Monday, 28 May 2012

This City is My City

I had a great weekend.  I am not afraid to say that, and as I reflect on the days prior, a thought struck me as to why I enjoyed myself so.  The weather for late May was nothing short of incredible for this area, as the thermometer passed 20 degrees each day, and it stayed nice well into the evenings.  I didn't do anything elaborate or exotic, but simply spent a majority of my time outside.  I spent time with some of favourite people, both at home and at work. 

During the course of the weekend I found myself thinking about pride, particularly civic pride on a few different occasions.  My city, yes this is the city that I call home, has been getting a bad rap.  Outsiders see an industry town, one that is long on pollution, run down buildings, poor infrastructure and the like.  Prince George is also frowned on for its weather, with some of the most varied weather conditions anywhere in the world.  I laugh at those locals who will spend almost 12 months a year complaining about the weather conditions dished out by mother nature.  Too hot, too cold, too rainy, too windy, too muggy, too dry, too wet, it goes on and on.  I may have my days in the bitter cold of winter where I utter a compaint or two, but you will not catch me saying "too hot!" very often.  Prince George has but a few months of warm weather months, and these can be peppered with days that are too (insert complaint here).  To have the kind of weather we are having right now in May is something to be enjoyed and taken advantage of.

On Friday night, one the guys I support came with me to the soccer pitch to watch the opening game of the season.  With the sun beating down and my friend grinning away beside me, I watched a spirited game between Mr Jakes and Silent Cabinets.  We went for a walk at halftime and returned to watch the second half.  My friend can be very excitable but for a couple hours Friday night he was calm and relaxed, seemingly basking in the sunshine on offer. 

Saturday morning found Jasmine and I at the youth soccer field for her game at 9 am.  A little early for my taste, but the sun was out early, and it was warm enough to sport a t-shirt comfortably.  The girls had but 2 spares, our designated striker Jacqueline scored 2 early goals, and the keepers Jasmine and Samantha held firm for a 2-1 win.  The team is shaping up quite nicely, with favorite positions being established, and more effort being expended.  We have quietly built a 4 game unbeaten streak with a couple of 4-4 draws, followed by 3-2 and 2-1 wins.  Premium Truck won't be dominant this year, but the girls are working hard to grind out wins.  A key to team success at this age is finding girls that enjoy playing defensively, and Leah and Regan fit that role perfectly.  With a little coaxing from the coaches, both girls are getting more aggressive, and Leah played so well Saturday that the opposing team barely saw our net.  I get a kick out of making a huge deal about defensive play, and both Leah and Regan seemed to revel in the compliments I heaped on them after the game.  Jasmine and I drove for home, and after Jasmine counted 19 garage sales being advertised, we decided to stop at a few.  We made our way home to do some yard work with Sheila and her sidekick Asher, then squeezed in a nice bike ride through the greenbelt and back before I went off to work in the afternoon.  At work we spent the day outside, having coffee in the sun, eating our dinner in the evening breeze coming in as the sun went down.  No complaints while working in those conditions. 

Sunday brought another shift a work, but that didn't stop the sunshine barrage.  After a trip to the city's Aquatic Centre for a soak in the hot tub, I once again found myself at the soccer field, watching a spirited contest between Mr Jakes and the U17 all star team.  The sun was hot at mid day, and the other guy I support found time to fall asleep on the bleachers.  He and his roommate both loving being outside, though their interest for soccer remains well hidden.  The game was great, very intense as both teams battled hard.  We had to leave just before the end of the game, but to that point neither team had managed to score.  In need of something to eat, we left the field and returned home.  After work, I came home and hung out with Asher while Jasmine and Sheila went for a girls only outing.  Asher and I ended up going for a long walk, stopping to watch some slo-pitch being played at the local high school.  My little guy seemingly was overheating in the hot sun, so I put up the shade on the stroller and went back to walking.  After getting home I participated in a spirited family soccer game in the backyard.  It was a lot of fun watching Sheila score a couple of wrong footed goals on her daughter, as Asher wandered the field occasionally taking a run with the ball.  All in all, a great weekend outdoors in May.

