Saturday, September 18, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Several years ago I saw a documentary about Clive Wearing. He was a successful, respected choral conductor, but he contracted a viral encephalitis that damaged his brain in such a way that he became amnestic, unable to form new memories. He has been institutionalized ever since. His odd, terribly sad condition has been the subject of books and documentaries (see the list at the end of that Wikipedia entry), and you really should try to find one of them to learn about him. It will give you a deep sense of appreciation for the role that memory plays in our lives, even though we're usually unaware of it.
For me the saddest, most shocking part of the show was seeing his journals. Wearing experiences "waking up" as if from a coma many, many times a day. He fills not just pages but whole notebooks with scribbled notations that he is finally awake, then a few minutes later that gets crossed out, and another more emphatic notation replaces it, "No, NOW I am really awake." It goes on endlessly.
When I think back on seeing that program, it reminds me of my progression in poker. Early on, I remember thinking what an easy game it was. I would have endorsed Norm MacDonald's quip that no-limit hold'em takes a minute to learn and five minutes to master.
But I have a series of points at which I looked back at how I used to play, how I used to think about the game, and conclude, "Boy, I was really clueless. Good thing I've got it figured out now." Of course, each of those successive points of smug self-confidence later gets replaced with the acknowledgement that, OK, then I didn't really know what I was doing, but now I do. Repeat ad infinitum.
I should fill my own notebooks with such scribbled messages, revealing my own insight and self-awareness, but simultaneously my perverse lack of the same.
I was reminded of all of this by reading an utterly compelling, fascinating, can't-stop-reading-it series of five long blog posts by documentary filmmater Errol Morris, starting here. (I was pointed there by a Twitter message earlier today from Iggy, to whom many thanks.) It's about our lack of self-awareness, or, I suppose more accurately, our inability to detect our own areas of weakness and ignorance. It ranges through history, philosophy, neurology, and psychology. It takes you down the rabbit hole of your consciousness, though, by definition, you can never really be aware of the depth of your own self-deception.
Just like everybody thinks they're a much better driver than those with whom they share the road, nearly all poker players think that they're better than their opponents. I do, too. Am I objectively correct? It's hard to say. All the time I see players whose self-assessment is wildly out of whack with their actual ability. They are operating at a rudimentary level of understanding of poker, but think they've got it all figured out. This doesn't require mind-reading; they'll tell you they've got it nailed down firmly, just before they spew off their chips on a series of horrendously, obviously misguided calls and transparent bluffs. Then they will calmly (or maybe not so much) explain to their opponent exactly what he did wrong.
I wrote about this syndrome three years ago, here. At the end of that post, I link to a Bluff magazine column that Annie Duke wrote. That link doesn't work now, but I found the piece here. I love the story she tells about being a complete novice in poker, with a knowledge of the game so shallow that all she had to work from was a napkin on which her brother, Howard Lederer, had written a list of the starting hands she should play, while folding everything else. When somebody beat her by playing a hand not on the list, she criticized him for not knowing how to play right! (Of course, she had The List, and he didn't, so how could he know?)
Naturally, you shouldn't pay much attention to what I wrote three years ago, because back then, as I can clearly see now in retrospect, I really didn't know what I was doing. Now, however....
As you all know by now, Cardgrrl has left the poker career behind and is exploring various things in the world of art, especially photography. The photo above, "After the Flood," is her favorite so far (originally published with her commentary and a clickable larger version here).
Taste in art is, obviously, wildly variant. Cardgrrl's favorite images tend to be love-it-or-hate-it matters, as evidenced by the highly polarized comments she gets when she puts one up for review in a Flickr group. This one is no exception. I can't say that I took an instant liking to it, but it has grown on me. Especially when blown up to 24" x 36" and framed, it's pretty cool. (Wish y'all could see that, but her apartment isn't big enough for everybody to visit.) What intrigues me most about it is how the closer you look the more it looks like a painting than a photograph.
Anyway, if that image tickles your fancy at all, I have a favor to ask: Go here and vote for it for a "People's Choice" award. Voting requires three steps: (1) Click on "Vote now." (2) Enter your email address. (3) When you get the confirmation email, follow the link it provides and confirm your vote. Sounds burdensome, I know, but I did it in less than 90 seconds. As far as I can tell, they do not use your email address for anything other than preventing ballot-box stuffing.
