November 29, 2006

Fantasy girls

The final Monday $660 UPC tourney at Binion’s didn’t go so well. The loose aggressive player on my left, Scott Carpenter, instacalled 90% of my opening raises and played back at me every hand. Finally, with Ace-King offsuit, I hit a flop of Ace-Seven-Trey and check-raised him. He had flopped a set of Sevens and I was out early.

That left me free to go back to the Luxor, where I planned to have dinner at the bar at Fusia until I walked past the steakhouse bar and saw three gorgeous creatures dressed in matching denim outfits. I thought they might be performing in the lounge there but it turned out they were Fantasy girls giving out tickets to the new early show on Tuesdays. I bought a bottle of the 2002 Duckhorn Estate Cab and shared it with the girls, then scored VIP tickets for that evening’s show. It’s the best topless show in town, especially when you’ve been partying with Delicia (second from the left) and Tracey (not shown, but the voice on the web site).

With Kirkland reporting 17 and snowy I decided to stay in town a few more days. I moved over to the Palms, largely because I like the gym there (oh yes, I’m a workout dog now). Dinner last night was at the bar at N9ne, one of my favorite places to dine solo. I wasn’t solo for long as a stunning black girl sat down next to me fiddling with her Blackberry and drinking fru-fru girlie drinks. She was waiting for her girlfriend to join her, then they were going to Pure around midnight. She invited me to join them but I’m not really into the club scene so I just asked if she had a web site. She didn’t but she gave me her email and Myspace address. Ha. Fool me once…

November 27, 2006

Stone Tablet

I played the Ultimate Poker Challenge $340 on Saturday but got cold decked early with KK v. AA. They’re changing the schedule to Fri-Sat-Sun instead of Sat-Sun-Mon and moving the $660 event to Saturday. Both changes seem good to me. My dating counselor Michael Craig took fifth place for $20k+ in the Full Tilt $350k guarantee yesterday – good job! I got back too late to sweat him from dinner at Delmonico with a gambling buddy, his wife, and Carmen (yes, I know she’s hot, no need to post a comment). Delmonico used to be one of my favorite haunts but I rarely stay at the Venetian any more so it had been years. I was happy to see they still had the Foie Gras of the Day. I pointed it out to Carmen and she asked, “What’s Foie Gras of the Day?” I said, “It’s the Foie Gras du jour.” I ordered that and a filet mignon, hold the slab of butter. Both dishes were perfect. We started with a 1999 Veuve Cliquot Rosé Champagne and moved on to the 1997 L’Ermita Priorat, which was drinking spectacularly.

Scott Adams does a serious blog entry every Sunday and yesterday he wrote about free will:

Unfortunately, I can’t convince most people that free will doesn’t exist. I have
tried arguing that the laws of physics clearly apply to brains, and brains cause
your actions. That seems so obvious to me that belaboring it with additional
evidence would be overkill.

Unfortunately it’s not obvious. The laws of physics are models we use to try to understand the way things work, and different models are needed for different corners of the universe. Believing that the laws of physics as we understand them are engraved on a stone tablet is no more scientific than believing in Creationism. One model that works very well for living in society is that by and large people have control of, and are responsible for, their behavior. That is free will. While there may be a deterministic process that produces human behavior given some initial state, unless and until that state can be measured and the resultant behavior predicted, determinism is simply not a useful theory. Given the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, it seems unlikely such a precise measurement could ever take place.

More to the point, my beliefs are actually a major source of input to any such deterministic mechanism. That why religions have such a major effect on the world, for good or evil. If you believe people can do anything of value with their lives, evangelizing for determinism doesn’t seem like a good strategy for causing that to happen. If it were me, I’d instead write books illustrating the degree to which we get surreptitiously programmed and how to counteract that and live life to the fullest.

November 26, 2006

Savvy Guy

Benjie and twin brother Mark sprung for the hottest restaurant in town, Guy Savoy (It’s spelled “Guy Savoy,” but it’s pronounced “luxury yacht.) for dinner last night, along with their buddy Nick. I give it mixed reviews. The food itself was superb and the room comfortable. The service, however, was just plain old Vegas-inconsistent. Immediately on being seated, a farm-fresh blonde server offered us a variety of Champagnes by the glass. We decided to look at the menu first but waited several minutes before they were offered. When they came, no amount of preparation could eliminate the sticker shock. The appetizers started in the $40 range and the main courses were around $75 or more. I settled on a $68 bowl of soup made from artichokes and black truffles. It was truly sublime. For the main course I had a pan-roasted mix of three game birds. It was interesting but didn’t blow me away.

