How Poker Saved My Life

This true story took place years ago in a European metropolitan city….I am probably the only one to remember it even took place.

There are many advantages in every day life learned from playing poker. One quickly learns the value of sound play. One quickly learns the value of money. One quickly learns the value giving away information, and collecting information.

Having a poker face goes a long way in not giving away information. In my case I believe having a poker face once saved my life.

I was visiting a city where English was not the preferred language. I tried to learn a little of the language before arriving, but there was not enough time, and I am a slow learner of languages. I learned just enough to have a semi-intelligent conversation with a three year old, if they do not try to impress me with their command of the language.

As tourists we tend to wander around and go places where the locals fear to tread. I was one of those wandering tourists, wandering around where no one who has any concern for life and limb would be wandering. Poker does take some amount of risk acceptance, but I unknowingly crossed the risk line as a tourist.

I had wandered into a seedy area of town, to a bar where some really bad people hung out. Not only did they hang out there, but they openly discussed business I unfortunately discovered. Business that was not healthy for anyone else to hear.

In my own ignorance, I did not know the place was seedy, nor did I know it was a haunt of some very serious people of criminal intent. All I wanted was a cold beer, and a break from the heat. It was a rather small bar with only five or six tables. I bought a beer at the bar and sat down at a table. Close by were four men who were in guarded, halted conversation. Two of the men had their backs to me.

Sometimes we make poor decisions

Sometimes we make poor decisions

One of the men with his back to me was angry and impatient, I thought by the tone of his speech. I also understood enough to know this was a conversation I should not be hearing. I was becoming nervous. A lone tourist off the beaten path sitting next to serious men talking about a criminal situation.

After a few minutes of back and forth conversation, one of the men with his back to me realized someone was sitting behind him – in hearing range. From hearing the tone of the talk I knew he was in charge. I also knew this could be the last cold beer of my life.

To say I was nervous was to put it mildly. These were hard men. These were serious men. I realized they could take me outside and I would never be heard from again. Some unfortunate tourist disappeared, and no one saw anything.

I did the only thing I could do. I put on my poker face and acted like it was a hot day outside and I was in the bar having a cold beer, ignorant to the conversation I was hearing and partially understanding.

The Leader inspected me for a good twenty or thirty seconds, which in the moment seemed like a good ten minutes. I did my best to act like I did not have a care in the world and only spoke and understood English, oblivious to the men’s presence.

Suddenly he stood up, and asked the men if they thought I understood their talk, while looking at me intently. I calmly took another drink. Two of the men replied to him saying, “no”. The leader walked behind me, stood quietly for a few seconds, turned and walked to the door. The other men got up and followed. I sat still trying to act as if it was a Sunday morning and I was quietly having milk and cookies.

I felt like Jello inside. I calmly took another drink and breathed a silent sigh of relief. A few minutes later I finished my beer, and walked outside, not sure what to expect.

Mine was the only car present in the parking lot. I got in and drove off, thinking to myself, “What a lucky man I am”. I thanked my lucky stars for poker. Without the skills poker taught me, who knows what the outcome of my misadventure may have been.

Thanks to the skills poker taught me, I am able to relate this story, such as it is. Perhaps without poker, I would have let on through facial expression or body posture that I understood enough of the conversation putting myself in danger. I was a serious threat to the men at the table because of what I heard and understood them discussing.

Without my playing time at the poker table, you would not now be reading this story. No matter what you feel about poker in general, poker, once you get past the basics, poker is all about interacting with people and understanding their actions.

If you are in the workforce you interact with people. If you need to make a high dollar purchase you interact with people. Getting groceries you interact with people. You can not get through your day easily without interacting with people.

You may never be in a situation where how you act effects your very survival, but knowing how to act, and how other people are acting around you, is a very important people skill for success in life. Poker is a only game played using money to keep score. The more you practice and learn, the better you may become. Some day you may need the very skills found in a poker game.

Tagging and Self Esteem

This picture is of a tagging in a bathroom at local eatery.

Is this a statement or cry for recognition of existence?

Is this a statement or cry for recognition of existence?

