Friday, November 16, 2007

Don't talk about the bloody mole

This is as low as I go, folks. But I just can't help myself.

This week on NBC's "Poker After Dark" Phil Hellmuth and Chris Ferguson are sitting next to each other, and every time they catch one of them in a close-up I think the same thing: All the money you guys have made, and you can't afford to have those big, ugly moles removed from your face? A little plastic surgery can do wonders these days, you know.

Yeah, it's petty and juvenile of me, but for sure I am not the only one who has seen the Austin Powers movies, and, as a result, gets flashbacks to this rant when the camera zooms in on Hellmuth or Ferguson:

"Mole! Bloody mole! We're not supposed to talk about the bloody mole, but there's the bloody mole winking me in the face. I'm gonna chop it off and cut it up and make some guacaMOLE! … Mole! Mole! Mole! Bloody mole! Bloody mole, you bloody moley bastard! Don't talk about the bloody mole, but the mole's so big it probably VOTES! Looks like a bloody bubble on a pizza, you bloody mole-faced mole bugger! Moley, moley, moley, the brothers MacMolen. You'd be in Spain you'd be a bull and you'd say 'MOLLAAAY!!!' Even the bloody mole's got a mole it's such a bloody big mole. It's the moley grail of moles! Your molier-than-thou attitude! Stick your bloody mole up your bum bum, you moley bastard! Moley MOLE!!!"

There. Now I've got that out of my system.

Scroll down, please

Time to ask a small favor of my readers: Please scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on an ad. They've been sitting there for a couple of months, but I haven't heard anything from Google Ads yet. It's possible that nobody has clicked on any of them even once, which would explain that. I'm not trying to rake in a ton of money--I assume it's just going to be a few cents. At this point, I'm mostly just curious about the process, and the contract forbids me to click on them myself (for obvious reasons). Why aren't they located in the side margins nearer to the top of the page, where they'd be readily accessible? I have no idea. I'm new to all of this. Maybe I need to embed a different code in my template or something. I'll deal with that later. For now, I just would like to make sure the whole process actually does something.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Poker gems, #51

From Graham Sharpe, Poker's Strangest Hands, p. 20-21, a story from 1860 Denver, reminding us of the possible consequences of deliberating miscalling one's hand:

[Jack] O'Neil and [John] Rooker went toe to toe with each other on the green baize table and eventually they were contesting the biggest pot of the night when O'Neil called Rooker's final bet and the ruffian declared, "Two pairs of pictures."

"Three jacks," called O'Neil, and made to take the money.

"Hold it," demanded Rooker. "Both my pairs are kings."

O'Neil made a lunge for Rooker's arm. "You did not call right. The money is mine."

The money was forgotten as the two traded insults and threats....

O'Neil had gone home to bed after the row, and rose at 10 a.m. He strolled up the town's main thoroughfare and, as he reached the entrance to the Western Saloon, he was blasted with both barrels of a shotgun, fired from a safe distance by the cowardly Rooker, who immediately fled town.

O'Neil was buried the next day in a small graveyard which became known as "O'Neil's Ranch," a term that would become used to identify graveyards in other towns.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Poker players and dealers should support Ron Paul (shameless political plug)

Ron Paul is one of only two candidates (the other being Bill Richardson) who have stated clearly that they would repeal the UIGEA (the 2006 law that put such a huge dent in online poker). (See If that isn't enough reason for lovers of the game to throw their support behind him, I just learned of another one.

With the Nevada caucuses approaching early next year, today I heard a radio ad for the candidate in which he announces his support for a measure that would exempt tips from the income tax. (See This is a pretty smart move to set onesself apart from the field, in a state where so many people rely on tips for a living. I have done no research on what kind of support this proposal has received from others in Congress, but it's easy to imagine that it will become popular. Republicans who claim to be for cutting taxes get a chance to prove it, and Democrats who claim to champion the working stiffs can do the same. Not many millionaires are dependent on tips for their sustenance.

One of the obstacles to becoming a poker dealer is that one typically starts off in smaller rooms on the shifts with the least action (because the more senior dealers know when the tip income is most available and take those shifts when they can). You can end up "on break" for the majority of a shift. But the government still collects tax at a rate of presumed tip income that they have negotiated with each casino, whether or not you earned that much--or anything at all--on a given day. In other words, it's not too difficult to finish a pay period owing more in taxes than you actually earned. That's just insane, but it's going on all the time. It makes it hard to break into the business to spend the first few months in a negative-income situation.