At the boys’ request, I ordered the wine, a nice Montrachet to start and then the 1989 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse, one of my favorite second-tier Bordeaux. The friendly sommelier, who remembered me from Craftsteak, decanted the Pichon and when I tasted it I put on my best poker face and said, “You guys wouldn’t like this.” Unfortunately my bluff got called and the wine was gone all too quickly.

During the appetizer a poised redhead planted herself at the tiny bar outside the restaurant and began chattering nonstop at the bartender, all the while glancing and smiling in our direction every minute or two. We were wondering what her deal was. I ventured, “She is probably no innocent to the pleasures of the flesh.” Nick, in his southern drawl, said, “You’re a pretty savvy guy.” So to satisfy my curiosity I got up and moseyed over to the bar, eyeing the racks full of empty Champagne glasses at the back and waiting for a break in her monologue. It never happened, so I returned to the table.

As a rule I don’t eat dessert but they had a cheese cart so I ordered a selection of sheep’s-milk cheeses, my favorite, along with a Jacobo Poli grappa. Nick asked, “Would I like that?” “No,” I said. “I’ll have one o’ them too,” Nick said, obviously giving me no respect after my comment on the Pichon. It was fun watching him screw up his face while drinking it, whooping it up and shouting, “It goes down real smooth, like paint thinner.” The couple at the next table, who were likely celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary with a $1500 meal, raised horrified eyebrows in our direction. “You’ll have to forgive my friend,” I said. “He’s just off the boat from Alamaba.” Then a debate ensued about whether it was physically possible to sail from Alamaba to Las Vegas, or at least to Lake Mead. I decided not to bet against it.

On the way out Nick, who has the skin of an elephant and balls the size of Alabama, successfully chatted up the redhead and got her name. “Did you get her web site?” I asked, about to warn him about the rash of phony Myspace addresses going around. “Nope,” he reported proudly, “But I gave her my number!” That never works for me. He must be a savvy guy.

November 25, 2006

Candy and her sisters

As winter storm warnings in Seattle turn my Weather Channel tray icon red, I’m camped out in my usual haunts in Las Vegas enjoying the sunshine and 2002 Duckhorn Cabernet. First thing I did was call Perry, who is going through a bit of a divorce, and invite him to dinner at the Luxor Steakhouse. Moments later he got a call from EZ, who hooked us up with second-row seats to Carrot Top, coincidentally in the same hotel. I had seen his act before and thought it was hilarious; the second time around I honestly didn’t remember a single joke from the first time, which either speaks to Carrot Top’s originality or the Duckhorn Cabernet’s alcohol content.

I spent Thanksgiving at Steve and Martha’s place with their sons and their smart and beautiful girlfriends. The younger son, Jonathan, was dating a sorority girl named Candy who, Steve informed me, was going to bring her sisters. Unfortunately Michael Craig called them and told them what a great guy I was and all of a sudden the sisters were spending Thanksgiving with their grandmother. Indefatigable, I brought a couple bottles of the 1995 Ch. Lynch-Bages from my cellar and we quaffed it as my fellow trenchermen and I devoured Martha’s barbecued turkey. After dinner we played some charades (hardest charade: Charlotte’s Web, evilly supplied for my humiliation by Martha) as we sat by the fire and burned drying racks and used charades clues.

Benjie and his entourage are in town so if I’m out of the UPC tournament early I’ll have dinner with them tonight.

November 22, 2006

Politics, sausages, and writing

November is Seattle’s worst month, but even at that there’s a comforting quality to the gray blanket of low clouds, the cool rain dripping daily from evergreen needles and thatched roofs, the lazy sunrise and reassuring peek of setting sun well before dinnertime. I remember driving around in the dark, wipers on high but still insufficient to keep the windshield dry, peering out into the night, headlamps making crystal beads out of the fat droplets. This is the time of year to light the fireplace, snuggle on the sofa with tea and blankets, wear sweaters and slippers and dig out the Netflix.