After heading off on a significant tangent over the previous three paragraphs, I aim to return to my original point.  I was able to have a great time this weekend thanks to some great company, but also due to the opportunities Prince George has to offer.  The Men's League fields were built a few years ago, complete with a league clubhouse and lounge.  I visited a couple of different times this weekend, and after my coaching duties are finished for the season, I aim to join and play for the summer months.  The Prince George Aquatic Centre is frequently visited by my family, and it is a beautiful facility.  I made a couple trips there this week, as swimming is a favourite activity of Asher, Jasmine and one of my buddies at work.  While I appreciate the facilities Prince George has to offer, this week I found myself reflecting on what should be considered one of the cities finest features, it's extensive park system that weaves its way through most neighbourhoods. 

Old College Heights was designed more then 40 years ago, and the developers had the foresight to create a series of greenbelts and parks throughout the neighbourhood.  From our home we can walk  to any of 8 different parks, or the school playground.  Gladstone, the main roadway has a bike lane that Jasmine and I frequent, that connects all of the different pathways together.  This weekend we took a half hour ride through most of the trails with Jasmine leading the way, taking joy in choosing which direction we went at each fork in the path.  The next day Asher and I ventured out on the trails as well, weaving our way around the neighbourhood while out walking in the blazing sun.  Asher got a little cranky with the heat, but that didn't take away from the beautiful day.  One of my favorite spots in Prince George is Connaught Hill, a great place on a quiet morning to take some time to relax and think.  I've taken a number of trips to the hill this spring, and I definitely think it is one of Prince George's highlights. 

As it tends to happen, my enthusiasm has petered out as I carry on typing this morning.  I felt the need to share a little about why I like Prince George, and why I and my family chose to settle down here.  Perfect?  Hardly, but it is ours.

Monday, 21 May 2012

A Solitary Man.

As another work week comes to a close, my mind is busy with thought.  My family left me to fend for myself this weekend, as Sheila had a strong desire to visit friends in Vancouver, and I simply couldn't get the time off to join her, Jasmine and Asher on their journey.  On occasion, Sheila and the kids have gone visiting in Quesnel for a day or two without me, but this weekend's 3 and a half day excursion marks the longest I have gone without seeing my son since his birth.

 It is no wonder that I have spent the last 2 days with constant visions of the little guy in my head.  No slight to the ladies of my life who I also miss dearly, but the recurring image in my mind involves Asher's smiling face.  He scrunches up his eyes, exposes his two front teeth with an unbelievably cute gap in the middle and starts to laugh.  For many months this was his cutest face, the one that I loved more then any other.  But, this isn't the look I have been picturing in my head over the last few days.  He is 16 months old now, and he is become more aware of the world around him.  He has most definitely discovered that he can communicate his feelings and desires without the ability to speak, though he has started saying the odd word, and his "hi Dad!" is getting pretty darn good.  When Asher is riding in the backseat of the car, when it is just me and him, I love nothing more then to look back and elicit and smile or a giggle.  I usually just have to look back at him to recieve my reward, but occasionally I have to make a goofy grin or smile to earn my treat.  If I can't get Asher's attention I will call his name, he will look at me and with the lips curling up at the corners he extends his pointing finger to the window and lets out a little "upppp" sound.  I just love that the little things in life bring such great joy to him.  He has yet to discover the mindless forms of entertainment that the older folks of the world devote so much time to.  Most of the time, I have no idea what he is pointing at.  He just loves to observe whatever is passing by his window.  I have noticed a love of busses, he gets a kick out of the big rectangular boxes that often stop beside his window at a traffic light.  I think he and I will have to take a bus trip this week so he can see what it is all about. 

