Tuesday, January 30, 2007

To Do Lists



From last Friday to this morning I somehow completed 30 hours worth of chores and activities. My latest time management scheme worked. I’m always fighting with time. No matter how quickly I finish something, I always feel I’m wasting time. This is another aspect of my mental illness. I’m the kind of person who yearns to be doing whatever I’m not doing at the present moment, even if the present activity is a top priority. I’ve always been this way, so I have to devise new strategies to feel good about what I’m doing. My latest scheme is creating a long list of 1-hour tasks I would like to complete, then doing them in whatever order I’d like. It worked last weekend so I’ll try it again this week. Every activity I’d like to do goes on the list: watching movies, playing poker, studying, reading, cleaning, updating my finances. It’s all on the list. Crazy but effective.

With January nearly behind me, I need a few goals for February. My bedroom is painted and the closet is now organized with a great wire shelf system from Rubbermaid called Configurations. I looks good, works well, and is reasonably priced. The entire system was under $250. Now I’m assigning zones to everything I own. It takes time, but it’s worth it. I’d like to have a clean, clutter-free apartment that looks and feels beautiful. That’s the goal. I’m getting there slowly but surely. If I can remove the clutter and the storage stuff in the living space and create an aesthetically pleasing look, the Queer Eye d├ęcor that looks so good, I think that would be a tremendous accomplishment. I’m so into functionality and order in my living space. Now I’m focusing on a pleasing setting, something that looks fun and welcoming.

Poker: I plan to play a lot more poker in February. I’ve played very little this month, mainly because I’m remodeling my apartment.

Screenwriting: I have one huge project that I’m been putting off for the longest time, the rewrite of Making a Prophet. This is the next big task on my list, rewriting this script and sending it to Don. Then I can focus on the new script Chris and I are composing, and also the poker script I’ve been wanting to put together.

Racquetball: I have three more matches to play this season before the playoffs begin. I plan to win a first round bye and play either Steve, Scott or Rod G. in the semi’s. Most likely it will be me and Aaron in the finals. Aaron is a great player and fierce competitor. I have two weeks to suddenly become stronger, faster, and better. I’m thinking about calling Gerry Price, a fantastic tournament pro, for a quick lesson about court position, proper form and serves against superior opponents. I’d also like to talk about second serves and lob serves with Gerry. I need to work on my consistency, especially when I have setup shots. I also need to keep my passing shots down.

I saw The Phiadelphia Story this morning as part of an assignment between me and Chris for our latest screenplay. I have seen this film in years. Wow. What a masterpiece. 4 stars now and forever. So witty and smart. So engaging. I love this film.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


I saw Little Children last night with Richard in Berkeley. Very good film. One of the better domestic dramas I’ve seen, with some knockout performances. I was particularly curious to see Jackie Earle Haley’s performance as the sex offender who lives with his mother in the middle of an upper class suburban community. I remember him from two quality films from the 70s, The Bad News Bears and Breaking Away. His role was limited, but what he did with it was impressive. There are some haunting scenes with him, especially the date sequence. Wow. Creepy. A great moment that captures his illness. Kate Winslet, as always is brilliant. One of the best actresses around and has been for years. I love watching her perform. The other lead in the film, Patrick Wilson, whom I’d remembered from Angels in America, was also terrific. The director, Todd Field, also directed In the Bedroom. This guy is good.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Free Roll

On Wednesday evenings I play in a weekly poker tournament hosted by a co-worker named Craig. It’s a lively group of strong and not-so-strong players. Between 7 and 14 show up each week. The buy-in is $25 for 1000 chips with $20 rebuys the first hour and a $20 add-on after the break. Twice each year we have a free roll. Starting chips are based on the number of points players accumulate throughout the season. I had a pretty good turnout this season and began second in chips. The payouts for the freeroll (taken from the intial buyin from each tournament ($5)) were $600 for 1st and about $240 for 2nd.

