If you like trivia, check out my other site, THE HARRIS CHALLENGE, and play every weekday!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Buy It Or Don't, He Doesn't Care

Two guys named Rhett and Link travel the country making commercials for local businesses, including this one for a brutally honest mobile home dealer...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Warm Water Time Travel

I had a free day with nothing else to do, so I went to see "Hot Tub Time Machine." It completely lived up to my expectations by being exactly -- not one bit more or less -- as stupid as I thought it would be.

Like "Snakes On A Plane," you know the entire premise from the title. The studio pitch session took about five seconds: there's this hot tub, you see, that's also a time machine and....okay, sold!

While not as good as "The Hangover," "Hot Tub Time Machine" is in the same ballpark. It helps if you lived through the 80s or ever dated a woman who started wearing leg warmers after seeing "Flashdance." As for the cast, Rob Corddry is so over-the-top outrageous that he must have ingested whatever stimulants Jack Black used to take. John Cusack does his usual solid job, Craig Robinson is funny, and Crispin Glover gets to work in another time-travel movie.

You don't need to know anything else about the plot. You either buy it or your don't buy it. I bought it.

Now the caveat: don't see "HTTM" if you're not a fan of stupid, crude, relentless, silly, sophomoric, or any synonym you like -- they all apply.

Michael Caine on Film

A couple of nights ago, Michael Caine was on Letterman and they brought up a televised master class that Caine did in 1989 called "Acting In Film." I bought that class when it came out on VHS, loved it, and it just so happens, found it in my basement last month and watched it again. Brilliant stuff.

In the video, Caine gives a handful of students tips on the art of acting for movies, as opposed to the stage. In the process, he shows how to sit in a chair like the drunk professor he played in "Educating Rita," how to play creepy as he did as the murderous husband in "Deathtrap," how to time your speech while walking so you hit your mark perfectly, and how much of a difference it makes whether your character is blinking or not blinking...

The video is a must-see for anyone who's ever considered working in movies, or for anyone like me who's a fan of movies and the process involved in making them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Senator S-Bomb

While on KTRS today, I played the audio of Sen. Carl Levin going after a Goldman Sachs executive in a Senate committee hearing yesterday. At one point, Levin read from a GS internal memo that referred to a deal as "shitty." Levin used that word over and over -- 11 times in a four minute span. Later, Sen. Claire McCaskill used it, too, in reading from the same memo.

Of course, when I played the audio on the air, I had to bleep out the s-bombs because of FCC regulations. While that took some work, I wonder how the commission would have felt if we'd been carrying the hearing live. Would they hold me and the radio station responsible for allowing those words from a US Senator to air uncensored?

A few weeks ago, just before President Obama signed the health care reform bill into law, he was introduced by VP Joe Biden. When Biden finally finished, he turned to hug Obama and tell him, "This is a big fucking deal." Obama blanched at Biden's use of the word, probably knowing that the microphones in front of them picked it up -- and indeed they did.

I happened to be on KTRS that day, too. We were carrying the event live, but I made no attempt to hit the dump button -- for two reasons. One, I didn't think anyone in the audience noticed it or cared. In all my years on the air, I have never received a complaint from any listener on the rare occasions when a profanity slipped through. Ironically, I've never had a problem with that from any caller, but a few guests (hello, Graham Nash!) have been so comfortable in our conversation that they seemingly forgot we were on the air and said one of the banned words. I didn't hit the dump button on them, yet no one else outside the studio seemed to care. Or perhaps they didn't believe they heard it and wrote it off. Most likely, they know that this is how real people talk sometimes, so it wasn't a big deal.

The other reason I didn't hit the dump button on Biden is that I'd love to see the FCC go after a broadcast outlet for carrying a live appearance by a top government official who happens to drop a curse word -- language that has been used by big shots in both parties (hello, Mr. Cheney) in the discharge of their official duties.

This morning, WJR/Detroit morning man Paul W. Smith had Levin on his show and asked the senator if he'd defend any broadcasters who might get fined by the FCC for allowing Levin's expletive to hit the airwaves. Levin responded, "Sorry to put you guys in that position, but to answer your question, of course I would."

