Saturday, January 01, 2011


Warning: Extreme Cuteness Ahead!

I shot all these videos with my little Nikon point-and-shoot camera on its maximal telephoto setting. They're not the best that one might be able to produce, but they are certainly adequate to show what was going on. I hope they suggest how incredible playful and adorable these lion babies are. If you don't immediately fall in love with all seven of the little critters, you are heartless. Period. I think it is also impossible not to find deep admiration for the attentiveness and playfulness with which the two mothers care for their young.

And while I'm editorializing, I'll add that anybody who would shoot a creature as beautiful and magnificent as a lion, for purposes of adding a trophy to his wall or floor, should himself be shot and mounted, as a cautionary testament to the depths of depravity and evilness we humans can stoop to.

(If you're going to watch just one, I suggest trying #5.)

See also Cardgrrl's wide-angle video of the cubs here.

National Zoo--including lion cubs

Today we spent a couple of hours at the National Zoo, which is conveniently just about a mile from my girlfriend's apartment.

The main purpose of the visit was to see the lion cubs that were recently born--two litters arrived a short time apart, totalling seven cubs. They are let out into the public viewing area for one hour a day. And Oh The Adorableness! We had to leave a little before the hour was over, because we had absorbed a nearly lethal dose of cuteness, what with all the rolling and frolicking and climbing and jumping and mewing and exploring and playing.

We also stopped to watch the elephants, a fishing cat, a sloth bear, a giant panda, and a clouded leopard, all of which you can see in my newest photo album on Picasa Web. If you look closely, you might even find a shot of the extremely rare and elusive wild Cardgrrl.

Pictures here:

Lovely evening

I had an absolutely delightful evening. First was dinner with friends at a place called Old Ebbitt Grill, which is apparently the oldest restaurant in Washington, having been in operation since 1856. It was kind of crowded, but excellent food for everyone, from appetizers to desserts.

Then we walked a couple of blocks to the Ronald Reagan Building and saw the Capitol Steps. I've seen them on TV a couple of times, and heard them on the radio (NPR) any number of times. In person, they're even funnier. Most laughs I've had in a long time. Their song parodies rank in cleverness with, say, Gilbert & Sullivan or Tom Lehrer. I think I might try to make this an annual event. It would be worth keeping up on the political news all year just so that you get the jokes! That photo, BTW, is King Jong-Il on the left, with two representatives of the United Nations unable to figure out what to do with him, together doing a song, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?" (You can watch a version of it here.)

Both the dinner and show were our Christmas gifts from two of Cardgrrl's closest friends, and it was just the perfect thing. Thanks, D&L!

Guess the casino, #739

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Texas Station

Letter to Prahlad Friedman

From Todd Witteles, about Friedman's apparent hiring as a UB sponsored pro, here.

The punchline:

Prahlad, you aren't being forgiving. You are being used by criminals to
give legitimacy to their tainted product and continuously dishonest company.

Please reconsider.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Feeling blue at Arlington National Cemetery

Cardgrrl and I spent a couple of hours this afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery, yet another in the virtually endless list of tourist sites around D.C. that I've never been to before.

I took a bunch of photos, and had hopes that a few of them would be gems. However, when I got home and started looking at them on the computer, I quickly noticed that both the white gravestones and the green grass were blue. I realized pretty fast what had happened. When at the museum the other day, the automatic white balance on my camera was not compensating well for the dim, yellowish light, and pictures were looking yellow, so I manually set it to "incandescent light." I never changed the setting back. Today, under the late afternoon sun, the stupid camera thought we were still indoors with 100-watt bulbs around us. As a result, the pictures are all quite thoroughly saturated in blue that doesn't really belong there.

I'm disappointed, but there's not much to be done about it now. I suppose I might be able to apply some sort of digital correction, but I think it would be more work than it's worth. So I'm just going to chalk it up as a learning experience--the modern equivalent of shooting a roll of film with the lens cap on. And even with no photos that I can proudly show off, the touching experience of the cemetery remains undiminished.

You can see the blue-washed photos here:

Tomorrow, we hope to see lion cubs at the zoo, then a nice dinner and show (The Capitol Steps) with good friends.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Guess the casino, #738

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Paris

Playing for funsies

Just played a 90-person $2.20 SNG with Cardgrrl for fun. I was a little surprised to find that it allowed us both to register, since we were using the same IP address, but it did. We ended up finishing in 3rd and 4th places, which was nice:

It's nice when you play with a friend and both end up doing about equally well.

The fun was only tarnished by the final two players engaging in obnoxious, mutual-fan-club chat about how brilliant they were and how donktastic everybody else was. Please, dudes--if you're bragging about being better than the average $2 tournament player, you have set the bar pretty low for yourselves.