I reluctantly started the much-hated non-Sorkin season seven of West Wing and was surprised at how much I liked it. Clever writing had given way to clever plot lines and it felt more like 24 than West Wing but I immediately ordered the rest of the disks. I also watched The Lady Eve, one of Paul Phillips’s recommendations. An old Preston Sturges con-artist romantic comedy with Henry Fonda, I’m surprised I never saw it before. I should order all the rest of Sturges’s films – talk about clever writing!

With nothing on the rotisserie until Thanksgiving Day I called Mike Craig and asked if this would be a good time to fly down to Phoenix and work on our poker book (second poker book, actually – I wrote one of the chapters in the upcoming Full Tilt Strategy Guide – Tournament Edition) and fix me up with the four hot chicks he keeps threatening on me. It was, so I booked a flight and got a suite at the Westin Kierland. Mike offered me a vacant condo but I wanted a place with a gym so I could continue my workout regimen uninterrupted. Mike is one of those rare writers who actually gets work done, which is why I twisted his arm to collaborate on this book with me. Originally I was just going to publish a collection of my blog entries but as we strategize and synergize it looks like there will be a ton of new material. I’m excited.

I won’t go too much into the inner workings of politics, sausage-making, or writing a book, but suffice it to say that we’re making progress despite taking plenty of time to hang out with Mike’s family, smoke cigars out by the fire, and eat at each of the new Mastro’s restaurants with a different one of his yenta selections for me each night. We also got to see Arnie the Compmeister, whose wife and daughter it turned out the Craigs actually knew already. I’ve been drinking the 2004 Twenty Bench Cabernet by the glass – 2004 continues to be a very promising year for Napa, perhaps as good as 2002. I plan to fly back to Seattle on Thursday, in time for turkey at the Saltas, with a stack of Myspace addresses burning a hole in my pocket.

November 19, 2006

Geek Girls

I was somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the radio began to lose hold of NPR. I felt a little lightheaded and then suddenly the radio spectrum was filled with country music and Christian stations like a sky full of giant bats. I put aside the fear and loathing and somehow made it back to Caesars Palace to have dinner with Matt Maroon at Bradley Ogden, where I planned to use my once-a-year $400 birthday food comp from Harrah’s. Unfortunately Matt had a plumbing emergency in Akron and had to change his flight, so I called Alan, who was happy to be pressed into service at the last minute to dine at one of his favorite restaurants.

While I waited for Alan to arrive I hung out in Caesars’ Seven Stars Lounge, the über-VIP room open only to those who gamble at least a million dollars a year with Harrah’s. While the room has plush chairs and sofas, original art, and complimentary food and drink, the real star of Seven Stars is Elisabeth, the 23-year-old farm-fresh blonde butler. In addition to being the friendliest person in Las Vegas and very good at what she does, Elisabeth (whose mother put the “s” in her name so she would never be called “Lizzie”) wants to be a scientist some day. Geek girls are my bag but I’d have to take a number with Elisabeth, who’s happily married with a baby, so I content myself with sipping 2002 Joseph Phelps Cabernet, munching on lamb chops, and engaging in geek chat every few minutes when she comes by.

Alan arrived and joined me for the Phelps, which unfortunately had moved to the inferior 2003 vintage, while showing me photographs of cats on his cell phone. It was time for our reservation so we tore ourselves away from the lounge and Elisabeth and segued to Bradley Ogden. We enjoyed squash soup and frogs legs to start, then Alan had the monkfish while I had the pork tenderloin. They had the 2002 Casa Dalla Valle so I introduced Alan to it. After dinner we had a few comp dollars left so we had a couple glasses of the Glen Goyne 17 year single-malt Scotch. The Maroon arrived and we caught up awhile before I retired in anticipation of an early flight to Reno in the morning.

I hate early flights but I wanted to get into Reno in time to get some gambling in and then hang out with my two buddies from New Orleans, John and Gabe, now hosts at Harrah’s Reno. I rented a Mazda 6 from Hertz and pulled it into Harrah’s, where they gave me the Imperial Suite on the key-access top floor. Now getting the Imperial Suite at Harrah’s Reno is a little like getting the Honeymoon Suite at the Days Inn but it was worth it for the reactions from the Chinese women every time I got in the elevator: “Ooh, you top floor! You have good room! You play lots!”