Now there's a debate I'd like to see. And carry live.

Final Table #65: Monte Carlo + Paul Wasicka

This week on my Final Table poker show, Dennis Phillips checked in from Monte Carlo, where he took a break from the $5k event at the EPT finale. We analyzed three hands he lost on Sunday on the way to being knocked out of EPT main event, talked about Daniel Negreanu's continuing bad run on "High Stakes Poker," and discussed new legislation in Congress that may clear up the legal situation for online poker.

Then I was joined by Paul Wasicka, runner-up to Jamie Gold at the 2006 World Series Of Poker Main Event and winner of the 2007 National Heads-Up Championship. We talked about the WSOP Circuit Event he played here in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago and the one he won in Tunica earlier this year. We also discussed whether it's distracting for him to be recognized by other players in a tournament, how he keeps his concentration at the table, the new book on heads-up poker he's writing, and his plans for the WSOP this summer.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dave Barry on Winning A Pulitzer

The Rock Bottom Remainders is a band of famous authors, including Mitch Albom, Ridley Pearson, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Stephen King, Roy Blount Jr., Matt Groening, and Dave Barry. They do concerts around the country on occasion in various combinations, but once a year, they all put down their pens, pick up their guitars, and do a weeklong series of shows they call the Wordstock Tour.

Last Tuesday was the kickoff day for Wordstock 2010, which began with the members of the RBR sitting together onstage and answering some questions from Sam Donaldson. One of them had to do with Dave winning a Pulitzer Prize several years ago. Here's his response...

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have guested on my radio show many times over the years. You can listen to a few of those conversations here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mac and Jim

Last night, we went to an exhibition tennis match between John McEnroe and Jim Courier, who put on quite a show.

The crowd obviously came to see McEnroe, expecting at least one rant about a missed line call. They got that rant quickly, but it was from Courier, the victim of two bad calls in the first two games, who was not hesitant in expressing his displeasure with both the linesman and the woman in the umpire chair. After the second outburst, McEnroe jokingly asked the umpire, "Can you tell him to stop whining and complaining?"

It didn't take long for McEnroe to offer his own complaints, first at the number of balls they were using (stray balls went into the crowd often and didn't come back), and then at a horribly missed call on the end line that would have decided a game. Of course, he tossed in his trademark line, "You can not be serious!!" to add to the show, but it was clear he wasn't happy.

The umpire did a horrible job, missing several chances to overturn bad calls by the lines-people. At one point, McEnroe hit a cross-court shot that was right on the line, a fact that was obvious to everyone in the building except the lineswoman who called it out -- and the umpire who didn't overrule. That set off McEnroe again, asking her if she knew that the lines counted as "in" not "out," as Courier smiled and casually placed a ball on the line exactly where the shot had landed.

Nonetheless, both players gave it their all and put on a competitive match for a couple of hours. It was clear that these two guys were friendly, but that didn't stop them from going at it pretty hard. They're both ultra-competitive -- you don't rack up as many titles as they did without that drive -- yet knew they had to put on a good show for the crowd. They tossed their rackets, kidded around with people in the stands, and didn't make me throw back a ball that came flying up off a McEnroe mis-hit, which I promptly gave to my daughter.

After Courier won the match in a third-set tie-breaker, he and McEnroe were joined by two young female college players for three games of mixed doubles, where the participants were miked up and the ex-pros really turned up the showmanship. Courier, in particular, joked around a lot, tried to give the women lots of opportunities, and hit a couple of goofy show-off shots.

At one point, before serving, he asked his partner to give him a signal about where to hit the ball. She showed him a sign behind her back, and he said, "Wait, I don't know what that means." Smiling, she called him over and whispered something, to which Courier replied "Oh, serve it up the middle, okay." The crowd laughed, as we could all hear every word. When he and his partner won the match, he talked her into executing a Bryan-Brothers-style chest-bump, although he politely turned his body so as not to hurt her.