I find it so sad that some young adult wants and needs the world to know they exist bad enough to settle for putting their work on the bottom of a toilet seat. Along with another tagging of someone putting their work on a pipe near the floor.

Do they feel their lives are so trivial that this is the best they can do to make their mark on the world? They can not look up any higher than the bottom of a toilet seat and the bathroom floor?

I have always viewed tagging as a cry out to the world that the tagger exists. They have nothing but the clothes they wear, a marker or a can of paint.

What could they be doing with their lives if they had a better start on life, or could look a little higher?

Holdem Collusion and You

I read hand posts on a poker forum occasionally to gain insight on how Holdem thinking is changing. Poker is dynamic, and how we play poker, changes with time. What was a breaking edge thought or play a year ago, is likely old hat today.

There was an interesting post I read from a player who was confused about a hand. The stakes were low limit no limit Holdem. Two players were in the hand to see the flop. The poster and a second player (Villain). From the poster’s opinion they were the two best players at the table and had been taking the other players chips.

Pre flop, Poster bets, and all fold except for Villain who calls. So far so good, all is normal. On the Flop Villain is first to act and makes a smallish bet. Poster raises over the size of the pot. Villain is surprised and makes a comment about why Poster is making the large raise. This comment confused Poster.

What was important in this thread was the wording of Villains comment. It reads as if Villain has decided without any verbal agreement between these two players, that implicit collusion was the order of the day between himself and Poster.

When Poster raises the flop bet, Villain realizes his implicit collusion partner doesn’t exist. Now a question is created in Posters mind, “Is this behavior common at the poker tables in live games?”

Collusion though rare does happen.

Collusion though rare does happen.

In my experience, sometimes yes, sometimes no. I have watched (and played this way myself), light betting action when the hand becomes heads up. In most of these hands, both players realize they have no real advantage in the hand.

Each player was hoping to take down the pot uncontested or against a weak player. Now neither player is willing to risk as many chips as if there were weaker players in the hand. This type of action is not in my opinion a fair example of implicit collusion.

What I do see which I identify as implicit or explicit collusion is three or four players always in the pot together playing against a single (perceived weaker) player. A weaker player enters the pot, and by the time it is back to the player, the pot has been raised. The odds are acceptable and the weaker player calls the raise, followed by the other players in the hand. Other weak players may have called too.

The flop is dealt. Play is checked to the weak player. If they check or make small bet, the bet comes back with a healthy raise. Remaining colluding players who are yet to act after the raiser fold.

Generally the raise is enough to drive weaker players out of the hand. The pot is awarded to the raiser. What makes this form of collusion so effective is it looks perfectly normal when viewed as a single hand.

There was a bet or raise, callers, the flop is dealt, there is a bet and raise or a large bet made, everyone folds to the flop bettor. What occurred to arouse suspicion? These same actions happen several times an hour in any Holdem game.

For Neophyte players or weaker players, it looks like the same few people are catching cards while he/she is not. More seasoned players know that as money flows around the table so do the cards. No one catches good cards for extended periods. Better players take action.

To be fair I have never seen this in Las Vegas, and I would not expect to see it in Atlantic City or any where there is major competition for poker players. I have seen types of Collusion in smaller card rooms where there is not a lot of card room competition for players and a generally small player base.

Generally, players participating in this behavior are full time players logging fifty or more hours a week in the card room. In their defense, I think this behavior develops over time, and in many cases there has never been a formal or verbal agreement among these players to collude. It happens over weeks and months of playing together.

There are ways to use players colluding as a weapon against players who are colluding. Generally as soon as they figure out you are on to them, the game changes quickly. You will see tight play, and one or two walking players. The game will change to generally nitty play, and your action dries up.

Unfortunately, if you think collusion is happening at your table, your options are limited. Change tables, the time of day you play, or card rooms. Even if there is no collusion taking place, if the play you see makes you uncomfortable, you are being outplayed. The end result is the same.