If you don't care for the photo, well, that's OK, too. I won't ask you to vote for something you don't like.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I finished reading Dr. Pauly's Lost Vegas a month ago, and promised I'd post my thoughts about it, then never did. The reason is simple, though hard to explain. It's because I haven't been able to figure out what to say about it.
Lemme back up and start with the basics. Lost Vegas is Pauly's intensely personal look at the city, framed around the visits he made here between 2005 and 2008. Though there are a few trips for lesser poker events or just for recreation, most of them were to cover the World Series of Poker, at first for hire, then later for his own blog, as it became popular enough to sustain him via the advertising revenue it drew (or at least this is what one surmises).
As a poker guy, I was surprised to find that the parts of the book that were least interesting were the parts about the poker tournaments. That's likely in part because I had followed the WSOP closely enough during the years in question, including at least intermittently on Pauly's blog, that I knew the stories, so there wasn't much new.
But the real, deeper explanation, I believe, for why the book seems to drag a bit when describing the poker action is that it's no longer so much about Pauly and what he is observing and experiencing as it is about the subject, and there are stretches that become more journalism or history than personal story-telling. The chapter that seemed most out of place was the one about Archie Karas (chapter 32). All of a sudden, Pauly basically disappears as narrator, and we're reading third-hand stories that could have been compiled by anybody. I kept thinking, "C'mon, get back to your own narrative!"
That reaction, I think, is key to understanding what makes most of the book work, and what makes it unlike anything else you have read or ever will read about Vegas: It's Pauly's own story. Nobody else could write it because it didn't happen to anybody else. If you have read his stuff over the years, you know that he has a unique point of view as well as an enviable creative talent for relating it--sometimes deeply insightful, sometimes wickedly funny, sometimes painfully confessional, usually sacrilegious and iconoclastic, always with a keen eye for detail. Most people writing about their lives--even their vacation lives in a place as intrinsically interesting and potentially volatile as Vegas--are, well, boring. Not Pauly. His descriptions of his successes and failures, his adventures, his fears, his devils, his pleasures, his degeneracy, his friendships--these are the book's raison d'etre, and they are a blast to read.
Now let me try to explain why I had trouble figuring out what to write about the book.
First, I've never before read a book in which I know so many of the people described. I am not a deep insider in the poker media circles; I kind of hover around the perimeter, and that's about it. But maybe half of the characters a reader meets in Lost Vegas, including the author, are people whose writing I read regularly, and/or people I've met, worked with, worked for, shared meals with, have as contacts in Outlook or Skype or on my cell phone, played poker with, and a few that I would even call friends. I know most of the real names behind the pseudonyms. I had hoped to somehow parlay this bit of acquaintance into some unique perspective on the book, but nothing ever coalesced in my brain. After a month of letting it simmer, I've given up. The little thrills of "Hey, I know him!" recognition I got from reading about folks in the poker world whose lives have intersected with mine will just have to remain as my own personal pleasures, because I haven't figured out anything to say about them that would be meaningful to anybody else.
But my biggest failing as a writer is this: I wanted to pen a brilliant commentary on why my reaction to Vegas is so profoundly different than Pauly's is. Lost Vegas is all about his love/hate relationship with the city, how he loves the people with whom he interacts here and loves all of the things he can indulge in here that aren't part of his everyday life--but, simultaneously, how those temptations are toxic to him, and how he can't stop the indulgences until they are pulling him down into financial, physical, and emotional ruin. "All I did know was that in less than a year, Las Vegas had brought out the worst in me, magnifying my existing problems, inflaming my addictions, and intensifying my deviancy" (page 91). And, "I frolic. I conquer. I stumble. I crash hard. The missteps rip me apart like shrapnel. The nonstop gambling action soothes me like a lick of ice cream on a hot summer day" (page 182).
I sort of get that on an intellectual level. After all, I see it all around me, day after day. I'm vaguely aware that that's what many, perhaps most, people are experiencing to one degree or another as they visit here--in fact, that that's what they come for.
But I don't get it in any sort of sympatico sense. I'm not interested in gambling, except for poker, and don't get any thrill out of it. I don't drink or smoke or use drugs. I don't care for casual sexual hook-ups. I might be the only single, straight male who has lived here for four years without setting foot in a strip club or a night club, not because I'm a prude, but just because they hold little allure for me. In short, I am basically immune to and unaffected by the very set of temptations that this city was designed to feature. That reaction, as you can tell, is about as far removed from Pauly's as it could possibly be.