Next, two young male college players joined Courier and McEnroe for another exhibition. After one exchange where McEnroe's partner hit three volleys right at Courier, who returned each of them right back to him, McEnroe suggested hitting the ball at the other (less-experienced) opponent instead.

It was the kind of quick comment that makes McEnroe so good on television, where his commentary on grand slam tennis events has elevated him to the highest ranks of sports analysts. There is no one better at giving viewers insight into the strategy of a sporting event in progress than John McEnroe. He'll prove that again in a couple of months when Wimbledon begins.

Disappointingly, the Family Arena was mostly empty, with only a couple thousand people in the seats. It would have been nice to have a bigger turnout. Still, it was fun to witness a combination of the new and old Johnny Mac plus the still-hard-hitting Courier in action.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Don't Drink and Walk

From last weekend's Coachella festival in California, a man under the influence has trouble with his sandals...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

James Randi on Psychics & Homeopathy

From February, 2007, James Randi onstage at the TED Conference, discussing psychic frauds and the homeopathy scam -- watch as he takes an entire bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills, with no effect at all.

Back story: Randi tells me that for this appearance, he had to leave the hospital bed where he was recuperating from cardiac bypass surgery and fly to California alone. Despite the strength he shows onstage, he was in pretty bad shape, and had to return to his hospital bed immediately afterwards...

Come join us at the James Randi Educational Foundation's Amazing Meeting 8 in Las Vegas this summer! It is always a fun and informative gathering of the world's great skeptics, and this year's lineup is full of people who prove the point: Richard Dawkins as keynote speaker, plus Adam Savage (Mythbuster), Penn & Teller, "Daily Show" head writer David Javerbaum, Phil Plait, and -- of course -- James Randi. We'll be at the Southpoint Casino/Resort from July 8th to 11th. If you've never been, make this the year you're introduced to TAM!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Meal Time

Getting the right food at the right time isn't always easy.

I did early morning radio for 15 years, and by the time I got off the air at 10am each day, I was ready for lunch. Unfortunately, most places were still serving breakfast, a meal I'd eaten five hours ago, and you couldn't find a sandwich shop open for another hour or so. Even McDonald's didn't start grilling burgers until 10:30am.

On the other hand, you can also get the wrong food at the wrong time.

I said that to a guy I met today at a business meeting. It was lunchtime and we met at a restaurant, where I figured we'd eat and talk, but when he arrived, he said he wasn't hungry because he'd been to White Castle for breakfast a couple of hours earlier. I thought I'd heard wrong, so I made him repeat it. Sure enough, he'd gotten out of bed, showered, shaved, dressed, gotten in the car, and stopped off for four White Castle hamburgers and a Coke at 9am.

I can see ending a long night of partying at 4am by grabbing some belly bombs, but waking up at a normal time and deciding to start your day that way? I've done the former a few times, but never the latter, because it would be like going to the International House of Pancakes for dinner at 6pm -- just plain wrong.

Speaking of IHOP, a very long time ago in Hartford, Connecticut, I was on a date with a woman who did not become my wife, and this story may explain why. We'd been to a concert at the Agora Ballroom and then to another bar for a few drinks, and now she was hungry. Unfortunately, Hartford wasn't exactly an all-night party town in the early 1980s -- by 2am, 99.7% of the population had been asleep for at least four hours -- so there weren't many places open and serving food. In fact, there were exactly two options: Denny's and IHOP. She chose the latter, and I figured we'd each have some pancakes or waffles or eggs or something else breakfast-y.

I ordered a short stack with bacon on the side. She ordered the veal parmesan.

I thought she was kidding. There's no way IHOP sells veal parmesan, I said. She pointed to it on the back of the laminated menu -- the side no one in their right mind ever looks at -- and there it was, right next to the hamburgers, chicken strips, and turkey club sandwich. I told her that I was shocked to discover they had those items, but even more surprised that she was ordering one of them. The chef probably couldn't believe it, either. How often does anyone order veal parmesan at an IHOP? If it happens twice in a year, it must be a record. He likely had to dig into the back corner of the refrigerator to even find the frozen veal parmesan patties -- then had to ask someone else how to make them ("Hey, Billy, do these come with hash browns?")