The levels were

Round 1 5/10
Round 2 10/20
Round 3 25/50
Round 4 50/100
Round 5 100/200
Round 6 150/300

We had 14 players playing, two tables of 7. The players at my table were:

Me 1815
Craig 2370
Johnny 1335
Nghi 510
Scott 855
Chris 1440
Jeff 1035

My First hand of the tournament was 89 suited (diamonds). I was under the gun and limped, but Chris raised to 50 and 3 folks called, including me. Flop was A, 7, 6, two diamonds. I bet out 150 and Craig called. All others folded. Turn was 6. I checked and Craig checked. River was 10 for my straight. I bet 250 and Craig showed an ace before folding. I won about 400 or so.

I didn’t win another pot until round 3 when I stole the blinds once. I went from 2200 to 1600 or so. Then in the early stages of round 4, a key hand came up. I was in the big blind with QT suited (spades) and there were four limpers. I checked and the flop came 234, all spades. The small blind checked and I bet out 250 into a 500 chip pot. Kevin folded and Craig raised me 600 more. All others folded and I went all in for 700 more. Craig called and flipped over pocket 7s. The Ace of spades came on the turn and Craig only had one out to tie (the 5 of spades). A king hit and I won a huge pot, sending me over 3000 for the first time all evening.

Craig said he didn’t put me on a flush when I bet out like that. Maybe that’s why I did that! He was haunted by that hand the rest of the week.

With 3300 chips at 50/100 blinds, I had a little breathing room. I was able to see more flops, and about 30 minutes later another key hand came up for me, this time against Johnny. I was on the button with A2 suited (spades). I limped and four of us saw a flop of 22Q. Johnny bet 350 and I called. It was now just the two of us. The turn was a 9 and Johnny bet out 700. I raised another 1000 putting Johnny all in. He thought for a few minutes, not wanting to call, but he eventually did call with QJ. The river was a King and I now had almost 5000 in chips.

With four players left (Kevin, Chris, me, Diana), we all made a deal to pocket $100 each, leaving $400 for first and $150 for second. Kevin lost a hand to Chris and finished 4th. About ten minutes later, Diana limped to my big blind of 56 suited (diamonds), which I checked. The flop was K62 rainbow. Diana checked and I bet 500 into a 600 chip pot. Diana called. The turn was a Q. I had nothing, but Diana checked and I checked, too. The river was a 3, giving me a miracle straight. Diana checked and I thought a moment. There was 1600 in the pot. Just in case Diana had a King, I bet out 1500 and Diana said, “I’m all in.” I immediately called. “I have a straight,” I said and Diana looked aghast. She had two pair, Kings and 6s, and was trapping me for all my chips. She didn’t see the straight possibility. The hand left her severely shortstacked, and three hands later she was knocked out in 3rd.

Chris and I were now heads up. I had a sizeable lead on him. I was aggressive and went all in with KQ. Chris called with KT and made a flush, leaving us almost even in chips. That’s when Chris suggested we each take $200 and play for the final $105. I said sure. The last hand was sweet. I had 89, which coincidentally was the first hand of the tournament. The flop was J75, giving me a double belly buster. Chris bet 500 and I called. The turn was a 10. Chris bet 1000 and I raised 1000. Chris went all in and I called with my Jack-high nut straight. Chris had AJ. The river was a dud and I won the free roll, my first at Craig’s . My total winnings for the evening came to $405. Not bad at all. For the year, I’m ahead $1370 at Craig’s.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bedroom Paint

Once I begin a task, momentum often carries me to completion. But lately there have been days in which I have little energy and lack motivation. Finding energy to complete tasks has always been a struggle. I first big task of the year is painting my bedroom and converting the closet into something space smart and cool. I emptied my bedroom on Monday the 8th, and began painting the next day (rope and nonpareil are the colors my sister, an interior designer, picked out...nice!). As a result, I’ve been living in chaos the past two weeks. The painting part is now finished (relief!) and next is the closet organizer. I bought a system by Rubbermaid called Configurations. It looks perfect for my needs. I’ll find out how well it works tonight when I attached the brackets and shelves to the wall.

It will be so nice to have a real bedroom for once. Throughout my life, I’ve had a desk near my bed. My bedroom and office/study were the same thing. Now it’s a bedroom and only a bedroom. This is another influence of Linda. I kept a few great ideas from her.

Soon, pictures will hang on my walls again. I’ve been without pictures on my walls for over 18 months. That’s when I painted my living room and dining room. This apartment remodel has taken a lot of time. No wonder few people change their living situation after 40. It takes forever.