I played lots and then twisted John and Gabe’s arms into joining me for dinner at Harrah’s excellent steakhouse. The waiter suggested a seafood platter to begin and who were we to argue? We drank a nice 2002 California Pinot Noir to start, then went to the 2002 Ch. Pichon-Longueville Bordeaux. I ordered the buffalo topped with thin slices of foie gras and guzzled the Bordeaux to wash away visions of Indian massacres and force-fed geese.

Gabe had a friend who was opening a new restaurant that evening so we took a limo over and discovered the place was crawling with gorgeous young girls, apparently dancers from a nearby men’s club who had been invited to seed the crowd for the group of investors they were entertaining. Two of them glommed onto us right away, getting cozy and chatting us up briefly before inviting me to take them gambling, which basically sounded like inviting me to give them money for nothing, so I politely declined. They asked us to come by the club later and Gabe raved about it so we went over to the FQ Men’s Club right behind Harrah’s, where we had started.

I don’t go to many strip clubs but this was one of the nicest I’d been to. It was uncrowded and full of very pretty girls, some as young as 18 per local ordinance. One very cute, petite blonde around 19, Dawn, approached me and said she’d seen me at the restaurant but didn’t want to intrude. “Intrude away,” I said, and she chatted me up awhile. She had a perkilicious body despite the mandatory Chrysler logo all the strippers seem to have on their lower back. I discovered she was a geek girl and bought a couple lap dances from her at $20 a pop. She kept telling me how klutzy she was in the huge platform shoes she was wearing and proved it by tripping and falling into my lap a few times. I love geek girls.

I paid Dawn for two dances plus one more in advance and she asked for my card. I gave it to her and she wrote down her information on a second card. I guess they don’t give phone numbers any more, just email and Myspace. Gabe got rip-roaring drunk on Sapphire and tonic and when he entered his bellicose phase, unwisely bloviating and gesturing at a table of young Latinos, I ushered him out and implored him to take a cab home. I hung around a few more minutes waiting for Dawn to finish with the Latinos but a stunning mocha 18-year-old named Natasha came up to me and asked if she could dance for me. I heartily assented and even at 3 a.m. it was hard to ignore her charms. We didn’t connect on a geek level like Dawn, though, so I paid her for the one dance, waited a few more minutes in vain for Dawn, then left for the Imperial Suite solo.

I decided to look up Dawn’s Myspace profile to see if there was a note to text her if you wanted her to come over after work but the name she gave me did not exist. The phony phone number of the 20th century has given way, with the dawning of the new millennium, to the phony Myspace. I got to bed around four.

November 18, 2006

Bitch and scratch

Steve and I jetted down to Vegas for a nice long weekend at the Wynn, which was kind enough to send me a nice birthday offer. The main problem with getting complimentary room, food, and beverage at the Wynn is picking which restaurants to dine at because there isn't time to do them all. We settled on my favorite, SW, for birthday night and had the 2003 Darioush Cabernet after the mandatory birthday Champagne (I prefer Rosé, which is drier and nuttier than the regular). We were joined by my gambling buddy Benjie and his friend. What with it being my birthday and all they gave us the best table in the house, outside on the rail by the Lake of Dreams. Although the 2003 Darioush is not as good as the 2002, it made for great sipping while we ate filet mignon and watched the giant frog sing “Low Rider.”

Saturday night was a VIP drawing, which I didn’t win, and then Steve and I popped into Country Club to see if my buddy Jodie, the sommelier there who used to be our favorite waitress at Craftsteak, could seat us on the terrace even though the place was booked for a private party. She came through for us and we had more pink Champagne and the 2002 Cliff Lede “Poetry” Cabernet from the Stag’s Leap district, another of my favorites.

Sunday Benjie returned the dinner favor at Charlie Palmer’s at the Four Seasons, which is actually part of Mandalay Bay with a separate entrance. That made the fourth steakhouse in a row including Jak’s on Thursday and we saw no reason to deviate from the pink-Champagne-Cabernet plan. This time we tried the 2002 Casa Dalla Valle. I had a feeling that 2002 would be a good year for this exceptionally dry Cabernet and the reviews were universally rave. The fruitiness of the vintage complimented the great structure of Dalla Valle perfectly.