Collusion is very hard to prove especially when it is sixty plus hour a week regular players verses a casual player. Management can be a little short sighted and slow to act. These players are their bread and butter. Card Rooms tend to take no action on a single accusation or incident. Eventually Card Rooms do act, but not until it starts to hurt the bottom line.

Collusion in any form is rare in a poker room. If it looks like collusion, it may really be a group of players who sit at the same table every day and know each others playing style as well as their own.

If you are a new Holdem player or new to the card room, you will be put to the test. This is common and should be expected. Have fun and make good decisions, and the rest usually takes care of itself.

You Know it is a Bad Day When

You know it is going to be a bad day for someone when you see Federal Government vehicle parked in a Casino parking lot at 6:40 pm on a Friday evening.

Official Use Vehicle

You know its going to be bad day at work tomorrow

Written on the napkin, “I use your money in gas to go to the Casino. Please take a Picture and share in Facebook”

Its going to be a long weekend for someone.

“Welcome back. What did you do with your weekend? Any gambling?”

Spanglish, the new Spanish

I order a cup of coffee and a plain sundae. A plain sundae means ice cream in a sundae cup with chopped peanuts (sometimes). I look up at the menu. I see an insert advertisement that I read as:

“Extend your vacay.
Ponle sabor a tu diaz.”

As I know just enough Spanish to be dangerous, I do not understand how the top sentence in English, and the bottom sentence in Spanish have the same meaning.

I also think, I do not remember ever hearing or reading the words, extend or vacay used in Spanish. I do not know what Ponle means, but the rest of the sentence is, “flavor in your day.”

As nobody is in line, I ask the man who is waiting on me, “What is Ponle?” He smiles and asks me to repeat what I said. “Ponle, p o n l e”, I say. He holds one hand palm up and makes movements like clapping in slow motion with his other hand. Now I am really confused.

He sees my confusion, and calls over a woman worker. She asks, “What am I asking about?” I point to the advert, and I say, “The word ponle, what does it mean?” She looks up and says, “You want a Mango Smoothie, is that what you are asking?”, a picture of which was on the right side of the advertisement.

“No”, I say, the word ponle, p o n l e, what does it mean?”

The woman laughs over the confusion or over me, and says, “To put, ponle means to put”. I say, “Thank you”, and we laugh and smile.

They both look at me like I am a simpleton. As I take my ice cream and coffee I wonder how the first sentence means the second sentence, and why English and Spanish, one sentence each are on one small sign.

As it is slow, as in I am the only customer, and the man is still in front of me, I ask him, “Could I order a hamburger, and then say, Ponle queso porfavor?” He smiles, and says, “No, hamburger con queso.” I think, ‘I already know that…I am trying to understand Ponle.’ Okay, we have a language barrier, and he has work to do. I thank him and go sit down.

Pondering the word, Ponle

Pondering the word, Ponle

When I leave, I am thinking, “…how strange one sentence in English and one in Spanish, and both sentences saying different things. It must be a play on words that with my two year old level Spanish vocabulary, I do not get.”

I look at the advertisement one last time, so I will remember the words, and I now read, “Extend tu vacay. Ponle sabor a tu diaz.” I had read the words wrong.
The first three words must be Spanish because of the middle word tu which I automatically translated the first time I read the sign into ‘your’. I never heard the words, Extend or Vacay, used in Spanish before. I am also not to sure ‘vacay’ is a word, more like a contraction. How do the two sentences mean the same thing?

I had totally missed the word ‘tu’. “Extend tu vacay”, was English to me, my brain made ‘tu’ into ‘your’. Vacay it turns out is slang, for vacation. The advertisement is really saying in [mostly?] Spanish, “Extend your vacation. Put flavor in your day.”

So now I am wondering, Spanglish is the new Spanish?

Eyes of the Beholder

I believe there are a few lessons in this story. Lessons about buying unique items and our always changing perception. I was in a second hand store looking for a unique coffee cup of all things. A wide base cup. They look like the one in this picture.

Wide Bottom Coffee Mug

This is a hybrid of wide bottom mugs. Many designs have a wider bottom.