I had hoped to ponder this for a while and come up with a dazzlingly genius explanation for why Pauly can come here and experience such amazing highs and lows from the sins of Sin City, while I sit in the middle of it all, year after year, and say, "Meh" to it. But, again, after a month of trying to get that particular pot to boil, I've decided it's not going to. He and I are very, very different personalities, and I don't think any amout of verbiage I could throw at the question will be able to probe any deeper than that.
And maybe that's why I enjoyed the book so much--because his way of being in the world, and specifically of being in Las Vegas, is so thoroughly a contrast to my own. Pauly sees the same things that I see every day, but experiences them with emotions that they just don't generate in me, and it was delightful and thrilling to get inside the mind of a wholly different, articulate observer--sort of a Being John Malkovich kind of sensation.
I was about to list here the handful of typos I spotted. I can't help noticing them--I started doing copy editing in high school, and once a copy editor always a copy editor. But now it just seems petty to do so, and probably too boring to read, so skip it. I'll just say that for a self-published, self-edited book, it is blessedly light on such errors.
I hope I won't be abusing copyright fair-use doctrine to insert here a few of my favorite bits, to give you a flavor of the writing:
[Page 20] The Wild Wild West was a low budget casino, a side of Las Vegas
missing from guidebooks and travel magazines. Now I understood why. It was like
walking into a time machine and zapping yourself back to 1981. The clientele at
the Wild Wild West were older than Bob Hope and sat at the bar in silence while
drinking $1.49 draft beer specials and chasing keno jackpots. Geriatric ladies
shoved pennies into slot machines in between huffs on bulky oxygen tanks
attached to the backs of their wheelchairs. It was a hospice with slots, and the
owners were more than happy to accept the remnants of Social Security checks.
[Page 24] I gazed at the skyline of the faux New York City in the distance.
The collective fakeness of The Strip's carbon copy of NYC made me even more
homesick. I finally trudged back inside to log onto Party Poker. If you ever
want to feel like a degenerate loser, play online poker in Las Vegas on a
dial-up connection. Sylvia Plath level depression began sinking in as I missed
another flush draw and realized I was smoking my last bit of ganja. I considered
turning on the oven and sealing my windows to escape my misery.
[Page 62] In less-sanitized terms, Binion's turned into a piece of shit
after Becky ran her deceased father's casino into the ground. What Binion's
lacked in class, it made up in character. The lighting was intentionally poor in
order to shield your eyes from the dismal plight of its inhabitants. Depending
on where you stood the schizophrenic air-conditioning would either freeze your
tits solid or leave you sweating your ass off. If you dropped money on the
floor, you were better off letting it rot than risk contracting some form of
flesh-eating bacteria trying to pick it up. The waitresses were hot pieces of
ass--during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Binion's perpetually smelled of Ben-Gay,
stale cigars, and a truck stop urinal. Downtown's dinginess made it a perfect
backdrop for the Main Event. When you have to step over people lying in puddles
of their own urine on Fremont Street in order to walk into the Horseshoe, it's a
harsh reminder that you're only one bad beat away from lying face down in the
[Page 73] I thought about philosophers like Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and
Sartre and how the face of 20th Century philosophy might have changed if they
had frequented Las Vegas. How could you maintain a meaningless and bleak existence when your face was buried in the chest of a tweaking former homecoming queen who used your nose as her personal ass-battering ram?
[Page 137] On the first day, I wagered more money than my old man used to
make in a month humping a shitty desk job for an insurance company in Midtown
Manhattan. I only won two of my four games in a gut-wrenching session, but won
my monster bet on UCLA. Seriously, nothing in this life is sweeter than cashing
a monster ticket at the sports book and counting along inside my head with the
cashier as she counts out my winnings in front of me. I have to wipe the drool
from my mouth and hide my erection as the cashier slides the stack of money
[Page 138] The UNLV loss wiped out all of my profit from the first day. I
stewed in a pot of gambler's rage. I tore up a couple of my losing tickets and
watched the small pieces of paper flutter to the carpet. If I had been alone at
home when I suffered those losses, I would have punched a hole in the wall or
tossed an entire litter of kittens into the microwave. Consumed with ire, all I
wanted to do was head-butt the lone Oregon Ducks fan in the sports book.