Our final night we had the wonderful tasting menu at Okada, accompanied by “Divine Droplets” sake. Sabrina the teenage sommelier, usually a highlight of the Okada dining experience, unfortunately had the night off. I have to speak to someone about eliminating her nights off. With the departure of Takashi Yagihashi, Okada has two new chefs. Masa Ishizawa is the one whose name is being trumpeted but insiders told Lion Tales that the genius is a young man named Hiro. He has made the tasting menu even better than it was originally, and after the sixth compliment we threw our waitress Hiro-san came out to greet us. We bowed at his feet a few times, chanting “not worthy,” before reluctantly leaving the beautiful room.

Steve and I took a couple cigars out on the show terrace to enjoy our last night in town together. He jetted off in the morning but I drove the Mercury Moron I rented from Hertz all the way to San Diego to catch the Indigo Girls concert with my buddy Alan. They were playing in an unimpressive conference room at Pala casino, but the woman tending the portable bar was anything but unimpressive. She made us a pair of Bloody Marys from scratch, a rarity in any bar let alone a concert venue. Alan had scored front-row seats so we had a great view of Amy and Emily and of opening act Bitch. House security protected us from the screaming crowd of unruly lesbians until the very end, when encore “Galileo” prompted most of the audience to crush towards the stage. We escaped safely and had a nice chat with Bitch on the way out. I tried to get her name but all she would tell me was Bitch. I think she kind of liked me though. I'll probably email her for a coffee date.

After the show we dined in the Oak Room. There are no alcohol comps in California but we shelled out $110 for the 2002 B.V. George Latour, which I correctly figured wouldn’t have as much acid as some vintages. It was a little light bodied for Alan but I enjoyed it. In the morning I drove the Mercury Moron back to Vegas.

November 10, 2006

Unremarkable milestone

Steve and I drove through a break in our usual November torrential rains, although not a break in the traffic, to Issaquah for opening night of Bye Bye Birdie at the Village Theatre. It’s a fun if lightweight show that I remember from our high-school production (I didn’t act in that one, although I did play Big Julie in Guys and Dolls). We traditionally meet beforehand at Jak’s for the best steak in Issaquah. Jak’s doesn’t take reservations and what with the traffic and all we got there a bit later than usual and were quoted an hour’s wait. Fortunately they got us seated in half that time and we polished off two filet mignons along with most of a bottle of 2002 Darioush Cabernet in time to arrive at the theater seconds before the curtain.

As usual the cast, costumes, scenery and music were top-notch, as expected from one of the top regional theaters in the world. After the show I hit the cast party, congratulating two of the regulars who really do a tremendous job and flirting with a few of the starlets. Visions of Citizen Kane flickered across my mind’s eye as I imagined myself taking an interest in one fetching brunette’s career but I didn’t want to end up alone in a castle with a lot of crates so I just smiled and congratulated her.

I’m 47 today, kind of an unremarkable milestone, but I informed the crew of the US Airways flight to Vegas that everyone had to be nice to me today. They brought my Diet Coke in a clean plastic cup. Steve and I are painting the town for my birthday weekend starting with dinner at SW tonight. He’s a spontaneous kind of guy who loves to hop on a plane at the last minute so we’re planning a memorable Vegas vacation.

I recovered from my unlucky streak in Moola and crossed the 50-cent mark for the first time before taking a bad beat and retreating to 47 cents. Poker? What’s that?

November 8, 2006

Well, we got what we asked for

In giving control of the House and possibly the Senate to the Democrats in yesterday’s election, America sent an emphatic message to Washington that the Republican Government had gone far away from the “American values” they claimed they stood for. While several self-destructed with scandals of their own making, even many of the Republicans who hadn’t yet been caught taking bribes or molesting boys were ousted by fresh political faces, leaving no doubt that Americans were ready for a change. We got what we asked for: now I hope the Democrats will actually end the war and restore civil liberties. This is a free country and it should be legal to sin.

While Bush’s private Vietnam, Iraq, was certainly a lightning rod for the voters’ thunderous discontent, talking to my few Republican friends revealed that they too were disturbed by the party’s about-face from their traditional stance of fiscal conservatism and social libertarianism. Becoming a party of religionist socialist warmongers finally lost them their critical mass of support. With the Republicans spending our children’s inheritance on a severely unpopular war, suddenly there was no reason to fear the Democrats and their penchant for spending. If we’re going to spend billions, better on health care than bombs.