Funny thing about energy. At first it’s hard to keep motivated, but once you plow through the resistance, completing the project becomes routine. For the past several days I’ve had a great deal of energy and have remained focused on completing my remodel. It helps that the monster is visiting in a few days. The monster is monsterP, my friend Jeff Parcher who I’ve known since 6th grade. Like me, he loves games and plays to win. He’s ultra competitive and a enormously fun to be around. He’s had a lot of success playing poker the past four years, and he’s one of the big reasons why I’ve become so fascinated with the game. He’s spending the weekend at Napa with his wife and her parents, then staying at my place for a night before heading to Vegas. We’ll most likely head out to the Casino San Pablo for a little no limit session.

The last time I played no limit at the San Pablo, I lost about $150 or so. I got my money in good but came up short on the river most of the time. In one hand, I had an overpair (9s) to someone’s top pair (8s), but they hit trip 8s on the river. Nothing I can do about that. .

Saw “Notes on a Scandal” last weekend and loved it. Brilliant little film, really rang true (except for the part where the male teacher comes over to Barbara Covett’s flat and confides his affection for Sheba). The acting is top notch, and the music score by Phillip Glass is simply sublime. I loved this great flick!

Poker After Dark: I enjoy this show a lot. I always find it helpful to watch the pros play poker and see what they do, especially when the inevitable coin-flip decisions come up. They are impressive to watch, especially when they make bold plays that take into account the odds of their opponent being able to call. Impressive. Week 2 was particularly good with Daniel Negreanu, Gabe Kaplan, Jerry Buss, Mike the Mouth, David Grey, and Doyle. Shana needs to do more. Her place in the show is too limited it seems.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

No Limit at the Casino San Pablo

I played about 5 hours of no limit last night at the Casino San Pablo. There are a few good players at the table and a lot of monkeys. I’m somewhere in between. I’m not sure what I’m doing yet in the game. I tend to play my big pairs very aggressively preflop and post-flop. With AK, I wait and see. There are a lot of limpers in this game. There are three $2 blinds from first, second and button position. To enter a pot a player must put $4 in. Everyone must begin with $100 at the table. When I arrived, two people had over $500 or so at the table. There are lots of suckouts and horrible plays that I noticed. I’m a very conservative player compared to many of the players there. Here are a few hands from last night.

Limit Hold’em: I had Q6 when the flop came QQK, two diamonds. I was small blind. I checked. Big blind bet, button called, I called. Turn was a diamond. I checked. Small blind bet out, button called, I folded. So why did I fold? I felt someone had a diamond flush or my kicker was no good. That’s what losing these past few months has done to me. I fold good hands because I’ve been losing so much lately. River was a blank, and the hand was checked down. Someone had AJ, and someone else had even less. It’s true that I’ve been running badly, but I still need to show up and play this game, at least stick around on the turn for something. This was a very conservative play, and I tend to make very conservative plays. Remember, the very best players don’t fear losing.

Now here’s a hand I played strong. I’m on the button with K7. At the San Pablo, the button also has a big blind of 2 so there’s always lots of action on these tables ($7 in blinds every round...wow!). Flop is King high. Someone bets and I raise. I then bet on the turn. Everyone folds except one person. I bet out again on the river and the pot’s folded to me. My one big win in limit last night!

I then moved tables and played at the same 3/6 table as my friend Dorian. I was dealt AQs and an Ace came on the flop. I bet out (Dorian preflop raised) and he called. I bet the turn and the river and Dorian called both (Dorian will defer to the raiser many times unless he has a monster hand. I don’t think Dorian ever bluffs, but he’ll call a hand just to see what someone has). Anyway, Dorian had AK and I lost a little on that hand.

NL

1. In one of my early hands I was dealt QQ. A crazy, loose player raised to $10, another player called ($26 in pot), and I raised it to $35 total. Each are getting about 3-to-1 to call. The original raiser folds and the caller calls my 25. The flop is K9x. I looked at the caller when the flop came down and he did something very unusual. He frowned as if he was unhappy with the flop. He checked. I checked. I sensed he had a king. The turn was a nothing and he bet $20. I called. The river was a 10 and he checked. I also checked. He flipped over K3 of hearts and that was that. I lost $55 that hand.