[Page 237] The guilt-ridden sinners hide from the sneers of God and become
the wayward refugees that pious little Mormon children pray for every night.
Thousands of citizens with good reputations, solid marriages, and impeccable
criminal records become shattered casualties in hazy weekends of Dionysian
decadence while holed up in a room at the Stratosphere shooting pharmaceutical
cocaine into the veins of their feet with a 21-year-old from Boise who moved to
Vegas to become a blackjack dealer but ended up on the pole. After she orders
$500 in room service and clogs up the toilet with a nasty case of diarrhea,
another sucker realizes that he should have waited to sober up before slurring
marital vows in front of a fat and sweaty Elvis at the Graceland Wedding Chapel.
[Page 175] The demons mercilessly poke pin-sized holes in your soul and all
of your warmth, creativity, and morality oozes out to become part of a stream of
hopelessness that flows all the way back to Lost Vegas.
OK, enough of the free previews. If you want more of that, go order your own copy here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
A couple of weeks ago PokerNews published a list of the most overused poker terms. The #1 item was, fittingly, "so sick."
Here's what I'm going to do to help vanquish this overuse. From now on, whenever I am tempted to use the word "sick" to describe a poker situation, I shall instead refer to it as "diseased."
"Did you see that diseased bluff that Tom Dwan made on High Stakes Poker
"Yeah, but Phil Ivey calling him there with just king-high was even
"You caught your one-outer on me? Dude, that is so diseased!"
"If I fold here, it will be the most diseased laydown in history."
You get the idea. I'm curious to see if I can get this to catch on and supplant the use of "sick" in popular poker culture. I will consider it a personal triumph if five years from now PokerNews revisits the question of most overused poker terms, and I find "diseased" on their list.
Won't you help me spread the meme?
Michael Jordan, in a 1999 Nike ad.
I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed. I've failed over, and over, and over again in my life.
And that is why I succeed.
Not only is Survivor going to be on Wednesday nights now, instead of Thursdays, where it has been since God himself put it there back in the 1950s or so, and where it so obviously belongs, but the ad execs at CBS are so stupid they don't know the difference between its and it's, nor between verses and versus.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
I have a long, complicated, troubled personal history with the whole concept of rules--those imposed by governments, culture, religion, professions, relationships, and, yes, games. Most pertinent to this blog, I struggle on a nearly daily basis with how to deal with poker rules, rulebreakers, and rulebenders so as to maintain the integrity of the game without being a pain in everybody's butt.
I was, therefore, intrigued by this essay in Slate about rules and how we as Americans tend to be pretty slack about them, and how we simultaneously benefit from and are hurt by such slackness.
So go read it already.
My girlfriend*, Cardgrrl, started her "Something Beautiful" blog a year ago today. At the time, she didn't know that it would turn out to be the leading edge of a whole new life and career. But that's just what has come out of it--or, I should say, is coming out of it, as the entire thing is still in the early, emergent stages, and exactly what it will become when in full bloom remains to be seen.
Though she hasn't talked about this publicly, the process has been a difficult, painful upheaval, not unlike, I should think, giving birth. That's why I take this occasion not just to mark the passage of a date on the calendar, but to marvel at the energy that she has invested into both a burst of artistic creativity and the germ of an associated new business venture (to be revealed later, in her own good time). I know from personal experience how difficult it is to realize and admit to yourself that one career isn't working, to put an end to it, and to pick yourself up and plop yourself down into an entirely new and different course. For the courage and determination to do that and to make it work, she has my deepest admiration.
Congratulations, my sweet, on passing this marker in the road. I look forward to watching from anear the things that will emerge over the second year of Something Beautiful.
*I know I haven't referred to her publicly with this term before, but y'all didn't really have any doubts, did you? I guess the reason I long hesitated to say anything other than "friend" was, first, just the feeling that the nature of our relationship was nobody's business, and, second, the dread that things wouldn't work out well, and then I'd have to say something about that, with the attendant embarrassment and/or questions, etc.