I sat there in stunned silence. This was a real dilemma for me, because it was a lock that we were going back to her apartment to spend the rest of the night, but despite my physical attraction to this woman, I wasn't sure I could continue to date someone who would choose this food at this place at this time (not that there's any time when it's correct to order veal parmesan at IHOP).

When the food came and I took one glance at the meal she had ordered for herself -- it looked just as gross as I'd imagined -- I made up my mind. Sex or no sex, a guy has his limits. I just couldn't be with a woman who didn't know that:

You don't go to Red Lobster for steak.
You don't go to Baskin-Robbins for salad.
You don't go to Taco Bell for clam chowder.
You don't go to White Castle for breakfast.

And you certainly don't go to IHOP for veal parmesan.

Footnote: I just checked IHOP's website. They don't sell veal parmesan anymore, but you can get pot roast, a t-bone steak, and grilled tilapia. It's nice to know that my girlfriend of nearly 3 decades ago now has some variety in her diet.

The Cleveland Tourism Song

When the Cleveland Board of Tourism asked residents to come up with a new video promoting their city, Mike Polk Jr. thought brutal honesty was the best policy -- but the Board probably wasn't happy with his vision of the town. I can't embed the video, but you should watch it here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Final Table #64: Jeff Roper, WSOPC Champion

Today on my Final Table poker show, Dennis Phillips and I talked with Jeff Roper, the St. Louisan who won the Main Event at last week's World Series Of Poker Circuit Event. Jeff, who is well known in the poker rooms around town, explained how he used his aggression and a big stack of chips to defeat all of his opponents -- and explained the strategy behind some two big hands towards the end.

We also welcomed back Joe "The Poker Coach" McGowan. After a two-week hiatus, Joe shared tips for cash game regulars who want to start playing tournaments but don't know the difference in strategies.

As we dug into this week's poker news, we discussed:
  • the get-up that Phil Hellmuth is planning to wear for his WSOP entrance this summer -- and the reaction from Daniel Negreanu
  • the documentary about Joe Cada's run to the 2009 WSOP Main Event title that recently showed up on YouTube
  • the big-name pro who lasted exactly one hand at this week's $25,000 buy-in WPT Championship at the Bellagio
  • the top 20 vote-getters so far for the WSOP Tournament of Champions
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another Movie You Might Not Know

It's been awhile since I added a title to my Movies You Might Not Know list, but here's one I just found over the weekend: "Cold Souls."

It stars Paul Giammatti (always money-in-the-bank as far as I'm concerned) as Paul Giamatti, who is going through a funk while rehearsing Uncle Vanya for Broadway. A friend gives him a New Yorker article about a business that removes and stores your soul, and he decides that it's his soul that's weighing him down, so he goes to check it out. The business is run by David Straitharn (another actor incapable of giving a bad performance), who cajoles Giammatti into trying a soul-less life. Before long he's entangled with a woman who acts as a soul mule, transporting them back and forth to Russia, where there's an active black market in souls.

It all sounds very odd, and it is. But with a cast this watchable, and a story that's almost as bizarre as "Being John Malkovich," you'll find yourself buying the "Cold Souls" premise and going along for the ride.

Check the full list for more Movies You Might Not Know, and send me your suggestions, too!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Want To Drop Some Fries On That?

I encountered a social dilemma the other day after stopping at a fast-food place to get lunch at the drive-thru window.

Once I had re-entered traffic, I put a straw into the drink cup, then lifted it to get a sip. That's when the top shifted, opened at one side, and spilled soda onto my pants.

Hurling a few invectives into the air, I knew I had only myself to blame. I had forgotten the First Rule Of Drive-Thru Food: check everything before you leave the window. From experience, I know that they don't always get the order right ("I said no onions, dammit!") and often, in their haste, fail to attach the drink lid properly to the cup.

I couldn't go back in time and change that, so now I had to deal with it. I was on my way to an appointment, but it was only a few minutes away. When I arrived in the parking lot, I looked down and saw that the crotch of my pants was still obviously wet. Surely, I couldn't go into my appointment like that. I dabbed at the spot with some napkins, but then worried that a passerby might observe this behavior and interpret it as something less innocent.