2. A few hands later (an hour later or so), playing with the short stack, I limped in with 99. There were 4 or 5 callers I think so about $16 in the pot. The flop came 852, and a loose player on my right bet 15. I had about 35 or so left, so I moved all in. Everyone else folded but the bettor who called after thinking for a few minutes. He had 87. An 8 came on the river and I rebought.

3. I was dealt 69 in an unraised pot with four or five callers. The flop came 587 two diamonds. I check raised to 30 and the loose player who calls lots of bets called me. There was about $70 in the pot and a 9 came on the turn. I bet all my chips (about 60 left) and he folded, so that was a nice pot to pick up.

4. I had QQ again and raised to $20 preflop. I was called. Flop was 252. I bet $40 on the flop and the caller folded. Made $34 here.

5. I had 88 with lots of players in the pot (around 7 or so) and the flop was 7 high. 235 or something like that. Someone bet 8 and I called, along with about four others. It was checked down and I won it. Sweet! My biggest pot of the night! (+45)

6. I had Q5 in the small blind and the flop was Q56, two hearts. I check-raised and won a nice little $20 pot. I’m hitting some good hands occasionally, but no monsters and rarely if ever the nuts. I’m never sure how to play hands like this. How do I build the pot without losing all my chips in the process. I’m not much of an optimist when it comes to the turn and river cards, perhaps because it’s seems I’m a 2-to-1 dog against my opponents.

That was about it as far as exciting plays go. My last hand was TT on a board of 236Q. I folded, fearing I had lost even before the turn.

Analysis of play: I have a lot to learn about this game. I’m not that experienced in thinking on the third and fourth level. And I’m so focused on how much is in the pot and what the odds are and the body language of my players that it’s difficult to put them on hands. It’s a skill that does not come naturally to me.

I feel I’m relaxed at the table and have a good image. People don’t want to mess with me. I can look right through someone. My tilt control is good at the table. But I sure hate getting no cards.

I need more experience at the table.

The Players: There are a lot of weak players at the NL game at Casino San Pablo who are thinking only in terms of their own cards. I can see why it’s so important to distinguish who’s thinking beyond their own cards and who has tunnel vision. This will be something I work on throughout the year.

As for poker tells, wow, they work. Looking at the guy with the K3, it was so clear to me that he hit his flop when he shrugged and looked sad. I knew I was beat, but I paid the guy an extra $20 just to prove it. The pros are terrific at reading how comfortable people are.

There was one guy at our table who had a lot of chips, doesn’t play a lot of hands, but likes to mix it up a bit and is aggressive. He likes to showboat a bit, take his time and dwell on his hands. He did this with a set of Jacks against the K3 guy who eventually lost all his chips and called it a night (why don’t I ever get these guys' chips?).

The guy who called my all in with 87 is a reckless player who bets immediately when he hits a good flop. He’d make so much more money if he didn’t blow people off the hand. I notice that when bad players hit their flop, they bet big. I think they’re afraid of sucking out. I tend to do this, too. My betting will improve throughout the year. NL is the game I will be studying this year. There is so much more opportunity to make serious money. But I may have to take some bad nights for a while. There’s so much to the game, and a lot of information is spinning in my head.

NL is also great experience for tournament play. The two are different, but there are also lots of similarities.

Last night was not a great start to the new year, but I’m confident the year as a whole will be my best poker year yet!

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

3 Hours Late

I set the alarm for 5 but climbed out of bed at 8. Not an inspired way to begin ’07. I picked up my fancy reading glasses at 9:45 and they will only be used for reading since I can’t even see a computer screen with these on. I can read clear with them, however, which is why I bought them in the first place. Should I have gotten bifocals?

I had intended to create a scene for my Making a Prophet rewrite, but didn’t. I dread this project but am committed to complete it. I don’t know why I have so little confidence in it. Just take one scene at a time, write it, rewrite it, and move on. That’s my game plan. I can do this rewrite.

I read a few pages from the Tao of Poker tonight, and the first 30 pages from The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I didn’t know the English language sounded the way McCarthy writes. It’s really original writing, clean, clear, and authentic. I can see why everyone’s buzzing.

