Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Victory is Mine!

Ahh, the Christmas season is upon us. And as much as I love the stress of it all, there are some things I don't really look forward to. One of those things is my wife's office party. Sometimes it's bad enough going to my own. Most of the time they're just so awkward. You hang around with people you work with and try to make small talk. It's still a work function, so you can't really relax. You put in your hour or so and then get out of there. With my wife's, you get the added bonus of not really knowing anybody. Getting reintroduced to people you somewhat recognize, having to listen to a little small talk, trying to be on your best behavior so not everybody will know Katie's husband is a complete idiot. Like I said, just not my idea of a good time.

This year was different, though. They scheduled a bunch of activities; one of which was a poker tournament. Realizing I could save myself lots of small talk and awkwardness, I signed up for the poker tournament. So we show up and after some walking around to tour the place the party was at, we get in line to get some food. Pleasantries, introductions, and other mind numbing social niceties went on until the poker tournament started. And then it was all down to business.
There were only 16 of us, including an 11 year old kid and one guy who was asking a lot of questions about how to play and what hands beat what. All in all, I liked my chances. Up for grabs were prizes for the top 3. 3rd place was a $25 American Express gift card, 2nd place was a nice hoodie with the logo of the company, and 1st place was a portable fire pit. As we got started, there were 2 tables of 8. Each table was to play down to 4 and then combine. From there, we'd play until there was a winner.

For the first 30 or so hands, I didn't see a single playable hand. In fact, I think I saw one face card and one ace. I thought about playing the ace-five offsuit because I was so desperate to see some action. With a raise and a re-raise to me, though, I thought better of it and let the hand go. A few hands later I picked up pocket queens in early position. I threw a raise out, and despite not having played a single hand up to this point, I got 3 callers. The flop came down Q-x-x rainbow. I had top set. A powerful hand. I bet a smallish amount and got 2 callers to the turn. My bet on the turn saw everyone fold. My first pot! And it was my last for a while. Slowly people started being eliminated and my chip stack was average at best. When we combined tables, I was below average. I was going to need to make a move fast if I was to survive. When I looked down at AK suited, I knew it was my time. I threw a normal preflop raise out and got two callers. One was the 11 year old. The flop came down and was a queen high rainbow - no help. I figured there was enough in the pot, that I would just as soon take it down. So I pushed all in and prayed. The first guy to act after me had a few less chips than me, but he wasted no time in calling. The ll year old though for a second and called me as well. I knew I was dead. The first guy turned up ... A-6 ? No pair, ace high. I actually had this guy beat. The 11 year old turned up his Q-9, though, so I had two chances to catch a king, an ace, or running straight cards. The turn was a blank, so I had 1 more chance to catch any of the 2 remaining aces or three remaining kings. For you math whizzes out there, I was about a 8.4-1 underdog. Lo and behold, though, the river came the beautiful king of hearts and I was back in it.

From there, I started getting cards all over the place. I started being able to afford to see cheap flops with no real hand. Out of the big blind, I looked down at 6-8 offsuit. There were 2 callers and I checked my option. The flop came down j - 8 -6. The first guy checked, the 11 year old pushed all in, and I somewhat apologetically called his bet. The first guy got out of the way and 11 year old showed j - 7. The turn and river were no help and he was out in 5th. When the short stack finally made a stand, his small pocket pair came up short and we were down to 3. I had made the money (so to speak). Here is a picture of the final 3 and the dealer. Notice everybody is watching the guys hands to see how much he is going to bet. I'm watching his eyes to see what he was thinking.
Eventually the lady to my right and I got heads up. She was the reigning CompHealth poker champion, having won the 40 person United Way tournament they had earlier this year. She played really well, and I was nervous. She had mentioned wanting the second place prize, so I made a deal with her. We would agree that I would take the fire pit and she would take the hoodie. We could still play it out for the winner, but at least we'd each get the prize we wanted. She agreed. I played really aggressively heads up and had taken a slight chip lead when I looked down at A-K of spades. I was first to act, and I decided to just call the big blind. I was going to be sneaky. She raised the pot a really small amount. It seemed like a pretty weak bet to me, so I raised her about 3 times the size of her bet. She pushed all in on me, and I figured she had a hand like A-Q or maybe pocket tens. I called her bet and she turned up pocket queens. I was in trouble. The flop was no help. The turn was a blank, and once again I found myself looking for one of 6 cards. (about an 8-1 underdog). When a king fell on the river, I let out an involuntary cheer. Even though my win included knocking an 11 year old out of the tournament and I had to suck out to get there, it still felt good!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Life in a band

Last night was the gig. When I say gig, you may be imaging people selling tickets, people dancing, people standing around, etc. However, you would be wrong. Our gig last night was to a bunch of people busy playing blackjack, craps, and poker for pretend money. A song would end and our wives (husband for Jody) and girlfriends would clap. It kind of made me laugh. Every gig I've ever played but one has been to an audience of crickets. (not that I've played a lot or anything, but I'll bet I've played a dozen or so in different bands) It was perfect.