In one hand, I had aces hold up against an open-ended straight flush draw. Cardgrrl and I disagreed about our guesses as to the percentages when the money went in on the flop. I thought my opponent was ahead about 52/48. She thought he had it about 60/40. But surprisingly, the truth is that I had a 51/49 edge, according to both PokerStove and the odds calculator at

I was too busy playing to think about why the percentages wouldn't be in his favor, when he had 15 outs. But now that the tournament is over and I'm looking at it again, the reason is obviously the paired flop. That gives me four cards (two aces and two fours) to make a full house, which he could then only beat by hitting his straight flush. Put a blank there (e.g., 2s or Js) instead of a second 4, and he is ahead about 56/44--halfway between my estimate and Cardgrrl's.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Guess the casino, #737

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Mandalay Bay

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stakes on a plane

My flights to D.C. this time were on AirTran. It's the first time I've used them. I had heard that they had wifi on their planes (mainly through Andy Bloch's Twitter posts about how he now uses AirTran whenever he can for this reason). But my selection of AirTran had nothing to do with this feature; it was simply the best mix of low price and convenient travel time that was available when I went to buy a ticket. I had not given a thought to the wifi thing until shortly before I left home.

But it was true. For most of the 3 1/2 hours from Las Vegas to Atlanta, and most of the 1 1/4 hours from Atlanta to D.C., we had free wifi service. I understand that its being free will not continue much longer; it might even be gone by the time I fly home. But it was pretty cool. I didn't want to enter a tournament--even a short-duration turbo SNG--for fear that the connection would be unreliable. So instead I two-tabled $0.25-$0.50 razz on PokerStars while listening to streaming Christmas carols (it was December 25th, after all) through an online music service, all using my noise-reduction earphones and my new laptop. The combination made me feel like a Thoroughly Modern Millie. The connection was nowhere near at peppy as I'm used to with my cable service, but it worked acceptably well. Only once did I get a warning that I was using up my time to take my turn.

One down side is that it appears that you have to sign on again every 45 minutes, and my first time allotment ended without warning. I just suddenly wasn't connected to anything anymore, with no idea why. It was only when I started the log-on process over again that I figured out that my disconnection was due to 45 minutes having transpired. That was an ugly glitch.

But other than that, it was a beautiful thing. After I got bored with razz, I did some of the review/editing work on my end-of-year review post. I admit that I also sent a couple of emails to friends just saying, "I'm sending you an email--from a plane!" It was reminiscent of when they first installed telephones in the seatbacks, and you got to listen in on neighbors making calls only for the purpose of saying, "Guess where I'm calling from?!"

I wondered at first whether anybody around me would be either curious about or offended by my playing poker. If they were, they stayed quiet about it. It might have helped that I had a whole row to myself for the long leg of the journey (a rare luxury in itself).

The title of this post, in case you didn't figure it out, is a little wordplay on the title of the 2006 film, "Snakes on a Plane." I saw it via Netflix a couple of years ago, and it was every bit as stupid as you'd expect. It had about five good seconds, consisting entirely of Samuel L. Jackson profanely spitting out what became the movie's only famous line of dialogue.

I thought of that line while playing my little poker games. It occurred to me that if somebody logged onto a casino site--one that features all of the traditional casino games--instead of a poker site, he could play some craps, and thus perhaps be given reason to curse, "M-f'in snake eyes on a m-f'in plane!"

Thieving poker dealer


Guess the casino, #736

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Answer: Green Valley Ranch

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Cardgrrl and I spent some time today at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History--not a lot, as we got a late start and available parking ended at 4 p.m. But we managed to hit some of the famous highlights: the rotunda, dinosaurs, the Hope diamond.

It was difficult to take any decent photographs, because the place was (1) jam-packed (to our surprise), and (2) very dimly lit. But the few that turned out well enough not to be completely embarrassing are collected here:

Guess the casino, #735

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Bellagio

"Poker" in books

You can now search Google's database of books for the relative frequency with which words or terms show up, by year (or decade) of publication. I was curious about whether "poker" would show an increasing trend over time; after all, there were very few poker books written prior to World War II.

I was therefore surprised at the curve generated, showing a peak in the mid-1940s, and a substantial decline since. (There is a little rise just in the last few years before 2000, which might be attributable to the boom in poker and poker publishing, or might just be statistical noise. Too early to tell.)

For comparison, I also checked "blackjack," "roulette," and "gambling." None of them showed the same kind of trend line.

I'm puzzled by this. Maybe a lot of the references are noncontextual, i.e., referring to fireplace pokers rather than to the game. If so, that would help explain why the other words do not follow similar patterns. Or maybe it's a sampling error problem--i.e., a higher fraction of 1940s books that mention poker found their way into Google's database than was the case in the 1980s.

But I really have no solid idea. Theories, readers?

