Bailey

I’m not a pet person. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have one.

Missy is the opposite. If it were up to her, we’d go to the pet store and order “The Noah”.

Knowing my preference for a pet-less existence, she made me agree to it before we got married. Call it a pet pre-nup. Pet-nup? Pup-nup? I agreed to get a dog as long as she agreed that we would only have one dog and zero cats.

And so our life as a budding family began the way many do. We got married in August 2006, moved out of my one-bedroom apartment and bought our first house in January 2008, and in March of that year we went to the animal shelter to pick out our dog.

I’ll never forget that day. There were probably 20 or 30 dogs there ready to be adopted. We made the rounds a couple of times, but both of us were pulled toward the dog with the black spots and the boundless energy. He held eye contact with us the whole time we were on his row of crates. Did a couple of hops and spins and wagged his tail.

There wasn’t any debate, we both picked him. On the drive home, we threw out a few name suggestions. I know Bailey is generally more of a girl’s name, but for some reason it just felt right for him. Something about his spots and his smile made him look like a Bailey to me, and Missy agreed.

The animal shelter had him listed as a lab/dalmatian mix. We thought that was probably inaccurate, and our vet said he thought Bailey was a border collie/blue heeler mix, which is certainly closer to the truth considering Bailey never grew to be very tall and has never weighed more than 45 pounds.

Our vet guessed that Bailey was four or five months old when we got him, and he definitely acted like a puppy. He couldn’t get enough attention, and as a young, newly-married couple we were happy to give him plenty of it. We loved throwing him tennis balls in the back yard to fetch, and Bailey loved chasing them down and bringing them back to us. The only problem was that he never wanted to drop the ball back at our feet so we could throw it again. We had to wrestle it out of his mouth every time.

One day when Missy was at work, I was upstairs playing with Bailey when my cell phone rang. While I talked on the phone, Bailey kept jumping on me to try to get me to play again. After about two minutes of this, he quit jumping, took one step back, looked me square in the eyes and laid a giant dump on the middle of our rug.

“No big deal,” I thought as I calmly cleaned up the mess.

Just kidding, I was pretty pissed. Bailey spent the next few hours in the backyard.

His favorite backyard activity has always been digging. He digs holes underneath the fence and emerges on the other side. We tried everything to stop him but he was determined. Sometimes he’d just go straight to the front porch and wait for us there. Sometimes he’d roam the neighborhood for awhile. But he’s always known his way back home, even when he was a puppy.

The first time Missy and I went out of town without Bailey, we asked my friend Spike to watch him. Spike lived across the street so it was pretty convenient. On the day we were getting back in town, Spike texted and said, “Just so you know, Bailey ate all of your shoes while you were gone.” Sure enough, he chewed right through several good pairs. Thankfully that phase ended pretty quickly.

My first major bout with depression came on my honeymoon, as I wrote about here. The second one I can remember came a few months after we got Bailey, on an afternoon when Missy was working and I was home alone. I just curled up in bed and cried for a solid hour. Although I’m sure he had no idea what was going on, Bailey really helped me through that just by being there and letting me pet him.

Bailey had about nine months as our only “child” before Addison was born. We were worried that he might get jealous as our attention to him decreased, especially after the poop incident. And as a parent you’re always worried that the dog might hurt your baby, either accidentally or on purpose.

I remember there being a little bit of jealousy on Bailey’s part after Addie arrived, but he’s been the perfect dog to have around children. By the time Myra arrived, he was completely mellow with the kids. He’s been ridden bareback like a horse by all four of them at one point or another, and he never even barks at them.

Now Bailey is getting old. He’s almost completely deaf and can’t see that well, either. He doesn’t run around the house or the backyard like he used to, although he can still get feisty on occasion.

He’s also taking advantage of all of the benefits of being old. He just jumps onto the couch or the bed instead of waiting next to it for us to give permission. We just let him get away with it now. He knocks over the trash can to eat whatever is in there, even though he knows better. A couple of times I’ve come home and Bailey has immediately run from the living room straight into his cage. He never does that so I knew something was up, and sure enough I walk into the kitchen to see the trash can knocked over and trash everywhere. He just went ahead and gave himself a timeout in the cage.

Bailey hops into beds like he owns them now.

We don’t know Bailey’s exact birthday because we got him at the shelter, but because we got him at about 4 to 5 months old in March, we celebrate his birthday on the same day as mine — Nov. 12. And this Nov. 12 Bailey will turn 12 years old. He’ll get a big bone from Petsmart and probably some extra table scraps. I hope he has many birthdays left, but time isn’t on his side.