So if you're a poker dealer, or a poker player who would rather see the dealer be able to keep the tips you offer rather than forwarding them straight to the IRS, Ron Paul should be your guy in 2008.

Poker gems, #50

Nick Brancato, in "Don't Tap the Tank," Bluff magazine, November, 2007, p. 116.

Don't tap the tank and scare away the fish. Take care of them, feed them, and change their water. Remember: Good players stack bad players, but great players get bad players to reload.

Eric Doore is a doofus

I've been watching episodes of "Cash Poker: The Ultimate Gamble." In the one I just saw, we have a new player, introduced as Eric Doore. I've never heard of him before, and can't find anything about him with a Google search. Here's what I know: He came to a televised poker game wearing a big fish hat. Not a fishing hat, but a fish hat.

I assume he thinks this is funny. Maybe his closest friends think it's funny. But it's not. It's just stupid. It is "extra double super loathsome." (See

I realize that his purpose was primarily to garner attention, and that now I've given him more of it. Given the sparseness of web references to him, this post may quickly become the first Google hit when searching for his name. Fine. Let the world know that he's a doofus.

The only good thing that came out of this was the announcer's closing line for the episode: "A $27,000 pot being pushed to a man with a fish on his head will end this session of Cash Poker."

I joke around a lot, and I'm not always serious in my posturing and outrage over stuff. But let me be competely serious here. Dude, this is just bad taste by every possible measure. Really. No, I'm not kidding. It's dreadful. Deplorable. You look like an idiot. You make everybody at the table look like idiots for sitting down with you. You make the show's producers look like idiots.

Now, if you're already pretty well known in the poker community, and you make a silly prop bet--picking random examples, that the loser has to show up for the WSOP wearing a superhero costume ( or a bear costume with a diaper ( --OK, so be it. But if this is the way you decide to introduce yourself to the poker world, then you're just a creepy, pathetic loser.

While I'm on the subject, a few words about "Cash Poker." It's a syndicated show (translation: not even the most desperate cable networks would pick it up) that tries to copy the success of GSN's "High Stakes Poker," but misses in every possible way. They have mostly mediocre players playing a boring, mediocre game. The usual commentator, Brian Mollica, is mostly intolerable, sounding like a Saturday Night Live parody of the worst poker-show host ever. (The show had one bright spot, when Barry Greenstein came along as a guest co-host, and inserted thoughtful commentary.) He's not funny, not particularly insightful, and annoys me by trying to use exaggerated voice inflection to make the most mundane things sound exciting. "Brandon Adams picks up a PAIR OF EIGHTS!!! WOW!!!" Give it a rest, pal.

Here's another example of the wonderful commentary you get with this program. Kristy Gazes ( was a guest co-host for Episode 5. In one hand, Todd Brunson removes his baseball cap just before betting. Gazes says, “That’s a nice bet, and he took off his hat. I don’t know if I like that, superstitious-wise. He took it off in the middle of a hand. That might go against him this hand. I’m just saying for all you luck fiends out there like myself.” Brilliant, Kristy, just brilliant. First there are the grammatical gaffs. "Superstitious-wise"? "Like myself"? ("Like me" would be the correct construction there.) Really--you might try learning the language before taking on another hosting job. But even overlooking that, do you seriously believe that whether a player doffs or dons a hat in the middle of a hand affects whether he will win it? What is your IQ--12? That's the kind of cutting-edge poker analysis this show gives its viewers.

The production values are about what you'd expect from a high school class putting together their first experimental show as they learn how to use video equipment. The table they're using sounds like it's made of metal every time chips get tossed on it. The table chat is inane. The hostess, Brandi Williams, is unbearably dumb. I actually attended a taping of one of the episodes at Binion's back in February, and it was just as boring live as it is on TV.

Oh, and did I mention that they let players on wearing fish hats?

I hear that the show got cancelled after its first season. The world will not miss it.

Poker gems, #49

Todd Brunson, from an interview in Bluff magazine, November, 2007, p. 120:

If you don't respect me, I'll take your money. It's as simple as that.

Post #200

This is the 200th post in this blog. Quite a milestone.

Thanks for reading. I really mean that. This blog is itty-bitty in the scope of all blogs, averaging about 80 hits a day, but to me it's incredibly exciting and cool that every day that many people get curious about what I'm thinking. It keeps me motivated to ponder new things to say.