The ladies have likely been having a hectic weekend, trying to fit all the Vancouver highlights into a very condensed visit.  Sheila was looking forward to some serious shopping, and I hope she was able to get her fix.  It sounds like the weather was nice, so the ocean visit likely went well.  Jasmine was bouncing up and down on Thursday knowing that she was going to see her Auntie Anne and her cousins.  Anne spoils her rotten and Jasmine loves the attention.  They made their annual pilgrimage to Playland, and Jasmine likes to hit almost every ride.  She isn't fearless, but does get a kick out of some rides I didn't try until I was in my late teens.  She doesn't take after dad who was afraid to try anything as a kid.  This girl has been plummeting off of the 5 metre platform at the pool since she was 7.  I actually encourage her quite a bit in this endeavours, knowing how much I regret my guarded ways as a child.  She hadn't been on the platform recently, but last Wednesday she went off 3 times, and was very proud to be "back at it".  Jasmine also got to visit the Richmond night market, which I regrettably haven't seen.  As it is a giant flea market and Jasmine loves garage sales, thrift stores and dollar stores it would likely be a nirvana of sorts.  She also has a nasty habit of wanting things, regardless of the lack of space in her room to store these things.  The previous two sentences have just made me realize that she is in fact just maturing as a woman, and is hardly extraordinary in these interests.  It will be great to see her tonight and here about her holiday.  I am sure she will have a few interesting stories to tell me about the highlights of her trip.

I hope Sheila was able to find some time to relax despite the hectic nature of the weekend schedule.  She doesn't seem to mind driving long distances, especially to see people who are near and dear to her heart.  Her kids are both great travellers, which likely is a factor in deciding to go for a trip involving so much driving time.  She brought along her good friend, which likely made for a fun time on the way down and back.  I heard some remarks about an all day shopping trip on Sunday, which did make me sweat a little wondering what purchases were made.  Sheila has had almost 7 years of my cheapskate ways to deal with, and likely had my voice in her ear when she was out and about.  Truth is, she is vey careful with her money most of time, and hardly ever spends a cent on herself.  I hope she found some nice things and was able to treat herself.  I look forward to seeing my 3 favourite people later tonight.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Cloud Nine.

As has been the case for more then 3 years, I am celebrating my personal Friday today, on Monday.  I enjoy 3 days off every week, and while I would like the financial gain of a fifth work day, there are many benefits to a 4 day work week.  If things have been difficult at work that particular week, it gives me plenty of time to recharge and come back on Friday refreshed.  It also gives me plenty of time with Jasmine and Asher, as I pick Jasmine up from school 4 times a week, as well as dropping her off in the morning 4 times each week.  Asher and I spend my days off hanging out together and generally we have a great time.  Come Friday when work calls once more, I am usually pretty exhausted from 3 and a half days of chasing after an active 16 month old little man.  This morning as I quite literally danced my way through the morning routine at work, it dawned on me just how lucky I am to have the job I have.  Now, financial considerations aside, it is quite uncommon for a job to have so many positive aspects as the one I have.  There are plenty of things that need doing at work that adhere to structure and guidelines provided by the common that I work for.  I need to assist the guys in a safe manner, ensure they are well fed, cared for, and supported.  I spend time encouraging the guys to try tasks that they are capable of doing, and when something is out of your scope of capabilities, I am there to help with that.  As usual the morning routine of getting ready started at 800 when I wake one of the guys and ask him to use the washroom, I assist with showering, getting dressed and I make breakfast for the 3 of us.  I don't rush the guys, as there is nowhere that we need to be on my morning shifts, so the routine usually lasts until 1030 or even 1100 some days.  Today, due to an unusual amount of pep in my step, the guys were ready to face the day by 945.  One guy is in the living room as per usual, and this morning he is dancing to the music I have playing on my ipod.  The other guy often gets upset in the morning as he is not a fan of the morning routine.  He generally doesn't like taking a shower, and he particularly detests shaving.  Today, after shaving a particularly bushy beard he had going on and helping him get dressed, he was red in the face but something was different about his mood.  Within minutes he was sitting in his recliner, and promptly fell asleep.  I realize that my good mood and my lack of anger while assisting this morning may have contributed to his not getting as worked up, and I am going to actively try this in the future.  Anger begets anger as they say, whoever they are.