Given the circles I travel in, it’s easy for me to see reaction to the online gambling legislation as one reason for the shift in the political winds. It was a pleasure to see Leach, who sponsored the bill, thrown out, and tinglingly exciting to see the first numbers showing Kyl losing, although he closed to win it. Politicians are rightly frightened of the ability of the Internet to take whole economies out of their reach, and they saw gambling (at least the kind without the lobbying money of horse racing and lotteries) as low-hanging fruit to pluck back under their control. The trouble is, Americans do not wish to be told what they can and cannot do in their own homes and, beyond that, control of the Internet is to a large degree technically impossible. It will be an uphill battle to reverse this legislation now that it has been sneaked in, but with rumors of MGM-Mirage’s interest in buying Party Gaming, the lobbying dollars may soon be climbing Capitol Hill.

A reader emailed me about domestic Bordeaux blends. Last night my old friend Tony and I shared a bottle of 1986 Beringer Private Reserve, smooth and elegant. Drinking young wines day in and day out, it takes a moment to get used to the absence of tannins but we enjoyed it with a pair of filet mignons at Purple Café. It had just a hint of acid, less than the BV George Latour, and was deliciously balanced. I had been saving it because I had two bottles of it, which made it good to serve at a dinner party, but given my current wifelessness and therefore no dinner parties in sight, I figured at 20 years old it was ready to drink. And I have one more bottle.

I took some bad beats on Moola but with optimal bankroll management I’m only down to 17 cents and can easily rebuild. I should cash out for $10 million pretty soon.

November 7, 2006

Moola moola

OK, forget about Chuzzle. My new goal is to win $10 million playing Moola. It’s the latest addition to the non-illegal non-gambling skill game racket, with the twist that you don’t actually deposit any money but instead get paid for watching ads at the rate of about 10 cents/hr. It’s by invitation only right now, but they’re not difficult to come by. Once you find someone to invite you in, they start you off with a penny. All you have to do is double it 30 times and you can cash out for $10,737,418.24. They offer a choice of skill games including Tiltboys’ specialty Roshambo. I quickly analyzed the other two games with optimal game theory and came to the conclusion that in a little over 10,000 hours I could win the top prize. Naturally, I plan to spend the next five years accomplishing that goal, then cash out and put it with the rest. I’m already up to 24 cents.

Michael Craig is doing his best to mess up my love life, identifying cute girls as prospective mates for me and then using his unique wit and charm to send them running in the opposite direction screaming. Fortunately, I’ve punished him by getting him to agree to co-author the Lion Tales book with me. I just shipped him off several hundred pages, which ought to keep him out of my private-parts life awhile.

If you’re still getting these by email, check out Google Reader, a super easy RSS aggregator. I use Google Home Page and have the reader right on the front. It’s way better than the super slow, buggy Newsgator I had been using.

It’s minutes until the election returns come in so I have the TV on, a rarity for me when planes aren’t crashing into buildings. If you haven’t voted and the polls are still open, go and throw the lying cheating bastards out.

November 6, 2006

Twenty-Four Seven

I finished watching season two of 24 on DVD, and despite some outrageous plot devices and a few technical slip-ups (“that uses Huffman encoding so you should be able to use it anywhere”) I liked it a lot. At the end of every episode I laugh out loud at how they manage to create a cliffhanger every hour, on the hour.

It may just be that Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is the perfect embodiment of some of my most important values: freedom, loyalty, and progress. Elisha Cuthbert, who plays a blonde version of my first wife, doesn’t hurt either, and the constant Kafkaesque shifts in the characters’ realities make for gripping, if somewhat far-fetched, spy drama. The final season of West Wing just came out on DVD, so I’ll watch that, intermixed with Paul Phillips’s movie recommendations, before getting season three of 24.

Being a guy who bleeds Microsoft blue, I faithfully downloaded Internet Explorer 7 when notified it was available by Windows Update. I was excited to try out the tabbed browsing that users of alternative browsers are always crowing about. I still can’t see much advantage to it other than speed, and the implementation by Microsoft has a couple very poor design decisions. Now I need to train myself to close tabs in two different ways: the X on the tab for all but the last one, and the X on the window to close the browser itself if I am done with the last tab. It’s just silly for there to be no X on the last tab; it should bring you back to a blank page or the home page as you opt.