We thought we lost him for sure a couple months back. We went to Branson and Maddux let him out the back door of our airbnb, then didn’t tell us because he thought he would get in trouble. Bailey was gone for about an hour and Missy and I were scared to death because of course he didn’t know the area or his way back home — or so we thought. While we were scattered throughout the complex searching for him, he popped back up down the road when Myra and I saw him, and he immediately ran straight to our front porch.

He does that all the time in our neighborhood at home, but now that he’s getting older we fear he won’t be able to see or hear a car, or he’ll forget where home is. We remind the kids of how old he is, probably to a fault. The other day Hawk came up to me and said, apropos of nothing, “Bailey is really really old and then he will die.”

But of course it saddens me to think of how the kids will handle Bailey’s eventual demise. They haven’t had to go through a loss like that yet (knock on wood). They love him so much. I know it will be a big loss for me, too. He’ll always be our first “child.”

I’ll always remember his quirks. How he gets so excited on walks that he chokes himself pulling on the leash to go faster. How he gets so excited about getting a treat that he does all of his tricks — spinning, jumping, shaking a paw, sneezing on command — one after the other instead of waiting to see which one we actually want him to do. How he tries to cover his poops with grass in the same way that a cat covers them with litter.

But mostly I’ll remember the love and stability he brought to the Franklin house. Everyone thinks their dog is somehow different than all the other dogs in the world. Bailey isn’t supernaturally gifted in any way, but he sure is ours.

I’m glad I made Missy sign that pup-nup.

Foster Care, Myra and Halloween

On Monday, Myra turned 7. It doesn’t seem possible. Seems like just yesterday that we were moving into our house, and five days after that DHS dropped off a 3-month-old girl that we’ve had ever since.

It’s been a festive week in the Franklin house, as Myra got three special birthday meals. First she went to Golden Corral with Missy’s family when they visited for the weekend, then we checked her out of school on Monday for a Mazzio’s lunch, followed by her birthday dinner with my mom and her cousins at Ted’s.

Of course it’s also Halloween so we went to a church festival last night and got the kids loaded up on sugar.

Addie the Egyptian princess, Myra the angel, Maddux the dinosaur and Superman Hawk

Myra fits perfectly into our family. She’s a great bridge from Addison to the younger boys. She’s very nurturing and loving towards them, especially when Addie finds herself getting frustrated by them.

She loves to laugh and to smile, something she’s been doing since the day she came into our home.

I wanted to share something I wrote five years ago, when we officially adopted Myra. Most of you know that there is a huge need both in Oklahoma and nationwide for foster parents. If you’re in a position to do that, I hope you’ll consider it. Maybe our story will help.

Please feel free to reach out to me or Missy with any questions. A few of our friends have taken the leap with us and they have also been blessed. You’ll change a child’s life as well as your own. And if you’re not in a position to take a child, please consider donating to a place like Cookson Hills. They are hosting and helping as many kids as they can.

It’s often the most unexpected things in life that end up providing the biggest blessings.
That’s certainly the case in my life as it relates to foster care.
Foster care wasn’t even on my radar until a few years ago. I spent the first 25 years of my life terrified at the thought of having my own kids, much less taking care of someone else’s. Even after meeting and marrying a woman who grew up in a children’s home, I still never considered the possibility that I’d end up doing it.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I woke up and groggily sauntered into the living room. The first thing I heard was Myra saying “Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy.” I looked and she was hanging upside down from her grandma’s arms. When we made eye contact she burst out laughing. A couple hours later many of our closest friends and relatives came over for a party to celebrate the fact that we have officially adopted the precious sweetheart I now can’t live without.