Now, to the reason for my good mood.  With Sheila and the kids down in Quesnel to visit our families, I took place in the poker game as I usually do on Sunday afternoon.  The Sunday game is usually fairly quiet as the tight regulars are often playing, and there may be only 1 or 2 loose cannons sitting down.  A buddy of mine was sitting, and he likes to gamble as he so aptly puts it.  I like to get involved, and if the table is generally passive, I will take the opportunity to play more hands.  Within 30 minutes, the first big pot came my way. 

In late position I tossed in $12 with 79 offsuit.  I am looking to take control of the hand, buy the button, and take the pot down either right away, or on the flop.  I get a call from my buddy in the big blind, and one of the limper.  3 handed to the flop, and I have the button.  The flop is 885 2 spades.  Checked to me and I fire $20 and recieve a call from the loose big blind.  His range is so wide here that I have no clue where I should put him.  He could be floating with high cards, he could flush drawing, he could have just the 5, or of course he could have caught trips.  As I beg for an offsuit 6 in my mind, I recieve the card I want, 6 of diamonds.  The big blind check calls $35, and when a harmless 3 of clubs comes on the river he check calls $50 and I announce straight.  This caused a stunned pause as everyone realized that I had raised preflop, with someone saying: "well, I didn't have that hand in your range" in a playful manner.  Little did I know that this was a sign of things to come. 

In the next orbit, I tossed in $2 with Q9 diamonds from the cutoff, and paid another $10 when it was raised from the blinds.  It was 5 handed to the flop with a pot of $60.  The flop came down A 9 6 with the 6 of diamonds giving me middle pair and a back door flush draw.  When the first 3 players checked to me I decided to bet.  I felt that the 2 players who had limped in early position and just checked the flop likely did not hold an ace.  If they had a weak one and had chose to check it, I might get them to fold to my flop bet, or to a bigger turn bet.  I settled on $40 and tossed it into the $60 pot.  A solid, tight player was behind on the button and he gave the spot some thought.  He know me well enough and told me later that he couldn't see me having an ace as I had played so passively preflop.  He decided to fold eventually.  The small blind, who was the original raiser and the same villain from the previous hand, called the $40 and we were heads up after the others folded.  The turn was the 3 of diamonds.  I lit up inside as this was a very exciting card that allowed me to continue my line.  After the villain checked I eyed up his stack which was about $180 and the pot was $140.  Knowing that I was going to bet, I wanted to make a bet size that would still allow me to fold if he indeed went all in.  At the same time, I didn't believe he had an ace as he checked the flop after raising preflop, and then just check called my flop bet.  The most likely hand was 87 I felt, with a 9 also possible.  He could hold a medium pair and have called the flop bet to see if I would shut down.  I went with a $70 bet, half pot.  This left me room to fold, but was also large enough that it may have convinced the villain that I was not folding to a push.  He called the $70 quite fast and we had a $280 pot to the river.  The 8 of clubs peeled off.  At this point I was looking for a check down as any other play would have required some deep thought.  I still wasn't convinced he had an ace, and I was still leaning towards 87, but it was entirely possible he had some combination of 2 pair.  He contemplated his options a while, then checked.  I checked behind and he announced that he had an 8.  I tabled my Q9 of diamonds and dragged the pot, as he showed his 85 of diamonds, seemingly relieved that we hadn't found a diamond on the river.  This was one of the funnest hands I have ever won, as I really doubted my chances of holding the winner.  As if that wasn't enough, the session managed to get even better.

