Wednesday, January 31, 2007

If someone you loved had 24 hours to live, what would you do?

So I wanted to break my blogging hiatus with a happy post. I've been playing incredibly well lately, if sporadically. My results at the Sunday tourney I host are sick. Six sigma sick... my streak of moneying in homegame tourneys got busted last Sunday at 8. I finished ITM in eight consecutive 10+ player tourneys. First, first, third, second, second (to Veneno), first, first, second.

But that's not why I'm writing. Maybe later, I'll talk about my tourneys, and the badasses I wanna join at the LAPC, but this post is about my dad.

My dad is 66 years old. This week, he's been diagnosed with cancer of the mouth. This disease usually strikes heavy drinkers or heavy smokers. My dad is neither. Unlike his three sons, I don't recall him drinking more than two drinks in a day in the last twenty years. I don't think he's ever smoked.

It's early in the situation, but it SOUNDS like they've detected it early. If it is early, they can operate, cut out the cancer, and the prognosis is excellent. My dad even said the part of his tongue they'd cut out would grow back.

I care very little about that. I'd rather have my dad alive and talking a little funny, than ravaged by cancer and slowly dying.

Although I mean that last sentence, it still hurts me to type it. Thinking about this sort of thing tears me up. It takes a lot to make me cry, but this post is trying my patience.


So what's the take home message?

Life isn't short. But we all have a limited amount of time. I love my dad, and I've had a lot of great experiences with him. After I ended that phone conversation, I had a morbid thought.

"If my dad died tomorrow, what would I regret not doing with him?"

I've had a pretty good relationship with my dad over the years. He's been there during my struggles in college, me getting fired from my first legit job, and my subsequent poker playing and bartending.

What haven't I done?

I haven't watched him coach a basketball game. It sounds trivial. But it's important to me.

I haven't seen him do the very thing that he was born to do... I haven't seen him do what he loves.

I guess it would mean more if I discussed my father's background and career path. Fresh out of college, he started as a math teacher, and hoops coach, at an all-boys school. He moved on to computer stuff and check-processing at IBM, where he met my mother. It's probably over-simplifying to state that my father gave up what he loved to provide for his family. But I'm fine with that. His passion is coaching basketball. I want to see that end result of that, just one game, before he passes on. I am now mentally prepared for that event to be next week, or the year 2020.

I've been there for one practice, helping him and the kids in drills. I remember that day well.
College football is huge in Texas, and the Texas-Texas A&M game was scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend. My dad asked his team if they wanted practice at their normal time (which would cut into the football game), or if they wanted to practice early. Almost unanimously, they voted for a 9am practice on a Saturday.

I wanted to see my dad coach. I got up early, on vacation, to help him out. For those of you that know me, you know that I HATE getting up before noon if I can help it.

So I went to a 9am basketball practice. I don't actually play basketball - I grew up with soccer and baseball. I knew that if I wanted to learn hoops, my dad would've been more than happy to teach.

That day, I helped my dad with drills, fetching balls, rebounding, passing. It was grunt work, but I was able to see my father teaching these sixteen year olds.

He was authoritative, he was smart, he was effective. In the small world of Dallas high school hoops, on that day, my father was a basketball god. Maybe I wasn't his right-hand man that day, but I was at least his left pinky finger.

Practice in the gym ended, but nobody went home. I think the team was working on their fitness. My father wanted them all to run a mile. His goal was to have as many of them as possible run a 7-minute mile. In junior high, my soccer coach wanted us to run a 6-minute mile. The best I ever did was 6:12. In high school, my soccer coach wanted us to run a 12-minute two-mile. The best I ever did was 12:23. As a ninth and twelfth grader, I felt those times were pretty damn good.

My dad asked me, as a 27-year-old, to run with his kids. He asked me to pace them. He hadn't seen me play soccer in more than 7 years. He had absolutely no doubt in his mind that his son, five years out of college, could run a seven-minute mile.


Not only could I run a seven-minute mile myself, but I could help his kids run a faster time. My father participates in all sorts of hoops drills - but endurance is not his thing. That day, I was standing in for him. Just for a half hour, I was filling in where he could not.

When my father asked me to run a 7-minute mile, I wanted a sixer. Of course, it was insanely unrealistic, but I didn't care. Four laps, six minutes... that's 90 seconds per lap. The only thing I knew about running a lap in ninety seconds was that you had to start at a sprint.

So I did. I ran the first lap in 73 seconds. Those high school kids had their eyes bugged out at the old guy, the coach's son, who was blazing a sick pace. As I passed the second group of kids, the spectators for this heat who would be in the second one, they asked me if I ran track. I shook my head slightly. As I settled into the second lap's pace, I lost steam.

I couldn't keep up that pace. Just as I suspected, I couldn't finish a 6-minute mile. I had the top two players pass me on the last lap, as I logged a 6:42 mile time. The Old Coach's oldest son could run a 7-minute mile...why couldn't all the players?