But as for the first reason, after a certain number of posts about her, and after talking about a certain number of trips across the country for one of us to visit the other, it seems kind of silly to keep being coy about it. As for the second reason, after knowing her for 17 months now, and dating for 15 or so of that, I have no reason to worry that any negative change in status is on the horizon. In one of his few unintentionally funny moments, Woody Allen described his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, when that was first a public scandal, as a "major, major situation." I think it's safe to say that Cardgrrl and I have a major, major situation, and that we like it. There are, obviously, also major, major challenges, mostly of the logistical variety, the solution to which may require major, major adjustments for one or the other of us at some point. If anything along those lines changes from "thinking about" to "happening," you will, of course, read about it here.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I have found Sunday afternoons during NFL season at Mandalay Bay to be both profitable and enjoyable--in spite of the football, not because of it. So with the first big game day upon us, I prepared myself to be there. I went to bed early last night so I could get up early this morning, get started soon after the first kickoff, and stay as long as it seemed to be going well. Unfortunately, today it went badly from the beginning, but I'll get to that later.
The main purpose of this post is to tell you about a character at the table, an older gentleman who was one of the purest specimens of calling station I have ever come across. Two of his sons were at the table, too, apparently all here as part of a wedding week. In one of this guy's first hands, he called a river all-in bet on a board that had four to a flush and four to a straight--with bottom two pair. As it happened, he was right to do so in this particular case, as the opponent was bluffing with flopped top pair that had gone sour.
But--and you'll just have to trust me on this--the call was not the result of some deep, amazing soul read; it's just who he was. Immediately after the hand was over, one of his sons, in a shocked tone of voice, said, "Dad! What are you doing there?!" The reply: "What? I had two pair--I had to call!" He ruminated on it a bit, however, and well into the next hand, out of nowhere, muttered, "That was probably a bad call."
This became something of a refrain for him. Sometimes he would say it in anticipation, as he put out the chips: "This is probably a bad call." More often, though, it would come after the hand was over and he was reflecting on his performance. "That was probably a bad call." Mind you, this wasn't said to anybody in particular. It wasn't posturing, not a gag line, not apologizing. It was just his own mild self-flagellation. It happened whether he lost the hand (which was most often the case), or whether he won (because once in a while somebody at the table, apparently not having received the memo, foolishly tried to bluff him).
Because I'm going to be riffing here on what a terrible player this guy was, I feel an obligation to also emphasize that he was an extremely nice, pleasant person. He conducted himself with dignity and flawless manners--never got upset, never gloated, never complained. He had some sort of neurological disorder that gave him trouble with both walking (he came to the table via motorized scooter) and fine motor control. He was inadvertantly flashing his cards sometimes because of an inability to handle them with the ease that most of us take for granted. But he persevered without making a fuss about his handicap, and, fortunately, nobody was so gauche as to call attention to the technical problems he was having. (I caught one player on his left sneaking a peek at the man's poorly protected cards, shot him a dirty look for it, and didn't see him try it again. My usual approach would be to ask the dealer to help the player understand how to protect his hand better, but in this situation, that seemed like it might embarrass him, so I kept my mouth shut.) He was there to have fun, to spend some time with his boys playing cards and watching football while celebrating the wedding of one of them, and he seemed just as happy to be there as one could be. He was a pleasure to share the game with. But he was a horrible, horrible player, easily the weakest at the table.
He couldn't help himself. Calling was not just what he did, it defined who he was as a poker player. Why did he call in hopeless spots? As the scorpion famously said to the frog as they both sank into the river, because that is his nature.
At one point, he got check-raised on the turn by his own son--he called, no surprise--then was put to an all-in decision on the river. The young man even said, "Don't call, Dad." (Highly improper, I think, but under the circumstances, I wasn't going to be so nitty as to make a stink about it.) Want to guess what action he took? That's right--he called. He had top pair. His son had flopped a set, turned a full house. He exclaimed, "Dad! What are you doing???" His father just shrugged, made a remorseful face, and said, "That was probably a bad call."
He never delivered this line self-consciously. It was never directed at anybody. He wasn't needling opponents, nor explaining himself to a listener. As far as I could tell, he had no audience other than himself. It was just his own internal dialogue, made barely audible.
Of course, no matter how many times he chastised himself for making bad calls, and no matter how many times he had to go to his wallet for a reload, he didn't actually change how he played. He limped in to about 90% of hands, and would almost always call whatever raise somebody might make after having limped. One time, somebody rather ridiculously raised a bunch of limpers to $32, and got one caller. Guess who?