I had won a few more hands in the mean time through either value betting made hands, having solid starting hands hold up, and riding my high horse to a stack of around $600 from the $200 I started with.  I was holding K9 off this hand in the small blind.  Early position player made it $5 to go, and I completed along with 5 others.  I made a joke saying: "I gotta flop the nuts to continue.  This isn't the type of hand you want to catch a piece with."  Sure enough the flop is K96 with 2 spades.  I fire $20 into the $30 pot.  I get a call from the same loose cannon as he seems determined to get me back for the other two hands.  A call from the small blind sends us to the turn 3 handed.  The turn is the 9 of hearts, completing my full house.  I decide to get cute and make a small bet that may entice either loose opponent to go over the top.  I bet $20 into the $90 pot.  I was trying to tell them I was holding a K, but not one that I was proud of.  Sure enough, the guy in position min raises to $40.  The small blind called quite quickly.  Here, I wasn't sure of my next move.  Knowing I had the best hand I could just call and hope to get a ton of money on the river.  There wasn't a card I feared much on the river, but if a scare card came it might stop the opponents from putting more money in.  I settled on a raise, but one small enough that the guys would have a hard time tossing their hand away.  I made it $100, $60 more then the raise I was facing.  Without hesitating, the villain was all in for $350.  The small blind stepped aside and I called showing my full house.  The villain had the case 9, holding 97 offsuit and he was drawing dead.  My stack had hit $1000 and we hadn't been playing for 2 hours at that point.

 It was a great feeling to have solid play and a ridiculous amount of luck come together in a perfect storm type of situation.  I have been feeling really good about my game lately, and I am confident in my abilities at the table.  Knowing the regulars really well is helpful, and I rely on what I know about the opponents to maximize my winning spots and reduce the size of my losses against tighter regulars.  Putting the proverbial pen to paper in this space and discussing specific hands, or the game in general has helped me keep everything in perspective.  Support from my family has been great also, as I think Sheila has accepted that poker is a source of income for me and for her, Jasmine and Asher.  I have read significant material on the game, and that has really helped me develop an understanding of the finer points of the game, some that are way beyond anything my opponents are thinking about.  As I finish up work for the week, I can't stop smiling about the Sunday afternoon poker game that resulted in my biggest winning session ever.  After more the 5 years playing live cash games, I would never have predicted that in a million years.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Inspirational Music

As I wait for the guys to get up for the day here at work, I found myself on you tube and eventually found myself playing one of my favourite videos.  I can't help but feel very warm inside when I play this particular video, and it usually leads to me playing a few different videos that I have a soft spot for.  Judge me if you'd like, but Susan Boyle's story is inspirational for me.  All of these videos speak to me for a variety of reasons, and I thought I would share them with you this morning.

Susan Boyle's First Appearance:

I don't usually watch any of the talent shows on television, but I do like to view clips of the auditions on you tube.  Susan Boyle is one of the reasons I started doing this.

Bruddah Iz - Somewhere Over The Rainbow:

After reading a book in 2010 on the history of surfing and the Hawaiian culture, I was lucky enough to discover the wonder that is Bruddah Iz.  He is one of the most revered figures in the history of Hawaii, and quite frankly he might have the best singing voice I have ever heard.  This song gets to my nearly every time.

Soggy Bottom Boys - I Am a Man Of Constant Sorrow:


I absolutely love the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou?", and the soundtrack is one of the biggest draws for me.  The storytelling folk-style speaks to me, and this is the best song of the bunch.

Johnny Cash - Hurt:

No explanation is needed here.  This is likely one that many people can relate to, a powerful song overflowing with emotions.

Cas Haley - Walking On The Moon:

A great find from the American version of "America's Got Talent", Cas went on to finish second in the competition.  As his career continues to grow, his self titled reggae album is an absolutely gem and anyone interested in the genre should take a listen.

Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans - I Wanna Be In The Cavalry:

Purely Canadian, this band has an incredibly authentic sound and some of the best songwriting I have ever come across.  This track is the one that I am currently digging, but Corb Lund and his supporting cast have a slew of great songs that speak to me.

General Degree - Traffic Blocking:

As I get on a roll here, I come to my first ever reggae song.  Yes, in my sheltered life I saw this music video on Much Music when I was 14 and it was my first exposure to the genre.  There was and still is a serious lack of reggae content in the mainstream media, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the genre.  In high school some of my favourites along with General Degree were Mr. Vegas, Buju Banton, Elephant Man, Beenie Man and more.  I still enjoy reggae and along with the above artists I now enjoy Matisyahu most of all.

