Run Good, Run Better, Run O.K.

[Content Disclosure: 100% Poker; 62% more well deserved gloating...]

Well week two of the PokerListings Run Good Challenge is in the books. There are several important factoids to report:

*only one player has managed to score a money win each of the first two weeks; I Run Good!
*five of the eight blogger spots are locks after week two; joining me, the points leader, on the safe list are Amy, Michelle, Benjo and LuckBox.
*there will be a wild scramble for the remaining three open spots with Change100 holding a dominating position among the also-rans.
*Matt Showell will once again not qualify as the PokerListings representative, which means congratulations to Dan Skolovy. (OK, technically Matt could make it if he wins next week and Dan dies of turkey poisoning.)
*Liz Lieu cannot play poker that early in the morning; at least not after another night out at Thunder Down Under!
*In response to several complaints about my perhaps unintended subtlety: I finished third in week two, which makes my point total from the first two rounds a lock for the finale in week four. So this Saturday I will be freerolling from somewhere on the road.

Run Good, Run Better, Run Best

[Content Disclosure: 99.44% Poker; 24% Personal Gloating; 12% Glee]

The second addition of the Pokerlistings Run Good Poker Challenge is underway. Same format as last time around with three qualifying events leading up to the grand finale.

This time, however, it appears that skill rather than luck and blatant bad play will dominate the event. After several grueling hours of intense, high-level poker the first event ended with the truly quality players making it through to the classic three handed finals. With all of the money on the line the truly accomplished Michelle Lewis played with skill and aplomb to take down a well deserved third place. Amy Calistri showed her daring and confident game to battle mightily only to fall in the end and take home the cash for second position. Nicely done ladies!

However, no one could have been expected to overcome the truly deft and seasoned play of the eventual winner. The true class of this event managed to control the play and assert his skill and poker knowledge to a degree not seen in many a tournament. Shall we ever see in our time, so much dexterity and finesse applied so cunningly to the game of poker?

About the only analysis that can be made of this dominating victory is simply that when you get so many big cards, it really takes nearly no skill at all to win. Yes, my fair readers with aces coming out of my pockets and suckouts galore; I have finally scored in the Run Good Challenge and not only put some cash in my depleted account but I also find myself on top of the RGC leaderboard. If only we could freeze this moment in time before I revert to donkeydom next week.

Ah, for one brief shining moment that was Riversalot.

For more about me, see: Dr. Pauly, Spaceman, Donkey Dan, Benjo, Amy and Short-Stacked Shamus.

Round Two preview.

Sincerely Sin City

[Content Disclosure: 34% Poker & Casinos; 55% Life in Las Vegas; 26% Dark Underside of Life; 9% All of the Above]

No I am not Leaving Las Vegas, in any sense of the phrase, at least not yet. But I do hear often from friends about living here. Some won't even visit because of the dark energy of Sin City. So, how is it really? You might ask.

Well those who know me well, understand that I can stand in the middle of loud noisy crowds and be mostly unaffected. I don't have a problem with the proximity of greed, avarice, depravity or lust. About the only thing that really bothers me is being in the ongoing presence of stupidity. But Vegas does present some challenges.

First, this is a city like any other city. You can get dry cleaning done or your muffler fixed (No, that is not a sexual reference). People have normal lives here, even when 8 hours of your day might be working in a casino. But it is also true that the excesses that bring visitors to Las Vegas, do come up on a regular basis when you do the job I do.

I often leave casinos alone, well after midnight. A single, middle-aged man, who dresses normally and is in a casino alone late at night or very early in the morning does get propositioned. To deflect the lovely ladies of the evening I go with my standard response: "Why thank you Miss, but I am much too tired this morning to truly enjoy the company of someone so fetching as yourself."

Practice that line a couple of times, until it rolls smoothly off the tongue and it works wonders with out implying insult or superiority.

Now I am not suggesting that Las Vegas does not wallow in excess. It clearly does but I am a bit of a teflon shield when it comes to becoming deeply mired in the muck. Not so some of my friends, who also trod the land of glitter as writers. Should you truly wish to experience a glimpse into the dark side of my current hometown. I would like to highly recommend two blog posts from my friend and darkside resident Dr. Pauly Mcguire.

I am particularly fond of these two offerings from the Dark Doctor, as I have spent some time myself at the "Hooker Bar" he inhabits in the first piece. All the poker media have, as this is the closet libational emporium to the convention rooms at the Rio where they hold the World Series of Poker. But Pauly brings that place to life or something that resembles life.

The second piece reflects on the underside of Las Vegas, that anyone who stays up long enough is likely to encounter. I recommend both articles highly but suggest you keep a light on while you read.