Superman playing poker

In my previous post (, I wrote:

Now, putting a thin layer of lead in poker cards would make a lot of sense, because then if you were playing with Superman, he couldn't use his
x-ray vision to see what you're holding. (Damn. Can't find an illustration of Superman playing poker. That would have been awesome.)

I was stunned this morning to find in my email in-box a nice note from a reader, accompanied by what he whipped up in Photoshop, as seen above. How cool is that?! Thanks, Anthony! (And here's a free plug for your video/graphics company:

Now forevermore when somebody types "Superman playing poker" into a search engine, this is where he'll be sent.

Addendum, November 14, 2007

Yesterday when I did a Google search for "Superman playing poker," it was just an image search, which didn't find anything relevant. Because I was specifically looking for an image of some kind, I didn't do a general web search. Well, I just did so now, and found some, uh, interesting stuff.

This page informs me that there is an episode of "Family Guy" that includes a scene of Superman playing poker in hell. Sadly, it seems that nobody has put this clip up on YouTube.

In an episode of Family Guy, Peter Griffin imagines what hell would look like. He sees Superman playing poker with Adolf Hitler, Al Capone and John Wilkes Booth. When asked why he would be in Hell, Superman replies, "I killed a hooker; she made a crack about me being faster than a speeding bullet so I ripped her in half like a phone book."

Then there's this amusing clip:

This one isn't as good, but since the "Superman playing poker" category doesn't have a whole lot in it, I might as well include it here for the sake of completeness:

There are two more in that series, which you can watch here if you liked that one:

Actually, if you use different search parameters on YouTube, you can find several more, which I'll list here for no particular reason, but be warned that they're all lame:

Addendum, November 14, 2007 (later in the day...)

I found a bootleg copy of the entire episode of "Family Guy" referred to above. Truly operating at the outer fringes of my technocompetence (is that a word? well, it is now), I managed to extract the relevant clip from it, post it on YouTube, and embed the result below. The video quality is terrible and the sound isn't synchronized right, but that's how I found it posted. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Just what we've been needing: lead in poker chips



OK, I'll admit that the picture above is pretty lame. After all, it's not exactly infants who are likely to be doing the most handling of poker chips. But it's hard to find photos illustrating "lead," y'know?

Still, I think there is a serious problem here. The second link, to a blog post, gets it right: The lead is a potential hazard because of handling chips, getting lead on one's fingers, then eating--or, worse, smoking, since inhalation is the most efficient means of getting lead into one's blood--without washing one's hands first. Unfortunately, this is a disgustingly common practice among poker players. (See

After poker, my next recreational love is competitive pistol shooting, and we have the same problem there: shooters handle lead bullets all day long, but then just can't be bothered to wash their hands before eating or smoking. It's incredibly foolish, but that's how people are.

I know little about manufacturing processes, but I have a hard time thinking of any good reason that a company would need to use lead in the making of poker chips (unless your plant is in China, where, apparently, use of lead is pretty much mandatory for everything). So stop being defensive about it and just find an alternative already, OK?

Now, putting a thin layer of lead in poker cards would make a lot of sense, because then if you were playing with Superman, he couldn't use his x-ray vision to see what you're holding. (Damn. Can't find an illustration of Superman playing poker. That would have been awesome.)

Addendum, November 14, 2007

See also:

and the embedded video at

Sorry, Jennifer, but your movie sucked

In last night's segment of NBC's "Poker After Dark," apparently filmed in late spring/early summer, Jennifer Harman and Howard Lederer are discussing "Lucky You," which Lederer had not yet seen.

Howard tells Jennifer that had compiled seven reviews of the movie so far, and they were all bad. Jennifer, who appears in the movie as a character trying to win a seat in the World Series of Poker through a satellite tournament, explains, "You know what I think it is, is most of the reviewers don't know poker, and it has a lot of poker in the movie."

Well, first, Jennifer, a well-made movie shouldn't require its viewers to know any particular subject in order to enjoy it; a good movie explains a technical area enough for a previously uninformed viewer to understand and enjoy it, perhaps even makes the viewer want to learn more about the subject later. "Lucky You" didn't do that.

If Howard were reporting to Jennifer today, he'd have more data--specifically, that site now lists 132 reviews, of which only 38 (29%) were considered positive, with an average rating of 5/10. It includes gems such as these:

"The Bellagio's fountains give a more expressive performance than Bana."