Northern Touch All-Stars - Northern Touch:

This is the first "favourite rap song" that I can remember, a great collaboration from the who's who of Canadian rap in 1997. 

I hope you enjoyed my little journey through my You Tube favourites.  As a bonus, I now have these all collected in one place for easy access when I am looking to feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Body Movin'

In the news yesterday, the world learned of the passing of Adam "MCA" Yauch of Beastie Boys fame.  Sadly taken before his time, Yauch was just 47.  I have been a fan of rap music since I was about 14, but unfortunately for most of that time I lacked the ability to recognize the varying degrees of quality within the genre.  Much of this time found me listening to trashy stuff, with a focus on fast paced spitting style rap.  I also focussed my listening time on the present, generally listening to albums that were current in a pop music fan type of way.  The Beastie Boys album "Hello Nasty" was released in 1998 when I was 15, and I was totally digging the video for "Intergalactic" at the time.  Being ignorant to all of the colorful history, and admittedly I still am ignorant, I appreciated the album for what it was in singularity, and not as a part of a greater body of work.  The Beastie Boys were a great group for a few reasons.  They didn't fit into the stereotypical mold of what a early hip hop artists was.  They started as a punk group, and through a maturing process and an incredible abundance of talent they were able to succeed in an entirely different genre.  They released 8 full length albums over a career spanning 25 years, both benchmarks of longevity in a genre that is devoid of such feats.  They number of rap or hip hop artists that can boast of 8 successful releases is remarkable short, and the others on the list are legends in their own right.  I felt sadness yesterday when I heard the news of Yauch's passing because despite my ignorance I am aware of the important role he played in moving hip hop into the media, and helping the genre gain legitimacy in the music industry.  Even the most ignorant rap fan can appreciate that, and for that MCA I thank you.

This brings me to my fitness update.  I haven't felt better pounding the pavement then I did yesterday morning.  Asher was all bundled up and ready to go in the stroller while I did my stretching.  I found my Beastie Boys collection on the ipod and away I went.  My running route that I have gone on at least 50 times in the last 2 years is a leisurely 3 km route on flat terrain.  I was feeling motivated last week and devised a route that would still take me in a circular route back to our house, but it would be closer to 5 km total.  As I near the location where the routes split I have to exert significant will power to propel myself towards the longer route.  I nailed the 5 km on Wednesday while pushing Asher, and with little hesitation I hit it again on Friday.  With the only Beastie Boys album that i've ever given proper respect to playing in my ears I easily plowed through the approximately 5 km route in about 24 minutes.  It felt great.  Asher and I made it home, showered up, got dressed and went to daycare and on to work.  As I had stated some pretty lofty physical activity goals in this very space last Sunday, I am proud to say that I pretty much nailed it. 