Damn. I didn't have time to go home and change. I thought about rolling down all the windows and driving around for a few minutes, hopeful that the air would help dry me out -- but as a horrific hay fever sufferer, I wasn't willing to trade my ability to breathe, which would be severely curtailed by even a few minutes exposure to St. Louis' legendarily pollen-laden atmosphere.

So I tried turning on the air-conditioning in the car and pointing all of the louvers at my seat in an effort to dry the pants more quickly. That seemed to help. After several minutes, I decided I was dry enough to exit the car and proceed to my appointment. I wasn't worried about a stain because very few people are stealing glances at the crotch of a fat middle-aged bald guy, so it was unlikely they'd notice. Wet spot, yes. Discoloration, no.

I was right. Once I got inside, no one said anything, nor did they seem to notice anything was wrong, and everything went well at the meeting.

And I re-learned an important lesson -- always wear dark pants when you use the drive-thru window at a fast-food place.

Tweeting For The Ages

Last week, the Library of Congress announced that it had acquired the archives of everything that's ever been posted on Twitter. Their press release plays up the importance of this acquisition for future scholarly research. Because it's important that generations to come have the ability to cull the database to discover how people tweeted this year about Kate Gosselin's dancing ability and Larry King's umpteenth divorce.

Sin Taxes

I have railed against sin taxes for a long time. The notion that we should raise more money by only increasing the burden on a sector of the populace who engage in a behavior that some disapprove of -- smoking, drinking, gambling -- goes directly against the role our government should play. It is not the job of politicians to try to change your habits for health, financial, or any other reasons.

Yet states continue to pursue this strategy, now more than ever, because they are so cash-strapped. Leaders who don't have the fortitude to pass broader increases instead levy these sin taxes, which they believe don't count against them in the public's mind.

In today's NY Times, Catherine Rampell expands on this intersection of budget and behavior.

Friday, April 16, 2010


With extremists on both left and right driving so much political debate in the US these days, it seemed an appropriate time to talk with John Avlon, author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America."

What they're hijacking is a system that only succeeds when there is compromise from both sides. Unfortunately, the concept of working with those you disagree with to achieve a common good seems to be lost between the 10% on one side and the 10% on the other side who disavow anyone in the middle, particularly those who attempt any kind of cooperation.

Among the points Avlon and I discussed:
  • how so many Tea Party protesters don't know that their tax rates and government pork have both been reduced in the last year
  • the irony of Fox News stars turning on Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative members of the US Senate
  • which liberals qualify as members of the lunatic fringe
  • whether the media is failing in its coverage of these extremists
  • what effect he expects these political divisions to have on the elections this fall and in 2012
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

John Avlon is senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and a contributor to CNN.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day

Gene Lyons has a great piece in Salon on tax myths in the US, including a recent report from the Associated Press that about 47% of Americans will pay no federal income tax for 2009. As Lyons explains, that's a misleading factoid:

"How many are retirees living on savings and Social Security? How many soldiers? Students? How many are unemployed amid the current recession, thus have no income to tax? ... It's also false to imply that households paying no income tax escape federal taxation altogether. Social Security and Medicare payroll deductions, for example, add up to a nonrefundable 15.3 percent -- a slightly higher rate than wealthy citizens pay on income from dividends and capital gains. Low-income earners, meanwhile, pay the same gasoline and sales taxes as everybody else."

Changing Planes Without Stopping

You've seen stunts in James Bond movies where the hero or villain jumps from one plane to another. Here's something similar in real life. It's skydiver Paul Steiner exiting the cockpit of a glider, moving along its wing, and then transferring to the wing of another glider, all at about 100mph...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pigs At The Taxpayers' Trough

Citizens Against Government Waste came out with their annual Pig Book today, detailing some of the pork-barrel projects that our elected officials in Washington have stuffed into the national budget over the last year.