As I am looking through the glassware, I spotted this small piece of pottery placed far back from the edge of the shelf. I saw this view of it, and decided on the spot it was in the budget. I turned it around and there was a similar ornate picture on that side too.

The pottery has a crackle finish, and has “C GOLD SATSUMA” written on red on the bottom. The design looks old, and the crackle finish lends itself to the pot looking old. For a five dollar bill I thought it was a great find.

Very Collectible Pottery having a unique design

Very Collectible Pottery having a unique design

When I get home I looked up Satsuma on the Internet as I had never heard the word before. Satsuma is an old territory in Japan with quite a colorful history. How I ended up with a piece of pottery from there was a mystery to me.

I decided to look up “C GOLD SATSUMA” and found pages of information about Satsuma pottery. There was nothing about “C GOLD SATSUMA”, however. None of the pictures looked like the little pot resting on the table. On one of the later web pages I found a reference to fake Satsuma pottery once made in China and sold to Europe and United States.

I looked a little closer at my find. Turning the pottery 1/4 turn instead of 1/2 turn I saw this:

One of the fake Satsuma  pieces probably made in China and sold to the west.

One of the faked Satsuma pieces probably made in China and sold to the west.

This decoration definitely looks Chinese to me. Funny how I missed looking at the whole piece of pottery until it was brought up in the article. How could I not see the other two areas of the pot? From a monetary perspective it is questionable whether I paid too much for this little pot.

From my perspective, I enjoy looking at this little pot and it is money well spent. When I have a find like this I always wonder about the journey it took, and the stories it could tell me if it could speak. All the way from someones hands in a pottery shop in China to a second hand store, where I found it.

The little pots journey is still not done. There will come a time, when it begins a new chapter in its travels. The little pot will hopefully pass from my care on to someone else, who appreciates the piece of pottery for what it is, and not what it could have been.

Hen Loose of the Hen House

Here in Albuquerque it is not unusual to see coyotes trotting down the street in the very early morning. In the day time Road Runners travel through yards looking for lizards or mice. Nor is it unusual to see huge thirty inch Owls sitting silently on lamp posts looking for rabbits, cats, or small dogs for dinner while walking the neighborhood at night.

Seeing a chicken in the front yard scratching around a tree stump is something I have not seen before. I went outside to get the morning paper and there it was. Inspecting the dirt as if she came every day for a light snack.

A nice healthy hen scratching her way through the loose soil looking for savory things to eat. She scratched around for about ten minutes and headed up the street. I bet her owners wondered where she went off to.

Chicken that flew the coop

Looking for a snack before moving on.

Clean Water, Clean Toilets

I do not know if you have heard it, but a few months ago there was a major push to make everyone aware of how important fresh water is for all of us. Commercials ran on radio and television. Big corporations got behind the effort.

It is true. Clean water is no longer only a problem in the worst areas where people are forced to live. Caffeine, mostly from coffee and soda pop, has found its way into our streams and lakes. Hormones used in contraceptive pills have also made their way into streams, rivers, and lakes.

Other medications too, which are not fully absorbed or stored in our bodies are in the water around us. Municipal sewer plants can only do so much to return used water to its normal state. In the past it was manufacturing plants around the world that dumped unregulated waste into the water.

Fish died, streams died, swamps and lakes died. Finally, when it could not be kept quiet any longer, there was action taken and legislation passed to prevent wanton pollution of one of our most important resources, our fresh water.

The problem now, is how do you regulate the amount of caffeine in someones body, the amount of excess hormones from their birth control pills. The flushed out chemicals from blood pressure, diabetes, or depression medicines as people empty their bladders, with their urine eventually ending up in the Eco System’s water table we call home.

Dirty Urinal

How Bad Do You Really Want To Pee?

Until recently an animal trait shared by some few men is marking their territory. Nowadays, not flushing is becoming the right thing to do and is no longer solely a territorial act.

One of the changes brought about by the barrage of commercials over clean water in the last months has been flushing of toilets and urinals. Once the domain of back street bars, and city toilets, flushing the toilet is becoming something not done to save clean water.