The second problem is there doesn’t seem to be any way to get all new pages to display in a tab by default. Why on earth would you want it do default to a whole new browser window once you have these tabs? And if you use the nifty little arrow on the Favorites menu to open a new tab, it takes three clicks (plus the click to drop down the favorites menu) to actually see the new page! As Bill used to whine in design-review meetings, “Doesn’t anybody actually try to use this thing?” I guess it’s unreasonable to expect such a megacorporation to maintain what Charles Simonyi used to call “the craftsman’s fine hand” but come on! This is the flagship product! Guys, just call me any time and I’ll make your design decisions for you at only double my usual rate.

I found and plugged a leak in my Chuzzle game and I am now very close to even on the non-illegal Skilljam non-gambling site, non-illegal because you gamble with Chuzzles rather than cards I guess. Look for me at the final table of the World Series of Chuzzle. Oh yeah. I guarantee a win.

November 5, 2006

Second Life

I read an article about the Australian government deciding to tax money made on virtual-reality sites such as Second Life. I hadn’t played a dungeon game since Zork so I signed up, created a character, and went over to Help Island to try out the basics. I had a great time flying around all over the place. Now when I was a kid my parents were always trying to get me to go outside and play but in reality I only left the house on Wednesdays to ride my bike to Countryside Pharmacy and buy the new shipment of comic books. If Second Life had existed I doubt I would ever have left the house.

Players in Second Life can build anything they are willing to put the time and effort into. There is an economy of “Linden Dollars,” which can be used for any mutually acceptable transaction among players, or purchased with real dollars. In a few minutes of wandering around I found a bowling alley, a gallery of erotic art, and a casino, in which anyone could get a job as a security guard or dancer for L10/hr. I searched around for a poker game but haven’t yet found it.

I asked a few of my friends if they had accounts in Second Life. Matt Maroon said it best when he laughed, “Then I’d never get anything done at all.” Bill Gates, for whom I used to work, drove a diesel Mercedes with no radio. The reason for the diesel was a plea bargain with the traffic judge after a ridiculous number of speeding tickets. The reason for no radio was the same reason he never watched TV: in his words, “There are too many interesting things on.” Second Life seems overwhelming in its ability to provide endless interesting things. It’s like the old Richie Rich comic where every month he would wander around some wing or other of his mansion and find a cool room he’d never been in before.

I don’t think I’ll spend much time in Second Life. I’ll be 47 this week and, as Thoreau said on his death bed when asked if he expected an afterlife, “One life at a time.” But as the megatrend moves the economy from information, which is approaching free, to entertainment, which requires human creative effort, it seems pretty clear that virtual reality is here to stay. Once they get this thing hooked up to a holodeck it could even end up putting an end to the oldest profession.

November 4, 2006

World Poker Tour

If there was anyone who still believed World Poker Tour Enterprises boss Steve Lipscomb when he said the rights-grabbing release players are required to sign was nothing to worry about and simply there to “protect against frivolous lawsuits,” take a look at the new WTPE Academy. In what’s certain to spark a new round of lawsuits, WPTE has decided to sell the footage taken at WPT tournaments, including hole-card information from hands never shown on television, to people who want to learn how to beat the players who signed those “standard” releases. When I first went to the site, I ironically saw a photo of Andy Bloch, one of the players suing WPTE over the release and other issues. Good move, Steve.

I filled out my mail-in ballot yesterday, voting straight Democratic as promised. It was easy to vote for my friend Ross Hunter for State Representative, and Jay Inslee for Congress, one of the few who voted against the Internet gambling ban. I was going to vote for Rodney Tom for State Senator simply because his opponent waged a negative and sneaky campaign including push-polling, but I had to hold my nose to vote for Maria Cantwell over the Libertarian candidate I would normally have picked. This is a time of crisis and the reality is a vote for a third party is a vote for the Republicans.

I achieved the ranking of Jam Master in Chuzzle on SkillJam, meaning I only get matched up against really good players now, making it kind of a bad bet to play for cash. I may have to take up Bejeweled.