He calls because it's the only way he knows how to play poker. He has almost certainly heard, multiple times, from multiple sources, the standard advice that most of the time you should raise if you think you have the best hand and fold if you don't; that calling, absent specific reason for doing so, is the worst of your three options and should be the action you resort to least often. But when it comes right down to it, he can't quite bring himself to pull the trigger on a raise--what if somebody reraises him? Then what? The thought is just too scary. But at the same time, every hand seems just a little too good to fold; it has just a bit too much potential to throw away. So he splits the difference and calls. He's not trying to play badly. He's making every individual decision the best he can. But he is caught between fear and hope. Fear makes him reject the raise, and hope makes him reject the fold. Calling is what's left. To him, this likely feels not like bad play, but like carefully steering between the dual dangers of the alternatives. Raising is his Scylla, folding his Charybdis, and, like the ancient mariners, he can feel safe only by steering a course right down the middle of the Strait of Messina.
He calls because he can't help it. He calls because he has always called. It is his nature.
Hannibal Lecter tries to teach young, naive Clarice about understanding people in "The Silence of the Lambs": "First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?"
He calls. That is what he does.*
As for me, despite my best efforts, nothing was working. It was one of those maddening one-step-forward-and-two-steps-back days. Flopping sets while others flopped flushes, etc. Yada, yada, yada, no need to detail the misery, as you all know just the sort of day I'm describing. The table was so soft that I found myself wondering, "How is it possible that I do not have every dollar these good folks brought to the casino today?" But I just couldn't make it happen.
I was down to my last $134 out of a $300 buy-in several hours into the session. In middle position I looked down at Kh-Qh. Plenty good enough for a raise at this extremely passive, limpy/cally table. I made it $9. I was not surprised to pick up three callers, including the subject of this post.
The flop was Kd-4h-5h, which is about as friendly and welcoming a flop as a fella can reasonably expect to have delivered. I bet $30 and reduced the field to one caller. Yes, that one. LDO.
The turn brought me a lovely sight: the 6h. Ding! Second nut flush. With the pot now $91 (after rake), and with only $94 left, and facing an opponent who would find any possible excuse to call, I saw no need to milk him with a small bet or otherwise get sneaky. I declared myself all in. The dealer counted it down. My opponent counted out the amount for a call, checked and rechecked his hole cards, looked at how much he would have left if he lost, etc. Based on his hand motions, I was first convinced that he was going to call, then convinced he was about to fold, then back to calling again, then folding again.
But in the end, he did what he nearly always did. He called. I showed my cards. He grimaced, as if he had known the news would be about that bad, and rather sheepishly turned over the Ah-Jd. He had called--of course--on the flop with nothing but backdoor draws and one overcard, and had called--of course--on the river with just seven outs to a higher flush.
There was no time for any comment or prediction, because at nearly the same instant, the dealer was peeling off the river card: the jack of hearts, cutting me off at the knees with that effin' axe of his. Nut flush for the calling station.
When I lose my composure at the poker table, it's not in the form of a verbal harassment of an opponent, like Tony G or Phil Hellmuth will unleash. It's not anything that's going to get security called on me, or for which I'm going to feel a later need to apologize. As physical manifestations of frustration go, I'm about as undramatic as they get. But this beat resulted in one of them: I plopped my forehead down on the table in disgust.
I knew that that was enough for me for the day. I was done. So after about two seconds of wallowing in self-pity, I stood up, grabbed my things, and started to walk away, without having said a word.
I'll bet you can guess what I heard our friend say as I left the table behind:
"That was probably a bad call."
*While proofreading this, I got a feeling that I had seen somebody else use this same quotation when describing a poker player. But I read so many poker blogs--who was it? After thinking about it a bit, I decided it might have been Grange95. I searched his site, and, sure enough, back on June 21 of this year, he began a post with the same words, and the context was a discussion of calling stations. When I used it above, I was not consciously copying Grange's usage, but I suspect now that the memory of that post was, in part or in whole, responsible for my brain coughing it up when I got to thinking about the "nature" of a calling station. BTW, you should go read that post, if you haven't already. It's an insightful analysis of different sub-types of calling station, based on what psychological needs their actions are filling.