Zero plays, One Penalty

The group of guys I play basketball with are all around my age. Today, however, I got stuck trying to guard a homeschooled high school kid who was quite a bit quicker than I was. He was also in better shape, which he exploited by running me all over the court. At the end, while I was huffing and puffing, I told him, “Don’t turn 40, kid.” He said, “I got 24 years before that happens!”

If you’re reading this, Enrique, you’re a punk. (Just kidding). Enrique said he went to Westmoore earlier this year before he switched to home schooling. That got me thinking about what I was doing when I was his age, being a smart aleck like Enrique while attending WHS.

I was a pretty quiet kid at Westmoore. Tried not to be noticed. Mainly just hung out in the newspaper room or with Kevin and Chad. But this one particular incident put me in the spotlight for 15 minutes. I wrote about it on my old blog a few years back but figured it was worth a re-run.

I’ve pretty much been doing journalism my whole life. My first job, when I was 16, was doing sports stories for the oldĀ Moore AmericanĀ newspaper. It was a free weekly paper that was choc full of errors and probably not worth lining your bird cage with, but they paid me $10/hour and it was a pretty good experience for an aspiring sportswriter.
When I was 17, based on my clear mastery of the English language and complete grasp of the Westmoore High School sports universe, I got hired to do public address announcing for junior high and junior varsity football games in Moore.
It was a fun job, and I was basically just flying by the seat of my pants. It’s not like they gave me any training or instruction whatsoever. They just handed me a mic and told me to announce the down, distance, and whatever happened on the previous play.
Sometimes my friend Kevin would go to the games with me and help me spot who made the tackle and what yard-line the ball was on, etc. The first few weeks I tried to be professional and whatnot, but a junior high game we did one night changed everything.
As always, we went down on the field before the game to get the rosters for both teams. Well, this night, one coach said, “I didn’t bring one. Just make up the names. I don’t care.”
Of course, Kev and I went to town. We made up names for everyone on the team and used them over the PA throughout the game. We used a wide array of names, from celebrities (this was the 1990s, so I think Vanilla Ice was playing QB), to NFL players (Barry Sanders at RB), to the classic adolescent laugh-getters (starting at receiver, Ceymour Butts).
Nobody complained, and it was a heckuva a lot more fun than doing the job right.
My favorite games to work were the Westmoore JV games, because I was a junior at Westmoore and the team consisted of all my friends. Also, we had a really good JV football team which I think went undefeated.
One night, I was doing a JV game and we were beating the tar out of another hapless foe. I started taking a few liberties with the mic.

“That’s yet another touchdown for the mighty Jaguars.”

“Matt Fallwell slices through the defense like they’re not even there.”

“Incomplete pass for Del City. What a shame.” And so forth.

Late in the game, we scored to make it 49-0. This touchdown was punctuated by another obnoxious call from the PA announcer. On the ensuing kickoff, Del City returned it for a touchdown but there was a penalty which negated the score. This was the call from the booth.
“Ohhhhh! The 15 Del City fans still in attendance are in a state of shock as their only chance to score has been wiped out by an illegal block in the back.”
Then the ref threw another flag. I said, “It looks like there’s another penalty on the play,” and the ref starts pointing up at the press box, right at me actually. He signaled unsportsmanlike conduct on us and marked off 15 yards. I got a penalty from the press box!
On cue, one of our principals stormed into the booth and literally ripped the microphone plug from the wall, leaving me holding the useless stub. I was a little relieved to see our coaches in the next booth cracking up.
Fortunately, all my friends on the football team thought it was hilarious too. I was worried they might not be too pleased that a guy who never played a down of football in his life cost them 15 yards, but I guess the 49-0 score mitigated that.
To this day, I like to think that I’m the only person who’s ever gotten a penalty from the press box in a sport I never played.
Somehow, my shenanigans didn’t even end up costing me my job. I got lectured in the principal’s office at school the next day and forced to sit in the booth at a varsity game so I could learn from the old fart who did the PA at those. (Bo-ring!) I cleaned up my act after that, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun.

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.

Poker Stories (Vol. 1)

It’s June, which means Vegas is being overrun by douchey poker players and the World Series of Poker.

There is one big positive and one big negative about being in Vegas for the WSOP. The positive is that you can find a poker game any hour of the day, any day of the week.

The negative is everything else. Vegas sucks because it costs $15 for a smoothie, the traffic is terrible and its 110 degrees. Poker tournaments suck because the skill factor illogically decreases as the monetary stakes become higher. Poker players suck because they’re all douche-robots who take 20 minutes to fold, never talk and look like this guy.

This was the first image that came up when I Googled “poker douche.” No idea who this guy is.