1. Existentialist Conversations with Hookers: Malestrom at the Hooker Bar

2. Emissaries from the Land of Indulgence

Poker Shrink Radio Appearance

[Content Disclosure: 100% Poker; 92% Shameless Self Promotion]

I am making one of my infrequent internet radio appearances this week on Lou Krieger's Keep Flopping Aces on Rounder's Radio. The show airs live at 9 PM EST on Thursday. You can also catch an audio replay anytime after by going to Lou's archives on the Rounder's Radio site.

We are obviously going to be talking about "the book" as Amy and I approach our delivery date next week. I also want to talk with Lou about some of the things I saw at the World Series this year; some interesting incidents that were reported in the media very differently than how I saw them. In particular, I will be talking about the Scotty Nguyen H.O.R.S.E. coverage and the Phil Hellmuth penalty/non-penalty on Day Five of the main event.

Remember, 6 PM Thursday night for all of my left coast friends and for those of you in Australia, well you know how that works, I think the show is already over.... How was I?

Some Thoughts on Therapy

One of my oldest and dearest friends is in therapy, an endeavor I would never have thought he would undertake. But times change and losses happen. He called me last week to have a conversation about his therapy and after we were done, he suggested that I should put what I told him in my blog. I thought about that for awhile and since I am not actually giving anyone specific clinical advice, I guess I will share my thoughts on therapy.

As a professional disclosure, I do have a degree in psychology and while I am not in an established clinical practice, I do have several clients, most of whom are professional poker players. If any of my clients read this, I am confident what I say here is consistent with my therapeutic style.

Let's call my friend, Jeff. Of course, not his real name. Let's not call his ex-wife anything. I never really liked her but she is not the source of Jeff's problem; as always, life is the problem. Jeff went into therapy about a year and a half ago with a specific issue to resolve and is currently a bit unsatisfied with the course of the therapy. This is what prompted the phone call to me.

I should say to those who are not familiar with psychology in general, that there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of different forms of therapy; practiced by individuals across a wide spectrum of clinical modalities and belief systems. Meaning--it ain't all the same. But in Jeff's case, we are talking about a fairly standard form of "talk therapy", where the client sees the therapist once a week for a 50 minute hour and talks about their life, the situation and/or the problem.

The goal of such therapy is to uncover the various aspects of the client's problem or issue or whatever we, he or she wants to label it and to provide the client with tools to solve, resolve, move past or "fix" it. This form of therapy is essentially a dialog between the therapist and the client. Here is where Jeff's therapy got off track, in my not so humble opinion.

Intelligent people who enter therapy often need a period of time to simply vent. Usually followed by details of the issue and a good deal of background about how and why they got to the place they are now unsatisfied with. This process of getting it out and mulling it all over out loud can and should take some time. Let's arbitrarily say this process might take three months; sometimes longer, sometimes shorter but let's go with three months. Several issues now arise, not the least of which is that you or your insurance company are paying the therapist to sit there for these sessions. Quite frankly, a therapist is not motivated financially move the process along because once you get what you need, you stop coming to therapy and you must be replaced with a new client. Sorry, but money is a factor in what should be a completely caring, healing process. Yes, life sucks or at least someone gets a bill for it.

Now the therapist has some kind of training, usually at least a Masters degree in clinical psychology and probably, depending on local laws, some training in actually conducting therapy sessions. They also will have some frame of reference, some philosophy for his or her work. All too often that therapeutic frame is simply a continuation of the talk process. I do not believe this is helpful to the client in most circumstances and, in fact, it creates a dependency in many clients that does not lead to resolution of their issue. Very quickly the weekly visits can become very comforting. You get to go to a safe place and talk to someone about your life and they are completely and uncritically willing to listen. All nice and warm and fuzzy.

Now, if you treated your job like this you would soon be unemployed. You don't deeply ponder an issue for an indeterminate period of time, not if you want to keep collecting that paycheck. Action is called for and at some point in the therapy process, there needs to be a call to action. It is the therapist's responsibility to make that completely clear to the client. Once you have gotten your issue or issues on the table and once you have explored the depths and shallows of that issue; well, then it is time to do something about it.

You see we come to therapy because of some discomfort in our life. If you went to see your doctor, you would not be surprised if the conversation turned to the subject of disease. Well, that should happen in psychological therapy as well. Just take the word apart. Dis-ease. Not at ease. Something is wrong, is that not why you went looking for some help? The therapist should be always working towards the goal of the elimination or transformation of dis-ease.