How did we get here? Like I said, my wife grew up in a children’s home, where her parents modeled God’s love by having about 10 foster kids under their roof at any given time at Cookson Hills, a Christian ministry located just on our side of Arkansas border in a town called Kansas, Oklahoma. My church growing up had supported Cookson Hills, but I had never visited until I started dating Missy in college. It was definitely cool and touching to see kids who in most cases had zero advantages or hope outside of Cookson thrive in the loving environment there. The mass-produced food they ate didn’t taste good, their clothes were donated, and they had just one TV for the household of 12, but the support network there made all the difference in the world to those kids.
It took me five years to get around to marrying Missy, and another three for us to settle into our careers and move from Lawton to Oklahoma City, where we wanted to live permanently. When that happened and Missy brought up the idea of foster care again, my normal reaction would have been to say no. It doesn’t take a lot to stress me out, and we already had a kid. But something inside gave me a peace about it, and it felt like the right thing.
So we went through 10 miles of red tape to get approved, which took almost a year, and then we dove right in. Way, way over our heads. It was only a few days before Christmas 2012 when we got a call about three children who had been in an extremely traumatic situation and needed a place to stay for the holidays.
We said yes and took them in for about 3 weeks, but in no way were we prepared to provide them what they truly needed. We had no experience with kids older than Addison, who was not yet 4, and no time to prepare a house that needed to expand from three to six occupants. More important, we were not equipped to help them emotionally deal with the traumatic event that had shaken their lives, and since it was the holidays it was hard to find professional help.
Nevertheless, God is good. Our church had so many families willing and able to provide Christmas presents, food, clothes, diapers, etc. (The kids arrived with nothing more than the clothes on their backs). I know the kids could feel that we loved them and were trying the best that we could. And of course, Addie was a sweetheart who made fast friends with all of them.
It quickly became apparent that this would not be a good fit for our family long-term, and in mid-January 2013 they were placed with a relative. I believe we were the right family for those kids for that amount of time, even if it was an extremely stressful three weeks.
At the end of January, we got a call asking if we would be interested in taking a 3-month-old girl. This seemed like a much better situation for our family with one problem — we were set to move into a new house on Jan. 31. We asked if it was possible for the girl to be temporarily placed somewhere else for a few days. They asked if we could take her on Feb. 5. So we moved in and took Myra five days later.
All she ever did was smile. She only cried when she was extremely tired or extremely hungry. The rest of the time she just kept a huge smile on her face, with an occasional chuckle. Everyone who met her commented on her joyful demeanor.
We — especially Addie — fell in love with her from the first day. I tried to guard my heart a little, knowing that the state had a right to remove her from us any day. In fact, that’s the goal of foster care, to reunite the child with a parent or relative. But in this case (and in about 50% of all foster care cases), that wasn’t able to happen. Soon, we received the great news that we would be allowed to adopt her.
When she came to us, she had five names (one first name, two middle names and two last names). Four of them were spelled differently in different documents the state gave us. We decided to keep her first name, give her our last name, and for the middle name we combined the middle names of both of her grandmas. Myra Alisue Franklin. Although the adoption process took far longer than we would have liked, all Myra did was smile, and on March 25, 2014, it became official.
Two weeks after that, we loaded Myra on a plane to India to spend a couple weeks with her aunt, uncle and cousins, the first of many great adventures we will share with her as our beloved daughter.

I’ve tried my best to describe the huge blessing Myra has been. Even though we’ve had two children of our own since getting her, our family would have a huge hole if she weren’t a part of it. She brings so much already, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for her future.
I know foster care isn’t for everyone, but I would strongly encourage you to pray and think about whether it’s right for you. There are so many kids out there who have done absolutely nothing wrong, living in a state shelter and waiting for someone to take them in.
Our lives were forever changed by one of them.

Myra in 2014 on her adoption day

Liar’s Poker

This week’s blog is just going to be a quick rant about a topic 98% of you won’t know or care about. For you, here’s a cute cat gif.

In poker, when someone bets and everyone folds, the hand is over. The person with the winning hand does not need to show their cards. Generally, it is not in their best interest to do so, as it would give opponents information about how they played the hand.

Of course, if they want to show their hand, they can. If someone makes an extremely rare hand like a straight flush or four of a kind, they will usually show it. It’s not like opponents can really glean anything from a hand that comes up that infrequently anyway, and it’s just fun to see such a good hand.

So here’s what’s been bugging me. For some reason it’s been happening a lot in the games I’ve been in, and I feel that as a true patriot and gentleman I need to do my tiny bit to help stop it.

Someone will win a hand with a bet, decide not to show their cards, and then spend the next 10 minutes trying to convince the guy who folded that he bluffed.

One reason this has become more and more of a problem is that it seems to work. Dipshits will just take this information at face value and waste everyone’s time discussing their thought process and how “I thought it might have been a bluff” and “I really couldn’t call” and “I didn’t have anything either” and “but yeah it makes sense” and “good bet” and “man, I almost called you” and “nice play”.

I’d rather swallow your tobacco juice than listen to this crap.

Last week a guy won a pot and said, “that river was the only card I could win with.” The guy who lost didn’t respond. First guy said, “I mean, I didn’t have anything. That was just the only card where I could get away with the bluff.” Second guy still didn’t say anything. First guy said, “It had to put the four-card straight out there, or else I wouldn’t have even tried to bluff it.” Second guy still didn’t say anything and is now my favorite poker player even though I don’t know him because he made the first guy look like a complete douchenozzle.

Just take the pot and shut up.

