miss something important. Still, there's a lot of interesting material here. Some of it is not covered elsewhere, such as what happens to your heirs if you die shortly after scoring a big gambling win (i.e, the intersection of gambling taxation and estate taxation).
I think Johnston's book is horribly mis-titled. It sounds like it would be a guide on how to conceive of and start up a poker-oriented business. It is not that. It is focused exclusively on tax issues. Her main theme is the question of whether to declare oneself a recreational or a professional gambler. There are major implications for how one's tax returns have to be prepared. She goes through in detail how to work out which one is most advantageous from a tax perspective, although you may not get to choose on that basis. The biggest strength of Johnston's book over the others is the detailed focus on deductions that are allowed and not allowed for professional gamblers. I also liked her folksy style of writing, and how most chapters start with an anecdote from her own poker and accounting experiences of the mistakes poker players make and the misconceptions they have, which she then spends the chapter dispelling (e.g., that if you win money from poker on a cruise, or while in another country, or in an illegal game, or online, that you don't have to pay taxes on it, or that you can just "net out" your wins and losses and declare only the difference, if positive at the end of the year).
I found Scott/Chien to be the most interesting read. They are the most explicit about the huge gaps in tax law as it pertains to gamblers. For example, they spend an entire chapter dissecting what constitutes one gambling "session." The IRS wants gamblers to report the sums of winning sessions and losing sessions, but offers no guidance as to what a "session" is, and there are no court cases clarifying it. Scott/Chien do an admirable job discussing different ways of defining "session," their advantages and disadvantages, which ones are likely or unlikely to pass IRS scrutiny in case of an audit, etc.
They also give a lot more detail than the other two books on group wins--for example, several people pooling money to buy lottery tickets. At first you might think this has no bearing on poker, but it can. Some casinos won't help poker tournament winners with negotiated deals, and will only give the prizes as per their published payout schedule. You thus might end up with the casino showing you to have won either more or less than you actually received. The situation would also come up if you had backers buying a "piece" of your action in a poker tournament. This book details the ways you can legally handle such a situation, which I don't recall either of the other books talking about.
Scott/Chien emphasize how much uncertainty there is about all of this stuff. The IRS has dragged its feet in providing any help to gamblers, so there is a lot that just hasn't been decided by anybody in a position of authority. To make matters worse, as Scott/Chien repeatedly remind the reader, most tax preparers have no training or knowledge about the whole gambling tax issue--and neither do many IRS employees who are supposed to know about it! They relate many anecdotes about mistakes made by tax preparers or IRS people that they had to fight to get corrected. But as reassurance, they also stress that where there is uncertainty, reasonableness is what rules the day, and they spend a lot of space explaining what would likely be considered reasonable or not in various situations of legal uncertainty.
Scott/Chien, being the most recent publication, is also the most up to date--and that's important in an area that changes rapidly. They are also the only authors who address state income tax issues. For example, I didn't know until reading this book that there are ten states (CT, IL, IN, LA, MA, MI, OH, OR, WV, and WI) in which you cannot itemize gambling losses in order to offset gambling wins as a recreational player. They note that this unfair system makes it "almost impossible to gamble with an advantage, no matter how skilled you are" (p. 103). Yikes! Finally, Scott/Chien uniquely have a section of practical advice for what to do in case of an audit.
Overall, if you're going to buy just one book on this subject, I'd make it Scott/Chien, as the most thorough treatment. If you're willing to invest in a second book, then also buy Johnston if you want more rubber-hits-the-road details on how to fill out the forms, allowable deductions, deciding whether to file as a professional or recreational player, etc., or go with Lewis if you just want to read more broadly and kind of theoretically on the whole subject of gambling taxation. And remember--the purchase price of all three is deductible!
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned having found a Tropicana poker chips numbered "1 of 1000." Over the weekend I ran into a poker dealer of my aquaintance who told me that many commemorative chips are done that way, with all of them labeled as "1." In other words, the "1" doesn't mean "#1 out of 1000," but rather, "one of a thousand." If I found other similar chips, they, too, would carry the "1 of 1000" mark.
This is certainly plausible, but I've never seen it before. I have in my collection at least a dozen chips that are numbered (see, e.g., the one pictured here), and none of them is #1. So in my experience, the most common way for chips to be issued is with no numerical markings, the second most common way is simply with the designation that it's a "limited edition of ____" (usually 500 or 1000), with nothing unique on each chip, the third most common form is the sequential numbering system, wherein each chip is uniquely numbered, and the least common is this system with all of them called "1 of _____". The dealer said that in his experience, the last is more common than the sequentially numbered series, at least in recent years.
Anyway, maybe I don't have my retirement fund all in one chip after all.
Let me state for the record that I think labeling the entire run of chips as "1 of ____" is a low-down, despicable, deceptive practice that should be immediately banned.
The illustration above, incidentally, has an intentional dual meaning. I've been in a bit of a poker funk lately, which explains my lack of posting for the past few days. I haven't lacked material, just interest in writing. It happens from time to time, then it passes. This time, it's probably related to having had five consecutive losing days last week, which tends to sour me on the game for a while. But I know from past experience that it turns around again before too long.