"An empty shell of a film, devoid of heart and soul, leaving us to wonder how in the world this movie ever got released."

"Staying home and playing solitaire would be two levels more interesting than watching this movie."

"If watching endless reruns of the World Championship of Poker is your idea of a hot weekend, there's finally a movie for you and your sad life."

"Below average, overlong drama that fails to deliver an emotional punch, largely because it's unsure of whether it wants to be a father-son drama or a romcom."

"Lucky You is long, utterly predictable and always bland."

"Curiously lifeless, Lucky You feels like poker without stakes; it goes through the motions with nothing to play for."

"Hanson’s an excellent director, and there are swaths of 'Lucky You' that are admittedly very well executed. But without a main character to root for, a believable romance or any reason to give a crap about the story, the whole thing just rolls over on its back and dies like a big, bloated, poker-flavored dead fish."

"Rather tepid going...the title obviously doesn't refer to the viewer."

Similarly, lists 29 reviews, with an average score of 49/100, including 10 in the green zone, 14 yellow, and 5 red. Check these excerpts:

"So what's Hanson exploring this time? His boring side, apparently."

"This spring, boredom has a new name: Lucky You. In the poker flick, an announcer calling a climactic poker match uses a Texas hold 'em term frequently, saying, 'And the flop. And the flop. And the flop.' This movie reviews itself."

"Poker has proven itself a popular spectator sport on television -- at least in the short run -- but as scripted drama, where you can pretty much guess the winner of a given hand, it's dull, dull, dull."

"The result is dull and lifeless."

Could all of those raspberries be just because the reviewers don't know the game of poker, as Jennifer lamely claims? No. Consider this one from Bob Pajich at Card Player magazine (

The people who made Lucky You took unprecedented access to the world’s most respected poker players and blew a chance to make an authentic movie about what
it’s like to live and compete in their world. Instead, the players become merely background in a movie that fails in just about every way.

Even the scenes of the “big game” at the Bellagio... are poker-chip flat. Sure, the sets look incredible..., but the games come off more like a council meeting than a
high-stake poker match.

After about two years of waiting for Lucky You, expectations may have gotten out of hand, but who could blame us? Looking at all the poker players the producers manage to assemble, it’s hard to believe the end result. It’s been almost nine years since the last good poker movie, Rounders, came out. Who knows how long poker fans will have to wait for another one.

I've written before about how bad this movie was (, so there's no need to repeat it. I'm obviously not alone. Actually, in all the poker-table conversations I've had and heard about this movie, not a single player has admitted to liking it.

If I had been Danette (barely seen in the screenshot above), dealing at the time this Lederer-Harman conversation was going on, I think I'd have stopped the action to say, "You're kidding, right? You really don't know how bad that film was?"

Jennifer, you're a sweetheart, but your movie sucked.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Poker gems, #48

From Neal Stephenson's novel Cryptonomicon, this excerpt is an imaginary foray into the mind of Admiral Yamamoto. (Editing by Eugene Volokh, who posted this recently on his blog,, in a context having nothing whatsoever to do with poker.)

To those Army fuckheads, [the decision not to deliver the declaration of war until after the Pearl Harbor attack] is nothing--just a typo, happens all the time. Isoroku Yamamoto has given up on trying to make them understand that the Americans are grudge-holders on a level that is inconceivable to the Nipponese, who learn to swallow their pride before they learn to swallow solid food. Even if he could get Tojo and his mob of shabby, ignorant thugs to comprehend how pissed off the Americans are, they'd laugh it off. What're they going to do about it? Throw a pie in your face, like the Three Stooges? Ha, ha, ha! Pass the sake and bring me another comfort girl!

Isoroku Yamamoto spent a lot of time playing poker with Yanks during his years in the States, smoking like a chimney to deaden the scent of their appalling aftershave. The Yanks are laughably rude and uncultured, of course; this hardly constitutes a sharp observation. Yamamoto, by contrast, attained some genuine insight as a side-effect of being robbed blind by Yanks at the poker table, realizing that the big freckled louts could be dreadfully cunning. Crude and stupid would be okay--perfectly understandable, in fact.

But crude and clever is intolerable; this is what makes those red headed ape men extra double super loathsome.

[Editorial comment from your Poker Grump: "Extra double super loathsome" just became my new favorite phrase. Do not be surprised if it shows up on these pages again.]