My father had no idea what kind of shape I was in when he asked me to run with his kids that afternoon. What he did know is that I still cared about running a good time, and that I would give EVERYTHING to show him and his players that I had heart. Just like when I played for my coaches, I wanted to show them that it was honorable to bust your ass to the point of exhaustion for your coach. In practice, you gave everything. On game day, you left it all on the field.

I hope my Dad looks back on that day and understands.

That day was all love, Dad, and all heart. So is today.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I know a guy

My first post of 2007 should be beer-fueled. Here goes.

So I know this guy. It took several months of playing at my homegame before I learned his actual first name, Brendan. I still don't know his last name, nor do I want to. He introduced himself as Bruiser, and who am I to question a guy who looks exactly like his name?

Bruiser's not a violent guy, despite the nickname. He's been nothing but well-behaved in the time he's attending my homegame. There was one time the short, hyper-aggressive guy tried to bait him, but he didn't rise to it. Bruiser doesn't like violence. He likes gambling, and he loves booze.

After a few months, he started answering our questions. In the last several years, he's had several jobs. During one, he earned his nickname. He was a bouncer at a local dive bar. I've been to this bar. My roommate and I had a guy approach us, saying "Was somebody talkin' shit?" At the moment, we thought we were going to get stabbed. It turns out, Scribbles (that was his name, he was a tattoo artist) was just trying to make sure a drunk buddy of his wasn't getting in trouble.

Bruiser told us about this job. One night, a bar fight broke out. The whole bar was fighting. Bruiser knocked out five guys. Now, when most guys say they knocked out five guys, they actually punched three.

Not Bruiser. When Bruiser tells you he knocked out five guys in one night, he knocked out five guys. End of story. He's not lying, and he's not exaggerating. He strikes me as a man who has absolutely no need to boast about his fighting, drinking, fucking, or jail time. He comes and goes as he pleases. He follows the rules if it suits him. He doesn't need your respect.

Bruiser didn't tell this story his first or second time at my game. We had to pester the story out of him.

I think that Bruiser makes most of his money in the fall and winter taking sports bets, on football and hoops, but I have no proof of this. Pure speculation on my part, and I'm betting the farm on him not being much of a blog-reader.

So, when Bruiser told me he was considering staking me, I took notice. This was long before the Captain Tom/Brandi/Dutch saga got out, but even before that sordid tale, I had my head on straight.

During this time, Bruiser had been coming before my cashgames and tourneys started, and used my Full Tilt account to play $20 and $30 sng's. He bought in with cash, I let him play, and if he monied, I paid him in cash. He bring a case of beer, we'd drink, he'd play, and I'd give my two cents if he asked. He asked a lot. I'd tell him what I thought was the right play, and why.

He's probably played more than 20 sng's while I've watched. I think he's slightly better than even money at this point. Skipper seems to think he's skewing my sharkscope numbers.

But, I've been talking poker with Bruiser for a while. And my play in the last several months, and that guidance, have impressed him.

The original talk of the stake was me at the $500NL level in a cashgame. Then, $200NL. By the time we actually went, he wanted me to start at a $100NL table. Let's just say I'm very comfortable at this level, and it fits my bankroll just fine. But if he wants to see how I'll do in a casino setting before moving up, I'm fine with that.

I started with $100 of Bruiser's money at a $100 NL table. I ran it up to $260, and walked away at about midnight. Our split was straightforward - return whatever stake to Bruiser, and split the proceeds 50/50. I asked him directly about me losing his money. If I bust out, I owe him nothing.

At one point, he said something about there being no downside for me. I wanted to impress upon him that I would take his bankroll very seriously, and do my absolute best. "Bruiser, I can't put a dollar value on me being able to play on your bankroll. I want to do well because I always try to play my best poker. Most importantly, there's an opportunity cost associated with me playing on your roll. I want to win you money so that you feel confident about us moving up in stakes. I win, we move up, I win us more money."

After last Thursday's cashgame, Bruiser wanted to stake me for a $20 sng on FT. I figured "hey why not?" and played. With Bruiser watching, asking me a few questions, I won the sng. $90 to us.

"Let it ride."

$50 sng, coming up! Even though it started at 245am, I finished 2nd in that one, for $135. Had it not been so late, Bruiser would've had me play a $100 sng.

So I told him about the sng's at Commerce Casino before/during the LA Poker Classic in January. I mentioned that it's a bit over my bankroll to play multiple $120 sng's. LAPC could be a very interesting time.

If you'll remember, this is the series of events where Ryan made his first big splash.

Perhaps nothing will come of Bruiser staking me. The best case scenario is that he stakes me to a few $120's. I win enough $500 tourney chips where Bruiser says "Let it ride. Play a tourney."

Lately, I've been on a heater, especially where live tourneys are concerned. I'm keeping focused. Maybe nothing comes of all of this. But the tiny chance that I'm gonna blow up in 2007 has me very excited.