The other day, I played a pot where a guy check-raised all in. I had a queen high flush. I thought he had a better flush, so I folded. If I had thought he didn’t have a better flush I would have called, because that’s how the game of poker works.

So he mucks his cards face down and then looks at me and says, “I didn’t have a flush.” He proceeded to tell me which cards he claimed to have and start in on this dime-store novel of a BS story I didn’t want to hear. So I cut him off and said, “I don’t believe you. It literally would have taken you one second to turn your cards over and prove that you bluffed me. Now you’ve spent a minute trying to convince me. I’m always just going to assume I made the right decision unless someone actually shows me otherwise.”

Kind of felt like Braveheart when he did his speech thingy.

Funny thing is, the guy said, “Hmmm…that makes sense. Probably a good policy.”

Why do people go out of their way to try to convince people they were bluffing? Obviously, it’s because they actually weren’t bluffing and they are disappointed that they didn’t get paid off on their last bet. Also, they hope they will get called the next time, when they also won’t be bluffing.

If I win a pot and the guy who lost wants to complain about it for 10 minutes or tell me how lucky I got or how poorly I played it, I can put up with that all day. It means I won. Plus, I understand that it’s frustrating to lose. So if you want to vent at me for a minute I won’t complain.

I’ve been bluffed thousands of times before and I’ll be bluffed thousands of times in the future. It’s part of the game. When someone shows me a bluff, I will think back to the hand and see if there’s anything I can glean from it, any way I could make the right decision the next time. But I’m not going to waste my time taking someone’s word for something when it can be so easily proven.

And neither should you. Stand up to the douchenozzles.

Satan’s Wife Went to Silver Dollar City

We’ve taken dozens of family trips since Addison was born in 2008. The one we took this weekend was a landmark. It was our first one not to include a stroller, although we did bring a wagon to haul around the park with all of our stuff. Occasionally one of the kids rode in it. Incidentally, this was also the first trip ever in which Addie didn’t want to take any of her stuffed animals to sleep with.

Our babies are growing up.

In lieu of going on a bigger trip this year, we got season passes to Silver Dollar City and planned four trips for 2019. Last weekend was the third trip. It was a great trip, and I will be taking this opportunity to show off a bunch of sweet pictures of my fam and tell a couple of stories.

On Saturday, the weather was perfect and the park was jam packed. Most rides had an hour wait. We decided to go to a cirque show that was set to start at 4 p.m. Missy and the kids got in line around 3:20 and sent me to try to get a refill on our drinks.

Both lines — the one for the show and the one for the drinks — were incredibly long. You’d think you could get a Coke refill in less than 20 minutes but on this particular day you’d be wrong. Finally Missy’s line began moving as they allowed people into the auditorium where the cirque show was being held. Obviously, trying to get four kids in sync will take a few seconds.

Behind Missy in line were a mid-40s woman and her teenage son. They tried to just straight up cut my family in line when they didn’t immediately move along. Missy cut them off with the wagon and said, “Really?” The other lady acted like she didn’t hear.

After they caught up with the rest of the line, it backed up to a stop yet again. As soon as it started moving again, this woman and her kid again went for the pass. Again Missy was able to hold them off, and Addie noticed the attempted cut and asked Missy about it. Missy used her outdoor voice, looked at the lady and said, “I guess some people are in a real big hurry in this line.” Again, the woman didn’t acknowledge the comment although Missy says it would have been impossible for her not to have heard it. (I love that Missy isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. The day before, someone loudly complained about our kids blocking an entryway for about 2 seconds. Missy said, “That’s enough from you, lady.”)

When the line reached yet another chokepoint, Missy called me to ask whether I had the soda. I said I was still in line and she just yelled, “Abandon! Come find us!” During that 5 second conversation the line had begun moving again and this mother-son duo shot past my family and didn’t look back. They got to the entrance and after this worthless pair of humans walked in, the usher stopped Missy and said the auditorium was full and nobody else could come in. The woman turned around and waved goodbye to Missy and the son turned around and wagged a #1 finger at her. (Literally the #1 finger, the index finger. He didn’t flip her off.)

This story seems too crazy to be true but it isn’t. Luckily, after I showed up they found seats for about 15 more people, so we got to see the show. I wanted Missy to find those people and make sure they knew we got in but she’s classier than I am.

Our boys got kisses from the barmaids at a show we went to.

I have another quick story to tell. I have a long-running thing with Addie where every day, I tell her I have a secret for her. She comes over to hear it, and then I always say that I’m proud of her and I love her. Usually she finishes the second half of the sentence as I say it. Then she rolls her eyes and says, “I knoooooow. You tell me that every day.” She acts exasperated but I hope that deep down she likes it when I say that.