 

One problem however is business being slow to spend money on the right equipment so not flushing is healthier and safer. Right now business is happy not spending money because customers are not flushing. Business watches the bottom line first and foremost.

There are urinals, and toilets out there for sale in the market place designed not to be flushed, or have severely reduced water consumption. If you own or frequent a business with public restrooms, you may think about making a pitch to upgrade the toilets.

As not flushing becomes more prevalent, so will disease caused by the drop in sanitation. Bathrooms are not clean places to start with. Let’s try to get public bathrooms at least modernized and make them safer and cleaner.

Most business can afford the upgrade. They may not want to spend the money doing it, but if they feel you will quit supporting them due to the condition of their bathroom, they will be quicker to respond. They are in business because of your support. You can choose to go somewhere else and spend your money, and relieve your bladder.

Chicken Manure and Fresh Eggs Too

In the process of collecting compost manures for this years attempt at gardening, I came across an ad for chicken manure. I called and a man named Mike answered the phone. Since I am a Mike too, I mentioned this fact, saying we are Taquio (we share the same name) as an introduction ice breaker.

Mike said yes, he had a lot of chicken manure, ranging from still in the chicken coop to well aged. Mike was selling his chicken manure by the bucket. That is a good way to sell chicken manure, as a little goes a long way.

I asked when was a good time to get some chicken manure and how to get to his place. Mike said now, gave me directions, and it was a reasonable distance, so I told Mike I was on my way.

As soon as I saw Mike, I knew I would like him. Mike had that, life is good, keep it simple look about him. We both smiled as I drove up and parked. Mike showed me his manure pile, and I noticed Mike will need to sell a large number of buckets of chicken manure. We made some small talk which is always enjoyable.

Mike said what motivated him to post an ad was the spring weather, and the fact he needed to clean out his coop of even more chicken manure. I had my gloves in hand, and pointed out to Mike, we wear the same gloves. Mike’s were two colors, so one glove had seen better days and was replaced. But we had the same brand and style of glove.

I asked Mike if he had enough eggs to sell a dozen. Mike said of course, and told me what the price would be. If you have never had fresh eggs, you are missing out on a real treat. Fresh eggs taste like eggs should, and not something that looks like an egg, and tastes pretty bland. Give them a try if you can find a seller near you.

Four different breeds of chicken eggs in one carton.

Four different breeds of chicken eggs in one carton.

I loaded my two buckets of chicken manure, and Mike came back from wherever he was at. We started talking again as I paid him for his chickens work. Mike asked if I wanted to see his chickens. Of course I did.

Mike pointed out an ancient hen he has, thirteen years old and still going strong. That is Guinness book of records territory I mentioned. Mike has a mix of chickens, some white Leg Horns, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rock, and Barred Plymouth. Mike also has about thirty more chicks about five weeks old.

Which brings me to the picture of the eggs. All chicken eggs are not created equal. Mike pointed out which eggs were from which breed of chicken. I have forgotten which are which except for the Rhode Island Red eggs. As you can see, when you have many breeds of chickens, you have variety.

Beer Drinking and Conservation Meet at the Dumpster

This is a city dumpster for bottle recycling. I had enough bottles in the garage I was tripping over them every time I went into the garage. After kicking enough bottles across the floor, I had enough. It was time to take the bottles to the dumpster before I had broken glass all over the garage floor.

Walking towards the bottle recycling dumpster I started to smell beer. The beer smell became stronger with each step closer to the dumpster. When I entered my bottle collection into the bowels of the dumpster, there was no doubt as to the source of the beer smell.

Beer Drinkers seem to be better recyclers

Beer Drinkers seem to be better recyclers

I deduced from my  observation,beer drinkers, at least in my neighborhood, are a very conservation minded group. The bottom foot or so of the dumpster contained almost all beer bottles with a few wine bottles in the mix.

Curiously, the beer bottles were mostly a few good brands. An odd coincidence I am sure. My paltry addition of mixed bottles did little to change the ratio of beer bottles to other bottles in the dumpster.

Hats off and three cheers to beer drinking conservationists and recyclers! Where would we be without them!