Over the past 10 years I’ve tried just about everything when it comes to Vegas and the WSOP. Three times I’ve loaded up the whole family, rented a house for the month and made an extended vacation out of it. Some years (like last year) I didn’t bother going at all. Other years I do what I’m doing this year, flying out for just a few days.

Seems like a good time to tell a few of my favorite Vegas poker stories, as well as the reason I quit playing hold em tournaments pretty much immediately after actually doing good in a hold em tournament.

The first time Missy and I ever went to Vegas, when I still worked at the paper and before we had any kids, we stayed at the Mirage. My “Welcome to Vegas” moment happened on about our second night there, when I couldn’t sleep and went downstairs around midnight to play poker. I played until 3 a.m. and then as I was heading back to the room I was stopped by two ladies of the evening who asked if I would like them to “tuck me into bed” (That’s exactly what they said lol). I told them my wife was already in the bed and she probably would not appreciate the disruption. They said “we can be really quiet,” so I said, “Um, I guess you don’t understand, I’m just saying no.”

There was a time many years ago when the Mirage had the premier poker room in Vegas. But that was when limit poker was king, so by the time I arrived the Mirage was somewhat fading into obscurity as a poker room. That means there weren’t very many poker games there, but the ones they had were pretty good.

One summer when I brought the whole family out, Eric Wolf stayed with us and we played quite a bit at the Mirage. One night we were playing and a middle aged guy sat down on my right and started bragging about how good he was and how he had mastered the game by recently attending a World Poker Tour boot camp. Back in those days a good way to make money off of me was to get on my nerves, because I would go out of my way to try to beat players like that.

So this guy was being annoying and also seemed to be playing too cautiously. On one hand he made a raise and I figured I’d just take his money real quick so I re-raised. I don’t even remember what I had but it wasn’t very good. But he didn’t fold like I expected him to and I could tell he actually had a good hand. The flop came KQ4. No flush draw or anything. I didn’t have anything at all. This guy tenses up and thinks for a long time and then checks. I thought he probably had a hand like AK and wasn’t going to fold so I didn’t want to blow any more money on this hand so I checked. The turn was a 7 or something like it, a completely inconsequential card. This guy pauses for awhile and then checks again. Back in those days a good way to make money off of me was to check it to me twice. I couldn’t help myself, I’d take a stab at the pot. So I made a normal-sized bet. This guy thinks for a minute and then starts his speech.

He says, “I used to go broke on hands like this all the time. But not anymore. Not after the WPT boot camp. But I don’t know if I can fold this hand.” I thought he might have AQ or a pair of jacks or something. He stopped to think for a long time.

Then he turns up his hand. He has pocket queens — a set of queens! — the second-best possible hand at that moment. This guy didn’t even have that much money left, there’s no way he should ever even consider folding that hand. I was getting annoyed again. First at him for wasting so much time when he was clearly going to go all in. Then at myself for betting after already deciding I wasn’t going to bluff on the flop. I was basically just lighting money on fire. I figured since he had already shown me and the whole table his hand, he might just call instead of going all in. I decided I was going to just muck my hand as soon as he called so I wouldn’t be tempted to bluff again on the river. I was drawing completely dead, there was no card I could win with.

Then he says, “Nope, I’m not giving you my money. I know you have the set of kings. You wouldn’t have bet if you didn’t have it. I’m the only one in here who’s good enough to fold this hand.” And then he folded. I glanced over at Eric, who was incredibly and understandably annoyed that I had gotten away with this terrible play. I couldn’t look at him without bursting out laughing. That was probably seven years ago and Eric is still mad about it.

Another time we were playing at the Mirage when a typical douchey frat boy sat down at our table. He

Southwest Airlines

I’m not one to brag on myself too much. I’m humbled to say I’m the greatest husband, father, poker player, amateur basketball player and human in the world. But those are just simple facts. #blessed

If there’s one area of my greatness that often gets overlooked, it’s my ability to pick the optimal seat on a Southwest Airlines flight at any time, under any conditions. Today I’m here to rectify that omission and give credit where credit is due. To myself.

A few weeks back I flew Southwest to Arizona for my Spring Training trip. I was appalled by the terrible decisions being made all around me. It was like a 2005 game of Texas hold em! (If you don’t play poker, trust me, I nailed that joke.)

Because I’m also the world’s greatest humanitarian and philanthropist, I’m going to share my Southwest secrets here. I know that some day, I’ll be boarding a Southwest flight, about to crawl into the most optimal seat on the planet, when out of nowhere a young buck will sneak in and beat me to the spot. As I look on with both shock and horror, he’ll wink at me and whisper, “I read your blog.” I’ll have no choice but to chuckle, tip my cap and move on to the seat right behind him, where he will be kicked in the back for the next two-and-a-half hours.

The best player in baseball, Mike Trout, robbed a home run in front of a Southwest Airlines ad. Only vaguely relevant to this blog but it was a cool play.