On Thursday, we had parent/teacher conferences with all three of the kids’ teachers after school and then hit the road so we could spend all day Friday and Saturday at the park (minus staying at the airbnb to watch OU beat Texas Saturday morning). After stopping in Joplin for dinner we didn’t get to Branson until after 11 p.m. It was raining very hard when we arrived, and thankfully our Honda Odyssey navigation system literally tried to run us into the middle of the lake (thanks again, Eskridge Honda!). It had us make about 100 turns, then told us we arrived at our destination. But since we were about to drive into the lake we knew that couldn’t be right so we pulled it up on Google maps on our phone. We were 15 minutes away from our condo.

I was completely exhausted after waking up early and driving the entire way. Now the rain was so bad I could barely see. I was driving about 10 mph so we didn’t actually go into the lake. By the time we arrived and unloaded all of our stuff in the rain, I was almost delusionally tired. I was depressed, like I frequently get when I’m that tired.

Missy and I tried to get the kids to bed ASAP. Addie was really great about helping unpack everything and keeping a good attiude. As I was tucking her in, I told her I had a secret for her. I told her I was proud of her and loved her. She said, “I knooooow. You tell me that every day….and I like it.”

It’s cool how kids can sense when people are emotionally vulnerable and know how to make it better. I’m so lucky to have such an awesome family to do this life with.

Disharmony and Displeasure

I’m sure many of you saw the feel-good story about George W. Bush and Ellen Degeneres attending the Cowboys-Packers game this weekend.

If not, here’s a link to it.

Seems like the kind of story you couldn’t possibly dislike — two people reaching across the aisle and embracing a friendship that transcends political beliefs. It’s exactly what our country needs right now, to realize that we all want what’s best for the country even if we disagree on what that means.

And yet, it’s 2019 and we can’t have nice things.

About 10 seconds after I read the first story, I started reading the backlash to it from people on Facebook and Twitter. Many on the left think Bush is literally pure evil and undeserving of any positive attention whatsoever. They’re still mad about him trying to thwart same-sex marriage and appointing conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which is currently hearing a case on whether it’s OK to fire people simply for being homosexual or trans. (For the record, I definitely do not think you should be able to fire people for no other reason than that).

Many also pointed out that since both Bush and Degeneres are wealthy and white, they are nothing more than an example of privilege and shouldn’t get to teach any of us anything because they don’t know what it’s really like out there.

I’ll go on the record and say that overall, I didn’t approve of the Bush presidency. I blame him for getting the Republican party away from being fiscally responsible. Now the reds spend as much as the blues and neither side is interested in doing anything about our country’s massive debt.

I still think he was genuinely trying to serve our country and take it in the direction he thought best, just like his successor Barack Obama. Can’t say I was a big fan of his either but I also believe he thought he was doing what was best for our country.

Could we as a country just start with that premise? It would make a world of difference. Sometimes I disagree with Missy’s parenting decisions (and I’m sure the feeling is mutual), but I know she wants what’s best for our kids and our family. If I focused only on those differences and said that Missy was an evil person who wants our household to fail, we probably wouldn’t be married for long.

Do you really think George W. Bush is sitting there at the Cowboys-Packers game thinking about how to suppress LGBTQ rights? Could we possibly just have one positive political story without assuming that half the country is evil and wanting to ruin everything?

You survived Bush. You survived Obama. You have survived Trump, so far anyway. If you don’t like Trump, please vote against him next year. Get other people to vote against him. One of the beautiful things about our electoral system is that you’re never stuck with anybody for very long.

That brings us to Ukraine and this whole impeachment mess. Really, it’s more of a joke than a mess. Let’s just be honest, democrats can’t believe they lost to this clown and they don’t want to wait the 4 or 8 years to get rid of him. They’ve been talking about it literally since before he even took office.

Is he doing improper stuff? Of course he is. We knew he would and he has. Is it impeachable? Not unless you want impeachment talks about every president from now until the end of time.

If Trump just flat out said you won’t get your aid unless you find something on the Bidens, then I’d possibly think it’s worthy of removal from office. I have no problem with further investigation on the subject. But so far, the quid pro quo has only been heavily implied. When directly asked, it was made clear that there was no quid pro quo. Also, the funds were released before any of this became news.

Kicking someone out of the highest office in this country for implying something seems pretty damn stupid to me. I missed the official list of what qualifies as “high crimes and misdemeanors” but I doubt implications are on it.