David Williams, CAGW's VP/Policy, joined me on KTRS/St. Louis to give examples of these money-wasters and to explain why there's such a big difference between the two US senators from Missouri -- one who loves earmarks vs. one who refuses to use them. We also discussed the career politicians who continue to feed their own egos by having your tax dollars spent on projects with their names on them (literally!). I also asked him whether this pork pays off in votes or if it's done more to line the campaign coffers of those senators and congressmen (and women) up for re-election.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Risk & Reward

After I made the final table of Event 2 at the World Series Of Poker Circuit Event here in St. Louis ($560 buy-in, 288 players), someone came up and said to me, "I guess this means you'll be in the Main Event, huh?" I asked why he thought that, and he replied, "Because now you have the $5,000 for the entry fee!"

I explained to him that, even though I had won more than that for finishing 5th in my event, I had no plans to buy-in to the big one. I know plenty of players in this WSOPC Main Event who got there via satellites that cost them just a few hundred dollars. For them, playing in the tournament was absolutely the right thing to do. I didn't have time to qualify that way, so it would have meant laying out the five dimes myself.

Truth be told, I had enough for the entry fee before my deep run, but it's a matter of managing both money and risk.

Too often in a casino, you'll see players at table games (blackjack, craps, Caribbean stud, etc.) who decide to keep playing, or to increase the size of their bets, because they're having a good run and are "playing with the house's money," meaning whatever they've won at the table. Nothing could be further from the truth. As soon as the dealer pushes those chips to you, they cease being house money and become your money instead. Now it's up to you to manage a little more money than you had before. If you lose it, you're not giving it back, you're giving it away. That's not to say you shouldn't keep playing until you feel it's time to get up, but you should never pretend that those chips aren't yours.

So, if I could afford to buy into the Main Event regardless, why didn't I? Because I know that the field in a tournament like that is much tougher. More good players, more pros, and fewer fish. I like my game, but I'm realistic about it. I try not to play over my head in cash games where the stakes are too large for my comfort zone, and I apply the same thing to tournaments.

Last year, Dennis Phillips told me about a friend of his who won a satellite tournament and qualified for the $40,000 buy-in no-limit hold-em event at the World Series Of Poker. She asked him whether she should use the winnings to play in that tournament. He told her that the field of players in that event would be among the best in the world and it would be extremely tough to do well. Sure, she could take a shot, or she could use the money to play the $10,000 Main Event and a half-dozen smaller buy-in events -- and still keep half of the $40,000! She thought about it for a few seconds and realized he was right.

Like all gambling, poker is about risk and reward. You get more of the latter if you manage more of the former.

Final Table #63: WSOPC + NAPT

This week on my poker radio show, The Final Table, Dennis Phillips and I were back together at Harrah's St. Louis for the $5,000 main event of the World Series Of Poker Circuit Event that got underway Tuesday. There were 129 entrants, which is more than showed up for the main events in Tunica and Council Bluffs combined. We recapped some of the earlier tournaments that made up this WSOPC over the past two weeks, which also had a very solid turnout, and hope to see it return to St. Louis next year.

One of today's players, poker pro Bernard Lee -- co-host of ESPN's Inside Deal and spokesperson for Foxwoods Casino -- joined us to talk about the NAPT event Dennis just returned from at Mohegan Sun, and we did a strategy session about how many players are afraid to be bluffed because their egos can't take it (fyi: Joe "The Poker Coach" McGowan couldn't join us this week, but will be back for our next show). We also answered a listener e-mail about why Dennis revealed my cards to the other players on "High Stakes Poker."

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Things That Make Me Feel Old

A woman sitting next to me at the poker table last night said her father named her Roxanne because he liked that song by The Police. I told her that I had played that song on the radio when it was brand new in 1979. What I didn't ask was whether her dad knew the song was about a hooker.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Bad Beat Stories

I have spent most of the last week at the World Series Of Poker Circuit Event at Harrah's St. Louis, playing in both tournaments and cash games. It's a well-run event in its first year here, and it's good to see so many new faces from out of town taking on our crew of good hometown players, many of whom have dominated the events thus far.