November 3, 2006

Coda to the wine-shipping story

After learning that shipping two bottles of wine to myself from Las Vegas to Seattle was illegal, I got several emails from readers advising me to pack the wine myself and lie about the contents of the box to FedEx. I do, of course, know how to circumvent the law. I’m just sad when I consider that nearly everyone is forced into being a lawbreaker as more and more sumptuary laws go on the books and police departments become paramilitary units. I’m sad when I consider it’s no longer newsworthy when a SWAT team breaks down a family’s door, shoots their dogs, and seizes assets because they found traces of marijuana and cocaine while going through their trash. I don’t use those drugs but I don’t want to live in a police state.

Another reader emailed me that he was voting for whoever was best at keeping us safe from terrorism, and he thought that was the Republicans. Please. Even if you suspended disbelief long enough to believe a President who can barely put a sentence together is qualified to understand the politics of the Middle East, not even the level of security they have in Israel can stop terrorism. What we can stop is the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. Asset-forfeiture laws make a mockery of the Fourth Amendment. Airport security is a circus. I can’t bring a bottle of water into the airport? Please. The Internet gambling ban is a disgusting mixture of protectionism and theocracy. I’m voting dog shit all the way.

By the way, the airline lost my luggage with the wine in it. I got a knock on the door just before midnight from a smiling delivery dude with the wrong bag. We decided he had just delivered mine to the wrong house. He vamoosed and I waited for his return while watching season two of 24. Finally I looked out on the porch and my bag had magically appeared, the driver too embarrassed to show his face again.

November 2, 2006

Conversations with Bennie

“I am not Bill”
My friend Bennett “Magic Aces” Greenstein called me from his bathtub at Foxwoods this morning to tell me he made the final table of the Omaha Hi/Lo tournament today. “I play in an hour,” he said. “That’s a little short notice for me to get there from Seattle, Bennie,” I said. Nobody calls him Bennie but I get to because his 12-year-old daughter calls me Richie. The whole Bennie/Richie thing goes along with being degenerate gamblers so I kind of like it.

We talked a little final-table strategy, going over the mathematics of deal-making and exploitive game-theoretical concepts for tournament endgames – the kind of banter most degenerate gamblers engage in with frequency -- and then he told me about a conversation he had online the other day with a railbird at Full Tilt. Since Bennett plays a lot of high-stakes Omaha and is very good at it, people always are asking “Who is Magic Aces?” About six months ago I jokingly said it was Bill Gates. There was the round of digital laughter along with the expected oohs and aahs from the gullible but then I promptly forgot about the incident.

Well, Bennett was playing and this railbird got into an argument with another one over whether Magic Aces was actually Bill Gates. “I know he is,” the guy says, “because Richard Brodie told me.” Finally Bennett said no, he’s definitely not Bill Gates. When he finally convinced the guy the railbird was furious. “I’ve been coming home straight from work to watch you every day for the last six months because I thought you were Bill Gates!” The poor guy had even less of a life than he thought he had.

As he was toweling off, Bennett asked me what I thought of one player we had both played a lot of limit Hold ‘Em with online. He made a lot of unusual plays. Bennett said he couldn’t figure out if the guy was using true Level-3 thinking or had simply stumbled onto an expert-system strategy that emulates Level-3 analysis. I said I just thought the guy was a donk.

November 1, 2006

Taking the Fifth

I took fifth place in UPC yesterday for $2200. I didn't hit many hands at the final table but the show should be entertaining as I attempted my usual strategy of compensating for my lack of poker ability with comic relief. Ted "The Milkman" Melikian and I bantered back and forth until I lost most of my chips calling the big blind's flop jam with AJo on a board of King-Jack-x. I shoved the next hand with Q8o and lost the race to The Milkman, who overjammed with AJ.

The tournaments are a lot of fun and I hope to play more of them. It's not really worth a special trip to Vegas given the small buy-ins but I spend plenty of time there anyway so when I'm in town, I'll play if I'm not busy.

Caesars Palace gave me two bottles of their house label Cabernet. I took them to FedEx to ship them home and was told it was illegal. Now I can't play online poker, ship wine to myself, carry shampoo on an airplane, or smoke cigars in a cigar lounge. Too bad the Soviet Union isn't in business any more or I would consider moving to a more free country.

I'm voting a straight Democratic ticket for the first time ever, not that I think they're good guys, but dog shit smells better than cat shit.