I’d be willing to bet that every president in our country’s history has implied a quid pro quo in a similar situation. You know what they call that? Politics. It’s been three years since you lost the election. Better to move on to the next one.

Judge Judy, your verdict please.

Now that you’ve all quit reading, let me move on from complaining about all of you to complaining about two specific businesses. We can all get behind that, right?

A couple of weeks ago I took our van into Eskridge Honda to take advantage of the “oil changes for life” thing that we got when we bought it. Quite a ripoff that program is. It’s supposed to be free but you have to pay $30 for an oil additive every time you get one or else your engine warranty is voided.

So I get the oil change and they tell me I am also in need of a new battery and some transmission fluid. Those things haven’t been changed in a long time so I make an appointment for that too.

The morning after the battery and transmission fluid were changed, there’s a massive puddle of oil in our driveway. I take the van in and they say it was either a faulty gasket or someone screwed up. They fix it for free but it cost me 30 minutes of my life waiting for it.

Just a few days after that, our van won’t start. Battery = no bueno. I take it back in and ask if the same guy who changed our oil put in the battery. Didn’t get a response on that but evidently there was nothing wrong with the battery itself. The connection from the battery to the van was loose. So far, we haven’t had any more issues with it.

The crazy thing is that Missy’s parents came down to visit last weekend and their car battery died when they tried to leave. Had to get it replaced (not at Eskridge). And the other day, I took our other car to Riverwind to play poker and when I tried to leave it was dead. Riverwind jumped it for me and when I went to O’Reilly’s to get a new one, they said my old one still tested out OK. I don’t think I left a light on or anything but I don’t know what happened. It’s worked fine the last few days.

What hasn’t worked fine is the basketball shoes I bought a couple months back. I’d had my previous pair for about five years and they were great, just finally wore down. My feet are shaped weirdly so for whatever reason I’ve always had to wear Nike’s. They’re the only brand that isn’t super uncomfortable.

So I went to the Nike store in west OKC to get new ones. My options are always limited because I wear a size 14 and they don’t carry 14s for every model, but I thought I lucked out by finding some KD’s (Kevin Durant’s shoe) on sale in a 14. They fit great and felt fine, but after playing only 7 or 8 times the sole on the right shoe literally came out. And I can promise it wasn’t because I was so quick and explosive that the shoe couldn’t handle it.

So there you have it. KD has no soul — I mean sole.

Poker Cheating Scandal

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

“Bad press is better than no press.”

The game of poker is putting those sayings to the test this week with the Mike Postle scandal.

If you aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about, here’s the gist of it: a guy in California named Mike Postle has been (very credibly) accused of cheating in poker games that are being broadcast on the internet.

If you’ve ever watched poker on TV, you know there is special technology which tracks every card in the deck so they can show the players’ hole cards. At Oklahoma City’s finest casinos, they just use a regular deck of cards. But for these live streams, which bring free publicity to the card rooms that air the games, they use the technology (called RFID) to track the cards. And when there is technology to track every card, we know there is technology (not to mention plenty of financial motivation) to pass along that information to a player in the game.

This particular case is fascinating, both because of the scant evidence available on the surface and the overwhelming amount of evidence available once you get into the weeds. You can spend hours poring over this stuff, feeling like you’re solving the JFK murder. I don’t need to do that here. Other people have already done it and they are better at it.

This Ringer story does an excellent job summarizing the whole affair. I highly recommend reading it even if you care nothing about poker. If you’re more of a visual person and want to see some video evidence, I’ll link to one of the many, many YouTube clips on the subject. Joe Ingram, Doug Polk and others have been on top of this case from the get-go, and they’re seeing their online viewership skyrocket like Mike Postle’s winrate.

I’ve been getting texts about this pretty regularly over the past 48 hours, some from people who don’t really follow poker much but ran into something on Twitter or saw Scott Van Pelt’s segment on SportsCenter last night.

It’s good for poker in the sense that it gets people talking about and interested in poker. It’s bad for poker in the sense that it reinforces old stereotypes about the seediness of the game and those who play in it.

Poker has come a long, long way in the 150 years or so since it became a thing. It used to be played in bars or on riverboats where it was less a game of skill than a game of who could cheat who more effectively. Or shoot a gun the fastest. The only rule involving cheating was to not get caught.

But 50 years ago the World Series of Poker was created, and gradually over that time poker has become a more and more legitimate and socially accepted game. I’m confident that my mom is at least a little bit less worried about me getting shot, robbed or cheated than she was 15 years ago.

At it’s best, poker is a really interesting game of skill involving players seated around each other at a table. The table setting allows for joking around, watching sports together and occasionally having an interesting discussion. There’s a sense of community.