Let’s start with this: the Southwest game is rigged. If you fly regularly or pay for an upgrade or are a privileged white male, you’ll be in the A group. If this applies to you, I would like to give you a polite golf clap followed by a middle finger. You won’t need to read the rest of this story because you can pick any dadgum seat on the entire plane.

This blog is for the other 99%. Those of us who are either too poor to too cheap to spend our hard-earned money on 5% less waiting time in line. Those of us who play for the love of the game, the challenge of getting just as good a spot as the jerk who could be flying first class on another airline but wants to force us into being the slice of pepperoni in between an 800-lb marshmallow sandwich near the restroom instead. Those of us who set an alarm for exactly 24 hours before our flight and immediately check in, only to wind up at the end of the B group while Southwest executives howl in laughter and fist-bump each other in between lap dances.

Step one to optimal seat procurement is to do a little basic math in your head while you’re in line. After all, unless you’re a Fortune 500 CEO, you’ll be waiting in line with a scowl while the A group boards. Might as well make the most of your wait. Like someone famous said, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.”

If you are B44 (like I was), there will only be 20 or 30 people boarding after you. Look around the gate — if there are 20 or 30 people behind you in line or waiting at the counter for standby seats, it’s going to be a full flight. If nobody is behind you, you might have a chance at the holy grail — an empty seat next to you. So adjust your expectations accordingly.

The most common mistake by far comes when first walking aboard the plane. Your eyes naturally take you to the back of the plane, where there are often open seats. It’s easy to assume you’ll find an open spot back there and mentally relax like Hillary did in 2016 (too soon?). Stay on your A game. Your eyes aren’t factoring in the people who are ahead of you in the plane line but aren’t in their seats yet. The worst outcome possible is to walk all the way to the back of the plane, find no window or aisle seats available and have to squeeze in to a middle seat in the back.

This is where your pre-boarding math will come in handy. If you know roughly how many people are behind you in line, you’ll know what your chances are of getting the kind of seat you want.

Now it comes down to priorities. If you have a quick connecting flight, you’ll want to be up front. If you are super tired, you’ll want a window seat. If you just ate two Cinnabons, you’ll want to be near the bathroom. If you want to meet your soulmate, you’ll want to walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror and re-examine your life.

If you’re like me, you generally don’t care about any of those things. All you want is space. My legs don’t fit naturally into the space allotted and it’s dynamite when I can steal a little bit of someone else’s space.

If the math doesn’t look good for an empty seat next to me (and that is becoming more and more rare these days), the next thing I want is a window seat. But when you’re in the back of the B group that is also a highly unlikely proposition. Then we look for aisle seats. These are more available than the window seats, and what I’m looking for is couples. If two romantically involved people are flying together, they are going to be cuddling with each other and giving the stranger next to them on the aisle a little extra room.

This was the situation I capitalized on when I flew to Phoenix. The moron in front of me missed out on this amazing opportunity. He took an aisle seat with an empty middle seat next to it. I could have taken one a few rows behind that. But they had announced a full flight already, so there was no chance of striking gold with an empty seat. Like someone famous said, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” I knew this would be a good spot for me, while homeboy in front of me ended up with a lady who set up an entire home entertainment system in the middle seat next to him. Poor chap.

If you’re among the last people to board, you know you won’t be getting a window or an aisle seat. What you’re looking for in that spot are women with a book or small screen in front of them, and you want them on both sides of you. They’re going to be scrunched up, locked in to their thing and giving you a little extra room.

When it comes to men, you don’t want the business type. They have a 32-inch laptop and posterboard-size New York Times out and they’ll be taking a leak at the least convenient moment possible because they’ve had three cups of coffee already. You want the jock type like David Puddy from Seinfeld who will just stare straight ahead the whole flight.

When it comes to women, you want to avoid the ones who somehow have five bags with them. And the ones who look like they are hoping to meet their soulmate. They’ll be staring at you with puppy eyes behind five layers of makeup. Avoid at all cost.

When it comes to the elderly, you’re probably fine next to an old lady. She might even offer you a Werther’s Original. You want to avoid the men, because — and I love that this is LITERALLY true — they do not give a flying F. They will spread their legs as far as they please and possibly even cross one leg over the other while they do their crossword puzzle. When they go to the bathroom, they will pretend your legs do not exist and will tear your knee ligaments to shreds.

When it comes to children…I mean come on, not even you are that stupid.

So now that you’re in the perfect seat, sit back and enjoy your flight. Be sure to take note of the people who boarded right ahead of you and soak in the glory of your superior selection. That’s what life is all about.

Oh, and one more thing. When you’re walking past those first few rows, make sure there are no disabled people up there and then crop dust the hell out of the rest of those A-group bastards.