Unfortunately, talk therapy can become very, very comfortable. Those weekly sessions become something you look forward to and they should not be. You are attempting, I hope, to resolve some issue in your life and to move on; to get back on course; to solve or resolve the issue. But instead you get stuck in the cycle of talking about it. That is the failure of the therapist. At some point, there needs to be a goal oriented conversation initiated by the professional in the therapeutic relationship. What is it that you are hoping to accomplish and what skills or tasks can the trained professional present to you to accomplish those goals?

At this point, therapy should not be comfortable. You probably will not look forward to those weekly sessions and you won't be doing all the talking. There will be questions, there may be assignments, there should be progress and in most cases there will be discomfort, anxiety and often tears.

If this type of interaction is not happening in the therapy setting, then you are simply paying someone to listen to you. Get a dog or better yet talk with an honest, caring friend; someone who knows something about life, which is precisely what a trained therapist should be in the first place.

Jennifer Harman and Cat Condo Conversions

[Content Disclosure: Big Felines 68%, Small Kitties 22%, Charity 33%, Poker 7%, SPCA 89%]

My good friend Matty is in town again and as is our ritual, we met in front of the MGM Lion Habitat and then went over to the SPCA Shelter to visit the Cat Condos. Our first surprise was that Gino and Belladonna were the afternoon residents at MGM. We actually got to meet and touch those two about a year ago when they were tiny cubs. Here is a picture of me with Belladonna, she is about 150 pounds heavier now.

After visiting with the big kitties, Matt and I went over the the SPCA No-Kill shelter and were horribly disappointed to discover the Cat Condos were closed for renovation. My fault, I know they have to completely redo that section of the shelter every year or so and I just didn't think to check the website. We did manage to run into some of the great staff and were told that these are hard times for many pet owners with the financial crisis and in particular the ever mounting foreclosures in the area. Many more pet owners have had to surrender their pets because of lost homes and pet restrictions on their new residences. But on the bright side, we also were told that the SPCA is able to handle this influx of animals mostly because of the money raised this past year by the Jennifer Harman Charity Poker Tournament.

So here is another hats off to Jennifer and all those who volunteered their time and energy to that worthy project. And once more a reminder that you can make a donation to the SPCA No-Kill Shelter right here. And details of next year's charity event will be posted as soon as we have them.

White Racial Politics

[Content Disclosure: 78% Politics; 59% Race; 0% Poker]

After every election we hear about which "groups" put which candidate over the top. Or which groups "won" the election for someone or another. Well there is one group that doesn't get talked about much in this manner, that would be the white voters. Caucasian has been the majority or at least the presumed majority in the United States for as long as any one alive today can remember. Clearly, the times they are a changin'.

Deep down many people were concerned that quiet racism would, if not elect John McCain, at least make the election close enough for everyone to notice. Many feared the quiet voter who did not respond to the pre-election polls or even lied about their little white secret. The fear was that once in the voting booth, they would always and forever pull the white lever.

Well, it didn't happen...... or did it?

Among all white voters in the 2008 Presidential election the tally is: Obama 43% McCain 55%.

Whether you are a glass of milk half empty or half full type of person, there is other good or bad news.

The 43% of white voters is the highest the democratic candidate for president has gotten in over twenty years. So it may be less about color and more about conservative leanings. Not to dismiss reactionary voting against change as having a racial component.

The better news. When you drop out white voters over 65 years of age; Obama wins the white vote. It does seem that the younger you are, the less likely you will fear or dislike someone based on melatonin levels.

Some "Other" Political Thoughts

[Content Disclosure: 0% Poker; 23% Politics; 44% not so famous quotes; 37.2% a certain political theme; 13% Whimsy]

"The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority." -- Ralph W. Sockman

"I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times."-- Senator Everett Dirksen

"You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common, they don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit the views, which can be uncomfortable, if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."-- Doctor Who

"A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking."-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Nothing can so alienate a voter from the political system as backing a winning candidate." -- Mark B. Cohen

"Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least." --Robert Byrne

"A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." -- Robert Frost

"Numerous politicians have seized absolute power and muzzled the press. Never in history has the press seized absolute power and muzzled the politicians.-- David Brinkley

"If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake."
-- Mohandas Gandhi

"Majority rule only works if you're also considering individual rights. Because you can't have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper."-- Larry Flynt

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."-- Winston Churchill

"We need a president who's fluent in at least one language."
-- Buck Henry

"It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it."-- Eugene Debs

"I didn't say I wouldn't go into ghetto areas. I've been in many of them and to some extent I would say this; if you've seen one city slum, you've seen them all." -- Spiro T. Agnew, Republican vice-president and prison inmate

"We'd all like to vote for the best man but he's never a candidate."
--Kin Hubbard.

"I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy - but that could change." -- Dan Quayle

If you label something whimsy, is it still? --Me