Any time you inject money into the equation, there’s motivation and opportunity for cheating.

I remember a few cheating “scandals” from my Lawton days. There was a particular home game. I never played in it, but I kept hearing stories about how one guy would win these crazy pots — a straight flush against four of a kind, or four of a kind against a top full house. After a couple of these highly improbable hands (I’ve played for 15 years and never been involved in one like that), people got suspicious and found out that the guy was rigging the deck. Not regularly, just for these specific pots.

In a sense, that’s the low-tech version of the Postle scam. People in Lawton got suspicious because of the unlikely nature of those crazy pots, and people in California got suspicious because Postle was literally winning more than was humanly possible. His results were so far beyond the norm as to be impossible without knowing what cards other players held, and from that premise the investigation sprung.

On their own, the videos really don’t prove anything. You have to combine them with the fact that he essentially never lost or never made an incorrect decision to know something was up. Had he been less greedy, he could have gotten away with this for much longer and made much more money in the long term. All he had to do was throw away the absurd hands (many of which you can find in the videos) and stuck to making the right decisions on the halfway decent hands or the ones that would make a shred of sense if you were watching the live stream consistently. Just like the guy in Lawton could have kept getting away with it if he had settled for slightly less improbable hands that might have netted slightly smaller pots but would never have been detected.

Another “scandal” in Lawton involved a guy who supposedly put fingernail marks in the aces so he could tell if you had one. At other times, there were rumors of two players signaling each other what their cards were. Sure, those things have value. But to capitalize fully on that value, you’d probably have to be smart enough or good enough at poker to be able to beat the games straight up. And if you can do that, you don’t need to cheat and risk being banned from the casino. The people involved in those rumors were terrible players who lost most of the time, so as far as I was concerned they could do whatever they wanted and I wouldn’t mind playing against them.

There isn’t one single instance in which I thought I was getting cheated in a poker game. At the same time, I’m 100 percent sure I have been cheated at some point. I’ve played too much for it to never have happened.

The point is, it’s not something I worry about in the least. Maybe if I played in those live stream games it would be something to consider. But like I said, poker is a community. And around here, I know about 98% of the people I play with. We have fun and joke around with each other.

So have fun with the Postle investigation; it’s entertaining as hell. But don’t let it taint your perception of poker or the fine, upstanding people — specifically those named Matt Franklin — that play it.

Spies and Thieves

Last Saturday, Missy and I had a date night.

Per usual, we waited until the last minute to decide what we were going to do. Finally, Missy said she didn’t want anything to do with the planning, she just wanted me to figure it out for us.

So I made a plan. I was kind of in the doghouse, so I tried to plan the evening to be exactly how Missy would want it. One of her favorite restaurants is Benvenuti’s in Norman. It’s a great Italian place on Main Street. I figured we’d eat there and then go to a late movie, another of Missy’s favorite activities.

So I called Benvenuti’s to get a reservation.

The lady put me on hold for a minute, then came back and said they only had two time slots available — 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. I looked at the clock. It was 4:58 p.m. So, um, I guess we’ll take the 8. I was hoping for a little earlier than that but our movie didn’t start until 10 p.m. so I figured we still had plenty of time. (Kids, that right there is what you call “foreshadowing.” We would not, in fact, have plenty of time).

Since we had a little time to kill before our dinner, we decided to go to The Winston, a trendy little bar directly across the street from Benvenuti’s. It was a perfect night outside, so we sat out front.

A short while later I received this picture.

Evidently, my friend Brant had also elected to have a date night at Benvenuti’s. But instead of walking across the street and saying hi like a normal human being he took a picture of us and put it in a group text. Somehow it looks like I’m staring right at him even though I have no idea he is there and can’t see anything. Funny thing is, he ended up having a 5 p.m. reservation, so we would have seen them if we had chosen that time slot and then made it from Oklahoma City to Norman in two minutes.

Side note: Congrats to Brant and Abby on the beautiful baby girl they had just a few days ago!

Since we were directly across the street, it was quite easy for us to be at Benvenuti’s on time for our 8 p.m. reservation. I think we got there five minutes early. We checked in and stood right next to the podium while we waited for our table, which they said would be ready soon.

A few minutes later, possibly right at 8 p.m., another couple walks in and says they have an 8 p.m. reservation. Then they ask to speak to the manager.

Immediately, Missy turns to me and says, “I don’t know what’s happening but I feel like we are about to get screwed.” (Kids, that right there is what you call “foreshadowing”. We did, in fact, get screwed.)