I'm proud to say I made the final table of Saturday's $560 buy-in tournament in a field of 288 entrants. The 10 of us who made it were a mixture of ages from early 20s to early 70s. I had started Day 2 as the chip leader with 22 players remaining, but was now second to a young gun who had three times as many as I did. I hadn't played with him at all, but immediately guessed that he was going to be hyper-aggressive, using his big stack to push the table around.

I was right, but he was reckless, too. When a player with a medium stack came over the top of an early position raiser and moved all-in, the young gun called, forcing the original raiser to fold. The re-raiser showed two kings. The hotshot showed king-seven offsuit. I silently thanked Tom Dwan, the very talented young player whose reputation for aggression with any two cards has turned him into a role model for a generation of kids who don't understand the strategy behind his game -- they think all you have to do is make a big bet with any hand and you'll keep getting lucky.

Needless to say, the young gun lost that hand. Over the next hour, his remaining chips were disbursed to the rest of us as his aggressive style got him in trouble again and again until he was eliminated in 7th place.

We were down to five players with blinds at 8,000/16,000 with a 3,000 ante when this hand came up with me in the big blind.

It was folded around to the small blind, a good young player named Jesse who had a few more chips than I did. He looked at his cards, glanced to his right to make sure the button had folded, then checked his cards again, and bet 50,000. I'd been watching all of my opponents for hours, and I'd never seen him do this. It seemed like he was raising with a weak hand to just try to take it away from me, so I thought I could re-steal. Unfortunately, I looked down at the queen of clubs and eight of spades, so instead of making a move right now, I figured I'd just call and see what developed.

The flop came 10-5-3 and Jesse checked immediately. My read said he wasn't setting a trap and hoping I'd bet so he could check-raise me. It looked more like he was thinking, "I didn't like the fact that you called pre-flop and I'm scared that you might have some kind of hand behind me." So now I think that if that's the case, I can check here, let him try to bluff at the turn, and then I'll take it away from him. So I tapped the table. The turn was a 9 and he again quick-checked. Now I was 100% sure he had nothing and was done with this hand, so I bet 75,000 into the 139,000 pot and he immediately folded.

I didn't get involved in another pot for a few more hands, and when I did, it was also against Jesse. This time, the blinds were up to 10,000/20,000, so when it was folded around to him on the button, he raised to 60,000. He didn't look weak like last time, but when I looked down at a pair of tens, I shoved my entire stack of 250,000 into the pot. Unfortunately, he insta-called and turned over a pair of aces. I didn't catch a ten on the board and was eliminated in 5th place.

After I collected my prize of about $8,000, an acquaintance in the crowd came over and asked me why I moved all-in at that point. I pointed out that Jesse's range of hands on the button with only five players was fairly wide, and I was only afraid of the four over-pairs. Besides, when the flop came 8-high, the money was going in the middle anyway, so the only way I could avoid losing all my chips would have been to fold before the flop, which I'm certainly never doing with a pair of tens. The guy said, "Well, I would have just called before the flop and then folded when he bet the flop." I replied, "Then you should never play poker again."

Not only was this guy dead wrong about strategy, but he also picked the absolute wrong time to criticize my play -- just after I'd been eliminated from a tournament that I'd been playing for 20 hours over two days. But some poker players are like that. Instead of sympathizing, they want to show off their expertise or, worse, tell you their bad beat story.

I had that happen to me the previous day. I was the chip leader and got it all in pre-flop with aces against a guy with kings. The third player in the hand had folded ace-king, so my opponent had exactly one card left in the deck that he could hit to beat me. Because it was the last hand before a break, there was a large crowd gathered around and they let out a large "whoa!" when the last king came out on the turn to beat me. I was left with only 4,000 chips (half of the stack we had begun the entire tournament with) as I got up from my seat to walk off the defeat.

Bad beat stories are a dime a dozen in the poker world, and they all end pretty much the same way. I'm not telling you mine to gain your sympathy or because I think you care, but because of what happened afterwards.