My car should be ready by tomorrow. I drive a 2006 MINI Convertible, pepper white, my dream car. While turning left onto Grand Ave from the off ramp last November, a young Asian woman in a white 740 BMW sedan did not notice the red light and ran into me, crushing the driver’s side door. I was lucky. I wasn’t hurt at all, but my MINI sustained about $4800 in damage. It took some time to straighten everything out with the insurance folks, but I think everything is taken care of now. The other party assumed liability, and my $500 deductible will be mailed to me tomorrow. My rental car fees will also be reimbursed. What a pain. I hope I never have to go through this again.

I have lots of energy, which is typical for me in January. I hope it continues. I’ll need it if I plan to finish Prophet and play poker and date and play racquetball and read my new Christmas books. I plan to use my time wisely this year. No more wasting away on the couch watching braindead TV shows that feel more like commercials with bits of show stuffed in the middle. Will commercial TV ever become obsolete? Who watches commercials anymore?

Monday, January 1, 2007

Resolutions

When it comes to resolutions, I’m always full of energy, optimism and determination on Jan. 1. In past years, my resolutions have stayed with me through the first week of February, and sometimes all the way to President’s Day. Then the same old behavior patterns creep back into my life, and before I know it, life is the same as it was last year and the year before. So how do I stop this? How do I sustain a resolution? That word, sustain...I like that word. That was a word my ex-girlfriend Linda used a lot. I haven’t spoken with Linda in about 18 months, but her influence is still with me. She also liked to say “rate limiting step.” She was a scientist and something of a brilliant personality. Sustaining resolutions is my uber resolution for ’07. Perhaps this blog will help.

Someone at mom’s house said eliminating the words “should” “could” and “would” was a good step toward improving one’s life. Is this true? For example, I should read more is now I read more. Okay, I guess that works. I could write more is now I write more. Wow, that does change things. Hmm. I should start paying attention to this (opps). These words could be difficult to shake (damn!).

I saw only one film over the holidays: The Good Shepard. I liked it. The slow pace didn’t bother me. Matt Damon is a marvelous actor. He always delivers. The story was leisurely and controlled, and every scene served a purpose. DeNiro is a good storyteller. I’m trying to think of another film in which the protagonist loses his soul in the end, yet becomes a heroic figure. Kevin (friend from 6th grade) said Goethe’s Faust met a similar fate (I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read it yet (it’s on my list)).

Okay, back to resolutions: 1) No complaining, no explaining at the poker table. What this means is when I get my usual bad beats and suck-outs from bad players, I’m not complaining about it, but just accepting what happens as part of the game of poker. It’s hard at times, but that’s what makes a good player. I’m revising my “poker scripts” when bad things happen, like runner-runner flush draws or that two-outer that magically appears on the river. I tend to forget my own lucky breaks and only remember the breaks that go against me. I have lots of improvement to make here. So, no complaining, no explaining. 2) Stay busy and enthusiastic about the projects I’m working on. At 43, I’ve noticed it’s sometimes really hard to gather enough energy to do the things that were automatic for me just ten years ago. Things like watching a movie or writing a letter. Lately, I’ve heard myself say, “what’s the point. Why bother.” That nonsense talk needs to end now. I’m 43, not 93. One more resolution: 3) have a purpose for my tasks and projects, complete with a description of what the end looks like. So many of my tasks never get finished. Finishing is a big obstacle for me. If it’s part of my adult children of alcoholics baggage, fine, whatever. Just finish things I start. One more. 4) No more breaking mice when I get knocked out of a tournament playing online poker. How many mice did I break last year? 3. How many this year? Let’s keep it at zero please. The Tao of Poker, a new book my friend Steve (friend since 3rd grade) gave me for Christmas, should help me with this. I’m much more volatile playing poker online than live. Online I swear and act crazy. Live I’m nothing. I’m actually really good at showing no emotion live.

So, 4 resolutions: No whining, stay busy & motivated, finish things and don’t throw mice on the floor. Piece of cake.

Happy New Year - It's Time To Go All In 07

Reel Poker. Movies and Hold’em. I love both, so I thought I’d write about my ’07 poker and screenwriting adventures. 45 minutes into the new year, I feel optimistic about what the year has in store for me and my family. ’06 was fine, but I’m sure glad it’s over. Way too many suck outs and bad beats, especially since August.