We were paying close attention when when the manager comes up to them. They point toward the bar area and say they’d like a table in there, because they are Oklahoma State University fans and OSU is playing Texas and they want to watch the game while they eat. We definitely did not hear every word of the conversation but that was the gist of it.

Fifteen minutes go by. Nobody has gotten a table. Now I’m getting a little bit worried about our movie plans. Then one of the hostesses (not the manager) goes up to them, and they are whisked off to a table right in front of us, in the bar area close to the TV.

Immediately I look over at the podium, where two hostesses are talking about the situation. Before I can open my mouth, one of the hostesses — the one who checked us in — says, “You’re Mr. Franklin, right?” I say yes. The other hostess says, “I asked them if they were Mr. and Mrs. Franklin and they said yes so I took them to their table.”

Then the first hostess says, “You should have gotten the first table. You both had 8 p.m. reservations but you checked in first. Let me talk to the manager.”

The manager comes over and says, “I’m sorry about that. Let me get you a glass of wine on the house.”

I tell her that normally we wouldn’t care but we are trying to make this movie. She says there should be another table available soon, and in the meantime we can drink for free.

I opt for a beer instead of the wine, and unfortunately another table does not come open soon. Nobody is leaving this restaurant. By the time I finish the beer, I have sat in the lobby long enough to be considered a camper, but I’m definitely not a happy one. The manager brings me another beer and says they will rush our food so we can make the movie. That’s a nice gesture but this isn’t the kind of restaurant you want to be rushing in and out of. It’s a great place with a great atmosphere and great food. They are certainly factoring the experience into their pricing, so I’m not pleased with having to choose between rushing our time there or missing the movie.

While we wait, Missy and I are debating how complicit this couple is in the whole affair. It was pretty annoying having to stand eight feet away from them while they got their food and watched the game. Did the hostess ask them if they were the Franklins, and they knowingly lied because they could see where the table was and it was where they wanted it? Did the manager instruct the hostess to give them the next available table when they talked to her?

We saw the whole thing go down. It was somewhat noisy in there, and Missy thought they never heard the hostess ask if they were the Franklins. She thinks there’s a good chance they never were asked if they were the Franklins, that the staff made that whole part up after they could tell I was unhappy. She thinks the manager figured it would be no big deal and gave them that table ahead of us since it was in their desired location.

Normally I would agree with that, and it’s certainly possible. But after the couple was seated and I went over to the podium, the two hostesses were already in the middle of a discussion about the whole thing. And the manager was not directly involved in any of the seating process, nor was she even up front during the time in question. To me, the hostesses seemed to be genuinely sorry that they seated the wrong couple, and I don’t think they are good enough actors to pull off that scene deliberately.

So, then, the real question is whether the other couple knew they were stealing our table. We didn’t get our table until a few minutes before 9 p.m. So the restaurant screwed that up pretty bad either way. Had we gotten the first table, the other couple would have had to wait an hour past their 8 p.m. reservation.

Apparently Benvenuti’s is about as good at holding reservations as this fictional car rental company from “Seinfeld.”

Ironically, the table that came open almost an hour late was directly next to this other couple. I was determined to use my poker skills to determine whether they knew they stole our table.

I stared them down. The dude pretended he didn’t see me, that he was too locked into the football game on the screen. That’s some BS. Men know when another man is staring them down. He’s just a coward.

The chick wore it all over her face. She was staring at me before I could stare at her, and she was trying to figure out if we knew that she knew that they had stolen our table. She might as well have admitted it out loud.

It seems fair to point out two mitigating factors, although these don’t in any way change the fact that these Gatsbys 100% knowingly stole our table. One, I was one old fashioned and two beers deep by this point. Second, it’s entirely feasible that this couple could have knowingly stolen someone’s table without knowing it was ours, since we had checked in before them and we didn’t cause a scene at the front when they got our table. We had no interaction with them whatsoever. So maybe the chick was just getting freaked out by a stranger giving her husband the stink eye, but probably she was having a hard time enjoying herself because she knew she was eating fruit from the poisonous tree, having sold her soul for a seat at the table where she could watch OSU lose to Texas.

We decided to just order pizzas, which could be made pretty quickly. They did indeed come quickly and were great. This kept the tab much lower than usual and also allowed us to make the movie on time (technically we were a few minutes late but we got there during the previews). I have to say, the pizza was delicious. Everything I’ve ever eaten there has been good.

The movie sucked. The plot to the dinner mystery was more entertaining.

Got some yummy leftovers from my prosciutto pizza at Benvenuto’s. Bet they tasted better than that loss to Texas, you thieving jerks.