As I walked through the surrounding players, a couple of them commented on what a bad beat it was, how they were sorry I'd lost, etc. Then a guy I'd never seen before came up and said, "Wow, that sucked, but you should have seen what happened to me yesterday." He then proceeded to tell me his bad beat story.

I stared at him without really paying attention to what he was telling me because I didn't care. Here I had just suffered a setback that nearly cost me all of my chips, and thus my tournament life, yet this guy thought this would be an appropriate occasion to regale me with the details of a hand he'd lost? That's not just bad timing, it's downright rude.

When he finished, I walked away, went to the bathroom, and walked some more to clear my head. I finally returned to the table about ten minutes into the next level. Lou, the player on my left, leaned over and said, "I hope you can make a comeback." I replied, "Lou, I'm going to win this tournament."

He smiled. I got back into the zone, and played well enough to outlast 283 other players. I didn't win it, but I was proud of the accomplishment, my deepest run in a circuit event so far (after a 15th-place finish in Biloxi and 14th in Tunica, both in January).

I'll give it another shot this Friday as the WSOPC continues. If you're in it, I look forward to playing with you.

But no, I don't want to hear your bad beat story.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Final Table #62: Jennifer Harman & Doug Carli

This week on my poker radio show, The Final Table, Dennis Phillips and I were right in the middle of the first-ever World Series Of Poker Circuit Event ain St. Louis, and the show was packed with stories and guests.

We talked briefly about my 5th-place finish in Event #2 this weekend, a $560 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament with a field of 288 players. This was my third cash of the year (15th at the WPT event in Biloxi and 14th at the WSOPC in Tunica), and my first final table at an event with a field that large.

We were joined by WSOPC Tournament Director Jimmy Sommerfeld, who has devised terrific structures for these events, giving us plenty of room to play. We discussed a controversial ruling he made at my table on Saturday, when a player with a pair of tens moved all-in and a player with a pair of nines called -- but the dealer didn't hear him. Even though both hands were exposed, he pulled the cards face-down into the muck with the rest of the deck and pushed the chips to the all-in player. Everyone at the table pointed out the mistake immediately, so the dealer called the floor, who called a supervisor, who finally called Jimmy, who had to make a tough decision. You'll hear what he did (and why) on today's show.

Our next guest was Doug Carli, who has cashed over 100 times on the tournament circuit, including more than 40 in WSOPC events -- a record. He talked about what life is like as a middle-aged poker millionaire on the road with his wife, how he manages his bankroll, how many events he plays, and more. For anyone who has ever fantasized about living the life of a touring poker professional, you can learn a lot from Doug's experience.

Finally, we talked with Jennifer Harman, the only woman to win bracelets in two WSOP open events, and a regular in the biggest cash game in the world in Bobby's Room at the Bellagio. She explained how often the best players in town play their game, how often an outsider sits down with them, and which games are usually in the mix. We also discussed billionaire banker Andy Beal, who has taken on Jennifer and the rest of a team of top-flight poker pros in some of the highest-stakes games ever (if you're not familiar with that story, I strongly suggest you read Michael Craig's "The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King"). Speaking of cash games, we asked Jennifer why she hasn't been back on "High Stakes Poker" for a couple of years -- the answer will surprise you -- and she revealed how she ended up writing the section on limit hold'em for Doyle Brunson's "SuperSystem 2."

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Will An iPad Blend?

You finally got hold of an iPad, and what's the first thing you're going to do with it? Stick it in your blender, of course!

[thanks to Bill Sobel for the link]

Friday, April 02, 2010

Thanks For Never Calling Again

Jon Stewart on how not to handle racist callers on your show (hint: don't tell them you appreciate their participation)...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Mandela's Way

Here's a conversation I had with Time magazine editor Richard Stengel about his new book, "Mandela's Way." Stengel had a close relationship with Nelson Mandela in the early '90s -- so close, in fact, that Mandela is now the godfather of Stengel's son.

We discussed the contradictions of Mandela's life, his relationship with former President FW deKlerk (with whom he won a Nobel Peace Prize), whether he is considered a hero by the majority of South Africans, who he holds in high esteem, and much more.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!