It always happens like this: you finally get a bunch of people showing up (somewhat) regularly to practice and get some songs down. 1 person in the band brings up an opportunity to do a show. You agree on it, because it's usually a ways off and you figure you can work out any kinks between now and then. You're usually practicing an hour or two a week for a couple of months. Then, about 2 weeks before the show you start gearing up. Your practices are between 2 and 3 hours and twice as often. Maybe the night before you do one final practice to go through your set. Then comes the day of the show. You get off work early and meet up at the drummers house (your equipment is almost always at the drummers house: his equipment is a lot more difficult to move). You spend a half an hour loading heavy awkward equipment into vehicles. Then you head over to the show. You get there hours early. You take another half an hour to drag the equipment out of the car and put it on stage. Then you take the next 45 minutes setting the equipment up and trying to get the volumes right on everything. Maybe you go through a song or two to test the levels and warm up. And then you wait. Slowly people start filing in and eventually it's your time to go on. You get up there, a ball of nerves, but once that first note hits you go into a zone. And before you know it, the show is over. People file out. Then you spend the next 45 minutes taking your equipment down and putting back in the vehicles. Then it's back over to the drummers to put all the equipment back.

For your hour long show (if you're lucky), you have probably spent 40 hours getting everything prepared. And if by chance you are in competition with roulette for play money, then God help you! :) You may be reading this wondering 'What a pain in the ass! Why bother?' Myself, I'm in it for the chicks...not. Think about it, though: How much do you have to LOVE something to go to these lengths and keep doing it? It's one of the most rewarding things in my life. I've spent thousands of hours playing music in my life. It's part of my self image. I'm a musician.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Patterns - A novel

As an alcoholic I do things over and over again by definition. Taking a drink and waking up in a different state... causing dumb arguments with my wife and others.... I could increase the list ad infinitum. There are 2 things going on in my life today that are glaring examples of this. The first is something that has been happening in one form or another in my life for as far back as I can remember. I don't get along well with others. That's not to say that I don't get along with ANYONE. It's usually just 1 person. And it's usually a person I work with. At different times in my life since I started working at 15, there is usually 1 person that I seem incapable of getting along peacefully with. It's usually a person that I may be able to be friends with in different circumstances.

Right now, I'm causing myself a lot of grief because I can't seem to let go of resentment towards a person I work with. Or to put it another way, I'd love about 15 minutes alone in a room with this person with impunity. This is a person that manages to come in 30 minutes late, take an hour and 15 minute lunch, and can still manage to throw in 3 or 4 20 minute breaks in one 8 hour period. So when this person today interrupted my work to add a few hours worth of work for me that they didn't want to do I lost my cool. The underlying character defect that jumps out at me is this: I don't deal with frustration straight away. When something is bothering me I just sort of ignore it. Until, that is, I snap. When that happens I've been known to put my job and safety in jeopardy. As a consequence I'm known as a very angry person. Probably because I have years of this behavior stored up. If the average person is at a 1 or a 2 on the frustration chart at any given time, I'm at a 7 or 8. It takes very little to put me up over the 10 mark. And then I blow up. And although this causes a lot of confrontations, I am not a confrontational person at my core. I am a fearful person. I avoid confrontation. The funny thing is that if I was more assertive, I could avoid 90% of the confrontations I get into. It's my very cowardice that causes me to get into situations I fear. What do I fear? Uncomfortable situations in general. That you won't like me. Again, though, I could avoid most of these if I was more assertive.

So anyways, the other situation is one that goes back a few years. I think I've written about how I caught my mom cheating on my step-dad. It was really traumatic and the decisions I made in the aftermath have caused my life to go in a completely different direction than it might have. About 4 years ago my mom and dad started dating again. (note: when I say dating, I mean sleeping together and practically living together. This is the definition of 'dating' in my family) It was really weird. I know most other people are used to seeing both of their parents living under one roof, but I definitely wasn't. When that relationship sort of fizzled again, I was almost relieved. When my mom mentioned that she was seeing the guy that she cheated on my step dad with, though, it wasn't just weird. This is the same guy that helped to create so much pain in my family 10 years ago. To say nothing of the pain that it caused his family; because he was (and is still) married with children too. When my mom told me she was seeing this guy again, she told me he was married still. I think she told me as a way to prove that nothing serious was going on between them. It did just the opposite. I was thinking 'Mom, what the hell? Did you not learn 10 years ago?' She even arranged for this guy to show up when my mom and I were out doing some Christmas shopping. I could ignore it until this guy was shaking my hand, a sheepish look on his face.

So where am I going with all this? I'm talking about patterns here. And to be more specific MY patterns. I'm tired of getting into the same fight over and over with people. To stop doing that, I need to change my pattern of not dealing with things. That is going to mean that I will be uncomfortable a lot. I think I am willing to accept that if it means I will avoid these dumb situations. I came to this conclusion while talking to my mom on the phone today. I decided to ask my mom about this guy she is seeing. I told her how it is bringing back a lot of painful memories and feelings for me. I also told her that if she planned on continuing to see this guy and ultimately wanted acceptance from my sister and I, she was facing an uphill battle. When the conversation ended, I felt strangely exhilarated. Like I was in uncharted territory. I hope this place is somewhere I get to know very well.