Monday, December 27, 2010

A grumpy 2010 in review

I am on the third of nine days visiting Cardgrrl in D.C. Then I'm back to Vegas for just three days, with a big project to crank out in that short time, followed by a long weekend driving to visit the family in Utah again. So although I might check in with a quickie note here and there, for all practical purposes, poker and blogging are done for the next couple of weeks.

I'll take this opportunity to present the post mandated by the Blogger Handbook: The best of the year. Last year's effort, with links to those from previous years, is here.

Speaking of Cardgrrl, the best part of the year was the fact that our relationship continued to grow. I was in Washington for visits over Christmas/New Year, in May, and in August, plus she made Vegas voyages in March and June, and we met up in New Mexico in February. That's a decent amount of visiting, though I wish it could be more. She is mostly out of the poker business now, but I still find plenty of occasions to mention her in these pages:

The poker world's knowledge and appreciation of the Mighty Deuce-Four continued to gain ground this year. All sorts of posts about my own experiences, and those of others, playing the most powerful hand in poker are gathered here:

A long, rambling, self-revelatory post about my quirky personality and worldview:

I wandered into the annual fray about women's poker tournaments, and got it all out of my system so that I never have to do so again:

Once in a while some situation arises at the tables that requires a supervisory ruling, and it's not obvious what the call should be. These aren't common, so when one occurs I try to describe it in detail, with the arguments for each way of making the decision. Here are two examples:

In non-poker-related news, I wrote here about finally achieving the goal of doing a Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle perfectly, start to finish, without having to go back and make any corrections: The update is that I have repeated that accomplishment four more times since then. I love it when I can see measureable progress in a skill. But further update: A friend gave me for Christmas a book of extremely difficult crossword puzzles, definitely a level or two of challenge above NYT Sundays. I've tried three of them so far, and they are right at the bleeding edge of what I can even finish; doing one without errors along the way seems an insurmoutable challenge.

I just pounded out this stupid little poetry parody on the spur of the moment, but some readers seemed to like it:

I think that this year I did more posts about specific poker hands than has been my practice before. It tends to take a lot of time and work to explain everything that happens leading up to a difficult decision for a lot of chips. Sometimes I have just said what I did, sometimes left it at the decision point for readers to think about, with the end of the story published later:

I crack myself up sometimes. I really, really enjoyed writing this fake press release from PokerStars, but I was disappointed that I apparently failed to fool any of my poker-playing readers into believing it was genuine:

This was an interesting situation: Even at the end of a session, and after contemplating it after the fact, I was unable to be sure whether a guy I had played with was the complete newbie he made himself out to be, or a wolf in sheep's clothing:

One of my favorite post genres is the multi-story, when several things happen in the course of a poker session that individually aren't quite worthy of being whole posts, but which, when composited, sometimes make for something greater than the sum of the parts. Here are some examples from this year:

In that last one, I realize now that I failed to mention one other significant thing that happened that night: I was given my first honest-to-goodness opportunity to "run it twice," when I was short-stacked and made an all-in squeeze play with, I think, 9-9. Original raiser had A-J and called. The rules for the Thursday night game at the Palms allow running it twice, so we really could. My opponent offered. I had long ago decided that I would decline, given the chance. I did. I won, and tripled up (because there had been several other callers who all left their dead money in the pot).

Here's what it's like playing poker with Mr. Magoo:

In one short post, I coined two new words that should be in the general poker vocabulary:

Nothing to do with poker, but this year I've made more of an effort not only to take nice pictures of the places I go, but to share them with my readers:

Thanks to Mike Caro, I knew how to deal with a poker bully:

This little essay on how one learns good and bad poker playing is one of my favorite posts of the year:

Once in a while I sort of feel like stirring up a hornet's nest, and so I write something like this:

My attempt to get a new word into poker circulation:

Sometimes the stories pretty much write themselves:

This year had more than its share of poker frustrations, and I was more candid, I think, than I usually have been in the past sharing them:

I don't always comment on political developments that affect poker, because, well, everybody else in the business does, and I try not to say anything unless I feel I have some different perspective to contribute. This year we had two biggish national legislative moments, Barney Frank's bill and Harry Reid's. Though I may be dead wrong in my opinions and predictions, I tried to add my contrarian voice over several posts, plus ask some questions that I didn't see anybody else either asking or answering:

My take on a brazen robbery at a Berlin poker tournament--again, giving a point of view unlike I had seen anywhere else:

I spent more time playing online tournaments this year than ever before. Looking back through my archives month by month, I see that I wrote a lot about them, too. But there's nothing special about those posts, for the most part--they just relate what happened in this tournament or that. You can review them all, should you find any reason to do so, here:

That about does it for 2010, as far as my poker life goes. Thanks for sticking around for another year. I expect that 2011 will have some interesting changes in store.

Guess the casino, #734

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Sam's Town

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Guess the casino, #733

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Palms