The week started off a little slow, on Sunday Jasmine and I went for a short bike ride in the evening, and afterwards I chose to catch up on sleep after watching the Amazing Race with Sheila.  Monday was also quiet as I was busy chasing the kids in the afternoon and working in the morning.  Tuesday things began to pick up.  Jasmine had the day off from school and after puttering around in the morning we went to pick up an air filter for my car and grab some fresh tennis balls.  I splurged on a new $15 racket as well, and tennis was urgently added to the agenda.  Unfortunately the high school kids were busy using the court so we headed home.  Jasmine helped nicely as we spent an hour raking the yard.  We went in and Jasmine baked cookie with little help from me.  Asher took a nap, so I was able to get in my hamstring and glute workout.  Admittedly, the week's efforts really took off on Wednesday.  I was up at 715 to see Sheila off, and spent time with Jasmine and Asher before walking Jasmine to school.  Asher and I took the long way home, the brisk walk really wakes me up and provides great motivation for the rest of the day.  I completed my ab workout while Asher played around me, then took care of a few chores while he had his nap.  When he woke up we got ready and went for our 5 km jog in the sunshine.  After picking Jasmine up, we headed straight to the tennis courts.  Jasmine was playing for only the third time, and she just loves playing.  She often misses, and we struggle to get any kind of rally going.  We don't worry about making sure the ball is in the lines, or that it only bounces once.  Though she is just starting, I got a great workout as I was busy chasing wayward balls and of course Asher who was busy running around the court.  Most of the time he was occupied by the extra racket I brought for him that he dragged behind him as he ran around the court.  As tennis fell right during his normal nap time, I wasn't surprised when he actually laid down on the court at one point with eyes nearly shut.  As we were enjoying ourselves, we actually ran out of time to go to the swimming pool as we had planned.  To finish the day Jasmine and I headed down to pick up the soccer jerseys for the coming season.  As we headed out we were going to bring our soccer ball and play a little but it was flat, then the basketball couldn't be found, so we headed out the door without either.  After picking up the stuff, we found ourselves back at the tennis court for another game.  Exhausted from the day, I fell asleep easily and awoke well rested.  Thursday included a chest and tricep workout and a family swim at the pool.  Friday as mentioned above consisted of a morning back and trap workout and a 5 km run.  This morning I finished the week with soccer coaching and a 3 km run without my son which felt odd as I have gotten used to pushing the stroller and seeing his wispy hair flapping in the wind as I go.  The greatest success of the week has to be my discipline with my diet.  I have been eating relatively clean for the last 3 or 4 months, but this week may have been my best week yet.  Jasmine made a batch of cookies, and I did have 3 of those.  Sheila made another batch, and I got away from that after eating only one.  The only other cheat was a handful of chips today.  Most of my snacks have been bowls of cereal, or a banana, and I had a few protein bars as well.  I have been solid with my portion sizes as well, eating until I am satisfied, not stuffed and bloated.  Perhaps I will post my plan for next week ahead of time so I can gauge my success once again.  Here's to another great week!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Do You Like Action? Poker Action?

I am beginning to feel more and more like a blogger.  There was a few occasions this week where I had the proverbial light bulb go on above my head and I found myself thinking to myself, "Ah ha! Now that would make a great blog post!"  Of course, this is prone to happen when even the most minor thing occurs and I soon realize that I hardly have a post at all, but merely a musing of some importance.  I intend to include a number of these observations in an upcoming post, but for now I would like to focus on my second job, recreational poker.

I refer to poker as my second job for a few reasons.  At first, it was a running joke with Sheila who didn't like it when I said it because "Work isn't suppose to be fun!".  Of course, it doesn't function like your typical job where you punch in at the same time on the same days of week and every two weeks a meagre pitance is placed in your bank account as compensation.  No, poker most certainly doesn't work that way.  With a mere flick of the wrist and a spray of chips I can easily win or lose a day's wage from my first job.  I have played enough by now to keep most of my emotions in check while playing, and I manage to direct most of my anger while playing at myself so as not to offend anyone else playing.  This does not always work exactly as stated, but I do fairly well with this.  I feel like I have earned the right to call poker a job at this point, as I have posted modest to solid profit rates for every year since 2009.  There are many reasons why the game I frequent proves profitable for me, and it starts with a familiarity with the opponents.  There is only one poker room in town, and on most nights there are only 1 or 2 tables running.  I have a very solid memory, one that allows me to remember details about everyone that play with.  Chances are, if I have seen you before at a poker table, I will remember you.  This leads to many nights, like last night where I recognize all or nearly all of the other players at the table.  Some of you might be thinking, isn't that a bad thing?  Not exactly.  Just because I recognize the players does not mean that they are good or even decent at the game.  This casino seems to have a large number of regulars who stink at the game, and conversely refuse to do anything to get better.  In fact, a handful of guys I regularly go up against are getting noticably worse as they go along.  So, to last night's session.

This post sprung directly from one hand in particular that I will attempt to recreate here in proper detail.  I am 3rd from the button for this particular hand.  There is an under the gun raise to $12 from a looser player, with a stack of approx $100 total.  2 flat calls in front of me, and I decide to call with JJ.  This was a toss up for me, a lot of the time I 3 bet here, but in this situation, knowing the original raiser, I felt that any sized raise will just induce him to bet all-in and I would be hoping for a race.  1 of the 2 callers in between is a poor player, overplays marginal holdings and is prone to stack off very light. This man plays every single day, and continually makes mistakes.  Let's call him Mr. Regular. I didn't want him to go away, as I could easily win a big pot against him with a low flop, or a flopped set.  At this point I had $260 and Mr. Regular had ~$300.  The hijack also calls for $12, then the button goes all in for $49.  As I suspected, the original raiser moves in for $110.  One fold beside him, then after some hesitation, and Mr. Regular calls the $110.  Now, I really felt that this was an easy decision for me, if and only if this third player hadn't got involved.  I would have slid my $110 in the middle and hoped to win a race, preferably against the $110 stack.  When Mr. Regular called, I had to take pause.  I know he game very well, having played with him dozens and dozens of times, and I soon started to realize that yes he is indeed capable of just flat calling $12 in this spot with a monster pair, but his call of the $110 told me to discount the AA-QQ type hands and focus more on the medium type pairs, and of course your AK-AQ holdings.  This particular players puts lots of chips in the pot, but is the type of guy who doesn't want to shove his entire stack until he has a made hand.  Also, he was probably thinking that I would just go away, I was 1 of only 2 more to act behind him, and really, if either of us had strong hands, we would have 3 bet the first chance we had.  I don't usually take a long time to make poker decisions, but I must say this was a new spot for me.  I had not encountered this situation at any point in my poker playing time.  As I thought, I was getting the feeling that this was making Mr. Regular quite uncomfortable.  I had enough chips that I might just have him fold to me, but I was leaning towards him calling the extra $150 do to the size of the pot already.  Ultimately, I pushed my stack over the line as others at the table mumbled about the ridiculous pot being created.  After recieving no immeadiate call, I relaxed a bit.  Even if I was dominated by the other players, as long as I could take the second side pot I would come out ahead.  After asking a couple of times for clarification in regards to the pot sizes, Mr. Regular said something like "There is just too much in there, I guess I have no choice."  He hadn't called, but this seemed like a damning statement.  A couple of others at the table piped up as if he had already called, kind of annoying, as it seemed like this was the last push he needed to call.  I announced: "Gee guys, I hope I wanted that call," as I exposed my jacks.  The guy with $110 calls for help, showing his AQ off.  The $49 stack who I didn't know exposes AK off, and to complete the perfect storm, Mr. Regular flips over AK off as well.  A stunned silence followed, transitioning to significant discussion as the 6-10-6-3-3 board played out and I scooped the pot.  My stack went from $260 to ~$700 in the one hand.  All told, one of the most exciting hands I have ever been a part of.

The stakes were the same they always are, $1/$2 no limit with a $200 buy in.  As I have played in other casinos, I have come realize just how wild my local game is.  I wouldn't doubt that a number of players out there would have found themselves folding in this spot.  But relying on a heavy local knowledge helped me make the correct decision.  The action in this game borders on ridiculous as a $17 preflop raise can often lead to a 5 way flop.  I've seen a $75 preflop cold call with KJ off.  I watched a guy 4 bet shove for $350 with 86 suited, only to get called twice by AK and AK.  When he hit his 6 on the turn and scoooped for $900 it was just par for the course.  When I play anywhere else, be it Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary or the different games in Las Vegas, I have been painted as a maniac.  Unfortunately, I enjoy this role so much that I often get carried away with it.  I find it difficult to adjust to out of town games and unknown opponents because I am so used to the level of action in my local game.  Here in town, I feel that I have made a strong transition from being fairly nitty, to being a selective LAG type player.  This transition has been quite succesful as many of my opponents still view me as fairly tight and refuse to adjust to the way I now play.  It has proven both enjoyable and profitable as playing more hands can lead to more opportunities to be creative and generally is a more exciting style to play.  I enjoy being the guy on the draw once in a while as opposed to always sweat the straight or flush draw.  I'm in a great place right now with my game, and I hope to continue playing focussed, solid poker as the profits pile up.  Until next time.